I couldn’t wait any longer to write. I kept thinking i would wait until things settled down after the shootings, and the fire’s and the firing on of children and mother’s at the southern border and my friend’s chemo and the first anniversary of my daughter’s father’s death and Thanksgiving which always makes me long for my parents born 4 days apart Dec 26th and Dec 1st, but I finally realized that if I waited until things settled down again it might be several years…. So here I am on what in my deck of the woods is a windy crisp cold bright day with hawks soaring in the pale blue sky along with occasional small plane on its way to Burbank. Speaking of being in the Valley and why I couldn’t wait any longer to write is that I have good things to share with you. Starting with our recent visit to the Iliad Bookshop in North Hollywood after a delicious breakfast at Bea Bea’s in Toluca Lake.
I am in love with the house coffee
which is made with local honey and cinnamon and highly reccomend the pancakes. So light and yummy.
I am also in love with Iliad- one of the coolest bookshops in town all up according to yours truly, as well as numerous other edified sources. Get you fill of almost everything arty here from graphic novels to art and poetry and cooking books, not to mention fiction, film and rock roll. They are featured in numerous movies, short films, and television shows, and are happy to answer any questions you have on buying or selling books. They are also, as far as I know, the only bookstore to have a mural and to be named after an epic poem!The mural (which extends down two sides of Iliad) includes not just literary scenes, but the portraits of more than 50 authors (and musicians who have been the subject of various books) and was painted by the seriously skilled artist Paul Dilworth. You can check out the gallery below for a key to who’s who and have fun take finding your favorites when you visit in person!
Personally I like that they have easy parking, a friendly helpful staff, good prices, couches, music, water, 150,000 books, and welcome visiting dogs on leashes. Sweet!
“Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.”
-Clarissa pinkola Estes
While our freedoms’ fate hangs in wait I’ve been preparing to lead a mindfulness meditation this Saturday, Oct 6th, at California’s first gathering of poet laureates and taking solace in the words of author, thought leader and Jungian analyst, Clarissa Estes. Her passionate and wise response to despairing friends could have been written today and yet its wisdom is timeless.
She begins, “My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people” and goes on to say “In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.” She ends by writing, “ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.”
Now more than ever, with so much to be addressed, it is very good to be reminded:
What we can do is as important, if not more important than what we can’t.
To that end, I am so proud that on October 6th, Engaging the Senses Foundation (ETSF), in partnership with the California Arts Council, and the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs/McGroarty Arts Center is sponsoring a coming-together event of current and former California local poets laureate in a celebration of the power of poetry on and off the page to nourish our deepest humanity.
The gathering is the brainchild of current CA state Poet Laureate Dana Gioia, who is featured in our documentary-in-production Be the Beauty. Dana is an award-winning poet, author of the seminal critique Can Poetry Matter?, and a recipient of the 2014 Aiken-Taylor Award for lifetime achievement in American poetry. He was also the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) from 2003-2008, where he created enduring art programs such as Poetry Out Loud.
Dana’s desire to serve the underserved has informed all of the programs he has created on the federal and state level, which are consistently inclusive, with a focused yet broad outreach (for instance, as CA Poet Laureate he has visited every single district over the last two years, the first laureate ever to do so). His dedication to this vision mirrors ETSF’s commitment to vibrant inclusivity. We believe that the difference these kinds of programs make to communities — and to the individuals within these communities who have the opportunity through them to being seen, heard, and valued — cannot be overstated. This is why we will be filming the event, so that its impact can reach as far as possible.
It’s our hope that this gathering of creatives can become a model for other state’s partnerships. We are proud to continue fulfilling our mandate by honoring the dedicated men and women who have committed their time and energy to championing literacy in their communities. After the working sessions, poets, teachers, and all poetry lovers are invited to attend on Saturday afternoon for what will surely prove to be a powerful and historic group reading.
We urge you to come so you can listen to, meet, and celebrate California’s vital public poets laureate! To register for this free public event.
“The beauty of “Me Too” is the sense of not aloneness, of solidarity, truth and community”
Well hello again Beautiful Readers,
This isn’t the way I thought I would return to the page. However, if you like me are one of the one in six Americans whose life has been forever changed by rape attempted or enacted, you know that today is not the same old same old.
If fact, if you are one of the one in six, or simply one of the many people who know someone whose life has been forever affected by sexual assault, it feels like the world as we have known it is skittering on the brink of extinction. An extinction upon which the our species depends in order to survive. And from which ultimately we can evolve and create a new just way of relating, rooted in compassion instead of competition.
I narrowly escaped being raped in Westwood after a date in the 1980s with “a nice boy from a good family.” He was good-looking, strong and tall, a UClA football player on his way to med school whose father was a doctor. I was as I am now petite and slender of frame. After he pinned me to the floor of my apartment he began trying to both remove my underpants and force his erect penis into my dry vagina. Only by begging him to look into my eyes so he wouldn’t be able to deny that I didn’t want to be forced to have sex in this painful way did I get him to stop.
The only person I ever told was my ex-boyfriend. It never even occurred to me to reported to the police. But this assault was one of the reasons I left Los Angeles.
Living here again in the midst of the Harvey Weinstein and much-needed “me too” movement, I am encouraged by a sense of recognition, solidarity and of hope. Those of us who came of age in the 80’s and 90’s and 00’s, and especially those who came of age pre-Oprah and Tyler Perry, would not have been able to believe that the topic of sexual assault can now be openly discussed. And that centuries worth of shame and blame are beginning to be healed.
When I was in my mid-to late twenties and fumbling my way through the lava field of trauma from being the victim of multiple episodes of childhood and adult sexual abuse and assault, I found solace in a remarkable book co-authored by the poet, Ellen Bass, called The Courage to Heal.
Cherished by survivors, and recommended by therapists and institutions everywhere, The Courage to Heal has often been called the bible of healing from child sexual abuse. For years, I passed it on to other women who, like me, sought to be free from the effects of this heinous and shattering form of violence on body, mind, and soul.
To go from being a survivor to thriving is as much a state of mind as a state of mindfulness. It is possible to heal. I am living proof of that hard-won and still delicate peace. As someone with a sensitive nature and a background involving trauma, it is easy for me to become overstimulated and feel overwhelmed.
Working with my senses to create healthy adrenal, cortisol, blood sugar and pressure levels is key to being able to respond to challenges from a place of balance and strength. This means engaging mindfully and regularly with simple practices that nourish the senses and allow for complete and total relaxation of the flight or fight response. The use of imagery, meditation, and body-centered practices such as tapping are particularly helpful.
What I like is that it can literally be as easy as breathing in and out through my nose to a count of four while consciously relaxing the muscles of my face right down to the root of my tongue. Doing this engages the vagus nerve* which might just be the most important nerve you may not know you have.
I thought I’d leave you today with this poem by Ellen Bass, performed by fellow poet and friend of Engaging the Senses Foundation, the extraordinary Kim Rosen. It’s a poem about learning to stop and engage with the mindful moment in the midst of whatever is happening, no matter how dire it seems.
Sending you all so much strength and love.
*”The management and processing of emotions happens via the vagal nerve between the heart, brain and gut, which is why we have a strong gut reaction to intense mental and emotional states.It is related to the parasympathetic nervous system—and controls unconscious body functions, as well as very important things like keeping heart rate constant and aiding in the digestion of food to breathing and sweating. It also helps regulate blood pressure and blood glucose balance, promotes general kidney function, helps release bile and testosterone, stimulates the secretion of saliva, assists in controlling taste and releasing tears, and plays a major role in fertility issues and orgasms in women.”
“By being well-rested, we are better able to respond to the demands of our lives with intelligence and kindness, resilience and grace.”
Hello again lovely Ones,
I started organizing a library of sensory resources that take effect in twenty minutes of less to include in my new book Two Minutes to Bliss and am really excited to share in advance one of tried and true guided meditations populating the virtual shelves. It is from my favorite mindfulness meditation teacher and psychologist, Tara Brach.
I use her basic guided sensory scans regularly to enter into states of stillness, optimism and peace.
I love how easy it is to use this guided meditation to “cultivate access to relaxed attentiveness and a pathway to ease-filled sleep.” Since many adults and teens and kids in the U.S. don’t get enough sleep it is good to find that studies have shown that mindfulness can make a positive difference.”When we effectively quiet the mind and relax the body, sleep comes naturally.”
I would love to hear how they work for you if You are inclined to share.
“There is no substitute for the intimacy of a handwritten note, no gift as singular as words carefully considered and chosen.”
Have you chosen your Mother’s Day card(s) yet? Think you might want to do something a little more personal to express your feelings?
With Mother’s Day just a few days away I wanted to share this resources from Poet’s.org. Here you can find the right words to say to your mother for Mother’s Day with this selection of meaningful lines you can share in your own personalized, poetic greeting to make this mother’s day a little more meaningful.
In fact,”the impulse to personalize correspondence is evident in the custom to sign letters by hand, even when the rest is typed. Like a fingerprint, handwriting can identify its owner; even mood and intention can be revealed in the bends and crosses of letters, hidden in the slant of cursive.
In her poem “Consider the Hands that Write This Letter,” Aracelis Girmay describes the act of writing: “The left palm pressed flat against the paper, / as it has done before, over my heart, /in peace or reverence / to the sea or some beautiful thing.” My mother who died more than a year of tears ago and was wont to say that “every day was mother’s day” was crushed and more than a little bitter about the one time I didn’t send a card. So please learn from my mistake and send a card, even if it’s late. The time you take now to imprint your love and feelings of appreciation mean more than money can buy.
When we lose something the natural thing is to want to replace it. When your mother dies, no such fix is possible. As much as others can fill in there is just no substitute for the real thing. What I have found since my mom died last March is that locating within myself a good mother who thinks of and treats me like her cherished child is one of the most important ways to address the grief, as well as my health. Developing this way of relating to my needs has freed up my inner child and creativity. This kindness was the look in my mother’s eyes as she nurses a tiny tiny me in the rocking chair. The same chair in which she later sat reading me many books of poetry and prose.
Even though my mother died in 2016, I felt that in many ways I lost her long before that. It was not to Alzheimer’s or Dementia. We were spared that but others dear to me haven’t been and it has made me even more sensitive to those going through this painful situation. So when I read I Lost My Mother At Bloomingdales, the first poem in Kim Dower’s Slice of Moon, my heart ached to the bone…And that ending. I almost didn’t include here because it so sad… But then I realized that the poem does what poems do best. Take something too awful to bear and use it to create Poetry which like Beauty is a kind of communion. A language heard in the heart that uplifts and reminds us, we are not, alone.
Hello again Lovelies,
When I said I had an abundance of good news to share I was in part thinking about our whirlwind trip to interview and film the legendary Diane Diprima. More than a year in the making, it was well worth the wait!
Life being what it is you won’t be surprised to hear that a few days before leaving, right after the burst of get-organized-to-go energy wore off, Hashimoto’s attacked and I found myself almost unable to rise out of bed after 9, even 10 hours of sleep along with headaches, heart palpitations, blurry vision and other ocular and corporeal unpleasantries.
Oh the not-joy of dealing with an auto-immune condition. I am in good company here, at least. Diane has her own share of auto-immune and health issues.
The plan had been to film Diane at the house she shares with her husband and fellow writer, Sheppard . . . but Diane was admitted to a rehabilitation hospital and it wasn’t clear whether we could go ahead. Then the hospital agreed to help us with the logistics, for which we are so thankful. Many more thanks to Diane for having the strength and the will to continue.
In fact, I can’t say enough about how moved and grateful our small team is to have spent such inspiring and intimate time with Diane at such a vulnerable time in her life.
I think we were all a little bit nervous and in awe that we were actually meeting and getting to film this amazing woman who has been described as, “poet, priestess, teacher, unrepentant activist,” and “the foremost female and one of the key figures of the original Beats.”
After more than 2 years of hoping, while Diane took off her hospital gown and put on a becoming green gown Sheppard brought from their nearby home, we waited in the “green room” down the hall with a stack of books we hoped to have signed!
Then time slipped away and the only thing that existed was that small warm room where we were gathered. Listening to Diane talk in between sips of water from a straw and breaks to wipe the corners of her eyes, which are painfully affected by Sjögren syndrome, it was evident that Diane’s keen intelligence, courage and big heart were intact.
This trip to San Francisco was my first since the motor nerve damage effected my ability to walk and stand for periods of time. I was pretty nervous at first, but knowing that I would be able to avoid the stress of a large airport helped. So did the assistance of my cousin, the lovely, multi-talented TV and film writer Kate McKenna, who is newly engaged to long-time college sweetheart, Adam Bricker, cinematographer of the charming All These Small Moments with Molly Ringwald, Adam’s first feature film after several successful years filming the very popular Chef’s Table.
I can hardly wait to see her again and to talk about turning Diane’s Memoirs into a feature film and to thank her for being the best Production assistant and traveling companion I could have hoped. Even and especially when we discovered there was no way I was going to be able to climb the stairs to the poetry room at City Lights.
When we meet, we’ll also talk about turning Diane’s memoirs into a feature film. Yes, it’s true! Finally, Diane’s searingly honest and fascinating look into her life before and after Jack Kerouac, Allan Ginsberg and Timothy Leary, Recollections of My Life as a Woman (2001), which “chronicles a life of adventure and vulnerability, and articulates the stakes she faced as an unwed mother in the 1950s,” is beginning its journey from page to screenplay!
Regarding the steep, narrow staircase I couldn’t climb at City Lights Books . . . .I cried for days once I got home over the disappointment, pouring my heart out to Diane in a text to which she replied,
“I’m sorry you feel so sad. I’m sure it’s because of the contrast between what you (& the rest of us) felt with all of us working together to make something happen that was so terrific and the relative isolation we feel at home. But don’t forget we’ll be working together in just a few weeks to finish up the film and there after there’ll be many get-togethers to deal with the music, plan showing and generally “get the show on the road” or more literally on TV as a miniseries . . . Indeed it seems to me that by creating this one project you’ve provided yourself and any of us who want to come along for the ride with a life-time of stuff to do. I for one have taken a ticket for the whole ride. So see you in a couple of weeks sweetie. Lot of love from me and Shep, Diane.”
I get goosebumps reading it still. So choo choo and woo hoo all aboard!!
Hello Beauties, It has been too long and I have so much to share. I can’t wait to tell you all the good news.Especially about feeling good, Hashimoto’s and my Joovv, a whole body infrared and red light device for … Continue reading
I needed to take some quiet time at the end of last week and over the weekend to grieve for the loss of my mother, and of her most personal jewelry, especially her wedding ring which “went missing,” at some point after her death.
It wasn’t there when we went to her house to collect her photo albums, art works and other personal items, even though my grandmother’s jewelry, which was far more expensive, was left behind.
While I am very grateful to have those pieces, which also hold history, it doesn’t make up for what was taken and what is gone. Those pieces, worth only a fraction of what was left behind, meant more to me than money can buy or replace.
My parents truly loved each other. They started with little more than their smarts, worked hard, lived by the golden rule, had good luck and bad, and stayed together through thick and thin for 57 years until my father’s death in 2012. Together they lived and redefined the American dream, helping many people along the way. My mother’s ring symbolized all that for me.
Grief, I have come to learn has its own terms and doesn’t take No for an answer. At times, it felt as if I were a branch being bent to the point of snapping. At others, I cried like a child and felt lonelier than I thought it was possible to feel and still survive.
(“Life is as beautiful as it is painful. And you can’t have one without the other.”)
Staying present with the feelings and allowing them felt both impossible to do and to not do. Art journaling helped and when I didn’t think I could go on, I found this poem by Hermann Hesse. I hope it speaks to your heart, as it did mine. I am feeling stronger now that the grief is receding, and I am starting to feel like myself again. Next Monday I begin attending a grief support group at Our House, here in Southern California. I’ll let you know how it goes. xoS
Now and Then
Now and then everything feels wrong and desolate,
and sprawling in pain, weak and exhausted,
every effort reverts to grief,
every joy collapses with broken wings
And our longing listens for distant summons,
aching to receive news filled with joy.
But we still miss bliss,
fortunate fates elude from afar.
Now is the time to listen within,
tend our inner garden mindfully
until new flowers, new blessings can blossom.
No, I’m not home in Hawaii. But I am nostalgic, and super excited because Hawaii’s poet laureate, the MIT graduate and modern myth maker, Kealoha Wong, is coming to town!
Kealoha is coming to work with me on a mindfulness and poetry program for the kids at Five Acres, the Los Angeles based 125-year-old foster home and school, in preparation for their fund-raising “Friend Raiser.” I am beyond honored to work with this multi-talented master of modern myth making and am looking forward to getting to know the man behind the performer as well. One of the sweet synchronicities of working together is that Kealoha awarded my daughter a Star Poet’s Prize at the Windward Community College on Oahu in 2007 when she was in 4th grade.
This is the first time in my new role as Creative Director of Engaging the Senses Foundation that I have a chance to use so many of my talents and skills. It is thrilling and fulfilling to put into practice what we stand for and share. I am awed, excited, and ready to work hard and enjoy every minute. Lucky, lucky, me!
Five Acres’ Friend Raiser is now in its 2nd year and is spearheaded by the amazing Matt Lillard. You may know him as the cute blond guy the wife has an affair with in the film The Descendants, which is one of my fav films. More recently, Matt’s been in Twin Peaks and Good Girls. The aim of the poetry and mindfulness program is to give kids a voice, a way to tell their stories and to hear other people’s stories. This builds empathy and understanding of self and others.
Adding sense-based mindfulness to the mix is the icing on the cake. We think of it as giving the kids “super hero powers.” What are these? Well, attention, intention, focus, and acceptance, to name a few. With these, kids can recognize, discern and seek uplifting sources of nourishment for their senses, their selves, and their imaginations. Instead of standing around like extras waiting on the sidelines, they can become fully engaged-directors of their own lives and destiny.
So, get ready to be moved when you hear them own their power and perform their own poems at the star-studded gathering on April 21st, 2018!
Until then, I am very much here in this blue and burned “City of Angels,” in the thick of dealing with the same crazy White House turned nut house as the rest of us. Like you, I am at times overwhelmed by the vitriol and tragedy and risk. Like you, I am learning to dwell in the new uncertainty. It’s not like life was ever a sure thing. It’s just now every single day makes us question our values and direction as a people and a country. There are so many areas of concern, so many competing needs. It feels like there is a rip in our safety net that is continuing to tear. If feels as if the country, possibly the whole world, is in danger.
It can be overwhelming if we let it be, if we believe we have to fix the whole thing, or really any part of it. Because fixing is a daunting, unachievable task. Offering, on the other hand, is a way of changing the focus from trying to fix what’s outside our control to mending the part of the world that is within our reach.
One thing that has become clear lately is that charity and kindness really do begin at home. Gone are the days of running on adrenalin and nerves. To be and to give our best selves and the beauty we love, proper care and feeding of body-mind-soul is required. Sometimes nothing less than a complete focus on this is necessary in order to recharge.
This past year, each of us here at Engaging the Senses Foundation has faced challenges that meant that our health and the quality of our lives depended on paying kind attention to and taking proper care of ourselves. Don’t be confused: this kindness is not weakness. It is a strong discipline of choosing the highest good at any given moment. It is a way of relating to life that allows for magic, poetry, beauty and other good things to easily come into being. Because Mindfulness (kind attention) and Poetry (art) are some of the best tools we can offer for the healing that our world so deeply needs.
To that end, in between preparing for Kealoha’s visit, physical therapy, and dreaming up short sensory based body scans, I have been expressing myself through drawing and art journaling.
I hope you enjoy and share my latest page in progress. I am looking forward to meeting here again in the days and months ahead and sharing this amazing journey in service to Poetry, Truth, Beauty Justice with you.
Hello again Lovely Reader,
Sabrina here from engaging the senses foundation. I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s post and had time to open the treasure chest at the foundation’s website.
I wasn’t planning on posting again till next week but a friend from NYC turned me on to this conversation between the great Nikki Giovanni’s and younger poet, Kwame Alexander and it was too good not to share.
Best of all I thought this excerpt from Pablo Neruda’s poem
“I Explain A Few Things.”
You are going to ask – and where are the lilacs? And the poppy-petalled metaphysics? And the rain repeatedly spattering its words and drilling them full of apertures and birds?
I’ll tell you all the news.
Look at broken Spain.
From every house burning metal flows instead of flowers, from every socket of Spain, Spain emerges and from every dead child a rifle with eyes, and from every crime bullets are born which will one day find the bull’s-eye of your hearts.
And you’ll ask – why doesn’t his poetry speak of dreams and leaves and the great volcanoes of his native land?
Come and see the blood in the streets. Come and see, the blood in the streets. Come and see the blood, in the streets.
You can listen to whole 7 minute audio go to https://www.npr.org/player/embed/578105649/578106368
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Happy 2018!!! Time to Celebrate the Return of the Light, which began on Dec 21st with the winter Solstice and has been building ever since. Yes, much of the country is deep in snow and the temperature outside is cold however deep down we know the worst is over. The best is yet to come. That’s what matters – along with now. No time like the present to Engage and feed your intuition and your senses through appreciating and wishing on the full moon. By paying attention to and Staying in tune with the cycles of the moon we open a gate to our own deeply held hopes, dreams and needs!
Simple practices like this one connect us to ourselves and to the Mystery and this helps to ground and place us in the whirling swirling storms of life.
You can make this practice as simple or sumptuous as you please.
If the latter sounds engaging try writing your wishes on a piece of beautiful paper that you have scented with your favorite essential oil (I love lavender and ylang-ylang).
Be sure to use a pen that feels good in your hand and add some color by using purple, blue or green ink.
Then go outside and spend a few minutes breathing in silence and gazing (keep your eyes soft) at the full moon as you reflect on your wishes and drink in the power and beauty of the silvery moon.