"Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe filled with slush"~ Doug Larson
Crocus 4-1-11
For those of us in the Northeast (and other areas of the country too, I hear) it has seemed like a never-ending winter...days of bitter cold and snow followed by more bitter cold and snow. But now the hint that spring may be on its way...a few blades of grass have become visible under the graying snowbanks. Somehow the turning of the calendar to March leads us to shift ourselves to the possibility of renewal.  The promise of spring, with later sunsets, birds songs in the morning, crocuses bravely waking up from their winter slumber to meet the sun, are all reminders of the impermanence of nature and even with a shoe full of slush there is reason to take a breath and be grateful for renewals.

Mindful Moments Challenge

"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."~ John Lennon

snowflake-cookies.jpg On the eve of a new year, it seems especially timely to reflect and consider the wild ride we are on together called life.  Mindfulness teaches us that it is the moments, sometimes hidden within the busyness, that give our life richness and meaning. Often we project into the future, as in "when (fill in the blank) happens, then I will be happy", and new year's resolutions can push us toward this way of future thinking by negating the present moment.  Consider making 2014 a year of mindful moments, continuing to have overarching goals, but also honoring the present moment by noticing it as it unfolds; and not observing your life in the rear view mirror or as a mirage on the distant horizon.

As a way of embracing this rather radical idea of mindfulness, I invite you to join me during the month of January in a Mindful Moments Challenge: Let's work together and help each other in learning to slow down to the speed of life in the new year. Beginning tomorrow, January 1,  I encourage you to join me in capturing a mindful moment in a word, poem, photograph, drawing, description, etc. Let your imagination take flight! You can post your mindful moments in the comment section of this blog.  I hope it will serve as inspiration and will be interesting to see what others notice and share. Remember to look for those small, seemingly inconsequential moments that are really the essence of our life.

Happy new year and may this year bring many mindful moments your way,

Feeling a Little Stressed?

Feeling a little stressed? We are constantly dealing with a myriad of stressors, both external and internal, in our lives. Throw on top of these "normal" stressors the added stress of caregiving and we are often pushed over the edge from coping to crisis. Do you want to learn some simple to implement tools of relaxation and mindfulness into your life to create moments of calm in your busyness? 

I will be presenting one of my most popular workshops: Creating Calm Within Crisis on Tuesday, November 12 at Chestnut Park in Brighton, MA -- this workshop is free and open to professional and family caregivers.  Join me for refreshments and networking beginning at 5:00 PM.

 Please register with Dorothy Garfield at 617-536-1700. Hope to see you on November 12.

Musings on Life, Death and Springtime

This is the season when the ground swells with new life, trees burst forth with magnificent blossoms and the earth seems to come alive once more.  I am struck by this dichotomy more acutely than usual this year: As I breathe in the sweet fragrances of April, I am also preparing for a journey to Arizona to help my mother prepare for the burial of my stepfather.  The yin and yang of life -- birth and death, always teetering in some sort of cosmic balance.  

I often wonder; would the spring be less exciting and glorious if we never had winter?  Do we somehow need the reminder of life's fragility and impermanence to treasure the innate beauty of the present moment?  

And so, as the musing continues, I am filled with gratitude for the wake-up call I receive each spring when I am renewed with awe and wonder.

Concord Grape Pie....An Adventure in Kitchen Meditation

Stemmed Concord grapes
As many of you know, I live in Concord, Massachusetts....home of the shot heard' 'round the world, literary luminaries (Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott, etc), and the Concord grape. When we moved to our current house, less than a mile from Ephraim Bull's (the original propagator of the Concord grape) cottage our then 2nd grade daughter begged us to plant some grape vines on our fence.  For many years, the harvest was to be generous... pitiful.  Maybe a handful of grapes would be gathered if we were lucky.  Well, time and patience has finally paid off...this year we had a bumper crop of Concord grapes.  Two grocery bags full are on my kitchen counter! And that 2nd grade daughter who begged for the grape vines on the fence, is now a 2nd grade teacher (as I said, time and patience are key to growing grapes).

A couple of years ago, when our vines started to produce more than a handful of grapes a season, I searched for something unique to do with the grapes and came across a recipe for Concord Grape Pie online.  Serendipitously, it was posted on a site called and the "pie chef" was none other than a Concord friend of mine, Jane Fisher.

Separating the skin from the pulp of the Concord grapes
Partaking in baking with Concord grapes is a mindful experience -- they are bountiful for only a short time each year in the beginning of September.  They do not ship well, so are not often found in bulk in grocery stores nationwide. To make a pie from Concord grapes, one must first stem the grapes, then separate the inside from the skin, and finally remove the seeds.  While this may sound like an arduous process, it is actually simple, repetitive, filled with touch, sight, smell, taste, sound and becomes what I fondly refer to as "kitchen meditation".

So it is with mindful gratitude to Jane Fisher that I share this recipe for:

Concord Grape Pie

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

9" unbaked pie crust (double crust or single crust with crumb topping)
About 1.5 pounds (4 cups) Concord grapes
3/4 - 1 cup sugar (I use 3/4 c)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 TB butter melted
1 TB lemon juice

(I usually make a double crust pie, but if you prefer a crumb topping, follow the recipe below )
Crumb topping
1/2 cup quick or rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter melted

Remove grapes from stems. Slip skins from grapes (it's easy to do, just squeeze gently and the skin will separate from the pulp), placing the pulp in a medium saucepan and reserving the skins in a bowl. Bring the pulp to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. The pulp will soften and get lighter in color.

Press the pulp through a sieve into a medium bowl; this will remove the seeds. Add the skins to the pulp. Melt butter and add butter and lemon juice to grape mixture.
Concord Grape Pie

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and salt. Add the grape mixture and stir well. Pour into an unbaked pie crust and either cover with a crust or sprinkle crumb topping over the top of the pie.

Bake at 400° F for about 40 minutes, until fruit is bubbling and topping is lightly browned.
Concord Grape Pie


Untangling Ourselves Through Tangling

 At our recent Stress Resources' Meditation Maintenance Session, I was enthralled by a meditative form of drawing or "tangling", which Meditation Maintenance regular, Ann S. generously demonstrated and taught our small group of meditators. A whole process has evolved around the use of drawing repetitive interlocking or tangling lines on paper, called Zentangle.  As each of us focused, created repetitive patterns, and anchored ourselves to the paper and pen, a sense of calm centerdness fell over the room and I was reminded of the common denominators of meditative practice: focus, awareness and bringing oneself into the present moment. How wonderful to find ourselves untangling through the tangling of lines on a small piece of paper.

Here are the finished "tangles" we made at the June Meditation Maintenance Session.

More Good News About Meditation

The news about meditation just keeps getting better!  In a recent study by UCLA neuroimaging researchers suggest that people who meditate have stronger connections between brain regions and show less age-related brain atrophy. The benefit of having stronger brain connections is the rapid relay of the electrical signals in the brain which typically decreases with age.

Eileen Luders, a visiting assistant professor at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, led a team of investigators in the study using a new type of brain imaging (DTI) which provides insight into the structural connectivity of the brain. The study found that the differences between the meditators and the control group were not only in one area of the brain but involved networks that include most regions of the brain, and structures such as the limbic system and brain stem.
"Our results suggest that long-term meditators have white-matter fibers that are either more numerous, more dense or more insulated throughout the brain," Luders said. "We also found that the normal age-related decline of white-matter tissue is considerably reduced in active meditation practitioners."

To read more about this study, click here for the UCLA press release

Mindfulness in the Form of Peas

Mindfulness comes in many forms and for me, today, it came in the form of peas. Let me explain. This is the first year that my family and I have been involved in a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, thanks to our friends Cindy and Jim. I am not and have never been a vegetable gardener; the produce aisle at my local grocery and an occasional farmer's market have always been fine with me. So, I was a bit concerned that our foray into weekly vegetable pickups from the CSA would be just another thing to add to an already very full to-do list; but I was mistaken.

My weekly pickups have instilled more mindfulness in my Thursdays. I don't know what types of veggies we will be having for dinner until I actually pick them up. Without the pre-planning and future thinking of making lists of specific ingredients for an intended recipe, I have become accustomed to the surprise of picking up whatever has been harvested that day and enjoying the adventure of the present moment by combining often disparate ingredients into something simple but often delicious.
I have become mindful of the complex flavors of the multiple varieties of greens, have experienced the curiously intense flavor of freshly harvested fennel, and gained a new appreciation for the labor involved in picking and shelling enough peas to feed a family. Today as I ventured out to pick some fresh peas off the vines at First Root Farm, I recognized this new form of summer mindfulness meditation in my life; stopping in the middle of a busy day with many pressing deadlines and simply choosing and picking ripe, plump peas for the dinner table; no way to hurry up the process, just simply going with the rhythm of nature with a curious and open mind. I am not sure what next week's bounty will be, but these peas look incredible in this moment.

My Summer Labyrinth Quest

I am fascinated with labyrinths and their use in meditation and health. On my summer travels I explored a number of labyrinths in the Midwest that I found on the worldwide labyrinth locator. Each of these five labyrinths are unique but are similar in their ability to allow the user to stop, take a breath, observe and proceed. Please share photos of your favorite labyrinths by emailing them to me and I will post them here. Enjoy!

Ellsworth Labyrinth Garden, Ellsworth Michigan
11 circuit, Medieval/Santa Rosa labyrinth. Constructed in 2004 by members of the community of Ellsworth. It is located on the banks of Lake Ellsworth and surrounded by perennial gardens. mosaic stepping stones line the outer edges of the labyrinth made by community members representing their hopes and wishes. (

Sacred Sparks, East Jordan Michigan
Linda and Jerry Aydlott have lovingly constructed this classical labyrinth on the land behind their gallery and store in Northern Michigan. Labyrinth, goddess garden and rustic fairy walk at the back of their property are all open to visitors to explore. The labyrinth is a 7-circuit design, 50 feet in diameter and was constructed from field stones in 1998. (

Raven Hill Discovery Center, East Jordan Michigan
Constructed from field stones, this rustic classical labyrinth graces the front entrance to Raven Hill Discovery Center. It was constructed in 2004 and is 35 feet in diameter(

Nelson's Herbs, Edwardsburg Michigan
Imagine a labyrinth constructed of over 560 lavender plants...that is what I experienced at Nelson's Herbs. A fragrant meditative walk. Originally built in 2004, it is 60 feet in diameter in the medieval/Santa Rosa style. (

Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame Indiana
Located near the entrance to Saint Mary's College, this is a 7-circuit classical design constructed with black river rocks with circular pavers to line the path. Twin finger labyrinths are near the entrance allowing you to "walk the labyrinth" with your hands. (