Helpful wisdom, compassion and care for you

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Enlightenment at the Courthouse

I’ve had several ecstatic, transformational, almost out-of-body experiences. They are rather hard to describe, and I don’t know what they are (if you do, please fill me in!).  But each has been intensely beautiful and powerful, and in each case I’ve felt like I was on a different plane of existence.

The most recent occurred on one of my numerous visits to the Family Court Self-Help Center (JM-570 in the Moultrie Courthouse at 500 Indiana Avenue, NW) while representing myself in filing a petition for divorce.

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Talking about being mortal

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Last winter I attended a screening of Being Mortal with a panel discussion at American University. It was a strangely beautiful evening.

As a culture we’re not great at talking about death. We fear it, but rarely refer to it. Nothing will change our inexorable progress toward death; as AU Chaplain Mark Schaefer commented during the panel discussion, the ratio of those succumbing is ever the same, 1:1. Yet we, our families and our doctors very often lack the skills and traditions to communicate well, lovingly, effectively and supportively about this mysterious endpoint on our horizons, exacerbating the fear, avoiding our need to plan effectively — in the end often causing more, rather than less, acute pain. Yet on this evening there were people honestly, genuinely attempting to do their best to share helpful thoughts on the topic. It was… great!

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A lens for self-knowledge

Photo Credit - Markus Spiske

In 1999, I attended a week-long residential training with the National SEED Project. SEED, an acronym for Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity, was founded by Dr. Peggy McIntosh at the Wellesley College Center for Women to train teachers to be leaders in social understanding and change. I became a leader in SEED education for parents at several local DC schools, something I did for 10 years, with my brilliant and dear partner Sau Yang.

The SEED training gave us masses of resources, experiences, exercises, questions, filters, and concepts through which to view people’s lives. Out of that raw material, Sau and I created curricula for our monthly seminars, 3 hour sessions which ran 9 months of the year.

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A paen to kindness

A paen to kindness - Love Jo

Paen: A fervent expression of joy or praise

Do we speak enough about kindness? Do we value it sufficiently in all that it adds to our lives?

It’s not one of the big, bold characteristics, like courage or anger or passion. It’s humbler, it’s quieter. It’s the person making casseroles for the ill, hungry or homeless. It’s the friend who loans you her car when you’re desperate to get your son to a medical treatment (Sharon Bauer!!!). It’s the person who brings you soup (Daemon Jones!!!). It’s the neighbor who mows your grass strip next to the sidewalk (Scott Ressler!!!). It’s the son who notices you don’t feel well and makes you breakfast (Arran Cooper!!!).

In this crazy, chaotic time, let’s take a moment to savor and appreciate how very much kindness adds to the quality of our lives.

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Metta for Charlottesville

Photo Credit - Frank Mckenna

Metta meditation, or lovingkindness, is one of the 4 compassion practices known as the Brahma Viharas or Divine Abodes. Sometimes referred to as the two wings of the practice, mindfulness meditation cultivates our ability to clearly see what is, while metta meditation cultivates our capacity to be with what is — and to open our hearts.

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The mellowness of summer

In light of the continuing chaos in Congress and the White House, I suggest we savor summer. In reality, whether you are vacationing or not (I’m not), the pace is slower, the day is longer, the twilight is more delicious. Certainly there are deadlines, but don’t you find people are a little less stressed out about them?

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