A Mindful Blog


Join me as we explore mindfulness. Many of these posts are based on my in-progress book, Jane Austen and the Buddha. How Austen understood suffering and alleviating it shares much in common with the Buddha’s teachings centuries before. These same ideas are relevant for us as we navigate anxiety and grief during these uncertain times. 

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” – Gautama Buddha

 

Nov
27

Gratitude without Magic

    Gratitude without Magic   “There’s no place like home.” The Wizard of Oz     There are witches, a wizard (sort of), and even flying monkeys but not a single turkey in The Wizard Oz, yet the film’s message seems appropriate for Thanksgiving. While we generally associate Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims, it didn’t […]

Nov
20

Do I Detect a Whiff of Judgment?

    Do I Detect a Whiff of Judgement?   “Are you sure?” Thich Nhat Hanh     As part of a series on bibliotherapy, in this fifth essay, I will recommend literature for the problem of being judgmental. Limiting myself to British classics, I’m suggesting Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone. I walk our dog twice […]

Nov
13

What’s My Deadline

    What’s My Deadline?   “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Benjamin Franklin     As part of a series on bibliotherapy, in this fourth essay, I will recommend literature for the problem of procrastination. Limiting myself to British classics, I’m suggesting Samuel Johnson’s 1758 essay “On Idleness.” When teaching, […]

Nov
06

Jealousy

    Jealousy   “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock The meat it feeds on.” William Shakespeare, Othello     As part of a series on bibliotherapy, in this third essay, I will recommend literature for coping with jealousy. Limiting myself to British classics, I’m suggesting Emily […]

Oct
31

Pinned to a Wall

    Pinned to a Wall   “Do I dare?” T.S. Elliot     As part of a series on bibliotherapy, in this second essay, I will recommend literature for coping with social anxiety. Limiting myself to British classics, I’m suggesting T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”  Social anxiety is natural and […]

Oct
23

I Can’t Decide What to Call This Essay

    I Can’t Decide What to Call This Essay   “To be, or not to be, that is the question.” William Shakespeare, Hamlet       As part of a series on bibliotherapy, I’d like to kick things off with what I’d recommend for the over thinker who struggles with decision making. If we […]

Oct
16

Bibliotherapy

    Bibliotherapy   “A book enters the life of an individual, a deep relation is formed, and the person changes in some significant way as a result of this engagement.” Stephen Bonnycastle     I’m currently teaching a literature class via the lens of bibliotherapy, the practice of “prescribing” books to improve mood and […]

Oct
09

Wishing

    Wishing   “When you wish upon a star Your dreams come true.” Jiminy Cricket     I wish on a star most nights as part of the dog’s nightly walk. If there is a star out, then I wish automatically, not much thinking about it. I say the traditional, “Star light, star bright, […]

Oct
02

Humanity and Empathy

    Battling the Self   “Evil thenceforth became my good.” Mary Shelley, Frankenstein     When I teach the novel Frankenstein, we end up asking deeply philosophic questions: Who is the monster? What does it mean to be human? What does Victor Frankenstein owe his creation? I need to note for movie watchers that, in […]

Sep
25

“Pain is inevitable, but suffering is truly optional.”

    “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is truly optional.” Sister Dang Nghiem      The title of my forthcoming book is Jane Austen and the Buddha: Teachers of Enlightenment. Why Jane Austen and the Buddha instead of Austen and mindfulness? After all, mindfulness is the buzzword today. Think of all of the magazine covers […]

Sep
19

Constant Craving

    Constant Craving   “Constant craving has always been.” k.d. lang     If only. . .I’ve begun sentences like that my whole life. If only I could get a bike for Christmas. If only I could get into University of Florida. If only I could get a job as a professor. If only […]

Sep
12

Empathy and Ethics (with a Zombie Twist)

    Empathy and Ethics (with a Zombie Twist)   “Terror gave birth to terror, hatred begat hate. . .” John Ajvide Lindqvist     If you’ve ever been around a person yawning and found yourself yawning too, it probably means that you are an empathetic person. Scientific experiments measuring “contagious yawning” cite the connection […]

Sep
05

Battling the Self

    Battling the Self   “We are all subject to decay, old age, and death, to disappointment, loss, and disease. We are all engaged in a futile struggle to maintain ourselves in our own image.” Daniel Goleman     The earliest surviving text in British literature is Beowulf, the story of a great hero […]

Aug
28

Finding Home

    Finding Home   “Your true home is in the here and the now.” Thich Nhat Hanh     I’ve written previously about our dog, Omarius, whom we adopted from the Humane Society at age three. We’re his third family. Rescued animals come with unknown histories, of course. Thanks to some medical problems, we […]

Aug
21

The Flowering of Anger

    The Flowering of Anger   “All the daffodils look lovely today.” The Cranberries     I got very angry the other night. The only relief for me is movement, so I walked briskly to the park less than a mile from my house and got on the swing set pumping my legs as […]

Aug
14

Denial Ain’t Just a River in Egypt

    Denial Ain’t Just a River in Egypt   “Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out.” Tom Petty     I hate confrontation—which I’m working to confront—but denial is much more temporarily comforting. In this, I’m a bit like the fictional British Prime Minister in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The former […]

Aug
07

Speaking the Unspeakable

    Speaking the Unspeakable   “The greatest gift we can make to others is our true presence.” Thich Nhat Hanh     Both of my parents had dementia. Both are dead. That’s a conversation stopper. It’s not that I ever begin conversations by sharing this information, but it sometimes comes up because their dementia […]

Jul
31

I Am No-Self

    I Am No-Self   “I am everything I’ve learned and more.” Moana     There’s a rather difficult idea at the center of Buddhism: no-self. It seems so counterintuitive. How can there be no self? When the explanation is applied to a tree, which Thich Nhat Hanh uses as an analogy, it makes […]

Jul
25

We Are What We Eat

    We Are What We Eat   “Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11     Franz Kafka opens his infamous story “The Metamorphosis” matter of factly, telling the reader in a flat tone: “When Gregor Samsa awoke from troubled dreams one morning, he found that he had been transformed in his […]

Jul
17

Failure Is an Option

    Failure Is an Option   “That’s the beauty of complacency. . . .If you don’t try anything new, you won’t fail.” Mr. Hopps, Zootopia     Gene Kranz of NASA famously coined the term, “Failure is not an option,” during the Apollo 13 mission, but, of course, the mission did fail. Sometimes the […]

Jul
10

A Dickensian View

    A Dickensian View   “Once people lock onto a vision of reality that appeals to them, they tend to hold their views as being uniquely true.” B. Alan Wallace, Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic     People either love or hate Charles Dickens, with not much in between. Usually it’s an issue of […]

Jul
03

Dracula vs. the Crew of Light

    Dracula vs the Crew of Light   “The roots of a lasting relationship are mindfulness, deep listening and loving speech, and a strong community to support you.” Thich Nhat Hanh         The Three Jewels of Buddhism are the dharma, the Buddha, and the sangha. The dharma means the teachings of […]

Jun
26

Loneliness

    Loneliness   “Loneliness is the suffering of our time.” Thich Nhat Hanh     British Modernism, which arose at the very beginning of the twentieth century, is marked by pessimism, alienation, and existential loneliness—that feeling that you are completely alone even when surrounded by people because no one can ever truly understand you […]

Jun
19

Observing

    Observing   “Because our perception is ‘stained’ by our emotions, memories, views, and knowledge, we cannot touch the true nature of what we observe.” Thich Nhat Hanh     Within the tradition of Buddhism are bodhisattvas: those who seek enlightenment for the sake of all. A bodhisattva consciously aspires to awaken bodhicitta, the […]

Jun
12

Satisfaction

    Satisfaction   “If you get satisfaction, you don’t want any more, right?” Robert Wright     The Buddha was not speaking English in the talk he gave laying out the Four Noble Truths. This means we are relying on translations to get at the truth of the First Noble Truth, usually translated as […]

Jun
05

Greedy Brains

    Greedy Brains   “We are constantly murmuring, muttering, scheming, or wondering to ourselves under our breath: comforting ourselves, in a perverse fashion, with our own silent voices.” Mark Epstein, Thoughts without a Thinker     I love advice columns, always have. When I was a kid, I read Dear Abby and her sister […]

May
29

Zombies

    Zombies   “Many of us live like dead people because we live without awareness. We carry our dead bodies with us and circulate throughout the world.” Thich Nhat Hanh     I tell the students who take my monster class that we learn a lot about our culture’s fears based upon the monster […]

May
22

Hell on Hold

    Hell on Hold   “Whether the ground beneath our feet is heaven or hell depends entirely on our way of seeing and walking.” Thich Nhat Hanh     I’m not good at “life stuff.” I’ve been doing a lot of life stuff lately. When T.S. Eliot wrote ironically in his poem “The Wasteland” […]

May
15

Coach’s Curiosity

    Coach’s Curiosity   “Curiouser and curiouser” Lewis Carol, Alice in Wonderland     Sometimes, curiosity gets a bad rap, as in curiosity killed the cat, but curiosity is a wonderful and powerful tool to achieve equanimity. Curiosity can take us toward this sense of mental calmness and composure because we can use it […]

May
08

Marmee and Her Little Women

    Marmee and Her Little Women   “Each of us is hungry for understanding.” Thich Nhat Hanh     If you were a bookish girl growing up, you likely read Little Women, the Louisa May Alcott novel published in 1868 chronicling the story of the four March sisters. In birth order, there is Meg […]

May
01

You’ve Got a Friend in Me

    You’ve Got A Friend in Me   “In all kinds of weather, we’ll all stick together.” University of Florida, “We Are the Boys”     My friend Mike and I recently ran a virtual 5k together—together being a relative term since he lives in Nebraska and I live in Florida. He had perfect […]

Apr
24

With Power Comes Responsibility

    With Power Comes Responsibility   “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” Genesis 1: […]

Apr
17

Grief and Connection

    Grief and Connection   “Our souls, therefore, which are one, Though I must go, endure not yet A breach, but an expansion, Like gold to airy thinness beat.” John Donne, “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”     The third anniversary of my dad’s death passed this week, making me think of one of my […]

Apr
10

The Force of Attachment

    The Force of Attachment   “The fear of loss is a path to the dark side.” Yoda, Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith     I confess that Easter made me realize I have more in common with Anakin Skywalker than with Mary, mother of Jesus. In Star Wars III: Revenge of […]

Apr
03

The Pleasure of Pain

    The Pleasure of Pain   “The palette of pain is infinitely variable.” Alex Hutchinson, Endure     I got my second vaccination for COVID-19 recently, for which I am extremely grateful as someone who has been in a classroom since August. I tend to be optimistic when it comes to my health, so […]

Mar
27

Gratitude for Troublemakers

    Gratitude for Troublemakers   “Those events and people in our lives who trigger our unresolved issues could be regarded as good news.” Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart     We are Disney nerds in our family with my only child especially obsessed with Stitch of Lilo and Stitch fame. We have shirts, […]

Mar
20

The Danger of Despair

    The Danger of Despair   “A destructive emotion—which is also referred to as an ‘obscuring’ or ‘afflictive’ mental factor—is something that prevents the mind from ascertaining reality as it is.” Daniel Goleman, Destructive Emotions: How Can We Overcome Them? A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama     Hopelessness feels awful, but it’s […]

Mar
13

The Suffering of Me, Myself, and I

    The Suffering of Me, Myself, and I   “But Faustus’ offence can ne’er be pardoned. The serpent that tempted Eve may be saved, but not Faustus.” Christopher Marlowe, The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus     I learned recently from reading Peaceful Heart: The Buddhist Practice of Patience by Dzigar Kongtrul that there […]

Mar
06

Who Are You?

    Who Are You?   “One of the greatest gifts we can offer people is to embody nonattachment and nonfear.” Thich Nhat Hanh     Recently, I accidentally on purpose gave some of my students an existential crisis. We opened the class with a discussion board post. The instructions read, “I’ve never met you. […]

Feb
27

Crime and Punishment as Gift

    Crime and Punishment as Gift   “A book enters the life of an individual, a deep relation is formed, and the person changes in some significant way as a result of this engagement.” Stephen Bonnycastle     For Christmas, knowing I am a huge Harry Potter nerd, my daughter gave me a Slytherin-themed […]

Feb
20

Generations

    Generations   “… the sins of fathers are visited on their children to the third and fourth generation.” Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto     Recently, I looked in the mirror and saw my mother’s face. It was my face, of course, but for a moment it felt as I were once again […]

Feb
13

Love as Commandment

    Love as Commandment   “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Matthew 24:49     We don’t have to be Christians to see that Jesus’s fundamental commandment to love one another is, as he says, the foundation for all other commandments. We might also agree that it’s a shame that we have to […]

Feb
06

All Is Well

    All is Well   “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Julian of Norwich     In the medieval era while England was still Catholic and long before the Age of Reason, mysticism held great respect. During this time lived a woman called […]

Jan
30

Quesadillas, Muffins, and Decisions

    Quesadillas, Muffins, and Decisions   “Just decide to be more decisive.” Chidi Anagonye, The Good Place   I was once on a committee charged with infusing our university’s curriculum with critical thinking as it pertains to decision making. At one of the meetings, the committee chair asked what we had for dinner the […]

Jan
23

Fearless vs. Brave

    Fearless vs. Brave   “When you’re scared but you still do it anyway, that’s brave.” Neil Gaiman, Coraline       When Neil Gaiman’s five-year-old daughter asked him for a children’s horror book, he was happy to oblige. When he went to the local bookstore to buy her one, he discovered clerks shocked […]

Jan
16

An Ordinary Day

    An Ordinary Day   “About suffering they were never wrong, The Old Masters: how well they understood Its human position: how it takes place While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;” W.H. Auden, Musée des Beaux Arts     Early twentieth-century British poet W.H. Auden used […]

Jan
09

Stopping Time

    Stopping Time   “Time is thus understood in Buddhism always to be inseparable from things as ever-changing.” Masao Abe, Zen and Comparative Studies     Most of us feel pretty celebratory about the passage of time with the shift away from the challenging year of 2020 to what we hope is a more […]

Jan
02

The Grief Store

    The Grief Store   “The sorrow of great and small losses is a river that runs in the underground of all our lives.” Roshi Joan Halifax       I shared with a dear friend recently that I had such a surplus of grief that I could open a grief store if anyone […]

Dec
26

Old Friends and New Perspectives

    Old Friends and New Perspectives   “Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And auld lang syne?” Robert Burns, “Auld Lang Syne?”   At the end of the movie When Harry Met Sally, the title characters have an epiphany at a New Year’s Eve Party […]

Dec
19

Anxiety, Buddy the Elf, Linus, and the Dalai Lama

    Anxiety, Buddy the Elf, Linus, and the Dalai Lama   “Treat every day like Christmas.” Buddy the Elf     Anxiety is an important evolutionary adaptation that has kept our species alive. It also feels lousy. Unlike fear, which is focused on something or someone specific, anxiety is more a diffuse feeling that […]