Cultivating Peace Within

Jerusalem by Naomi Shihab Nye

I’m not interested in
who suffered the most.
I’m interested in
people getting over it.

Once when my father was a boy
a stone hit him on the head.
Hair would never grow there.
Our fingers found the tender spot
and its riddle: the boy who has fallen
stands up. A bucket of pears
in his mother’s doorway welcomes him home.
The pears are not crying.
Later his friend who threw the stone
says he was aiming at a bird.
And my father starts growing wings.

Each carries a tender spot:
Something our lives forgot to give us.
A man builds a house and says,
“I am native now.”
A woman speaks to a tree in place
of her son. And olives come.
A child’s poem says,
“I don’t like wars,
they end up with monuments.”
He’s painting a bird with wings
wide enough to cover two roofs at once.

Why are we so monumentally slow?
Soldiers stalk a pharmacy:
big guns, little pills.
If you tilt your head just slightly
it’s ridiculous.

There’s a place in my brain
where hate won’t grow.
I touch its riddle: wind, and seeds.
Something pokes us as we sleep.

It’s late but everything comes next. 

From Red Suitcase Copyright 1994 by Naomi Shibab Nye


Stan and I are taking a mindfulness class at St. Mary’s Health and Fitness. We both have meditated for years, but with our current health conditions, it couldn’t hurt to tune up our skills. The first week we had to keep a meditation journal, which for me was a good reminder to do at least a little every day. The second week our assignment was no radio or other music while driving and no television. No television is not too hard for us because we don’t watch much and we DVR shows we do want to watch. We also received colorful Zen dots which are removable round stickers to put all over your house and car and they remind you to take a deep breath whenever you see one. I have one on our Surface keypad,

one on my water bottle, 

one on my Boogie Board, 

and I put one Zen dot on my car radio dial. 

I have always been a person who notices things, so that didn’t change much driving without radio. But I did pay more attention to my speed. And I was more mindful. We missed the third class, unfortunately, because the Radicava webinar was at the exact same time. The third class was on meditation to handle pain which Stan really needs. There was no class this week and next Wednesday will be the last one. Hopefully Stan can get caught up on the pain lesson.

I have been working on maintaining my inner peace at home despite the loud expressions of frustration and anger that at times spring from the guys I love. I went on strike as Andy’s manager, in that I won’t remind him to get his school work, chores, training, practicing, etc. done. I am done with the conflict: “I know Mom!” spoken quite loudly and then still not getting anything done. At first he begged me to not go on strike. He said, “I like you telling me what to do.” I said, “I am not going to college with you.” Stan has really stepped up his involvement in managing Andy which is awesome.

I discoverd a new mindfullness tracker called Spire.

Spire on it’s charging pad. The smooth stone sensor goes inside your pant waist or center of bra for women.

It measures breaths per minute and can tell if you are calm, tense, concentrating, active, or sedentary. I set mine to vibrate and notify my phone only when I am tense, because I am usually a calm person. it is interesting to see what causes me to be tense. Spire also has guided breathing meditations including one called clinical strength for pain and that has helped Stan a few times already. It is also water proof so I can use it during water aerobics.

I wake up early in the morning because I love the peaceful time before anyone else is up. My alarm goes off at 4:45 AM and our local public radio station comes on with 15 minutes of classical music which is usually wonderfully calming music to wake up to. At 5 AM NPR news comes on. I like to know what is going on in the world, but I do get more tense when I listen to it. I also get more tense when I look at Facebook, probably more so since he who shall not be named became the head of our country.

I now read an emailed news digest called The Skimm.  It’s witty, as well as succinct but detailed if you wish to click links. I find it to be less stress inducing than the news on the radio.  It was through The Skimm that I found out about Spire. You can check out The Skimm here:   I do still read our local newspaper when I have time.

The news is full of terrorism and war, political strife, senseless killings. These things are not happening more in modern times than they did in history. They have always happened. Terrorism is part of war and wars have been fought throughout history over religious differences, political differences and power struggles. John Lennon said, “Imagine all the people living life in peace…imagine all the people sharing all the world” in his famous song Imagine. I will come across as a realist, and even maybe a naysayer because I don’t think this will ever happen. I think our planet will become even more full of war as resources shrink and populations increase.

As Naomi Shibab Nye said in her poem Jerusalem, “There’s a place in my brain where hate won’t grow”. It is through mindfulness and meditation that we can get in touch with that peaceful place within ourselves. And it will be more and more important to be able to go to that peaceful place as life’s hardships bombard our local, national, and international newsfeeds, as well as all of our lives. 


 The Path of Life 

The Presence of Time by Josie Parrelli

Where the clocks are beating
The journey starts
Life is a sense of timing
Who we meet, who we see
What we do
Each step we take
Guides us upon our path
Confused, we question
The clock keeps beating
With no rythym or rhyme
That’s where the confusion has started
We fear the clock beating
As if it’s a mocking call
Eyeing your every move, seeing your falls
Be still in the moment, the clocks are not your foe
They are beating
In your rythym
Your time
For the clock beats differently for all of us
Our steps, our journey
The presence of time is your friend
Listen to it, hear the beats 
For when the time hits
You realize that the clock was always beating
In your time, your tune
For the presence of time is never to be feared
Never to be questioned; never to be argued with
Listen to it, hear the beats
Hear the melody, sing the song
Strum the beats
For within the melody is where your destiny lies
Believe and trust 
For the presence of time
Is a gift, unique to us
This is your Life Purpose
For here is where your story is told


We each walk our own path through life. We can control some of the direction of the path, but there are many other things that control the direction of the path too. In the end, you live on the life path that is uniquely your own.

We attended the memorial for our friend Joannie’s uncle, Takashi (Taka) Togashi, in Palo Alto, California last Monday. Our friends Tim and Joannie helped take care of him in his final years. He was 89 when he passed away. He was born and raised in Modesto, California. He was in high school when he and his family were interned during World War II when the U.S. government evacuated Japanese Americans from California. They were relocated to the Merced Assembly Center and shortly thereafter to the Amache Relocation Center in Southeast Colorado. He graduated from the Amache Relocation Center high school in 1945, then moved to Boulder, Colorado. In 1946, when he was 18, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. After basic training in Texas, he was sent to Tokyo, Japan and held an office position at the U.S. General Headquarters there and received his honorable discharge in late 1947.

His main career was with the U.S. Postal Service, starting in 1956 at the Denver Post Office, and transferred to the Palo Alto, California Post Office in 1970.

At the beautiful memorial service, which was coordinated by Joannie, several relatives spoke of their memories of Taka, starting with Joannie.

Joannie spoke of taking her Uncle Taka swimming at 24 hour fitness several times. She said when she was finished with her swim workout, he never wanted to get out of the water. He told Joannie one of his favorite childhood memories was swimming in the Modesto irrigation canals, which were locally referred to as the Modesto Beach (Modesto, California is landlocked).

She also spoke of his interest in technology. In 2010, he invested in Tesla stock because he liked Elon Musk and the prospect of electric cars being better for the environment. He wanted to live long enough to see self-driving cars made by Tesla driving around safely. In early 2017, Joannie arranged a Tesla test drive for him. She said the salesman parallel parked with his hands off the steering wheel, and that was good enough for Uncle Taka. He was very happy.

Then Joannie’s husband Tim spoke of driving Uncle Taka around to appointments. As they passed local horse race tracks in San Mateo and Oakland, Taka told Tim stories about his love of Thoroughbred horse racing.

Joannie’s sister, who is a doctor at Stanford and claimed to have never spoken extemporaneously before, told of her memory of visiting Uncle Taka in Colorado as a little girl and wanting to hold his hand all the time. She thought he liked it.

Then another cousin said he also remembered visiting his uncle in Colorado and going fishing with him.

At the graveside service, the minister spoke eloquently about Taka’s unique path in life: how he didn’t have control about being relocated or drafted but those things became part of his life path and how he didn’t know that holding his little niece’s hand or fishing with his nephew would cause a lasting memory for the children. He also said Taka probably didn’t realize that swimming in those canals would be a lasting favorite memory. He spoke of the social nature of going to the racetrack – connecting with friends while enjoying their horse race betting. He even mentioned the Tesla salesman, who may not have realized the significant life event he created for the old man. He went on to say that we are each on unique paths, and we also may not realize the impact we are having on others.

The service was a wondetful tribute to one man and his life path and how it was influenced and how it influenced others. Stan and I really enjoyed visiting with Joannie’s family and friends (connecting).

Through Facebook I have heard from people in my past that I didn’t even remember who told me what a lasting influence I had on them. One was a guy one of my sisters dumped and he said he remembered how kind I was to him sitting on the front steps right after that. Another was a high school classmate who I didn’t even know who said my leadership of the high school newspaper helped him believe he could succeed in journalism, so he started down that path in college.

Every day we come into contact with people, and any interaction could make a difference in someone else’s life.

Thinking about my own life path, I was a member of Soroptomist International of Truckee Meadows about 25 years ago, and through a speaker at one of our luncheons I had the opportunity to mentor foster teens. I think I was drawn to that because my own family was disrupted in a pretty big way when I was 18 (divorce and death of my brother) and I couldn’t imagine launching into the world at that age without even divorced parents to support you. I still keep in touch with both of the teens I mentored and they have both told me how much I impacted their lives at a time when they really needed support. Those are relationships that have a positive symbiotic significance in each other’s lives.

Keia, one of the teens I mentored, is now a holistic health specialist. She came over to our house last month for a family healing guided meditation. I asked her if she would be willing to come to an ALS Support Group meeting and do a mind based stress reduction presentation, and she readily agreed.

Keia, talking at the ALS Support Group meeting (while eying me taking photo 😉) with Taryn Joyner, the ALS Association of Nevada Care Services Coordinator, listening.

Coincidentally, one of the people at the meeting had recently lost her husband to ALS and we figured out that we had been in Soroptomists together so long ago. There was also an ALS patient who conference called in to listen. Keia did a wonderful guided mind based stress reduction with us. She had researched ALS and gave us tools we can use at any time. 

In the guided meditation Keia emphasized our own unique hands, and feet, etc. and the importance of honoring these body parts that have served us for so many years. And she spoke of our one true path that included both happiness and sorrow, and how that’s ok – it is our own path no matter what route it takes.

ALS is on my path and that’s ok.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction 

Stan, Andy, and I have had a lot of stress for quite a while. Stan’s illness had us calling 911 in the middle of the night or driving him to the Emergency Room more times than we can count. On top of that he had several planned surgeries, so for many days Andy would do his homework while visiting Dad in the hospital. 

Andy was visiting his grandparents in Las Vegas a couple of years ago and his grandpa was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night.

And then my diagnosis with ALS shook us to the core. Andy has had a lot of anger, which is understandable. 

Twenty years ago I had the opportunity to mentor two foster teens. This was before Big Brothers Big Sisters came to Reno. One of the teens I mentored is Keia, who is now 37 and has just become a yoga instructor and has her own business here in Reno where she goes to her client’s residence for tailored yoga sessions focusing on breathing and guided meditation:

I asked her about a family healing session and we were able to schedule that the first week of Andy’s spring break.

She had us do some basic stretching to start and then did a guided meditation for relaxation. And then she talked about using mindfulness to control anger. And showed Andy the Eagle yoga pose which is also great for dealing with anger.

The attitudes and intentions that are most important for mindfulness meditation include:

  • Non-judging: observing what’s actually happening without adding emotions, fears or prejudices to it.
  • Patience: understanding and accepting that sometimes things take more time than we’d like and must unfold in ways we can’t fully control 
  • Trust: trusting yourself, your basic wisdom and goodness, your feelings and  “intuition,” and trusting the same in others
  • Having a beginner’s mind: (open-mindedness): not letting what we think we already know affect us seeing things for what they are
  • Acceptance: recognizing and allowing what’s happening first without trying to change it, giving us a clearer picture to work with when it comes time to act
  • Non-striving: trying less and being more; allowing your experience to unfold without fighting against it or wishing it was different
  • Letting go: recognizing that everything changes, being willing to let go of unpleasant and old beliefs, and also accepting that good things can’t necessarily last forever.


    After the session gag picture 😃

    I am so proud of the new Keia!

    Keia came back that evening for dinner and we watched my favorite movie, and Andy’s too: Short Term 12, which is about foster kids.
    This was a particularly good week to have some mindfulness training. We had 5 doctor’s appointments between the three of us, an interesting video conference for market research on packaging for a new ALS drug, as well as an ALS Support Group meeting on Thursday. And then on Friday we went away for a few days. We also fit in the Toytopia exhibit at Wilbur May Museum.

    Boys and toys
    Andy built a smaller version of this for his 4th grade report on George Ferris who was a Nevada native.
    When the girl left, Stan and Andy built an elaborate track from the upper right to the lower left, then little kids came over and said again, again because they loved watching the balls go through the track.
    Stan showing off his etch-a-sketch circle drawing skills.

    The exhibit also had classic video games such as Pac-Man and Space Invaders. It was fun to share those with Andy.

    At the ALS Support Group meeting on Thursday, we had visiting speakers from Vocasso to tell us about the wireless headsets they are building  that will generate speech from electronic signals from the speech forming muscles. They wanted input from us on their product for ALS.

    Brett and Ryan from Vocasso

    Deb showed off the car washing mitts she uses to cover the cold metal plates that her feet are on in her wheelchair. Brilliant idea!

    Andy came along to this support group meeting, his first. He didn’t want to come, but he said it was fun. The two other ALS patients there had great stories and were funny. The guys from Vocasso were great too. We  met them for dinner that night too.

    And then went home to pack.

    Stan and Andy will be participating in a Cornhole tournament in June in the Bay Area to raise money for Young Faces of ALS, a part of ALS TDI. I have several friends who were diagnosed here ALS at very young ages. Please consider a donation to research to end this awful disease, while supporting my boys in the Cornhole Tournament here:

    Thank you for helping to wipe out ALS.