Expecting Perfection

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I’m always amazed at the amount of time we devote to criticizing ourselves. It seems to me we give this cranial activity way too much power. Our areas for self-criticisms are usually quite predictable—the ways we have somehow failed to be perfect in social interaction, parenting, work and public image.

Why is it so important to us that we present this perfect person? Certainly, some things are worth striving for, and the journey toward achieving a great outcome can bring out the best we can be. There is much merit in doing things right and holding ourselves accountable. But “perfect” is a hard and often impossible expectation. It always leads to dissatisfaction in self. And expectations don’t end with ourselves… they expand to include others. We are often harsh to those we should be nurturing the most, expecting them to be perfect. But the perfection we demand is not “their” perfect, it’s “our” perfect. Continue reading

Start a Movement of Nice

Inspiration! The process of being mentally stimulated to do something, especially to do something creative. Finding something everyday can be challenging, so let’s make it simple—look for opportunities to be kind.

As the saying goes, “just do it.” Reach down into your heart, take a risk, break the norm of watching and just do it. Take some action, no matter how small, to make someone’s day a little bit brighter and make someone smile. Continue reading

Spread the Love

Sitting at my desk, waiting for yet another snow storm to blanket the area, I’m letting my mind wander as it always does when faced with a blank sheet of paper. Suddenly the question drifts up from my deep inner brain: Just who is St. Valentine anyway?

St. Valentine is an interesting character, mostly because we don’t know much about him. Accounts differ and legends abound, but reliable information is on the short side. We do know he is the patron saint of lovers, epileptics and beekeepers. We also know that a lovers’ festival bearing his name dates back to the 14th century. And anyone who can achieve that type of recognition over seven centuries is okay in my book.  Continue reading

More Lessons in Life

We received a lot of positive feedback on the Publishers Letter in November, so I thought I would just do a little continuation with a few personal comments.

Honesty is so important. It is the link to integrity, friendship, relationships and self. It is not always easy and is sometimes a challenge, but like all of life, if we pay attention, understand we are human, stay open and be willing to admit our shortcomings, the rewards are priceless.

Interpersonal relationships. Building this skill pays back in life, in business, in parenting, in everything human. We should be teaching it in our schools, from day one to college graduation. Perfecting it is priceless.  Continue reading

Letter from the Publisher, December 2017

Root out the violence in your life, and learn to live compassionately and mindfully. Seek peace. When you have peace within, real peace with others is possible.

~Excerpted from Being Peace, by Zen Master, Tibetan Peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Thich Nhat Hanh

The holidays are a time for reflecting on spirit and peace. Doing so requires that we consider the obstacles to peace—in ourselves, our communities and around the world.

With each news story that breaks, revealing the degree to which violence and aggression occurs in places near and far, it is natural to want to find someone or something to blame. Like something out of a Marvel comic book, it would be so comforting if there were a singular, sinister villain at whom we could shake our finger, and who could hold the culpability for all that ails our society.

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Letter from the Publisher, March 2016

Human beings have a collective fascination with our own eyes. While sight is just one of the five senses, it maintains a universal primacy in how we understand, interpret and communicate with the world. In so many cultures, the eyes represent the essential nature of connection to self, others, soul and spirit.

Eyes have been a recurring theme in my life: my great-great-grandfather and great-grandfather were optometrists who gave eye exams in people’s homes on the Lower East Side during the turn of the century. My family still owns and operates Philadelphia Eyeglass Labs and Wink Optical, a chain of local optical shops that they founded over 125 years ago. In this issue, we hear from one of their best and brightest opticians about how technology is helping to bring greater clarity to how people see.

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Letter from the Publisher, February 2016

Hello, fellow February dwellers! It’s that time when temperatures drop to shudder-worthy lows and “wintry mix” coats the streets. It’s spectacular snow days, snowman-making and ice skating—not to mention shoveling, salting, skidding, and shivering!

It’s a time to go inside, literally and metaphorically, to retreat to the cozy corners of our couches and desks and hibernate with our thoughts, ideas and dreams. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, winter is associated with the element of water. To contain our energy within ourselves is to stand in the energy of the Water element.

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Letter from the Publisher, January 2016

2016 is upon us, will all of the excitement and promise that comes with a new year. In our culture, January is also goal-setting season. Gym memberships soar alongside our desire for self-improvement as we commit to having a new body, a new mind, a new us. It’s as if we all collectively decide that we’re going to be better with a capital B! Better NOW! Better than EVER!!

This attitude can be inspiring and motivating. But it can also be overwhelming—and if your past efforts have been less than successful (and research shows that 92 percent of us have made and failed at New Year’s resolutions), it can bring up sour memories.

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Letter from the Publisher, December 2015

“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.” —Brené Brown

As I write this, I have a sleeping infant swaddled on my chest. I can hardly believe this little precious babe is my child. It’s barely the middle of November, but my season of giving thanks and celebration began on October 28, 2015, when my son Asa was born, and his birth mom placed him in my ready embrace.

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Letter from the Publisher, November 2015

My house is not so cute. Any realtor or HDTV host would say it “lacks curb appeal”.

It’s an ugly duckling among swans in historic Wyncote, with its soaring 19th-century Victorian mansions that look like they came right out of the pages of an architectural history textbook. My house, on the other hand, looks like it arrived in a time capsule from the 1950s—and it hasn’t aged well.

When I first saw it on Zillow, I almost passed it over completely. But my deeper wisdom prevailed: when I got past the exterior facade, I realized it was a great choice for my family. The home offered what we needed, in the location we wanted, and at a price we could afford. Continue reading

Letter from the Publisher, October 2015

When I met my husband, Matt, I thought that activism was for other people—people with more time and more heart. On one of our first dates, he told me, “I’m working on a film project about overcrowding in the Philadelphia prison system.” I was intimidated and a little embarrassed at not being up on the topic. I think I managed to say something like “Sounds kind of heavy.” I had no idea how much I would learn in the ensuing five years, or who I might become.

That project eventually became Broken on All Sides, a 68-minute documentary film about the intersection of class, race and the prison-industrial complex. Matt shot, directed, edited and distributed it; I spent many hours watching him work and going with him to protests and conferences, ingesting the issue on a deeper level and eventually becoming a collaborator on the final cut. The critically acclaimed film has been screened in more than 50 locations since its release in 2011, including at a conference of civil rights leaders in Selma, Alabama, and a panel with Angela Davis in Berkeley, California.

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Letter from Publisher, September 2015

I have just added Willie Nelson to my list of personal heroes. I’m sure I’m not alone, there. An octogenarian who has recorded more than 200 albums since he started his career in the 1950s, he has long since earned his place as a country music legend, humanitarian, social and environmental activist and American icon. (And that was all before he became the elder statesman for the legalization of marijuana!)

His legacy aside, I was unprepared for the experience of witnessing Mr. Nelson rocking out to 4,000 people in an Atlantic City amphitheater last Sunday night. My mind and heart were blown wide open by the very force of his being: energy, love, creativity and joy just pour out from this man. He is resonant with vitality and, at the same time, grounded by learned wisdom and deep pathos. He is eye-catching and familiar, with his creaky voice and warm smile, that signature bandana and silvery braids. He is not at all what you think of when you hear the words “senior citizen.” As I stamped my feet and raised my glass to the anthemic “I Didn’t Come Here, and I Ain’t Leaving,” I sent my appreciation to him—not just for his musical gifts but for the spiritual teaching he has offered through his own life. What an exquisite example of “agelessness,” and right on time for our September issue on that theme.

I came home inspired to learn about how Mr. Nelson has spent the last eight decades. A guy who has been renowned for his Zen-like disposition and affection for “herbal supplements,” his biography reads like a playbook on longevity. True to the ideas presented in this month’s feature piece, “Ageless Being: Staying Vibrant in Mind, Body and Spirit” by Kathleen Barnes, it’s clear that he has kept his mind in a state of continual expansion, his body supple, and his heart porous.

Yoga, much like the tae kwon do that Mr. Nelson has practiced since he was a young man, is one of the most powerful forms of agelessness. It is both a preventative and a curative for dozens of health-related issues. For me, it’s been a 17-year journey to ease muscle tension, lift depression and decrease anxiety. Two years ago, I took the 200-hour teacher training in the Integral Yoga tradition, founded by Swami Satchidananda. His motto, and the aim of the yoga that he taught until he left his body at 87, was “easeful body, peaceful mind.”

I realize I’m aging, too. I’ve watched yoga culture grow in the U.S. over the past decade. I often mourn that in many studios, the philosophy is downplayed in favor of the sexier, more acrobatic elements of the form. Still, by and large, I am pleased to see so many people practicing, and the impact that is having on our culture. It’s not a coincidence that in an age when you can buy yoga pants at Target, we are seeing increasing acceptance of yoga and other alternative health modalities by the medical establishment. Meredith Montgomery explores the implications in our second feature piece, “Yoga Enters the Medical Mainstream: Research Proves Its Health Benefits.”

In our special “Local Yoga Voices” section, we hear directly from local yogis about what this practice has done for them, their students and the communities where they teach, in Bucks and Montgomery Counties. We’ll hear from Robbin Alston of Áse Yoga, Pooja Erica Andersen of Chalfont Yoga and Patty Ferry of Whole Body Yoga about yoga’s profound ability to transform us from the inside out.

For those who are new to yoga, or haven’t practiced in a while, we’ve also included a local yoga directory with a list of popular studios in the Bucks and Montgomery region. If there’s a studio you know and love that’s not listed, just drop us a line and let us know. We’ll be sure to include it next time.

I end with gratitude for the wisdom of the sages on this tricky business of living and dying. I’ll keep working to find peace with my body and mind even as my vintage increases. So at the end of the day, I can say with a smile, in the words of my guru Willie Nelson, “roll me up and smoke me when I die.”

Karen


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