Everything mindfulness is the topic of this episode. The beloved mindful meditation / mindful working / mindful loving / mindful living teacher, Michelle DuVal, is in the virtual studio.
Michelle is the director of The Mindful Center in Albuquerque, the leading provider of mindfulness training in the Southwest.
She offers ongoing training in MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction), has online courses and meditations, and facilitates retreats at Ghost Ranch, in Abiquiu, NM.
In this episode, Michelle and Melanie talk about the hunger for mindful awareness, how to meet what's happening with awareness, and much more.
Michelle shares her wisdom and experience in this fun, contemplative, light-hearted show.
"Stress is a form of holding on, peace is a form of letting go." Michelle DuVal
Cynthia Jurs is a remarkable woman. She's a Buddhist teacher, trained by the beloved Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. A practitioner of Vajrayana Buddhism. A Lama, initiated in Nepal, in recognition of her many years of dharma practice and dedication to the work of global healing through the Earth Treasure Vases.
She founded Alliance for the Earth and is the Executive Director of the Earth Treasure Vase Global Healing Project.
Finally, Cynthia is the guiding teacher at the Gaia Mandala Sangha in Santa Fe, where she's been leading meditation groups, retreats, and pilgrimages offering a unique blend of engaged Buddhism and sacred activism.
In this episode, Cynthia shares insights about the goddess Tara, Gaia -- Mother Earth -- and how to recognize a sacred calling.
In the stunning New York Times bestselling book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, Katharine May writes that wintering is "the active acceptance of sadness. It is the practice of allowing ourselves to feel it as a need. It is the courage to stare down the worst parts of our experience and to commit to healing them the best we can.”
In her acknowledgment of sadness and unhappiness, Katharine opens the door to the possibility of healing from those inevitable dark times when we don't think we can bear more suffering.
Yes, suffering is part of being alive. Yes, there is hope. And choice about how we respond to those inevitable times.
Part of what helps us get better at navigating metaphorical winter includes doing the "deeply unfashionable things [of] — slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting — [it's] a radical act now, but it is essential."
Melanie was thrilled to find out that not only is Katharine May a great writer, she's also a fantastic guest!
There's lots of laughter, lots of transparency, and lots of deep, well-lived experience in this episode.
We're beginning to wake up, to emerge from the darkness of the literal winter, as well as the “wintering” we’ve had to endure as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Not quite ready, though. nature needs us to be mindful and intentional about how quickly we emerge.
Just this morning, I saw another reminder on Facebook about not clearing out old leaves and dead-looking plant stems from our gardens until the temperature is consistently over 50 degrees. ‘Cause, who knew? butterflies and bees and other pollinators overwinter in those places.
If I clear out the dead-looking stuff in the garden too soon, some very important members of our ecosystem get lost in the process.
The same with beginning to re-emerge from the past pandemic hell year. A small percentage of folks have gotten fully vaccinated; many more have received their first shot. And millions have yet to get any.
Those who've received vaccinations must hold onto their impatience for freedom, and continue wearing good masks and socially distancing so that the rest of the human ecosystem can catch up.
As the literal winter is ending in the northern hemisphere, so too the metaphorical wintering caused by pandemic lockdowns. This metaphorical wintering is an energetic, emotional, and psychological wintering.
The idea comes from a beautiful book written by Katherine May, called Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times.
Here’s how she describes it:
"Wintering is a season in the cold. It is a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, side-lined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider. Perhaps it results from an illness or a life event such as a bereavement or the birth of a child; perhaps it comes from a humiliation or failure. Perhaps you’re in a period of transition and have temporarily fallen between two worlds. … . However it arrives, wintering is usually involuntary, lonely, and deeply painful."
Don’t you think it’s true that we’ve all been wintering? And that, while some of us may be emerging, many others are not.
We haven’t really begun to tally our losses, or to grieve what’s been lost — a statement that may be true for both our lives, as well as this pandemic year.
One of the things that helps me so much is being reminded of the beauty that’s everywhere. It’s something that Katherine’s book is rich with, both in her writing, as well as the things she writes about, such as a sleeping dormouse.
If you can, please read or listen to her book.
In the meantime, you can listen to Part 1 of the interview we did together (Part 2 airs next week).
We are in the midst of a collective transformation that affects each one of us. As Katherine writes:
“Transformation is the business of winter. In Gaelic mythology, the hag deity known as the Cailleach takes human form at Samhain to run the winter months, bring with her winds and wild weather. … . The Cailleach is thought to be the mother of the gods, the gruff, cold originator of all things. … . … The Cilleach offers us a cyclical metaphor for life, one in which the energies of spring arrive again and again, nurtured by the deep retreat of winter. We are no longer accustomed to thinking in this way. Instead we are in the habit of imagining our lives to be linear, a long march from birth to death in which we mass our powers, only to surrender them again, all the while slowly losing our youthful beauty. This is a brutal untruth.”
We can honor the cyclical nature of life — leave the garden looking scraggly until the hibernating pollinators are awake and getting on with it, wear a mask and social distance until everyone has gotten vaccines, and breathe into and be with our personal winterings.
In doing so, we're alive to the great wonder of being human.
sadness, depression, illness, happiness, nature, mindfulness
We know that grief, fear, and hardship are hitting millions of people, both at home and around the world. We know it’s not going to magically get better all of a sudden. No one has a cosmic magic wand with which to sprinkle glistening fairy dust over our crown chakras and clear the dark, heavy energy of all that’s accumulated as a species since humans have been walking upright.
So then … how do we deal? How do we get through the day?
Melanie takes a look at the evidence-based solutions for surviving a crisis through the lens of disaster and trauma psychology.
From a recent Scientific American article, "Megan Hosey, a rehabilitation psychologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine, says that 'most of us … "will be able to adapt and recover." To do so, however, we will need to be flexible, open and honest with ourselves and learn how to take things one day at a time.'"*
It turns out that there are five top psychological needs common to everyone in a crisis. William Garmoe, a neuropsychologist, has researched important psychological needs people have in the midst of a disaster. Those “top five are to feel safe, calm, self-efficacious, socially connected and hopeful. When people engage in activities that benefit others, they may be able to check off three of those needs — feeling more useful, [being more] connected and hopeful about the future.”*
Listen in as Melanie shares research findings and how-to-cope ideas when dealing with a disaster such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Please don’t imagine that my decade of writing practice and Zen meditation have silenced or fully pacified the angry self-critics in my head. That’s not how things work. I’m just much better at managing those voices.” Natalie Goldbert, Three Simple Lines
Beloved New Mexico author, teacher, and Zen Buddhist practitioner Natalie Goldberg is back for the second of two episodes.
Natalie wrote the internationally renowned Writing Down the Bones, published in 1986, and has since published memoirs, essays, poetry, more writing books, a novel, and a notebook.
Her brand-new book, Three Simple Lines: A Writer’s Pilgrimage into the Heart and Homeland of Haiku, is the focus.
Natalie and Melanie riff on such things as beauty, staying calm in chaotic times, mindfulness, meditation, writing practice, life and death, spiritual connection ... and yes, so much more.
If you missed the first show with Natalie Goldberg, please download it from Melanie's site here.
This haiku was composed by Natalie:
your lips on mine
"Haiku is a refuge when the world seems chaotic, when you are lost, frightened, tangled, and nothing is clear." Natalie Goldberg, Three Simple Lines
Natalie Goldberg is an author, teacher, and Zen Buddhist practitioner. She wrote the internationally renowned Writing Down the Bones, published in 1986, and has since published memoirs, essays, poetry, more writing books, a novel, and a notebook.
This is the first of two parts, talking with Natalie about her brand-new book, called Three Simple Lines: A Writer’s Pilgrimage into the Heart and Homeland of Haiku.
Natalie is such a wonderful teacher that Melanie signed up for the Haiku writing virtual workshop through Upaya Zen Center as a result of this interview.
Melanie shares reflections from a variety of experts, including Winnie the Pooh. “Well,” said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.”
Fantasy travel trips, the psychology of hope, neuroscience, Blue Zones -- all of this, plus Winnie the Pooh! Come listen.
"Millions of people have been traumatized by the political climate of the last few years.
"Millions of people have been traumatized by brutal bureaucracies created to perpetuate systemic poverty, racism, misogyny, ableism, and so much more.
"Millions have been traumatized as children in the families, schools, and/or cultures in which we've lived.
"Millions have been traumatized by the out-of-control Covid-19 pandemic." - Dr. Melanie Harth
Let's acknowledge the truth of the trauma. And then, let's learn to harness our minds to help regulate our emotions, which helps us feel safe.
Which helps us think more clearly, and move into solutions and possibilities.
As National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman recited/performed during the Presidential Inauguration, “ … there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
"I’m asking you, my friends, if there’s a part of you that’s ready to stop participating in the insanity that’s become what we in this country believe is important. What is true for you at this point in your life? What matters to you? Who are you helping? Who’s helping you?" - Dr. Melanie Harth
Melanie presents a potpourri of ideas from Jungian depth psychologists to political scientists, and from Geneen Roth to Melanie's thoughts on what a mess we're in, and how we can begin cleaning it up.
Yep, it's a big show. Yep, it works.
Jamie Lerner has a master’s degree in social work from Loyola University, has been in private practice as a psychotherapist for many years, and is a passionate amateur equestrian rider on the AA horse show circuit.
Also a world traveler, Jamie has explored a wide variety of spiritual healing modalities.
And she's the co-author of the book “The Ever-Loving Essence of You”.
Melanie and Jamie take a deep dive down into wellbeing, happiness, inner guidance, and re-creating the greatest relationship of all -- the one we have with ourselves.
Jamie's thoughtful, measured wisdom helps shed light on the inner resources each of us has to live a rich, full life.
“The most important thing to understand is that you have choice: your choice to soar, or your choice to spend the remainder of your life arguing for your limitations.” from The Ever-Loving Essence of You
The artist, Stanford prof, and thought leader Jenny Odell's provocative book, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy is the focus of this episode.
Odell's book is a provocative take on taking ourselves back.
How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, was named one of the best books of the year by Time, The New Yorker, NPR, Vulture, Fortune, Boing Boing, and was one of President Obama’s Favorite Books of 2019.
Melanie shares writings from the book, along with her own observations and thoughts and personal stories.
When we can wield our attention in a more intentional way, we have agency over our choices, our fears, our subconscious biases, and outmoded beliefs about how the world works. If this pandemic has done nothing else, it’s demonstrating just how out of control we are about how the world is supposed to work.
Which gives us the space, the incentive even, to begin forging better pathways forward.
As Odell writes: “Simple awareness is the seed of responsibility.”
Melanie focuses on thoughts and writings from such luminaries as Paula Allen Gunn, Simon Ortiz, Joy Harjo, and Barry Lopez in this episode.
Some of the "bad" words touched on are considered unimportant and light-weight and New-Agey, and even worse, often used to minimize, criticize, and shame those who dare to align themselves with such ridiculous concepts as living a slow, contemplative life, or consciously choosing love as a touchstone for decision-making.
This episode is really about reclaiming the power of language to catalyze transformation.
Katy Butler is an award-winning journalist, public speaker, and bestselling author. She’s a thought leader about end-of-life care in the national movement for medical reform.
Her first book was Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death and was named one of the 100 Most Notable Books of 2013 by the New York Times.
It may seem a bit macabre to be talking about death, and yet … paradoxically, the more we learn about the softer technologies of the human heart, a phrase from Ms. Butler’s piece, the more we enhance our happiness and wellbeing.
The second half of this episode features the writings of Robin Wall Kimmerer, scientist, professor, enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and author of the rightly celebrated book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.
In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer says:
“Joanna Macy writes that until we can grieve for our planet we cannot love it—grieving is a sign of spiritual health. But it is not enough to weep for our lost landscapes; we have to put our hands in the earth to make ourselves whole again. Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair.”
It seems ridiculous to celebrate anything these days. And yet, we know from all the neuroscience research that celebrating is quite important for our brains. Which means it’s important for our lives.
Melanie's inspiration for this episode was a big-little thing that recently happened to her.
Lots of good neuroscience, beautiful blessings from beloved Mirabai Starr, deep writings from The New York Times bestseller Learning to Walk in the Dark, by Barbara Brown Taylor.
Plus! Poems from David Whyte and John O'Donohue and Maya Angelou and Dr. Martin Luther King, and some of Melanie's book proposal writing on collective trauma.
It's a packed show, folks. Listen in, won't you?
Melanie shares ideas, thoughts, and how-tos for easing up on ourselves.
The conflict between way too much to do and the desperate desire for rest that so many of us are struggling with makes for a toxic soup of stress and anxiety.
She dives into a chapter from the book Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age written by the psychotherapist, anthropologist, and author Mary Pipher. The chapter is "Building A Good Day". (The advice, of course, applies no matter our gender or age.)
"To be happy we need to learn how to structure a day that is rich in meaning and joy-producing activities. How we spend our time defines who we are. There is no magical future. Today is our future. Our lives are events that unfurl in real time, minute by minute. Right up there with the need for oxygen, food, and sleep is the need to have a reason to get out of bed every morning."
The Happiness in Dark Times series this week focuses on some of the ideas from Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
Curiosity, creativity, joy, lightness, ease, and strength (as in internal fortitude) are all covered in this episode.
Melanie includes thoughts from the Jungian psychoanalyst, author, storyteller and curandera Clarissa Pinkola Estes, as well.
Continuing her solo Happiness During Dark Times series, Melanie presents a deep, thoughtful show based on writing by the visionary thought leader Charles Eisenstein.
Here's a little bit of part of this episode:
"A ceremony, then, is a special kind of ritual. It is a ritual done in the knowledge that one is in the presence of the sacred, that holy beings are watching you, or that God is your witness.
Those whose worldview has no place for the sacred, or holy beings, or God will see ceremony as superstitious nonsense or, at best, a psychological trick, useful maybe to calm the mind and focus the attention.
Now hold on ...
... as for the rest, you'll have to download the episode.
Did you know that mindfulness, mindful awareness, and/or contemplative practices don't have to be formal, stick-in-the-mud things?
In fact, the more we can bring mindfulness into our everyday lives, the happier, more content, satisfied, and peaceful we are.
Listen in as Melanie shares a chapter of her book, called Happiness and Mindfulness: a Light-Hearted Guide.
The chapter? "Mindfulness, Dorothy, and That Yellow-Brick Road."
Here's a hint:
"I first learned how to cultivate a sitting meditation practice during a time in my personal and professional lives when I was in serious doubt that I’d be able to make it through another day of grinding misery.
Mindlessly having made decisions based on what others wanted me to do, I was left holding the bag. And it was a big bag of nasty stuff, can I just tell you?"
This is the 2nd episode of Melanie's Happiness in Dark Times solo series.
This is a quiet and intimate show, the first in a series of quiet, contemplative shows with Melanie. She shares some of her own writing, along with insights from thought leaders such as neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson; Vaclav Havel, the great Czechoslovakian playwright turned dissident activist who became president of his country; and poetry selections.
All the readings were chosen to help soothe your soul.
There are lots of resources and creative ideas about finding happiness, no matter what's going on out there.
Here's a morsel for you to enjoy:
I will not die an unloved life.
I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid, more accessible;
to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.
~ Dawna Markova
Wowzer. This is a fasten-your-seatbelt show. Vince Kadlubek, the visionary co-founder of the internationally renowned interactive, experiential performance art space Meow Wolf, joins Melanie.
He's stepped away from Meow Wolf's day-to-day operations into the role of Executive Advisor.
Vince dives deep, talking about the role of imagination in starting from a sort-of starving artist local collective to running a multi-million dollar business with the backing of George R. R. Martin, no less.
How to curate an experience and contribute to the collective are part of this fascinating conversation.
Vince Kadlubek is also the founder of the consulting agency Spatial Activations. Here's the Facebook description:
Linda Durham -- provocateur, a major force in the Santa Fe art gallery scene, world traveler, seeker, and author -- continues her in-depth conversation with Melanie in this episode.
Creative thinking, a positive mindset, trust and faith, and the other side of fear are touched on as Linda continues to share just a few of her astonishing life experiences.
"There is something comforting about the passage of time, about aging, about entering a phase of life known by various names that I’m learning to embrace." ~Still Moving, by Linda Durham
Linda Durham has been one of the most influential people in the Santa Fe art scene over the last three decades. And she's just published her first book, a memoir called Still Moving.
In this wide-ranging conversation, Linda and Melanie talk about courage in the face of challenges, leading an artful life, creativity writ large, and living large no matter one's age.
This episode is the first of two parts.
"If my beloved business hadn’t failed, and if I hadn’t thrown all caution to the proverbial wind and used creatively raised funds to embark on a trip around the world, this book would not exist." ~ Still Moving, by Linda Durham