Colds, Zombies, and Releasing That Which No Longer Serves Me

I am sitting in a waiting room again, this time with a cold. I have a box of tissues and only get occasional glances from the others in the waiting area. It is remarkable that, in only three short years, how differently we look at people with a hint of illness. One would have thought this pandemic would have people more thoughtfully caring for others, and their health, by bringing to light the fragility of life and the delicate balance that our bodies maintain.

I should have known better, even for myself. Humans are very habitual. As soon as the threat is over or deemed not as severe, we resort back to our unhealthy habits, myself included. I will note that I habitually WASHED my hands before, during, and after the pandemic, and I am disgusted by the lack of handwashing I see daily. Even at the height of Covid, I worked with humans that still would not wash their hands after using the restroom- and people wonder why I want no part in potluck gatherings! 

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Seriously folks, if you do not wash your hands after I HEAR and SMELL what is happening in the public restroom, I guarantee your lack of fastidiousness carries over into your home.  

Handwashing (I hate using this word, but) LITERALLY takes 20 seconds. That’s it.

The last three years proved that we are screwed if there is a zombie virus, as we clearly could not handle a severe cold/flu virus. Instead of focusing on what was important, some put others needlessly at risk. (and by some, I mean some on both sides of the political spectrum). If there were a zombie virus – we would fall faster than in World War Z or The Last of Us.

We tend to forget when we are frightened or angry that every human being on the planet is dealing with something- some issue, whether physical, mental, or emotional- we forget. We become self-centered, and we forget that we are all one. We forget about the power a sense of belonging and community brings; we forget that without our kin, we are alone. Self-preservation is an appealing and needed trait; however, it must be tempered with unconditional love.

Am I disgusted by my non-handwashing brethren? Absolutely. Do I wish them ill? Emphatically no. And before you ask if I or anyone else has discussed the importance of handwashing- yes. They have been very kindly spoken with, shown diagrams, etc., on the significance of handwashing for their health and safety, as well as the health and safety of others they still CHOOSE not to wash their hands.

The choices we make not only affect us. Expanding awareness of how our choices affect others is the first step toward unconditional love.

But I digress; allow me to shift back to the topic- meditating while ill. I have maintained a consistent morning meditation practice over the last few months in addition to my evening practice. The only thing that genuinely interrupts my practice is the migraines, and I will skip my routine when I have a severe migraine. Colds, however, pose a slightly different challenge. 

I have had to work with meditation while ill in the same way I work with any topic or situation that causes stress or a sensation of dis-ease, and I sit with it. Invite the feeling of frustration, anger, and sadness, allowing these feelings their full reign without acting upon them. Let them flow through my body, sensing where the emotion originates. 

The frustration boils down to a lack of control. We have no control. We can choose to eat healthy, exercise, and genuinely nurture our minds, body, and spirit to the best of our abilities, and we still get sick. 

We don’t want to feel stuffy, congested, or headachey. We want to feel healthy and vibrant and do not cherish our health until we are sick. 

While in states of dis-ease, it can be challenging to maintain mindfulness, as we seem only to be mindful of our misery. Through meditation, we can shift perspective, allowing our attention to rest where dis-ease is absent, if only for a moment. We allow space to open to us, inviting a sense of calm and peacefulness.  

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on

My morning meditations during this cold are interspersed with nose blowing, coughing, and required sips of hot tea, all of which can be viewed as meditative if I accommodate shifts in perspective. 

Meditation is a tool for enhancing one’s perception of the present moment, gently shifting from thoughts of the past or worries about the future back to the here and now. This allows us to glimpse the workings of the body, something we innately feel separate when sick. Think about the vernacular used when we discuss illness. We tend to use phrasing such as “kill the germs, attack the virus,” etc… seemingly at war with what we perceive as an attack on our system. 

What if we change our view? Instead of attacking the germs, what if we nurture our immune system and strengthen our white blood cells. The calm I experience during meditation grants this shift. I realize the symptoms I am experiencing are the many ways my body is tending to infection. A fever is a tool the body uses to neutralize the infecting agent. Sneezing and coughing can spread germs if we are not mindful of hygiene, but it also helps clear the lungs and sinus congestion.

Our bodies contain an innate intelligence. When we take time to listen and understand the signals, we heal faster. For example, we need to rest more than we do. I have learned to listen to my body when it tells me I need rest, and instead of muscling through, I stay home, sleep, and care for myself. Rest is so crucial for mental and physical health. 

It is through rest that the bigger picture becomes apparent, and the distinction between needs and wants becomes glaringly obvious. This realization provides space to release those things which no longer serve me in my healing. What is most important is restoring optimal health. What do I need to heal? I need rest, water, medicine, healthy food, warmth, and support.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on

It is a short list. Most of us living in the USA have these things and take them for granted daily. We have lived with excess for so long that we no longer understand the difference between needs and wants. Meditation afforded the awareness of my many blessings to blossom and let the frets and falsities drop.

Take time to look at areas where you are clinging unnecessarily. In the daily hustle, have you confused wants for needs? It is easy to do; we are inundated with media, daily tasks, chores, work, and home life. When we can simplify, we create space for those things which matter most. And the things that matter most are never things. 

Simplicity Moment: Hug someone you love today. Let them know how much they mean to you. 

Namaste, and have a blessed first day of spring!

Limitations & Radical Acceptance

Each one of us experiences times of hitting our limit, and these limits can be in the form of physical limits, mental limits, or manufactured limiting beliefs. Understanding the difference between limiting beliefs and actual physical or mental limitations is vital to thriving. We have the power within us to shift limiting beliefs; where as substantial physical or psychological impediments require radical acceptance.

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Limiting beliefs arise from the stories we tell ourselves. These typically begin in childhood during the impressionable age of four to eight. Something as simple as being told by a teacher that you are slow or sloppy creates tension within the self. For a child, a moment of questioning arises. “Am I sloppy? I must be since an adult – an authority figure whom I have been told is smarter, more knowledgeable (or insert any word consistent with “better than”); therefore, it must be so, and I am sloppy.”

Here in lies the danger. The “I” is not sloppy. Maybe the “I” actions were negligent, but that is a momentary behavior that “I” can change if presented with options or explanations.

Our language imparts the need for more understanding and discernment of the moment’s truth. We must distinguish the doing from the doer. We are not our thoughts, and we are not our actions, but we are responsible for our thoughts and actions. One who is established in discernment understands the ground of being.

We, the experiencer of emotions, thoughts, and actions, need to be aware of the effect of our emotions, ideas and acts on ourselves and others. Through these unmindful actions, we unwittingly impose limiting beliefs on ourselves and others.

Shifting limiting beliefs is rooted in mindful discernment. Having a sense that something is not right, not quite so, is the first step in the process of shedding attachments, in this case, attachment to outworn beliefs and lifestyle patterns. This altering of one’s course is usually a gradual transformation; it requires skillful effort, such as mindful attention and great patience.

For example, as a child, I was told I could not run far due to activity-induced asthma, as I seemed to get winded quickly on occasion. What I heard was, “Kristen cannot run.” Allowing this thought pattern to solidify in my being, I did not think otherwise until I was 27, a year and a half after giving birth to my son; I decided to start jogging to regain my strength and stamina. I thought, what is the worst that can happen? I get out of breath, take a break, and walk. So that’s what I did. On my first jog, I was ridiculously out of breath; my chest was on fire. I stopped and focused on breathing, willing the breath to find its natural rhythm. It did, and I walked the rest of the way, mindful of my breath and body.

I did not pass out, and I did not have any adverse reactions, so I persevered. Releasing my attachment to any outcome, I focused on putting one foot in front of the other until I could not. After a few months, I was able to jog a full mile. I celebrated the achievement as I had, through discernment, discovered “Kristen can run.”

I ran for the next ten years. Running became a passion as it allowed freedom from thoughts and actions. I found a sense of pure being in the sound of my soles slap, slap, slapping the pavement, a peacefulness I had only experienced in yoga or meditation.

Thus overcoming this one limiting belief opened the doors to remove the mental obstacles I had placed in my way throughout my life; the question begged to be asked, “what other self-made challenge could I overcome? The answer was deeply resonant- I could overcome any limiting belief I had constructed: this can be distilled down to attachment to the fruits of any idea, thought, or action. Bear in mind this did not mean I could necessarily run a marathon. Realistically I needed to understand the difference between limiting beliefs and actual physical limitations. My knees would definitely not take running a marathon. Over the 10 years I ran, I accrued much damage to joints, a stress fracture, and a broken bone in my foot. My physical limitation prevented me from running a marathon, not a limiting belief.

For this, gracious acceptance is required. My yoga practice cultivated the understanding I needed for this acceptance.

Please note by yoga practice, I do not mean only the asanas or poses, as is the prevalent understanding of yoga in the US. I am indicating the fullness of the embodiment of yogic principles and philosophy of which the postures are but only a piece of the much more comprehensive practice.

Again, much like shifting limiting beliefs, accepting physical or psychological limitations takes time and patience. Rallying against the natural flow of our life path or playing the victim of our circumstances only creates more suffering. Adjusting one’s view to the present moment allows for space where we may plant the seeds of acceptance. When we align ourselves with the present moment, we can no longer be distracted by the “what if’s” of the past or ensnared in anxiety over the unmanifest future. We begin to nurture the seeds of acceptance with loving kindness and patience.

“In the space we create through present-moment awareness, infinity awaits.”


As an example, the chronic migraines I experience are physical limitations. Additionally, for the last year, I have developed other symptoms which can impair my ability to speak or think clearly, drive, or partake in activities that bring me great joy, such as hiking and yoga (asana). Prevalent muscle weakness, neuropathy, and confusion, such as forgetting where I am or what I am doing, can be dangerous in specific settings. My awareness of my limitations is keen.

Of course, at the onset, these symptoms were terribly frightening and frustrating. Experiencing migraine from a very young age, I was potentially in a more desirable space to adjust to the additional limitations. Still, canceling plans and adapting from an active lifestyle to one spent mainly on the couch caused anger, resentment, fear, and sadness to arise. I had to sit with my emotions and make friends with the pain and anxiety to overcome dwelling on what I could not do. I needed to invite the sadness into my being and experience it fully to taste its essence in order to mourn what I perceived as a loss.

Losses can be viewed as destruction; through mindful destruction, we create new ideas, paths, and a new view of our predicaments. In my case, it was not the joys of my past that were destroyed but my attachment to how things “must” be. It is not “I love hiking; therefore, I will always be a hiker.” I enjoy the sense of aliveness, freedom, and connection with nature that hiking affords my spirit. This experience and this sense of space can manifest through other pursuits. The destruction of one path provides a clearer view of a new path that is untrod and full of pure potentiality. This potential is available to us in every moment. In the space we create through present-moment awareness, infinity awaits.

I now have a deeper appreciation for the cycles of nature as I see my path reflected in its seasons as I experienced a time of blossoming and unfolding as well as times of mourning and destruction. The two sides of the coin, non-duality expressed in each moment, for life implies death and vice versa.

As I align myself with what my body, mind, and spirit are capable of in each moment, I sense the blossoming of the seeds of acceptance, spreading peaceful contentment through my sacred vessel, allowing appreciation of the nuance and texture of the tapestry of the universe and the mystery of its weaving.

Please note that if you suffer from limitations causing you physical or mental anguish, I recommend talking with a trusted professional.
Start with your primary care doctor if you are still trying to figure out where to ask for help. For mental health assistance:

Meanderings On & Off The Noble Eightfold Path

Please note- I am not a Buddhist Scholar, and the following essay is a journey through my experience. If you are looking for an in-depth treatise on Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths, and the Eightfold Path, please consult,, or the like.

Buddhism is straightforward in explaining how to walk the middle path—eight beautifully concise guides for a well-lived life. The problem lies in practicing those noble lessons. 

A high school history class was my first introduction to Buddhism and its unique views. I was intrigued by the concept that all suffering comes from craving, but the chapter was short, and we were on to other things, and I forgot about the four noble truths. That is until about four years later when I developed an interest in meditation.

Meditation led to yoga and a desire to learn more about the history of these practices, eventually leading me to Buddhism’s middle path. Already familiar with the four Noble truths, I delved into learning about the eightfold path. It reads like a code of conduct if taken superficially, but the subtleties of the interconnectedness of being are laid out before our eyes. 

The path implies the concept that nothing exists on its own. “Everything is “inter-is.” Everything is part of a dynamic cycle, and we are a part of that cycle. We suffer because we struggle against the natural process and flow of life, and we can avoid suffering by following the eightfold path. 

So first, the four noble truths: 

The noble truth of suffering 

          suffering exists 

The noble truth of the beginning of suffering

          suffering arises from craving

 The noble truth of the ending of suffering

          suffering can be ceased

 The noble truth of the path to the end of suffering

          end craving, end suffering

The Noble Eightfold Path leads us toward the cessation of suffering, and I have meandered on and off the way for years. Following my trail, one would notice dead ends, the talus of anger, ancient glacial deposits deep within my heart, the pinnacle of compassion, and the valley of despair. There are two dominant patterns to the wanderings off the path- stress, and illness. I have not always coped with grace in the past. I can do better. I hold the guidebook, and the trail is marked.

Let us glance at our desired approach to the wilds of life; The Noble Eightfold Path.

Right Speech – if you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing. Be mindful of the impact words, tone and inflection can have.

Right Effort – applied will to prevent insensitive or impure thoughts, deeds, and actions, and the will to create an environment where compassion and integrity naturally arise.

Right Mindfulness – be attentive to the body, mind, emotions, thoughts, and the world around you.

Right Action – be attentive to one’s behavior, actions, and treatment of others and all sentient beings. Be kind and helpful.

Right Thought – wisdom arises naturally when one’s thoughts are selfless and full of unconditional love.

Right Concentration – bliss may be attained and sustained when the mind is clear and one-pointed.

Right Livelihood – how one makes a living shall not harm others or our environment.

Right Understanding – everything thing is as it should be.

So now prepared to move toward a new year with a compass to guide my way, will I meader and lose the trail? Absolutely! I have no doubt I will have moments of intense anger, panic, or worry, which mindlessly allows me to react from a place of fear instead of acting from a place of love. I am not perfect, nor will I ever be. I am learning, day by day, moment by moment.  

Through meditation, yoga, or reiki, I can slowly dissolve my attachment to outcomes and expectations, allowing for a more natural life, and exploring the wildness inherent within. 

May your new year be filled with compassion and mindful intent, allowing joy and contentment to blossom with every step.



What if we were able to view our struggles as Grace?

I know that might seem like a crazy question to ask. You may be thinking “How could she ask me to look at my struggles my pain, my suffering as grace?”

…and 15 years ago, I would have agreed with you.

My perspective has shifted. It did not happen overnight but through a process shedding the ideas, beliefs and constructs I had learned to believe about who I actually am.

From where I’m standing now I can look back at every perceived struggle, every bit of pain and suffering; whether it was spiritual, physical or mental, and see it has been Grace. Every decision I’ve made for good or ill has led me down the path my soul required I walk in order to learn the lessons needed in this lifetime; to live with an open heart and not one filled with fear.

When I release the need to view my struggles through the eyes of victim-hood, and instead, the through the eyes of a student being guided by a master teacher, I am better able to release my attachment to outcomes and remove my expectations from situations of which I have no control over; moving through my days in a state of flow, not constriction.

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In doing this, I am also better able to forgive others. When we forgive ourselves for misguided judgment it becomes easier to forgive others. We learn that we are not perfect and neither is anyone else. We are each learning day by day, moment by moment, breath by breath.

I am not the person I was yesterday. You are not the same person you were last week . Each new choice opens us to the pure potentiality of our experience.

We begin to hold ourselves and others to a standard of GRACE, not perfection.