Friday, August 31, 2007

The 11th Hour + Other Films

The new documentary "The 11th Hour" debuted in Cambridge last week. Today it begins showing at the Embassy Theater in Waltham, as it continues to play at the AMC Loews Theater in Harvard Square. This important movie is consistently receiving an average of 4 out of 5 stars. Here is a synopsis:

"'The 11th Hour' is the last moment when change is possible. The film explores how we've arrived at this moment -- how we live, how we impact the earth's ecosystems, and what we can do to change our course. Featuring ongoing dialogues of experts from all over the world, including former Soviet Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev, renowned scientist Stephen Hawking, former head of the CIA R. James Woolsey and sustainable design experts William McDonough and Bruce Mau in addition to over 50 leading scientists, thinkers and leaders who discuss the most important issues that face our planet and people."

This film was produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, who has been involved with environmental issues for many years. I urge you to see the movie and bring a friend or two or three! For specific movie times and locations, go to Movie Fone at


Have you not seen "Sicko" yet? This Michael Moore documentary was released in June, yet is still playing in some theaters. In the Boston area, you can still see it in Arlington and West Newton. The DVD will be released in November and you can add it to your Netflix or Blockbuster Online queue now! For theater showtimes, go to I strongly urge you to see the film and join a discussion about it. Whether you agree or disagree with Moore's tactics or arguments, it cannot be denied that this is a thought-provoking subject matter that is extremely important and plays a great role in our quality-of-life index as Americans.


Looking for some inspirational movie viewing for your DVD player? Some great recently released DVDs, available now on Netflix, that I can recommend, include:

  • Peaceful Warrior
  • The Ultimate Gift
  • The Secret

Some thought-provoking documentaries I've enjoyed, that are available on DVD:

  • What the #$*! Do We Know!? (What the Bleep Do We Know)
  • The Future of Food
  • Who Killed the Electric Car
  • The Corporation
  • Go Further

And finally, although "Amazing Grace" is not released on DVD yet, you can still add it to your online rental queue. This inspiring movie was truly a joy to watch. The synopsis:

"Based on a true story, this historical drama starring Ioan Gruffudd tells the story of William Wilberforce, an 18th-century English politician who fought for the abolition of slavery. Despite staunch opposition, Wilberforce waged an aggressive campaign using boycotts, petitions and slogans."

Any feedback you have regarding these films would be appreciated!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mindfulness Retreat: Part III

During our retreat, we were up by 5:30 AM each day and began with a walking meditation. Walking meditation is walking together, very slowly, very thoughtfully, in silence. Focusing on your breath with each deliberate step. Again, this puts you in the present moment; the "here and now". So often we really don't appreciate the present. Our minds are caught up with experiences of the past or worries about the future. It is rare for us to relish the here and now and be truly present and aware of now. When you get up in the morning, you most likely quickly begin your routine on auto-pilot. Right? Next time you awake, try emptying your mind and say:

Waking up this morning, I smile
24 brand new hours are before me
I vow to live fully in each moment
And to look at beings with eyes of compassion

Another practice we experienced during the retreat (which is a wonderful practice to start at home) is the "mindfulness bell". When the bell is rung or when we "invite the bell", we stop what we are doing, take a few mindful breaths and put ourselves into the focus of the current moment. After about 45 seconds, we can resume our activities and thoughts.

About a year and a half ago, I purchases the CDs "Meditation in a New York Minute" and I highly recommend it. One of the suggestions given is to change your cell phone greeting (that is, the message that appears when you turn your phone on). This is a feature that most cell phones have. The greeting should be "BREATHE". Now, whenever I turn my cell phone on, I see the word BREATHE across the screen, before it disappears to make way for the wallpaper. It is a great reminder. I see it, stop my hurry and worry, breathe and focus on the present moment. How can you incorporate a mindfulness bell into your life? Well, whatever works for you, really. Every time you hear the alarm of a fire truck or ambulance, you can use that as a signal to stop and breathe and to bring your mind into the present moment (and be thankful, truly grateful, that it is not you who needs the emergency services of the fire department or EMTs). Or everytime you hear the honk of a car horn, or everytime you hear a baby cry. Anything, really. Use a sound to trigger your mindfulness. It's a very wonderful practice.

During the last day of the retreat, we had a Q & A session with Thich Nhat Hanh. Children were able to pose questions before the adults had their turn and the first question a child asked was "Why is the bell so important?". Without missing a beat and being very serious, this is how Thich Nhat Hanh answered: "Why not?" .... pause ..... "Sometimes you have to answer a question with a question. It's a Zen thing."

Enough said!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mindfulness Retreat: Part II

The grounds of Stonehill College are beautiful. It was the idyllic setting for my meditation retreat. Immaculate landscapes, replete with soaring trees, green grass, brooks, ponds and many various species of plants and flowers. Everywhere you looked was a feast for the eyes, all against a backdrop of blue skies as far as the eye could see.

Being in this calm and beautiful setting, out in nature, with warm sun on your back, it was pretty easy to be amazed at Mother Nature. During my time outdoors there, I saw a grasshopper (haven't seen one of those in a dog's age!), hundreds of dragonflies (my favorite... well, it's a tie with butterflies), echelon of birds and geese flying high above, big frogs, little turtles and a river otter. I love animals and this just really made my heart sing. Along the way, some nearby residents brought their dogs to the campus and those of us on retreat who missed our pets, had a chance to play with them. There was also a campus cat and a group of super cute skunks.

One of the children's song, sung in the children's program, goes like this:

I love nature; nature is cool.
The forest is my classroom; the Earth is my school.
Trees are my teachers; animals are my friend.
And on this school, all life depends.

For photos I took of the lovely grounds, go to:
Buddhist Retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Mindfulness Retreat: Part I

The day I left for my retreat, I was sure to wear my Sacred Lotus Necklace and would continue to wear it for the duration of my retreat. My Sacred Lotus Necklace was a gift I received from my dear friend in June. The lotus on my necklace is hand-carved from a Tagua nut, which is an eco-friendly nut from South America, which doesn't harm the rainforest when it is harvested. Above the lotus flower is the perfect counterpart; a piece of amber stone, which has been used for millenia as a talisman of good luck and protection and to absorb and transmute negative energy and to attract joy. As a wearer of this elegant necklace, I am reminded of humanity's rise (as well as my own) out of murky waters (in the same way a beautiful lotus blooms amid the mud) and into a place of strength and beauty. For those of you who aren't familiar, the Buddha is typically depicted sitting atop a lotus. And more than once during the retreat, Thich Nhat Hahn reminded us that we cannot get the lotus without the mud, which can be compared to saying without the rain there is no rainbow. So, of course, it was important to me to wear my prized necklace during my week with Thich Nhat Hanh.

After checking in and unpacking in my dorm room at Stonehill, the first "event" of the retreat was dinner. In keeping with Buddhist principles, all meals were vegetarian. Additionally, all meals were to be experienced with Noble Silence. This allows us to be mindful of the act of eating, to be present in the moment and to appreciate how we're nourishing our bodies. Extended periods of chewing, looking at your plate and putting down your utensils and eating more slowly are encouraged.

Cards on each of the many dining tables offered us these insights and suggestions:

We are invited to eat in mindfulness, establishing ourselved in the present moment, so that we can be aware of the food in front of us and the community surrounding us.

We eat in such a way that makes brotherhood and sisterhood, peace and joy, possible during the whole time of eating.

Brothers and Sisters, please practice the FIVE CONTEMPLATIONS while eating:

This food is a gift of the earth, the sky, numerous living beings and much hard work.

May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive it.

May we recognize and transform our unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed and learn to eat with moderation.

May we take in only food that nourishes us and prevents illness.

We accept this food so that we may nuture our sisterhood and brotherhood, strengthen our sangha and nourish our ideal of serving living beings.

How to practice Mindful Eating:

Looking at the plate of food before eating:
Beings all over the earth are struggling to live. May we practive so that all may have enough to eat.

Beginning to eat:
With the first mouthful, offer joy. With the second mouthful, offer compassion. With the third mouthful, see others' joy as your own. With the fourth, offer inclusiveness.

After the meal:
The meal is finished and you feel satisfied. Give thanks to your parents, teachers, friends and all beings. Vow to live for the benefit of all beings.

Wow, eating within these guidelines would surely shrink a lot of waist lines and prevent a lot of disease and illness. I found this to be an extremely easy and enjoyable way to eat my meals each day. Honestly, it made some food taste a whole lot better too, when I really put a lot of thought as to how that piece of zucchini made its way to my plate.... the seeds, the soil, the wind, the sun, the water, the farmer, the harvesting, how the zucchini travelled to the chef who prepared it in a kitchen and how it finally ended up on my plate and then into my mouth, digested within my body moments later. It was amazing!

Meals are a great time for families to communicate and for friends to come together and talking, laughing and sharing is wonderful. But maybe once a week, a meal in silence with friends or family could prove to be very powerful experience for you, so I urge you to give it some thought.
This week I will continue to share with you different aspects of my retreat. For those who are interested in experiencing a Thich Nhat Hanh retreat yourself, there is still room left at the October 2007 retreat taking place in Pine Bush, NY (in the Catskills). For more information, you can go to

Please check back soon for more updates!

"There is no way to peace. Peace is the way. There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way."
- Thich Nhat Hanh

Friday, August 17, 2007


This afternoon I just returned home from a retreat led by Thich Nhat Hanh, which took place over the last 5 days on the campus of Stonehill College, just about 25 miles south of Boston. It was a beautiful experience and I wish to share it with all of you over the course of several postings over the next few days.

For those of you who may not be familiar, Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk who is a leader, teacher, scholar, poet and peace activist who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. back in the 1960s. He has written over 75 books (many of them best sellers) and teaches and practices mindfulness and urges us to live in the present moment, "the here and now". His wisdom and words inspire millions. I was so touched by his Dharma talks during my retreat this week. He will be 82 years old this fall and has lived an amazing life that truly inspires and amazes me. For more information regarding his life and his work, visit or look him up on Wikipedia at

I will leave you with a gatha I learned this week. Meanwhile, check back to my blog over the next week for more details about my experience with the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh during my retreat "Mindfulness, Fearlessness, Togetherness".

ALSO: He is appearing at the Boston Opera House in a rare public speaking engagement in the US. Tickets are still available for $38 for the one-time speech, which takes place tomorrow, Saturday, August 18th. You may go to the Boston Opera House box office or secure tickets online via Ticketmaster.

in, out

deep, slow

calm, ease

smile, release

present moment

wonderful moment

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Healthy Fast Food in the City!

* Today I am leaving for a meditation retreat, led by Thich Nhat Hanh. There will be no new postings until after my return, as I won't have access to email or phone. *


I know, I know. Healthy fast food is an oxymoron, right? Well, not if you check out the menu at some of my favorites places in the city where you can get healthy, quality food, fast.

Check out B. Goods in Back Bay or Harvard Square (with a Coolidge Corner location to be open soon). My favorites are the new American Salad, the Venetian Veggie Burger and the raspberry fruit shake. Go to

Another favorite is The Other Side Cafe at the corner of Mass Ave and Newbury Street on the cusp of Back Bay and Fenway. Huge sandwiches (my favorites are The Tess and The Brie Cheese) and a great selection of smoothies and it is one of only a few places in the city where you can order a shot of wheat grass or a wheat grass smoothie. Yum! Although they don't have a website, they do have a nice little outdoor patio. Lots of vegetarian and vegan options available!

Remember "The Wrap"? Well, they changed their name to BoLoCo a while ago and I go there and get a whole wheat tortilla burrito with brown rice and vegetables (love the carrots and broccoli) and it is delicious. There are many locations throughout the city (Newbury Street, Mass Ave, Downtown etc.). Check out Their tag line is "inspired burritos"!

And finally, my last favorite is Whole Foods. Their prepared food section has plenty of healthy and quick options. And many locations have a very big salad bar with diverse, fresh options. A current favorite of mine is their Avocado Sandwich. For $5.99 you get a large sandwich of whole grain bread, cucumber, watercress, avocado and whipped feta with a little spice to it. Super yummy and super healthy. A great source of good fat and a tasty little sandwich! Whole Foods has several locations in Cambridge, Boston (Fenway, Beacon Hill), Brighton and more. To find the closest Whole Foods, go to

If you have any healthy fast food suggestions around Boston, please drop me a line and let me know your favorites!


Friday, August 3, 2007

Upcoming Workshops

I've recently added two workshops to my website

Monday, August 20, 2007 5:15 PM
“Sugar Blues” Workshop at Healthworks, 920 Commonwealth Ave on the Boston/Brookline line

Wednesday, October 3, 2007 6:30 PM
“Sugar Blues” Workshop with the Boston Jaycees, 75 State Street in Downtown Boston

Check my website for any changes or additions. Hopefully I will be adding more workshops very soon. If you'd like me to facilitate a nutrition/health workshop at your company or organization, please contact me at These 1-hour programs are fun, interactive and very informative!

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Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Wisdom Of Surrender; Resistance Equals Persistence

One of my favorite websites is ~ each day I get a new "Om" in my Email In Box. They are insightful little nuggets, that inspire, provoke thought and reflection and always get me to think deeper. Often these messages are synchronistic; coming to me at exactly the time I need them. I would like to share pieces of July 26th's Daily OM with you, titled The Wisdom of Surrender:

"We all know the feeling of being repeatedly haunted by the same issue, no matter how we try to ignore it, avoid it, or run away from it. Sometimes it seems that we can get rid of something we don’t want by simply pushing it away. Most of the time, the more we push away, the more we get pushed back. There are laws of physics and metaphysics that explain this phenomenon, which is often summed up in this pithy phrase: That which you resist persists. "

The saying "what you resist, persists" was something I learned during my training at The Institute of Integrative Nutrition. It is a lesson we all need to learn. But it's not always easy to recognize and if we aren't fully aware that that is what we're doing, we won't be able to effectively deal with it.

The Daily OM article goes on:

"Resistance tends to strengthen the energies it attempts to oppose by giving them power and energy to work against. Additionally, resistance keeps us from learning more about what we resist. In order to fully understand something, we must open to it enough to receive its energy; otherwise, we remain ignorant of its lessons. There is a Tibetan story of a monk who retreats to meditate in a cave only to be plagued by demons. He tries everything—chasing, fighting, hiding—to get the demons out of his cave, but the thing that finally works is surrender. He simply lets them have their way with him and only then do they disappear.

Now, this wisdom must be applied practically. We are not meant to get ourselves physically injured. Instead, this story speaks of how, in essence, our demons are inside of us. What plagues and pursues us on an inner level has a way of manifesting itself in our environment in the form of people, events, and issues that appear to be beyond our control. But all these external expressions are reflections of our insides, and it is inside ourselves that we can safely experiment with surrendering to what we fear and dislike. It may feel scary, and we may find ourselves in the company of a lot of resistance as we begin the process of opening to what we fear. But the more we learn to surrender, and the more the demons that plague us disappear in the process, the more courageous we will become."

I challenge you to reflect on this today, and see what place it has in your life. I also encourage you to check out and sign up for their daily email. This particular article can be found at