Thoughts and thinking...

Underneath all your thinking there is the stillness of being.

I love Paris.  I have only been there a handful of times, and a few weeks ago, I took the Eurostar from London to Paris for a short stay.  The weather was perfect, a cool breeze softened the summer heat, and I once again fell in love with Paris, with its history, its architecture, and the pure ambience of just being there.
I decided I would create an easy visit, and opted out of the long queues of the world famous Louvre and Notre Dame, and instead strolled around the Latin quarter, and along the banks of the Seine. I walked along in awe as I imagined how famous artists, writers, painters, and sculptors would have walked in my very footsteps. Just to think that they were the creators of what makes Paris so dynamic, energetic and lively today. My thoughts were interrupted by the distant sound of an accordian playing a familiar Parisian tune. I stopped for a moment and took a deep breath, almost as if breathing in the soft melody. It was a magical moment.
I headed away from the river and up past  the Musee d’Orsay, and along the narrow streets up to my most favorite place in Paris, the Musee Rodin. The museum, which used to be the Hotel Biron, sits on about seven acres of beautifully manicured grounds, with rose gardens and a small pond, and scattered about it are magnificent bronze and marble statues created by the most famous 19th century French sculptor, Auguste Rodin.
Rodin was born in 1840, and began sculpting when he was 15. He was once accused of having cast one of his statues directly from life. Rodin lived at the Hotel Biron from 1908 until his death in 1917. Rodin donated his entire collection of sculptures to the French State on the condition they turn it into a museum for the public to enjoy, which they did in 1919.
There were only a few people ahead of me as I reached the main entrance and I realized then it had been 10 years since I last stood here. I walked quickly as I was waved through. And there he was, just like an old familiar friend, Rodin’s most famous piece, Le Ponseur, The Thinker.
I walked around the statue as I contemplated Le Ponseur, a man depicted in sober meditation, possibly battling with a powerful internal struggle as suggested with his tense body twisted from his head down to his curled toes. While his right arm supports his heavy head, his left arm is open. There has been much speculation about what the thinker was actually thinking about. As I walked around the grounds and admiring his other works, I kept coming back to Le Ponseur and just gazed up at him.  There was something deeply familiar. I saw myself in him.
The mind is everything. What we think we become. Our mind can be clouded by our thoughts. Our thoughts can be destructive and negative. We need to be careful that our mind does not use us, rather that we use our mind.
We can disconnect from the thinking mind, by shifting our attention from mind to being, and to being present. All things that truly matter, love, joy, beauty, inner peace, creativity, arise beyond the mind. In the present moment, we can detach from our thinking, to find the stillness underneath, the stillness that is our true self.
Le Ponseur serves as a reminder of not to allow our thoughts to consume us. He reminded me of the pain and suffering that life can bring and how powerful our minds are. The way we think about things, is everything.
I once again bid farewell to Le Ponseur, and headed back out onto the welcoming streets of Paris, and will make sure it is not another 10 years before I return.

The lotus flower, a perfect analogy of the human condition.

I love to travel. Recently, I took a short trip to Cambodia, to visit the temples of Angkor Wat. Whilst there, I decided to take a rickshaw ride into the countryside around Siem Reap. After an hour or so, I stumbled upon a large field of lotus flowers. Having never seen lotus flowers growing in nature, I excitedly asked my driver to stop. I made my way down from the dusty road, across a long narrow path that took me through muddy pools, and on either side emerged these beautiful flowers. 

I have always been drawn to lotus flowers, not only for their beauty but also for their symbolism. 

A lotus flower begins growing at the bottom of a muddy, murky pool, and slowly emerges toward the surface, bursting out of the water into a beautiful blossom. During the night the lotus closes and sinks under the water, and emerges again with the sunlight of a new day. 

The lotus seeds contain perfectly formed leaves as miniatures of what they will become when it blooms. Its stem is flexible but does not break. As the lotus flower emerges from the mud, and up toward the surface it is completely unstained. 

To me, the lotus in the mud symbolizes the hardships and difficulties of life, or a challenging time we have faced or are facing.  As with the stem growing toward the surface, we also grow through our experiences, through our difficulties, learning lessons along the way, removing obstacles and overcoming our adversities. As the petals unfold, we too unfold, and become like a lotus rising from the murky waters and flowering into something beautiful. Its open blossom stands for enlightenment.

The lotus seeds, containing perfectly formed leaves symbolize our potential. Its flexible stem symbolizes our resilience. As the lotus begins to emerge, this symbolizes never giving up, never quitting when things seem difficult. The blossom of the lotus flower symbolizes enlightenment, our awareness, and our beauty. During the night, the flower closes and sinks, like a cleansing, and then emerges with the light, a renewal.

According to a traditional story, the more muddy and opaque the water, the more beautiful the Lotus flower when it emerges.

As I climbed back onto the road to find my rickshaw driver, a young boy came up to me and reached into my hand, and gave me a pink lotus flower.

“Namaste,” I said, as I gently took the lotus from him, “The light in me sees the light in you”.


There are perfect moments. I'm watching the waves crashing to shore with a clear blue sky above. The white sandy beach stretches on and on, and at this moment I have everything, I'm in paradise. My mind is still and I am deeply aware. I focus on my relaxed breath, in and out, in and out, and I feel grateful, calm and peaceful.

Having a son who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy is quite the ride. It tests your very nature, your patience, your coping skills, and your relationships, who you really are and what is truly your essence. We all go through the journey of Duchenne in our own unique way. And this is mine.

I have three children. They are each other’s best friend. We are all very close. Dusty was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy in 1998 at age six, Lucas was four. The diagnosis was harsh and the reality of the progression of this disease was the worst thing I had ever known or experienced. It was going to be a steady progression of his body dying, but his mind continuing on a normal path. Our most precious, perfect child was trapped in a body that was born without a very important gene called dystrophin, crucial for muscle growth; that was going to steal his life away, bit by bit, month by month, year by year. Boys rarely live into their 20's, and some die much younger.

That was a tough few days to get through. It was a nightmare that I could not awake from. All I could see was a perfect child, happy and sweet, and to think that he would have to endure so much suffering was the most difficult thing to face.  I saw his caring younger brother, so innocent in all of this, and how this would deeply affect his life. And I looked at his father, having suffered the loss of his own father at an early tender age. I looked at myself, and realized how terrible, how awful, how can I cope through this, what was I to do?

I immersed myself in the present, after all, even though everything had changed, nothing in fact had at that moment. I wanted to give Dusty the best life possible, filled with love, laughter, and adventure. My dream was to bless the boys with a sister, and that dream came true with the birth of my angel Gabriella in 1999.

Life may not always be perfect, but there are absolutely perfect moments. Now that Dusty is 17, I am having more of those perfect moments. I realize that these days are my best days, because we are all together. I am making the very best of these moments with him.

The challenge with Duchenne is to be firmly rooted in the present, and from that vantage point, to plan and think of the future, but not to be too attached to that. The very nature of Duchenne requires one to  keep a flexible and very open mind. To look into the future of Duchenne is frightening.  It is full of pain, loss and heartache. The present moment contains all the joy and peace we need.

This sounds simplistic, but why should life be so hard?  It doesn’t have to be. We are designed to be happy.  It all comes down to our minds and what and how we think.  In Duchenne, we cannot change our circumstance, but we sure can change the way we think about it. If we are overwhelmed, we may need to take a look at what we need to simplify in our lives.

There have been many ups and downs along the way on this Duchenne journey.  Physically, everything has been stolen from him: From when Dusty stopped walking at age eight, and began using a power wheelchair full-time; to when he could no longer raise his arm at age 11 to brush his hair or to give a hug; from when he began having scoliosis, and having breathing and heart issues; to being in a paralyzed-like state except for his hands (and this too will be stolen from him). During all of these transitions, his mind is not affected. Dusty’s mind is full of dreams and ideas and adventures. His mind is powerful, brilliant. In this way, he has been my greatest teacher.  I am honored to be at his side throughout, sharing this journey with him. I am graced by his presence.

There was nothing anyone could say or do to make things better. This was a journey I knew I had to “feel” and make sense of by myself. I realized that the answers would never come from the outside, but only from within. I have always been a self-reflective person who thinks deeply, usually too deeply! I was beginning to realize that the only way through this was to arrive at a place of acceptance and peace while negotiating my way through a never-ending maze of defeat, and harsh reality. It really was and is a process, and perhaps it has taken me 10 years to figure how to reconcile this.