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Story Archives

Filtering by Tag: 2015-10-02

Mindfulness & Shelter

Emily Gould

By Emily Gould

The first time I walked into Deborah Wolk’s Iyengar yoga class, I was a complete mess. I’d just started a new job, and I was working all the time, even when there was nothing left to work on. Which might explain why my friend Lori kept trying to drag me to her yoga class. And which might also explain why I’d been putting up a fight. I didn’t want to slow down and check in with myself, to have to think about why I was feeling so terrible at every waking moment. And I didn’t want anyone else to pay attention to me, either, lest they notice any of the enormous number of ways in which I was fake and lame and inadequate. I just wanted to disappear.

Deborah singled me out right away. “Emily has scoliosis,” she announced barely five minutes into the class. “Everyone, come over here and look at Emily’s curve.”

The class crowded around me and ogled my back as I stayed put in a forward bend. Deborah, who from this angle seemed to be entirely composed of sinewy muscles and wild, dark curls, put her hand on my lower back and told me to breathe into her hand. She spoke in a soothing tone that made everything sound woo-woo and ridiculous, but I gave in and let the seldom-used muscles there respond to the heat of her palm. For a moment, I felt a kind of relaxation no pill had ever provided. [From “Deconstructing Deborah,” Guilt and Pleasure, Issue 5, Summer 2007]


When was the last time you tended to your body?

Is technology taking your away from inner peace?



Emily Gould is an author and journalist whose books include the essay collection And the Heart Says Whatever and the novel Friendship.


B.J. Miller

By B.J. Miller

We all need a reason to wake up. For me, it was 11,000 volts of electricity. One night, sophomore year of college, a few friends and I were out on the town; one thing led to another, and we decided to climb a parked commuter train. Fun, no? I scurried up the ladder on the back, and when I stood up, whammo!  The current arced to my metal wristwatch, entered my arm, and blew down and out my feet. I lost half of an arm and both legs below the knee. I spent a few months recovering in the St Barnabas burn unit in Livingston, NJ. One day, several weeks in to the affair, it began to snow outside. I was told it was coming down hard and pretty. Around that time, a friend of mine smuggled a snowball into the burn unit for me. I cannot tell you the rapture I felt. The sensation of coldness on my skin, the miracle of it as I watched it melt to water. In that moment, I was amazed enough to be any part of this planet in this universe that whether I lived or died became irrelevant.


How important are human lives in the larger scope of things?

When are we sheltered, and when are we exposed?


BJ Miller, M.D., is a palliative care specialist and educator at UCSF, and executive director of San Francisco’s Zen Hospice Project.