selected essays

Selected Essays 1
Do you see the glass as half full or ultimately empty?
Published in Lion’s Boar

Emptiness in Buddhism is sometimes seen as depressive, but I find it quite the opposite. Seeing the emptiness in all things paradoxically allows me to experience fullness. The question is not is the glass half full or half empty? Rather, can you see the glass as both empty and full at the same time? Can you see past duality?

Selected Essays 2

On Rejection, the Language of Trauma, and the Rewards of Staying Open

Published in Poetry Northwest

There was an inner story that I didn’t yet understand, and the publication problem served mainly as a distraction from it. I wanted to understand better what was really going on behind this feeling of failure—and that took me down a long, complicated path.

Selected Essays 3

When I teach writing, sometimes my students say that they are scared to share their writing because they feel like they’re sharing all of themselves. They’re worried that their deepest, innermost selves are on display. I know that feeling all too well. But I also know that this fear comes from a mis-equation between our writing and ourselves. 

Selected Essays 4
War or peace: which do you choose?
Published in Open Democracy

Every week, sometimes twice a week, sometimes more often, there is another mass shooting, always by a man, usually a white man. 54% of these mass shootings involve domestic violence. Gun violence, violence against women and mass violence go hand in hand.

Selected Essays 5

Trauma, Mary Oliver, and me: How Poetry Saved My Life
Published on Being Human

Mary Oliver, who died recently at 83, lit the way forward for me when I doubted that I could ever move past suffering into survival, let alone beauty and joy.

Selected Essays 6
The Single Most Powerful Tool for Healing: Tell the Right Stories
Published in Tiny Buddha

Just as our trauma stories are powerful, our healing stories are equally powerful and important. We can and must break the silence and taboo not only around the trauma itself, but also around the complicated, messy, long, but ultimately rewarding process of healing from trauma.

Selected Essays 7
Published in Killing the Buddha

It’s not often that, in the middle of reading a book, I gasp in distress. With my daughter on the couch behind me braiding my hair, I was sitting on my living room floor reading Mark Epstein’s Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself. It’s a book about Buddhism and psychotherapy, and in a chapter entitled “Right Action,” as an example of both good therapy and good dharma, Epstein offers a detailed description of an abusive interaction between a therapist and his much younger female patient.

Selected Essays 8
Poetry, Pain & Wholeness
Published in Anchor Magazine

I find that to be able to face great suffering—my own and the suffering I see around me in the world—I need a spiritual container big enough to hold it all, something bigger than myself. And this spiritual container is loving and just. Even if the moral arc of history may not be just, the moral arc of the authentic spiritual life is just: it is the goodness, the love, the compassion that we can find even in the darkest times.

Selected Essays 9

Writers, for all their candor on the page, can be very guarded. We talk to one another about the beauty of the line, the sentence, the structure of the book, the complex use of language, or the carefully delineated characters. But often, we protect our hearts and speak only from our heads. We don’t show emotion when discussing our work and avoid being seen as “sentimental.”

Selected Essays 10

The first time I consciously stepped back from the media was 14 years ago, at the start of the second Gulf War. The media buildup had begun after 9/11. Upset by the way violence led to more violence, I became active in the peace movement—and I became obsessed with the news

Selected Essays 11

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 11, 2018, about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election and data privacy. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Selected Essays 12

Be Kind, Retrain Your Mind: 3 Tips to Overcome Negative Self-Talk
Published in Tiny Buddha

In 1990, in an early encounter between the Dalai Lama, the foremost Tibetan teacher of Buddhism, and Western students, the Dalia Lama was asked a question about how to deal with self-hatred. He was confused and didn’t understand the question. The translator translated the question again and still the Dalai Lama was confused.

Selected Essays 13
Why I’m a Student of Thich Nhat Hanh
Published in Sipirituality and Health Magazine

I know of no spiritual teacher or person who more fully embodies peace and compassionate understanding than Thich Nhat Hanh, or Thay, as he is lovingly known by his students.
“All religions and spiritual traditions,” William James famously wrote, “begin with the cry ‘Help!’” Like so many, I began my spiritual quest in earnest when I began to heal consciously from an instance of violence.

Selected Essays 14

When I tell people that I’m a writer, the most common response I get is: Oh, that is so great! I’d love to be a writer. I used to write, but I don’t have the time now. I’ve heard that response so often that it got me wondering: Why is it that so many people feel they don’t have the creative lives they would like to have? What does it mean that people don’t have time?

Selected Essays 15
The Buddha on Paris: The Story we need to Remember Now.
Published in Elephant Journal

I got back from my first 10-day silent vipassana retreat on November 15th, delighted to see my husband and two children after 10 days of having no contact at all with the outer world.
After hugs and after going over how we had each spent the 10 days, my 15-year-old son asked, “Did you hear about Paris?”

Selected Essays 16


From Despair to Gratitude: How Yoga Transformed One Mother’s Life
​Published in Anchor Magazine

Several years ago, I set out to interview people who had undergone major challenges in their lives. In particular, I wanted to know if there were people who had been able to create a deep and lasting shift towards the positive not only in their external lives but also in their internal happiness levels.

Selected Essays 17


The Danger of Lies: Kavanaugh, Climate and Our Collective Health
​Published in

A few days after Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by several women and who lied under oath in his confirmation hearings, was voted onto the Supreme Court, a new climate report warned of a “strong risk of crisis as early as 2040.”

Selected Essays 18


On Outrage: Trump, Climate, Denial and Action
​Published in

While this outrage is justified — Trump is literally playing with fire and the future of the human species — it is also an opportunity to look more deeply at ourselves.

Selected Essays 19


A New Year’s Resolution for the Planet
​Published in LionsRoar

Nadia Colburn looks at how Buddhists and environmental activists can keep moving forward after the Paris Climate Conference.

Selected Essays 20


One’s Own Vehicle
​Published in Literary Imagination

​An exploration of reading Body and Mind in Emily Dickinson and in the experience of pregnancy.

Selected Essays 21

The Convergence of Personal, Political, and Spiritual Poetry
Published in Los Angeles Review Board

A FRIEND RECENTLY CALLED me dismayed: her book of poems had been called “confessional” in a review; she was polling her friends. The consensus was that the term was pejorative; the implication that the poetry was overly personal, not really important, perhaps self-indulgent.

Selected Essays 22

Two Tools for Processing Trauma and Grief
​Published in Elephant Journal

I’m a writer, but each time a new story of violence takes over my media stream, I instinctively react, not with words—but with silence.I get a bit quieter and send out love for the victims and healing for everyone and for the world.
I believe that much of the violence in our world comes from people who don’t have the tools to sit still, to quiet the pain and the confusion of their bodies and minds and to unlearn the violence they have been taught.

Selected Essays 23

World-Healing Wisdom
​Published in Yes! Magazine

​Could the roots of our religions hold the key to creating a more peaceful and fair world? Religious scholar and historian Karen Armstrong believes that may be the case.

Selected Essays 24


9 Steps to Overcome the Paradox of the Unhappy Writer
​Published in Elephant Journal

So many people want to write and so many people have this idea that if they could just write and get published they’d feel fulfilled and happy.
So why is it that so many published writers are unhappy? On the one hand, there is more and more scientific evidence that writing makes people emotionally and physically healthy. Researchers like James Pennebaker and Lewis Mehl-Madrona have done great work in this area. And yet, the cliché of the tormented, struggling writer points to a different truth

Selected Essays 25


The Oracle
​Published in Brown Alumni Magazine

​During night shifts as a janitor at a Baltimore Procter & Gamble plant in the 1980s, Afaa Michael Weaver ’87 AM wrote poetry, but no one took him seriously.

Selected Essays 26


The Search for Meaning
​Published in Brown Alumni Magazine

​Krista Tippett ’83 got a cryptic message from her speaking agent late one afternoon in June: call the National Endowment for the Humanities office. Tippett, host of the public-radio show On Being and author of Speaking of Faith and Einstein’s God, assumed the endowment wanted to speak to her about a problem with a grant application.

Selected Essays 27


On talking to our kids about the future
​Published in

​Now that the first month of the new year in the new decade has come to an end, a first month that has brought much to mourn and not much to celebrate, I’ve been thinking again about hope.

Selected Essays 28


The Beauty of the Husband Review
​Published in Jacket Magazine

​One of the most innovative and interesting writers in North America today, Anne Carson has, since her first work, Eros the Bittersweet: an essay, reimagined and reinvigorated traditional genres of writing.

Selected Essays 29


On Linda Gregg’s All of It Singing
​Published in The Kenyon Review

​All of It Singing is a beautiful book that displays not only the development of a writer but also the continuities and consistencies in this remarkable poet’s career. Unlike poets such as Keats, Auden, or Rich, Gregg seems to be writing both in a similar style, and, more importantly, from a similar source throughout these poems that span seven volumes and nearly three decades.

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