Selected Essays


Published in Spirituality and Health

An article about the stories the body unfolds and heals through yoga practice.


Published in Spirituality and Health



Published in Spirituality and Health

A homage to my teacher, and how his engaged Buddhism was a way of coming home for me.


Published in American Poetry Review

A reading of Dante, Beatrice, pregnancy, the woman’s body, trauma and healing.


Published in Elephant Journal

Why are so many writers unhappy? Nine steps to write towards happiness and health.


Published in Spirituality and Health.

This may be the least expensive way to solve our health care.  


Published in Spirituality and Health.

As a society, we turn a blind eye to obvious trauma, making one’s story more difficult.


Published in OpenDemocracy

No one wants to think of one crisis in the middle of another, but it’s exactly now, when we see first hand how quickly things can change, that it’s time to think about crisis preparedness in general. As the coronavirus pandemic unfolds, the work of climate activists can help us respond to this moment – just as this moment is a critical learning period for future climate crises.


Published in Extinction Rebellion

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes,” Ben Franklin quipped. But, for the first time ever, tax day was pushed back this year three months because of the coronavirus, a reminder that even the most entrenched institutions can, and sometimes must, change.


Published in Kosmos

“The master can keep giving,” the Tao Te Ching teaches, “because there is no end to her wealth.” What is meant by wealth here? I sometimes struggle with this question. Like most people, I grew up in a society that equates wealth with money and material possessions.


Published in wbur

We need to re-think how we interact with one another. Today’s Facebook and Harvard’s hard copy of yore both fed into one of our most dangerous human qualities: our tendency to create two dimensional, dehumanizing portraits of the other, whether that other is a woman or a minority or someone on the opposing side of the political isle


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?


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.


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. 


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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


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.


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?


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?”


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.


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.”


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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