suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

7 tips for election equanimity: surviving tonight’s political smackdown

By Dr. Christopher Willard & Vanessa Gobes

This year’s presidential election has devolved into something that feels disturbingly like a pro-wrestling match. In fact, Ellen DeGeneres ran a perfect spoof on EllenTube last week:


Clinton and Trump are locked together, trading insults and elbows, and the show they’re putting on – be it via debates, rallies, social media, or resurrected B-roll – is generating huge reactions from audiences. The more we watch, the more impact we feel in our own gut as our favored candidate absorbs another brutal punch. Each face-off, commercial, or round of polls may bring grief or elation, but always brings more anxiety.

Our physical, mental, and emotional reactions echo the low blows and shouts of righteous indignation we see onscreen: Sweaty palms, tight chests, and furrowed brows, gasps for air, primal screams into pillows, cries of disbelief and frantic internet searches for Canadian citizenship and more.

While we may feel powerless to affect the outcome of the election (beyond our vote), we can empower ourselves to affect our reaction to it, in turn helping those around us. Tip O’Neill once said, “All politics is local.” Mahatma Ghandi urged, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” These two men could hardly be more different, but consider the commonality – their belief that change starts here, with us. And while few of us will escape 2016’s presidential slugfest with total equanimity, here are seven mind-body trainings that offer us a fighting chance.

1. Don’t show up to every match you’re invited to


Don’t show up for events that proliferate anxiety. Instead, proliferate the positive. Take a break from the news and from your social media feed. Impossible? Limit your social media use to times when you feel emotionally composed. To further quell any political resentment, you may also choose to resign from live posting and real-time online debate.

Instead, consider appealing to the best in yourself and others. While this may sound easier said than done, consider the last question of Sunday night’s debate, “Can you name one positive thing you respect in one another?” Ask yourself this question, not just about the candidates, but also friends, family, and neighbors with whom you disagree. It’s a way to send them to a neutral corner in your mind.

2. Physical training

You are a mindful, compassionate, insightful human being, but during this election cycle, you may find yourself dizzy or even down for the count. In this case, physical awareness is your best defense. When you notice your physical reactions to political rumbles, purge that build up deliberately through exercise, emotional release (crying, laughing, screaming), or through your favorite mindful movement practice, like yoga or tai chi.

3. Take a dive and stay down for the count

The ten count is considered a victory in professional wrestling. But consider the ten count before getting back into the social media ring with that perfectly-composed, snarky Twitter retort. Count to ten, or even count ten breaths, ten sensations in your body, or ten sounds in the environment. Then, return focus to your post and read it aloud. Does it meet your own standards of mindfulness and compassion? Will those words bring out the best in everyone?

4. T.H.I.N.K. before you speak or post online

It’s an oldie but goodie. Ask yourself, is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary and is Now the time? And lastly, is it Kind? Imagine if the candidates followed these guidelines in their stump speeches

5. Use your hometown advantage

We mindful types know that half the challenge of mindfulness, is remembering to practice mindfulness. Try triggering your practice by employing your environment. Use simple decorating details to make your home a constant reminder to take a deep breath and clean up your thoughts. Before the next presidential bout begins, prop a bouquet of flowers next to your computer or television screen. Allow its beauty to remind you that nothing lasts forever, including your tight jaw, your clenched fists, and this disaster of a debate. No flowers in the house? Adhere a sticky note with the word BREATHE in capital letters next to your screen.

6. The Breathing Game

Rumor has it that college kids have made a drinking game of the debates, taking a drink each time one candidate interrupts the other. (This strikes us as an ambulance ride waiting to happen.) Why not take one full breath in and one full breath out each time one candidate interrupts the other, or interrupts the moderator? Think of how relaxed you’ll be by the end of the debate!

7. Work up to the heavy lifting

Going for the world heavyweight title in equanimity this election season?  You can cultivate compassion for yourself and for others.

A friend jokes that the barometer of his spiritual condition is his level of compassion for the opposing political party. It’s a useful yardstick, and you might ask yourself how you are doing with it today? If you’re anything like us, you might not be quite as compassionately-advanced as you’d like to see yourself.

So how do you build that compassion muscle? Begin by directing well-wishes toward yourself during a seated meditation. Wish for yourself what you most need to survive the next three weeks of political counterpunch. For example, May I be happy… May I live without fear… May I approach Facebook with equanimity… Choose unique phrases that resonate with you. Internalize these wishes, then send those same words outward toward a friend, perhaps toward a buddy of your political affiliation.

Next, send these wishes toward a neutral person, maybe one of those mysterious “undecided voters.” From there, move to a difficult person, perhaps a high school nemesis crossing your candidate online. From there, if you can stomach it, send these wishes toward that challenging candidate, and then ultimately, toward all of us suffering together through this political title match.

Be warned: you may get jammed up by your challenging candidate. While attempting to send well-wishes toward Donald or Hillary, your mind may try to eject from the meditation. Instead of forfeiting, get playful. Use your imagination to neutralize his or her outsized ego by turning that heavyweight into a featherweight. Still too big? Imagine the candidate a tiny, helpless baby. Swaddle him or her in a soft blanket and play peek-a-boo, May you be happy. May you live without fear.

When all contenders are happy and feel safe, be them candidates, friends, or pundits, we all go home champs.


Click here to watch the Ellen video:


Christopher Willard, PsyD, is a psychologist and educational consultant based in Boston, specializing in mindfulness with adolescents and young adults. Author of Child’s Mind, Growing Up Mindful, and three other books on mindfulness, compassion and mental health, Willard has been practicing meditation for more than 15 years and leads workshops internationally.

He currently teaches at Harvard Medical School and serves on the board of directors at the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, and the Mindfulness in Education Network.

Headshot Vanessa 1.jpg

Vanessa Gobes is a meditation teacher and workshop facilitator, focusing her work in Greater Boston. She co-founded Chrysalis Meditation Center in 2015 in Winchester, Massachusetts, where she especially enjoys introducing mindfulness techniques to women and children. Vanessa continues to write about mindfulness, motherhood, and mayhem with humor and truth for a long list of online publications.


yes, thank you.


Today is the day, the day I say yes.

I say yes to dreams.

I say yes to inspiration.

I  say yes to joy,

yes to love,

yes to hard work,

yes to perfect health.

I say yes to risk

and yes to faith,

yes to full expression

and alignment

and pennies from heaven.

Today, I say Yes, I am that.

I say yes to God’s divine love and yes to my unmistakable connection to it.

Today, I say yes to it All.

Yes, yes, yes!

From  mine to yours,


cold is the new hot

cold-weather-ahead_road-sign_9051379When I’m cold, my body stiffens from tip to toe. My lower back muscles squeeze spontaneously and repetitively. My jaw tightens, teeth clench. When I’m cold, there’s an inexplicable sense of urgency, a need to get places quick, a compulsion to perform tasks in a staccato. These behaviors are usually accompanied by a longing to retreat under fuzzy blankets and shut my eyes, a deep yearning for tropical escape.

I’m cold today. I was cold yesterday, too. I haven’t been bone cold like this in months, and I’m taking a bit of mindful time today to acknowledge the ways autumn’s dropping temperatures inspire my physiology. My mind is racing, my nose is running, my lips are stumbling through words, not because I’m stressed or sick or impeded, but because I’m cold. (96.6 degrees to be exact, I took my temperature.) And I am compassionately observing it all.

I was in a meeting this morning, wearing a dress sans tights or hose. I sat with my bare legs wound into eagle pose – like two bent strands of licorice. My shoulders hunched and reached toward my ears simultaneously. My smile stretched a little too tight. Because I was cold.

The earth moves and we all must move with her. For us New Englanders, that means surrendering to the cold and the changes that it brings – inside and out.

There may come a point later in the season that my skin has thickened and my body stops shuddering; but more than likely, the cold will announce its presence to me in a way that requires me to surrender to it and just be…. cold.

From mine to yours,


another fab retreat: yoga, meditation, mediumship


Yoga, Meditation & Mediumship Retreat at The Stone Barn, October 21-23, 2016

I couldn’t be more excited about hosting a second retreat here at The Stone Barn in gorgeous Newbury, New Hampshire. Expect beautiful, restorative yoga with Harvard University’s resident mindfulness instructor Kate Harrington; deeeeelicious vegetarian food by gourmets Linda West RN MS of Sunapee View B&B and Denise Costello RN MS of The Energized Body and Chrysalis Meditation Center; insightful mindfulness instruction by yours truly; drumming by the ever-joyful Julie Corey of The Village Drum; and finally crystal bowl healings that’ll make you cry by musician Michelle Marie Sawtell of Sound Goddess Healing.

But that’s not all….

The reason I’m especially jacked up about this retreat is because 1) the last one was fab, and 2) this one features acclaimed spiritual medium Lauren Rainbow. You may recognize her from her spots on Hay House Radio or her work with John Holland. And if her name is new to you, it’s your lucky day! Learn about Lauren at her website or just come book your weekend getaway at The Stone Barn. Seven bunkbeds and three private rooms left. Visit and book your room TODAY! Do it before September 12 and save $100! Woah!



sound healing seriously works


This is Brian working on my earth angel BFF.

Every Tuesday evening after I teach my meditation class, I stick around the studio for an hour to receive sound healing from Brian Russo. I’ve been doing this for a few months now. Every week. And let me tell you.

This shit works.

Get ready for a little TMI. Last month was very stressful for me and I ended up with a hemorrhoid. Incredibly attractive, I know. I did not tell Brian before the healing because that would have been embarrassing. (And blogging about it isn’t??) During the healing, he came over to me and put a big bowl on my belly and did something that sounded a lot like an elegant, beautiful, birdsong exorcism. During this enchanting ritual, I felt that sore on my tush move to the left side of my butt and work its way straight out through my hip. I went home to check it out and it was GONE. Yes. GONE.

Okay, so that’s a one-off, right? A mere coincidence.

The very next Tuesday, I dehydrated myself by accident. Hot days, lazy with water, we’ve all been there. To add to it, I wore a high ponytail all day and my head was POUNDING. Nausea, fatigue, the works. I drank and drank and popped Advil (something I rarely do) and went to work to try to meditate my headache away with no luck. Brian came in with his bowls. I told him my head was screaming at me and he put the bowl on my head and sang his beautiful song and gonged away. Guess what? Headache GONE. Gone again.

A two-off. That’s all. This couldn’t be really working. It’s just sound, right?

I went away for a couple of weeks. Spent some time getting trained in Chakra Psychology at Kripalu, stayed a week in Maine with family. By the time I came back to town, I had a white deposit on my left tonsil that looked a whole lot like tonsillitis. Now, this is really disgusting and I am sharing way too much about my body, but I feel like I need to explain this completely so you understand the strange and wonderful power of sound.


The reason I knew it wasn’t tonsillitis is that I have had an open pore on that left tonsil for years and it frequently gets filled up with grossness and turns white. This has been happening for a very, very long time. So I went to work on Tuesday night with this white thing on my throat. It hurt. I told Brian and he said, “Okay, we’ll work on that.”

He did work on it. A mini birdsong exorcism – like the last time but quieter and shorter. While this was happening, a woodpecker came to me and pecked that white nugget right out of my tonsil and swallowed it. This actually happened in my mind but it felt super real. And weird.

The next day, that white nugget on my tonsil turned into a glob. WTF?? It was supposed to go away! My biz partner Denise suggested that the sound healing may have been drawing everything up to the surface so that it could heal permanently. I liked that theory so I decided not to panic. That night, Wednesday night, the white thing was GONE. Gone again. Gone AGAIN. No soar throat. Nothing. Third time in three weeks.

So you may be wondering about the woodpecker. When I was in Maine on vacation, a gorgeous bluish-grey woodpecker flew into the glass windows at our rental. It made such a loud noise. We all went out to look as the stunned woodpecker writhed on the ground. I fired up my hands and gave it Reiki, praying for it to keep breathing: “I invoke the divine light of the creative source within. I am a clear and perfect channel. I am light. I am love. Please live. Live. Live. Fly. Live. Breathe.” I chanted those words over and over to this beautiful creature and finally watched as it passed away. I smoothed its wings and admired its perfect, soft feathers, then carried it to the woods where I laid it on a bed of leaves. It was very emotional for me. I couldn’t shake that bird. Kept thinking about his beautiful shape and feathers and softness. I think that night in my office with Brian and his bowls, the woodpecker’s spirit came to me to thank me for loving it while it was dying. Maybe it was attracted to Brian’s beautiful birdsong.

And maybe I’ll see you tonight at 7:30.

From mine to yours,


Vanessa Gobes is a mom, writer, and meditation teacher. She co-founded Chrysalis Meditation Center located at 28 Church Street in Winchester, Massachusetts. 

Hand off the kids, take a break

We hope to see you here in gorgeous New England! Visit for more details.



Yoga & Meditation Retreat / New England


Hi New England yogis and meditators!

Chrysalis Meditation Center is hosting a weekend long retreat in the Sunapee Lake Region of New Hampshire and I would love to see you there! You can come for a weekend of yoga, meditation, energy healing, and nature loving… or just come for a day. Retreat takes place at Well Sweep Farm’s stone barn. It’s beautiful! Check out the schedule online at Here is the overview:

Kate Harrington and Lara Wilson, both of Harvard University, are teaming up with the co-founders and teachers of Chrysalis to deliver compassionate guidance in both yoga and meditation.

If you’ve ever taken one of Kate’s classes at Prana Power Yoga, you’ll know what a treat her Metta-infused sessions are. Kate indulges retreat goers daily in gentle yoga and Metta practice.

Lara’s three decade journey into meditation and masterful use of words (written and oral) will surely inspire and empower. She explores eastern healing practices and the practice of stream-of-consciousness writing.

Co-founder Denise Costello, corporate wellness expert and food goddess, is directing the entire weekend and taking some time out from her organizational duties to provide yogis with nutritious snacks and figure-changing food tips. Her partner Vanessa Gobes sits with the group, taking on mindful meditation and mindful communication.

Chrysalis welcomes special guests to the retreat experience: Healer Julie Corey leads a drum circle on opening night, Naturalist Dave Anderson leads us on a full moonlight hike through The Fells, and Sound Healer Brian Russo delivers Tibetan bowl healing.

Expect to fill up on delicious vegetarian food provided by the gourmet team at Sunapee View B&B – farm fresh and locally sourced. Yum!

Cost for the weekend includes all meals and snacks and special guest programming – spa treatments offered by Sunapee Lake Massage and ropes course at Mount Sunapee are both optional and at an additional fee.

Commuter Guests $545

One Day Pass $250

Tibetan Bowls (Only) $30

Overnight Guests $665 – $920 (see price menu at

Call the center with questions – 781.729.2000 and book today if you can. There are only 3 rooms left “on campus” but there is plenty of availability at area inns and B&Bs.

how to make miracles


You are not a person. You are a radio receiver wrapped in a skin suit, tuning into different frequencies, downloading messages from source. You might have fancy knobs and dials that look an awful lot like fabulous hair and great legs. You might be a little bit of a thing with a broken antenna, making it hard to be taken seriously. You might be connected to speakers with amplification that could fill a stadium, your voice heard by millions. Regardless of your aesthetic, perceived ability, or reach, you are designed and built to receive information and broadcast information.

The type of information you receive depends upon which frequency you select.  

Miracles are manifestations of Source – call this God, collective conscious, emptiness, or just good juju. The frequency you select points you toward those miracles. You have access to infinite wisdom at all times, if only you tune in and listen carefully. Millions of people can tune into the same frequency at once, receiving similar information and inspiration.

We see evidence of this through trends in fashion, technology, science, literature, politics, and just about every other expression of creativity and passion out there. Fanny packs, zombies, and universal health care aren’t “hot” just because one leader decides they are. They’re hot because people around the world are tapping into source together, pulling from from the same frequency and interpreting that frequency through their individuality to create and broadcast unique experiences for their respective audiences to experience.

In order to receive this type of inspiration, you have to listen.

The challenges you face in receiving these messages depend on what kind of listener you are.

There are four kinds of listeners.

Loyal Listener: You listen to one channel all the time. In fact, you listen to it so much sometimes you forget it’s on, and only half-way listen. Your friends know you love this channel and sometimes you try to get them to listen to it, too.

Up and Down the Dial: You compulsively seek, tuning into one frequency for a little while before getting bored or distracted, changing channels. You may feel unsure, unsettled, or frustrated that you’re not more productive with your work or passion. You may give up easily.

Another Day, Another DJ: A person of multiple passions, you select your frequency according to your mood, exploring a new message each day. Sometimes you even try to tune into them all at once. With so many interests, it’s hard to choose just one frequency and expand fully. You may feel confused, undisciplined, overwhelmed, or like you have too many unfinished projects.

Non-listener: You tune out completely. You choose not to listen and instead rely on your mechanics and wiring. If there’s a glitch, you panic. You may feel lonely sometimes, like it’s you against the world.

(Confession: I am somewhere between Loyal Listener and Another Day, Another DJ. I tune into one frequency obsessively, typically for about two years, then turn the channel and hang there for another two years. This makes me a half-manifester of many things, which is simultaneously exciting and disappointing, fascinating and annoying.)

The clarity of that reception depends upon your ability to finely tune out the static. 

Regardless of the channel you select, it’s impossible to fully appreciate a particular frequency when you can hear murmurings from nearby stations, or when the message is muffled by static. Think of those murmurings as self doubt, as tired old stories, as perceived limitations. Static is your sink full of dishes, your favorite TV show, your bills, your knee pain, your kids hollering in the next room.

This interference gets in the way of your frequency’s clarity. But it’s also the mud from which the lotus emerges. Mud, lotus… you mindful types know where we’re going with this. Meditation, or focused, intentional, compassionate awareness, is a way to hear messages on a particular frequency with clarity.

A meditation practice may:

  • keep the Loyal Listener engaged, preventing the message from becoming mundane or turning into background noise
  • strengthen an Up-and-Downer’s ability to stay on one frequency for longer, giving you more time to interpret and master messages that download into your brain
  • help the DJ-a-Day accept that her natural diversity is a gift; if managed properly, its randomness becomes synchronous, easing the completion of works-in-progress
  • inspire the Non-listener to release control and open up a flood of creativity

Your ability to manifest ideas downloaded from your frequency depends on your courage to take action.

Once you’ve established yourself as a receptive channel, creating miracles is up to you. You were divinely designed with everything you need to succeed in manifesting miracles. You are equipped. You are gifted. You are ready. Now all you need to do is believe it.

Taking action might be as simple as a Google search. It might be a phone call or an informational interview. It might be asking for help or taking a class. It might be writing quietly in your room at night. The real question is, what are you waiting for? Time, money, and connections are invalid answers. Resources are available to those who ask, to those who listen, to those who prioritize. So seriously, what’s the hold up?

Remember, if you don’t do it, someone else will. Don’t forget, there are thousands – maybe millions – of people receiving the exact same information you are, from the exact same Source. Even if someone else beat you to the first punch and is successfully pursuing “your” dream, rest assured that there is still space for you. This is a big planet and you are the only you living on it. So while that other guy may be interpreting Source one way, your interpretation is unique to you. And people want to experience your interpretation. They do. For reals.

The volume at which you broadcast that information depends on your purpose.

I tend to download a lot of creativity. For several years, I have been downloading images of solar shingles from Source. They look a lot like ordinary shingles, but they capture solar energy to power ordinary houses. They’re not ugly so people want to buy them. I’m pretty confident that other people are downloading pictures of these solar shingles, too. In fact, a quick Google search landed me on a company right here in Boston that’s manufacturing early versions of them.

Do I think I should be manufacturing solar shingles? No. I’m not following this lead actively because, while I would love to invest money in a company like this, my will is urging me to stay focused on my current work. So I keep the volume on solar shingles turned way down low, and instead, I focus on teaching mindfulness and writing essays like this one.

Teaching and writing are funny things. When you’re excited about a message, you want to holler it at the top of your lungs so the whole world can hear. For many years, I would write and teach and write and teach and wonder why I wasn’t getting “discovered” by the masses. My audience remained tiny and I felt frustrated until I finally realized that my audience is not limited, it’s just specific.

My sweet spot is interpersonal communication. I like people. I like to understand, to be vulnerable, to connect, to go there. Crowds overwhelm me. I feel self-conscious on stage. In other words, I am well-suited for small scale. With this awareness, I can stop judging my success based the size of my audience, or even worse, judging my success on the size of other people’s audiences.

Not everyone can or should be a celebrity, a CEO, a guru, or a best-seller.

We all have aspirational peeps whom we admire from a distance. A painter  might aspire to Georgia O’Keefe. An executive to Bill Gates. A civil servant to Nelson Mandela. As a meditation teacher and spiritual junkie, I love Thich Nhat Hanh. He seems to be without ego, constantly tapped into the Lovingkindness frequency. Being an open channel is a discipline that not everyone has or can maintain. It’s constant sacrifice.

Once, I got to sit with TNH. He gave a dharma talk at Trinity Church in Copley Square. I felt lucky to be front and center, just feet from the edge of his cushion, breathing in whispers of his good juju. But even Thay – beloved, kind, open, intimate, and instrumental in broadcasting the lovingkindness frequency – is physically inaccessible to everyday people, like me.

So instead I read Thay’s books – and books by other gurus. I attend retreats, sitting shoulder to shoulder with 437 other seekers. I watch YouTube videos and listen to podcasts alone in my kitchen. I’m grateful that technology and travel can provide me with these teachings, but it cannot provide me with the emotional intimacy or personal connection I long for. And this is why accessible teachers are so important. Why small businesses are so important. Why town newspaper reporters are so important. Why parish priests are so important. Why local farmers are so important.

We all long to – we are made to – connect with people intimately, in an impactful way.

When comparing those who serve millions with those who serve dozens, we must know that one is not better than the other. They are both necessary. What is a CEO without sales people connecting to buyers? What is an author without bloggers to recommend their titles? What is a principal without teachers to work in the trenches with students? Our passions and purposes are interwoven, interdependent. Each of us must play our unique role in order to create a masterpiece or a movement.

I began teaching mindfulness in response to a longing to be part of the greater peace movement – first in my home, then to children in schools, and now at Chrysalis Meditation Center, just north of Boston. I have noticed that, since opening Chrysalis, the clarity of my frequency has improved tenfold and miracles open up to me daily.

I love the miraculous story of Sister Bernadatte. She was a simple French nun who tuned her human radio dial to Mother Mary. When she was 13 years old, Mary led her to unearth the healing springs in Lourdes where she and her community benefited in miraculous ways. Bernadette devoted the rest of her life to Mary. She died young, in her 30s, over a hundred years ago. A few years after she died, the church exhumed her body and found her corpse uncorrupted, smelling of roses. Her body is encased in glass now, peaceful and perfect and still very much perished.

The miracles that I experience are quieter than Bernadette’s, but no less impactful, because they benefit me intimately. My miraculous moments include things like perfectly timed songs on the radio; angel-shaped clouds; fortuitous run-ins with the just-right people; and meditations that deliver a sweet little nugget of inspiration.

Regardless of your preferred frequency or your stage in miracle-making, remember this: the late, great Tip O’Neill once said, “All politics is local,” and I’ll expand on that by saying, all miracles are local, too. There is a collective, connective source that holds all of this beautifully mysterious stuff together, and the miracles that truly inspire us to greatness are the ones we channel ourselves, amongst our own people. They are the messages that change our lives, our minds, our bodies, our homes, our hearts.

Listen closely.

From mine to yours,


Visit to learn about meditation classes and whole-being wellness programs offered in Greater Boston.


Meet your best friend and worst enemy.


Say hello to cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone secreted by your adrenal glands, two triangular-shaped organs that live just above your kidneys. At the risk of oversimplification, cortisol is the reason you are here today. If not for this quick-acting hormone, your primitive ancestors would have been gobbled up by bears and tigers thousands of years ago.

Cortisol, also known as “the stress hormone,” shuts down nonessential bodily functions and provides the body with everything it needs to fight, flee or freeze. Cortisol overrides your immune and reproductive systems (you’re not worried about healing a cut or making babies when you’re about to be someone’s lunch) and temporarily disables bone and muscle growth. It increases gastric acid production in the belly and stimulates sebum oil production in the skin. (Maybe if you taste really disgusting you’ll turn off that predator.) Cortisol raises blood sugar and insulin levels for a big burst of energy. It sends lactic acid to your muscles so you can pump those arms and legs, and it forces the oxygen you inhale into your lungs so you can run top speed. All of this and more happens in milliseconds, without any conscious effort from you. Pretty amazing, right?


Cortisol is designed to hang out in your body for short stints. If you walked around jacked up on cortisol all day long you’d look and feel absolutely INSANE. Can you imagine feeling stressed all the time? Feeling like you’re always running away from something or chasing something or hiding from something?


Hmmmm… Come to think of it, this is exactly how your life may look some days. Traffic, money, terrorists, deadlines, relationships, work, sordid pasts, kids, over-scheduling… all stimulate cortisol production. And those are just the obvious stress triggers. Your life may be filled with other complexities that people couldn’t even imagine! If this describes you, cortisol may overproduce in your body a dozen times a day or more. This is not good. Here are just a few reasons why:


1. When cortisol floods your hippocampus (the part of your brain responsible for memory and emotional responses), it kills brain cells. Fortunately, the hippocampus protects itself with something called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, or BDNF. Unfortunately, when cortisol secretes chronically, BDNF cannot keep up with demand and your brain cells bite it.


2. Cortisol thins the skin by depleting it of hyaluronic acid, a moisture retainer, stripping it of elasticity and suppleness. Additionally, it triggers inflammation resulting in damaged skin cells. The stress hormone also produces more sebum in your skin. Sebum is an oily substance that mixes with your dead skin cells and clogs up hair follicles. Clogged follicles leads to… you guessed it. Acne, pimples, cysts. Ugh.


3. Cortisol interrupts the production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that relays messages in the brain, including messages about mood, sex drive and function, appetite, and memory among other things. Serotonin is called the “feel good” hormone, and an imbalance may severely influence your mood and drop you into depression.


4. One in ten people experience the discomfort of a peptic ulcer. While ulcers are believed to be caused by a bacteria, stress aggravates them. Remember that increase in gastric acid production provided by your friend coritsol? Yup. Not helping. Especially when it’s triggered multiple times daily.


These conditions are often self-induced or self-exacerbated. They’re created through habitual negative thought patterns, unreasonable expectations, and unhealthy lifestyle choices.


You may think that tolerating stress is necessary for your survival: it makes you feel needed, important, alive. And if so, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans interpret stress the same way. The fact is, stress is toxic and has become America’s number one killer.


Here’s the good news. It’s not too late to reverse some of the chaos you’ve created in your body and mind. Those dead cells in your hippocampus? They’ll grow back. Those pimples and cysts? They’ll go away. That ulcer? It’ll heal. Depression? You can get through it. But not if you keep doing the same harmful things you’ve been doing. In order to create beneficial change, you need to change your stressful conditions or learn how to live above them. This begins with intentional, compassionate awareness of self and surroundings.

You may have heard of this thing called mindfulness? It can reduce your active cortisol production by 30%. Meditation researcher and expert Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” He also calls it “a radical act of sanity,” and never before have we needed such a radical act. This planet is suffering, threats of terror and destruction pierce daily life, and you don’t have time or resources to fix the problems created by the entire human race. Instead of taking on the burden of healing this collective disaster, you have permission to just work on healing yourself.

The Dalai Lama says, “World peace begins with inner peace.” He’s saying, Listen, y’all. You just do you. Fix your life. Deal with your drama. Everything else will fall into place around you. So say “no” to work. Say “yes” to play. Make time for silence. Spend time in nature. Hug someone. Care for an animal. Eat real food. Listen to your breath. Truly be with your children. Smile at strangers. Forgive your mother. Do nothing and be okay with it. Connect to yourself and others with full presence and compassionate awareness, and see how your world changes.

And when and if you feel compelled to engage a formal meditation practice, your friends at Chrysalis Meditation Center are here to support you. We are intimately familiar with your friend cortisol, because cortisol is our friend, too. In fact, we are so intimate with cortisol that we can see it before it arrives, and a lot of times we can even lower the gate before it floods in. Not because we are especially talented, but because we’re watching it closely. On purpose. Right now. Without judgment.

From mine to yours,


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Vanessa Gobes has been researching, reporting, and writing for 20 years: from spotlights on war heroes for her local newspaper, to the history of women’s golf fashion for 19th Hole Magazine, to mindful parenting for Mallika Chopra’s No topic has enthralled her more than mental and spiritual health. In response to this passion, she cofounded Chrysalis Meditation Center, Winchester, Massachusetts in September 2015.

Welcome to Work-Life Balance!

If you’ve subscribed to my blogs over the years, you’ll know that I jump on YouTube from time to time to explore various topics through mindfulness. The content of this channel is shifting and in this video I share its new direction. Thanks for tuning in, for liking, for commenting, for sharing.

From mine to yours,