Building a Platform (for what?)


In the writing world, I feel this constant pressure to get to one place first, and then from that perch, I’ll be able to get somewhere else (i.e., the place I really want to be). I think a lot of this has to do with the word “platform.” Before you can expect an agent or publisher to be interested in your submission, you need to build a platform. To build a platform, you have to do something that appeals to many people. Often something that fits neatly in that category—the category: appeals to many people—has to be simple, readily identifiable, marketable, visually-interesting, formulaic, predictable. In other words, not new. Something that lends itself to a 20-second elevator pitch.

Maybe advice for busy new moms. Maybe 10 ways to slow down. Maybe gardening tips. Maybe a nice before/after picture of a newly-simplified living space. Maybe something funny the kids did. A beautiful latte with a heart in the foam. These are a few possibilities. There are many more. And they can have value, potentially. Even if it’s just a picture of the cat in the sun that makes someone smile, someone who has seen (and taken) a million pictures of cats in the sun.

And you could accept that broad category, whichever one draws you the most. You could say, I will start by curating or recording or musing about something with mass appeal. And even then, who knows how many followers you will attract? Maybe you’ll take in lots of tips about “successful” blogging and boosting your online presence, and you’ll apply them well and have some natural talent for publicity and self-promotion and you’ll get somewhere.

And then maybe you’ll have a platform. Enough followers, enough likes, enough friends, enough fans, enough, enough, enough! so that the guardian of some cultural access point whose approval you’re seeking (the editor or agent) will finally approve. At last you have enough—enough people who will pay money for something they will help you sell.

This platform pressure drains me.

Isn’t it highly possibly that you could invent yourself, reinvent yourself,  be that person that people want to follow, that person with a platform, that you could climb up high and see far and wide, then be granted the opportunity to speak to the crowd through some establishment channel like book publishing, and quite possibility the speech you’d want to give, or book you’d want to write would have nothing to do with that persona at all? That was the persona you used to claw your way to that platform. Do you jettison it? Would you be allowed to? Could you throw off your pink wig, trade your platform heels for running shoes?




“…Very well, then I contradict myself…”



How lucky this feels to me today to have a writing/yoga blog, about which I’d so often dreamed for past year. To have a space to enter. Writing. Yoga. Fitness. To see the posts from Kajal. Some really make me laugh! To know that Sharyn is now teaching Yoga at Bowery Yoga (and somehow credits her arrival there to me, for connecting her with our neighborhood garden for our Mindfulness in the Garden workshop). The Mindful Gardener is reprinting. I gave a copy to my aunt this past weekend. She is about to move from her big, beautiful house on the beach where we just realized this weekend as I said goodbye that we should have hosted a women’s wellness retreat to a small condo near the woods in the next town over. In her “new life” she is excited to start her own little garden. She flipped through the pages of the journal to the question about who taught you to garden. It was her mother Eleanor (my grandmother), she said, proceeding to tell me about the glorious roses out front of her childhood home.

Today I said I will come here, that is, pull up this WordPress page, and give it my full attention.

We try to fight distraction. We’ve rid ourselves of multi-tasking. But instead of focusing on what I don’t want to do (get distracted, wander to another page, another task, an article, a chore, an email) I am telling myself that instead I should focus on the act of attention, its potential for power, grace, and joy. Here is Marjoleine de Vos:

“Nothing is better than fully opening up to what you are doing, whether it’s gardening, reading, listening, or bird-watching. Instead of doing a little of many things at the same time, doing them one at a time is more efficient and more enjoyable.”

When I started this project with Kajal, my partner Alex posted on Facebook a link to the blog with the description that it was “not very rock & roll” of me. It is not. It is a different aspect and I sometimes feel like a bit of an imposter in this yoga world. I wonder if I have the “right” to write about mindfulness. If I am allowed to participate in a discussion about a realm that is not only new to me but also at odds, possibly, with other realms, other roles. I wonder what is at the root of that fear. Why one can’t write rock songs and also write about attempts at meditation. The fear extends to other areas. At Fordham in my Master’s program I often felt on the margins because I was a mother. I felt discredited because, along with my nonprofit work, I write books for a living that are mainly just for fun (commercial, gift books, often silly, often illustrated, not serious, the furthers thing from scholarly). Part of me thinks that I can’t help but think in terms of a personal brand, given that our social media feeds, more than anything, have seemingly come to define us in our larger networks. And knowing that my “brand”—if I have one, as a freelancer, I partly rely on having one—is rather incoherent gives me pause. Genre-bending, disobedient.

Is writing about yoga, practicing yoga with the mind of a writer, a departure from who I’ve been? Will it take me further away from something essential? Or help me return? I don’t have answers, but I have felt something stirring and I’ve started to listen to recordings from my band Dimestore Scenario. I posted a few here. Part of me wants to write all new material. A new EP, a new album, maybe a compilation. And part of me thinks, no. You need to exercise restraint. Go back and finish something you started. Remember Bruce Lee, practicing the same kick, 10,000 times.



One Thing


Focus on doing one thing.

How often do we hear that advice?

Yet how difficult it is to heed it.

Even when it comes to this blog, this moment. I want to sit here for a few moments breathing in and out listening to Snatam Kaur and writing, yet my mind is racing ahead to all that needs to be done in the next 40 minutes, the next several hours, several days. I hear Wally chattering in the background nervously, working last, last minute on a project he had all vacation to do. I did that many times, I remind myself, and when I was far older than him. One thing. Today I returned to a (tiny) morning routine. So simple. Light a candle, start the quiet music, breathe in, and begin. Yet how many mornings go by without it?

I read somewhere recently to start and finish your meditation practice with something that frames it. Lighting a candle and blowing it out can be one way. A chime or incense. One of those bowls—what are they called? Clearly I am new at this. I like that idea though. That commitment. For the length of this song, or while this candle is burning, I will (attempt to) focus on this one thing. I remind myself of that word “attempt” again and again. During meditation our minds may wander. As we’re working on a piece of writing we may keep thinking of a million other things we need to do. As we’re practicing yoga we may need to keep reminding ourselves to focus on the breath—to breathe at all. All we can really control is our intention.

My intention now (nearly 10 PM) has changed from when I began this post (before 7 AM). I had thought then that I would write quite a bit, having not written for a while. Perhaps I’d even write about the reason for the break. But the day carried me away. Whenever I could, I remembered to slow down, breathe, stay focused on one thing. Once in a while I was able to.

So here is this post after a long silence, one little offering.




In a Blue Moon, Once


Two more hours of the eclipse. We didn’t catch a glimpse of the super moon or the blood moon or any penumbral activity at all. But knowing it has been going on has given an extra charge to the day, a mystical quality.

It was quite cold as I jogged up the river and I was underdressed. My only goal was to get home as fast as possible. I noticed that because of the cold, my attention was very focused. I did not take notice of the usual things that bother me. Often I am attentive to how tired and uncomfortable I feel, of irritation at all the construction, wishing I had brought a protein bar. But this time all those irritations faded so far into the background that they were out of my awareness.

I wasn’t sure what to make of it except to remark on how powerful a strong focus can be.


To read, perchance to dream



I have had a lot more time for reading books lately. Not that I am reading luxuriously, curled up for a few hours with tea. Mostly I read on the subway and a little bit at night before going to sleep.

A few years ago we tried something I read about where everyone in the family reads separately. SQUIRT it was called in some magazine or other. Super Quiet Uninterrupted Reading Time. It never really caught on. For me it was important that everyone read books, physical books, not something on a Kindle or Ipad or phone. Why? If one is “legitimately” reading a book on a phone, why doesn’t that feel right to me? I guess I fear the person will be pinged and otherwise interrupted and tempted to scroll around and look at other stuff, won’t be immersed fully in the book. I need to be less controlling about how and what other people choose to read, however. Alex (my partner) likes to scroll around on news sites, particularly Brazilian ones. He claims to like books—and wants to hold on to all his accounts of the Hungarian Empire, counterpoint melodies and Tai Chi—but I rarely ever see him holding one. But anyway it shouldn’t matter to me what someone else chooses to read, or in what format. I need only focus on myself. I have to remind myself of this constantly.

Anyway, the reason I’m getting to read books more often is very simple—I choose them instead of scrolling around, clicking on links, checking various cites. There still are blogs I follow and I almost always read The New York Times digitally, but aimless clicking and scrolling, I am trying to avoid. It brings me so very little satisfaction, and yet for years I willing jumped down into rabbit holes rather than pick up a book. Laziness or a feeling of wanted to be connected, current, “in the know.” Somehow not having the energy to step away from the computer and push through the initial resistance that can attend opening a book. Why should there be so much resistance to something we love doing? I suppose part of it is knowing that we’ll be interrupted, and can’t read the way we want to, so instead we settle for fragmented online reading, a few minutes here, a few minutes there.

It took me a while to realize most books don’t demand so much attention that we can’t read them the same fragmented way.

Mindful decision-making brings clarity to almost every aspect of our lives.

Now step away from the computer.




I guess we are a little more than a third of the way into this project, if it turns out to be a year. September 20 we began.

I can’t remember if Kajal and I agreed on a year, or if that thought occurred to me later, the result of transposing the experience of this blog with memories of following One Blue Sail religiously when was that, I guess 2016? Sarah Bousquet chose a calendar year for her 365 challenge, which clearly makes sense. Yet September, not just because of school, but I suppose largely because of it, is always a new beginning too. (Surely the fifteen million Jews in the world would agree.)

I love how keeping track of the days in some written form—not all the days, but enough—makes the time dilate. Looking back over the entries, you think, wow. We have had so much time.

Lately I’ve been writing less than I want to and thinking more. While practicing yoga, there is often not much to do with one’s mind but think. I know those who are more advanced can get beyond too much thinking, can return their focus again and again to their breath. So far I cannot do that.


Adapting to Habits

I’m thinking about how hard it is to keep up with habits, even the tiniest little habits. Like, I have a little system for keeping track of the days that I run. It used to be putting a ladybug sticker on the date of the calendar for any day that I ran no matter how far or fast. No need for that level of detail, as it’s rarely far and never fast. Then I ran out of stickers, and would draw a ladybug. Then I got too lazy for that and would just draw an oval, colored in, preferably with a colored pencil. But I don’t even keep that up. Sometimes I fill it in later, after the fact. Often I can’t get my hands on a colored pencil when I think of doing it and near my calendar. Those three vectors have to intersect: near my calendar, colored pencil on hand, remember to do it. That’s rare. There are ways to make it less rare—keep a colored pencil maybe tied with a string onto the calendar, say, and make a habit of recording as soon as I entered the apartment post-run. It’s mind-numbingly dull to have to get down to this level of minutia, and yet it seems that habits are built that way, require that level of patience, that tolerance for tedium. And only with a structure in place, can we support more creative and more engaging and more admirable pursuits. All this is hard for me as I’ve been, historically, resistant to habit. Resistant to have-tos, beyond external ones I can’t avoid. Resistant to keeping socks in pairs, to folding up laundry (why not just dig it back out of the bag) to having certain days of the week I do laundry or times I call home. More and more I’m learning the importance of those routines, feeling less anxiety in adopting them, trying to uncover what it is underneath that often repels me. One wants to be flexible, open, spontaneous. But sometimes flexibility is veiled weakness, lack of spine.

I suppose by now many of you have seen this Navy Seal’s speech about the importance of making your bed.