Cookies and Kindness

My practice of cookie baking and sharing continues. The recipes and recipients may change, but my intention remains constant: Spreading a little sweetness and joy one bite at a time. ❤

Sirena Tales

img_2441You can always count on cookies and kindness: Give a cookie and you get joy.”~Dorie Greenspan

I wholeheartedly agree with celebrity baker and guru, Dorie Greenspan, who has launched a wonderful cookies and kindness project.  It’s aimed at making “the world a sweeter place”  by inspiring, mobilizing and connecting bakers all over the world to bake and share cookies. #cookiesandkindness

A campaign to spread joy? YES!

I’ve been pursuing a cookie baking practice for many years, baking and sharing cookies frequently.  With family and friends, of course.  And also with folks I’ll never meet:  firefighters in my hometown or in a different city, folks at food pantries or soldiers overseas.

It’s always felt right somehow, this humble yet heartfelt practice.  Not one that is going to bring world peace, yet one that may bring moments of connection and delight into individual lives.


To bake and share something delicious…

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Lighten Up and PLAY

play”–to engage in an activity for enjoyment…have fun, relax, frolic...

In my new dance solo, I am exploring the power of being playful.  As I share with the audience in patter between sections, it’s taken me a long, long time to appreciate the potency of play.

Loosening the reins is so often just the ticket when we seek solutions, when we aim to try something new or different, when we hope to create.  Through play, we engage our imaginations and tap into their immense possibilities.  As I described here, playfulness helps things flow.

Isn’t it ironic, then, that all too often we dial up the pressure and put a stranglehold on playfulness when we take something seriously (or want to be taken seriously)?  We force things and attempt to control them.  Revving up the rigidity that shackles what could be a more organic, and fruitful, process.

Sad to say, I speak from recent experience.  Several weeks ago as I was crafting this solo, I got so tangled in analyzing and overstuffing the choreography with movement that the dance felt lifeless.  Once I got out of my head and back to fooling around with the theme of playfulness, the piece started bubbling up with vibrancy.

I noticed that my senses of dread and dissatisfaction in rehearsal were replaced with excitement. I became eager to see what else I could cook up for the audience and me to enjoy, smile and laugh about.

Ideas flowed. Yes!

As I get ready to head off to rehearse for our upcoming performance, I noticed a deer come gamboling onto the marsh.  Even as she is a formidable animal, her prancing and leaping seem effortless, sprightly.

She reminds me that the bounce and agility we see in movement is akin to the buoyancy of thought and spirit we can enjoy when we lighten up and play.  And so, as Alan Cohen wisely urges: “Let out a little more string on your kite.”

Photos: Top-Courtesy of Schwalbs Photography, at Lyme Art Association; Middle-Courtesy of Nikki Carrara © 2017



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Personal Legend: Life Lessons from Dancing (Encore)*

A Personal Legend is the reason you are here…You can fill your hours and days with things that are meaningless. But you know you have a reason to be here….It is the only thing that gives you enthusiasm….”~Paulo Coelho

These wise words came blaring back to me as a friend lamented not being able to discern what she is supposed to be doing with her life. I had just read a compelling interview of writer Paulo Coelho (“O, The Oprah Magazine,” October 2014, p. 142 ) and decided to test his views with my friend.

Not surprisingly, D exhibited clearly what Mr. Coelho asserts: that we do know what our reason for being here is. And that our enthusiasm, our sense of aliveness, is an accurate barometer.

Sure, D resisted delving at first, just as so many of us have: “I just don’t know. I just can’t tell.” But when I started questioning about specific interests that D has mentioned in the past, presto! D became unmistakably animated. Eyes alight, energy effusing, torso leaning in….

D’s language mirrored the energy shift from confused and frustrated (“There’s something wrong with me, I just can’t seem to find anything to be enthusiastic about”) to excited and affirming (“Of course, I have always wanted to do something artistic, like sculpting in stone”). YES!

Then the hurdles we often build for ourselves manifested. First, the old standby obstacles for those of us who have waited on the edge, afraid to take the plunge: “Well, no one is ever going to pay me to do that!” and “In my 20s and 30s, I would have dived in, but now I may be too old….”

Ah, yes. My very words when I ached to leave lawyering and follow my lifelong passion for dancing, but feared doing so.  Mr. Coelho aptly notes that it’s very difficult “…to accept that you know what you’re supposed to do when you are not doing it. Because from the moment that you know, you have to either leave a lot of things behind or live aware that you are not fully treasuring the miracle of being alive.”

Will my friend follow her heart and pursue her calling of being an artist or something similarly vitalizing? I don’t know. I hope so.

What I do know from my dancing life is that it can feel very risky to follow one’s heart. (“Isn’t that irresponsible/selfish/unrealistic/ridiculous?”)  Mr. Coelho explains that “…[y]ou buy into the world’s greatest lie the moment you agree to obey rules that are not your rules. When you say ‘I have to.’ So many people say, in that moment, ‘Am I going to be different? Am I going to make people upset? No.'”

What I know even more deeply is that there is nothing, nothing like living the lives we were meant to live. And the heart and the body are eager to tell us the way, if we will only still our fears and listen.   The reason I could recognize my friend coming alive? I sensed the same excitement, the quickening that I feel every time I dance. Reminiscent of the artist’s “elevated sense of being” that Yo-Yo Ma speaks of.

It is home.

Need more justification? When we follow our hearts not only do we benefit individually from “fully treasuring the miracle of being alive,” but also we pour forth our positive vibe, benefiting the universe. Woot!  Just imagine: a world full of people living out their legends, breathtakingly ALIVE.

Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living…
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.”~Joseph Campbell

*Since I wrote the original post for this, edited here, I have had countless, similar conversations with friends, colleagues, family, people I barely know.  “Why am I here” and “what path should I forge” are questions that just keep on giving :).

Still, and always, seeking answers, I find Coelho’s sage message resonates ever more insistently: When we cultivate what brings us alive, we treasure most brilliantly the miracle of another day of life.  Avanti! (Photo credits: Second from bottom-Linalynn Schmelzer; Bottom: Arthur Fink)

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Why Be Vulnerable?

Vulnerability.  Ah, yes.  Our old friend.

Vulnerability: the state of being exposed to possible attack or damage, physically or emotionally.  Why we would choose to be so assailable?

Brené Brown reminds us why. “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”  With all of that positive potential, the better question is why do we resist making ourselves vulnerable?

Because it’s scary and uncomfortable.  Because we can feel our powerlessness.  Because we lose our illusion of control in the face of the unknown, opening ourselves up to misunderstanding, ridicule, rejection.  And, yes, the dreaded “f” word: Failure.

I’ve been thinking about this even more than usual of late.  I have been working on a new dance solo that is different from anything I’ve choreographed and performed before, along with preparing for a few performances with new audiences.  I am definitely out of my comfort zone.

I thought I had been doing a pretty good job of risk-taking with my solo–and, yes, it seems I had been doing just that.  A “pretty good” job. The feedback I have received recently reflects that I need to up the ante on openness, on letting myself be seen, on risk-taking.


My first reaction was a sigh of appreciation at the challenge of making myself more vulnerable because I know that this is where all of the magic happens–the birthplace of all that vitality Brown describes.

But the “ahhhhhh” transformed into an “ugh,” as I struggled with the challenge.  Looking back, I see that I was still holding on too tightly to the illusion of control, overanalyzing rather than sensing how to paint more evocatively these kinetic images.

Thankfully, we have gotten back to “ahhhhh” after I loosened things up.  A wise ally had reminded me to get out of my head and let myself go along for the ride of the transformation in the character I am depicting.

I also returned to Brené Brown’s new book, “Braving The Wilderness” and the marvelous words of gifted actress Viola Davis who shares some of her rules to live by: “I will allow myself to be seen…I apply the advice an acting coach gave to me to all aspects of my life: Go further. Don’t be afraid.  Put it all out there.  Don’t leave anything on the floor….” (pp.86-87)

So, I am back at it.  Throwing open the shutters to some fresh air and new eyes, striving to go farther, letting myself be seen.







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Adding Our Beauty To The World

I’m thrilled to have found a glorious podcast on the late, luminous John O’Donohue,  gifted poet, philosopher, and theologian. “The Inner Landscape of Beauty,”

In the exhilarating interview, O’Donohue reminds us of the essential importance of beauty to our lives, defining beauty as something which”…returns us, often in fleeting but sustaining moments, to our highest selves…it ennobles the heart and reminds us of the infinity that is within us.” 

Beauty “…is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life.”

Through O’Donohue’s expansive vision, we can see how crucial beauty is to our vibrancy, both individually and collectively.  Beauty is the vehicle through which we flourish.

This is where each of us comes in.  For, as O’Donohue explains, we each have a part to play by cultivating and sharing our inner gifts.  As he elaborates:

“…it’s lovely when you find someone at work who’s doing exactly what they dreamed they should be doing and whose work is an expression of their inner gift. And in witnessing to that gift and bringing it out, they actually provide an incredible service to us all. And I think you see that the gifts that are given to us as individuals are not for us alone, or for our own self-improvement, but they are actually for the community and to be offered.”

When we live through our inner gifts, we embody the beauty he describes, that of being our highest selves, and offer that elevated life, that radiance, to the community.  We inspire, we nourish, we raise up the whole.

Want to make the world a more beautiful place? Find, feed and contribute your inimitable beauty to the Universe.  You’re the only one who can.

Middle photo courtesy of Nikki Carrara © 2017; Sculpture: Gil Boro


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Conversation: Reaching Across The Space Between

Ruminating on dialogue, both kinesthetic and verbal, I find this post from the archives….Dialogue abounds in possibility, and hope.

Sirena Tales

I am standing in dance class, watching the gorgeous, masterful teacher demonstrate the movement for the umpteenth time.  Movement that is seemingly simple, yet turns out to be highly challenging, even for those of us who have been dancing for decades.  Movement that is unfamiliar and so we are trying to learn the new vocabulary.

I try the movement on again in my turn to dance across the floor.  The dance phrase is only four counts long, and yet in those four counts, we need to achieve numerous movements with arms, legs, torso and head…and with different timing and dynamics.  A polyrhythmic, dynamically multidimensional potpourri.

My brain is racing to send timely signals to the body. Even at full throttle on the mental end, I can feel how I am repeatedly missing many key components.  I kind of feel like a slow robot clunking, racing to catch up to the…

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Courage or Comfort: A Dialogue in Hip Hop

Sirena Tales

As much as I wanted to attend, I almost didn’t get myself to a recent hip hop class with some renowned master artists.  ‘Didn’t think my temperamental, 58-year-old joints and tetchy ego could handle it.

Then I found myself offering advice, perhaps a bit sanctimoniously, to my son about the profound importance of being open and having dialogues with people, whether through music, words, dance or otherwise. That creating and walking across those bridges is essential to vibrancy–for each of us and for the universe.

I suddenly realized that unless I wanted to be a total hypocrite, I would need to vacate my cozy comfort zone and hustle on over to class.  More important, if I stayed home, I would miss out on the abundant possibility that the class offered for the very dialogue I had been advocating.

When I arrived, I alerted the teachers that I might need to…

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