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Instructions for a 12–15 minute session

[Listen to a guided audio version]

Find a Place: Depending on how many people are home on any day, I meditate either in my kids’ room, which is quiet and large (and not drafty), or in my wee office. In olden days, I would practice meditation for a minimum of 25–30 minutes but at this season of peak parenting, I often sit about 12–15 minutes in the mid-morning once the flurry of breakfast and getting people dressed has subsided.

Set a Timer: After the usual procrastinating has run its course, I set a timer on one of the various surveillance devices within earshot (Google on my phone or Alexa in the office). …


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In case you weren’t on a cross-country flight in the early 2000’s, here’s the plot of the movie Maid in Manhattan: J. Lo is a maid with movie star looks toiling at a Waldorf-Astoria type hotel who gets onto senatorial candidate Ralph Fiennes’ gold-plated radar despite her low socioeconomic status or, perhaps, because of it (Fiennes says with a surprised grin, “No woman ever speaks like that to me!”). The movie begins as a comedy of mistaken identity and resolves itself with J. Lo and her son being helicoptered out of poverty’s narrow choices into a wide-open life with Fiennes.

It’s a story of exceptional individuals, which is a good formula in Hollywood but not so much in health and wellness. It’s an uncontroversial statement to say that many of us feel out-of-balance right now. …


And what a truce with pain feels like.

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I’ve been in pain the last several days. The phrase “ in pain” relays the immersive experience of it, as if you were in an aquarium tank going in circles. Currently, the muscles up around my spine feel like a twisted geyser and my head seems to be pulling to the right.

Without quite realizing it, I’ve been practicing the ‘Getting Through It’ mentality. You know, you’re walking around kind of on fire and yet you have to keep calm and complete the day’s itinerary. I get like this sometimes. My world narrows to a long, darkened hallway and there is a lot of trudging. The hills are not alive with the sound of music. If the pain is extended, I approach what Bessel Van Der Kolk , author of The Body Keeps The Score, describes as the after-effects of trauma — feeling “forsaken.” …


A Four-year-old’s Perspective on Illness

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Last week, I discovered this handwritten message that had been taken off the wall of my daughter’s Pre-K classroom. My daughter had said these words during a classroom meeting when her teacher wanted to know why a “Doggy” game had led to so much arguing and crying.

As far as the game, I think you get the idea: the kids take turns acting like a dog, crawling on the floor, rolling over, barking, and sometimes being sick and needing to be taken care of. To be an “owner” was more responsibility. …


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Listen to the podcast here.

On my Alexander Technique training course, you’d often see trainees laying on the floor with a book under their head as if charging themselves from an unseen outlet on the ground. “Constructive rest” as it’s called, is a regular part of my week and my health toolkit. I’m sharing it today because this practice can calm a jangled nervous system.

It’s drawn from the repertoire of the Alexander Technique because it also stimulates our natural postural system. Normally gravity works in a direction down your spine. Here though, gravity has a spreading effect, like a pat of butter melting, so that over time your neck, spine, and limbs can lengthen and your shoulders can relax. Especially important is to allow your neck to be unsupported while your head is supported by the books (unless this is medically contraindicated). …


A Teaching on the Classic Obstacle of Disheartenment

[Quick note: I’m delighted that my essay on fatherhood, masculinity, and disability was just published on Fatherly. You can read it here.]

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Just so you know, it’s not like I wake up even keeled and wanting to commune with the rising sun. I’m usually ejected from sleep by one of my daughters, petitioning for breakfast or lobbing outlandish requests while my defenses are weak: “Can I watch a movie before school? Can we have a doughnut?” When I have finally done the hundred things of breakfast, lunch, and school drop-offs, I often think about gliding right past my meditation cushion.

After nearly 20 years of meditation, I’m still a little nervous about sitting down with nothing to do for 20 minutes. Why don’t I first check my newsfeed (Trump lowlights and Yankees gossip)? …


And a practice to find direction from within it.

Let’s face it — none of us are where we want to be. My floors are all scratched up. When I run, I hear a weird clicking noise in my knee. I should read more books. I’m going to have to forage in retirement. The list goes on, and it has been going on for thousands of years.

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In the 4th century BC, Plato wrote that truth, beauty, and perfection exist only as ideas and that this world, which we know through our senses, is a fallen, shadow version of reality. Plato is credited with setting the stage for later Judeo-Christian views that praised a higher, more satisfying world elsewhere. …


A New Newsletter about an Old Problem.

Welcome to The In-Between. As you may have noticed, this newsletter has been widening its scope to include not just the triumvirate of Alexander Technique, meditation, and swimming but also the chaos and opportunity of parenting , and the challenges of chronic pain and illness .

The In-Between comes at this moment when we are all waiting for big things: a vaccine, an election, the return of in-person school and work. And yet isn’t this actually the constant: always waiting for big things? The sense that resolution could be just around the corner?

The title of the newsletter is partly an homage to a talk given by Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun, in which she points out what nearly everyone fails to mention about spirituality and…


Every once in a while, someone is lucky or smart enough to enter a career field at the exact right time. For instance, hand sanitizer production in 2020. Or, in the case of Stephen Warley, teaching people how to work for themselves in an uncertain economy.

Stephen has been a serial solopreneur since 2000 and has extensively researched alternative ways of working, both in his and in his forthcoming book, . He founded Life Skills That Matter in 2016. I interviewed Stephen recently because I believe, essentially, we are teaching similar skills: how to work with uncertainty, and how to preserve one’s humanity amidst stress and confusion. …


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What do the Garden of Eden and the Buddhist notion of Samsara have in common?

The seed of both concepts can be found in a feeling I had, many years ago, when I worked in a charmless, fluorescent-lit Dept. of Education office in Brooklyn. In the afternoons, while my blood sugar plummeted, I’d sit back and contemplate other life paths while the emails piled up: teaching abroad, writing upstate, or getting promoted (ha!). While riding back to my home on an overcrowded F train, I’d console myself by staring not into my neighbors’ ear holes (those were the days!), …

About

Dan Cayer

Meditation + Alexander Technique teacher. Author of “Don’t Get Better,” forthcoming guide to sanity, humor, and wisdom during illness. dancayer.co

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