The way meditation works.

I’ve been meditating since 2001 or so. So about 17 years.

It’s been a long journey figuring out what I needed to really understand about meditation. One of the biggest misconceptions I had, and I hear other people having, is how meditation is actually supposed to work.

I was at a wellness event last week and met person after person who, when I asked if they meditated, responded with, “oh no way. I can’t make my mind that still. It just never stops. I’m too busy to sit and do nothing like that.”

Then there was the person who scoffed a bit and said, “well, I pray. Which is…more important.”

Listen, in America we get to have different opinions. We get to choose our religious path or spirituality that serves us. We also get to decide what works and doesn’t work for us. But I think it’s unfortunate when people make assumptions about something or form fixed opinions based on misinformation.

Meditation isn’t about turning off your brain. It doesn’t work like that. Our brains are designed to process information to keep us breathing and keep us alive. So if you’re brain stopped, that would be a bad sign. I told those people last week, “if your brain stopped, you’d be dead."

Meditation isn’t about being dead. It isn’t about being numbed out. It isn’t at all about shutting down the constant stream of thoughts that run through your mind. It doesn’t work like that at all and isn’t meant to. But perhaps people think that because they desperately crave that kind of feeling to escape the prisons of their minds, which never stop and hold them hostage and cause a lot of fear and suffering.

I can see why people would want to shut that shit down. I KNOW why, because my mind can be a dangerous place to wander around. I am extremely intelligent from a lifetime of wonderful education and I also pursue information like it’s my job, because it IS my job. I am an overthinker by nature and an over-analyzer from a tumultuous childhood. I learned from an early age to strategize and sort things out to survive.

It’s taken some hard lessons and a lot of discipline to figure out how to turn the machine of my mind to a different setting. Meditation helps. That’s how it works, actually.

Meditation doesn’t work overnight. It takes practice. It’s meant to help us actually understand what we’re thinking about, not to stop the thoughts. It works by helping us see the way we get hooked on a thought and get carried away by it. It works by seeing how we live our lives in reaction to people or events instead of responding from a place of power and balance.

That’s the way meditation works.

When we sit on a cushion or a chair for one minute or five or an hour, we are practicing how to sit still and watch our thoughts like our favorite Netflix show. We learn to watch the thoughts like they are a sitcom or crime drama and not what we think they are, which is REALITY.

Still with me?

Our thoughts are not REALITY. They are like a tv show, created from our fears and perceptions and the stories we tell ourselves—not necessarily what’s really happening.

Meditation helps us practice this so when things happen to us in real life, when we aren’t sitting still on a chair or cushion, we apply that same awareness.

What’s the point? Well, when we start to see that our reactions to life cause us stress or unhappiness, we want that to end. We want to change things. We want to think differently to feel differently. We want to learn how to have a more loving and fearless approach to life.

That’s the way meditation works. It actually helps us do that to feel better.

But only when we stop saying things like, “I could never just sit there and turn my mind off, it’s too busy.”

Meditation isn’t meant to turn you off, it’s meant to turn you ON to what you’re doing that’s keeping you struggling and feeling stressed out.

So when you’re ready to sit yourself down and be brave enough to do something different, that’s the way meditation works.

Going Home for a Fresh Start

Last week I got a text from my friend.

“This might be something you want to do,” he said.

It was an opportunity to share a story on stage at WGBH: Stories from the Stage in Boston. I replied, “UM, YEAH!!!”

And so that’s what I did.

I left at 4:45am in the morning and drove back Home to Boston where I lived from 2006-2016 to tell a story on stage about coming back home to New Jersey this year and what it’s been like for me. I had less than a week to work out all the details and the hardest part was how to navigate the major point of why they invited me to share: because I’m transgender.

I struggled with it, wondering if I was being tokenized or provided an opportunity to share my story. After feeling a lot of feelings and almost not going at all and then processing since leaving the stage that evening, I’ve come to realize it’s always probably going to be a little bit of both moving forward. It comes with the territory of having a marginalized identity in a time of rapid cultural change. I’m choosing to embrace what feels uncomfortable about that and be grateful for what’s wonderful about it. Just surrendering to it being both/and, the Middle Way that Buddhism teaches me to embrace.

It’s the best way to be myself, which is the talk I walk for my readers and fans and followers and friends. I’ve been doing it since becoming a coach in 2009. After spending six years navigating my business “rebrand” by myself, I felt relieved to have words to share in ways I wanted to for the pre and post interviews at WGBH. And I told my story in a way that shared my experience and helped evolve our culture forward a few notches. At least I hope so.

I told a story of going back to a place I once worked and how it felt to be there among people who once knew me. It involved having a major panic attack and calling my mom and was full of really relatable themes and issues any person can relate to. I am really proud of that story and I hope I’m able to share it more widely soon.

Going back Home has been a deeply intuitive journey. I stopped trying to plan or strategize back in 2016 when my Vermont move showed me how wonderful it is when we let go and jump. I lost some of my joy and playful spirit when my sublet in Boston last June coincided with Jim’s sudden death. He was my therapist of ten years and my rock. The shock of that sent me reeling and I struggled to find my feet and know what to do next. I just kept following my gut and ended up right back where I left in 2006.

And wonderful things are happening from this fresh start. I’m reuniting with my mom and forging a wonderful relationship. I’m meeting new people and making new friends and catching up and building new relationships with people I knew before. I’m spending most of my time alone, actually, having become a bit of a hermit these past few years. I don’t mind it and actually prefer it. I’m consciously integrating past and current versions of me and it’s making my brain explode but it is an essential part of my journey so I can help others. I couldn’t have predicted this is how my life would go but as it all unfolds, it makes perfect sense.

I think it’s true for every person. We grow and evolve as much as we allow ourselves to do it. Most people limit themselves more than anything. There’s a safety in staying the same but we stay stagnant to the extent that we let fear ride shotgun.

I spoke to someone in Boston who was born and raised there and has been very successful with his business. “But I’m really bored,” he said. I could see why he said that and I’m anything but bored and actually sometimes crave the consistency other people, like this man, have in their lives. But that quality about me, my literal inability to sit still for any extended period of time, has made me who I am today. I’m constantly seeking and searching for what’s next or the newer version of myself. It’s a gift for the work I do, and I keep this in mind when it feels challenging. It seems to be why I’m here.

And that was the fresh start I shared in my story on stage. I talked about how I’ve had to continually find more patience with the things people do and say to me since I came out as transgender and how much I’ve grown up from that experience. I literally am not the same person from the inside-out. Changing on the outside generated a total transformation and fresh start on the inside. But it isn’t all unicorns and rainbows as it may sound in hindsight. It’s been a difficult adjustment. It’s tested me like nothing else. But from the past six years, I’ve learned the invaluable lesson that we always control our response to any situation, we get unlimited fresh starts to be our most compassionate and patient self.

I had to leave Home to become this version of myself and come back Home to apply it. And then go back Home to Boston for a brief stint to see if staying where I am in New Jersey is what I really need to do. It was so tempting, to be back in a place that was familiar and fun and full of things that would make my life much easier than it feels right now. Where I am living, I am really being a trailblazer and I feel self-conscious much of the time. Rural New Jersey isn’t the metropolis of queer-friendly Boston. But it isn’t all that bad, either. In fact, I’m finding surprises around every corner and in people I would have ruled out based on my own assumptions. Isn’t it funny how we can do that? The way we make reasons why we can’t find freedom anywhere we choose to feel it.

Often we’re the very reason why.

And then I look down and see the tattoo on my arm, scrawled in my own handwriting that says, “the true home is within.”

My mom and me.

“Will you send that to me? It’s one of the best pictures of me since I don’t remember when.” 

My mom said this today. This is us smiling. She came to visit me for the first time since I moved back home to New Jersey a year ago today. It’s one of two pictures we’ve taken together in almost a decade. It was a great day.


For most of my life, my mom and I had a very difficult relationship. I never understood why but she said today, “we are more alike than different, I think that’s why we butt heads.” She’s probably quite right. Our sensitivity and empathy run deep as does our impatience. It’s the Irish maybe. 


My father left her with my sister, who was a toddler about to turn 3 years old, and me when I was 3 months old. He left his wedding ring in the dresser during a business trip. My mom found it and called him out while home alone with us. Then he left for good. My mother never went to college. She didn’t have a safe or comfortable home life. She hauled us both in her car and got food stamps until she could figure out another plan. That is her version of the story. I’m sure my dad has his. I may never hear it because he’s been pretty M.I.A. except for a few years when he really was great.

My mom is the one who fought through her pain and confusion and grief to make peace with my decision to transition my gender identity in 2012. It’s taken us six years to be able to hang out and smile like this together. Six years and a lot of work and growth on both sides. During brunch today, I saw my mother as a completely new and different person for the first time in my 40 years on this planet. It felt like time stopped.

This post is a short version of the long story of my mom and me.

This picture exposes the tenacious love and compassion we have for ourselves and each other. All I am I learned from this woman. I’m the mirror that reflects her. She’s so afraid of life but she’s a warrior. She’s the inspiration for all I do in my own life, leaving nothing unexplored and being brave beyond all limits. She conquered a big fear coming to visit me today. I’m fearless from her example.

This is my mom and I’m who I am because she’s who she is. Perfectly her.