Category Archives: Uncategorized

Age Against the Machine

Checking my calendar for the week, I see it filled with medical appointments, errands, calling the cable company to fight about the bill, PT for my knees, aerobic exercise for the heart, and mental gymnastics to counter forgetfulness—“Who was, you know, what’s his name’s daughter?”

As with many of us, aging is bringing “issues” that make it tough to do things I did with ease just a few years ago.

As far back as kindergarten, I’ve been driven to shine, to achieve, win the race, be first in class, selected to give the speech or lead the dance. That drive has always been in my bones, but what to do with it now, when I often feel irrelevant? There are fewer opportunities each year to do the creative work I love.

On my last birthday (the number was, as a friend, said, “an outrage”), my sister, Terry, and I planned to spend the day together. We were in Hawaii, where she lives, and she asked if I wanted to start with a two-hour meditation led by Dr. Dean Nelson on Kailua beach–the most beautiful sweep of sand on the island.

I’d been doing spiritual practices for 40 years. I’ve gone to retreats and classes, heard wisdom from countless sources, and been blessed with friendships with spiritual teachers. But a few years ago, I decided it was time to just live it–apply the wisdom moment by moment, rather than attending more teachings. So I’d resisted Terry’s previous invitations to sit with Dr. Dean, but as this birthday loomed, I was feeling downhearted, and thought, why not? “If you don’t like it,” Terry said, “you can just walk on the beach.” Continue reading

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Summer of Love REDUX

 My singing group, Spirit Voices, recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, with a concert at Nissi’s night club in Colorado. I’m the oldest member of the group, and the only one who, in 1967, spent time in both the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco and New York’s Lower East Side–the twin poles of psychedelia. I was a reporter for the Boston Globe, my first job, and because I was in my early twenties, they sent me out across the country to report on what we called the counter culture.

Over the years, the hippie movement has been trivialized, but in first bloom, it carried a sense of hope, joy, wild playfulness, and the promise of a new order based on sharing, equal rights, ending war, spiritual uplift and, above all, love.  Naïve? Sure, but at the time it was sincere and we really believed we could achieve it.

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Men, Marijuana and $

Delusional Confidence?    Report from the Marijuana Investor Summit

“When we want to raise capital,” said Dooma Wendschuh, the 38-year-old co-founder of a cannabis company called ebbu, “I go up to someone and say, ‘Would you like to invest in my company? Here’s how it will work. One: you may go to prison for making this investment. Two: I may go to prison, and you might lose all your money. Three: Our minimum investment is $250,000. Sure you want to play ball?”

There was nervous laughter from the crowd. It was the first day of the first Marijuana Investor Summit in Denver, and Wendschuh was speaking on a key panel, “Raising Funds.”

Dooma Wendschuh

More than 800 people from across the country had come to the Summit at the Crowne Plaza Hotel near the airport. It was a testosterone-fueled crowd, mostly white men in suits—entrepreneurs mixing with hedge fund managers and venture capitalists. But there were outliers: an Orthodox Jew, with a long white beard and tzitzit, whose family in Philadelphia wants to obtain the first license to grow medical marijuana in Pennsylvania; an African-American man who spent 17 years on Wall Street, then left to grow pot near Detroit; and a female doctor who wants to start a practice treating chronic diseases with cannabis.

All were convinced that the ongoing legalization of marijuana is creating an opportunity for people with a high tolerance for risk to make a killing.

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White House for Hanukkah?

The email arrived late Friday: “The President and Mrs. Obama request the pleasure of your company at a Hanukkah reception at the White House on Wednesday, December 17, 2014.”

I read it again, and again. It was exciting, but why had I received this?InviteAs It happened, I was about to fly to New York for a week and could easily take the train to Washington.

But what would I wear? The invite said, “business or holiday attire.” In Boulder, where I’ve lived the past 12 years, business attire means a clean shirt and jeans.

Peter Swift, who’s the mayor of Gold Hill, CO, stopped by that night, and I showed him the invite. It asked me to RSVP with the “date of birth, social security number, city and state of residence and country of citizenship of your guest and yourself.”

“It’s a scam,” Peter said. “If you send all that info, they’ll have your accounts cleaned out fast.”

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Reb Zalman’s Last Breath

His leaving was as unconventional as his teaching and his life.

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi wanted no casket, no plain pine box. For his funeral, held on the fourth of July, he wanted to be clothed in his white kittel (prayer robe), enfolded in his father’s tallis (prayer shawl), sprinkled with ashes brought from Auschwitz, then shrouded in white linen and lowered directly into the earth near his home in Boulder, CO.

He wanted the ashes buried with him in honor of his uncle, cousins, and the millions who’d died without receiving “a holy burial.”

It felt wrenching to shovel dirt onto his body. It also felt a privilege.

Carrying his body to the grave site.

Carrying his body to the grave.

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Reb Zalman Dies

I am grieving the loss of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, who died at his home in Boulder, CO on July 3, 2014.  He’d been sick and hospitalized for many weeks, but was recovering and hopeful he would make it through this year’s High Holidays.  A great celebration of his 90th birthday had been planned for August.  But around 8:40 a.m., his breathing stopped.

I’m grateful for the time we spent together, and that he was able to complete with me what he considered his final teaching.  He’d told me repeatedly that he was at peace with dying, he had his “travelin’ shoes,” and was “ready to go.”  The only thing he still wanted to do was communicate how it feels “when you know you’re approaching the end,” and how to prepare for the mystery.  His wife, Eve, and I take comfort in the fact that he was able to see the book launched, his last thoughts and words published.

His funeral is tomorrow, the 4th of  July, and I’ll be posting afterward.

Reb Zalman at a wedding several years ago. How we will miss him!

Reb Zalman at a wedding several years ago. How we will miss him! (photo courtesy of Donna Zerner)





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Sara’s Picks for the Lost Vacation

Has “summer vacation”—two of the loveliest words in our language—gone the way of “free time?” Does anyone take a real vacation anymore, and what, I’m wondering, qualifies as a vacation these days?

A trip with young children is not a vacation.  A family reunion is not necessarily a vacation.   Staying home and “catching up” is not a vacation.

As defined by, vacation is “a period of suspension of work or study,” used for rest or recreation. The Italians call it “il bel far niente,” the beautiful doing nothing.

Good luck.

At a recent dinner with friends, one woman said she had family travel plans this summer but nothing that would give her a breather from stress. So, I asked her and others at the table, “What would allow you to unwind, relax, and recharge?”

Most shook their heads; they hadn’t had that kind of vacation in years, and one man said he’d never taken one. He wouldn’t know how.

Read book hammock For me, vacation has always meant the beach. Perched by the water with a hat or umbrella, feeling the tranquilizing warmth of sun on bare skin, listening to the rising, cresting, foom! of the waves, and—the icing on this cake—reading a book.

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Encounter with the Trickster

No one smiles at you in Mea Shearim—the ultra orthodox quarter of Jerusalem. Signs on the buildings warn: “Jewish women—dress modestly!”  I’d been warned that girls who entered the quarter wearing t-shirts or short skirts had been stoned.

mea stIt was my first visit to Jerusalem at age 35, and I hadn’t been in a synagogue for 15 years. I couldn’t wait to flee the Reform temple in Los Angeles that my family had attended, (but only on high holidays) where services were boring and Sunday school was an ordeal. Yet I was a seeker, and in the Sixties I began exploring Eastern mystical traditions.

In 1975, when I stopped in Jerusalem on my way to take a nature tour of the Sinai desert, I was startled to find a vibrancy in Jewish practice, scholars creating fresh translations of the Torah, and mystics unlocking the Kabbalah—nothing I’d seen in West Los Angeles.  I had yet to encounter a spiritual community in which I felt at home, and wondered if I might find that here.

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