Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Mindful Family: 100 Days in Joy

At the close of the Mindful Eating Practice (March 1-June 8, 2017) I attended a corporate mindfulness retreat at Plum Village in the South of France. After several days of beautiful Dharma talks, walking meditations and quiet reflection I returned to Dallas with three very special humans in my sight: Scott, Baker and Edward, also known as My Family.

In my notebook I wrote:

What is the Crow Collection of Asian Art doing for FAMILIES. 

What am I doing for my family?

These questions are the seedlings of this talk by Brother Phap Dung on June 6, 2017. He shared with 200+ executives and mindful journeyers the urgency of finding compassion for families in our communities: foremost our own. Brother Dung taught us that families are craving



understanding and


This is my experience, too. The struggle to connect in a world of schedules, work, school and technology pulls all of us away from each other.

There is potential, with intention and mindfulness for something different: a family that is in loving connection and a space of presence.

Beginning July 1, the Hoflands will launch the Mindful Family Project (July 1-October 8, 2017): a practice of new ways of being across 100 days. We will talk and be quiet. We will share and learn. We will explore and just sit. We will study ourselves and share our experiences in this blog.

This is a journey for our family to find each other and experience all we have to give each other in these few and fleeting years. As with the Mindful Eating Practice, I look forward to being in the family in that future: one that is more understanding and aware of this precious space we hold in the world. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Mindful Detox: Part III: Twenty Pearls


Twenty Pearls

In the world of elimination diets, I learned very quickly that you can’t focus on the “can’t” and you have to make it fun. What follows are the snacks, meals and practices that created joy out of elimination: “yes” out of the “no” and more fun in the journey.

Twenty Pearls for Detox Success:

I. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oatmeal, Hemp, Walnuts and a wee bit of local honey. Sweet and simple. Beautiful and Filling.

II. The Fake Margarita: After a challenging work trip to Mexico, this little gem stayed with me through the end of the detox: 3 parts mineral / sparkling water, one part fresh lime juice. The tartness helps you forget you’re missing tequila, and the refreshing texture of a little bubbly only makes the distraction more fun.

III. A Really Beautiful Vinagrette: Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Salt and Pepper: just as the French do it—nothing simpler, nothing better. (Dijon mustard is a nice addition, too)

IV. Almond Butter on Udi’s Gluten Free Bread

V. The Art of Tea: In the work of distraction, tea and tea service have a lot to offer. Tea, with all of its elegance makes drinking a mindful ritual: it offers tea cup, saucer, tea pot, tea, hot water and strainer. It offers time to wait and be grateful for this moment. Every part of this experience of tea brought me joy: a welcome distraction as other dinner guests mulled over the cocktail list.

VI. Small bits of organic dark chocolate. Yes, it’s allowed. Just make sure there’s no sugar added.

VII. Podcasts: Tara Brach’s series on Relaxing the Over-Controller was a welcome companion in this work of mindful practice. I also always enjoy Krista Tippett's On Being and Deepak Chopra’s Secret of Healing

VIII. Writing. Creative writing was a harbor for me in this work. It was and is a place to set intentions, joys, frustrations and challenges. Even as I write my learnings, the writing place is compassionate and ever-present. I found time to write as often as I could and this gave me grounding, perspective and awareness of my progress.

IX. Community: you. I set the plan, the intentions and the failures and the learnings all in a space of love and support via my blog, Facebook and Instagram. I put it out there and I never looked back.

X. Always have a drink in the hand. At a cocktail party? Perrier first, network second. Waiters are trained to put a glass of wine in your hand. Be warned! If you don’t see water: ask. Always have a drink in the hand, and never hesitate to ask a friend to help you with this. Which leads me to the next pearl:

XI. Ask for what you need: challenging menu? Ask. I was amazed at how accommodating restaurants are! Secret tip: chefs love to be asked to cook for vegetarians. It breaks up the kitchen menu-monotony I guess, but I have this intel from a very reliable source. One outcome of the he Mindful Eating Practice I never anticipated? Assertiveness. Ask for what you need.

XII. Ice is not nice. Ayurveda is a wonderland of practices for anyone wanting to design a new eating lifestyle. I learned so much from my explorations of ancient vedic wisdom. Ice is not nice and a glass of hot water upon rising are just two—but I recommend exploring Naivedhya as a start.

XIII. 1 Tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar diluted in water. Enough said.

XIV. Flower Child Foods and True Foods Kitchen made the Mindful Eating Practice FUN.

XV. Crunch Master Chips and Carrots with Hummus

XVI. Meso Maya’s Pozole Verde 

XVIII. Kris Carr

XIX. Cookie and Kate's Almond Quiche

XX. Tei An’s White Mushroom Salad. Pretty much anything at Tei An. Ask for Tamari Sauce (See #XI) as a substitute for Soy sauce.

The Mindful Detox: Part II: How I Did It


How I Did It

To create the Mindful Eating Practice, I created an assemblage of the best practices from several explorations of diet, lifestyle and mindfulness. For 100 days: from March 1st to June 8th I would exist in a different way, eliminating five things: sugar, dairy, gluten, coffee and alcohol. In their place, I would look to create clarity, joy, balance, calm and health-intended purpose. I would lower my blood pressure, cholesterol, inflammation and weight. All of this happened. I now exist in the future I imagined: even at the cellular level.


In 2012 when I experienced my first exploration of how rhythms turn into practices and practices become habits, my integrative medicine doctor encouraged me to walk for 30 minutes every day. “Pair your exercise with something you love,” she said, a glimmer in her eye. Something I love, I thought. I love taking in the luminous water at White Rock Lake. I love capturing the sunrise at dawn, studying the effects of light and color under a big bold Texas sky. She encouraged me to create a new practice pairing these loves: nature, photography and exercise. From this seminal conversation #pocketsunrise was born: a now six-year study of the lake during what I call The Magic Hour. Sunrise holds all the promise of a new beginning: a tabula rasa to hold and be grateful for: a place to create. Exercise became something I looked forward to, and #pocketsunrise has been a joyful companion to this practice.

It is with this spirit that I approached designing the Mindful Eating Practice. I looked back at the elimination diets, cookbooks and books I’d come to love over the years:

  •       From the Elimination Diet at the Sammons Cancer Center program in the Cvetko Center I chose to eat meals high in fiber, color and nutrition. I looked for alkaline fruits with lower sugar content (apples, cranberries). I created salads with lean proteins.  Protein shakes with hemp, fish oil, and other brain boosters.
  •       From Mark Hyman, I borrowed the Protein Shake, the supplement packs for the 21-day detox and the Regulate Female Hormone kit. I also sources several recipes from the 10-day detox and his book Eat Fat Get Thin.
  •      From Arbonne and the Nutritional Reset Program I carried over the chocolate and vanilla protein powder for shakes and the green-tea based Fizzys.
  •       From my exploration of Ayurveda and consultations with two brilliant practitioners I built in new practices of drinking a glass of hot water upon waking, adding triphala to my supplement pack and sleeping just seven hours a night.

In the weeks leading up to the start of the Mindful Eating Practice and for the next 100 days, mindfulness would be my quiet companion. I found and made time to meditate daily: from 3 minutes to 45 minutes. I sought out the quiet.

Preparation was vital to setting the intention to be different. I spent time thinking about how I could create new habits and neural pathways around healthy eating. I wrote about “me” in that future. On March 1st I wrote in my blog:

As for well-being I am creating a me that will flourish in 

lower blood pressure 
more fitness and exercise 
more energy 
less inflammation 
more capacity for yoga 
more clarity in purpose and thinking 

Writing this puts it all into existence: me in this future of health and well being: leading in contemplative work and heading up an art museum that celebrates the compassion that happens when art meets healing. I am my own best experiment, and I am taking myself on to be someone who is stronger, wiser ready for the good work ahead of us. Pardon my dust and please hold me to account every day. 

In my brain and in my thinking, I worked on my being already in that future. I imagined how I would look: the clothes in my closet that would fit more loosely. I imagined the way I would feel: lighter, more flexible, more alive. To these little meditations in the first days I created three mantras I would carry forward:
For well-being: to every cell

For finding beauty in unexpected places: little alleluias everywhere

hen I felt the liminal response to a take a glass of bubbly from a tray of champagne flutes: be like a monk. 

Be like a monk leads me to the importance of Spirit in this work. In addition, and not separate from mindfulness, is prayer. Taking on a new practice for 100 days takes will, and as I experienced it, will comes from the heart. I had a heart connection to this work, forging this future. I filled my thinking about this re-construction of myself with love, grace, patience and understanding. Monastics (I would learn during the last week of the Mindful Eating Practice) live in this love. For all they give up, love fills. Love filled up the spaces left from eliminating five things. I was in love with the capacity to sit with desire. I loved writing about the work to create a different future. I loved the community cheering me on: at home, at work and through my social networks. More love existed with each day, each failure, each challenge. As in mindfulness, if the mind wanders, you can always come back. There is beautiful grace in this work. The grace to forgive and move on. This came from sitting with Spirit, opening the heart and just listening.

The Mindful Detox: Part I: Why Now?


Why Now? 

Last week I completed a study of myself: a 100-day Mindful Eating Practice. This chapter of my life existed from March 1st- June 8th, 2017. 

I became my own laboratory: the subject of my inquiry and curiosity.

This project was created to replace something else: a surgery to manage two issues caused by stress and weight. I chose a kinder, gentler medicine. And I’m really glad I did.

In December of last year—after months of resigning myself to feeling as good as I could, I made a declaration to have two surgeries just after the first of the year.

The first was a long-recommended sinus surgery to repair the back of my septum and open up my sinuses. I was born with cleft lip and palate and had multiple corrective surgeries as a child. The miracles of all of those surgeries manifested in a new issue: scar tissue wreaking havoc on my body’s ability to keep my sinuses healthy. I was hopeful for an outcome free of repeated sinus issues and infections: free to feel wonderful enough to work, speak, write, transform. The need for and the potential of this surgery were both clear to me, and there was no question my quality of life would improve. It did tremendously.

The second surgery wasn’t so black and white. Also long-recommended, this surgery, scheduled for February 8, was a partial hysterectomy to alleviate inconvenient and unpleasant symptoms of fibroids and delivering two nine pound babies. Without saying too much more about that, I signed up and met with two surgeons, completed the blood work and set the date in my work calendar.

Also in my work calendar was a work dinner on January 31 where, by chance I was seated next to my dear friend and wellness advisor to our museum, Ayurvedic practicioner Sapna Punjabi Gupta.

She took a deep breath after I told her my story. “Cancel the surgery,” she said. “Give me three months.”

I looked at her in disbelief. “Cancel the surgery? Can you do that?”

At home later that evening I called my Integrative Medicine doctor, Dr. Carolyn Matthews (Baylor). She generously walked through the plan with me, and with much compassion, helped me see that surgery didn’t have to be the only way.  Twelve hours later it was done: two doctors’ offices, one operating room and admissions removed my name from the schedule on February 8, 2017. Yes, you can cancel a surgery.

I spent the month of February thinking back on the lessons I’d learned in the vast world of health and well being since a diagnosis (and cure) of papillary carcinoma (thyroid cancer) in the summer of 2011.

Having cancer opened up a new future for me: a future of exploring and listening to the best teachers in the fields of integrative medicine, mindfulness and well being. Having cancer made me well: grounded in an understanding that our bodies—to the cellular level-- are a reflection of how we live.  

As a student in the relationship between diet and longevity, I participated in several elimination diets through the Cvetko Patient Resource Center at Baylor Hospital (21 days), with Arbonne (30 days), and with Mark Hyman (21 days). For me, 21 days is a commitment, but one without lasting impact. I knew I needed something with more staying power: 100 days, 3.14 months, almost a season, long enough to make new habits a practice.

I also knew it had to be simple: I chose to eliminate five things: alcohol, dairy, gluten, sugar and caffeine (which quickly became coffee, interestingly the experience I missed the most throughout the detox). The Mindful Eating Practice, as it was designed, became my synthesis of many learnings, explorations and experiences. The success of the Mindful Eating Practice happened because I worked from a future I wanted to be in. I authored this future. I engaged dimensions of body, mind and spirit to steady my focus, and ultimately create that future.