A Tale of Inner Melodrama (Episode One)


March 5, 2014


It’s been a challenging morning… Did some intense Yoga online that made me feel queazy. And then I was convinced my iPhone got destroyed in the washing machine…

That was quite a roller coaster.

As soon as I noticed it was gone, I scoured the entire apartment—all my usual spots: the bathroom, the nightstand in the bedroom, the kitchen counter, my desk….

It was nowhere to be found.


I popped my head into the bedroom where Kate sat propped up on the bed, working on her laptop.

“…Have you seen my iPhone?”

She looked up from her computer. “Sorry, baby…Maybe check between the cushions in the couch?”

I headed out to the living room, shooed our 7-month old kitten, Buster, off the couch—and pulled up the cushions to find:

(1) dime

(2) halves of a sesame rice cracker


(1) small plastic lego man’s “head”


Then it occurred to me that it might be in one of the pockets of my bathrobe—the very bathrobe I’d handed to Kate after breakfast (before Yoga) when she asked if I had anything I wanted to wash…

Back to the bedroom.

“—It’s in one of the pockets of my bathrobe. I always put my phone in my bathrobe pocket when I’m cooking breakfast. I’m sure that’s where I left it. Did you start the wash already?”


“Did you check the pockets?…”



I closed my eyes. Took a deep breath.

“…Can you please check if it’s in there?”

Kate slowly moved her laptop aside and got up to walk back to the laundry room. I followed—watching as my mind immediately jumped to try and blame her for not checking the pockets before tossing my robe in the washing machine. I was clearly upset. My chest tightening. Blood pressure rising. And, despite all the accusations running wild in my mind, I didn’t say anything out loud—just slowly sat down at the kitchen table and waited as she paused the washer to sort through the wet laundry.



My inner rant interrupted, I looked down to see Buster arch his back and start rubbing up against my leg. Then he plopped down by my feet, thwaking his tail on the floor as he continued staring up at me.

And I just sat there, blankly staring back—stewing in my Shit….. Flashing to memories of my mom handing me friendship pins and love notes she’d found in my jeans while doing my laundry growing up.


Sitting there, staring down at the cat…I recognized my Shit trying to lay blame where it wasn’t due. Then the more objective side of me kicked in.

Just because mom checked my pockets back when she did my laundry doesn’t mean Kate has to… It’s not Kate’s responsibility….I should have checked my pockets before giving her my robe to wash. If my phone’s in the washer, and it’s ruined—I have nobody to blame but myself.

But then my moment of objectivity started sliding into an unwelcome appearance from The Queen of “Should’s.”




Beyond assuming the phone was in the washing machine and ruined—an assumption I was fully aware wasn’t even substantiated yet—I chose to continue chasing my stories of gloom and doom—this time, adding “victim” to the list of characters wreaking havoc inside my mind.


“—Well, the good news is, your phone’s not in the washing machine…”

Buster sprang up as Kate breezed passed—on her way back to the bedroom.


She kept walking. I kept ruminating—still completely absorbed by my Shit.


I popped up from my chair and did another sweep through the house—but still nothing.


Back to the bedroom. Completely perplexed. Brow furrowed.

“Are you 100% positive it wasn’t in the machine? I just searched the entire house again, and it’s not here…”

Kate continued typing on her laptop—didn’t look up at me as she spoke, “…I guess it’s possible it’s still in there. The clothes were wet and crumpled, but I didn’t see it.”

“Can I check?”

“Sure—but you’ll need to wait until the cycle’s done.”

“How much longer?”

“Five minutes.”

I turned and shut the bedroom door behind me. Frustration mounting as I walked down the hall out into the living room, I could feel myself starting to tremble—the need for some sort of physical release escalating with each millisecond.

“Arrrrrrggggggh!!!!” I screamed as I grabbed a throw pillow from the chaise and started pounding it against the side of the couch.

Then Buster sprang out of nowhere (scaring the shit out of me) and latched onto my ankle—drawing blood with his claws.


The cat ran off into the kitchen, as I collapsed onto the couch—tears welling in my eyes. And I just let them flow—letting what needed to come out get out.

After a few minutes, the tears subsided, and I could feel my body and mind start to relax and soften. I grabbed a tissue, blew my nose and headed back into the laundry room to wait for the washer’s cycle to stop.

But when I walked into the room—there it was.

My iPhone.

On top of a case of Friskies—where I’d clearly placed it when I was cleaning the cat box earlier that morning before Yoga…

Back to the bedroom.

….I slowly opened the door and stuck the phone through the crack—holding it out like a white flag.

“I found it…” Kate looked up from her laptop as I walked in and plopped down on the bed.

“Annnnd.. the cat totally attacked me. I’m bleeding…”

“Where was it?”

“On top of the cat food case in the laundry room.”

“—Did the cat attack you when you were yelling?”

“Yes. He acts crazy when the energy in the house gets high. I should’ve seen it coming…”

She got up and grabbed the first aid kit.

“Oh baby… You’re going to be okay.”

“I know…” I rolled over onto my back. Stared up at the ceiling. “…I’m sorry if I wasn’t very nice to you.”

“You acted like a total jerk face—like I’d ruined your whole world…”

“I know, baby. I’m sorry… I wanted to blame you at first—but then I saw it wasn’t your fault. If I had lost my phone in the washing machine, and it was ruined—I wouldn’t have blamed you. I promise. I knew it was my responsibility. But I didn’t communicate that to you. I’m sorry… Do you forgive me?” I looked up at her with puppy-dog eyes and my “aren’t I cute” smile.

“…Yes.” She tossed me a reluctant smirk. “…And I’m glad you found your phone.”

“Me, too.”

She put the Band-Aid on my leg and headed back to work on her laptop. And I just lay there, contemplating the inner melodrama I’d just witnessed….

The blaming. Catastrophizing. And borderline self-flagellation. My Shit was running almost full throttle. And although I let it move through me with minimal negative effects on myself and those around me—I’d still chosen to go down a road filled with unnecessary discomfort for all.

But… this is why I practice mindfulness (one of many the reasons).

Because a few years ago—all my internal Shit would have been flung around at those in my wake. I would never have taken responsibility for the phone being lost. And, if it had been ruined—I would have blamed anyone but myself.

I’ll never be “perfect”—but I’m learning how to see my Shit when it shows up—and to responsibly handle it. The only thing I can do when it spills is forgive myself.

And then clean it up.



I’m pretty sure I mentioned that I started UCLA’s year-long Certification in Mindfulness Facilitation program back in January. And, wow, it’s been a whole lot of learning so far….In so many ways. And we’ve only just begun (I’ll be sharing more details in future posts, so stay tuned)!

One of the program’s requirements is to write a 1-2 page paper every two weeks on an assigned topic. Our latest assignment entailed describing one of our meditation sessions—so, I thought I’d go ahead and share it here with you, as well. For those who might be new(er) to meditation, it’ll give you an idea of how you might consider working with thoughts as they arise.

One technique I use is called “mental noting” or “labeling.” Science has proven that noting or labeling a thought as it arises regulates the emotional circuitry in the brain, creating a calming effect in the body and giving separation from the thought. I find the technique quite helpful. Perhaps you’ll find it helpful, too! 🙂

“Noting in meditation has many functions. The primary one is keeping the meditator present – sometimes it is called an ‘anchor’ to the present. The mind is less likely to wander off if one keeps up a steady stream of relaxed noting. If the mind does wander, the noting practice can make it easier to reestablish mindfulness.

Another function of noting is to better acknowledge or recognize what is occurring: the clearer one’s recognition, the more effective one’s mindfulness. Naming can strengthen recognition. Sometimes this can be a kind of truth-telling, when we are reluctant to admit something about ourselves or about what is happening.

A third function of noting is to help recognize patterns in one’s experience. A frequently-repeated note reveals a frequently-recurring experience. For example, persistent worriers may not realize it until they see how often they note ‘worry’.

And fourth, as described above, mental noting gives the thinking mind something to do rather than leaving it to its own devices.

A fifth function is disentangling us from being preoccupied or overly identified with experience. Noting can help us ‘step away’ so that we might see more clearly. For example, noting ‘wanting’ might pull us out of the preoccupation with something we want. This may not be immediate, but by repeatedly noting ‘wanting, wanting,’ one may be able to be aware of the wanting without being caught by it. As an antidote to drowning in strong emotion or obsessive thinking, mental noting is sometimes called a ‘life preserver’.

Noting can also help maintain a non-reactive form of attention. Calmly and equanimously noting what is happening, we are less likely to get caught up in emotional reactions….Noting helps us to see mindfully while remaining free of what we see.

The tone of the inner voice that notes may reveal less-than-equanimous reactions to what we are trying to be mindful of. The noting may sound harsh, bored, scared, hesitant, or excited, to name just a few possibilities. By noticing and adjusting the tone, we may become more balanced and equanimous.” (quote from the Insight Meditation Center)

And here’s my meditation play-by-play… 😉

February 19, 2014


I sit down in the wicker chair outside. Place a small, rectangular pillow in the small of my back. Slip out of my flip-flops and feel the dirt beneath my feet. Pressing “start” on the Insight Timer app on my iPhone, I leave the phone on the ground as the bell DINGS.

Closing my eyes, I adjust my posture. Straighten my back. Intertwine my fingers and place my hands in my lap.

I hear the sounds of birds singing. Feel the warmth of the sun on my body. The wash of air on my face from the gentle breeze.

Scanning through my body, I feel a slight tug of sadness in my heart—a dull ache pulling at my chest. I sit with it for a moment, allowing it to just be. Holding space for tears if they need to fall. But they don’t….

The tug fades. I hear an airplane overhead. My mind starts to wander.

I bet the cat’s going to escape at some point. He’s going to bolt out the door when one of us isn’t careful. I wonder if he’ll keep running, or if he’ll want to come back…

I notice myself worrying and say so in my mind.

(Worrying. Worrying.)  

And then I redirect my attention to the sensation of my breath. My chest rising and falling. I can feel my heart beating in my chest. My body feels warm.

I notice that I’m conscious of being conscious of what’s happening during this meditation…

I notice a desire and a sense of striving to remember what’s happening as it’s happening. I start thinking about the possibility of picking up my notebook and starting to write down my stream of consciousness as I’m experiencing it. Or maybe record myself talking into my iPhone mic to capture my thoughts.

No I shouldn’t do that. That doesn’t feel right…

I notice I’m judging what “right” means. That I’m using the word, “shouldn’t.” How I don’t want to do this assignment “wrong…” Then I notice I’ve drifted off again.

(Thinking. Thinking.)

The call of a crow in the distance. My toes throbbing in the heat. The feeling of my beating heart beat.

“Sit down Jennifer. Thank you for coming… We’ve been looking forward to making these meditations happen…” I hear these words as I watch the scene of an upcoming meeting unfolding in my imagination.

I catch myself.


What if I can’t do this? What if I’m terrible at facilitating mindfulness?…


My body feels warm. Too warm. I want to take my fleece sweatshirt off.

I wonder how much longer it’ll be before the bell rings and if I’m going to swelter in the heat—or if I should just stop meditating and take my sweatshirt off.

I notice how I want to squirm and move away from the discomfort. How every molecule of me wants to move. But I remain still.

How am I going to remember all this?… Maybe that’s not the point.

I feel the impulse again to start writing all this down. I notice my desire. The fear beneath it….

A siren wailing off in the distance. A trash truck dumping cans down the street…

I can feel my pulse quickening – my heart beating faster. The sun’s heat no longer feels soothing but suffocating…

(Worrying. Wanting.)

I take a deep breath. Then another.

The sound of cars whooshing by on the freeway off in the distance. More birds singing. My belly rising. The red and blue amorphous blobs I can see behind my eyelids. The breeze brushing against my face.

Then my insides feel quiet. Like they’re floating.


The sound of the bell reverberating. Relief. Then anticipation. I pause for one last deep breath.

And open my eyes.

The Mindfulness Diaries (free ebook TODAY)


You might have heard me talking, in one form or another, about the book I’ve been working on for the past nine months. It came to “be” after returning from my first nine-day silent meditation retreat this past May….

As I was reintegrating back into my life in L.A., I felt moved to journal about my struggle to maintain my sense of compassion during the retreat (for both myself and others). And, while I was writing about my experiences, I felt a palpable and unexpected sense of purpose—so strong, in fact, that I was, literally, struck by sudden tears of gratitude and joy when I realized that I wasn’t just writing about my experiences for me…. I was writing about them to share with others.

In 20+ years of journal writing, I’d never experienced anything quite like that moment.

Nine months later, I’ve officially set up my very own small press, HOWD Media. And The Mindfulness Diaries: How I Survived My First Nine-Day Silent Meditation Retreat is now officially available in paperback and as a Kindle ebook. It’s been a long road, but I’ve SO enjoyed the journey… And now I’m very excited to be sharing the result with you! 🙂

My marketing strategy is to roll the book out slowly. So, before I start promoting it to the masses, I’m offering the Kindle ebook for FREE to friends and supporters. This free ebook promotion on Amazon begins TODAY (Monday, Feb 24th) and ends at midnight (PST) TOMORROW (Tuesday, Feb 25th). You can download your free ebook by visiting the book’s page on Amazon here.

Your feedback is incredibly valuable—and greatly appreciated. So, once you’ve read the book, please consider writing a short review on Amazon and/or Goodreads to help spread the word (you’ll also find links to do so in the back of the ebook)….The more reviews a book gets the more successful it has the chance to be!

Here’s a short blurb:

The Mindfulness Diaries: How I Survived My First Nine-Day Silent Meditation Retreat

Jennifer Howd had been building a mindfulness practice for two and a half years before taking on the challenge of her first nine-day silent meditation retreat. In this debut memoir in “The Mindfulness Diaries” series, she chronicles the humorous—and often harrowing—adventures of the dueling inner voices that emerge in the silence: one intent on focusing on the seemingly negative aspects of her experiences, and the other on helping her see the positivity that can come from them.

Illuminating for those who are new to mindfulness and resonant for those with established practices, The Mindfulness Diaries: How I Survived My First Nine-Day Silent Meditation Retreat is a vulnerable, touching, playful peek behind the curtain into the mind of a woman learning how to befriend herself.

Thank you so much for your support—and please feel free to pass this promotion along to any of YOUR friends….

Happy reading!

With Gratitude,



Last week, I wrote about “personal space” and the various ways I find myself needing it. It’s a topic I think about often. And, apparently, I’m not alone…. Several of you reached out to me, sharing the importance of finding and creating personal space in your own lives, as well.

One reader who saw the post on LinkedIn’s Mindfulness Group expressed his enthusiasm about the value of personal space and brought my attention to a term I’d never heard before—“liminal space.” He was introduced to this concept when in recovery from his divorce.

“Liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”) is a psychological, neurological, or metaphysical subjective, conscious state of being on the “threshold” of or between two different existential planes, as defined in neurological psychology (a “liminal state”) and in the anthropological theories of ritual….The liminal state is characterized by ambiguity, openness, and indeterminacy. One’s sense of identity dissolves to some extent, bringing about disorientation. It is a period of transition where normal limits to thought, self-understanding, and behavior are relaxed – a situation which can lead to new perspectives.” (Definition from Askdefine.com)

I don’t know about you, but I can relate to this space. Hell, I feel like I’ve been experiencing one long liminal space for years (beginning when my mom passed away in 2001).

In his essay, Liminal Spaces and Transformation, Robert D. Rossel, Ph.D. captures the feeling of liminality and describes how mindfulness can be especially helpful during these periods.

“Sometimes life is a lot like this. We get kicked in the gut. Nothing works. We can’t even tell what is up and what is down. All of our familiar and cherished ways of making sense of the world have flown out the window. We feel completely in the dark….As I look back over my life it is usually such times that are associated with major life transitions. Is that true for you too? Isn’t this the dying that has to take place for us to learn new ways to see?

In Buddhism there is something called “the middle way.” In the middle way there are no reference points. We chose to let go of habitual responses and the usual attachments and things to grasp and see in the world. Instead, we embrace uncertainty and become more and more curious about a world where things can be both up and down, good and bad, bright and dark at the same time.

If we can practice resting in the middle, we learn new ways of orienting in our world that draw on other senses we didn’t even know we had. As we exercise these new senses—intuition, beginner’s mind, faith – the world takes on a new shape and we can see things with new eyes. This gives us a way to stay centered in the tumult, to see possibilities where before we might have been mired in despair. Above all, it gives us ways of being with those feelings that nag at us most insistently when we feel caught in those painful liminal spaces—loneliness, boredom, anxiety.

It seems so basic to our conditioning that we seek some form of resolution from painful emotions. We feel more secure in the familiar world of praise or blame, victory or defeat, feeling good or feeling bad than in the liminal world where we sit with what we feel and do not rush to resolution. When we cultivate different practices that allow us to rest in the middle, we discover over time a growing ability to relax into the unfamiliar and eventually turn our usual fear driven patterns upside down. That, to me, is the essence of transformation.”

Life’s in-betweens can sometimes feel endless—a long chain of one liminal space after the other. Yet, it’s these in-between spaces that create the opportunities for us to grow and evolve—to shed the previous ways of being that no longer serve us and to mindfully embody the person we endeavor to become.

Personal Space


I’ve been thinking about the concept of “personal space” lately… How it’s not just a physical thing—how we can also experience personal space in an emotional and mental way, too…. I’ve come to realize how important it is to my well being that I get hefty doses of all three varieties. When I’m getting “enough personal space,” I feel comfortable and at ease.

And when I don’t get enough of it—I feel edgy. Suffocated. Compressed. Panicky.

I’m a tall woman (6’0 to be precise). So, I’ve always been acutely aware of my personal space in the physical sense—especially not having enough of it….My pants and shirts are often too short, and the beds I sleep in—never long enough; cars rarely have enough leg room for me; tables are often too short to cross my legs underneath…. And the list goes on.

I grew up in the middle of the woods in rural NH, where I played in the vast expanse of woods behind our house. I had ample personal space back then….I could run around in every direction—with nothing but birch and pine trees in my path. The forest was dense. But it felt like an endless expanse. I never felt constricted.

Inside my home was another story, though… Sure, the house I lived in with my mom and dad was amply sized…. But, a palace wouldn’t have provided enough space for me to comfortably sit with the tension that hung between my parents most days. Looking back on it now, it’s no wonder I spent most of my time outside in those woods.

When I left home for college, I ended up in NYC, where I continued to live for the next 16 years. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I’d inadvertently swapped one sensorially claustrophobic environment for another—this one bombarding me from the outside.

Around the 14 year mark of living in that city, I remember thinking to myself…

I’m a ball of anxiety—neurotic beyond belief. But, I don’t think this is who I am at my core. I don’t think this is ME

I saw how I’d become a product of my environment. The city became a part of me because I never gave myself any space from it, and my nervous system just couldn’t take it any longer. I needed to be somewhere where I didn’t hear, see, smell, touch—or sense anyone else. I needed “personal space.” In every sense of the word.

So I moved to Los Angeles.

Yes, I’m aware this might not seem like the anecdote to sensory overload. But LA seemed like the equivalent of moving back to “the country” at the time.

Reflecting on it now, it makes perfect sense that mindfulness would end up resonating so loudly with me. One of the core elements of the practice is about intentionally creating (and gently holding) emotional and mental space for ourselves.

When I sit down to meditate every day, I’m giving myself the amount of space I need to “be.”

When I sit down to meditate, I’m giving myself the personal space I need to be ME.

(image from http://www.toonpool.com)

Trust the process.


Our first UCLA Certificate in Mindfulness Facilitation practicum was this past weekend. And I’m still processing all it had to offer… There are 36 of us. From all walks of life and from all over the country (and a few from outside the country). Most have previous experience as facilitators. Some of us don’t.

I’m one of those people.

I think the biggest thing that’s come up for me since the practicum ended is that I’m finding myself somewhat obsessed with analyzing my mindfulness practice—deconstructing my meditations and my ways of being throughout the day in an effort to try and “figure out” how to effectively communicate this practice to others… I also notice that I’m feeling somewhat resentful and mistrusting of the facilitation training process—concerned that the act of becoming a mindfulness facilitator will somehow take me away from my own mindfulness practice.

I’m also watching myself getting caught up in my ambition to be “successful” at this new undertaking, and I’m feeling a strong desire to “do it perfectly.” I fear these sides of myself might take over and that I might lose sight of why I practice/why I wanted to facilitate to begin with…

And the subject of mindfulness, itself, has become somewhat all encompassing since the practicum…. While I was certainly interested in the topic prior to our weekend, my thirst for expanding my knowledge and grasping the subject now seems unquenchable. There’s an addictive, grasping quality to it that’s related to my ambition on some level, I’m sure… I also sense a deep-rooted fear that if I don’t “know/understand” everything about the subject, then I’d be an imposter facilitating it…

Yet, all this is happening while I’m also acutely aware that I can’t “successfully” facilitate mindfulness unless I embody it. I suppose this reminder is where the strength of my practice is shining through…. Like the breath in meditation, my awareness of my potential pitfalls is the anchor that’s helping me continue to come back to my practice (and to my truth)…. Trusting this process is challenging for me.

But I’m up for the challenge.

The First Path to Truth


It doesn’t matter how or when you end up starting the journey toward mindfulness. We all have different entries onto this path. What matters most is that if it calls to you—please listen. Because it might just end up saving your life….

I’m pretty sure it saved mine.

If you’ve read my first post, then you have some “insight” as to how I first came to find mindfulness. And, yes. There’s a lot more to the story—a decent chunk of which I intend to share in this blog…. But, instead of beginning from the beginning, let’s start from one of the major turning points….

The year was 2009. I was four-years into a mostly-toxic (and often abusive) relationship, living in a new city I didn’t understand, jobless with no immediate prospects, completely terrified—and too disconnected from myself (and reality in general) to do anything about any of it. Strings of screaming matches with my then-girlfriend, massive panic attacks and consistent bouts of debilitating depression were my “normal.” I honestly didn’t believe things could get much worse.

But, of course, they did….

Things came to a head one afternoon when verbal lines were crossed—and then a physical line was obliterated.

Standing there, in the middle of our Hollywood Bungalow’s front yard, blue and red lights flashing…. Tears streaming down my face…. Watching her drive off in the back of that cop car…. I felt like I was standing in the middle of a Lifetime movie of the week. But as surreal as the moment seemed, the reality of it was impossible to ignore.

How the hell did I end up here?…

I woke up the next morning, and the answer was crystal clear: I hadn’t been paying attention to my life.

Ever since my mom passed away (in 2001), I’d been too dazed and confused by the endless slew of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, additional self-medication and self-denial—to truly be aware of the choices I’d been making and how they were effecting my life (and others).

I knew I had to take an honest look at myself in ways that I had previously been too afraid to do. I also knew that if I didn’t do this—I might end up dead….

I immediately embarked on the process of observing, examining—and then attempting to clean up my life…. I left my relationship, got myself into a domestic violence support group and started attending weekly meditation sits at a local meditation society.

None of it was easy. Most of it was downright painful. But, I stuck with it…and within three months of group therapy, regular meditation practice and gut-wrenchingly honest introspection, something inside of me started to shift. I started seeing myself in new ways.

And, moment by moment, my life started to turn around….

Within six months, I was formally sitting at least once a week and practicing yoga regularly.

Within eight months, I was attending weekly individual therapy. And I was prescription and recreational drug-free.

Although it might seem hard to believe, looking back at that “Lifetime movie of the week moment” in 2009. I’m grateful it happened.


Because I wouldn’t be where I am today if it hadn’t.

The “acute” adversity I faced was what it took for me to finally start finding my truth. 

Almost 5 years later, I’m in a happy, healthy relationship with the partner of my dreams. I’m following my passions. And I’m finally on the path to not only finding my truth—but to actually living it….

“Adversity is the first path to truth.”  -Lord Byron