The Smartest Kid in the Room

My youngest son Charlie just started kindergarten yesterday. He loves school and had nothing but great things to say about his first day. Today when I picked him up, I told his teacher as much, and she had an equally glowing review of him: “I’m so glad. He’s doing great. He picks things up very quickly.” 


On the way home, Char asked me a couple of questions to clarify what the teacher meant. Then he said “Oh! Does that mean I’m the smartest kid?” I told him it didn’t matter, because everyone is smart in their own way.

His response hit a little too close to home: 


“But mommy wouldn’t that be good if I was the smartest? Then everyone will like me and I’ll have a lot of friends. You want everyone to like me, right?”


You know that feeling when you just don’t know what to say? This was not one of those times. My response was immediate: 


“No baby. I want you to like yourself no matter what anyone else thinks of you.”


I won’t bother being modest: I was the smart kid in school. My ability to study and achieve perfect grades up to and including graduate school was always a point of deep pride. It was also a sign of deep insecurity. (Perfectionism generally is.) I was perfect, because I *had* to be perfect in my own mind in order to feel worthy. My self esteem was non-existent if I wasn’t being validated by others, and so I looked to the grades on my report cards (and eventually the number on the scale) to decide how I should feel about myself. 


This is not a long term strategy.


When I earned a Master’s Degree at age 23 and started my career as a physical therapist, it was unmooring to let go of academia as a measure of my self worth. So I doubled down on diet culture, counting every Weight Watchers point eaten and burned for the next 13 or so years. It wasn’t until I started eating intuitively and found yoga that it even occurred to me that my weight and worth aren’t linked. 


Let me save you a few decades of suffering: they aren’t. In fact, no number of any kind will ever measure your worthiness, which is inherent, and cannot be taken away from you. 


I can only hope my smart boy picks this lesson up as quickly as the others.


Kathleen Schwarz
Let's Talk About Trauma

On Tuesday, just a few minutes after I sent the boys into the backyard to play, I heard screaming that I soon realized belonged to my eight year old. Ben flung open the patio door and told me he’d been bitten by “a big brown insect or spider.” Sure enough, I found two small puncture wounds, one on his chest and the other on his finger. The chest wound had a small raised white bullseye already surrounding it. 


I used all my skills not to panic, because he was doing enough of that for both of us. He was shaking, his eyes wide open. His breath was shallow and fast. His arms were stiff and outstretched, his body language begging for comfort and help. There is no other word for it: he was traumatized. As someone who lives with complex PTSD, I know a lot about trauma. 


I scooped him up in my arms, validated his pain and fear and started talking him through breathing exercises to relax his body. I called the pediatrician and received a quick call back from the nurse who confirmed my suspicion that this wasn’t a serious *medical* emergency. I gave him motrin for the pain and put antibiotic cream on the affected areas. I told him he could sleep with me that night, which comforted him and me both by allowing me to watch for worsening or delayed symptoms. 


Of course, it took a LOT more than this to reassure Ben, who deals with anxiety on a daily basis. My nature lover was already declaring he might never go outside again, and was absolutely convinced that he had been poisoned. 


For the next several hours, my husband and I took turns comforting each wave of fear as it came. As we sat eating tacos for dinner, I reached over to pick up a piece of meat that fell on his shirt. Just seeing something brown in color instantly stiffened his body, and he burst into tears. I didn’t have any magic words. I made space for his fear because it was valid. I reassured him that he was now safe. I told him that the statistical likelihood of him ever being bitten again much less by something venomous is low. I dug deep (and took breaks) to find the energy and patience to remain present with him, to not minimize how genuinely frightened he was. Little by little, each episode got less intense and lasted for a shorter duration. I did Reiki on him before bed, and he surprised us both by sleeping soundly.


I’ll be the first to tell you that investing this much attention into the emotional health of my family is exhausting, and it can even be isolating. It takes daily, guilt-free self care to be able to give this much energy to not only my children but to my clients and friends as well. I’m sure many will read this and mock my husband and me for “coddling” our son, but I know the importance of getting this message out.


My experiences understanding and then healing from my own traumas over the past two years has opened my eyes to the inadequacies of our current belief system around what qualifies for the label of trauma. And frankly, WHO qualifies. For instance, did you know that former foster children are more than twice as likely to have PTSD than military vets who served in Iraq? Post traumatic stress can occur anytime someone fears for his safety or her basic needs aren’t met (this includes emotional needs); complex trauma results when this is a chronic occurrence.  


Let me be clear: I’m not in any way suggesting that my or any child would develop PTSD from one relatively minor incident. I am suggesting, however, that brushing aside his legitimate fear and telling him to “man up” as our society is prone to do with boys would have long-term effects on his mental and emotional health. And I’m even suggesting that--since our culture does this on a grand scale--this is contributing to some of the worst crises we face societally: namely opioid addiction, suicide and mass shootings. As the saying goes: only hurt people hurt other people. Imagine if those same individuals had been "coddled" with empathy and compassion as children, or even as adults.


I’m thrilled to report that as of yesterday, my child was happily playing outside again.


Kathleen Schwarz
Parenting Mistakes

I don’t always get this parenting thing right.

My kids and I had a (mostly) wonderful Sunday in Ocean City, NJ at Wonderland Pier. Toward the end of the day at the amusement park, my boys decided that they wanted to go through the mirror maze. They had been through the maze earlier when my mom was in charge, and so I assumed that I didn’t have to reiterate the importance of keeping their arms outstretched to avoid hitting their heads.

You know what happens when you assume, right?

I proceeded to watch both of my children start barreling through these mirrored, disorienting tunnels without any of their usual safety mindedness. (This is not sarcasm; both of my boys are typically very careful.) I yelled for both of them to stop running and to put their hands up for protection, but neither could hear me which only increased my anxiety. I watched in horror as my 5 year old hit his head not once, but three times over the next couple of minutes as he clumsily made his way out of the maze. He wasn’t smiling but he seemed unfazed. I was freaking the fuck out.

Yes, I’m a mom. I’m also a physical therapist in an acute rehabilitation hospital. I don’t mess around when it comes to head injuries. I know the long-term damage even one concussion can cause.

So I did what any great parent would do (that was sarcasm): I yelled at him.

“I THOUGHT YOU KNEW THE RULES! WHY WEREN’T YOU MORE CAREFUL?! LET ME SEE YOUR HEAD.”

He burst into tears, and buried his head into my stomach, clearly embarrassed and ashamed. After I assessed that no ER visit was needed, *I* felt embarrassed and ashamed.

I grew up in a family where love was often expressed as fear. My dad had a famous saying that would be leveled like an accusation anytime my sibling or I hurt ourselves or overslept or were late or simply acted like children: “what’s the matter with you?!” It was almost like his catchphrase, and in the 19 years since his death we've recalled it with a fondness it doesn’t really deserve. Those words sunk deep. If anyone knows the power of careless words, it’s me.

Once I had this realization, I picked him up and looked him in his sad eyes. “Wow. You hurt your head and then I hurt your feelings. No wonder you’re crying.”

He sobbed and nodded in confirmation. We took several moments together (including this one, captured by big bro) to breathe and feel our crappy feelings. Then Charlie said he was tired of feeling sad and we told jokes until we felt happy again. Here is a family favorite:

“Why did the old man fall down the well? He couldn’t see that well.” :-)

Admitting when we get it wrong is just as valuable to our children as getting it right, if not more so. They need to know it’s not only ok, but totally normal to make mistakes. They need to know grown ups aren’t perfect, so when they’re imperfect grown ups they won’t incorrectly wonder if there is something wrong with them.

If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying. And damn, at least I’m trying.

Kathleen Schwarz
Intuitive Eating + Yoga: A Healing Combination

I never would have found yoga had it not been for finding my way *out* of the disordered eating and exercise habits that had consumed my life for over twenty years. As a physical therapist, I convinced myself that the countless dollars I spent on Weight Watchers and fancy gym memberships were necessary “for my health”. But, in actuality, my habits were anything but healthy. I ignored my hunger signals all week, eating too-small meals to stay within my “points” and exercising vigorously to earn a few more, only to binge on greasy food and alcohol all weekend long. Vacations and holidays became an excuse to overeat until I felt physically ill. As ashamed as I was about my behavior, I couldn’t seem to control it...until I gave up dieting completely.


This radical idea was not my own. In 2015, I read a book called Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, and it helped me realize that dieting was having the exact opposite effect I’d hoped: it was having an adverse effect on my physical and mental health. My painstaking attempts at weight loss would predictably lead to me regaining even *more* weight over time, leading me to start yet another diet. The book not only had a scientific explanation for why this was occurring, more importantly it offered an evidence-based solution! I was more than ready to find freedom from the food and body shame and anxiety that had plagued me for over 20 years.


Establishing a healthy relationship with food required me to quit exercising for about a year, and when I felt ready to return to it I knew I had to try something completely different. That’s when I discovered the power of a *gentle* yoga practice. Somehow, an hour of focusing on my breath left me feeling more relaxed, happy and empowered than ever before! In contrast, the decades I spent sweating on the treadmill or in the aerobics room usually left me feeling dehydrated and defeated, since I always felt so far from my “goal”. Once I established a regular yoga practice, I was finally able to do what I once thought impossible: accept and appreciate my body as it was, not as I wished it to be. I felt so confident that I started yoga teacher training just six months after that first practice.


So what is Intuitive Eating, or IE? Simply put, it’s the way humans were born to eat. Our bodies send us signals regarding what, when and how much to eat, but dieting teaches us to ignore these natural signals to the point where they’re often suppressed. Dieting also teaches us to reject entire food groups that contain vital nutrients our bodies need to run optimally, and to only participate in exercises that result in weight loss or body change. The goal of IE is improving your relationship with food and your body by promoting healthy thoughts and behaviors--NOT losing weight, though for some this is a possible side effect over time. Like yoga, it is a practice (not a perfect). It’s not a fad or a quick fix.


There are ten principles of Intuitive Eating, but the process can be summed up as follows:


Eat and move in ways that feel supportive of your health--including your mental health. Avoid feeling too hungry or too full. Be patient and forgiving. Aim for satisfaction, not perfection.

Kathleen Schwarz
Be Grateful For Your Right Now Body

I was doing an exercise with one of my coaching clients that I think would benefit literally everyone. Do this as a one time thing, or leave room to add on as often as you're inspired to.

List all the things your RIGHT NOW body can do that you're grateful for.


Having trouble? Start simple:


1. Breathe on my own. 2.Turn over in bed. 3. Eat without help. 4. Drink thin liquids. 5. Use the bathroom without assistance.


These are all things that you are likely taking for granted, and you are not alone. I would too, were it not for my profession of physical therapy. Working in acute rehab, I'm FORTUNATE to help people fighting battles with their bodies they never imagined they'd face. Those who face it with courage and tenacity are my greatest teachers, but I also bear witness to a lot of heartache. It never fails to leave me humbled and grounded in this work.


It's one of a million reasons I can no longer get on board with body shaming of any kind. Our bodies work 24/7 to keep us alive in ways unseen and unappreciated, and when challenge meets will, bodies are capable of truly amazing feats. Yes, even fat and ill and injured and disfigured ones.


We are all fighting battles in our own lives, but if you can walk across the room and meet your basic needs, I promise that you do have a body to be grateful for. Start thanking it.


Kathleen Schwarz
A Body You Hate Will Never Feel Healthy

"A body you hate will never feel healthy" is something I say a lot to the people who come to me seeking help to heal after years or even decades struggling with eating disorders, the diet/binge cycle or poor body image. (Which, sadly, covers most of us. It's rough out there.)


Here’s the thing: the thoughts you think/allow are quite literally creating how you feel. If you speak of your body critically and are constantly wishing or working for it to be different, you’re gonna feel like crap, no matter your size. If you speak appreciatively of your body, and treat it with care and respect, you’re gonna feel fantastic—REGARDLESS OF YOUR SIZE.

It really is that simple—and that hard.

Kathleen Schwarz
Two Years Ago Depression Nearly Ended My Life. Here Is What Helped Me Survive.

On a recent warm and sunny April afternoon, I was at the rehabilitation center where I work as a per diem physical therapist. As I passed a young woman, I overheard her say to a patient “it’s too beautiful outside to feel depressed!”


“Wow,” I thought to myself. “She really doesn’t understand depression.”


As the April weather was warming up just two years ago, I found myself in a hole so black and deep it felt impossible to escape from. Mental health challenges after the birth of my children resulted in several incorrect diagnoses including bipolar disorder, and the medications I was prescribed to help me did a whole lot more harm than good. By the spring of 2017, I was so depressed that I was unable to work or care for myself much less my children without the help of family. Yes, I occasionally sobbed, but it was far more involved than ‘sadness’: anxiety caused me to vomit nearly everything I ate. I slept as much as possible just to survive.


I’m going to be frank here: it was so bad that I wanted to die. Dying felt preferable to living through the amount of pain I was in on every conceivable level: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. I will tell you the exact reason I did not harm myself two summers ago: the root of my suffering was childhood trauma, and therefore traumatizing my own children was a complete nonstarter.  


And so over the next several months, I clawed my way out of that hole, inch by inch and day by day by figuring out what worked for me. I emphasize that last part because we all have unique physiologies, backgrounds and beliefs and I wouldn’t pretend to know definitively what will work for anyone else. If even one thing I share gives a person currently suffering through this nightmare new reason to hope, however, I’m happy to pass this list along. It is not complete.


  1. I admitted to my family and then my doctors how dark my thoughts had become. This was the hardest thing I have ever done, by the way.

  2. I listened to my body, and with the help of my doctors weaned off all prescription medication except for medical cannabis.

  3. I sought professional help and followed through on all recommendations including a two week partial hospitalization program, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for trauma, Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) for emotional dysregulation, family, group, and individual talk therapy

  4. I practiced yoga with a tribe of people who were happy to see me no matter what mood I was in, and quick to give me a hug I didn’t know I needed.

  5. I identified toxic friendships and ended them one by one.

  6. I stopped drinking alcohol as my primary form of stress relief. I still imbibe occasionally; restriction always backfires for me because I’m human.

  7. I got really clear on my NEEDS (not wants) and was uncompromising no matter how inconvenienced others felt or the consequences that I incurred.

  8. I stopped pretending to the outside world that I was perfect and accepted help in many forms.


When you look at this list you’ll notice that walking outdoors on a warm and sunny day simply didn’t make the cut. And while I fully acknowledge that this young woman meant no harm in what she said, hers and similar comments have the potential to make depressed people feel even more alone than they already do.


So to them I say this: you are not alone, not even close. And you are worthy of the work it will require to find what works for you.  


Kathleen Schwarz
I Wont Let This Happen Again...

I haven’t written a blog post in a long time. I could easily blame the holiday season, or prepping for and promoting my workshops, or celebrating my fortieth birthday in January (I’m currently on a yoga retreat in Mexico doing just that). But the truth is this:

Self-doubt got in the way.

True, it didn’t come out of nowhere. Shortly after a family member chastised me for putting too much information online, someone unsubscribed from my mailing list citing “content not what I expected.” I was already in a vulnerable emotional place, and it derailed my confidence and conviction.

After some time and reflection—and perhaps the wisdom that comes with embracing a new decade—I’m happy to report:

THEY'RE BACK.

To get here, I drew on some wisdom from an unknown source, “what other people think of you is none of your business.”

In yoga, we talk a lot about non-attachment. If I am authentic and truthful and put forth my best effort, how my writing, spoken words, and actions are received is out of my control. I know what is in my heart, and that my words and teachings will find the people they are meant to help.

Don’t let others tell you who you are or who to be. I promise, I won’t let it happen to me again.


Kathleen Schwarz
Instagram For Dummies (I’m The Dummy)

This summer I began using Instagram for business purposes. I know 39 isn’t technically old, but it’s old enough to have graduated both college and physical therapy school using the library’s Dewey Decimal System instead of internet search engines. My husband Matt is a software developer, so for the last 14 years I’ve been able to pass off any computer issues to him to deal with. And, Stevie takes care of the technological stuff for Compassionate Healing Services. In short: I’m spoiled. At this point, my mom is better with internet research than I am (though she still hunts and pecks on her keyboard lol).


Twitter gives me a headache, and I don’t understand the point of Snapchat at all. Facebook has turned me off with the spread of misinformation and not protecting our user data. So, to Instagram I tentatively turned. The thing is: I don’t take a lot of pictures of myself, and I especially don’t take pics of myself doing yoga. I do and teach yoga primarily for the mental health benefits, and I can’t touch the strength or flexibility of most yoga teachers. What the hell was I going to post?


Having no idea where to start I bought “Instagram for Business for Dummies” but higher priorities have prevented me from delving in. So, I’ve tackled this as I have every challenge with this business: thoughtfully and intuitively. And like everything else with this business, my efforts are slowly but surely paying off.

The result is a page I’m proud of filled with inspirational people, quotes, students, stories, class/workshop announcements and yes, the occasional unimpressive yoga pose. My posts are inconsistent, practical, truthful and run the gamut from serious to funny. In short: they represent me perfectly.


If you’re on Instagram, please follow @chsyoga and let me know what you think!




Kathleen Schwarz
This Little Light of Mine

Five years ago today, my younger son Charlie entered this world —and life as I knew it shattered. The trauma of his birth made previously manageable levels of anxiety unbearable and uncovered previously repressed traumas. I had been seeing a therapist for “postpartum depression” (aka undiagnosed bipolar 2 disorder) since Ben was born, but after Charlie’s birth I entered the frighteningly imprecise world of prescription mental health care. There were many missteps, and in 2017 I came close to losing my battle with suicidal ideation. Every time a terrifying thought of self harm entered my head though, I pictured my boys. Tonight, on this snowy day that ruined everything except this little boy’s smile, the irony that he ruined AND saved my life is not lost on me. I wouldn’t hesitate for even a second to go through it all again because this smart, funny, gregarious, silly, sweet and empathetic soul is *that* delightful. I’ll end this sap fest with a touch of his humor. As I wrote this, tears streaming down my cheeks he said “mommy, are you ok?” “Yes baby, I’m ok. Believe it or not, I’m happy.” “Oh ok. So you’re *too* happy??” 🤣❤️ Not too happy, my love. Exactly the right amount.

Kathleen SchwarzComment
My Empathic Life

Recently, Stevie looked down at her phone and suddenly started laughing hysterically. Despite having no idea what she was laughing at, within moments I had tears rolling down my cheeks too. Laughter is pretty universally contagious, but if like me you walk around “catching” the emotions of those around you--even the unpleasant ones--you might just be an empath, or highly sensitive person.


Despite being one, I probably would have rolled my eyes at the term “empath” before my older son Ben was born, but he undoubtedly fits that description (as does Stevie). He recently put it this way: “Mommy, I feel what other people feel. When they’re sad I’m sad, and when they’re happy I’m happy.” He means this literally. I’m equal parts proud of his compassion for others and concerned that this cruel world will break his heart as it has mine so many times.


I have no idea if Marilyn Monroe was an empath, but her famous quote, “if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best” makes it a distinct possibility in my mind.


Sensitivity and empathy are signs of strength, not weakness, but they are traits that make life more difficult for both the empath and those in relationships with us. We can’t simply “move on” from hurtful comments or actions from those we love, and if we do so for peacekeeping reasons the hurt doesn’t dissipate, it gets stored in our bodies which can easily breed resentment or even make the empath turn to substances to numb emotional pain or become physically ill. (For instance, I broke up with a toxic friend, and I ceased vomiting on a near daily basis.)


On the other hand, empathic people are extraordinarily giving, supportive of and invested in the well being of those we love. We rarely (if ever) hurt other people purposely and will go to the ends of the earth to apologize to someone we accidentally offend, often multiple times.

Just as our capacity to feel sorrow is bigger, so is the intensity with which we experience joy and excitement, and those around us benefit from that. As a mother to a highly sensitive child, I can say unequivocally that the challenges he presents parenting wise are easily outmatched by the gifts his loving and caring heart brings to our family and this world.


While compassion and empathy are expected of women (but rarely rewarded), these traits have been “feminized” by our culture, so my heart goes out to men and boys too afraid to be who they authentically are. Please know you’re in good company. Famous male empaths in history include Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, George Orwell, the Dalai Lama and Claiborne Paul Ellis (KKK wizard turned civil rights activist).


If this describes you or someone you love, do not be ashamed. The world so desperately needs your unique gifts.


Kathleen SchwarzComment
I Am Not Mentally Ill. I Live With Mental Illness.

October 10th was World Mental Health Day. One of the many goals I hope to accomplish through this business is to raise awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health disorders. Official statistics say that 1 in 5 people live with mental illness, and while that 20% figure may cover chronic and severe sufferers, I believe *most* people deal with mental health challenges at some point in their lives and have no idea help is available OR are too ashamed to seek it out.


I was diagnosed with complex PTSD and bipolar II disorder in 2017 but developed the conditions as a young teenager. Let me be clear: I didn’t just live with my conditions. I thrived with them. I’ve had a job since I was eleven years old. I dedicated myself to my studies and then my physical therapy career. I met and married my husband and had two beautiful boys. It was only once I had children that my illnesses--misdiagnosed for years as postpartum depression and anxiety--started affecting my ability to cope with life.


How could someone have TWO severe, chronic mental illnesses for nearly thirty years and not even know it?


The answer is that mental illness doesn’t look anything like I thought it did. Mental health is a spectrum, and the severe cases that come to mind are the exceptions, not the rule. Mental illness isn’t represented only by those who cannot perceive reality or those who take innocent lives. In fact, those who live with mental illness are far more likely to be VICTIMS of violent crime then perpetrators of it. Mental illness may simply look like stress, irritability, emotional sensitivity, fatigue, high energy levels, distractibility, worry, rumination, disordered eating, excessive drinking and even perfectionism. It may look like above average levels of intelligence and empathy. It may look like racism and misogyny.


When I was struggling last year, my wise teacher Alex gave me this advice: “don’t take ownership of it. *You* aren’t depressed, you’re dealing with depression. It’s not who you are, it’s just something you’re living with.”  Separating myself from what I was experiencing was a first step toward empowering me to fight this battle I neither asked for nor deserve. We all have our battles to face, though, and this just happens to be mine.


I’m finally finding my place in the world. Not in spite of my mental illnesses but because of them.


Kathleen Schwarz
Everything In Moderation

In an effort be more present and less distracted both in my professional and personal lives, I have been cutting back on my social media usage. I’m a rebellious person even when I make the rules, so anytime I’m dealing with addictions I know in order to be successful I have to strike the balance between self indulgence and self denial. For Facebook, that means taking the app off my phone and forcing myself to use my laptop or the web browser on my phone which isn’t as polished or easy to navigate.


Social media is the latest in a series of comforts I’ve sought throughout my life to escape reality and medicate my depression and anxiety. Like many people who deal with mental health issues, I have an addictive personality. In the past I’ve used food, alcohol, cigarettes, recreational drugs, video games, exercise, sex, relationships, my career, my phone and even religion to self medicate. I am confident I will continue to find new ways in the future. I suppose what distinguishes me from “an addict” is that I do not have to stop using completely to gain control.


As a former dieter I grew up hearing “everything in moderation” in regards to food, but the older I get the more I see how this motto applies to life in general. Too much of anything is, well, too much! We all know balance is what we should seek. So why do so many people have such a problem with moderation?


My take? We’re anxious as hell, and technology has only made that worse. Through our phones we are CONSTANTLY inundated with notifications and headlines about terrifying and tragic events in our country, world, and climate. I care deeply about feminism and issues of social justice, but for my mental health I’ve had to limit my news consumption. The only thing that works to get me back to my present reality is mindfulness. I use my senses to notice what I see, hear, feel, smell and taste. I calm the tornado of thoughts by putting my full attention on my breath and body. And then I ask myself what I *really* need in that moment: sleep, food, water, or maybe to be alone or connect with a friend and then do my best to give myself what I need. It gives me something to do when I feel helpless or hopeless and never fails to make me feel better. Try it!

A couple of days after I deleted the FB app, I put it back on my phone. Two hours later I deleted it again. I told you I’m a rule breaker.  Maybe “work in progress” is a more compassionate term.


Kathleen Schwarz
Karma For Kids

One of the biggest challenges a parent faces is guiding a child who is being bullied. Unfortunately, I know this struggle well, and my oldest is only in second grade. Kids can be brutally mean. The heartbreaking reality that children who bully are likely victims of abuse themselves does little to ease the pain that their words and actions have on sensitive, anxiety prone children like my eight year old, Ben.


As much as I want to assure my kids that “bullies never win,” all they have to do is look at our current political leaders to realize that simply isn’t true. Which makes the following story that much sweeter.


Ben is a soccer fanatic. A few weeks ago, his team lost 3-2 to an opponent. When the boys were high fiving afterwards, instead of the traditional “good game,” the winning team laughed at them and told them they were “trash.” (I was not at this game or I would have addressed the bullying directly with their coaches.)


Last week, the boys played the same team. They won 7-1, and Ben scored one of the goals!!! Even better, when they high fived, every child on my son’s team said only “good game!” Needless to say, the other team was embarrassed, our family was tremendously proud, and most importantly my son learned a lesson about karma that he’ll never forget.


I genuinely believe that good or bad karma isn’t some passive fate that befalls us; it’s something we create with our actions. This is NOT to say that horrible things don’t happen to good people because of course they do, and the victim is in no way responsible. Just as amazing things happen to terrible people who are in no way deserving. The challenge we face as parents is to teach our kids to do the right thing no matter who is watching or whether there is a reward at the end. To treat others kindly and with respect regardless of whether they’ve earned it or will give it back in return.


Those of us who consistently choose the right path and derive satisfaction from helping rather than hurting others are karmically rewarded. Maybe not with wealth or power, but with intangibles like pride, self esteem, opportunities, finding meaning and purpose in our lives, and earning the trust, respect, love and friendship of others. Oh, and the occasional blow out soccer win.   

Kathleen Schwarz
What Can't I See?

This August, Stevie and I took my sons to one of those paint your own pottery places. I’ve never considered myself to have any artistic talent whatsoever, so I was surprised to discover a few years ago that my eight year old has a talent for drawing. This outing was his suggestion, and so I put motherly love for him ahead of my distaste for spending money on things that look like crap, and off we went. (I said he had a talent for drawing, not painting.)


Long after everyone else had started working on their pieces, I was still deciding what to paint. I wanted something purposeful and easy to complete since I bore easily. In the end, I chose a simple medium-sized bowl with handles, and two shades each of pink and blue glaze.


Inspired by a canvas in the store, I glazed the inside of the bowl with the lighter shades, blue on one side and pink on the other.  On the outside of the bowl, where the inside was pink I applied the darker shade of blue on the outside. I painted the darker shade of pink on the same side where the inside was blue. I added a few stamps for decoration and then handed my bowl to the employee who would finish our pieces in the kiln.


When I picked up our finished pieces, I was pleasantly surprised with how well it turned out. The imperfections that I worried would detract from its beauty only contributed to its uniqueness. My husband and I admired it from every angle--or so we thought.


The following day, our eight year old pointed out a detail that we had completely overlooked. When viewed through one of the handles, the bowl appears to be either completely pink or completely blue depending upon which handle you look through. The other colors are completely hidden from view.


Our minds are like that bowl. We don’t actually see the world as it is; we see the world as we are. If you’re looking at a problem from only one or two angles, then you are missing the big picture. Conversely, if you only choose to see the situation from a wide angle--or to look through only one of the two handles--you’re missing important perspectives.  


Turns out I am artistic, after all.  


Kathleen Schwarz
The Sun Will Come Out Eventually

Fall is upon us, and frankly, I ain’t mad about it. I had a summer filled with seemingly endless personal and professional highs and lows.  Stevie and I found our sea legs in regards to running Compassionate Healing Services, and I spent approximately the same number of days appreciating having my boys home with me and counting the weeks until their return to school. (That’s called balance.)


Now that school has been back in session and we’ve settled into our routine, I have more time again to devote to self care and reflection. As my fortieth birthday nears, it’s become apparent to me that humans move through different seasons in life, not unlike our planet does. These seasons are far less predictable, though, and we often have no idea when they will come to an end. Some are relatively joyful and calm; others violently shake the foundation beneath our feet and force us to start completely anew.


I recently had a Chinese fortune cookie that informed me “the only thing contained in absolutely everything is wisdom.” Now that’s a smart cookie!


No matter the challenge you’re facing, there is a valuable lesson contained within. Maybe you’re learning what you're capable of, or whom to trust, or where your boundaries lie. Maybe you're gaining experience for a career that you haven’t yet dreamed for yourself. Shifting my perspective in this way helps me find clarity in the chaos when I’m in the middle of one of life’s many storms. It helps me to accept the reality of situation I am in, not the one I wish I was in or the one that seems fair. It focuses my attention on what I actually have control over instead of obsessing over details that I have no power to change.


If you're in a rough season of life, change what you can, accept what you can’t, and don’t give up on finding your way back to peace and calm. The sun will come out, eventually.


Kathleen Schwarz
The Kids Will Be Okay. Will I?

My son Ben will be eight in a few days, and he’s already up to my chin in height. I’m not a short person; he’s just tall for his age and grew several inches this summer alone. He’s great at soccer and was recruited to play with kids a year older than him and no one is the wiser because he’s their size and then some. He’s happy. I’m proud, yet sad.  


My oldest baby is not a baby anymore. He’s only starting second grade, and yes, in many ways he is still delightfully childlike and naive.  But his gangly limbs are a daily reminder that puberty and college and empty nesting are on the way, regardless of my desire to freeze time and complicated feelings about it all.


When I was in the shit (as early parenthood should be universally known), it used to drive me bonkers when well meaning older mothers would stop me to tell me “enjoy every moment, it goes so fast.” Sorry Betty, one kid is shoplifting and the other is having a tantrum in the nipple cream aisle. I’m not enjoying this moment, but thanks.  


Betty was right about one thing, though: it does go fast. And while I haven’t turned into *that* mom, even on hard days now I challenge myself to find one or two (or ten!) moments a day when I stop to appreciate my life and my babies. Not because everything is perfect in that moment. Because for better or worse, it’s a day in my life with my kids who won’t be *this* age ever again.  Sometimes my mindful pause helps me to appreciate what I WON’T miss and that helps me find acceptance and even excitement for the future when my kids will be grown. It reminds me not to lose myself to motherhood because it won’t always be a full-time job.


I don’t miss that nipple cream aisle one bit.


P.S. If you’re in the shit AND can’t get yourself to enjoy a damn thing, no matter how hard you try? That’s ok. I relate to that. Tell someone you trust. You are deserving of help and support.   


Kathleen Schwarz
I Am Who I Am, But...

A little insight into my personality: I love to make daily commitments. It’s a game I like to play with myself, called “Pretending I’m a Different Person” because I SUCK at daily commitments, and always have. Whether it’s keeping a journal, yoga, meditating, posting on my social media business pages, meal planning, checking the kids’ school bags for homework and important papers, keeping a daily schedule, eating before noon...it’s all hard for me. I have a lot on my plate and a brain that likes to alter the speed with which it processes information to astonishing degrees depending on my sleep, stress level and self care practice.

 

And yet: this has never stopped me from making daily commitments aka setting myself up for failure. I became a perfectionist at a very young age, and that seemingly enviable quality was covering for a tremendous amount of shame. Perfectionism is rooted in the belief that you have to be perfect in order to be worthy of love or respect. And so I tried, for nearly thirty years. REALLY, REALLY HARD. Hard enough for most people to believe I was pulling it off, even. I got the Master’s Degree and achieved career goals; had the wedding, and the house, and the dog, and the kids, and the beautiful professional photos on my social media pages. But few knew about all the days I couldn’t get out of bed, or how much I was really yelling at my kids or fighting with my spouse, or how anxious I felt that one or all of the precarious plates balancing on sticks above my head would come crashing down.  

 

My yoga teacher taught me that no amount of self improvement can make up for a lack of self acceptance. We all need goals to strive for in order to get where we want to be in life. When you change nothing, nothing changes. Yet it is completely pointless to fight against the reality of your own limitations. No human is perfect, least of all me. When I stopped pretending and started accepting my flaws and allowed my loved ones to support me physically and emotionally, I discovered that done is better than perfect. Let go of the need to control everything or attachment to a specific outcome. Finding the balance between accepting who we are and working toward positive change brings a peace within that everyone deserves.

 

Kathleen SchwarzComment
No Regrets

Two barriers to mindfulness every yoga and meditation practitioner runs up against are worry and rumination. Worry is what our minds do for events that are in the future; rumination is the film reel of regret that plays for past mistakes and seasons of our lives. While it’s true that these experiences are part of being human, for those of us who have lived through repeated trauma or are highly sensitive/empathetic, worry and rumination can become the foundation for much more serious conditions, like anxiety and depression.

It’s so easy to view past events with rose-colored glasses and ask pointless “what if” questions. Rather than effectively working through conflict with current partners, we scroll through pictures taken with exes and remember the emotion of a special event rather than the heartbreak or unacceptable behavior that led up to becoming exes in the first place. Or we look at dating apps or attractive coworkers and fantasize about “perfect” coupledom--as if that exists. There are many other variations of this (“why did I quit that job” “I never should have left the city”), and they all serve only one purpose: to keep us stuck and miserable.

Through yoga we learn to let go of thoughts and behaviors that aren’t serving us. By accepting and learning to love our own imperfect selves, we open our hearts to do the same for the imperfect humans we have chosen to love.  Or, we become empowered to make necessary changes in order to live up to our own highest potential.

Accept the choices and events of the past non-judgmentally: you likely did the best you could with the skills you possessed at the time (as did the other parties). If you aren’t happy where you find yourself in your life, shift your focus away from past regrets and to the present moment where you are in complete control of your next move.

“Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a long time making it”~Daniel Senyard

Kathleen SchwarzComment
My Path Out Of Hell

The beginning of August marked one year since I found myself in the ER having admitted to my doctors and loved ones that I was considering the unthinkable: ending my own life. It had been six months since I’d fallen into a severe depression that rendered me unable to work, and despite being compliant with all of my prescribed medications and psychotherapy treatments (including partial hospitalization), I felt no better or more hopeful about my future. I made a bold--but ultimately life saving--decision the day I visited the ER: to go off most of my prescription medications. Within a week of that ER visit I knew I had made the right decision when I opened my eyes after a long sleep and for the first time in months the heavy, terrifying darkness had lifted. In that moment, despite all the challenges still ahead, I felt SO grateful.

 

Anyone who has survived a life-threatening illness or personal tragedy can tell you that it’s a perspective shifter. I did not grow up with many privileges, so I think that even before 2017 I was grateful for my home, career, physical health, husband, kids, family, friends--the “big” stuff. Somehow I still found plenty to complain about, though, and I can see in hindsight how that kept me stuck. Shortly after finding my yoga practice and teacher he said something that stuck:


“Happiness does not make you grateful, gratitude makes you happy”

 

Let me be clear: when I was in hell no amount of gratitude would have gotten me out of it. It’s not that simple. It took a coordinated and carefully monitored approach with doctors and therapy professionals and the support of my family to find what worked for *me* (it will be different for every individual). And frankly, the path out of hell is through misery. It isn’t a smooth or straight road. But it is possible. And if you are where I found myself in 2017, know that you are worth the effort and if you reach out to me I will support you in any way I can.

 

Now that I have found my way out of the darkness, though, gratitude is where I start each day when I wake up and my world has color.  I still have an anxiety and mood disorder; that hasn’t changed. I have up days and down and some days the weight of the world’s problems seem to rest squarely on my shoulders, despite my best efforts to remain mindful and present. But I always resolve to start again. And it always starts with gratitude.

Kathleen SchwarzComment