Zumba – a Form of Mindfulness


I took a Zumba class. Yes, that’s right, Zumba. I had dismissed the notion of this class before, thinking only seniors took this class, or people who don’t take real aerobic classes, and even thinking this is for women who just want to do silly dance movements. I was in the group that took cycling classes, weight lifting classes, and yoga. We worked our muscle groups, we got breathless, we strengthened our pecs.  One day I went to get a drink from the fountain. The studio door was open and I heard fun, lively music. I looked inside. Hmmmpf, that could be interesting.

And there I was later that week in a sea of all ages of adults, both sexes, and a range of skill. I was at the low end. I could barely keep up with the Samba steps, the hip-hop pelvic thrusts, the Mambo movements and the pony. I love to dance! But this class put me in my place. That class is now on my desk calendar and entered in my phone as a weekly event, to avoid scheduling appointments that conflict with the class time. After each song, some people laughed or clapped or let out a whoo-hoo. There was so much positive energy. I love it, I need it.

There is so much talk and concern related to mindfulness. The roots lie in Buddhist meditation, and yet these days it’s a popular concept.  Just like acai berries and echinacea and vitamin C, these days the catch word and catch-all remedy is mindfulness.  The idea of being aware, of being focused on using active attention to the present moment. The mental energy open, the benefits endless.

In Zumba, the class time is exactly 55 minutes. There is no time to goof off. I cannot let my mind wander during class. I need to position myself right behind the instructor. As she gets the music going and adjusts her mic I apologize to my neighbors: sorry, I am such a spaz, just want you to know! They smile politely in return, their feet have started to tap, their hips already wiggling. I’m not skilled enough to look at the mirror’s reflection and translate for my left and right feet. I watch the instructor’s feet like they are highway signs announcing upcoming exits. I don’t want to miss it!  I think some people are naturally inclined to follow choreography, to turn off their thoughts, to take in visually the movements and replicate. I lack that gene. In Zumba, I am moving. I am operating my limbs. I am not actively attending, I am clumsily receiving.

We take two steps to the right, then one to the left, thrust out our chests and swivel our hips. Repeat! I quickly stole a peek at myself in the mirror.  I smiled back, yes I am having fun. I look around. The instructor has moved on.  The class is sashaying towards the front. Ooops! Sorry, I was just lost in a thought.


I Have Breast Cancer

I had it. You have it. Breast Cancer sucks.

I looked at my phone wondering why she is calling me. Our kids no longer attend the same school. We are at most casual acquaintances. I answer a little hesitantly. She identifies herself and pauses. Then she continued: I had a mammogram, and I, well I heard that you too, uh….um. I have what you had, I have DCIS in my breast. I have breast cancer.”  Her voice is trembling.  The former social worker in me surfaces. I ask direct questions so that she can regain composure:

When was your mammogram, where did you have it done? When is your next appointment? With whom? Have you met with a surgeon yet?

She answered each question. She took a deep breath.

I said, “I’m so sorry. I am sorry this is happening to you. You must be overwhelmed. It’s strange to hear the words breast cancer.”

She agreed and added, “Why is this happening to me?”

I wonder that too, every day. And yet it is happening. My friend summarized it as: we all got married, we all started having kids, our kids started school, then sports, and now we’re at the age where some of us are getting breast cancer diagnoses.

Can we chalk it up to a developmental milestone?

After my caller went through her series of appointments, I gave a brief version of my summer. My June of being diagnosed and agonizing over treatment options, my July of surgery and recovery, and then August finally ending my summer of 2016. The kids returned to school. Labor Day is here. I am ready for the summer to be over, for my recovery time to be completed, for this ordeal to be ending.

I hope I was supportive. I hope I was educational and helpful. I hope she felt heard.

It’s strange to hear the oncologist say to me: come back in three months for your follow-up. It’s strange to have conversations with people about having breast cancer. It’s strange to experience a thrill over being contacted, being someone who has gone through something and can offer guidance.

She agreed, “It is strange to now be seeing an oncologist.”

My follow up is at the end of October. A ways off. Strange how much can happen in a few months.


Sandplay Therapy

Sandplay Therapy

My daughter is doing sandplay therapy.  Our counselor discussed the concepts and I consented to this form of therapy.  The two of them are in a room with a sand box table. They sit opposite each other. Along a wall are a few long shelves crowded with figurines, dollhouse furniture, beads, stones, and animals — all sorts of props. The therapist gives a simple instruction– create something, or set up a situation, or go ahead. 

Near the end of the session time, I am invited in. My daughter points to what she has placed in the sand and tells me a comment or two about what is happening. “The lion is sitting near the tree, getting shade. This stone here is for the lizard to lounge on.” That sort of talk. After she leaves the room, our therapist offers a few interpretive statements. “It’s very early, it’s only our third session. But again today, there are mostly animals, only 1 or two people, well one is a fairy, and there are situations that involve safety.”

Am I up for this?

We have returned to therapy after two years. Last Spring, we started her on psychotropic medications prescribed by the clinic’s child psychiatrist. I’ve attempted to follow through on our therapist’s recommendations at home.  But she continues to stump us.  Even our therapist said to the psychiatrist during the last medication appointment: There is something unusual about her, I can’t pin point it.

So for various reasons, I agreed that using sand therapy to tap into her unconscious struggles would be of benefit. I am very curious about this process. I am mixed about receiving valuable information, and being confronted with my difficulties. I even entertain and prepare myself for possible themes:

Mean, restrictive mother

Appeasing, inconsistent father

Rejecting, older brothers

Harsh homelife with too many rules

I asked Beth, “So….I’m just wondering how this works. Do you plan for eight sessions, or do you go week to week and decide when you have themes?”

Beth explained she follows the child’s work and when there appear to be consistent themes, they’re done with the sand therapy.

Somewhere deep in my mind, I hope that we will get some answers. Some treasure that has been hiding, buried for years. Latent explanations for the lying, sneaking and stealing behaviors still plaguing our weekly lives. I understand she engages in these primitive antics when anxious. Yes, I understand. But what is driving the anxiety? What is it?