August 2021

Dear Friends,

I love you!

Happy August!

The past few months of newsletters have been a bit different than usual, because my literary assistant Elissa gave birth to a baby boy! She is taking some time off to care for her new baby, and in June, July and August, I am sharing some previously unpublished essays from my collection Choosing Beauty.

Elissa will also not be monitoring my emails during this time, so if you’d like to reach me, please write to me at:

Alexandra Stoddard
87 Water Street
Stonington, CT 06378

I will see you again next month for my usual newsletter!

Love & Live Happy,

"Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair." —Khalil Gibran

Peter and me, waiting and watching the sun setting.


You can create a sacred, spiritual space where you honor your soul in meditation and prayer. Here you are truly coming home in the immediate present with a deep inhale. I begin all my meditations by telling my husband Peter (who died on September 25, 2014, at 2:57 p.m.) “I love you.” These are the three most soulful words he uttered to me before his last breath.

We’re all guilty, in various degrees, of not taking time for our soul. We would be thinking more positively and would be less stressed out if we were. Meditation is our way to leave the outer world’s circumstances aside, letting go of all our defenses. In this private world of complete submission, we enter into the inner chamber of our heart that we best access in meditation. I want to be still in my meditations and listen, hear, and learn what I am neglecting to understand and act upon to deepen my conscious awareness. We have so much more “spirit-energy” in us than we reveal. The quick flashes of insight and epiphanies can last longer and be helpful. I refer back to our Founding Fathers’ contributions, who were all men who believed in a higher power. 

Some people discover their distant ancestors and guides in former lives, feeling grateful to be the inheritors of specific gifts and talents that were passed down through centuries.

“Eternity is a dimension of the here and now.” —Joseph Campbell

Everyone has to find their own spiritual discipline. For the highly enlightened, who possess greatness of soul, their entire life becomes a prayerful meditation. We each define what prayer is, what meditation is, and what our soul is through the effect it has on our “transcendent illumination,” as Joseph Campbell called it. What we learn from our practice is often beyond our ability to put into words. The first paragraph of the opening poem in the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, the Chinese sage, says, “The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.”

A single flower can become a sacred meditation.

While there are a few soul mates we would choose to tell our history, most people we know would not understand. Keeping your meaningful truths to your meditation sessions makes soul-sense, except for the rare people who are on the same spiritual journey. With a friend of soulful character, we can open up our heart and listen to the beauty we absorb from this higher place of knowing.

I am most myself with a fountain pen in my right hand. My favorite place to meditate is my writing desk that becomes an altar. Wherever I am, I light a fragrant candle, spritz some lemongrass, and begin to open my eyes to make a symbolic connection to nature with the power of a one-flower meditation. I simply take a flower that’s on my desk, hold it in my hand, and stare at it to absorb the perfection of a yellow rose or a variegated peach French tulip until I feel a lightness of being. I’m in my breath, I’m in a sacred place, and I am transformed into the consciousness of the beauty of the soul.

“By a tranquil mind I mean nothing else than a mind well ordered.” —Marcus Aurelius

No two meditations are alike. The stream of soul’s divine light flows through us differently depending on where we are in our consciousness.

We learn patience. The Dalai Lama has spent his entire lifetime in prayer and meditation and still admits to moments of human reactions to injustice and the hatred he is trying to alleviate. We all will be at our best when we establish a regular meditation practice.

I find, when I’m seeking the beauty within the divine, looking out at the magnificence of nature makes me more able to let go of my body, even for only flashes of awe. I enfold into the weightlessness of pure truth and love.

I gaze at the harbor from my summer writing room.

We can create a spa for the soul and extend our reverence for this soul-beauty through small rituals. I do this when I prepare myself a cup of coffee. I take time to grind my own espresso beans, pour boiling water into a French press, and after allowing a few moments for the aroma and flavor to steep, pour the steaming hot, sensuously beautiful coffee into a heated cup or favorite mug. I also documented my tea ritual in Tea Celebrations: The Way to Serenity. I sit calmly in my own “relaxation room” and read wisdom from past pilgrims who became enlightened beings because they were pioneers, teaching timeless truths.

Extend this elevated conscious mindfulness to an awe walk in nature. In his simple, classic book Peace Is Every Step, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh taught me about the importance of a walking meditation.

My friend Jim Hicks took this photo of the sunrise overlooking Narragansett Bay and a meditation bench on my street.

There are as many different forms of meditation as there are people who exercise free will. You choose beauty in how you want to practice becoming enlightened. Wherever you are, you’re on your way, headed in the right direction, when you engage your soul as your guide and constant companion. Your soul will be waiting patiently for you to reach out to her. The Buddha doesn’t want you to worship him, but to be more compassionate and loving, more enlightened. Inner peace is all. If we can’t find the peace we are searching for inside us, we will be looking in all the wrong places. Whenever we travel in the world, we bring our soul with us. We’re fortunate the soul travels lightly.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama believes that if everyone around the globe meditated before eighth grade, we could achieve world peace. Inner peace is possible when we harmonize all the conflicting challenges in our increasingly complex lives. We individually cannot cure all the world’s conflicts. Collectively, when each of us ponders the universal challenges in regular, thoughtful, meditative ways, energy attracts. There is a power in prayer. Once we get our own house in order, synchronized with the rhythms in our hearts, the truths of our soul, and the courage of our character, there can be a tipping point when energy shifts. Meditate. Meditate with your children, grandchildren, lovers, and friends.

Ring a mindful bell.

Listen to a Gregorian chant.

Light a scented candle.

Stare at a flower or a peaceful view of the sky and water.

There's no flower freer than a sunflower following the sun.


We have to do whatever is in our power to be free, to be the captain of our soul; by recognizing our own fundamental rights, not to be restricted, we’re best able to enable others to remain liberated.

Our soul is an external light no wind can snuff out. We are always free to go into the inner chambers of our being to be guided by this illumination. We are unbound. We are the ones who make the choices that govern our lives.

Freedom is universal to every human being. In order to live our daily lives with the beauty of truth as our birthright, we have to commit ourselves to letting go of whatever is holding us back from elevating ourselves into our healthiest, most vital potential.

Whenever we cling to our own self-interests, we diminish our freedom to soar. When we think of our freedom on a soul level, we expand our compassion to allow our harmony to spread into others without judgment.

A scientist friend and I meet on our soul realm to discuss our favorite thinkers as well as leaders who he feels are off their path. Albert has great empathy for people he feels are clearly disillusioned. Many people of power think they have a right to dominate, to control others, to take their freedom away because of their ethnicity or their faith. What is so astonishing to my scientist professor friend is that so many people go along with an authority figure, losing their fundamental freedom and possibly their lives in the process.

“Freedom lies in being bold.” —Robert Frost

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the most deeply spiritual person I know, and he is also fascinated by science. He enjoys having scientists perform brain scans on his senior lamas, who spend their days chanting, in prayer, and in meditation. There is proof that the loving kindness in our souls can show up in an MRI, lighting up the happy, content parts of our organic brain.

The greatest freedom I am experiencing in my maturity is to think for myself and hold no one else’s words to be authority if they don’t ring true in my breast. If I sense something hypocritical or self-serving, if my gut tells me to pause and re-examine what I’ve heard or read, I pay attention.

God bless America.

The Founding Fathers battled for our freedom and liberty from foreign interference and created our country’s democracy. The first Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (Bill of Rights) is worth repeating: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” We, as free citizens, pledge our allegiance to the United States of America, not the office of the presidency. Our individual freedom hangs on a thread of democracy. We the (free) people. Each of us has a civic duty to our country to do whatever it takes to be free. Never take our democracy, our freedom, for granted.

One of my favorite thinkers is Emerson, who felt that the best thing is the true. It requires soul-searching for each one of us to understand ourselves. What are our intentions? What are our justifications? It requires hard work, time, patience, and to focus our consciousness where we honestly and soulfully can say under our breath that we are free. The beauty of this is that we are always free to choose, and to change the way we think and act, and how we want to live. This is only possible when we have our freedom.

“Liberty of thought is the life of the soul.” —Voltaire

Harriet Tubman is another one of my heroes. She was born into slavery and made thirteen missions to free seventy enslaved people. Her life story is an inspiration. When she was confronted by slave owners after her escape, she said “Freedom or die” as she jumped off a bridge. Miraculously, she survived, walked 100 miles alone, her body nearly broken, and found her way to safety. I admire Tubman’s strength of character, her selfless determination to free family and neighbors, bravely risking her life unprotected for a higher calling to care for others’ freedom. Her life story moves and inspires me. I feel her heroism helps me be tenacious, with renewed courage of my convictions, when I know the truth. No one has the power to touch our soul, no matter how cruel their intentions.

I still feel Peter watching over me with his beautiful grin.

When we know what is true to who we are, and have the courage to remain open to this freedom, under all possible circumstances, we will be able to see more deeply into reality. The truth is stubborn, as John Adams reminds us. Freedom in all forms is our greatest truth.

The Sanskrit term for sage is “The silent one.” I learn to listen to the silences, in perfect freedom and curiosity about probing the depths and heights of what Joseph Campbell wrote in a footnote in his classic book The Hero with a Thousand Faces: “transcendent illumination.” He teaches us that “Buddhahood, Enlightenment, cannot be communicated, but only the way to enlightenment … ritual, mythology, and metaphysics are but guides to the brink of ‘transcendent illumination,’ the final step … must be taken by each in his own silent experience.”

We freely take whatever steps in power to move forward into more enlightenment in our own silent experiences. Without our freedom to be ourselves and express ourselves openly and honestly through our actions, we are not fully alive. In our silent knowing, however, there are times when we must speak up. When we have freedom, we possess the most precious gift in life.

“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” –Jesus

“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.”
—Michel de Montaigne

Is there anything more wonderful than a summer tomato?

Peter holding one of the vine-ripened tomatoes.