Many people are suffering right now. Job loss, grief, family and community turmoil. While we are all in different boats…different levels of privilege, different socioeconomic circumstances, different options…we are all in the same storm and the pandemic is affecting everyone. I am aware that the trials facing our health care providers are not fully unique, or even the worst faced in our society. They are, however, difficult, and the people facing them: doctors, nurses, physician assistants, have had to learn how to adapt and deal with stress in unique ways to survive long before the COVID pandemic. What can we learn from those that are adapting successfully?

Exercise is the number one coping mechanism for health care providers. Yoga, group cycling, Crossfit, weightlifting, running and name it, and you’ll find healthcare people doing it! Apart from the clear health benefits to exercise, clinicians use exercise to balance their moods, reduce stress, and improve focus and endurance. Providing medical care can be a strenuous, exhausting task and clinicians need to be at their best. Because scheduling is tight, clinicians build in structure to ensure they can exercise as often as they want. Structure beat motivation every time.

Health care providers remember the mission. It is one of the joys of practicing medicine that the mission, your reason for showing up, for doing well and for staying engaged, is right in front of you every time you go to work. Our communities, our patients and their families ARE the mission and connecting with them, seeing our impact on their lives and knowing that giving our best makes a difference supports us as well. A thank you from a patient, or the look of relief in a family member’s eye, can fuel an entire shift. Most of us go into medicine, train long hours to learn the skills, and defer free time and financial stability for a decade for that mission, and it continues to sustain us.

Finally, the most successful clinicians at fostering a sense of professional well-being find time to reflect. They write, podcast or journal about their experiences to put them in context and process them. They meditate and calm their bodies and minds. They find peace and meaning in their faith communities, in nature, and in the moments (seconds sometimes) between caring for sick and dying patients. If you scratch a physician, you will find a philosopher, because facing tangible evidence of the mortality that awaits us all forces reflection or despair.

So, what can we learn from these resiliency pros?

1. Structure beats motivation. Build in time for your priorities.

2. Remember the “Why”. When things get tough, that’s what will keep you going.

3. Reflect and learn from your experiences.

Finally, remember that our health care workers around the world are laying it all on the line for our families and communities. Please be patient with them, say thank you, and remember that they are human beings doing their best in a flawed system.


Have you lost your mind? Sometimes I feel I’ve lost mine. Especially in these times.

Globally, we human beings have experienced hateful racist crimes, law enforcement atrocities, pandemic sickness, and social isolation, loss of jobs and financial stability, bizarre weather patterns, and political outrage. And that’s just outside the home. Inside our cozy nests, we may experience cabin fever, social media fatigue, extended work hours, and futile arguments over whose turn it is to do the dishes. This auspicious year of 2020 so far has turned out to be quite the test for one’s endurance and resilience. But in hindsight, 2020 may prove to be the most awakening year of our lives, if we find the mind we’ve lost and practice mindfulness.

What have you learned so far? How has making the shift of running around to being still opened your eyes to what’s important to you? And what have you found is indeed important to you? Sure, a mani-pedi wouldn’t suck right about now, but will that really fulfil your heart’s deepest desire? How have cooking together and eating more meals with your family (or with friends on Zoom) enhanced the quality of your connections? Have you taken the time to appreciate the little things, like birds singing us awake in the morning or a quiet cup of coffee you brewed yourself? What closets have you finally cleared out because you have what no money can buy -- more time at home. And have you noticed that you have more than enough jeans and lip liner and cotton swabs, perhaps enough to donate half of it and still have more than you could ever need? What new hobbies have you taken on? The New York Times crossword puzzle, or paint by numbers, or even meditation?

Meditation is the antidote to every distraction in the universe. It’s a mental and physical time out, a chance for the mind and body to rest, recover, and reset, so that when you open your eyes you see more clearly. Think of it as wiper fluid for your brain. Each of us has this built-in mechanism to restore our nervous system to calm, balance, and ease. Just put your meat in a seat and slow down the breath. Simple, right? Right. But not always easy. We tell ourselves we are just too busy. Or we feel our brain is wildly active, what Buddhists call ‘monkey mind.” Clients tell me, “I just can’t meditate. I can’t shut my brain off,” and I tell them that if they are able to shut their brain off they need to check their pulse to see if they are alive. It’s not about having no thoughts, it’s about slowing down the thoughts. And I should know, because I was one of those people who swore they couldn’t sit for more than one minute. And now, after 20 years of dedicated daily practice, I’m up to 20 minutes on most days.

There are several ways to meditate, either by repeating a mantra (a word or words to focus your attention on) to yourself, or by noticing thoughts and letting them go, or by following the breath or by imagining yourself in a peaceful place in nature. There are many paths to follow to one destination: peace and quiet in our home called the self.

Self-care is not selfish. It is the one thing we have the most control over. And most caregivers would agree, we have to take care of ourselves before we can truly take care of another. So would I like a mani-pedi and a blowout? You bet. Deep-tissue massage? Bring it. Facial? F-yeah. One might even argue that I need a little makeover in the not too distant future. Until then, meditation beautifies from within. We get to take a few minutes each day to brush off the brain, detoxify the blood and organs with deep breathing, connect with the wizard in my heart, and listen like my life depends on it. She whispers, “You don’t need a bag of caramel corn. You don’t need that new cellulite cream. You don’t need him to tell you he loves you. All you need is already within you, I am your breath of life, and I am with you where ever you go.”

Not that I’m going anywhere any time soon. So I’ll take a seat in every room in the house and make it my place of meditation. I’ll go to the Maldives in my mind. Perhaps you’ll meet me there.

Jennifer Graf, LCSW

JULY 2020

We’ve struggled to put into words what has transpired over the last 6 months, which have been some of the most challenging, confusing, and upsetting stretches in our lives.

Seemingly overnight, the world swept into lockdown, causing economic, physical, and mental anguish to all with after-effects we are only now starting to understand. As parts of the country seemed to turn a corner with decreasing case numbers, the nation was then faced with its most enduring and heartbreaking flaw - systemic racism and mistreatment of minorities, specifically Black Americans. The recorded murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, the shooting of Breonna Taylor, and the countless stories shared, left many Americans aghast. Like so many, we are deeply disturbed, saddened, and confused by the killings of George, Ahmaud, and Breonna, and our emotions unraveled deeper in the following week's events.

The Kula IAB and Kula for Karma wholeheartedly stand with and support the Black Lives Matter movement. Many of us will never experience the stress and anxiety that Black Americans feel each day. But we can vocalize and recognize how wrong, unjust, and truly un-American it is.

Where do we start?

To our readers advocating, protesting, and educating themselves on these issues, we are proud to see our Kula family fighting for positive social change and living our truth.

To the countless individuals who serve our community with integrity and respect: we appreciate your service and graciously applaud all that you do.

Most importantly, to our donors of color who have stood by us over the years as we brought Kula to the country, it is our turn to stand by you. We hear you we recognize you, and we are actively working to join the fight.

For our community feeling overwhelmed at what is going on and looking for a way to take action, we offer the below.

1. Look, Listen, and Learn. You cannot miss racial disparities in our society. Look around your broader communities, listen to your friends and colleagues, and learn from publications, history books, novels, or any preferred medium. It is a privilege to learn about racism instead of experience it.

2. Small Victories Matter. Racial inequality, a global pandemic, and societal upheaval are insurmountable challenges on the surface. When you feel overwhelmed, frame your thinking like your practice on the mat. Small victories in each practice - tweaks, incremental gains, day by day improvement - truly make a difference. The most important part of all is that you try to better yourself, and therefore, your community. If you are able, donate to a preferred cause. If you cannot, find worthy petitions to sign. And so on.

3. Take Care of Yourself. When disruptions strike our lives, the first sacrifice is often our own wellness and routines. Please continue your practice, whatever it may be, and do not neglect your personal wellbeing.

Where Does Kula Go From Here?

Thanks to recent generous donations from our supporters, we will be able to provide our services at no cost for the next year to our Black communities emotionally devastated by the last month, and physically devastated from COVID-19.

Sticking to our core mission, we will help grassroots organizations, schools, healthcare facilities, and other groups who are striving to better themselves and ignite positive change. This is a united, all-in fight that every citizen must march toward if we are to heal.

We hope this message finds all of you safe, healthy, and well and we look forward to our next year working with you each and every day.

Kula Innovative Advisory Board

© be.still  2020 | 

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Hawthorne, New Jersey