My Aromatic Adventures

What smells so good? That was my question the first time I ventured into my friend Wendy Bright-Fallon’s office in Red Bank, New Jersey.


It was a lemon. From a diffuser, a wee humidifier type thingy shaped like an egg that was gently wafting this scent.

For the next two hours that scent went straight to my head, in the nicest, sweetest way possible. Wendy and a small group of us were meeting for some gentle networking and support. That scent added so much to the room and the meeting, beyond my ability to even understand.

Which is a good thing.

I need not to be so much up in my head. For years and years I lived as if my body was there solely to carry my head around. Then I gave up my obesity, the story chronicled in The Hungry Ghost: How I Ditched 100 Pounds and Came Fully Alive.

It probably won’t surprise you that there is far more to sustainable weight loss than eating less and moving more.

For me there was dealing with onslaught anxiety that came when I was no longer taking the edge off my emotions with binge eating.

Big time angst. Nearly paralyzing fear sometimes.

Enter, body awareness. I started working with a therapist who ever-so-slowly introduced me to staying centered, present and calm by consciously being in touch with my senses. Whenever I felt excess stress rising, I could feel my feet on the floor, my butt in the chair, the waistband of my jeans. I could gently tap my fingertips together, or stroke the insides of my arm. I could tune into the ambient sounds, or look around the room and pick out a color, say all the reds.

Sense of smell, that one was harder, depending on where I was, who was around and how recently they had, um, bathed.

At that lemony meeting, I learned from Wendy and another highly aromatically-inclined friend, DeeAnna Nagel, I could actively work with sense of smell.

I ordered a sampling of essential oils and a diffuser like Wendy’s and I’m just playing around. I use it in my office, where I often don’t want to be. (Naps and novels are so much more alluring.) Yet associating my office with the delicate scents wafting from my own egg-shaped diffuser has made not only easier, but more fun to face down the gremlins who try to keep me from showing up to work.

I also run the diffuser when I’m meditating, and find I go deeper. I dot my favorite oils, lemon and/or frankincense, on the insides of my wrists when I’m going out into the world. When the going gets tough, I put my hands near my face, take a quiet, deep breath, and feel calmer calm.

What a gift. I’m having so much fun playing!

Most recently I’ve been experimenting with scents in support of creativity. As a writing coach, for years I’ve taught how checking in with our senses is so incredibly, wonderfully essential, so vital and nourishing for inspiration. So it seemed perfectly natural that when I do writing workshops I use the aromas.

My clients and students love it!

A person’s best work comes from being centered. And our best as writers includes tons of words invoking sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touchy-feeling words.

I love finding and integrating new tools to support my personal growth, my deepening spirituality and my need to express myself—and help others do the same.

And that’s the story (so far!) of my aromatic adventures! How about you? How are you actively using your senses these days? Do tell!


My upcoming events–including more aromatic adventures! 

Aroma Writing Workshop. Saturday, March 7, 10 am to noon. Renew Wellness 252 Maple Ave, Red Bank, N.J. Gay Edelman, guest speaker. Hosted by Wendy Bright-Fallon and DeeAnna Merz Nagel. $25. Prepare be nurtured, inspired, relaxed and motivated! All kinds of writers welcome.

Talk and book signing. “How I Lost 100 Pounds and Kept Them Off for 20 years.” Saturday, March 14, 2 pm. Middletown Township Public Library, 55 New Monmouth Road, Middletown, NJ. Free. No registration required. Everyone welcome!

Talk, “Beyond Perfectionism.” Sunday, March 15, 9 am. Unitarian Universalist Meetinghouse, 1475 West Front Street, Lincroft, NJ. 07738. How to back off, relax, lighten up and increase the peace in yourself and the world. Free. No registration required. You are welcome!

Winter, Here I Come!

I love the golden light of fall and the poignancy of the long, slow slide into the dark, cold days and nights of winter.

It’s a latency time for Mother Nature, a time to rest and restore. For me, it’s also time of feeling shut in, disrupted from nurturing routines of long walks in the park and daily solitude and meditation in my backyard gazebo.

Last winter’s biting cold and relentless storms were so awful that I resolved to go into this one better prepared.

Essential was to find a space for meditation and prayer. The dining room is nice enough except for the interruptions, and there are always interruptions. Have you ever resolved to give yourself a few minutes of reflection at home, only to find yourself throwing on a load of wash with no idea how you got from the chair to the basement? Happens to me all the time. I’ve lived in this house for 36 years and it knows very well how to whine for my attention.

Or I’ll decide to check something quick-quick on the computer and before I know it I’ve just spent 20 minutes on Facebook. Yikes! I love Facebook. But wasn’t I planning to meditate? Don’t I know that centering myself first thing in the day is the greatest gift I can give myself—and everybody else in my life?

When a new friend heard my dilemma, she made a brilliant, simple suggestion:  Turn a closet into a meditation nook. So I did! The crates of office supplies found a new home. Then, a chair, a little table and a lamp and I have someplace to go to be alone with my highest self, there behind a “do not disturb” sign and a nice blue curtain.


Some days, I expect to spend an hour or two; others, when the world calls or the brain just won’t settle down, 20 minutes. But do it I must, in acceptance that outdoor meditation is wrapping up for this season, in gratitude for good friends with great ideas, and in awe of the relentless inner call to deepen my conscious contact with the one who created me.

How about you? Do you meditate? Do you have a special place for it? What’s it like? I’d love to hear about it…


Find more about connecting with your inner truth in my book The Hungry Ghost: How I Ditched 100 Pounds and Came Fully Alive. Find more inspirational suggestions in other blogs at where you can also sign up to receive the blog as an email newsletter.  On Twitter, 

25 Ways to Relax in Under a Minute

Taking care of yourself equals receiving the care and love of your higher power. Self care is imageGod’s love, pure and simple. Your creator does not need or want you to feel all beat up, bent out of shape and burnt out. Your creator wants you to feel rich, lovable, fulfilled and loved. This is where your strength and comfort come from.

The hardest times to do self-care are when you’re beset by life’s unavoidable obligations, trials and tribulations. Try one of these when you’re so overwhelmed you feel you can’t possibly take more than a minute.

  1. Brush your hair
  2. Pull up your socks and tie your shoes
  3. Wash your hands sloooowly after using the loo; revel in the hot soapy water
  4. Splash cool water on your face; blot ever so gently
  5. Take a long, slow drink of water. Keep a water bottle nearby for this
  6. Look around the room and pick out everything that’s your favorite color
  7. Raise your shoulders up to your ears. Hold to the count of 30, then drop them. Repeat
  8. Send someone a little “thinking of you” text or email
  9. Lightly run your hairbrush over the tender inside of each arm and give yourself a chill

10. Read a page in a meditation book you keep near your work station just for that purpose

11. Call your BFF and ask permission to work just a little bit not-so-hard. I promise she’ll give it to you.

12. Pray this three times to yourself: “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.”

13. See how many things you can write in a minute that you’re grateful for

14. Stare out the window. Set a timer. Find one at  I dare you!

15. Make a list of what you’ll do with your first million.

16. Pray the Serenity Prayer a few times: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Or another favorite prayer or inspirational verse. You might like to memorize one or two at a more relaxed time for this purpose. I often use the 23rd Psalm.

17. Stop. Breathe. Wait. Tell yourself, “There is nothing in front of me that’s life or death.” (Unless, of course there is. In which case, put this blog down and  go to it!)

18. Consider the importance to life of marshmallow peeps

19. Repeat to yourself: I am enough, I have enough, I do enough.

20. Reach your arms around yourself and give yourself a big hug!

21. Take off your shoes and assuage your arches

22. Think of a friend who’s struggling and send her some good vibrations

23. Think of someone who’s on your last nerve, like your boss or your teenage son, and pray, “Bless him. Bless me.” Repeat.

24. Stand up. Reach up. Streeetch as tall as you can. Lean to left. Lean to the right. Streeeetch!!!!

25. Forward this list to someone who might need it! Pat yourself on the back for doing a good deed. Feel better!!!!!

Find more self-care, self-loving guidance in my book The Hungry Ghost: How I Ditched 100 Pounds and Came Fully Alive. Find more inspirational suggestions in other blogs at You can also sign up to receive the blog as an email newsletter.

What I Learned From My Poor Broken Nose

“In your face” took on an entirely new meaning for me while on vacation a couple weeks ago. One minute I was cycling along a quiet Adirondack road. The next, SMACK! I was face down on the pavement making hurt animal noises.

“I broke my nose,” I wailed to my husband, who rounded the bend too late to witness my flight over the handlebars but plenty soon enough to see the blood pouring down.

We quickly concluded I was more or less intact. No loss of consciousness. Mind was clear. Bleeding controllable. So we climbed back on our bikes and slowly tootled on back to the camp. (Adirondack word for cottage.)

The phone triage nurse kindly provided by our health insurance company reassured me after lengthy questioning that an ER visit wasn’t necessary, and advised on home care and what to watch for regarding head trauma. Yes, I was wearing a helmet.

So our low-key, relax-and-relax-some-more-then-take-a-nap vacation got dialed back a little. I rested, entertaining myself and my long-suffering husband with detective work as new bruises emerged, trying to figure out from the shape and location of the marks what hit what when.

I’m home now and my ENT doc assures me that, yes, the nose is broken and no, it doesn’t need repair. Yay! But still,  I’m feeling just a tad bit fragile. Friends who’ve taken such spills tell me this is to be expected. And this isn’t my first rodeo (so to speak) so even as my body’s still going, Whaaaa?????, my mind knows they’re correct.

And I expect a full recovery, including a return to cycling as soon as I can put weigh on my hands and arms (I hit so hard my triceps are STILL sore.)

Morals of the story:

Mindfulness isn’t just for calming yourself. It’s also about being present where you are so you don’t hit the pothole, panic and brake too hard too soon.

 While panic is not useful, it can’t, by definition, be prevented in the moment. Advance treatment, through prayer and meditation, rest, good nutrition and smart therapy, is advised. I’m on the case, but being on the case doesn’t mean that shit doesn’t happen.

Shit happens. My dentist broke his leg skiing. Broke his arm taking out the garbage. A friend nearly broke her back tumbling down a full set of stairs in her house. My son, when he was three, broke his collar bone falling out of bed, a mattress on the floor. And that’s just the ordinary stuff. For now at least, let’s not even go toward the evils folks do.

Fun involves risk. Sometimes even requires risk. I will not give up cycling. I will, however, always wear long sleeves and long pants from now on. My elbow was scraped open though the sweatshirt.  Let us not imagine the hamburger elbow that could have resulted had I ventured out with more skin showing. My knees, covered by my favorite stretchy jeans, were also battered but the skin was unbroken.

Don’t go global. My first reaction, after the shock, was, “Great. There goes a great vacation.” But within moments I talked myself right out of that crap—I was sill in my beloved Adirondacks, and still with my beloved husband. And I was still alive!

Neglect self-care at your own risk. I considered going sight-seeing the next day. I felt bad I’d ruined a day trip we’d sort of been planning. But, you know what? Healing takes what it takes. That has to be honored. Still, two weeks later, at home now, I need to be aware that  recovery takes time, including extra naps and more time for soul reading and contemplation.

And thank God for the helmet. Amen

In fact, thank God for it all. Appreciation is a great state of consciousness. Life is precious. There are certainly better ways to be reminded than landing smack-down on your face in the road, but there it is.

All’s well that ends well. Happy cycling! Let’s have some fun, shall we?

You can read more like this (not including the broken nose!) in my other blogs here and in my new book, The Hungry Ghost: How I Ditched 100 Pounds and Came Fully Alive.  Not just a diet book, it’s about finding your way home to your very own special soul. 







Blown Away

My gazebo is upside down in my marigold patch.


Or it was until yesterday.

This is a story of a small disappointment and a sweet gift.

Big storm came along Tuesday night and with the sound of a freight train upended my dear backyard morning meditation/picnic breakfast meditation spot that my son Ed gave for Mother’s Day five years ago and has put up for me every year since.

Did I mention I love this spot? Here it is, before.

Perfect spot for that morning-time centering.

Perfect spot for that morning-time centering.

 When the power went out, I shone my flashlight out back, and there she was. Upside down. Bent and broken

In the grand scheme of sadnesses, this one was very, very small. I knew that even as the wind wailed and I remembered how hurricane Sandy hit my area so hard back when.

But still. It was a mess.

Then, yesterday, my husband and I got our first chance to inspect the damage. And this darling fellow stepped up to resurrect my special place. Took it apart, assessed what parts we needed to order, and asserted confidently that it could be fixed and he’d do it.

Now, we live in an old house where there are always way more things to fix than time to fix them. The last thing he needed was another repair job. But, there it was.

A whole lotta love, right? I didn’t use to know how to receive love. Consequence, don’t you know, of a bumpy childhood. Like lots of folks.

But I’m learning to let in the sweetness. And revel in it.

Meanwhile, I going ahead with the picnic breakfasts/meditation, just me and the no-see-ums and the mosquitoes.

And my certain sense that it’s an ill wind indeed that blows no good.



What Are You Running From?

We all do it. Resist change, avoid facing tough facts and feeling even tougher feelings. Resistance to me means being closed to what’s being said, closed to what’s being suggested, closed to facing the pain that needs to be healed, because it is so very painful.

Of course we are wounded. Of course we need to protect ourselves. Some wounds are from the everyday disappointments of life on the planet. Some are so deep and awful that we may not speak of them for years, if ever, though they thread, unacknowledged and unhealed, through our daily lives.

We are all wounded. And we are all fine.

Perhaps something in you protests, saying, “But I was really really hurt, abused, damaged. It was real and true, by God!”

Of course it was. Of course.

But beware of overprotecting yourself now from what happened then. What you absolutely needed to do then to survive probably no longer serves. It may in fact be creating new wounds. Shutting down, refusing genuine help, refusing to face facts about yourself and your life, that only stifles you. Many of us perform our shut-downs with addictions—food, drugs, alcohol, shopping, TV, computer time, relationships. You don’t have to be addicted to something  to shut down, though. You can simply clench yourself up and refuse to feel.

When we do these things, we are looking for rescue and relief in all the wrong places. At best, we’ll be endlessly stuck looping through our old stories where the themes are the same and only the characters change. You pick a fight with your mate to try to win the way you never could with your overbearing father. You glom onto a new friend, doctor or colleague in hopes she’ll give you the care you needed from your mother but never received.  At worst, we’ll be in a living death.

Self-protection is important. Of course we have to take very, very good care of ourselves. Eat healthy foods mindfully. Gently move and stretch our bodies.  Form healthy relationships where reciprocity rules. Get plenty of rest. Keep our thoughts on a positive plane. Play. Solitude.

And we never need take on more emotional, psychological or spiritual work than we feel able.

But brain science tells us that the human organism thrives on novelty, challenge and spontaneity. Most of all it thrives on thriving. On growth. We never stop. We never arrive. Flow is where it’s at. As someone once said, change is the only form of permanence nature can achieve.

And growth flourishes when we are willing, on any given day, to relax the clenched body, heart and mind, to hear what we need to hear, say what we need to say, face what we need to face, feel what we need to feel. To stop defending our right to be wounded and start dealing with the facts as raw material for change.

I know this because I have experienced it. It takes courage. It does. But it is so worth it. Deep healing happens, even as we discover wounds we didn’t even know were there, they were buried so deep. More amazingly, it creates miracles. Psychic shifts so deep, so profound, that they bring riches once unimaginable.

What we are given to feel when we drop the fight-back, hide-out escapism, is information. When we do this feeling work in the company of supportive, helpful others, perhaps including trained professionals, our lives open up and we flourish.

Not everyone is willing or able to do such deep work. But many of us are called to it.  We don’t have to push. Timing and pacing are important. We don’t have to go it alone. We have each other, our anam caras, soul friends. And we have a higher power—whatever you call it—an inner source, that wants us all to be happy, safe, nourished, sheltered and fully alive, right here and right now,  who will give is strength and grace when asked.

Resistance? It too can be faced, felt and healed. In the end, is simply an opportunity to grow. If we dare.


You can read more thoughts like these in my new book The Hungry Ghost: How I Ditched 100 Pounds and Came Fully Alive. You can also sign up to receive the Joyblog as a newsletter.



The Belly Button Principle

Life’s a lot of work, right? This is where the Belly Button Principle comes in, because life is a toggle between inner labor and outer efforts. Innie and Outie, for short.

I need to build my inner resources with solitude and self-care. Time for contemplation and stillness. Prayer and meditation. Listening to beautiful music. Time in nature. Lovely spiritual reading like my current favorite, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John  O’Donohue.  Long walks. Qigong. Reiki. Sometimes, a deep, mindful talk with an anam cara (soul friend).

That’s when, where and how I connect to The Great Mystery. That’s the Innie.DSC00139

But I don’t live only in the inner world. No one can. Even religious contemplatives come out of contemplation to do life-sustaining chores.

I also need to move through daily life. That’s the Outie. Doing my professional work sharing messages of healing and hope and helping others do the same. Filling up the car’s gas tank. Preparing beautiful meals for myself and my beloved family. Leading peer-support meetings and fulfilling responsibilities to my religious fellowship. Showing up when people need me.

For me to thrive, these two areas, the Innie and the Outie, have to be in balance. Too much Innie, and I miss the chance to receive inspiration and love from other people and the opportunity to be of service. Too much Outie, and I lose my way, get crabby and mess up, sometimes letting myself, and others, down.

So, on an ideal day,  I make sure that I’ve got the Innie work in place before I embark on the Outie work. I also take the Outie stuff into Innie Land. They feed and support each other. When they are in balance, I’m in balance. And my world is a better place! That’s the Belly Button Principle.

Now, how about you? How do you keep your Innie and your Outie in balance?

To comment, read more Joyblogs, or sign up to receive the Joyblog by email, go to And yes, please do share! XOX!!!

Have you seen my new book, The Hungry Ghost: How I Ditched 100 Pounds and Came Fully Alive? Says a recent reader: “I was expecting another diet book. Instead I received a wealth of life inspiration!” 


You’re Not the Boss of Me!

I love to learn, but I hate being told what to do. I don’t like being stuck, but I am violetsDSC00122determined to do it my way. I love people who are smart and wise, who love me and have a lot to offer, but I sometimes brush aside their suggestions without considering them fairly.

Are we sensing a theme here?

That I’m strong-willed is a given. Stubborn? You bet! I’m so stubborn, I regard the word a compliment! Because I know that the other side of stubbornness is tenacity. I’ve managed to accomplish a fair amount inside myself, in my relationships and in the world by sticking to my ideals and principles come hell or high water and mashing forward.

I’m not saying I’m a total blockhead. I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way; there’s a limit to how many times you can butt your head before you go a different way!) a thing or two about flexibility, ambiguity, the limitations of right vs. wrong thinking, and how talking to a stubborn person can feel to someone else. I have learned to soften my gaze, push less, breathe more, listen better, have a tiny bit more patience.

But too often there is a two-year-old inside me jumping up and down yelling, “You’re not the boss of me!”

And I’m starting to really, really feel, right down to my bones, how this is not always helpful. Right now, as I build my practice as author, editor and coach, I am blessed with a many kind, gifted mentors, teachers and guides. And there is still something in me that really wants to push back when they offer suggestions. I’m not talking about outlandish ideas. These folks may give me feedback that doesn’t fit; that’s going to happen. Take it or leave it is real. But they’re offering  thoughts that are always intended for my benefit, often quite excellent, sometimes brilliant.

I do listen. I even follow through a lot.

But I sure wish this toddler would settle down. And here’s what I’m seeing: She does settle down when I fully respect that this is her life, honor that she doesn’t have to do it alone and get really serious about the fact that outside help isn’t enough.

Older, wiser Gay has to take Toddler Gay to that private, personal well for a long, cool drink, then a great big hug. It’s not enough just to listen to outsiders. I have to show up every single day, with diligence (dare I say stubbornness) and listen to my own personal insider teacher, guide and mentor. When I am more open to me, I am more open to you.

When I do go to the well, Toddler Gay can relax, run and play. And Grown Up Gay can move into her day with dignity, power and grace.


There are more helpful  insights from my bumpy journey in my new book The Hungry Ghost: How I Ditched 100 Pounds and Came Fully Alive.  


Fun with Friends!

A couple of Sundays ago I had a ton of fun speaking to the friendly folks the Unitariangay at lectern 4-14-2 Universalist meetinghouse near me in Lincroft, New Jersey. The title of the talk was “Your Food, Your Spirit: Clearing Worldly Obstacles to Soul Growth,” based on my new book The Hungry Ghost: How I Ditched 100 Pounds and Came Fully Alive.

I’m so grateful to my friend Jo Grazide  (who took all these photos) for introducing me with such kindness and generosity.  And to all the folks who showed up, listened eagerly, laughed at all the right places and asked really good questions at the edelman talk at uucmc 4-14-8

What was really satisfying was seeing how well my experience recovering from food addiction translates into larger things like slowing down, listening to one another and our higher power, and generally being a kind, more caring person.

Because when it gets right down to it, whether I’m using food, drugs, alcohol, TV, gambling, etc., to avoid being present in my life, I’m not having my life. I’m not present to myself or the people I love and serve. As the sub title of The Hungry Ghost says, our goal is not just weight loss or cessation of hurtful distractions, but complete freedom! Now there’s a universal purpose for you!

gay edelman talk at uucmc 4-14-6

gay edelman talk at uucmc 4-14-7

Take the Forgiveness Challenge

sunriseForgiveness is foundational. Resentments fester, breed and cause no end of trouble inside me, in relationships, communities, the world. When we ruminate on wrongs done us (real, or perceived through the lense of past hurts), we are not fully present in our lives. When we are not fully present in our lives, we do not have our lives. We are not fully operational.

Not having my life makes me the walking dead.

And that is no way to live.

Forgiveness is an incredible act of courage, says  Reverend Mpho Tuto, author with her father, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, of the new book, The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World. 

Three words, “I am sorry.” Very difficult, she says eloquently in this Huffington Post video interview.  

Absolutely necessary. Vital. Primal. Liberating.

Healing. That’s what it’s about.

I remember the following thoughts, particularly when I’m feeling balky, pissed and vengeful. I’m going feel these things. I’m human. But I can choose a better way.

  • Forgiving isn’t forgetting. It’s remembering and letting go. I become strong at the broken places when I forgive.
  • Serious self-care is required as part of self-forgiveness. I cannot draw water from an empty well. Quiet time. Healthy food. Gentle activity. Creativity and self-expression. Nature. Massage. Loving connection with others and my higher power. Play.
  • Using a mantra or inner chant prevents my wild mind from poking at old wounds. Try: I forgive myself for hurting myself. I forgive others for hurting me. I forgive myself for hurting others.
  • Staying away from blaming others keeps me safe from future resentments.
  • Lowering expectations also prevents resentments. An expectation is a planned resentment.
  • Slowing down keeps me less stressed. When I’m less stressed, I’m kinder, more centered, more forgiving.
  • I only have to do this for this day. This moment.

And to really live what I believe, I’m joining the Tutus in their Global Forgiveness Challenge. I have no idea what I’ll be asked to do, but I have confidence that the gentleman who guided South Africa to start its healing can help the rest of us. Sign up at  See you there!