What’s Your AQ — Appreciation Quotient?


When I first moved to Manhattan from Berkeley, I was enthralled with the energy of people on the streets, the architectural mix of old and new buildings, cultures, languages, the parks, museums, outdoor concerts, the concentration of people and cars flowing with and around each other. Then there was the light, island light, that illuminated dingy structures into glistening art, making window-pane patterns on neighboring facades.

It was all so different and new, and there was so much to discover in this dense urban jungle. But it hit me early on that I could easily lose the glow, just like anywhere else, through living life. To keep it going, I decided I’d have to pretend I was a tourist–well, my kind of low-key one.

What is it about being a tourist that makes us feel free? We’re unburdened by daily routines, obligations, deadlines, knowing what will happen. Ideally, we take the time to enjoy whatever it is we’re doing, unburdened. Even with plans, our surroundings are different, so we notice them. We’re more open, we explore and delight in colors, textures, landscapes, people, nuances. We rediscover the world through our wonderment.

After this year’s brutal winter, all the plants and trees were still dormant grey and brown in March, then April. It seemed as if they’d just given up and decided it wasn’t going to be safe to come out this year. But then across the street, peeking up through a pipe and plywood scaffolding, I spied the pale yellow lacy blossoms on a single tree. It was so exciting to see a new color that I took a pic and posted it. Wasn’t it beautiful!

When I revisited the whole picture, I was surprised that the scene actually looked pretty dingy and the flowers weren’t all that yellow. I’d been so appreciative of that small bit of difference, that its significance was magnified. As the next blossoms emerged, that first bit of color seemed embarrassingly small to have meant so much. What was I thinking? It was nothing to me now! Each successive wave of colors, blossoms, and scents, all so special and amazing, would wither and recede, finally making way for the lush green umbrella of trees. But then even those, ever-present, would soon go unnoticed.


At summer’s end when those first maples become weary of the heat and their leaves get tinged with gold, sensing their rest is near while we’re still sweltering, I notice. Each year, we ooh and ah over the reds, yellows, and oranges that were just our beloved, but now usual, greens.

I see my Appreciation Quotient in so many areas of my life. I’ll be trucking along, in the flow, getting it done, and then, boom, wipe out. I’ll take a fall, get a cut, a burn, a flu, a migraine, throw out my back. I’m unable to do a thing or am strictly limited in what I can do, forced into downtime. But then, thankfully, there’s the re-inhabiting of my rhythms.

Sometimes I bounce back quickly, but others I have to start on the ground floor and rebuild myself, inch by inch. That’s how my body, my being, seems to do it. During that time, I’m so appreciative for each little step, movement, victory, bite of food, sip of water, bit of energy, lack of pain. At zero, with little capacity to see the bigger picture, I appreciate each moment and what I am able to do.

What determines our AQ? We experience that fresh, bright yellow-green of spring, a new love, the precious people in our lives, the sun’s warmth drawing us into the street to mingle like ants after the storm, and we’re filled with wonder. But then we get bored with the familiar and lulled into complacency.

How do we stay open in the moment and notice what is alive inside and around us? I’m not prescribing, I’m exploring—and perhaps that is the way—and sharing it. Have I told you lately? I appreciate you very much!

Love and blessings,

Jan Mundo

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Saved By Intuition


Through all the holiday giving, receiving, cheer, poignancy, warmth, angst, and yearning, I always remember the true tale of my friends, whose lives were saved by their intuition. It’s now ten years since the tsunami in the Indian Ocean unimaginably and tragically took the lives of over 230,000 people on the day after Christmas 2004.

It was an intense time for me and my family. During Thanksgiving 2004, we’d almost lost my youngest daughter, Nadine, to a mysterious illness, which had just been diagnosed as cancer a few days prior to the tsunami. I was living in my sweet Berkeley, California, house that Nadine had found for me in 1993 after meeting the owner, Michael.

A builder and woodworker, Michael had been going to Thailand over a few years to study with master carvers and in search of true love, which he found. He married Jiab, a native of the beautiful, popular resort island Phuket. Each year they’d spend from around Thanksgiving to February there.

On Christmas morning, the day before the tsunami, they were taking their regular early morning walk on the beach when Jiab said “we have to leave.” “What?” Michael replied. “We have to go. Something’s not right. We must head inland right away.” Michael agreed, and they did. Early the next morning, when the earthquake hit the Indian Ocean just off Sumatra, and the tsunami barreled through Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and eleven other countries, my friends were long inland.

Jiab had saved their lives by listening to her intuition, as did Michael by honoring her. She knew the spirit and vibrations of the world around her and trusted that something was different and unsafe. Had he poo-pooed her intimate knowing, or had they not acted on it, their lives might have been lost with thousands of others.

I always remember this dramatic instance, feeling with it the import of their choice points: Jiab had an intuition and listened to it. She trusted her inner knowing and its urgency enough to tell Michael, who listened to her and trusted her knowing too. And, importantly, they took action on it. Without acting on her intuition, they would have been walking on the beach when the tsunami struck.

How many times do we listen to that still small voice, those flutterings in our chest or stomach, those messages in our mind that tell us something is wrong or right? How many times do we discount those feelings as paranoia or wishful thinking or make ourselves wrong because we think we’ve blown it, only to find that a deeper meaning, purpose, or lesson was at play? How many times do we “get a sense” and later realize we were on to something all along, and if only we had . . . ?

Sometimes we react in all those ways because our inner knowing has been socialized out of us, by our culture, society, family, or peers, or we’re ridiculed, harassed, or stigmatized for using it. Sometimes using our intuition seems to get in the way of more practical plans or duty or commitments, or it just doesn’t seem to make sense at first glance.

I’m not implying that those who tragically lost their lives weren’t using their intuition or those who lived did. I have no way of knowing, and to assume so would be superstitious. I only know the stories that affect me, but I’m sure there are millions of them about the tsunami and everything else, especially around disasters or tragic events.

As hippies we used to call it “feeling the vibes.” These days I also pay attention to how intuition lives in my body, which for me includes the weather and my environment. Sometimes it’s just about silly stuff, and other times it’s serious.

What arises when you get quiet, align your head, heart, and hara (your gut), and ask yourself, in the bigger and smaller picture, what do I want in the coming year and what do I want to let go of from the past year or era? Take several deep breaths and let your body answer.

I wish that for you too. Thank you for all you’ve been and contributed to me and the world in this past year on this life’s journey. Happy holidays and here’s to a fabulous and magical 2015!

With love,

The Night I Moved the Trains

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All dressed up, rushing, on my way to a special event, my train was delayed. There we were, stuck underground, waiting. When we finally got to Grand Central Station, the loudspeaker announced, “this train is going express; next stop will be Union Square.” That meant it would bypass my stop and more, so I got off to wait for the next local. On the platform, the loudspeaker announced, “due to a stalled train at 33rd Street (my exit), local trains are running on the express track.”

The next local came quickly, I got on thinking, maybe it would go local, but, sure enough, the loudspeaker announced it would be express, so I exited to the platform. Trains would often unexpectedly go express or local, but after one or two trains, the normal schedule would resume. Not this time. No one on the train seemed to know what was happening either because they hadn’t been there yet — similar to wondering what it’s like “on the other side.”

After getting on and off five or six locals that came and went in quick succession — even after the loudspeaker announced the problem was fixed — and concerned about getting to my event, I decided to leave the station and walk the ten blocks in sub-freezing, windy Polar Vortex weather.

Up the stairs on my way out, I saw a friendly MTA agent, who’d helped me before. It was so funny that she was just standing there ready to assist riders but had no idea of what was going on, so I took a detour and told her what had been happening and that I was headed out. She started moving immediately, saying “let’s go check it out,” so I followed.

As if on cue, a train arrived on the local track with the announcement that it was going local, but when I got on, the loudspeaker said ” . . . going express” (oh no), so I got off the train again. The agent went to the conductor, held the train, and asked her what was up. The conductor replied that the local track was going express. The agent looked to me, so I repeated my tale, noting the announcement said the problem had been fixed. The conductor phoned dispatch; now we were getting somewhere. Meanwhile, the agent was walking down the platform and alerting riders that the train was going express.

Finally, the conductor and dispatch got on the same page and solved the problem! As I got back on the train, I waved toward everyone who was waiting on the platform to come onboard, “Come on! Get on! Get on! It’s going local!”

As we got moving, I felt my face break out in a smile and heard myself chuckle in satisfaction, realizing that, hey, I did that! I moved the subway and helped fix the problem — well, me and the ladies agent and conductor. Pretty powerful, I’d say, especially considering that the event I was headed toward was my friend’s initiative: Feminine Weapon Day — a celebration of women’s power, talents, voices, and intuition. I guess I’d just gotten my money’s worth!

Thinking about it later, as with anything, there were many ways the episode could have gone. I could have walked by the agent and not stopped to tell her — or left my apartment a few minutes earlier, in which case I wouldn’t have been caught up in the delays. She could have been somewhere else or not even working that night. I could have said, no, I’m okay, and continued to walk out of the station instead of following her back down the stairs. I could have let her handle it and not stayed by the conductor’s window. I could have just gotten on the train and not called out to everyone.

Yes, insignificant things. Who cared or noticed? But who knows how those decisions affected all those other people and where they were going and who they were meeting. Not life or death, but one never knows, and who can say for sure? Our thoughts and actions ripple out and those oh-so-little things have the potential to change the world. One blink or turn of the head, one minute later or earlier, who we pass, who we meet, what we see, what we miss.

How many minor decisions and mini-actions change our lives? Your life? The lives of people around you? Just like shoulda, woulda, coulda in reverse, something inside caused the three of us to take action and move on a dime. It began with listening to each other. If, instead, I’d complained and cursed out the system under my breath (like the lady behind me in line today at the Post Office), nothing would have changed. Some people have strong voices and opinions when it comes to righting wrongs, but getting the job done often  takes a toll on the people around them in the form of harsh judgment and criticism.

When I lived in an intentional community, I learned to step up, take responsibility, and get the job done. If each of us didn’t, who would? I learned how to collaborate and cooperate. Others depended on me, on us. Of course, many New Yorkers will tell you that this M.O. defines them: they look out for others and get it done. I’d accept that one too.

My twenty years of somatic embodiment practices helped me move forward, use my voice, feel my heart, open my peripheral vision, take a stand, and find center. The idea is that when you train center in your body, you can more effectively respond in the moment and step out of reactive patterns. That night, I was able to do that: do something spontaneously with others that resulted in getting the trains running smoothly. I’ll take that as my celebration.

Feminine Weapon founder, Christina Weber with Jan Mundo
Feminine Weapon founder, Christina Weber with Jan Mundo
Cross-posted at Mundo Lifework.