The anthropologist Margaret Mead said that some people have a "teaching gene" and, if that's true, I think my father, Harry Schor, had that gene and that I inherited it from him. He loved explaining and demonstrating, and so do I. He taught me to swim, to roller skate, to ride a bike, to solve anagrams and to construct crossword puzzles. He taught me about puns and limericks. He was a mathematics teacher by profession and he taught me algebra and geometry at home, years before I learned them at school. My mother was unique amongst the mothers on our street. She had a job. She drove a car. She had passionately progressive political views and the loudest laugh of anyone I knew. I think I'm just like her.
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York and went to public grade school and high school. All four of my grandparents arrived in America, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, between 1900 and 1920. None of them had had any education at all, and for them America was great because everyone could vote and everyone could go to school. My mother's greatest dream was for me to go to an Ivy League women's college, and I went to Barnard College and majored in Chemistry and Mathematics. I met and became engaged to my husband Seymour when I was sixteen. We were married three years later. I graduated from college in 1956 and we moved to Kansas where he trained to be a psychiatrist. I taught Chemistry at Washburn University, and I became interested in psychology. We settled in California in 1961. I earned a Master's Degree in Social Work from the University of California Berkeley in 1967 and began working as a psychotherapist. At the College of Marin in Kentfield, California from 1970 until 1984, I taught psychology, Hatha Yoga, and introduced and taught the first Women's Studies course. In 1974, I was awarded my Ph.D. in Psychology from Saybrook University. My thesis topic was, "Hatha Yoga as a Gentle Psychotherapeutic Tool."
I would say about myself that political activism was my spiritual practice in the 1960s. I was a member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the Marin Women for Peace. I marched, accompanied by my husband and four young children, two sons and two daughters, in rallies protesting the Vietnam War. In 2003, I was part of a clergy peace rally, and agreed to be arrested, along with friends and colleagues, as a protest to the invasion of Afghanistan. My grandchildren watched on TV and were proud of me.
I would say about my spiritual practice now that it is paying attention to all parts of my life including my political activism. I do have a dedicated meditation practice and I teach meditation as well as the philosophy of the Buddha in classes and workshops. I've written five books about these subjects and feel happy to have discovered that my talent as a story-teller has served me well in making these subjects accessible to contemporary audiences. I like to say that my spiritual practice is the whole of my life. When people ask, "What do you practice?" I respond, "I am trying to keep my mind clear and alert so that my heart can be open to respond with kindness and compassion to all parts of my life." I've recently changed from teaching, "Mindfulness in Everyday Life" to saying, "Everyday Life IS Mindfulness Practice." There is no situation in which paying careful kind attention would not be the most helpful response.