Yoga and the Medical Never Event

My career in the medical malpractice insurance industry has made me a discriminating consumer of healthcare.

As I write this, I am sitting in room 4423 at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, CA, with my husband who is three days orthopedic post-op. The surgery went as planned and was successful, as most procedures in American healthcare are. But on Tuesday morning, as I sat near the fishtanks in the surgical waiting area, I could only think about the procedures that don’t go well.

And in my line of work, those kinds of thoughts aren’t general in nature. They are incredibly specific; like what if the anesthesia alarms aren’t turned on and his oxygen levels drop, or what if there is an operating room fire, or what if they perform surgery on the wrong leg, or leave something behind in the surgical site, or infuse with the wrong blood type?

I think about the Never Events, because that is often what you see. In healthcare, a Never Event, also known as a Sentinel Event is an unanticipated event in the healthcare setting that results in the death or serious physical or psychological injury of a patient, not related to the natural course of that patient’s illness. In other words, an accident.


I had decided to enhance my enlightenment by working my way through Be Here Now by Ram Dass while my husband was in surgery.

I thought I chose this book because a graphical account of a Harvard psychologist on LSD who follows holy men through India seemed like less work than another book by B.K.S. Iyengar or Patanjali (no offense guys). But Ram Dass would say that the book was chosen for me and it was predetermined that I would read this book on Tuesday, August 9, 2016.

 “If you could stand back far enough and watch the whole process you would see YOU ARE A TOTALLY DETERMINED BEING. . . There are no accidents in this business at all.”–Ram Dass

The mention of accidents brought me back to Never Events because what this said was that the results of my husband’s surgery were already determined. By what or whom? By the law of karma.

The idea that my life could be governed by a Hindu system of cause and effect, like karma, in which my past actions, even past lives, determine my future isn’t really that far off the mark from what I was taught as a Christian. We have been “reaping what we sow”, per the Bible for hundreds of years.

But did that mean that a prayer for my husband during surgery was pointless because my husband’s karma had already determined the result and we were just waiting for “thy will to be done?” I was starting to see why so many Christian leaders are less than excited about the expansion of yoga in the West. Not to mention the fact that in Christianity, the only way for a person to receive forgiveness is through the grace of God. Karma is more of a bank accounting system based on debits and credits. But isn’t God still the bank president?

The good news is that my husband’s karma account must be pretty good, because he is just fine. There were no accidents.


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Photo credit: Be Here Now; Ram Dass; From Bindu to Ojas; p.14






Veggie Burgers You Actually Want to Eat

Even before I became a vegetarian, hamburgers and cheese burgers were never about the meat for me. They were about the fixins and the buns. Loading a burger with mayo, ketchup, mustard, tomatoes, avocado, and cheese was the only reason I would consider eating one.

So when I went veggie, I took a brief tour through the pre-made veggie patty market and found a few that were okay but looked weird and had strange ingredients and consistencies. Not to mention the fact that they were the definition of processed and pre-packaged food.

I had heard that people were doing great things in the non-meat burger world with black beans so I did a search for some recipes and tried a few with varying degrees of success and satisfaction. Some tasted terrible and some didn’t have the right consistency to act like a burger patty.

That is why I am happy to offer you the following recipe. After several weeks of very scientific ingredient combinations and experiments in our test kitchen (okay, my kitchen), I finally came up with something that looks, holds together, and even tastes like a burger.

Olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/2 cup barley
2 (15 oz) cans of low sodium black beans (drained)
1 egg
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 cups bread crumbs ( or more if needed)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Step #1: In 1 tablespoons of olive oil, saute 1/2 c of chopped onion, 3 cloves of garlic, and fresh herbs until soft and translucent; about 5 minutes on medium heat.IMG_1600

Step #2: Rinse and boil 1/2 cup of pearled barley until tender. Drain the barley well, and set aside.IMG_1603

Step #3: In a food processor, combine 1 can of the black beans (drained), the sauted onions, garlic, herbs, and the drained barley. Add the egg. Pulse the mixture, scraping down the sides as needed, until well combined but sill slightly chunky.IMG_1604

Step #4: Transfer the mixture in the food processor to a large mixing bowl. Add a second can of black beans (also drained), chia seeds, 1 cup of bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Stir by hand until well mixed and evenly combined.IMG_1607

Step #5: Let the burger mixture rest for 15 minutes to allow the bread crumbs and chia seeds to absorb excess moisture and bind the burger mixture together.

Step #6: Once your mixture has set, test its consistency. Form it into a ball or a test burger patty. Does it stay together without sticking to your hands? If so, you are doing great. If the mixture is gooey, sticks to your hands, and won’t form a patty, add breadcrumbs until you get the consistency you need. I make my patties from 1/2 cup of mixture each, which yields six to seven patties.IMG_1616.jpg

Step #7: Black bean burgers can be cooked in an oiled skillet (which is how I typically do it) or on a BBQ grill.

For the skillet cooking method: Preheat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Sear the burgers for 2-3 minutes on each side and then reduce the heat to medium low and cook until heated through, about 5-10 minutes more. If you are adding cheese, now is the time!

For the grill cooking method: Make sure your grill grates are very clean and well oiled with olive or another vegetable oil as your burgers will want to stick. Preheat your BBQ grill as you normally would. If you can determine the temperature of your grill, aim for a temperature in the 400-450 degree range. Oil the grill grates once more before placing your burgers on the grill. Cook for 3 minutes on each side and then gently move them to a part of the grill with no direct heat. If you are adding cheese, add it now and allow the cheese to melt and the burgers to heat through.

Once the black bean burgers are cooked, you can treat them just like any other burger. Dress them up with a bun, lettuce, tomato, onion, etc.

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Studio Review & A Crock-Pot

Every year for 45 years, members of my very large and geographically scattered extended family have convened at the family cabin on the shores of Lake Pokegama in the woods of Northern Minnesota. Last week, my little family of four joined the rest of “The Wulf Pack” at that cabin for our 2016 pack gathering.

Before we left, I did some digging to find all the yoga one can do that far North. I love visiting yoga studios and Lutheran churches when I travel. By the way, it is infinitely easier to write a yoga studio review than it is to write a review of a Lutheran Church. But I digress.

My search for Northern Minnesota yoga yielded exactly one studio, CENTER Mind Body Fitness in Grand Rapids, MN.

CENTER is not a yoga-only facility. It offers a range of yoga, pilates, TRX, and spin classes throughout the day. The entire Center facility is fantastic and features not only the studios for exercise programming, but also a spa, salon, and cafe.

I’m a purist, so I was in it for the yoga (and the spa treatment I got later). Unfortunately, there was only one yoga class that wasn’t going to interfere with the sleeping and boozing schedule I had lined up for my week.

So, Gentle Yoga with Jenna Hass on Monday and Friday morning it was. Initially, I felt a little guilty missing a week of power yoga classes and substituting something called “gentle yoga,” but I decided that some yoga was better than no yoga and I was on vacation so maybe I could take a vacation from yoga too.

The Practice and the Crock-pot

So I entered the stunning studio space and that is when I saw the crock-pot. Yep, an old school Rival crock-pot right up at the front of the class. Were crock-pots now a midwest yoga thing? We midwesterners love our crock-pots, but this might have been taking it too far.

The practice began without a mention of the crock-pot, so I had to actually make an effort to put that out of my mind until the universe would reveal to me the reason for its presence. Because that is yoga.

Aside from the arctic temperature in the room, the practice was excellent. The sequencing was creative and appropriate for all levels with clear instruction and good timing. It was very much a moving meditation on happiness, and in my case, the crock-pot.

I will not think about the crock-pot, I will not think about the crock-pot, I will not think about the crock-pot, I will not think about the crock-pot… 
And then, at the end of the practice, while we all lay in savasana, the crock-pot served up hot river rocks lightly coated in essential oils. Two warm rocks appeared on the upper corners of our mats and we were instructed to place them on chakras that may be in need of some healing.

My chakras were far beyond help, but just holding those warm rocks in that chilly room gave me a whole new perspective on savasana and I was finally able to let go of the crock-pot.

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