Oooooooo . . . . it’s a scary little word. Karma.

People throw it around; mention it at random. But yet, most people have no idea of the power of this law of the Earth plane.

Karma is more powerful than gravity. Take a moment to ponder that.

Why? Well, because karma is going to follow you from the Earth plane. Gravity; probably not.

Karma is not a specific religious concept; it is a Law of the Universe, but not a law of punishment. It goes like this: Whatsoever you do, think or say, comes back to you.

“Whatsoever you shall sow, you shall reap.”

Okay; pretty simple: whatever you do, think or say, comes back to you.

Go back through the last 24 hours of your life; everything you did; everything you thought; everything you said (to yourself or anyone [or anything]) else on the planet; you prepared to see all that coming back at you?


Yeah. Sorry about that.

Because karma is real; it is a valid method of soul development, and it’s happening to you right now. Some karma jumps right up in your face and presents itself; other karma comes forward later in life; other karma has to wait for the right set of circumstances to teach you – which may be in another life.

I have a personal story; my young son stole something. I won’t go into details, this is the Internet; let’s just say, it was a serious matter.

I did what all good, evolved yogi-parents do: I absolutely, totally, freaked out. (Ooops.)

Well – okay, it wasn’t the best approach; but I was devastated. He is such a good child; such a joy to a mother’s heart; it felt crushing.

Suffice it to say, serious punishment was warranted, and serious punishment was meted out. I hope it made an impression.

Back to the concept of karma. Not long after these dramatic events at home, we attended a school event –a party of sorts, where you purchased tickets for certain games or activities. And my son – he was having a great time.

He played a game, and was given a certificate for a free ticket; which he promptly took to the money desk. He extended his certificate, and was given two tickets – they were joined together, it was almost like they went together – but he stopped and he said “No – I only won one ticket.” He ripped them apart, and returned the extra ticket to the parent in charge. Her eyes widened, and another parent took note. “No!” She smiled broadly. “You are such an honest boy! You take this extra ticket, you deserve it for being honest.” Another parent chimed in “Good job, Mamma, for raising him right!” My smile was less than enthusiastic in light of recent events. But it felt like a cathartic exchange.

It was an important lesson, for us both. But another was coming our way.

That same afternoon, we decided to head to the swimming pool; it was very, very hot; the pool had just opened; and, having reached the luxurious mothering stage of being able to lounge poolside and read a book, it sounded like a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

At the pool, my son began to play with a little fabric ball that our babysitter had left in the swim bag last year. It was nothing exciting; nothing expensive; he was having a marvelous time, all by himself; tossing the ball into the pool, and jumping in after it.

I watched him toss it in, and jump in after it, and with just a glance toward my book, he yelled “Mommy, my ball – it’s gone!” And, well – DARN! – he was right. I got up and walked around; there were not a lot of people there; I had seen him throw it right into the pool — and that ball, it was NOWHERE. We checked the drains, walked around the pool – it was gone. I told him I was sure it would turn up, and went back to my book.

Shortly thereafter, I glanced up to see a preteen girl in the pool, shoulders shrugging, surrepticiously showing her friend – she had his little fabric ball. She glanced around to see if anyone was looking, and, catching my eye, it disappeared down into the water. About 20 minutes later, she began to toss it with a friend.

As I noticed the ball being tossed about, I called to my son – “Hey, there’s your ball, go ask them for it.” – because it is important for him to be able to stand his own ground in life. He approached them, asked for his ball back, and she said, “NO!” – That it was her ball, that she had “a bunch of them.” He looked at me, and I shrugged.

At the next adult swim, he emerged from the pool. He was not overtly upset, but you could tell it bothered him.

“How does it feel,” I queried, “to have someone take something from you?”
“Not good” he mumbled.
“Remember” I said, “remember how this feels. This is your lesson.”
“Yes,” he said.
And that was that.

This is a small event; but the lesson is important, and it is real.

We are all creating our own reality; we are all learning lessons in every moment, in every exchange; everything beautiful and everything horrible; the magnificent and the mundane; all that we experience here.

Can we be wise enough to see our own creations? Wise enough to see the karmic patterns . . . to act according to the law of this Earth plane, and shift our thoughts . . . our words . . . and our deeds? To decide to sow precisely what we shall harvest?

Start today . . .




After teaching a class a few weeks back, a student approached me to chat. We made small talk, and then he mentioned a class he had taken with another instructor from the Studio. “Her class is really good,” he said, “She’s a great teacher.” “Please tell her that,” I said to him. She is amazing; truly coming into her own power; but all of us who are teachers have moments of doubt about their ability. He looked puzzled and surprised. “Okay,” he said.

Then he asked, “Hey — what about you? You never seem to have any lack of self-confidence.” I responded as I always have to compliments, especially the back-hand variety. “Oh,” I laughed, “I’m just faking it.” He laughed. “Me, too” he said. And we went our separate ways.

I’ve been thinking about that exchange; and I’ve realized something.

I’m not faking it anymore.

Maybe that sounds like bravado; and let me tell you, it’s not that I am brimming with confidence every moment of every day for sure. I realized in that moment that most of my life I have been faking any confidence I exhibited.

It’s a given, in this society, that you have to exude self-assurance; be certain what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it – even if those concepts have yet to fall into line. So you develop a firm handshake; look people in the eye; and sometimes waste years bumbling down the wrong roads in life because you’re so busy pretending you know what you’re doing, you never stop to ask directions.

Reminds me of a family story we’ve giggled about for years; we were all in the car when my father turned the car out onto the road, going completely the opposite direction of where we were supposed to go. He was already in a grumpy mood, and no one wanted to be the one to tell him of his error. We continued, driving down the road, and my mother tactfully asked — “Do you know where you are going?” “YES!” he bellowed. Two beat pause. “I’m going the WRONG DAMN WAY, that’s where I’m going!” Then, of course, we all cracked up.

You could pretty much describe my first marriage with this symbolism, but let’s not go there.

What is confidence, really? In my thinking, It relates to the ego. In many yogic or religious schools of thought, they talk of subduing the ego; diminishing the ego; eliminating the ego.

Not so in Kriya.

In Kriya yoga, they speak of building the ego – not to make yourself into a defiant, separate entity; not to inflate your opinion of yourself and your worth; and certainly not to compare yourself to others. You strengthen the ego so that you know who you are; what you are trying to accomplish. You know what you value; you know your own strengths and limitations.

You also know where you’re going, and what the real goals are.

Having an ego helps you to discern that faint line that differentiates between being of service to your fellow beings, and being the flat little doormat under their feet.

I’ve served my time as a doormat. And the thing is, it doesn’t help anyone to achieve anything other than the negative karma the other person creates from harming you, and the negative karma you create for yourself by ALLOWING others to diminish you.

Where does self-confidence come from?

For me, it has emerged from finally beginning to know (and accept) myself; by testing myself and pushing out of my comfort zone; understanding the outer limits of my mind; of my body; recognizing myself as spirit – unchanging, undying – untarnished.

It has come from taking responsibility for everything, EVERYTHING that comes into my life; the good, the bad; the sublime, the ridiculous.

It comes from TIME. You know, certain things just take TIME. If you want an apple pie, you need to plant the apple tree. But it takes years from planting the tree to making the pie.

So many people don’t bother planting the tree.

I am not always confident; I am sure that there will always be times when fear invades, confusion interferes; when I crawl back in time to being the person I was instead of the person I have become.

Though even the fearful me, the confused me, the lost me — at the end of the day, can stand before a mirror, and look myself in the eye; smile; bow and say “Namaste” – which means the light of God in me sees the light of God in you; and I honor you.

Try it sometime; it is not as simple as it sounds. And it will tell you a lot about yourself.



Le Tour

The Tour de France begins tomorrow; I love (no – actually, I adore!) Le Tour.


Well, first of all, it’s like watching a travelogue; the scenery is spectacular; ancient mountains, verdant valleys; old and interesting cities. It is so beautiful to see all the people, lining the sides of the roads in Europe, cheering (perhaps having a little picnic – a plate of tapas, a glass of local vino, and – oh, watching a world-class cycling event) – well, it makes me dream.

I also recognize that it is a very serious, intense, mind-boggling athletic event.. In the US, our sports heroes play a great football or baseball game; a (possibly) whopping two hours of sport.


Le Tour? Goes about a month; this is not a “show up for a couple hours, party later” event. This is a pilgrimage; a life-changing shift; a tragedy, a comedy; a time to die, or a time to live; each and every day; for 24 days.

Like a magnet, it pulls me in.

It is so much like real life; you are biking hundreds of miles; no idea whether some idiot has thrown glass on the course; perhaps some child, cheering you on, accidently catches your handlebar with their souvineer mussette (Lance!); some riders are there to make a mark on an individual day; some are there to prove their climbing ability; yet others, their endurance.

Where do you fit in?

This is all so much like life.

Some people are here to make a bold, large statement; some others are just trying to make it through the day; some would prefer a random moment of celebrity; perhaps some are just doing their job; others strive on, have their eyes on the prize (whatever THAT is).

So, what is the prize for you?

That is the ultimate question; what is it that you seek? Are you aiming for enlightenment? Connection to God? Alignment with all that is?

Do you just want not harm anyone else – just tiptoe through this life? Or, perhaps, you just want to make a lot of money, have a really nice house, hot husband, and cool car? (Which is – really – OKAY!).

Seriously; be honest.

Because God knows; the Universe knows; and whatever it is that you seek – it’s coming your way.

And if you can’t get it now – you’ll have to come back, and get it later.
Is that what you really – REALLY – want?

When I watch the Tour de France, I rationalize all that tv time by doing push ups and sit ups; folding laundry. It sometimes feels like wasted time.

And yet — so many of us – we have no goal; no ideal; no concept of where we are going; we arrived on this planet, begIn to move through the stages – but have no idea what it is that we seek. The wasted time – it’s not just 24 days – it’s 24 months, 24 years – 24 lifetimes.

Let me tell you – you came here; you are seeking.

Set aside some time this month; watch the tenacious bicycle riders; as they ascend and descend, view the magnificent planet we reside on; go inside, to your equally magnificent inner universe; and decide.

Why are you here? What is it that you seek?




There was recently an article in the paper about how emergency rooms are now seeing just as many patients with prescription drug overdoses as patients with illegal drug overdoses.

It’s a blurry little line, I guess.

It reminded me of an experience I had back after my youngest child was born. He was my third baby in five years; I was nursing him; and true, I had my hands full. But I felt extra tired; really lethargic; my hair was turning gray really fast; I was constipated all the time; and the idea of being intimate with my husband sounded like the most insane idea ever.

I was not myself; and I didn’t know why.

There are always symbols around us from the Universe, from our higher selves, that are trying to show us the way, and one day, as I stood at the pharmacy counter waiting for a prescription for one of my children, I noticed a little card. It said across the top “Do You Have Hypothyroidism?” It went on to list 10 symptoms of the autoimmune disease. I had 8 of the 10.

So I went home and called my doctor; made an appointment; and when I saw him, explained that I had seen this card; that my grandmother had been hypothyroid; and asked to be tested.

He looked at me kindly, and inquired about my symptoms; asked if I had gained any weight. I said yes – there seemed to be a good five pounds that I couldn’t beat off my body, even though I was doing yoga daily, and was strictly monitoring my diet. He said “Come back to me when you gain 30 or 40 pounds; you’re just a little depressed. You have three small children, you’re not getting enough sleep. You need a little something to take the edge off – I’ll prescribe you an antidepressant.”

If it had not been for my yoga practice; if I did not know my body intimately; know the state of my mind, I would have probably just taken the prescription. But I DID know my body, and I DID know my mind – I had suffered from depression as a teenager so I knew I was NOT depressed. Something was really wrong with me, and it wasn’t just a case of the blues.

I stood my ground (which at the time, was unusual for me); he agreed to test me; and called within days to say “Good diagnosis, doctor.” The normal range was 0-5. My level was 55.

I shudder to think what would have happened had I simply taken that prescription for an antidepressant; as the lack of thyroid hormone slowly set off a cascade of problems, and the antidepressant covered up some of my symptoms, like a bandaid covering a festering sore.

My thyroid still doesn’t work, though I have been able to get my hormone dosage lowered through acupuncture and going upside down every day.

But how many other people – women especially – have been placed on these medicines; these mind and body altering drugs — when in fact, they are seriously ill?

Part of this coming cycle is to bring us back to being responsible for ourselves; to stop leaving it up to experts, to doctors, to politicians, to religious leaders – to others – it is up to YOU to take care of you; your health, your finances, your spiritual well-being; your community, your nation, your planet.

It is time to stop the cycle of looking at the people in charge and simply throwing up our hands and saying “geez – look what they’ve done!” as you shake your head and walk away.

It is time to step up. To take responsibility. To seize your power, your creativity, your wisdom; and do the work.




Hey, anyone else leaning hard on their crutches?

You know – that stuff you do that gets you through the day, that you know isn’t the best for you, but you rationalize. Too much shopping; over-eating or junk food; alcohol; cigarettes; drugs, prescription or otherwise; zoning out in front of some kind of screen. You feeling it?

Me, too. One of the Niyamas in yoga is “tapas” meaning austerity; self-discipline; literally “heat” or fervency; the ability to withstand hunger, heat; pain and fear; and stick with your practice.

Lately for me “tapas” has been more like the Spanish translation –a plate of cheese and crackers and a couple glasses of wine. Geez.

I am feeling so desperately imperfect; so absolutely human. Like my “get-up-and-go” got up and . . . . crawled away.

One of my teachers says the following: cigarettes block anger; alcohol blocks fear; pot blocks sadness; and coffee blocks everything. Um, hey — you seen the line outside Starbucks lately? OKAY.

What are we all blocking?

Well, seriously, refer back to several of my previous blogs; this is a difficult period of existence; even those of us that understand that we CHOSE to be her are saying . . . . . “um, WHAT?”

Was talking to a friend recently – an evolved friend, a tuned-in friend; a trust-you-with-my-children friend, and she said – “I don’t think I could do without my crutches right now – everyone I know is really leaning on their indulgences.”

I agree with that statement; and I don’t judge anyone, or their choices, or their pathways. There’s a quote that goes something like this: “Be kind to everyone; for we are all fighting an epic battle.” So true.

But, please – work hard not to indulge your masking, your numbing, your ignoring. At the same time, don’t be too hard on yourself. According to yogic thought, we chose to be here on this planet; at this time, for this moment in history – the curriculum in this school for the soul is about to ramp up. Stay flexible, open and adaptable; ready to let go of old ways of thinking and doing.

The energy this coming week will help us all to begin to move forward; note the dates of June 8, 12, 26 and July 11; lots of planetary energies are coming together.

For me, this week “tapas” moved back to its Sanskrit definition; and I was able to jumpstart my practices. Meditating daily, renewed my asana practice, eating better, etc. It felt easier to do the right things.

Hopefully, you too will cultivate “tapas.” The heat, the fervency to do the great work that must be done. We can be there for each other – to strengthen our resolve when we falter; to remember what we came here for; and to remind each other that we can have faith, or we can have fear; we cannot have both.

Blessings, shanti,



Recently my husband and I were able to slip away for an overnight to celebrate his birthday. A leisurely drive, dinner and whole night without the children (22 hours, to be precise – and, by the way, it was FABULOUS).

A great opportunity to break out his new GPS system for the car – one of those little things you plug in and it tells you how to get wherever you are going.

So, I plugged in the addresses, and off we went. Snow still covering the ground, beautiful mountain terrain; grown-up conversation without any interruptions. Aahhhh, lovely.

We’re about half way to our destination, and our stern little school-marm guide tells us to make a right, onto a highway. But my husband, who has been to this town before, says “No . . . . that’s not right, that’s not going to get us there the fastest way.”

Believe the husband (my best friend, father of my children, the most patient, loving man ever – and he’s driving) or our little faceless voice?

Husband. All the way.

So, instead of right, we go left. And she is NOT happy about it.

“RECALCULATING” . . . she says – (sternly, I might add).

And we continue our trek. And she keeps interjecting. “Turn right” . . . . “turn left” . . . . But these directions make no sense in light of our current path. My husband, he’s been here before – he knows where we are going. I’m just happy to be with him, along for the ride. We keep ignoring . . . she keeps uttering . . . “RECALCULATING.”

At about the fifth “RECALCULATING” it becomes a running joke – we burst into laughter every time she says it (which is, often). But it comes into my mind that this is a very precise metaphor for my life.

Graduate high school, go to business school, get the exact job I wanted. And it stinks. RECALCULATING.

Fall in love; move away; job of my dreams; but my love, he has no work. So we move. RECALCULATING.

Wake up one morning and realize, I love the idea of this man, but not the man. He is cruel; childish; our whole life is a sham. I am going to be 25 years old and divorced. RECALCULATING.

Roanoke. Who wants to live in Roanoke? Meet an amazing man; fall desperately, totally in love. Marry; have 3 children and decide that this is a wonderful place to raise a family, and a beautiful place to live. RECALCULATING.

Husband has a great job and can support us. I’m going to be a stay-at-home Mom. Raise the children, bake the best cookies; have a fabulous, clean, organized home. The perfect garden. And then literally, one day, I wake up and say – “seriously, this is it?” RECALCULATING.

Take a yoga teacher training. Going to teach yoga only to children – I’m not going to teach adults. Teach a volunteer class to a group of amazing women; and decide to not only teach adults, but open a yoga studio – (seriously?!). RECALCULATING.

And so it goes. This is my life. Making decisions, choices; and then changing the rules. Being flexible, open; going with the flow, but swimming like hell. it’s working for me right now.

My little voice, it’s not sweet and sexy, like my husband says his Bluetooth’s voice is in his car – but it’s not as stern as our little GPS lady. It’s a kinder, gentler voice; sometimes it is mine, and sometimes it is my teachers. It offers guidance, suggestions, directions.

But at the end of the day, it’s ALL on me.




Do Good; Eat Well

Beautiful, organic tomatoes; sliced and topped with a sprinkle of gently torn (not sliced!) basil; a skiff of sea-salt; fresh-ground pepper. A lovely mix of fresh organic green beans, slivered kalamata olives and feta cheese; firm, small organic zucchini sliced and grilled with extra virgin olive oil, a little fresh garlic, and a squeeze of lemon. Maybe a loaf of crusty bread, and fresh berries for dessert.

Sound like a food magazine fantasy? Not if you are a member of a CSA. That stands for “Community Supported Agriculture.” And it is one of the most important connections you can make for the coming cycle.

It works like this: you buy a “share” for the season; that means you give the farmer a certain amount of money, and they will do their best to supply you with a certain amount of food. Some years, there are loads of tomatoes; other years, it’s fabulous for beets. They can offer up estimates, ideas, and concepts; but the blessed Mother Earth gives what she gives; and then there are the deer, the rain storms (or lack thereof) and the insect population to deal with.

Nothing will make you a better cook. You get a bag of whatever is fresh that week. You create what I call “once a year” meals. Combinations that no cookbook or magazine can replicate.

You’ll also realize how old and road-weary much of the food you get from the grocery store is. Seriously; something that composts in two days from the grocery is fresh for a month from your CSA farmer.

The CSA I’ve been working with for years is Seven Springs Farm in Floyd, Virginia. We are completely blessed with a fabulous, intuitive and patient farmer whose name is Polly. Her talents are many, though it is probably her optimism that serves her best. Even if your most ambitious garden involved a single pot and a petunia, you will have some idea of the challenges she faces.

No sun; all sun; cold weather; hot weather; wet weather; dry weather; hail! Deer; groundhogs; and insects (oh my!).

This time of year, the challenge is cash. The garden planning begins now; even as we’re still shoveling the latest snowstorm, and washing salt off our cars, the farmers are ordering their seeds; repairing their fences; preparing the irrigation ponds. Even the most wealthy organic farmer that I know is earning a below poverty wage in this country. The phrase “labor of love” comes to mind.

And if you want a piece of this fabulousness; if you want to help the environment, support hard-working people, and a less-chemical culture. If you want a bag of fresh, organic, local vegetables this Spring, this Summer, and well into the Fall; THIS is the time to plan, and the time to sign up is NOW.

Don’t wait; people are waking up; Seven Springs did not advertise last year, and sold out quickly. New CSA’s are springing up, and more in this case is better.

Ask around at the local cooperative grocery; check Google, ask around. It’s time to plan your Summer menu; oh, and save the world while you’re at it.

For two local (near Roanoke, Virginia) farms, see information below.



Tenley Weaver, Good Food Good People: goodfoodgoodpeople@swva.net


I’m a fish-eating vegetarian. Which, I think, actually doesn’t make me a vegetarian.

But I haven’t eaten cows, pigs or chickens for about 19 years. I certainly used to. And I had never considered not eating meat until I moved to Southwestern Virginia.

When I moved from the Big City to this relatively rural area, it felt like heaven. To wake up and hear birds singing; to drive to work and see cows grazing. Gorgeous mountains, wide open green space. This is really one of the more beautiful places on the planet.

I even enjoyed my commute . . . about an hour each way, by car – which felt absolutely luxurious after commuting over an hour each way by train – it was great to be able to choose my own radio station (and sing along), sip my coffee, have a whole seat to plop my coat and purse in; just me and the road and a few other commuters, zipping along to work.

When traveling a big Interstate highway, you see some interesting things. And some of the things you see in this area of the world are chicken trucks. Maybe you’ve seen one? They certainly leave an impression.

Giant, 18-wheel vehicle, stacked with cages upon cages — as big as a normal 18-wheel cargo container. A chicken crammed inside of each cage, battered by the wind, and the elements; barely room to stand up, certainly not room to turn around; feathers flying everywhere.

You may think a perfectly prepared chicken breast is one of the tastiest things you’ve ever eaten, but if you’ve seen one of these trucks, you might think twice before you lift your fork.

At the same time, I began volunteering at the local animal shelter. It was a no-kill shelter — they kept the animals until they were adopted instead of putting them “down” – killing them – if no one adopted them. In order to be a no-kill shelter, they were not allowed to accept state funding. They operated on a shoe-string budget.

Volunteering at this shelter completely changed my way of thinking; not because of my interactions with the cats and the dogs, but with the humans.

It was near a big college town; and when there was a holiday break, or school ended, we could be sure that there would be lots of animals brought to the shelter; people “disposing” of kittens and puppies that had the audacity to grow up and become cats and dogs. Pets that would not be accepted by the students’ parents during Christmas break. Animals that didn’t fit in with their Spring break travel plans.

It wasn’t only the college students; there were also plenty of people just bringing in pets that were no longer wanted, needed or able to be cared for.

Some people wouldn’t bother to wait for office hours to drop off animals; people dumped pets like garbage at our door. Boxes of kittens; pregnant animals; mama dogs with pups; you name it. The director would find them sitting on the stoop, running all over the property; or – on really cold mornings — frozen to death in a box.

Really, could they not wait until the shelter opened?

It all connected together for me; was I also looking at these creatures, these beings, as less than me? Were certain animals disposable in my life, too? What really is the difference between the chicken and the cat? The cow and the dog?

I stopped eating meat very gradually; for a while, I ate it only if served by a friend; it was more important to me not to hurt their feelings than to kill the animal.

But after a while, I got over worrying more about other people’s feelings than my own feelings; it was important to stand up for my opinion, for my belief. And it was also important not to participate in the cruel and inhumane reality that has become the meat industry in this country.

It is important that every time we purchase something – patronize a business, buy a product at a store, order something at a restaurant – we understand that we are saying “This is something I support” – “I believe in this” — “This is right and honorable, and I want it to continue.”

If we don’t believe that? — well – then it’s time to make another choice.



Breathwork Homework

I am taking a Restorative Breathwork training course in order to become certified as a Barratt Breathworks restorative practioner. Part of my homework for this month is building an awareness of my own breath. Taking time to lie in savasana (the corpse pose/final relaxation pose), and explore the rhythm, depth, location, movement, pace – everything! about my own natural breath.

This sounds pretty simple; it is not.

Not only that, but for me, locating time to lie quietly and breathe in a household of three children is difficult. Convincing them that what I am doing is actually homework is mission impossible. But the toughest part is trying to concentrate, stay present with the breath, and not allow my mind to go bonkers when they (inevitably) interrupt.

My daughter wanders in, seeing me lying on the floor, eyes closed.

“Mommy. Mommy. Mommy.

Mommy??! MOMMY!!!!!!”

I pop off the floor — “WHAT!????!! — I’m doing my homework!”

“Homework?” she replies, “I wish that was MY homework.”

I do a mental eye roll. This is not easy; my breathing homework is hard. Breathwork digs up emotions, breaks down barriers; breathwork is WORK. I lie back down, close my eyes, and try to resume my practice. Relax the body; quiet the mind; notice my breath.

My son wanders in, lies down next to me and curls up close, snuggling my arm. As I open my eyes, his head lifts and he smiles down at me. “I guess this is cuddle work,” he says, and then lays back down.

Ah, yes – cuddle work. I think I’ll pursue my Ph.D.