The Meditative Art of Bookbinding

by Kathy Parulski, Copper Beech Institute Master Teacher

I am a lifelong writer, having worked at several newspapers as well as in freelance over the years. I have always had a love of the written word – and of books. Twenty-five years ago, I inherited from a teacher (May Whipple), who was also a mentor and dear friend, many old books, some of which were in need of repair. My sister told me of a conservator from the Yale University Libraries who was offering a course in book repair. I took the course and was hooked. From there I did a three-year apprenticeship with a master bookbinder in Northampton, Massachusetts.

While still studying at the hand of several bookbinders, I began to acquire the equipment needed to start a bindery. There was something deep calling me to this work. I took the leap of ownership of a small bindery and started teaching bookbinding at art centers and schools in Connecticut. I had such an immediate passion for the work and wanted to share it with others.

On the repair side of my work, from the first book I was given to now, I feel an incredible sense of honor every time I am entrusted with a family heirloom so rich with stories and history. Much of my work is the restoration of family Bibles – books that have been handed down from generation to generation and have such meaning in people’s lives. I also love to create journals as gifts – repositories for thoughts, to-do lists, and expressions of gratitude.

As time went on, I realized that spending time in my bindery was actually not work at all, but a healing process. I didn’t name it mindfulness at the time. But, I work alone and at some point realized that the solitude brought relief from the stress – and a much better night’s sleep. Over the years, family and friends would ask, “How can you handle such mindless work? Repairing or folding page after page, paring leather, and sewing pages – doing everything by hand?” I always answer that this is truly the most meditative work I have ever done! The steady rhythm of working with my hands brings such calm and JOY!

The meditative benefits of bookbinding also manifested in my teaching. In one example, from 2000 to 2005, I taught journal making and journal writing to 15 inner city Hartford students for two weeks each summer. They would either come to my bindery or I would go to their meeting place. They were so full of energy it was difficult to get settled and start our work. I needed a means to calm them and so we agreed to begin each class with ‘a moment of peace’ (or brief arrival meditation). The transformation from the nervousness they felt at the beginning to the calm confidence that grew as they created works of art was remarkable. Their journals were beautiful, reflecting their diverse cultures in the choices they made for text paper, for covers, and even the jewelry to adorn them. I still hear from a few of them.

I continue to teach bookbinding because it’s a gift to watch students marvel at their creations and, selfishly, because I love it so much! My mentors continue to inspire my work. I am grateful and feel blessed, to know these generous teachers, personally and through their written work, including my bookbinding teacher and mentor, William Streeter, and mindfulness expert, Jon Kabat-Zinn whose book “Full Catastrophe Livingnamed what I was experiencing. I recommend Jack Kornfield’s books for inspiration and I rely on “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron – a 12-week program that uses daily written pages as meditation. It is easily adaptable to mindful creativity.

But perhaps the best mindfulness wisdom I can share is from 32 years ago when my husband and I bought our home. About a month before we moved in, we were on our annual family vacation at Cape Cod. At a local flea market I found a set of framed prints that say, “breathe…breathe…breathe…exhale!” The originals were done by a Chinese émigré and the artist’s signature, (called a “chop”), contained the Chinese symbol of breath! This piece still hangs on our wall – a great reminder over all these years to take the time to really breathe.

To create your own journal and explore the practice of mindful creativity, I invite you to join me for a Mindful Creativity Bookbinding Weekend at Copper Beech Institute. Beginners are welcome. For details and registration, click here. Scholarships are also available. To apply for a scholarship, click here.

Kathy Parulski is a bookbinder and book artist, and has taught extensively in Connecticut and New England to both adults and children. Her work ranges from the restoration of family Bibles to original book works using metal edge binding and recycled materials. Kathy is a Copper Beech Institute master teacher and founding member of its board of directors. Copper Beech Institute offers more than 40 retreats and programs to foster peace and resilience in everyday life.

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Called to a Compassionate Love

by Brandon Nappi

The violence of this past week demonstrates the incredible fragility of our lives. We as human beings are exquisitely vulnerable creatures who share a common trust that we will keep one another safe. This same vulnerability, which makes possible the power of deep love and connection also leaves us open to being hurt. The thoughts and prayers of the Copper Beech Institute community extend to all those in Belgium and throughout our world who live with the daily reality of violence. We are especially aware of those places where violence and injustice haven’t received the kind of attention that the Belgian community has experienced in the past days.

In moments when our acute vulnerability enters public awareness, we may feel an impulse to close our hearts. Anger, sadness, fear, confusion, among our many other emotions, may become the loudest voices in our conversations. We understand such a response as we struggle to make sense of what is happening throughout our world.

I believe people hurt others not because they are evil but because they are suffering. We can quickly lash out at others when faced with the intensity of pain in life. Any violent act is simply a false strategy for attaining happiness. When false strategies for happiness are accompanied by bombs and guns, the results challenge the limits of the human heart. As the global community discerns how to respond to this situation and the complexity of all violence around the world, may our hearts and minds be guided by the prophetic wisdom of Martin Luther King, Jr. who called us to a courageous love that transcends sentimentality:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

This is our deepest conviction here at Copper Beech Institute. May the violence which is ubiquitous in our world today, inspire us to deepen our own practice of kindness and love. May we practice compassion for ourselves as we seek understanding in a confounding time. May we practice compassion for those who are directly touched by violence. May we practice compassion even for those who seek to end their own suffering by causing the suffering of others.

For many around the world, the springtime is a time of sacred celebrations. As we journey into springtime’s unfolding, may we find an infinite reservoir of courage to respond to all beings and to all moments in compassion. In this compassion we find that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. May it be so.

We invite you to learn more from Brandon at his Copper Beech Institute weekend retreat, Walking the Path Together: Mindfulness Weekend for Couples, May 6-7, 2016. He will co-lead the retreat with his wife, Susan. For details and to register click here.

Brandon Nappi is a spiritual teacher, speaker, and writer who passionately believes in the capacity of the human spirit to awaken. He is founding director of Copper Beech Institute, a retreat center for mindfulness and contemplative practice in West Hartford, Connecticut. Copper Beech Institute offers more than 40 retreats and programs to foster peace and resilience in everyday life.

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The Power of Forgiveness

by Faith Edwards

Forgiveness. Many of us spend a lifetime waiting for an apology we never receive. For a very long time I waited, hoping the other person could understand the pain that filled my heart. Yet though I longed for emotional healing and a deep connection with this person, I also felt bitter and righteous. Even if I received the apology I so deeply wanted I probably would have rejected it.

What was I getting out of holding onto negative feelings? Did this other person really hold that much power over me? And the biggest question I had to ask myself was: could I forgive even though I may never be asked to forgive?

I learned some powerful answers to my questions on forgiveness while on a retreat at Copper Beech. It was a time in my life when my body, mind and spirit had grown weary from the emotional turmoil and pain. My anger had subsided, but I carried a heavy heart as I embarked on this weekend retreat. I sought spiritual guidance and inner peace.

I felt nurtured and completely supported amongst the group of women on this retreat. We talked about forgiveness in a way that was truly unique to me. Could we really, truly and honestly forgive ourselves for the ways we had behaved less than kindly through the years? Initially, I wanted to think that I had never harmed another human being. In the quiet, candlelit room, I sat contemplating this thought. It wasn’t long before I recalled behaviors I was shameful of. How desperately I wanted to push those feelings aside. It was much more satisfying to feel wronged than to recognize the moments where I was indeed wrong.

We were asked to stay with this painful feeling and face a partner. Fear rushed through my veins as I pondered both my own self-contempt as well as my long list of resentments. Sitting knee to knee, I gazed into the kind eyes of a woman I’d known less than 24 hours. The facilitator asked us to contemplate our request for forgiveness. The only words we would utter to each other were “please forgive me” and “I forgive you.” We would repeat this exercise four or five times and then it would be our partner’s turn to request forgiveness.

The experience was profound. As this gentle soul looked me in the eye, asking me for my forgiveness, I could easily feel her pain. An energy of loving kindness filled the room. The powerful force of close proximity and direct eye contact amazed me. I could feel an intense healing energy as a steady stream of forgiving tears rolled down my cheeks. Having no idea what burdens this woman bore, I felt her heartache and pain. Her authenticity and gentle soul was revealed to me and I knew that despite her transgressions, she was a good person who deserved love.

When it was my turn to ask for her forgiveness, I felt tremendous healing, energetic love and complete acceptance. It was a feeling that I’d actually been longing for much of my life. I continued to quietly sob in a cathartic release as I sought her forgiveness. It was incredibly healing to receive her authentic and sincere acceptance. From this space I felt lighter, understood and more deeply connected with another human being. My anger was lifted and my heart felt alive.

Sitting in the experience of forgiveness, I felt an inexplicable energy in my partner’s eyes and voice, and in the entire experience. It created the space I needed to forgive myself — to feel gentle and kind. That loving energy stayed with me long after the forgiveness exercise was over. My family, friends, co-workers all reaped the benefits of my soul healing. I was able to pass this gentleness forward and hopefully brighten their day.

What I learned from this experience was that it was not really an apology I craved; it was an intense desire to feel unconditional love, the type of love many of us receive in infancy and early childhood. Yet I didn’t need to receive that love from the person who had harmed me. I simply needed someone to serve as a mirror for the love and acceptance I craved from within. It was important for me to not only understand but to really feel with all of my being that I was worthy and deserving of love, and that I didn’t have to feel so much shame for my mistakes that I isolated myself socially. Instead I could learn to accept, love and forgive myself.

A regular self-care practice is essential to forgiveness because forgiveness comes from the inside, not from the outside. It is only when we are ready and willing to forgive ourselves that we are able to forgive someone else. Daily meditation, breathing exercises and mindfulness nurture body, mind and spirit, and we awaken our minds and open our hearts to the divine beauty that resides within each and every one of us.

There are many ways to begin and nurture a meditation practice at Copper Beech Institute. CLICK HERE to learn more.

Faith Edwards is a freelance writer who specializes in mindfulness and codependent addiction recovery.  She is a guest blogger on Copper Beech Institute’s mindfulness and contemplative practice blog Awaken Everyday. Copper Beech Institute offers more than 40 retreats, courses, and events to foster peace and resilience in everyday life.

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With a Passion for Clean Food

With cookbooks in hand, my oldest daughter asks if I am headed to the store. Ever since she was little, cookbooks have accompanied us on our various food shopping trips to check off the ingredients needed to make this week’s meals. However, today I was not going shopping, I was headed to meet the best-selling author of “Clean Food”, “Clean Start” and “Eat Clean, Live Well,” Terry Walters and get the juicy details about her cooking classes, her upcoming book and her weekend retreat at Copper Beech Institute. As only teenagers can, my daughter gives me a look, something just short of an eye-roll, and says, “Mom, glad you are excited, but just don’t do anything weird like ask her for her autograph!”

Terry Walters is well aware of the struggles mother’s face when trying to raise children. She started on this journey for one main reason: her health and the health of her family. She began holding cooking classes in her home as a way to connect with like-minded people and to create meals to nourish her family. She studied health programs to find different ways to approach her high cholesterol and daughter’s allergies. Her passion for healthy eating developed from an intuitive pull toward what the Earth has to offer during each season.

After looking over my collection, I decide to bring along Terry Walter’s “Clean Food,” her first cookbook self-published in 2007. As we sit down with our tea, she notices the cookbook right away and is just as giddy to look at it as I am to show her. Leafing through the pages, Terry reminisces like she’s looking through an old photograph album, stopping to tell stories along the way. At first, I am slightly embarrassed by the sticky pages, the scribbled notes in the margins, and the smiley faces drawn on the recipes that my children stamped with approval, until I realize that Terry is enjoying the obvious signs of how much we have used and loved her cookbook.

I am struck by the genuine warmth of her smile, her energy and her passion for life. It was this same enthusiasm and overall presence that I remember when I first was introduced to her several years earlier. At that time, I had two toddlers and I was becoming very curious about the relationship food played in our emotional and physical well-being. Terry was teaching about the benefits of seasonal eating while giving a tour of a local health food store. Her approach opened my eyes and really resonated with me. “Food is a source of nourishment for our body and our soul. It can fill us up in different ways. If you are eating standing up while rushing to get out the door, it won’t matter how healthy it is.” I loved how adding leafy greens to each meal was a “non-negotiable” in her house. I remember Terry explaining how it may take time to convert your taste buds and to make this your new normal. She offered many new ways to prepare foods. Terry’s talk gave me the permission I needed to enter into a new relationship with food.

In 2007 when Terry self-published “Clean Food,” her food choices and her notion of balancing a mind/body approach were on the cutting edge. Ingredients such as fennel, bok choy, quinoa, and miso were not well known. Most foods became available year-round due to pesticides and preservatives. As a nationally best-selling author, Terry continues to be a leading pioneer in this field today. Her books are as much a philosophy of living as they are about food.

“It’s a lofty intention to strive for conscious seasonal eating that nourishes mind, body and soul, that balances us with the environment and intimately connects us to our communities and the earth,” says Terry. “At the end of the day, if there is any intention worth holding, it is to savor every bite, feed your relationships and that which connects you, and sauté up a healthy serving of love each and every day.”

Terry Walters can be found sharing her gifts through educational and motivational public speaking, conducting cooking classes, and at her upcoming Copper Beech Institute retreat, “Eat Clean, Live Well: Clean Food and Sustainable Health.” She continues sharing her message because it is her personal goal “to create and inspire as much healthy and sustainable change as I can for individuals, families, communities, and our environment.”  I am beyond excited for her new book, “Dirty Food” and love the premise. “The foods we want to eat should come from the dirt. In that way, everything is “clean” just like my previous books. Each season will start with dessert because life is short and these desserts are sinful enough to taste like indulgences, but healthy enough to serve as breakfast.”

As our time together concludes, I hesitate to ask for her autograph when she says, “Oh, would you want me to sign your book?” I could honestly tell my daughter I hadn’t asked her and was able to just grin and respond with a resounding, “YES!”

We invite you to learn more from Terry at her Copper Beech Institute weekend retreat, Eat Clean, Live Well: Clean Food and Sustainable Health, March 18-20, 2016. Space is limited to 25 guests. To register click here.

Kimberlea Chabot muses about connecting to what matters most at her blog, She lives in West Hartford, Connecticut and considers her husband of 19 years and their three children to be both her greatest blessings – and her greatest challenge to living mindfully. Kimberlea is a regular contributor to the Copper Beech Institute blog, Awaken Everyday. Copper Beech Institute offers more than 40 retreats and programs to foster peace and resilience in everyday life.

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Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos with Cashew Cheese

by Terry Walters

I LOVE MEXICAN FOOD, and while I do not usually crave spicy foods, I find many spicy Mexican dishes to be surprisingly cooling as well. Complete your menu by serving these burritos with Traditional Guacamole (CLEAN FOOD page 100) and Tofu Sour Cream (CLEAN FOOD page 104), topped with sautéed collard greens or chopped avocado and cilantro.


3             sweet potatoes or yams
½            cup corn, fresh or frozen
3             tablespoons lime juice
1 ½         cups cooked black beans
½            red onion, diced
1             large tomato, diced
8-10       soft corn tortillas
1 ½         cups prepared salsa
¼            cup chopped scallions


½             cup cashew pieces
¼             cup nutritional yeast
1             tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place sweet potatoes on baking sheet or foil and bake 45 minutes or until soft. Remove from oven and cool.

In food processor, grind cashews to a fine meal. Add nutritional yeast and process briefly to combine. Add oil and process until you have a moist meal (do not overprocess or meal will become dough-like.) Set aside.

Set oven to broil. Place corn in strainer. Bring 1 cup water to boil and pour over corn to blanch or thaw.

Peel sweet potatoes and mash with lime juice. Fold in black beans, onion and tomato. Spoon filling into center of each tortilla, roll up and place, seam side down in shallow casserole. Spoon salsa over top and broil 3 minutes. Remove from broiler, top with cashew cheese and corn and broil 2 more minutes, watching closely to keep cheese from burning. Remove from broiler, top with chopped scallions and serve.


We invite you to learn more from Terry at her Copper Beech Institute weekend retreat, Eat Clean, Live Well: Clean Food and Sustainable Health, March 18-20, 2016. Space is limited to 25 guests. To register click here.

Terry is the best-selling cookbook author of “Clean Food, “Clean Start,” and most recently, “Eat Clean, Live Well.” She is a James Beard Foundation Award finalist and recipient of the Nautilus Gold and Silver Book Awards. She is featured regularly on television and radio in print and Internet media, and is the author of the popular blog, Eat Clean, Live Well. Copper Beech Institute offers more than 40 retreats and programs to foster peace and resilience in everyday life.

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