Lately, we’ve been hearing about glimmers, tiny moments of awe and beauty that spark joy, calm, well-being. The word was first coined by Deb Dana, a clinical social worker who specializes in trauma and The Polyvagal Theory in psychotherapy, which is all about helping our nervous system feel calm and balanced. Glimmers are the opposite of stressors and triggers.

Glimmers can be the most seemingly ordinary things: the light coming through trees, the scent of a flower, a flock of swallows murmuring, the taste of a perfectly ripe pear, an unexpected kindness by a stranger.

Sometimes a glimmer is an experience of synchronicity, which can feel like some kind of wondrous magic. Sometimes it’s a blast of unexpected beauty in an unlikely place, like the sounds of joyous gospel music emanating from a Harlem park, or a huge full moon shining in your window at sunrise, or a potato in the shape of a heart. Sometimes it’s an artwork like the blue tape painting that artist Tony Feher made on a window of a loft we once visited (at top).

Heart potato glimmer, Maria Robledo @mariarobledo

Finding glimmers is a practice of opening, softening, noticing. The more you see, the more you find. The more you calm and heal.

You feel something happen inside, there’s an energy that happens around a glimmer, and your brain then marks it as well.

Deb Dana
Crabapple in Bloom glimmer, Sally Schneider

After a friend read us a haiku over the phone one morning, we realized that tiny, 3-line haiku are often about glimmers. Issa wrote some beauties in the 18th century…

     From the end of the nose

of the Buddha on the moor

     hang icicles.

     The dragonfly,

dressed in red,

     off to the festival.

     What a strange thing

to be alive

     beneath cherry blossoms.


My copy of The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, & Issa is dogeared and ruffled with post-its marking “glimmers” from the greatest haiku poets. It makes a lovely gift.

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