Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Wish Lists and a Life to Love

David Myers wrote, "We excel at making a living but often fail at making a life. We celebrate our prosperity but yearn for purpose. We cherish our freedoms but long for connection. In an age of plenty, we feel spiritual hunger." He wrote those words during a time of economic prosperity, long before the economic peril we are experiencing now. Today, far fewer of us celebrate the prosperity he was referring to while still longing for connection and purpose.

Today I am haunted by the memory of a woman I saw in the grocery store last night. She looked tired to me, tired and unspeakably sad. She was turning over the hams, one after another, and she seemed to be noting the price of each one. Eventually she moved away from them, her shopping cart still empty. I am thinking right now of the far too many people who I picture wandering around the stores this holiday season, surrounded by plenty and taunted by all that they can't have, can't give...

Today far more of us worry about how we will make a living in order to support ourselves and those we love, when now more then ever it seems we need to consider how we might make lives we can more readily love...

Craig and Marc Kielburger, brothers and authors of "Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World" observe, "In the struggle to meet deadlines, impress clients, and advance through the ranks, it's easy to become so focused on accomplishing specific tasks that we lose sight of how our actions impact our personal well-being, not to mention that of those around us. Many of us fall into a trap and work long hourrs because of a sense of responsibility to others, not being able to say no at work, or trying to provide 'only the best' for our family. We make these choices with good intentions, but in the end they are not the best for our family, or ourselves. We get sucked into a way of life that does not fulfill us."

Our Christmas wish list's are all too often filled with material goods that might stroke our egos or fill our time, but do very little to fulfill our souls. Now, more then ever, it's time to ask new questions and create new lists.

Places to Visit:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Life, Lessons, Death and Love

My mother is tiny, fragile, and bald. From the moment I learned that she had lung cancer, it seems that the volume on my life has been turned up. It is a strange thing to feel with such immediacy the beat of a fierce and imperfect love in your heart along with the tight cold specter of death in your chest. The simplest things seem poignant and almost sacred - a gathering of birds, the soft, vulnerable, hairless top of an infant's head, the memory of my mother's hand reaching out for my own, an old song on the radio...

When the tiniest cracks make our most well protected surfaces vulnerable, the depth and mass of what begins to filter in can all too often threaten to overflow and perhaps even break out, break through, break us open....

Author and cancer survivor, Michael Dowd, asks readers of his blog, "Can we tell our own personal stories in a mythic sense, with a flourish? Can we find a way, in hindsight, to evoke gratitude even for the disasters in our lives?"

When I am enmeshed in the details of this particular chapter of my cstory, I am acutely and profoundly aware of the pain and the peril presently flowing through it. And yet, when I breathe deep, step back, and widen my lens, I am able to witness and absorb the beauty and the possibility (even now) that lives within it.

We learn from every single experience of our lives and each time I look back over the landscape of my own life - over my own mythic story - I am reminded again and again of how much I have learned of purpose and meaning, resiliency and strength, and of love and light from sharing and daring the dark...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Andrew Solomon on his book, "The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression"

Despite the poor quality of the introduction, this lecture by Andrew Solomon, author of , "The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression," (based on his own struggle with major depression) is well worth the time it takes to listen.

Following is a quote from Solomon's book:

"Listen to the people who love you. Believe that they are worth living for even when you don't believe it. Seek out the memories depression takes away and project them into the future. Be brave; be strong; take your pills. Exercise because it's good for you even if every step weighs a thousand pounds. Eat when food itself disgusts you. Reason with yourself when you have lost your reason."

On the PBS special, "Depression: Out of the Shadows" Solomon observes,

"I always say that the opposite of depression is not happiness but vitality, and that depression has to do with finding all of life totally overwhelming...

...clinical depression really has to do with the feeling that you can't do anything, that everything is unbelievably difficult, that life is completely terrifying, and a feeling of this free-floating despair, which is overpowering and horrifying...

...So that's the real message of hope, is that you can get better. And when you do get better, not that you'll look back on it with great longing, but you may look back on it and think, 'I learned a lot by going through that. And I'm a better person because I did it.'"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why Gratitude Matters

Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier

This year as Thanksgiving approaches I am more aware than ever of the importance of practicing gratitude and thought it might be helpful to share some particularly good resources on the why's and how's of cultivating gratitude starting with a 4 minute youtube video clip of Robert Emmons, author of "Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier."

Other resources I'm particularly appreciative of include:

Gratefulness Org

I Am Thankful

Spirituality Practice's collection of pages on gratitude

Yesterday I was sent the following quote by Melody Beattie, "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." I am working to tap into the enormous potential contained within a sustained gratitude practice.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Reality Show Worth Watching on Happiness

In the process of developing a psychoeducational course entitled, "The Art and Science of Happiness" I was referred to the first episode of a new reality show entitled, "Making Australia Happy" which is based on a research project that yielded impressive and hopeful results. The website introduces the project with the following:

" The experiment begins in Marrickville, the heart of an area recently identified by Deakin University's annual wellbeing index as one of the unhappiest in Australia. As we meet the eight volunteers, we learn that their happiness levels are way below the national average. The team of experts has just eight weeks to change the volunteers' scores, and their lives.

How will socially phobic Cade cope with the challenge of connecting with strangers at the local mall? Can mindfulness really help stressed-out real estate agent, Tony? Will gratitude help father-of-four, Stephen, strike that elusive work-life balance? How can the youngest of the volunteers, Ben, benefit from writing his own eulogy?

Science claims that happiness is easily within our reach, but how will these scientifically validated techniques play out in the lives of ordinary Australians? The results are more than startling."

You can watch the first episode by following the program link above.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Present Moment

A very special person sent me the following meditation by Taoist poet, Chade Meng.

"A lifetime is not what is between
the moments of birth and death.
A lifetime is one moment
Between my two little breaths.
The present, the here, the now,
That's all the life I get.
I live each moment in full,
In kindness, in peace, without regret."

A perfect message here and now....

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gail Sheehy and Passages in Cargiving

Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidence

   Harper Collins promotes Gail Sheehy's new book, "Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidence" by pointing out the following: "Forty-four million Americans care for an ill or elderly person in their homes. Yet until now, there has not been a single resource they can turn to for direction, support, and inspiration to cope with this bewildering and complex new role. Adapting the appealing format of her phenomenal bestseller Passages, Sheehy identifies the nine crucial stages of caregiving and offers insight for adapting and successfully navigating each. With empathy and intelligence, backed by formidable research, and interspersed with the poignant story of her own experience, Passages in Caregiving addresses the needs of this enormous and growing group and is sure to become the touchstone for this challenging yet deeply rewarding period in our life journey."
   During an interview on the Today show Gail describes eight "turnings around the  labyrinth of caregiving" which are:

1. Shock and mobilization ("where time speeds up and you are working off adrenaline day and night... Your emotions run wild. You may wake to the first light of morning in a sweat, convinced you never slept.")

2. The New Normal (" You are living with a new uncertainty, and you are not going back to the old normal.")

3.  Boomerang ("Everything has settled down into a new normal routine...You're handling it, thinking OK, I can do this. And suddenly, BOOMERANG! A new crisis erupts.")

4. Playing God  ("By now you’ve become a seasoned caregiver.  You’re good at it... People say you are heroic, and you are beginning to believe it. You are Playing God.")

5. I can’t do this anymore!  (" day, a year or two or three later, you break into tears, totally fatigued. Same thing the next day. You’ve given up so much. You’re cracking.")

6. Coming back  ("This is the crucial turning. It now becomes clear that your loved one is not going to get well and will become more and more dependent and needy. You are approaching the center of the labyrinth... You may touch the depths of despair. is here that caregivers...begin the effort of coming back to life.")

7. The in-between stage ("This is a momentous turning point for those who care for the chronically ill. Your loved one cannot be cured...but he or she is not ready to die—and may live on for years."

8. The long good-bye ("This is the last turning. No one can answer your most burning question. How long? Inevitably, there will be times when you see your loved one suffering that you will likely feel: Why can’t you die? ...Then, of course, you’ll feel guilty for thinking such a thing.")

   As one of those forty-four million caregivers and as a fan of Sheehy, I'm looking forward to reading her book.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Getting Through Tough Times with Positive Psychology

Happiness: Lessons from a New Science   During this journey through my mother's lung cancer I am relying heavily on the concepts of positive psychology to help us get through. In "Happiness: Lessons From a New Science," Richard Layard wrote, "cultivate the sense of awe and wonder, savour the things of today; and look about you with the same interest as if you were watching a movie or taking a photo.  Engage with the world and with the people around you.  In one sense, as Leo Tolstoy said, the most important person in the world is the one in front of you now."
   We leave before sunrise each week day morning to make it for mom's radiation treatment on time.  Yesterday, while pulling out of the drive way I noticed how incredibly beautiful the full moon looked hanging in the pre dawn sky.  I pointed it out to my mother and we stopped the car and savoured it.  Within a few moments I began to feel my breathing deepen and my body relax as I allowed myself to drift toward the pull of the moon.  We hadn't needed to venture into the wilderness, or even stroll through a park, all we had to do was to simply pause and look up to be connected with something vast and beautiful and transcendent.  I reached out and took my mother's hand and allowed myself to fully take in the blessing of it all....    

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Love, Cancer, and Reclaiming Body and Soul


   For the past two weeks I've spent ten hour days at a major cancer center where I've been exposed to and touched by suffering, heartbreak, love and beauty on what often seems like a moment to moment basis. One moment I am sitting at a table of patients and artists beside a pale and exhausted looking teenager hooked up to an iv  who is working on an intricate and truly beautiful collage while completely ignoring the rest of us. On my other side is a fragile looking middle aged man with kind eyes who has dropped by the Arts in Medicine room before his chemo infusion.  When he begins to describe the puppy he is considering adopting and asks us what we think he should name her, the teenager looks up, takes us in for what seems like the first time, and suggests that he name the puppy, "Hope."

   The next day while sipping coffee in the radiation center waiting room I am joined by what is beginning to feel like a sisterhood of mostly bald headed women who huddle together for a few moments each morning to compare side effects, symptoms, laughter, and reassurances.  This capacity of shared trauma for so quickly fostering authenticity and intimacy is remarkable to me.

   That same afternoon while at the infusion center I notice a husband and wife sitting across from me and am struck by the fact that while the wife is the one receiving the chemo infusions, it's he who looks ill and absolutely terrified.  I smile at him reassuringly and He lifts a trembling hand to wave at me.  I very much doubt that this wan and stoop shouldered man has seen his thirtieth birthday yet.

   I see pain everywhere.  And I see love all around me.  And I see fear and courage and despair and hope.  This just may be the most terrible, beautiful, most real world I have ever landed in.  I've had several long and heart felt talks with complete strangers, and  ocassionally I ask them what they've discovered thus far that has surprised or encouraged them.  A common response to my question alludes to the acts of kindness cancer patients and their loves ones have experienced from strangers and how significant even the smallest gestures have felt to those who were feeling frightened and vulnerable.  "Maybe it is love that does the most healing," one breast cancer patient shared with me.

   In her book, "When the Heart Waits," Sue Monk Kidd observed that “…a split of the head from the heart is common in our culture. Along with this goes another painful splitting: the severing of our body from our soul. As we separate from our feelings, we tend to separate from our bodies as well.”  In this culture of cancer I have repeatedly heard stories that describe in one form or another a kind of reunion of body and soul.  They are never happy stories, instead they contain pain and suffering and fear, and yet, they are so often transformative.   Stories that begin with one person's abrupt and often savage introduction to a body that he or she had been living with for a life time and yet never known.  Dramas that present crisis and pathos and uncertainty, and encounters that cannot possibly be prepared for because they involve a confrontation with the wildness of one's very soul.  For days now I have sat saddened and spell bound by stories that throb with both pain and love and ultimately seem to lead to the 'awful grace' of a hard won and weary wisdom. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Failure, Imagination and J.K. Rowling

I hear a great deal about fear and failure these days from both adolescents and adults who come to me for support, reassurance, direction and (gulp) wisdom. I think when appropriate I'll begin referring them to J.K. Reynold's wonderful address to Harvard Graduates where she shared..."So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive..."

Failure, while always painful and never welcomed, is often a pathway to possibilities that we seldom recognize in the beginning.

I encourage you to watch her speech and enjoy the opportunity to both laugh and be inspired...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

He Was Me by Peter Reynolds

"He Was Me" by Peter Reynolds is a touching story aimed at those of us who have lost touch with the deeply buried and often forgotten child which lives within each of us.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Live Every Moment of Your Life

The above lecture is approximately one hour in length and is by a wonderful author and physician, Rachel Naomi Remen. She offers much wisdom and insight which each of us can benefit from.

Remen once observed, "Most people have come to prefer certain of life’s experiences and deny and reject others, unaware of the value of the hidden things that may come wrapped in plain and even ugly paper. In avoiding all pain and seeking comfort at all costs, we may be left without intimacy or compassion; in rejecting change and risk we often cheat ourselves of the quest; in denying our suffering we may never know our strength or our greatness.”

At this particular time in my life I'm surrounded by suffering, suffering so deep and dark that I have sometimes felt buried by it, and at other times blinded by it. I certainly haven't welcomed a single moment of it. And yet, I am also as acutely aware as I've ever been of the kindness and compassion of strangers, the both fierce and gentle power of love, of compassion, of hope... I have witnessed again and again the profound magic that can be contained within a single moment.

I cannot embrace this teacher but I am trying very hard to stay open to the all too often painful lessons that I am being taught...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Letting Go

In dealing with my mother's cancer I am continuously reminded of the importance of taking one day at a time and letting go of as much of the 'small stuff' as possible. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and ubsurdities have crept in;forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsence."

I encourage her (and myself) to treat each new day as a gift - particularly those exquisitely precious ones that contain no doctor appointments, chemo infusions, or radiation treatments. What might we savor today?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The future of Spiritual Practice

I've not posted as often as I like to as we recently learned that my mother has lung cancer, and I'm in Florida to be with her through this process. Consequently for the time being my posts will probably be less frequent and shorter than usual.

I did want to share with you that a free teliseminar on the future of spiritual practice can be registered for at

You can also receive more information at the above website. Speakers
include but are not limited to: Ken Wilber, Barbara Max Hubbard,
Brother David Steindl-Rast, Ram Dass, Rick Hanson, and Andrew Cohen.

A small portion of the teliseminar description contains the following words, "How can a living spirituality enable human beings to create more enlightened responses to our common problems?

There is no more important conversation—or commitment to action—in the world today.

Join us as 27 of the most dynamic contemporary spiritual teachers engage in this series of dialogues. Each teacher will bring a distinct, profound, and catalytic perspective to the Big Conversation. Each has drunk deeply from the wisdom of the past, and is also embodying their wisdom in a new way, freshly attuned to the challenges of our moment."

Monday, August 23, 2010

Prosperity without Growth and the Simplicity Movement

Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich

During the past year I've witnessed a number of families, couples, and individuals struggling to survive and or recover from the continuing economic storm. In all too many instances I've found myself comforting and supporting people who have lost their jobs, have had their standard of living substantially reduced, and who have lost their homes in some cases. A national survey conducted in 2009 found that "Individuals who are unemployed are four times as likely as those with jobs to report symptoms consistent with severe mental illness. Americans who experienced involuntary changes in their employment status, such as pay cuts or reduced hours, also are twice as likely to have these symptoms, even though they are employed full time..."

The lives of millions of Americans have been disrupted and "the unknown 'next chapter' seems the scariest of all" laments a middle aged professional who has been unemployed now for well over a year.

While it's all too true that the begining of these 'next' life chapters have all been highly distressing and anxiety provoking, I've been touched and encouraged as I've observed the unfolding of some very special'next chapters' - chapters that have led to loss in terms of reduced material wealth and yet have yielded significant personal growth and greater overall mental health.

Until recently our global economy produced more wealth than at any time in history and yet overall levels of happiness failed to rise, while the use of antidepressants increased substantially. Tragically, it appears that our material prosperity came at all too high a cost to the planet, her inhabitants, and to future generations.

Author of "Prosperity Without Growth," Tim Jackson, connects the economic crash to a world view that led to far too many of us “Spending money we don’t have, on things that we don’t need, to make impressions that don’t last, on people we don’t care about,” and encourages us to use this current economic crisis to dramatically shift our value systems and engage in life styles that promote far greater well-being and true prosperity. In a review of his book, EarthScan: Publishing for a Sustainable Future
affirmed, "The book opens up dialogue on the most urgent task of our times—the challenge of a new prosperity encompassing our ability to flourish as human beings—within the ecological limits of a finite planet."

As a therapist and grandmother, I am grateful to those who are offering us healthy alternatives to a currently toxic economic system.

Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich

I've been tremendously impressed by a social movement that has been identified as "voluntary simplicity" and have altered my own life as I've continued to learn from it. Author of "Voluntary Simplicity" and one of the most respected leaders of the movement, Duane Elgin, describes voluntary simplicity as "living in a way what is outwardly simple and inwardly rich. This way of life embraces frugality of consumption, a strong sense of environmental urgency, a desire to return to living and working environments which are of a more human scale, and an intention to realize our higher human potential — both psychological and spiritual — in community with others..."

Following are some links to a few voluntary simplicity resources.

Simple Living Net
Choosing Voluntary Simplicity
Mother Earth News
Take Back Your Time

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Helpful Mindfulness Resources

The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness

"Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless." Paul Bowles

Being mindful is about being fully present to the moment and to the miracles that surround us. There's been a tremendous amount of research recently affirming the effectiveness of engaging in mindfulness practices, particularly mindfulness meditation. There are also some excellent resources available online. I thought I would include a few of them here:

The Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA offers a very nice introduction to mindfulness meditation as well as online guided meditations that you can listen to and practice.

The Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy website provides information regarding a promising form of therapy particularly in the treatment of depression called mindfulness based cognitive therapy. offers helpful information, instructions, and techniques.

While the practice of mindfulness is no panecea, nor is it for everybody, if you haven't explored it at all, it might be a good time to do so.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

10 Things People Do that Can Intensify Depression

In an article published on the CBS website, Dr. Stephen Ilardi, the author of The Depression Cure, discused common behaviors that people engage in (or fail to engage in) that can make depression worse. They include:

Lack of exercise
Not enough omega 3 fats as well as too much sugar and simple carbs in your diet.
Insufficient sunlight exposure and not enough vitamin D
Poor sleep habits
Not spending enough time with friends and family
Spending too much time ruminating about what's wrong in your life
Not spending enough time with optimistic happy people and or too much time with negative people.
Failing to reach out for help and support

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Smile More and Be Healthier, Happier, and Live Longer

There's been a great deal of research demonstrating that smiling offers significant benefits to our mental and physical health.

Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh suggests a smiling meditation that I've found to be extremely useful. It goes like this:

"Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment
I know this is a wonderful moment."

It's important of course that you smile and hold that smile for a few moments as you recite the above. You may also want to try the inner smile meditation

Following is a link to an article that addresses the benefits of smiling as well as a three minute youtube video that deals with smiling.

Stay Healthy. Live Longer. Stay Married. Smile.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

An Interview with Lyubomirsky on "The Secrets to Happiness"

The Thinking and Behavior Patterns of Very Happy People

According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, in her excellent book, "The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want," very happy people tend to share the following characteristics:

"They devote a great amount of time to their families and friends, nurturing and enjoying those relationships.

They are comfortable expressing gratititude for all they have.

They are often the first to offer helping hands to coworkers and passersby.

They practice optimism when imagining their futures.

They savor life's pleasures and try and live in the present moment.

They make physical exercise a weekly and even daily habit.

They are deeply committed to lifelong goals and ambitions (e.g., fighting fraud, building cabinets, or teaching their children their deeply held values.)

Last but not least, the happiest people do have their share of stresses, crises, and even tragedies. They may become just as distressed and emotional in some circumstances as you or I, but their secret weapon is the poise and strength they show in coping in the face of challenge."

While many of us don't naturally demonstrate all of these charactetistics, we can certainly work to cultivate them if we choose, and the investment in time and effort appears to be well worth it...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Creativity, Work, Genuis, and Invitations

We are, each and everyone of us, creators. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention" asserts that creativity provides a central source of meaning in our lives. When we’re engaged in a creative act, whether it writing a poem or designing our garden, we are fully alive and caught up in the present moment. Csikszentmihalyi asserts, “Contrary to what we usually believe . . . the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times--although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile…Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives ... most of the things that are interesting, important, and human are the results of creativity... [and] when we are involved in it, we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life.”

Throughout our lives we are continually called to create - our relationships, our work, and our challenges in particular are essential invitations to creation which beckon us to stretch, to learn, and to grow. Where in your life are you most engaged in the process of creation, and what are you creating?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ray Anderson: A Wake up Call and a Message of Hope

Ray Anderson read Paul Hawkins' book, The Ecology of Commerce in the summer of 1994 and later shared that it was like an arrow shot into his heart. On a TED's Talk
he told the audience the following:

"In his book Paul charges business and industry as, one, the major culprit in causing the decline of the biosphere, and, two, the only institution that is large enough and pervasive enough, and powerful enough, to really lead humankind out of this mess. And by the way he convicted me as a plunderer of the earth..."

His talk is less than 16 minutes and is a nice illustration of how much we can accomplish when we decide to change course.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Shawn Achor on "The Science of Happiness and Potential"

Shawn Achor began his studies on happiness as an undergrad student at Harvard and continues to teach there with rave reviews. During an interview with Stephanie Michele , Michele asked Achor what he thought was the biggest obstacle to an individual's happiness. Anchor responded, "It is the failure to believe that our behavior matters. To me, happiness is the joy we feel striving after our potential (as a business person, family person, mother, friend, athlete, musician, etc.). We lose our happiness when we feel that we stagnate and do not grow. If a person does not believe their behavior matters, they are less likely to create positive habits, less likely to perform acts of kindness, and less likely to pull themselves through a challenge. If you think you don’t matter at work; you hate work. If you think you can’t get better at something; you stop trying. If you think you are unhappy and can’t change; then your brain is less likely to change. The key to happiness is to remember we can keep growing and taking responsible for our own behavior. How we respond to reality can change that reality."

I absolutely agree with him and highly recommened that you watch Achor's lecture on "The Science of Happiness and Potential." I have embeded part one of his lecture here but don't stop there, continue on with it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Will I be Pretty?

The above is for every woman who has ever worried about her appearance or heard her daughter ask, "Mom, will I be pretty?"

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gross National Happiness American Project

In 2009, inspired by Bhutan, a tiny new democracy in the Hemalaya mountains, the Gross National Happiness American Project was born in Vermont. The organization echoes Bhutan's assertion that as important as measuring a country's 'gross national product' is measuring the well-being and happiness of its citizens. The Gross National Happiness website explains that gross national happiness is "based on the premise that the calculation of 'wealth' should consider other aspects besides economic development: the preservation of the environment and the quality of life of the people. The goal of a society should be the integration of material development with psychological, cultural, and spiritual aspects – all in harmony with the Earth."

Gross National Happiness involves nine dimensions; psychological well-being, health, balanced management of time, community vitality, education, culture, environment, governence, and standard of living.

Considering the terrible toll materialism has taken on the planet and its people, it is always heartening to learn about fellow Americans who are advocating for a healthier and more sustainable way of living.
If you have a few minutes, pay a visit to their website

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Questions to ask yourself at the end of the day

The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer, and Visionary

Cultural anthropologist and author, Angeles Arrien, suggests that we ask ourselves four
reflective questions at the end of each day in order to integrate our experience, develop our character, and live more consciously. Those questions are:

1. Who or what inspired me today?
2. Who or what challenged me today to stretch and grow?
3. Who or what surprised me today?
4. Where was I touched and moved today?

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Science of Happiness

What makes us happy? Watch BBC's The Happiness Formula What you learn may surprise you....

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Psychotherapy as a Form of Spiritual Practice

     Marcia Hill wrote in "Diary of a Country Therapist, "A very expensive profession, psychotherapy.  Emotionally it has cost me dearly: in echoed heartache, in secondhand images of cruelty and sufferig.  But if psychotherapy has cost me the innocence of not knowing, it has also given me the keys to transformation.  It has been for me a form of spiritual practice." 
   Wikipedia defines spiritual practice as, "intended to develop an individual's inner life; such practices often lead to an experience of connectedness with a larger reality, yielding a more comprehensive self; with other individuals or the human community; with nature or the cosmos; or with the divine realm."

   When comparing psychotherapy to spirituality in In Search of Common Ground,  Frances Vaughan observed, "...many of the processes that contribute to psychological health and well-being contribute to spiritual growth as well."  Vaughan points out that the following are integral to both both psychological and spiritual development: telling the truth, releasing negative emotions, effort and consistency, authenticity and trust, integrity and wholeness, insight, forgiveness, awareness, liberation and love. 

   On his website psychotherapist Jim Moyers writes, "The Greek word, psyche, translates as "breath, life, or soul" in English. "Therapy" is derived from therapeia, the attendant who served both gods and humanity in the temples of ancient Greece. “Psychotherapy” can thus be described as the sacred work of attending the soul, carefully nurturing the most essential aspects of who and what one is. The idea that the psyche has its own regulatory system that strives for integration and wholeness is at the heart of my work as a psychotherapist, an "attendant of the soul... Psychotherapy as practiced by Jung and those who follow in his footsteps is, at its best, a means for reconnecting with a mysterious Something deep within that gives life purpose and meaning."

   While I am still reflecting on the ways in which doing psychotherapy intersects with spiritual practice, I am clear that being a psychotherapist has both fostered and demanded significant spiritual growth of me.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Martin Seligman on Positive Psychology

   What is positive psychology?  According to Psycholgy Today it's "the scientific study of what makes life most worth living. It is a call for psychological science and practice to be as concerned with strength as with weakness; as interested in building the best things in life as in repairing the worst; and as concerned with making the lives of normal people fulfilling as with healing pathology."

   Martin Seligman, the psychologist that brought the world positive psychology talks about it on TED here 

   Interested in attending an online course on positive psychology or a live workshop in Lewiston or in Portland Maine?  If so, contact us here

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"Catch it, Check it, Change it": Tools for Fighting Depression

   All too often, when you're depressed, negative thoughts can take over; thoughts that you might have immediately recognized as false when you were feeling better can suddenly feel like cold hard facts.

   In Peaceful Mind: Using Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Psychology to Overcome Depression, authors Mcquaid and Carmona describe several techniques that are helpful for countering depression including "Catch it," "Check it," and "Change it."
   Using Catch it, Check it, and Change it (or the 3 c's) involves first noticing the thought that is creating difficulty (catch it), deciding if this thought is accurate (check it), and replacing an inaccurate thought with one that is more accurate and helpful.

   You can learn far more about how to begin using this technique by going here

   Our thoughts shape our experiences, our feelings, our very lives.  Norman Vincent Peale observed, "change your thoughts and you change your world." There's a tremendous amount of truth in those 8 little words, enough truth to change a life... 

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Mystic in Love with the Beauty of the World

I have been dazzled the last two days by the beauty that surrounds me, the flowers in my neighbors garden, the hypnotic reflection of sunlight dancing on the lake, the green, green grass on an open field with rolling hills that I drive by every day on my way to work. In an article
that I read this morning (I could not identify who the author was) the following is quoted from Matthew Fox:

"people are born mystics—we are all mystics as children, but it’s taken away from us as we grow older. It’s taken away subtly by education which trains the left brain and ignores the right brain. They take away your crayons right when you need them most — at puberty. When you should be getting to your cosmic soul they give you football and shopping-malls. And that’s what religion won’t tell you — that we’re losing the planet. We have everything to lose, it’s basic. And that’s why the only resolution is an awakening of gratitude and reverence for the planet, and falling in love in more than an anthropocentric fashion.”

Every day I need to remember to fall once again in love with all the beauty in the world and I invite you to do so too, this might just be our best hope for saving it and ourselves...

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Hidden Spirituality of Men

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

Matthew Fox's book, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine" is Fox's attempt to assist men in opening their minds to a deeper understanding of the healthy masculine and to inspire them to "pursue their higher calling to reinvent the world."

I thought I'd offer a few quotes from this book as food for thought.

"In America boys commit 86% of all adolescent suicides."

"Global warming is also a global warning: a warning that we are not doing well as a species and as a planet. One out of four mammal species is dying out, and where are our leaders? Where are the elders? Where are the men?"

"...boys get shamed for their vulnerability at a very young age, right around Kindergarten, and that's the time at which they really learn to hold off from expressing their feelings and experience." (Mark Micolson)

"Many men are abused at work, some in their bodies, others in their souls."

"There's a difference between being a soldier and being a warrior..." If the warrior is distinct from the soldier, then there must be distinct ways by which the warrior develops his or her strength. If the warrior is the mystic in action, then let us try the following four steps on for size...

The Via Positiva is the way of celebrating life... This is the way of reverence, respect, and gratitude...

This way goes into the darkness, the wounds, the pain, and also the silence and solitude of existence to find what we have to learn there. It is a way of letting go and letting be, of emptying and being emptied, of moving beyond judgment and beyond control, of sinking and learning to breathe, to sit, to be still... It is the way of grieving. Without grief we cannot move on to the next stage, which is one of giving birth....

Having fallen in love with life often (via positiva) and having been emptied and learned to let go and let be numerous times (via negativa) the spiritual warrior is ready to give birth. Creativity is the weapon... of the true spiritual warrior... every warrior is an artist...

...Does the work I am doing pass the justice test? Does it benefit the poor and not just the powerful? Does it fill gaps between haves and have-nots or make the chasm deeper? Does it contribute to healing and empowerment of the powerless or does it merely reestablish the privileges of the few and the expense of the many?..."

Friday, April 23, 2010

From Crisis to Growth: Stories of Transformative Life Events

MPBN just made available online the program they produced that was based on my book, BirthQuake.
They did such a wonderful job sharing stories of transformative life events that attest to how our pain can so often create pathways to possibility.
You can watch it here

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What to Remember When Waking by David Whyte

I was awake at dawn this morning, an all too rare event.  I was awed by what occurs each and every morning, an ordinary miracle, and I thought about David Whyte's poem "What to Remember When Waking" from   House of Belonging  and I thought I would share it with you here...

What to Remember When Waking by David Whyte

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,

coming back to this life from the other

more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world

where everything began,

there is a small opening into the new day

which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.

What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough

for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible

while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.

To remember the other world in this world

is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,

you are not an accident amidst other accidents

you were invited from another and greater night

than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window

toward the mountain presence of everything that can be

what urgency calls you to your one love?

What shape waits in the seed of you

to grow and spread its branches

against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?

In the trees beyond the house?

In the life you can imagine for yourself?

In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?

There's so much waiting for me and for you and so I invite you to go now to greet it....

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Happiness Project

Gretchen Rubin, author of bestselling  The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun has learned a whole lot about happiness and has inspired people across the country to take the happiness challenge.  Perhaps she will inspire you...

Watch the Happiness Challenge Week One here.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Tara Brach and The Sacred Pause

Most American adults all too often feel rushed and over extended. We're running late, out of time, in a hurry, busy, busy, busy. Psychotherapist, teacher, author, and Buddhist, Tara Brach, points out that the chinese word for busyness also means "heart- killilng" and stresses the importance of learning to pause and bring attention to what's happening inside of us.

Brach shares in an interview with Ken Aldelman that "We need to reconnect with the life of our bodies, to feel our hearts. That's the sacred pause. At any time, we can take a few breaths, relax, pay attention. Most people keep speeding up to drown out their anxiety. They stay lost in thought, dissociated from the body. Being brave enough to pause entails feeling that anxiety in our bodies. But we also find some space of presence and kindness underneath it."

Brach describes how we can experience the sacred pause in the above video. It's well worth the eight minutes it takes to watch it, no matter how busy you are...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Transform Stress in 30 Days with One-Moment Meditation

There's a free thirty day online course that looks promising entitled, Transform Stress in 30 Days with One-Moment Meditation. You can begin it here on

Other resources of interest at include:

Listen to audio meditations for Finding Inner Peace

Exercises for Your Awakening

Friday, March 26, 2010

Embracing Now

There's a Chinese proverb that I absolutely love which says, "the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now."
Dig in....

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

On Coming Home

This Embrace

HOME by Kirtana

Beyond the sorrow and the hardships I've endured,
deeper than my inner child,
is a part of me, untouched and free -
innocent, undefiled.

Despite the ignorant and callous acts of man
and all the hurt that they can bring,
my attention has been drawn,
by the grace of God upon
what has never been affected by such things.

A stillness underneath the chaos -
the ground in which events appear.
Some call it presence or pure awareness.
I call it home now. And I live from here.

And no, this does not shield
my heart from future pain,
or take the trauma from my youth,
or exempt me from all rage
at injustice on life's stage,
I just pledge allegiance to a deeper truth.

A truth that underlies the chaos,
a peace from which events arise -
elusive to the mind,
but never hard to find -
always here to realize.

It's a peace that passeth understanding -
the very ground in which our lives appear.
Some call it Self or even God.
I call it home now. And I live from here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

When Bad Things Happen

A young man emailed me this evening asking me the age old question, "why did this (a bad thing) happen to me?" Part of my response included a quote from Harlod Kushner that I whole heartedly agree with, and thougtht I would share here in this blog.

“Let me suggest that the bad things that happen to us in our lives
do not have a meaning when they happen to us. They do not happen
for any good reason which would cause us to accept them willingly.
But we can give them a meaning. We can redeem these tragedies
from senselessness by imposing meaning on them. The question we
should be asking is not, ‘What did I do to deserve this?’ That is really an unanswerable, pointless question. A better question would be, ‘Now that this has happened to me, what am I going to do about it?’"

Harold Kushner, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”

While there are so seldom satisfying answers, and all too many quesitons, the most important question must eventually become, "what now?"

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

Monday, March 15, 2010

Very Good Programs to View Online From UCT on Anxiety and Stress

University of California television offers a number of informative programs that can be viewed online on a wide variety of topics. I thought I'd very briefly outline a few that are available which address dealing with anxiety and stress.

UCT Recently aired a program entitled, "Worrying Well" which can be viewed here . The program is described as follows: "Physician, author, speaker, researcher, and consultant Martin L. Rossman, MD, discusses how to use the power of the healing mind to reduce stress and anxiety, relieve pain, change lifestyle habits..."

Coping With Stress: Cognitive-Behavioral Stress Reduction is a very practical and informative presentation provides effective strategies for dealing with stress and anxiety.

Jon Kabat-Zinn's presentation, Coming to Our Senses
offers an excellent overview of mindfulness meditation, stress reduction, and the application of ancient Buddhist practices to healing.

In Positive Emotion in the Midst of Stress: Its Not Crazy it's Adaptive social psychologist Judith Moskowitz explores how positive emotions can be used to more effectively cope with stress.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Misunderstood Epidemic: Depression

"The Misunderstood Epidemic: Depression" airs on PBS on March 25 at 9:00 PM. Considering that one in four women and one in eight men reportedly suffer from depression in the US, this is an important program to view.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cognitive Processing Therapy

Psychotherapy Brown Bag recently wrote about a wonderful online resource that provides instructions on the implementation of cognitive processing therapy in working with individuals suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. This free course can be found at .

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Writing, Depression and Healing

Writing Through the Darkness: Easing Your Depression with Paper and PenThere has been a significant amount of research indicating that writing promotes both emotional and physical healing.

In “Writing Through the Darkness: Easing your Depression with Paper and Pen,” author Elizabeth Maynard Schafer cites a number of studies which support that writing about traumatic events can ultimately improve mood, reduce blood pressure, increase immune system functioning, alter brain wave patterns, reduce pain, and more (pp. 36-38). Schafer also writes about her own struggles with depression and offers a number of approaches to writing as well as writing prompts, recommendations, resources, and suggestions for the creation and maintenance of a writing group for those with mood disorders. She also maintained a blog and while she is no longer updating it, it contains some wonderful writing prompts for use either individually and within a group. I’ll be using some her prompts during the 12 - week group that I plan on offering beginning in April for those who struggle with depression.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"My Stroke of Insight" and Dealing with Our Emotions

In her book, My Stroke of Insight, Harvard trained brain scientist, Jill Bolte Taylor shares significant insights about the brain and mind that she gained after experiencing and recovering from a stroke in 1996. While the book offers some fascinating information regarding how the right brain and left brain both differ and work together, what stroke victims experience, what they most need, and how we can very naturally attain a deep inner piece, I’d like to focus on one particular discovery – the power of our minds to alter our experiences.

Taylor points out that while “there are certain limbic system (emotional) programs that can be triggered automatically, it takes less than 90 seconds for one of these programs to be triggered, surge through our body, and then be completely flushed out of our blood stream.” Our anger response is one of those emotional programs that can be triggered automatically. Once it’s triggered, certain chemicals are released by our brains and course through our bodies, creating an automatic physiological response. However, within 90 seconds the chemical component of our anger has completely dissipated from our bloodstream and our automatic response is over. If, on the other hand, we remain angry after the initial 90 seconds have passed, it’s because we’ve chosen to allow this circuit to keep running. Each moment, we make the choice to either tie into our neurocircuitry or shift back into the present moment, permitting our anger to dissolve as passing physiology. We unconsciously make decisions about how we’ll respond to situations that we find ourselves in all of the time. We can spiral into reactivity or consciously choose to respond by bringing our attention back to the present moment.

Taylor suggests that when our brains begin a loop that feels “harshly judgmental, counter-productive, or out of control,” we wait 90 seconds for the physiological/emotional process to dissipate and then inform our brains that while we appreciate its ability to feel feelings and think thoughts, we’re not interested in feeling these feelings or thinking these thoughts anymore. We then ask it to please stop bringing them to our attention. In making this request, we’re consciously asking our brains to stop getting stuck in unhelpful thought patterns. Another option is to use the thought stopping techniuqe or the five R’s technique (recognize, refuse, relax, reframe, resume)

Taylor writes, “I believe it is vital to our health that we pay very close attention to how much time we spend hooked into the circuitry of anger, or the depths of despair. Getting caught up in these emotionally charged loops for long periods of time can have devastating consequences on our physical and mental well-being because of the power they have over our emotional and physiological circuitry. However… it is equally important that we honor these emotions when they surge through us…The healthiest way I know how to move through an emotion effectively is to surrender completely to that emotion when its loop of physiology comes over me. I simply resign to the loop and let it run its course of 90 seconds. Just like children, emotions heal when they are heard and validated. Over time, the intensity and frequency of these circuits usually abate.” She then makes a conscious choice to return her thoughts to the present moment.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Honoring our Clients

There is a Sanskrit blessing that has been so meaningful to me from the first time I read it. It speaks to honoring each person that we encounter. It says, “I honor the place in you where the universe resides. I honor the place in you of love, of light, or truth, of peace. I honor the place within you where if you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me we are one.”

I am continually striving to do this...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Updates on the Treatment of Depression

There have been several studies recently published on the treatment of depression. Among the findings reported are:

According to an analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, antidepressants, while still the best option in the treatment of major depression, appear to offer little benefit to those suffering from milder forms of depression.

Women are at greater risk of developing depression and face significant physical consequences including but not limited to compromised brain functioning, heart disease, and reduced bone density. You can read more here

The National Institute for Health and clinical Excellence recommneds mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for indiviudals who have experienced three or more episodes of depression. Mindfulness training reduced the relapse rate of those struggling with recurrent depression by half according to two clinical trials. You can read more here.

You can preview the book, Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for Depression here

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

When Questioning Everything

A man wrote me recently to let me know that he no longer felt the vigor of his youth, no longer felt motivated by the dreams that had sustained him for so long. He felt lost. He questioned everything and no longer trusted anything. He asked what was wrong with him, and why he should even “bother anymore.” He assured me that he wasn’t suicidal, just stuck in some “no man’s land.” Was he depressed? Perhaps. Was this a particular pathology or something more universal? Was it possible that the land he found himself stranded in was every man (and woman’s) land? Could be. If we’re blessed to live long enough, doesn't each of us eventually find ourselves mired in the murk of doubt and uncertainty for a time?

I struggled with how to respond to his question, “why bother?” for a time and then I recalled a quote in Sue Monk Kidds book, “When the Heart Waits” by Janice Brewi and Anne Brennan from their book, “Midlife.” The quote read:

“When, one day in mid-life one comes to doubt oneself- and all one’s relationships and commitments, and when the pain and anxiety of this dropping away of… energy from all that formerly was so life-giving begins to overwhelm, there surfaces the depth question: Why bother? Lucky the one who lets that question stand…That question is a prayer.”

"Why bother?" can become a sacred quest if asked with an open heart, one that widens our horizens, and seldom satisfied with easy answers, often calls us into a deeper more meaningful way of seeing and being.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The First Episode of "This Emotional Life" Airs Tonight

Tonight on PBS from at 8 pm eastern standard time the first of the three part series, "This Emotional Life" airs. The series is scheduled for January 4th through the 6th and will explore relationships and emotional health, negative emotions such as anger and fear, and how we develop resiliency and achieve happiness.

The PBS offers the following description:

"Harvard psychologist and best-selling author of Stumbling on Happiness, Professor Daniel Gilbert, talks with experts about the latest science on what makes us “tick” and how we can find support for the emotional issues we all face.

Each episode weaves together the compelling personal stories of ordinary people and the latest scientific research along with revealing comments from celebrities like Chevy Chase, Larry David, Alanis Morissette, Robert Kennedy, Jr., and Richard Gere."

I'm looking forward to it!