02Aug

Use mindfulness to create peace within

Could you risk believing that everything
will unfold just fine if you completely let go
of all concern about everything else,
and simply are here, now – if only for a moment?
—Dmitri Bilgere

As we continue through a mostly mask-free summer, I find myself wanting to make sure to not lose pandemic lessons. June and July turned out to be busy months, with graduation celebrations, reunion gatherings sorely missed for over 15 months, and seizing opportunities to reconnect. This “catch up” is a two sided coin. On the one side, happiness and homecoming relief in being able to join with friends and family in person and good health. On the other side, wow, revving up the energy when for many months, we had only a few items on our “to do” list and living in the moment availed itself more readily. Since I was a child, I enjoy this summer presumption that emotional distress dwindles down to the bottom of a beach bag and drifts away on a paddleboard to only come back to shore in September! Hah, not so. Life’s trials do not go on vacation and there are some seasons which don’t allow for much rest no matter how much we will them to. Therefore, it was during an inauspicious “moment” early morning last weekend, when inspiration seamlessly revealed itself.

As the house slumbered and I savored a wide brimmed cup of PG Tips tea as well as the very welcomed open space of first day “off” in weeks, I heard a “clickety/clack.”  Realizing it was a chirping sound, I walked outside and there was a pesky wee bird, looked to be a bit bigger than a sparrow, flitting around a towering hawk perched stoically on the topmost branch of a tree in the valley behind our house. With every few flutters, this brazen feathered irritant would peck against the back side of the larger winged creature!

Initially, I was mesmerized by the audacity, persistence and sheer buggary of this small bird whose apparent goal was to get the hawk to react, in essence, to get the hawk off balance. I immediately likened this smaller bird with life’s troubles, whether they keep coming back to shove at us or just annoy our reverie; people, situations and emotions can peck at us and certainly throw us off balance. I marveled at how the hawk remained steady, never did it lunge or twitch, seemingly oblivious to the menacing company. Much like the opening quote, the hawk seemed to believe “everything will unfold just fine if you completely let go of all concern about everything else, and simply are here, now.” By slowing down my pace, in that moment, I was able to see how the hawk epitomized the concept we frequently explore in therapy; mindfulness.

As we practice being “mindful” we are focusing on the here and now, a moment at a time, accessing the depth and power of the mind to create peace within.  The hawk symbolized how to remain clear of purpose by standing tall even when life pecks at you, at times relentlessly, bringing challenges we must endure and overcome.

I went to grab my camera and by the time I returned, the small bird had landed on our back fence, defeated in its assault as the unflinching steadfast calm of the hawk had won out. As I moved closer to the edge of the yard, the hawk’s wings stretched, embraced the open sky and effortlessly left its post and began to fly.  I noticed the right wing had a segment indented and missing, perhaps an earlier injury, when maybe an even more menacing encounter had taken its toll. The hawk widened its radius and gathered momentum, extending its distance a bit more the next time around, soaring farther and higher. I found myself smiling at the shear, unexpected victory of mindfulness and how it is possible to maintain balance, even when life pokes at you.

Whether feeling pecked at by life’s demands with employment, finances and decisions or off balance by anxieties, hurts and fears within relationships, we could all learn a lesson from the hawk. If we react, attack and get swayed by the stressor, we will certainly lose balance.  When we are impenetrable, mindful, assured and steadfast, we will certainly find our wings and soar.

14Jul

If it’s important, you’ll find a way

If it’s important, you’ll find a way.
If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.

I have heard the lament from both clients and friends, “I thought I would get more done during Covid.” Mine was to clean up the pile of college bedding and dorm room items my son deposited in a corner of our garage following a hurried campus exit last March 2020. Guess what?? We never got around to it. And now, as the calendar mockingly reminds me, we have six (6) weeks to dust, sort, toss and repack as he resumes his collegiate adventure!

Cleaning out the garage, doing taxes, starting an uncomfortable conversation, leaving an unfulfilling job, finishing an academic degree, ending alcohol dependency, beginning counseling, pulling weeds, scheduling an overdue dentist appointment. How to find a way rather than find an excuse?

Here’s a suggestion, start at the basics.

  • During Covid, our calendars became unnecessary, every day duplicated the next, we lost the rhythm of planning. Today I felt very efficient as I walked into a Staples and bought a July 2021-2022 18-month calendar. I must say, just purchasing it made me feel a step closer to organization!
  • Next, scribble/brainstorm/data dump those excursions, chores, events, projects, items you would like to, or have to, take care of. Put them on the calendar. Legitimizing the task is a powerful way of mustering up energy, putting the gloves on and digging in… to find a way.

Come on, July is knocking…halfway thru this year, why not shift from “finding excuses” to finding a way!

30Jun

Free to Be True

During a session with a client the other day, she was marveling at the difference a year can make. Brimming with an optimism and a refreshing excitement about her future, she proclaimed, “I am so free.”

Are you free? Or, do you feel trapped in a prison of your own creation? For many of us, we are doing time in State Avoid. We have become “used to” our cell even though we experience excruciating anxiety, doubt, anger and fear. When in a state of avoidance, we lock ourselves out from spontaneity and life experiences. We feel stuck, shut down and powerless. We crouch childlike, hoping no one finds out our “secret”…that we are in a lonely marriage, have out of control kids, drink too much alcohol or live with a loved one who does, feel ashamed about our past, worry incessantly about a weight or health issue, or that we just don’t believe ourselves worthy of a satisfying life.

This is a “shout out” to those committed to breaking free from old burdens or defeating beliefs. Take a moment to consider how you have been breaking out from habits of avoidance through your courageous dedication to personal discovery. Consider how tough it can be to chip away at some of those “emotional life sentences” assigned to us from our past that we now must dedicate heart and soul to overturn.

To tackle what we thought was impossible…to speak about an issue with a family member, to live alone following a long-term relationship, to change jobs, set boundaries and advocate for our own worth…well, that is setting ourselves free.

There is no better season than summer to deeply experience freedom. Thoughts, ideas and inspirations take root during these weeks of lemonade, chlorine, watermelon and giggles. The sun, sand and smooth skies stretch out all around us, serving up plenty of time to digest your achievements and perseverance and dreamingly reflect on your next steps.

21May

Sail On Sailor!

Ships don’t sink because of the water around them; ships sink because of the water that gets in them. Don’t let what’s happening around you get inside you and weigh you down.
—Anonymous

I have dreamed of living at sea, on a statuesque sailboat careening over hypnotic waves as the canvas sails dance with salty foam breezes. In my dreams, I am a sailor, maybe even a pirate! The closest “ship” I captain is my boogie board affectionately named “Betty” where I merge with the wave and rely on her to chaperone me to shore. Mesmerized by the vastness of the ocean’s eternal depths, I am consistently humbled to be a small creature playing on such an immense, vibrant and fluid playground.

Last year, during the pandemic, we sailed our ships through uncharted waters, at times weathering raucous storms and other days reveling in the calm, quiet solitude of staying docked. The social, financial, political and interpersonal conflicts, uncertainty about restoring familiarity of the past as well as what shape the future would take were just some of the anxiety inducing riptides and currents which made for a staggering journey.

Tossed about, perhaps shaky and more weathered, our ships’ wheel may feel wobbly, our compass bent, energy depleted, optimism exhausted, yet the horizon is steady. Our proverbial ship did not capsize!

As the opening quote reads, “Don’t let what’s happening around you get inside you and weigh you down.”

How to keep your ship from springing a leak:

  1. Get outside every day! Gaze at the ocean and if not able to get to the shore, then head to your backyard, patio, neighborhood sidewalk. Remind yourself of nature and how it is unveiled, inviting and constant. Trees and rose bushes don’t wear masks. 😊
  2. Make daily news/media information choices about how much time you will “donate” to absorbing others opinions, frustrations, hostilities and uncertainties. Intentionally decide to not take on the unnecessary “weight” of division which could capsize you.
  3. Keep your ship in good shape! Walk, run, ride, stretch, eat well, “clean up the galley!”
  4. Combine desirable treasures…enjoy a bubble bath while eating popcorn, watch a movie on your iPad wrapped in a blanket on your lawn chair, call up a friend and both of you apply a face mask while catching up.
  5. Dive deep! Specifically flag a few hours to explore an unknown: alternative music, a recipe with “out of the ordinary” ingredients, move furniture, read a different genre of literature, pray, meditate, pick up an instrument!

My favorite Beach Boys tune is “Sail on Sailor.” It contains a very simple inspirational message… sail on. Your ship is strong, capable, determined and has made it through the storm of 2020 and now, with some repairs and polish, your vessel will carry you to calmer waters as we welcome summer. Eye on the horizon! Sail on, sail on, sailor.

23Apr

The 3 “R’s” of SpRRRing!

The 3 “R’s” of SpRRRing!

Spring has sprung! The air is sun-baked crisp, flowers with popping colors abound and many of us have had “shots” in the arm as vaccines are also blooming everywhere. As a healthcare worker, I received both rounds of Moderna and found myself standing on the edge of a pool of possibilities. Should I fly somewhere? Dine in a restaurant? Welcome clients back to in person private practice? Hug a friend? As we re-enter life from pandemic panic to pandemic pragmatism, it is wise to enlist your own version of “know thy self.” As I gazed at this expanse of options, there were many resounding “R” words…renewal, reward, rejoice. Yet, there were three “R’s” which surfaced and began to float hope…Remember, Resume and Reclaim.

Remember

After over a year of remaining at or very close to home, it is natural to view returning to travel, workplace, social events, shopping and crowds with skepticism as the pandemic transformed most aspects of life into risky territories. How will you re-establish comfort and trust in a particular activity or setting? How will you remember who you used to be?

In the heat of summer and eager to cool off at a pool or the beach, are you inclined to tumble head over heels and immerse your entire body in chlorinated or salty water? Or would you rather slowly ease in and sample the temperature an inch and a toe at a time? We each have our own style of facing the unknown and strangely, that is what life may resemble as each of us face this “re-entry” process. Honest ownership of knowing your unique level of comfort, pace and listening to your instincts will be essential.

The treasure of time passing is to remember all you have learned about yourself, trusted resources and loyal friends during the pandemic. Once you are vaccinated, perhaps having a more detailed conversation with your family physician to gather “re-entry” suggestions will be useful. Inquiring and sharing strategies with friends as to how they are embarking on life again would be a fruitful conversation. The key is to remember you are very capable of re-entering and resuming your life, just as you proved capable to living with Covid.

Resume

Websters defines “to resume” as the act of returning to and beginning something again after an interruption. To pick something up again: to go back to using or doing (something, such as a way of behaving).

The Covid-19 storm interrupted and disrupted all our lives. What path would you like to discover and journey on now? What have you missed? What is calling to be picked up again? Now is the time to reflect on what you set aside during Covid and make a plan to “picking” it back up again, according to your comfort level. Tennis? Volunteering? Dance lessons?

There are many paths appearing open to exploration, either a familiar path or perhaps a brand new one filled with curiosity and renewed readiness to embark, learn and experience aspects of life sorely missed.

Reclaim

What does it mean to “reclaim” one’s life? Webster’s defines it to rescue from an undesirable state: to restore to a previous natural state.

Will you be “reclaiming” your previous “natural state” of life prior to the pandemic? Or was the “undesirable state” the life you may have been living pre-Covid? Consider this: there now exists a choice to NOT resume undesirable stress, strain and frenetic movement which many of us had assimilated as “normal.” After a year of putting the brakes on and pulling over to a rest stop, how you merge back onto the highway of life is completely in your control. What will you reclaim that existed before Covid? What will you hold on to as a result of it?

The choice is yours.

04Apr

“Lifted” to the Other Side of Challenge

“Lifted” to the Other Side of Challenge

Definition of “lifted”: To raise from a lower to higher position.

As many of you know, I love all things British, especially my friends who live in London. Years ago, while visiting them during a shared holiday in Cornwall, they played Lighthouse Family, a British band comprised of two young “mates” who had met while working at the same pub in the mid 90’s. A fantastic duo, they created magical, easy listening music and gained a dedicated audience.

Whenever I want to transport myself back to a cherished time spent on brisk walks along Cornish seaside cliffs, strolls into the village for afternoon tea or an evening of cheers with a pint at the pub for trivia game night, I play their songs, always beginning with “Lifted.” Although its appearance has spiritual overtones, the band and their music are not representative of a particular religious affiliation, instead this particular song holds a message of coming out of a darkness, beyond the rain, to joyfully experience what is on the other side…timely, eh?

The band separated for many years and reunited last year with a live performance during the Promenade Summer concerts in London. Watching this video will naturally ignite a variety of emotions: Shock, seeing so many people shoulder to shoulder, smiling, dancing, with lots of social closeness, not distance. There may be a longing for “the good ol’ days” when we united with similar crowds to sway together with a love of shared music and festivities. There may be a question of when will you be able to voyage to distant lands again and promenade through foreign parks, and mingle with others who may, like you, be checking off items from their bucket list?

Welcome these thoughts and their adjoining emotions. The pandemic forced us to face the unexpected and with it mounds of uncertainty, anxiety, waiting and wondering. Passover, Easter and Springtime are here and invite us to contemplate gratitude and renewal. Please gift yourself 5 minutes as you watch this video and tap into our shared collective spirit. Focus on hopefulness and envision how as more and more are receiving the vaccine, we are being “lifted” to the other side of this challenge, glimpsing a day when life will be restored, our doors open and we are “lifted” to health and recovery.

26Feb

Perspective

Perspective

I have been using the term “perspective” more often than usual lately. Of course, I love words and turned to my reliable Merriam-Webster and looked up the definition. Perspective: A mental view or prospect; the capacity to view things in their true relation or relative importance.

Against the backdrop of the pandemic, and by working, and socializing, virtually we have learned more about our own, and others, perspectives on health, risk-taking, problem-solving, coping, humanity and global well-being. The protracted stress of the virus and now the re-entry wobbles, call upon each of us to dig deep for a point of view which can help us maintain optimism, hope, acceptance, patience, and restore motivation to restart activities and lifestyle. The saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is a timely testimony to how we each view our lives back (last year), center (right now) and front (the next months). We are the “holders” of our perspectives and what we see as beautiful, vital and true.

I recalled a short tale I have used numerous times during workshops. As a disclaimer, I did not author this original concept yet did edit it a bit. 😊

One day a wealthy father took his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how impoverished others can be and to expose his son to a lifestyle of “less.” His hope was to heighten his son’s gratitude for the riches and lifestyle he was born into. They spent a day and a night on the farm of a very modest income family. When they returned from their trip the father asked his son, “What did you think about our time on the farm?”

“Very good Dad!”

“Did you see how very poor people can be?” the father asked.

“Oh yeah!” replied the son. “And what did you learn?” asked his dad.

The son answered, “I saw that we have a dog at home, and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of the garden, they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lamps in the garden, they have the stars. Our patio reaches to the front yard, they have the whole horizon.”

As the little boy was finishing, his father was speechless. “And oh,” his son added, “Thanks Dad for showing me how poor WE are!”

Here’s to hope for expanding your perspective to embrace the “riches” of re-joining one another.

06Jan

Bring Clarity to 2021

Bring Clarity to 2021

Close your eyes to see clearly. Be still and you will hear the truth. 
—Ancient Zen saying

Just a year ago, 2020 escorted in a new decade and with it, lots of clever rides on the metaphor wagon with “clarity,” “vision,” and “focus” arriving on January 1st, 2020.

We splashed about in a pool of constant stimulation, whizzing to and from work, shuttling kids to school and afternoons and weekends brimming with activities. Vibrating cell phones and packed Google calendars, dinners, concerts and dings of incoming texts, schedules on the swift moving conveyor belt of life and I, like many of you, believed I was seeing every day very clearly. 😊

And then, March 20th, 2020, Covid-19 became the “new” lens we attached to our vision. A global “shut in” took place, leaving bustling shops vacant, hushed the noisy movement of humanity, emptied cluttered freeways and shielded our faces. From the stillness of staying at home, our view of the world shifted and we adapted.

For the first time in over 30 years of providing therapy, I joined every client in a shared experience, each of us reacting to this changed universe. Individually we confronted how to manage risk and orchestrate more direct control of our time. The absence of “going out” equaled the inevitable focus on relationships with family members, our home environments, unfinished projects, neglected hobbies and friendship connections. As much as we were witnessing the unimaginable of Covid’s arrival, without the rigor of timelines and coming and going, our familiar vision was “closed” and we were quite shockingly, and perhaps gratefully, invited to see clearly, become still and find our truth.

Take a moment to consider what “truths” became clear to you during this past year. Here are a few of mine:

Savor health, it is not a given.
Practice joy and laughter, they are lifelines.
Distribute gratitude, the finest currency.
Water curiosity, wisdom will grow.
Excavate hope and patience, daily.
Love life completely, every moment.

Sending you an abundance of hope for a New Year filled with courageous clarity, enlightened truths and welcomed renewal!

25Nov

Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

So much has been given to me; I have no time to
ponder over that which has been denied.
—Helen Keller

The pandemic has denied us many “ings.” Socializing, hugging, partying, traveling, playing, shaking hands, smiling at one another (due to masks), riding roller coasters, mingling, joining in the workplace, studying on campus, greeting one another in church pews and synagogues, singing in concert halls, cheering at Petco Park—the list goes on. Yes, there are many “ings” absent in our day-to-day lives yet there are a few that are impervious to Covid-19: giving, thanking, loving.

Giving to those in need—consider making a donation to a community organization. Thanking others is a “social distanced” verbal hug. Reach out to someone (or many) and share your appreciation with a phone call. Whether spending Thanksgiving with a few friends or enjoying a much smaller than usual family gathering, perhaps the quote from Helen Keller could be a conversation starter around the table or on a Zoom gathering? Focus on what we have been given during our lifetime, not what has been denied during this challenging year.

“What has been given to you?” 

Breath ~ Life ~ Friendship ~ Dreams ~ Curiosity ~ Mind ~ Vision ~ Health ~ Opportunity ~ Time ~ Creativity ~ Language ~ Faith ~ Hope ~ LOVE

Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.
—Khalil Gibran

It is my sincere hope you will “gobble up” and “digest” (couldn’t resist the puns 😊) all that you have been given and turn your focus to gratitude for another day of giving and receiving love. Wishing you a cornucopia filled with health and gratitude this Thanksgiving.

Enjoy this song by Jason Mraz, beautifully capturing “another day of loving.”

P.S. Couldn’t resist sharing this photo from the 2009 archives as my son and I were lucky to have a “Meet and Greet” following Jason’s concert at Coors Amphitheater.

Jason Mraz

02Nov

Ca suffit, reste tranquille

Ca suffit, reste tranquille

During my college summers, I worked as an au pair (nanny) in France. I adored the history, pastries, boutiques, villages, lush countryside, bustle of the Champs-Elysees, Le Metro underground transport and Bateau Mouche rides on the Seine. Yet most of all, I loved, and was mesmerized by, the language.

My adorable charges often spoke, ran and bicycled at speeds I struggled to match, yet one saying I used frequently was … “Ca suffit, reste tranquille.”  Literally translated it is, “That’s enough, stay calm.” It always flowed more as a caution than a reprimand, an invitation not a dictate. When our fears, future anxieties and distress speed up, it may be an opportunity to tell ourselves just this.

As we begin this week, many may be experiencing tensions regarding possible election results. I encourage you to take a moment and close your eyes, inhaling a full, glorious breath and say to yourself (in whatever language you prefer), “That’s enough. Stay calm.”

Music has always reminded me of the heart and soul of our humanity and never fails to bring me joy and optimism. I sincerely hope these selections will do the same for you. Ca suffit, reste tranquille.

 

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