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An Ah-Ha Moment

How often do you experience being totally in the moment, fully focused on your work, a piece of art, running, an experience that you might describe as in the zone, a moment of bliss, nirvana?  Isn’t it great being in a state that works for you and is enjoyable, creative and productive? Did you know that a regular meditation practice can invite such a state to occur more often?

That’s one of the main reasons I meditate. And the other day while meditating I had an ah ha moment that motivated me anew. So I thought I would share it and hopefully motivate you too…

I realized, after so many years of meditating, that by simply by returning again and again to the practice I was doing “reps” (like when you’re exercising). Even if my mind seemed to continually chatter and wander, each return, however brief, was a like a rep, strengthening the benefits.

For example, in meditation, if breath is your focus, every time your mind wanders, your job is to return to the breath.  I realized that the time between becoming conscious that you have strayed and resuming focus on the breath is like a rep. It is like you are lost in the woods and you cross a bridge called consciousness that leads back to the breath, and crossing that bridge is the rep that strengthens your ability to take charge of your thoughts and emotions (which are so often in charge of you).  And when you’re in charge of your emotions, you then have the ability to choose a favorable response.  That bridge or space is eloquently described by Viktor Frankl: “Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

If you want to try meditating, there are many teachers, free online audio and video guides, and even apps to help you start your practice and to keep it going.  I use an app called Brightmind. Another popular app is Insight Timer. Use whatever works for you!

Ideally you will meditate a minimum of 10 minutes most days.  You will experience benefits as you go.  Noticing positive effects of your meditation practice helps encourage you to continue.  You might even try setting an intention before each practice session.

Wishing you your own ah-ha moments.

The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage

In this TED talk Psychologist Susan artfully discusses the values and ways of developing “emotional agility”. I was inspired by the beautiful articulation of her philosophy, which is parallel to my point of view in collaborating with clients to fine-tune their relationships with their emotions in ways that lead to lives that fulfill their hopes and dreams. Enjoy!

A Quick-Start Guide for Dealing with Unwanted Thoughts

Neuroscience has shown that neurons that fire together wire together. In other words, repeated thoughts create a pathway in your brain. We get better at what we practice.

You can change or replace thoughts, which affect words and actions, as part of your work toward a desired change.

  1. First of all, notice your thoughts. Just for the moment let go of the thoughts and ask yourself, “Where am I feeling this in my body?” Locate the feelings in your body. Now you have separated thoughts and feelings.
  2. Write down the thoughts (literally, the words), make a note of the feelings associated with the thoughts, and note the time of day.
  3. When you have a chance, review the thoughts and feelings you’ve noted. Do the thoughts repeat themselves with an uncomfortable degree of regularity? Do the feelings associated with these thoughts cause you pain, anxiety or discomfort?

If the answer to number 3 is yes, you can now begin to work on the thoughts and feelings separately. You may try to distract yourself from the unwanted thoughts when they arise, for example, with music. Or you may try to replace those thoughts with other, more positive or productive thoughts. You have the power to choose your thoughts — make new choices, create new stories!

If you have read older posts in this blog, you know that I personally belive in meditation as a key tool for this. Meditation can help you to separate your thoughts and feelings and regain peace of mind by breaking the feedback loop of negative thoughts fed by negative feelings.

A good therapist – a good, therapeutic relationship — can shine transformational light on the relationship between your thoughts and emotions, and help you find the right tools to begin working on those connections.

Please comment or contact me for more information about how this process my work for you!

Listening and beyond…

Everyday by Jose Maria CuellarThe greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”
— Henry David Thoreau.

Communication – a lack thereof and desire for – is the one of the most common reasons people seek therapy.  Communication, for one, involves talking and listening, which we often think of as a mind skill.  But it is more than that.  Listening involves the mind and the body; thinking and feeling.

Truly “attending” to an answer may require more than just basic listening. An exercise or tool to improve communication often taught in therapy is called “active listening”. You listen with the intent of hearing and then say back what you heard (correcting if necessary) until the other person feels authentically and accurately heard.  Then you switch.

But the real key to resolving issues is to go beyond listening and hearing, into understanding. Through active listening, you broaden the lens of perception and pave the way to understanding.   Understanding involves thinking (the hearing part) and feeling.  The two elements operate in conjunction — thinking is often, if not always, driven by feelings. Feelings inform thoughts which inform feelings, which inform thoughts, and so on.

So, the mind (thinking) and body (feeling) are connected.  But, while engaging in dialogue — focusing on the words — we often unconsciously forget about the body/feeling part.  We override or ignore those feelings.  Listening is an auditory skill, but the kind of listening we really crave involves all the senses, including feelings.  So as you tune in to the words, try to remember to tune into the feelings behind them, too – this is where the true connections can be found.

Yes, listen. But practice listening beyond the auditory component – and not just in your closest relationships, but with everyone.  Each verbal encounter with another is  a mini relationship; a chance to practice this incredibly valuable skill.  Tuning into this mind/body connection can, and most probably will, help you to become a more skillful communicator.  If we could all be mindful of this in our every interaction, the effects would undoubtedly be far reaching and profound.

A Metaphor for the Potential of Your Therapy

I found this inspiring regarding telling and retelling stories and thought you might too. This is a metaphor for the chief modality that informs my practice, namely: Post-modern therapy, which includes Narrative and Brief Solution-focused therapy.

achenyo-idachaba-vid

Achenyo Idachaba: How I turned a deadly plant into a thriving business
TEDWomen 2015 · 07:17 · Filmed May 2015

The story ends with a quote from Michael Margolis: “If you want to learn about a culture listen to the stories. And if you want to change a culture, change the stories.”

When you come in to therapy you bring in stories, presumably at least one problem story, from your own personal culture.  The story may have been useful to you at one time, or have an important purpose and potential, but is not serving you now.  Collaboratively we bring your strengths to light.  We transform and create new empowering stories.

 

“The real thing”, “Lasting love”

Ellen McCarthy is the author of The Real Thing: Lessons on Love and Life From a Wedding Reporter’s Notebook.  It covers the advice she gathered from more than 200 couples, the weddings she attended and the experts she met on the beat at the Washington Post over four years. McCarthy joins “CBS This Morning” to discuss what she learned.

Try a Little Empathy, You’ll Like It!

Here is a beautiful example of how to be empathic.  Often, even if well intended, we defend or dismiss.  Try empathy when your spouse, child, friend, or colleague expresses feeling like they’re stuck in a hole.  Meeting people where they are instead of trying to fix the situation may feel good to you too!  Practicing empathy will reward them and us with the feelings we love most, those of connection.

Trading Places

Trading Places

Who is in charge you or your emotions?
Would you like to trade places so that you are in charge?

Our language identifies us with our emotions — “I am depressed”, or “He is always scared”, or “She seems to be such an angry person” — we speak as though the person is the problem.

YOU are not the problem. The PROBLEM is the problem.

Perhaps you have developed a “story” in which your “problem emotion” rules. In other words, your emotion has become bigger than you, which can feel overwhelming. If you feel uncomfortable enough to seek change (it’s important you desire the change you seek) — if you would like to create a new narrative where you are in charge of your emotions — therapy might help you make that change.

The process of therapy would be to first separate you from the problem emotion. You might tell me the story of the problem, such as when anger, depression, or stress, first showed up in your life. Once we identify the problem as, for example, anger, questions might be: “What is anger getting you to do? How does anger make you feel? Is that what you want? Is this working for you?”

I am your facilitator, collaborator, assistant director. Together we examine your relationship to the problem. For example, “Anger gets me in trouble and I do not like that.” We explore your strengths, resources, and successes. We find new possibilities. We co-create a new, preferred story, putting you back in charge.

Emotion Follows Motion Part II

Positive posture supports us to create positive states — internally and externally, mentally and physically.  For insight and inspiration, enjoy this TED Talk from social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, on how your body language shapes who you are…

Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.

View on TED.com »

Read Emotion Follows Motion Part I »

The Tapping Solution & One Giant Step Towards Mainstreaming Mindfulness Practice

Just after I posted my latest blog, I received an email from Nick Ortner, with a link to a video.  Nick and his sister Jessica Ortner are the founders and owners of The Tapping Solution.  The video shows Jessica’s interview of Congressman Tim Ryan about his new book, Mindful Nation, plus exciting and encouraging news about attempts to engage the congressmen and women co-workers in some mindful moments.

Tapping is an effective tool for emotional and physical balancing, which I use on myself and in my practice.  I would like to hear what you think when you explore the above resources.

The First Present from which All Presents Come is Presence

present-presenceWe look before and after, and pine for what is not; Our sincerest laughter with some pain is fraught.
― Percy Bysshe Shelley

Be here now. Take some time throughout the day wherever you are, whatever you are doing.  Take a break to awaken your senses.  Give yourself the gift of presence.

Why?

  1. The present moment can be your muse, the place from which creativity arises.
  2. The present moment is the pause that refreshes. Recharge your battery.
  3. This moment is a break in the habitual pattern of thoughts that run through your mind day after day, the beginning of a whole new mind.
  4. You are giving yourself the gift of increased sense and sensibility.
  5. You are making presence your new normal.
  6. When you are present, you open yourself to new possibilities.
  7. Presence brings the clarity necessary to enhance those abilities
    most important to you.

How:

  1. Notice your breathing. Feel the expansion of the chest and abdomen on the in breath. Feel the relaxation and letting go on the out breath.
  2. Scan your body. Are you warm, cool, comfortable? Where is the feeling?
  3. What do you see? See color, motion or stillness, near and far.
  4. Notice surrounding smells. Take in these scents.
  5. Notice the surrounding sounds. Pause for your own sound bite.
  6. Feel the air touching your skin, your clothes. Run your thumbs over your
    finger tips.
  7. What is the taste on your tongue, your lips? Savor this moment.

The rich, sensory experience is right here in this moment, available to experience fully, and most often to your delight!

If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.
― Maria Edgeworth

WAIT! Before you stress even one more time, watch this!

Years ago I learned that different people experiencing similar body sensations respond in totally different ways.  The speaker (I cannot remember for sure who) told a story about Carly Simon and Bruce Springsteen, two great singer-songwriter-musicians, getting ready to perform. Both would feel sweaty palms, rapid breathing, and tightening, especially in the stomach and chest.  Carly would fear she was having a “panic attack” and not be able to go on.  Bruce would feel stoked and ready!”

We can embrace, welcome, allow, and use sensations in our bodies to enhance the lives of others and ourselves.  Watch the following TED Talk from Psychologist Kelly McGonigal for some great tips on how to make these conversions…

Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.

Kelly McGonigal translates academic research into practical strategies for health, happiness and personal success. Full bio »

No, It’s Not Just the Thought that Counts

For 27 years I swam every day, first a mile, then ½ a mile.  I plotted and schemed to fit my swim in to my schedule.  Then one day many years ago, as I sat on the edge of the pool not wanting to go in I thought, “I have exercised almost every day of my life and a huge percentage of the time I have had this conversation going on in my head, something like: “I don’t feel like (in this case) swimming.  This is taking too much time.  I’m too tired,” and numerous other rationalizations.  Then, I thought, “But how silly is this thinking?  I know I’m going to swim.  Well, I’ll just get in and if I don’t like it I can get out.”  There were times that I conned myself for a whole mile.  But I always swam and always felt better, even great, mentally and physically.

Summary of faulty connection repair:

  1. I am thinking negative thoughts, which are causing negative feelings.
  2. The programmed mind/body sense ultimately reminds me that I always feel good afterwards.
  3. Having become conscious of the mind body process, I can delete the negative section, the to do or not to do thoughts, and the negative feelings.
  4. Now the whole experience is mostly happy and my life is enriched.

As a therapist, I am helping people expose problematic wiring.  Together we examine the short-circuiting, and rewire in a way that lights you up.

  1. You become conscious of problematic thoughts and accompanying feelings.
  2. Develop clarity about the distinctions between thoughts and feelings.
  3. Re-pair thoughts and feelings according to what you would like to have happen.
  4. The result is more effective, empowering and enriched relationships.

It’s not the thought, but the thought + feeling that counts.

Enter the Thought-Free Zone with Mantra Meditation

Popularized by the Beatles, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought Transcendental Meditation to the USA in the mid 60s and started a meditation revolution. I was in a fortunate position and received my mantra from the Maharishi in a room alone with him at the Plaza Hotel.  The instruction was to keep your mantra secret.  It was designed especially for you.  And you were to meditate for 20 minutes,  twice a day.  The effects were immediately apparent. I have never since questioned the value of meditation. But to develop a consistent practice is an ongoing pursuit.

In 1986 I learned Vipassana, the basis for Mindfulness practices, and have practiced that form of meditation predominately.  Also I use various sound tracks, guided meditations and hypnosis.  Recently I had a desire to return to my mantra and enjoyed simplicity and ease in my practice.  The following two introductions to mantra meditation will give you a good idea about meditation, and introduce a universal, easy to use mantra, “So Hum”.  But there are thousands of other mantras out there – find one that suits you best, or create your own!  As with any practice, the main goal is to do it!  So, for your support:

1. Instructions on the “So Hum” meditation, from Deepak Chopra.  Try using music to accompany your practice!
“So Hum” meditation instructions, from Deepak Chopra »

2. Shiva Rae, in Yoga Journal, imparts wise words about meditation and uses the same, “So Hum” Mantra:
Read A Higher Hum: Breath and Mantra Meditation at YogaJournal.com »

I hope you will enjoy and use these as guides.  And, I would love to hear about your experiences.

How safe are you from an emotional take over?

You feel your temperature rising, body tightening, fists clenching, energy building and no release valve.  So you scream, hit, shut down, retreat or attack.

Anger, here represented by Anger Bot, has taken you over.

How to fight back against Anger Bot:

  1. Get out of your mind and tune in to your senses.  Ask yourself: “Where am I feeling this in my body.”  Maybe you clench your teeth, make a fist, or feel tightness in your chest or stomach.  Are you breathing?
  2.  Think about anger as a force that has taken you over and is getting you to behave certain ways.  Who is in charge—you or Anger Bot?

In therapy you and your therapist can collaborate to help you become conscious of what triggers anger so that you can chose how to respond.

You can change your behavior through the consistent practice of separating thoughts and feelings.  Mindfulness practices enhance your ability to let go of thoughts and notice, experience, and stay with feelings.

When anger is in charge of you, you have given up choice.  As you become conscious and recognize danger, that is anger with a d in front, d–anger, you can prepare.  Anger preparedness moves you in to a position of choice so that you can act in a way that will feel better to you and those around you.

Anger Bot no longer rules!

Olympian Lesson for Everyday Thinking

Olympic Rings, courtesy of Kimball Library - http://www.kimballlibrary.com/kimball/thursday-june-28th-630pm-summer-reading-event-library-olympics-grades-k-5/olympic-rings/Michael Phelps and his coach, Bob Bowman, attribute 22 Olympic gold medals to psychological, as well as physical training.

In an interview, Bowman says “I’d never seen him clutch.  He has developed a mental file cabinet of what to do in every situation … I’ve never seen him be discouraged by anything.”

Click here for the Washington Post Video

“He’s the best I’ve ever seen and maybe the best ever in terms of visualization.
He will see it exactly the perfect race.  And he will see it like he’s sitting in the stands, and he’ll see it like he’s in the water.  Then he will go through scenarios – What if things don’t go well? … He’s programmed his nervous system.”

NOTE: If you’re not good at visualizing, then try to imagine; remember sounds; feel the feelings stirred in your body; hear the words people will say; what you will say.

You can use this model for success in your own personal Olympics, with a profession psychotherapist or on you own.

With your coach or therapist you can:

  1. Look at the “problem story” from different points of view (every story could be told at least 5 other ways).
  2. Clarify what you would like to have happen. What is your intention?
    How will you know if your therapy has succeeded?
  3. Develop practices that you can do on your own.
  4. Role-play situations that are problematic. Prepare to respond, rather than react.
  5. Move from being the victim of circumstances to an empowered position of choice.

You will develop:

  • Confidence that you will know what to do when the time comes.
  • Mental processes for handling the unforeseen.
  • Freedom to focus on what you would do, rather than worrying about what might do you in.
  • Freedom to focus on the task at hand.  For Michael Phelps that is swimming; for you it is the action necessary to fulfill your dreams.

Remember to practice, practice, practice. Practice every day, mentally and physically. And, congratulate yourself on even small victories.  Say to yourself, “You did it!”  Experience the feelings that go with success.

The Heart Remains A Child*

infinite hearts, courtesy of heartsonghandicrafts.com

When you hear yourself saying, “I am so stressed”, or you feel literally uptight — that is, parts of your body are tense — first, breathe. Often when I hear or even speak the word “breathe”, I find I am holding my breath. Next, a phrase that might come to mind is: “The heart remains a child”. That phrase induces compassion. Rather than: “How could I be so stupid?” or “I/he/she should know better by now!” — “The heart remains a child”. How would you like yourself to treat a child? How would you have liked to be treated as a child?

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I often see couples and individuals who are seeking help to get out from under the weight of emotions unleashed by love lost, a relationship in trouble, or by what seems like an inability to find love in the first place. Regardless of sophistication, professional achievement, and education, people remain unable to manifest the relationship of their dreams, or are overwhelmed by the painful feelings of love lost and loneliness.

Therapy can help you learn to live better according to your own values with more comfortably balanced emotions. A broken heart is an open heart. And from that open place where “the heart remains a child”, we can start again with love and compassion for our selves and each other.

*The Heart Remains A Child is a song title from The Walking Wounded, an album released in 1996 by the group, Everything but the Girl. 

Everyone is a Child

Parent - ChildRecently, I was at a year-end meeting of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Adult Education Division, in which I am credentialed.  I was reminded, by inspiring words from retiring teachers, of my experience counseling children directly, teaching parenting, consulting with teachers and supervising Marriage Family Therapist Interns who counseled kids at the schools.

One teacher brought in to focus that everyone is a child and/or a parent.  The child/parent relationship is so central to all relationships. You might ask yourself to describe a favorite teacher.  What qualities would describe the best teacher?  You are your child’s first teacher.

Children, I find, are very responsive and resilient, one-on-one.  The way I work is strength-based.  Often I begin a session by asking, “What do you do best?” or, “I hear you are a good cheerleader”, because children recommended for therapy by schools and by parents are often defined by the problem.  They are the problem.  The same is true of many who seek therapy.  It is as though we have been swallowed up by the problem in an emotional take over. The person is not the problem.  The problem is the problem.  Together we examine the problem and the child’s relationship to it.  Some questions I ask are, “How is the way you are acting working for you? Is that what you want to have happen?  What would you like to have happen?  What are some other possibilities?  How is the problem influencing the family and other relationships?”

Imagine a rope made of red, white and pink threads.  From a distance the rope looks pink.  As you come closer and closer the colors begin to separate from each other, and become clearly red, or white, or pink.  The process of therapy clarifies thinking and increases mindful, conscious awareness and the ability to mange emotions.

Children often pretend, for example, that anger is a monster.  At first the monster is in charge of the child.  Then they create solutions, such as smashing the anger and vacuuming up all the pieces, or imaging a big red stop sign, as the body signals anger approaching.   The child takes charge of the problem, instead of visa versa.  Parents, teachers, client and therapist collaborate as a team to make life happier and more productive for everyone involved.

Mantras To Live By – A Gift from Ram Dass

“I am a beautiful soul.  Everything I do is enough.”

Click on photo to visit RamDass.org

In the 70s I was doing a meditation retreat with Ram Dass in the redwoods outside of Santa Cruz.  Five days of silence!  The thought terrified me.  The reality, however, was tremendously freeing.  Over the five days, I felt myself move in to a feeling of union with the whole community, which often happens in intensive trainings, but this was on a deeper, wordless, spiritual level.

At 3:00 am, we arose for a one-hour meditation, all together in the meeting room of an A-Frame made of glass and surrounded by tall trees filtering sun and moonlight.   Then we returned to our cabins for 2 hours of sleep.  At 7:00 am we did yoga while smells of oatmeal, hot chocolate, coffee and tea wafted from the kitchen along with chanting as breakfast was being prepared.  Then we spent 3 hours with Ram Dass, which sped by as we were entranced by his combined enlightenment and fun sense of humor.  Each afternoon we could choose to learn one of several meditation styles and traditions.  Before bed there was another Ram Dass gathering.

As I sat in the warm sun during lunch break, a self-defeating pattern arose.   When Ram Dass had told us we could break silence to speak with him if need be, my star student aspect had checked off any need for help as an admission of failure that certainly would not be necessary.  Of course conditions were ripe for any self-loathing to show itself slithering along the path to enlightenment.  And, in the middle of paradise, no one having said one word to you for days — except Ram Dass in his fun and funny, inspiring words of wisdom — it is pretty obvious there was no one to blame but myself.

So, I revealed my lose/lose inner conflict to Ram Dass.  He grabbed the collar of my sweater on either side of my chin, pulled me up eye to eye and said, repeat after me: “I am a beautiful soul.  Everything I do is enough.”

“I am….”

Again he said: “I am a beautiful soul.  Everything I do is enough.”  It took a few times before I could say the whole sentence.  “Now say that to yourself for 24 hours.  Then come back at this time tomorrow and say it to me.”

I walked back to my cabin saying the words over and over, and promptly wrote them in my journal.  Twenty-four transformational hours later, calmer and happier, I repeated those words back to Ram Dass, which prompted a shared triumphant laugh.

In the loving spirit of the gift, I am passing it along to you.

As you experience yourself as “enough”, so you will see the same in others and feel much more at one—attuned/in tune, and thus less separate and alone.

Sometimes I write the words on a sticky or a notebook — whatever might be most visibile to me at the time.

Repeat: “I am a beautiful soul everything I do is enough.”  Catch yourself in those times when you need reminding.

Emotion Follows Motion

How or what are you feeling now? Right now notice your posture.  Is your back straight, your heart held high?  Or are your shoulders rounded, your body forming the letter C?

Right now change position.  Stand up, reach both arms as high in to the air as possible and say, “YES!” depending where you are right now of course.

Respecting that in this moment for emotional and physical reasons this may be inappropriate or impractical for you, generally speaking you will feel better instantly.  Why?  Emotion follows motion.   Our minds influence our bodies, and conversely our bodies effect our minds.  Besides lifting your spirit, standing or sitting tall helps you “breathe easy” and is good for the functioning of the internal organs.

When I was very young, I studied dance with the famous Martha Graham.  She told us to walk down the street (this was in New York City) and say hello to people with our words, but mainly with our body language.  To this day I try to remember, even when I’m walking around at home, to pull my self up tall, shoulders pressed down and back a little, prompting myself with the words: hold your heart high.  Often a little smile will automatically follow.  People actually say hello to me as I pass them on the street right here in L. A.  “Do I know that person?” I say to myself.  In this way each of us has a brighter day.  If you are used to a bit of a slouch, this may feel weird at first, but it is worth getting used to.

This little exercise may not be all that you need to heal your grief, diminish your mental or physical pain, and improve your communication skills.  However, minimally, you will feel better now!

Are You Weighting?

Lose your mind and come to your senses!  Get out of your head and experience the pleasure of smart foods that tickle your taste buds and feel good in your tummy, leaving you feeling light in body, mind and spirit.

Hypnosis and Mindfulness have healthy statistics that show their efficacy in weight removal and maintenance. Group, and individual therapy are strong supports. Gain skills and tools to-go, such as personalized self-hypnosis and mindfulness audios to take home.

We are all experts in the difficulties of dieting!  Practically every magazine for the last 10 years features the last diet you will ever have to go on.  The focus is on what to eat, how much you can eat, and many unsustainable, unhealthy regimes, which leave your body feeling deprived and crying for balance.  Feeling deprived doesn’t work.  Is it your time to master your habits in relation to food?

Click here to download our “Why Weight?” support group flyer!

Watch the simple facts about food for life in this brief video from the Centers for Disease Control — Finding A Balance:

You knew that!  Take action now.  Put yourself on the road to success.  Change your relationship with food.  Replace conflict with compassion.

There’s nothing to it but to do it.  Do it right here and right now ; )

Click here to download our “Why Weight?” support group flyer!

Or contact us for more information!
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Kissing Cousins: Hypnosis and Mindfulness

I wonder if you, as I did, believe that the difference between mindfulness meditation and hypnosis is that you are “in charge” during the mindfulness process, while the hypnotist is in charge during hypnosis?

In the 80s I studied and practiced Vipassana, an early form of Buddhist meditation, which began to inform my work as a therapist.  I then watched in awe as the techniques of Vipassana, became know as “mindfulness” and spread in to practically every area of psychotherapy.

Now I use both hypnosis and mindfulness personally and in my practice. As I enthusiastically study Mindfulness and Hypnosis The Power of Suggestion to Transform Experience, by Michael Yapko, I realize how much guided mindfulness meditation (GMM) and hypnosis have in common.

Yapko, (p. 25): I hope clinicians who have embraced mindfulness discover that mindfulness approaches are more strongly related to patterns and dynamics of hypnosis than they may have realized. Mindfulness works; hypnosis works; and it is the task of the clinicians to ask the penetrating questions about how they work, for whom and under what conditions.

Both mindfulness and hypnosis are tools of the therapeutic process, adaptable to a wide variety of therapeutic approaches, which are designed to help clients transform themselves in relation to the range of emotionally based mental and physical issues that they bring to therapy.

While I am finding every word in the book informative and inspiring, I think the important take away message is exemplified in the following (p. 169):

Both mindfulness and hypnosis are clear that acceptance has to precede change, but in hypnosis a well-defined therapeutic target lies one step beyond acceptance. In hypnosis, there is an implicit or explicit suggestion to do something.

Are you going to encourage clients who come to therapy with a goal (a hope, a wish, a desired outcome) in mind to “just be” and lead them to believe that by “just being” they will resolve their problems? …. Alternatively, will you retain the essence of the message about the merits of focusing, meditating, and “just being” while encouraging clients to actively evolve specific skills for problem solving? The skill might even be to learn that some problems cannot be solved and the message to “accept and just be” is perfect.

The consciousness that mindfulness can be a tool for acceptance and a precursor to action, or just a tool for awareness, is an important distinction for clients to know, and for both therapist and client to discuss in order to facilitate a positive therapeutic outcome.

Note regarding professional requirements:  You do not need to be a licensed therapist to practice mindfulness or hypnosis.  There are associations such as Southern California Society for Clinical Hypnosis, a Los Angeles chapter of American Association of Clinical Hypnosis, which train licensed professionals who have ethical qualifications to really support the client.  Two years of intensive training is required for full membership and credential.

Why Weight?

The mind/body/food connection is made very clear in this to the point craving eliminator video by hypnotist Jim Katsoulis

The goal is to want to eat what supports the body you want.  And YES, you can reverse programming that may have come from family, friends and thousands of ads on a daily basis, which link pleasurable emotions to the food they are selling, which ultimately bring more pain than pleasure.

What will really work is for you to want the foods that support your body and mind to function optimally—that’s real pleasure, and that is the way nature intended.

The keys to success are mindful eating, compassion and self-hypnosis.  With persistence and patience you begin to automatically desire what makes you feel good in your body and enjoy your work and play.

This may be common sense to some, but does it make sense to you?  Let us know in a comment, below!

Mindfulness with John Kabat-Zinn

Talk at Google Headquarters

In 1979 Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Clinic, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, to help patients cope with pain, illness and anxiety. In 1995 he founded the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, also at UMMS.

In 2007 Kabat-Zinn gave the following talk to a group of employees at Google Headquarters.  The talk aims to demystify the practice of mindfulness and its incorporation in to daily living.  If you don’t want to listen to the whole talk, you can skip ahead to the “formal meditation” (from about 24min. to 46min, in the video). Notice the use of metaphor and suggestion, as in hypnosis. If you have the curiosity, the time, and you’re looking for creative stimulation, I think you’ll enjoy the whole talk.

Whether you are a “seasoned” or beginning meditator, or simply want to understand mindfulness (conscious awareness in the present moment), the following is illumination from Jon Kabat-Zinn, a scientist, writer and master teacher of meditation.

We are all mindful some of the time.  Where do you experience mindfulness in your life?  How or when have you harnessed its power?  Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.

More of My Favorite Books

I really love all of these books.  All of them are guides to the ultimate goal — happiness — and  have helped me in my psychotherapy practice and personal development, which happily blend together.  All quotes are from the book covers.

Calm and Compassionate Children,
A Handbook

Susan Usha Dermond

Dermond is a teacher and founder of The Living Wisdom School in Oregon, a non-profit with a sister school in Washington.  The schools emphasize “…non-sectarian spiritual principles and practical skills for living.”   The book will help parents and children learn practical ways to live in and communicate from calm and compassionate states.

How to Meditate, A guide to Self-Discovery
Lawrence LeShan

This straightforward primer introduces the reader to a variety of ways to meditate.  It is a slim little paperback treasure for everyone, especially beginning meditators.

 

 

Taming the Tiger Within, Meditations on Transforming Difficult Emotions
Tich Nhat Hanh

“Acclaimed scholar, peace activist, and Buddhist master revered by people of all faiths, Tich Nhat Hanh has inspired millions worldwide with his insight into the human heart.” The Dalai Lama says of this book “He shows us the connection between personal inner peace and peace on earth”.  Each page contains a paragraph or even just a sentence that encourages and inspires us to understand and manage difficult emotions.

The Art of Happiness, A Handbook for Living
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, MD

Howard Cutler asks the Dalai Lama major life questions that you and I might ask.  The Dalai Lama’s eloquent and logical answers embody compassion, wisdom and humor.

 

 

The Wise Heart, A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology
Jack Kornfield

“Kornfield is an internationally renowned meditation teacher and one of the leaders in introducing Buddhist practice and psychology to the West….  The Wise Heart is the fruit of his life’s work.”  He is the co-founder of East and West Coast spiritual centers, the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA, and Spirit Rock in Northern California. It is a treat to attend one of his workshops and hear stories about people from every walk of life transforming their lives. Kornfeld embodies the nobility of spirit, which he sees in everyone. This is a book to keep nearby and open to any page at any time to soothe your soul, as is the following:

When Things Fall Apart, Heart Advice for
Difficult Times

Pema Chodron

Even if things are not falling apart, each 2-3 page chapter can be read in a few minutes before going to sleep and leave you feeling better and more insightful.

 

 

Hope you enjoy!  Come back and share your comments here, if you’re so inclined.  Also, check out my previous post: A Few of My Favorite Books

Robbins-Madanes Video, Inspiration and Motivation

Tony Robbins is endorsed by a variety of leaders in many different fields and has been a motivator and teacher from whom I have drawn inspiration for  decades. Over the years I have used lessons and drawn inspiration from Tony in presentations to teachers, the public, in my practice as a therapist, and in my life.

Cloé Madanes is a world-renowned innovator and teacher of family and brief therapy and one of the originators of the strategic approach to family therapy.

Now Tony Robbins and Chloe Madanes have created The Robbins-Madanes Center for Strategic Intervention. Together they have made a series of videos demonstrating examples of their transformational work with people from different walks of life.

Last night I watched one of the Robbins-Madanes videos in which Tony brings a man from almost suicidal despair to a place from which he can and does recreate a new successful life. The video has all the elements of an engaging short movie, and builds to a crescendo of good feelings. Additionally, you’re invited to participate in a life changing exercise, which I found uplifting an inspiring.

Click here or on the video image above to watch this inspiring, interactive Robbins-Madanes video (77 min).

Enjoy!  And please feel free to comment below — I’d love to hear what you think!

Tuning-In to Brain Wave Frequencies

Chart used with permission of Laura Silva Quesada, daughter of Jose Silva (founder of the Silva Method, in the 60s).

I owned and practiced using the Silva Mind Control records, in the 70s.  Yes, real 78, LP (long playing), records.  Within the last year I purchased the Silva Life System and have found it beneficial in enhancing my ability to access Alpha and Theta states.  The CDs guide you through meditations and exercises to enhance learning skills, pain and stress management, sleep quality and more.  The Silva Centering Exercise is generously offered for free.  It is one of the best tracks I have ever experienced, never failing to induce a deep state of relaxation, even at times when the rapid brain wave cycling of the Beta state seems to have taken me over.  I move from entrenched to entranced.

While all four of the above states coexist simultaneously, one state is usually dominant.  For me, and I hope for you too, awareness and knowledge of these four brain states increases my motivation to practice meditation, visualization and self-hypnosis consistently.

My Mindfulness/Vipassana teacher, Shinzen Young, used to tell us that meditation is like practicing driving in the parking lot before going out on the freeway. In my therapy practice I use hypnosis as well as mindfulness meditation.  Practice results in expanded consciousness so that you can feel the affects of slower brain waves, recreate the feelings with ease, and gain mastery of your conscious and subconscious thoughts and feelings.

The skills you acquire will enhance your relationships to yourself, your loved ones, your work and the world.  You will stress less, gain clarity in the decision making process and make better choices.  You will learn faster and be a better observer of your own and other people’s behavior.  You will increase feelings of happiness in all areas of your life.

Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg

Through the therapeutic lens…

You may have heard that the conscious mind is only the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface of the water is the subconscious, the submarine, where all of our programmed activity is going on.  Without being at all scientific, we have the autonomic nervous system taking care of basic body functions such as breathing, and we have all the lessons we have learned so well that we can perform them without much thought, such as brushing our teeth, or driving a car.

Relative to the subconscious, the conscious mind holds little information at any given moment in time.  If you are a professional basketball player, for example, you can consciously tell yourself to simply focus on the basket and a myriad of complex, subconscious  signals are sent to all parts of your mind/body to actually get the ball to the net.  You’ve consciously practiced for thousands of hours so that, by the time you’re in the “real” game, those actions and reactions have become subconscious.

Have you ever been getting ready to go out to a party, or work, or an event, when thoughts are running through your mind and suddenly you have an “ah ha” revelation about yourself that seems enlightening?  What has happened is your mind has slowed way down, and is focusing on how you are putting on your eye make up, or shaving.  You are in a meditative state, a lower number of cycles per second of brain wave activity, allowing a new point of view to float up into the conscious mind.

Conversely, anxiety, fear, anger and other amplified, negative emotional states can short circuit an otherwise open, flowing process.  Therapy can help move you in to a place of choice, so that you can avoid short circuiting. You replace self-limiting beliefs and gain access to positive, helpful thoughts, words and actions.  You make more good choices more often so that, to some extent like brushing your teeth, the positive thinking becomes automatic.  The short circuits dissolve and clear the way for meditative, subconscious clarity to surface.

It seems to me, from everything I have learned at this point in time, including the past 27 years of intensive study, research and practice of psychotherapy, that all methods of therapy are ways of clearing up your circuitry and shining light into the darkness, thus helping you lighten up. Processes such as meditation and hypnosis help you function at a more relaxed, calm level.  You brain waves slow down allowing more clarity and ability to choose wisely.

Good rapport with your therapist builds trust, which allows you to feel relaxed, calm and comfortable so that you feel safe giving and receiving information.  In my work I help bring forth your strengths to use as building blocks in our re-creation.

The therapeutic process is one of discovery. Therapy helps you gain access to what you know, but don’t know you know. The most delightful learning is when you say to yourself, “I knew that. That’s what I am doing.”  You notice that often your intuition has been telling you the truth.  “Isn’t that wonderful.  I’m right on!”

Therapy helps free you so that you can create, love, work, and inter-relate in ways that make you and those around you feel good.   You will still make mistakes, and have ups and downs, but you will be able to let go faster, learn the lessons, be good to yourself, and experience more joy!

A Sure Way To Polish Up Your Attitude of Gratitude

One of the treasures in my extensive, passionate, daily reading, research and studies is an exercise I found in Simple Abundance: A Day Book of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach. Compelled by the fact that the book was gift from my loving daughter, I eagerly began doing (you don’t just read you do) one page for each day of the year.  I read, “…all the other principles that can transform your life will not blossom and flourish without gratitude.” and that a gratitude journal is a must. Immediately I committed to completing five times every night for a year, “I am grateful for_________”.

Experience the feelings that go with your expressions of gratitude.  Ask yourself, “Where am I feeling this in my body—is it in my throat, chest, abdomen?”  Scan your body Notice your breathing.

I continue to this day to write or mentally scan my day and now easily find at least five events for which to give thanks.  Still sometimes resistance comes, “I don’t want to, don’t have to, who cares, not tonight, I’m too tired.”  But I persevere, and the reward is instant! Over time giving thanks has become easier and easier and an exercise I cherish.

Psychological, philosophical, and spiritual teachers repeatedly prescribe gratitude.  Neuroscientists prove it is true that by practicing gratitude you can positively change your emotional/feeling state, your mind, and your life.

In Letter to My Daughter Maya Angelou tells a story of how, in practically suicidal despair, she finally goes to the studio of her mentor and voice teacher, Frederick Wilkerson:

Wilkie said, “Sit right down here at this table, here is a yellow pad and here is a ballpoint pen.  I want you to write down your blessings.”

I said, “Wilke, I don’t want to talk about that.  I’m telling you I’m going crazy.”

He said, “First write down that I said write down, and think of the millions of people all over the world who cannot hear a choir, or a symphony, or their own babies crying.  Write down I can hear—Thank God.  Then write down that you can see this yellow pad, and think of the millions of people around the world who cannot see a waterfall, or flowers blooming, or their lover’s face.  Write I can see—Thank God.  Then write down that you can read.  Think of the millions of people around the world who cannot read the news of the day, or a letter from home, a stop sign on a busy street, or….”

I followed Wilke’s orders and when I reached the last line on the first page of the yellow pad, the agent of madness was routed.

That incident took place over 50 years ago.  I have written some twenty-five books, maybe 50 articles, poems, plays, and speeches all using ballpoint pens and writing on yellow pads.   (Maya Angelou, Letters to my Daughter, chapter 11)

Use any form of writing instrument, pad, journal or scrap of paper you can or want to, but write!  Commit to at least two months. The action of writing your thoughts and feelings will help bring them to consciousness  so that you are able to make good choices, experience the mind/body feelings and enhance your ability to create the life you desire.

Let me know how this goes I’d love to hear from you!

Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative

Therapy holds a key to freeing your brain from self perpetuated negative thoughts.

One of the most enduring and helpful psychological tips I ever learned was in the ‘60s from my therapist Albert Ellis.  I went to see Ellis at his Institute for Rational Emotive Therapy (RET), the first of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapies (CBT), in Manhattan in 1967.  I was feeling so overwhelmed by anxiety that the first words out of my mouth were “I think I need to be institutionalized”.  His response: “So?”  I laughed with relief.  He sent me home with his book, A Guide to Rational Living, first published in 1961, which changed my thinking forever.

Example of how our inner voice perpetuates emotional states:

Did you ever notice how children who get a cut for example cry and cry, only to return to their former play within minutes?  Sometimes a hug and a compassionate “that must hurt” helps. We, “grownups” on the other hand keep re-telling the event to ourselves and others, thus perpetuating the upset.

Sharing our stories about the bumps and bruises of every day life may help us debrief, make sense of, and integrate the experience in to our larger life story.  On the other hand repeating a traumatic story may re-traumatize us, perpetuate the hurt and throw us out of balance longer than is helpful.

The point is we have a constant, often unconscious internal thoughts streaming through our minds.  The thoughts become habitual, and literally form patterns in our brains – Thus, “neurons that fire together wire together”, the motto of the new neuroscience, actually a quote from Hebbs, 1949.

One of the main advantages of mindfulness meditation is to help us become conscious of our thoughts.  Once aware we have choices.  Here’s one I’m training myself out of.  Thoughts about war.  My internal dialogue/monologue can develop on the topic and cause anger, despair, and result in a generally uncomfortable, unhealthy feeling.  As soon as I notice the war CD starting to play in my head, I stop.  I picture a Stop sign, (learned that from an elementary school boy I was helping deal with anger), colorful mandala, and pictures around the house.  When Albert Ellis first taught me to notice my thoughts, I was sometimes so overwhelmed I would say, “Mary had a little lamb….” It works!    You’ve thrown a monkey wrench in to the thought pattern.

We have expectations and a sense of fairness.  More positively ask yourself: How can I implement this in my life?  Where in my life am I out of integrity with myself?  What am I not doing that I want myself to do?  Can I trust myself?  Am I trustworthy?

Therapy can help you recognize and transform harmful thoughts, which are causing anxiety, depression, grief, anger and other negative emotional states. You can move in to a position of choice and experience more positive emotional states, a happier you attracting happier energy.

A New Lens

How is a photo session like a therapy session?

On my way to becoming a psychotherapist I had a photography career.  In 1971 I moved from Woodstock to LA with a band doing the visuals for a mixed media musical and from that was hired at Warner Brothers Records to do the audiovisual presentations, and also became staff photographer.  Even today I shoot professionally occasionally, but mainly as a hobby.

In my traineeship with schizophrenic and bipolar “members” of a residential treatment center, I led a photography group.  Looking through the camera, choosing a point of view, and trying to capture the image as you see it, helps ground and focus body and mind.

A photo sessions with an individual or a group – like a psychotherapy session – is a mini-relationship; it has a beginning, middle and end. The strongest photos are those in which the photographer captures an essence of the person or people.  The connection comes across in the resulting photos.  The photos come alive.

In the photo session I would often begin by standing opposite the person, both closing our eyes, taking a deep breath.  The quietness would bring us both in to the moment and I would ask the person to open their eyes when they were ready. From that centered, grounded moment of connection, we would begin our work together.

In a successful therapy session, the connection between client and therapist results in aliveness and clarity.  The session helps you connect, or re-connect with your highest essential being. You experience yourself as having moved from where you were when you came in to therapy, to where you want to be.  You see the world through a new brighter, clearer lens.  You still have your old lens to put on whenever you need it.  After all, it has served you well at another point in time.  But, now you have the choice of a whole new lens.

Do you feel stuck?

When you are feeling anxious, angry, distressed, or other negative states, how can you be the change you wish to see in your world?

It may not be as hard as you think. Therapy can help!

People talk about generating the feeling inside yourself of where you want to be as a way to help yourself get there. Where in your life even for a moment, do you feel that positive feeling? In that moment the anxiety, frustration, anger, or fear is not with you. You have a feeling of expectation that something good is going to happen.

Maybe for you it takes something more serious than blowing dandelion petals away, or finding a heads up penny. The point is you experience a feeling of positive expectation, even if only for that moment.

Good therapy helps you see clearly and have the freedom and ability to transform in the ways you prefer. Your heart and mind become harmonious. You move from a current unpleasant state to feeling better. The petals of negative emotions float away.

Therapy can help you create a positive state in more and more of your life. The energy you generate generates the energy around you, which attracts like energy and creates a life you love.

Together in therapy we can discover and dissolve obstacles keeping you from being/feeling your personal best, develop clarity, and give you tools to enhance and maintain your happiness and your relationships with others.

“A General Theory of Love” & Limbic Resonance

In A General Theory of Love the authors state:

Adults remain social animals: they continue to require a source of stabilization outside themselves.  … Total self-sufficiency turns out to be a daydream whose bubble is burst by the sharp edge of the limbic brain. Stability means finding people who regulate you well and staying near them.

Community Can Reduce Stress

What is a great way to stress less?  Gather in the presence of others who share common interests. Pacific Palisades, a slightly remote corner of Los Angeles, between Santa Monica and Malibu is losing a little bookstore which as been a gathering place for community, a place for warm bodies to get together in an atmosphere which fosters positive interaction.  We are emotional, socially driven mammals who benefit from positive, personal interaction. As more and more of our ability to safely and easily mingle with other people disappears, our STRESS levels increase.

The closing of Village Books, is a sign of the times.  Going in to say our goodbyes, many of us could not hold back tears.  This is going on everywhere.

The Internet is an amazing resource, but keep your eyes open for opportunities to be part of live, face-to-face communities.  Become conscious of the communities you are already in – your gym, your work, and school.  Look for people who share common interests.  We need to nurture and encourage positive, healthy, social interaction.

Everday Creativity, with Dewitt Jones

“Creativity is the ability to look at the ordinary and see the extraordinary.”
— Dewitt Jones

This 22 minute video preview of a creativity program developed by Dewitt Jones — renowned National Geographic photographer — contains many metaphors for life and how to live it.  Focus, perspective, balance, passion, caring, and light, are all within us to help achieve our personal and professional goals.

Is some out of balance emotion obstructing your ability to be the person you want yourself to be right now?  Anxiety, fear, depression, grief, life, can loom so large at times that we cannot see our way over, around or through.

This video clip may help you “…feel inspired and encouraged to apply his [DJ’s] simple yet powerful life techniques to your everyday challenges.”

See from different perspectives; move in to a position to choose from several right solutions.

Watch the video preview of Everyday Creativity, with Dewitt Jones

Stress Less with a P.I.E. Guided Meditation

Would you like to stress less right now?  Treat yourself to a 6-minute guided meditation.  The acronym for this exercise is P.I.E.

  • Precision
    Notice the breath or sensation in the body as precisely as possible.
  • Impermanence
    Change is always happening. Even a solid sensation such as pain is impermanent.
  • Equanimity
    No judgment – no right or wrong, good or bad.

Download the 6-minute P.I.E. guided meditation (pie-meditation.m4a)

Would You Choose Psychotherapy?

On this site, and possible many others, you have read and watched materials designed to inspire you to transform negative energy in to positive, or manage your anger, grief, stress and other components of your emotional state.  The underlying assumption is that you desire to manage your emotions.

Yes or No?

  1. Do you struggle with your emotions on a daily basis?
  2. Do you feel sad, frustrated, angry or anxious more often than you find acceptable?
  3. Do your loved ones, peers or co-workers complain about your negative emotional states?
  4. If you answered yes to #3, do you think they may be “right”?
  5. Would you like to manage or control your emotions better?

If you answered yes to all of the above, you may be ready to make good use of the many tools offered for stress reduction and emotional management.

If others think you should change but you do not want to, and you seek professional help because you think, “maybe I should”, chances are good that your emotions will continue to rule.

If you would like to take charge of your emotions therapy can help YOU succeed. You do have a CHOICE, even though you may feel you do not.  Therapy can help move you in to a position of choice.

The Key to Dealing with Stress, Anger, Depression and More…

“Mindfulness” is a word you may know a lot or a little about. Just one click on the title of this new book, The Mindfulness Revolution: Leading Psychologists, Scientists, Artists, and Meditation Teachers on the Power of Mindfulness in Daily Life will put you at the heart of the mindfulness matter.

This essay collection describes mindful attention and how it can be applied to such diverse aspects of life as parenting, trauma recovery, money, illness, relationships, and the like.
— Publishers Weekly

If you were to read one book on Mindfulness, I’d recommend The Mindfulness Revolution. Each of the forty essays on a vast range of topics can be read in a short amount of time, and may give you a brief therapy session on the spot. Plus the book provides resources and a bit on each contributor. I have found each essay to be soothing, nourishing, and enlightening for the mind, body and soul, and wish you the same.

Persuasion

Persuasion is defined as…

  • the act of persuading (or attempting to persuade);
  • communication intended to induce belief or action;
  • inducement to act by argument or reasoning or entreaty;
  • a conviction or belief.

Persuasion is generally the subject of marketing and advertising.  However positive use of persuasion could enhance our communications. A masterful positive persuader, Martin Luther King, used his powers of persuasion to inspire social justice and peace for all humankind. A masterful negative persuader, Hitler, used his powers to manipulate and con.

Win/Win

In relationships there is only win/win or lose/lose. In The Psychology of Persuasion Kevin Hogan says:

WIN/WIN is more than an idealistic philosophy.  WIN/WIN is an absolute necessity.  …If you do not fill the needs and wants of yourself and those with whom you are in relationship, both parties lose.  WIN/WIN is the only way to do business and the only way to maintain positive relationships.

Whether you are trying to persuade a friend, spouse, child, client, or to sell a product, to get to win/win it is important to discover what your needs are and what are the needs of your “target”.

Often we think of getting our point across, our needs met, achieving our goals.  Winning is valued in sports, as well as in many kinds of competitions. Games and competitions have clearly defined rules and boundaries, whereas rules and boundaries in relationships are negotiated.  Mastering our powers of persuasion to promote positive feelings, and create win/win situations will result in improved, more pleasurable relationships.

Tattoos on the Heart

The Power of Boundless Compassion
by Gregory Boyle

William Blake wrote, “We are put on earth for a little space that we might learn to bear the beams of love.”

Father Boyle, Founder of Homeboy Industries, adds, “Turns out this is what we all have in common, gang member and non-gang member alike: we’re just trying to learn how to bear the beams of love.” (p. xiii).

If you have ever had trouble loving yourself or others, inspiration for expanding our capacity for unconditional love fills the pages of Tattoos on the Heart, The Power of Boundless Compassion.

One of the bravest, most humane, heartbreaking, brilliant, and hopeful stories I’ve read in ages.  Father Greg, the Gandhi of the Gangs, fills Tattoos with unquenchable soul force and down-to-earth love.
— Jack Kornfield, Author of A Path with Heart

In Tattoos on the Heart, Father Boyle (called “G” by his “homies”), tells story after story of gang members who against all odds came to know and love themselves, and establish productive lives, sometimes even then to be stopped by a bullet.  At a funeral a parishioner asks Father G, “…what’s the point?”

Father G: “It was a good question, worthy of a response. I told that packed church that Luis was a human being who came to know the truth about himself and liked what he found there.”

Read the NPR Fresh Air interview with Father Boyle.

For me the message is that only we can hone our ability to stay in a place of love.  Only we can further develop our capacity to love ourselves and to love one and other.

Mark Torres, S.J., beloved spiritual guide at Homeboy Industries says, “We see in the homies what they don’t see in themselves, until they do.” (p. 178)

I cannot more highly recommend this compelling read — Tattoos on the Heart is one of my all time favorites!

Imagine

We can create what we can imagine. Science recently discovered mirror neurons, which allow us to feel what another person is feeling, or at least provide a biological reference for this feeling. For example if a spider goes up another person’s arm, we react as though it is happening to us. The reaction depends on how we feel about spiders.  In other words we are biologically able to imagine what the other person is feeling.

Cognitive neuroscientist Daniel Glaser discusses mirror neurons:

Seeing is a process of projecting what you expect out into the world and constantly matching your experience, your prejudice, your expectation with what’s out there. So for me the mirror neurons are a particular system which embodies this principle.
Listen to the audio interview on Nova

For me the discovery of mirror neurons presents a scientific glimpse in to the importance of collaboration in the therapeutic process.  It is important for the psychotherapist to be a good reader of body language, to have highly developed intuitive skills, and to recognize that the client is the expert in their lives. It is equally important to use our skills to help the client bring forth their interpretation of their experience.  As the therapeutic relationship develops, so does attunement and clarification of the client’s life stories, resulting in the client feeling better about their relationships. At the same time, both the therapist’s and client’s empathic skills are honed, as well.

Jeremy Rifkin – a credible, brilliant mind of our time – asks the question: is it possible that we can imagine worldwide empathy? Rifkin suggests that a yes answer may be necessary for the salvation of the human race.  In the short version of Rifkin’s talk, an RSA Animation, “The Empathic Civilisation: importance in today’s convergence of communication and energy”, he says, “To empathize is to civilise and to civilise is to empathize.”

If you find this as thought provoking as I did, I recommend going on to the full video of Rifkin’s talk.

________

Could the world live as one, as John Lennon imagined?

One of my favorite quotes is of the English Romantic poet John Keats, 1795 – 1821: “I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of the imagination….”

Imagine!

A Few of My Favorite Books


A Whole New Mind, Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future

Daniel H. Pink

As a dominantly right-brainer who has struggled to be more left brain to satisfy the conditions of society, I was thrilled to read this testimony to the future of right brain thinking.

A breezy, good-humored read . . . For those wishing to give their own creative muscles a workout, the book is full of exercises and resources.
Harvard Business Review

The Compassionate Life, Walking the Path of Kindness
Marc Ian Barasch

This book is well-written, easy to read and makes a compelling case for getting along.  Indeed many of today’s influential thinkers, and scientific findings tell us that our salvation will be according to our ability to get along, which requires empathy.  This book will motivate and encourage you to be the empathic being you are designed to be.

An essential guide for anyone who cares deeply about the human condition, and how we can help each other through with love and guts.
Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence

Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom
Rick Hanson, PH.D. with Richard Mendius, MD.

This is one of my favorite books because it combines knowledge and insights from Mendius, a neurologist, and Hanson a neuropsychologist, and has a forward and preface by two favorite mentors, Dan Siegel MD, and Jack Kornfield PH.D.

You will be introduced to wise new perspectives on life and the biological bases for fostering the development of wisdom.  These chapters will help you better understand the workings of the mind and the neurological roots of happiness, empathy, and interdependence.
Jack Kornfield PH.D.

 

Nonviolent Communication, A Language of Life
Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.

I have studied Non-Violent Communication on my own and through workshops and presentations.  It was not until I listened to the audio CD of Speaking Peace that I really began to understand these important ideas and methods of communication.

I believe the principles and techniques in this book can literally change the world, but more importantly, they can change the quality of your life with your spouse, your children, your neighbors, your co-workers and everyone else you interact with.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.
— Jack Canfield, Author of Chicken Soup for the Soul series

More Scientific Proof of the Power of Our Thoughts

More Optimism About Our Ability to Change at Any Age

On the Sounds True recording of The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton the author says that if you want to change your life, you have to change your perceptions.  Lipton discovered that the environment activates cells, and our perceptions and beliefs mediate between the environment and the cell.  His discovery changes the idea that we are victims of our DNA.

The Biology of Belief is a groundbreaking work in the field of New Biology. Author Dr. Bruce Lipton is a former medical school professor and research scientist. His experiments, and that of other leading edge scientists, have examined in great detail the processes by which cells receive information. The implications of this research radically change our understanding of life. It shows that genes and DNA do not control our biology; that instead DNA is controlled by signals from outside the cell, including the energetic messages emanating from our positive and negative thoughts. Dr. Lipton’s profoundly hopeful synthesis of the latest and best research in cell biology and quantum physics is being hailed as a major breakthrough showing that our bodies can be changed as we retrain our thinking. – www.brucelipton.com

Knowledge is not enough. Lipton talks about the implications of his scientific breakthrough in one of his many videos:

How Does This Relate to Therapy

The take away message is that as each human being is a community of cells, which coexist healthfully when in harmony with the environment.  So humans do not need to race to the top by collecting the most toys, or through physical might, but can have heaven on earth by living in harmony with ourselves and our environment now.

I find motivation and empowerment in knowing that my perceptions and behaviors are literally influencing my biology.  Change is happening anyway, but the more conscious we become of our life stories and how they influence us, the more we are able to return to the realm of possibility that is our birth right.

With a therapeutic alliance in which you establish a mutual feeling of trust, you can make the change you desire, open to new possibilities, and find more joy in your relationships.  Positive outcomes are more hopeful than ever!

The Biology of Belief is also available from Amazon.

Your Body Is Your Subconscious Mind

New Insights Into the Body/Mind Connection

By Candace Pert

We often hear about the mind body connection. From what I’ve learned, I believe the there can be no possible disconnection. I recently listened on CD to Scientist Candace Pert’s audio book, Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind.

Click on the CD image to the right or the link above and scroll down the page to hear a sample and read the description. I, and probably many of us, have pictured cells in our brains as different from other cells in the body. Pert helps us understand how truly interconnected the mind and the body are, giving new meaning to the expressions “gut feeling”, “heart felt”, and “it sends shivers down my spine”.

Pert says the difference between man and other animals is that human beings can choose where to place their attention. To know how our feeling and thoughts inter-relate gives us more power to choose where to place our attention, so that we’re better able to promote our desired behaviors.

Mindfulness Explored and Explained

Learning Mindfulness was one of the most transformational experiences of my life. That was in 1986. Mindfulness is now a top psychotherapy intervention method, and popular across many disciplines. The following video provides a nice overview on the topic of mindfulness.

From The Hawn Foundation, with Dr. Dan Siegel, January 01, 2009

“Founded in 2003 by award winning actress, director and producer Goldie Hawn, The Hawn Foundation is dedicated to supporting children by advancing mindfulness training in educational and community-based settings.” In this interview, Dan Siegel describes the fundamentals behind mirror neurons, mindfulness and how we can begin to shape behavior through mindful practice.

Source: http://drdansiegel.com/?page=about&sub=audio_video_clips

Is this a topic of interest, and/or a tool that has been useful in your life?