Thursday, January 21, 2010

This Precious Moment

A nightmare woke me. I have them rarely at this point in my life (thank goodness.) But this horrid dream was with me, lingering. I felt myself at odds, disrupted, not wanting to sleep, afraid I would reinhabit that world.

Rattled I could think of nothing to do, so I sat and watched the chaos of my mind.

How hard it is at times to find this simple moment. I get completely pulled into all the important contents. I think of Sharon who wrote asking me to blog more frequently and realize with slight panic that I didn't reply back after asking how she was doing. My heart fills when I think of a client who is in a disastrous situation with colleagues at work, I think of the husband of a couple I work with who is struggling with whether to leave his relationship. Tears flow as I digest their stories, holding their struggle with them, knowing there is nothing to do but to be with them.

My mind begins to unclutter as I allowing each thought, each person, each heart filled moment to pass through. As I acknowledge the presence of each moment I return, softly, finally able to grab hold of the thread of my breath as the moments and experiences of a full life metabolize.

For a fragment of a moment I release the grip of my mind and clarity illuminates so gloriously I struggle to receive it - and it recedes. I am aware, once again, of how my meaning making mind lays yet another filter on this moment, this simple precious moment of being.

This is what I want. Nothing compares to this utterly uncomplicated longing to find what's there between each to-do, each filled moment of life. This is what I want - to connect with this brilliant emptiness.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

We Can Change!

I’m doing a lot of reading and learning as I prepare to bring the Becoming Safely Embodied Skills into an online format.

In the last few years I have been fascinated with the new thinking and research on brain development and neuroplasticity. Huh? Basically that means that the brain can change – we can change.

What that means for those with a trauma history prone to patterns of depression, anxiety, fear, terror, distress – it means we can change those patterns. It is so absolutely important not to get defined by these patterns. If we do, we’re stuck.

What’s possible though is to live the life we want to live. You can change. The distress you are in can be adjusted and shifted.

Where does this lead? Practice (smile!) Yes, the more we practice something new and different the more we are changing and altering our own internal experience.

That’s why I’m always looking for new ways to reinforce new patterns. The Safely Embodied Online Community is one way to do that and the new Becoming Safely Embodied Basic Skills Course will do the same.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Meditation gone awry and found again

This morning as I sat intending to focus my mind I found instead the wild elephant of old. This mind of mine was pushing and pulling completely chaotic and disruptive. I watched my mind careen down path after path captivated by whatever arising disruption was occurring.

What happened to my steady breath? Gone. I was, yet again, beginning, as if I had never meditated before.

As I realized my unruly mind I laughed and lightened my own mental heaviness. My trying so hard was making the process harder.

That allowed for my mind to calm, to harness the wild elephant. As I felt the rise and fall of each breath I was grateful for the simple call to be present. To rest in this moment and discover it more fully.

[What better way to illustrate this communion than with Gregory Colbert's images from Ashes and Snow exhibition]

Friday, January 01, 2010

Inspiration: Shifting Road Rage

There are always moments when we can shift our consciousness, change a pattern. Often we are in such a hurry that those moments move past us too quickly to catch. This story that Arthur Rosenfeld tells is uplifting and inspiring. I hope you enjoy it as well. Here's the link to the article in the Huffington Post.

Friday, December 25, 2009

May Your Heart Be At Peace

There are times when I send out an ezine that I am startled by the number of responses. Like the one I sent out a few days ago offering a blessing for the holiday season. People wrote back in droves. There's a computer term where you "ping" someone. That's what it felt like -- like I pinged you all and you all were there. Instantaneous response. I loved sending the note and I loved hearing back from so many of you. Here's the blessing in its entirety:

As we journey through this season I wanted to send you love and appreciation for the courage it takes to heal your life and open your heart. Often the work of transforming our lives happens underground, silent, unseen by others.

So in the swirl and busyness of this season I wanted to pause and thank you for the small gestures of kindness that you extend in your world everyday. Something you said, a word of encouragement you gave, a smile of connection, and the care you extended-- each of those moments makes a difference in our busy, chaotic world.

Thank you for helping to create a chain of love that sustains us all and creates a world that we want to live in.

May your body be calm.
May your mind be at peace.
May your heart be open to even more kindness, compassion, and love.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mindfulness, Concentration Practices and Christmas Trees

It seems we are always surrounded by wyas to conenct with ourselves and to practice concentration and mindfulness. My latest discvoery of the perfect chance to practice was decorating my christmas tree this year.

As I started placing the lights around the tree I realized I could do it by pushing the lights around, trying to do it as past as possible. If however, I took my time and tried to place the lights where I wanted, separating the branches I found that my body slowed down and my thoughts focused.

Hmmm. I've been a bit phobic about getting attached to Christmas ornaments. About 10 years ago my favorite, special, boxes of ornaments were lost in a move. I had grown up in Europe and had boxes of beautifully crafted ornaments were suddenly gone. In the past years I haven't wanted to "get attached" to ornaments and had stopped putting ornaments on a tree.

This year, as it sometimes is, it was different. I pulled out what I did have to put up on the tree.

With my lesson from putting the lights on the tree I paused with each ornament, looking at it, enjoying it, remembering where it came from and any memories connected to it. My body enjoyed the connection by focusing, quieting, calming.

I learned, once again, that there is pleasure is small things, pleasure in focusing my mind, noticing and being present to what is.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"You must change your life." Rilke

I don't know why I'm just realizing this but transformation doesn't only happen in the dark inner recesses of our psychic introspection. Transformation happens when we are in acute interaction with the world.

One of my clients brought in a poem by Rilke as he muses about the "Archaic Torso of Apollo." Rilke completes the poem with the words, "You must change your life." My client, like so many of us, feels stuck and caught by the patterns of her life.

I know that place as I'm sure you do to. Those of us who are psychologically oriented turn to therapy to help us sort out the stuck points and free us up to move forward. There are periods in life where that kind of introspection is essential.

Then there are those other periods where yes, we do need to change inside, we do need to alter our patterns, but sometimes we need an active engagement with our external world to help take those right (or left) hand turns.

If I listen to those words "you must change your life" I know I have to do something but the cobwebs of my old patterns keep me entrenched and bound.

Life tends to come round at times like these, not always when we're "ready" and offer us an invitation to change. Hopefully we're open enough to engage with these events or have done enough work to be with these events with some grace. Then there are those times when we're not, when we push away the offering or we don't like the packaging it comes in.

I feel an urgency as I write this after having been initiated many times into these moments of life. I watch myself, my clients, my friends and those I read about in the news. I watch us caught in the sticky patterns unable to trust that this ruckus we're in will be for our good.

Perhaps my urgency is to find a collective conversation where we encourage the risks it takes to be fully alive, where we answer the call to more. Where the response to life is a full hearted trust that it's leading us to meet our own magnificence.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Remorse in the Wake of Inaction

Last night I had a quick errand to the hardware store. Getting out of my car I was horrified hearding this man screaming at a young girl as he pulled her across the parking lot. Many of us heard. None of us knew what to do. We clustered together at the customer service desk. They had heard it too and one of the Lowe's employees went out to "do something."

My heart breaks even today as I sit with knowing that I did nothing. That I didn't know what to do. That I witnessed something really wrong and allowed it to happen.

Remorse is an important teacher.

And prayer is an important ally and antidote.

May that little girl, and all children know a world without hurt.

May that man, and all of us who act out of rage be invited into the healing transformation of love.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Crysalis (Butterfly and cocoon)

[Barbara Coleman, a therapist in the Boston area, sent me this wonderful story about a butterfly and it's crysalis told to her by her yoga teacher, who I'm sorry is unknown to me. Thank you to both of you!]

One day a boy found the cocoon of a butterfly in which a small opening was appearing. He sat and watched it for several hours as it struggled to force its way through that tiny opening. All of the sudden it stopped. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could on its own and could go no further.

The boy decided to help the butterfly cocoon. He took a pair of scissors and snipped away the last remaining bit of cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily with it's swollen body and shriveled wings. He continued to watch the butterfly expecting at any moment that the butterfly would begin to fly. That didn't happen. The butterfly spent the rest of its short life crawling around with shriveled wings and a swollen body. It never did fly.

What the boy did not understand was that his intended kindness and haste to help the butterfly allow for the universal plan of the butterfly. The restricting cocoon and the struggle to get free are all part of the process. The restriction and the struggle force the fluid from the butterfly's body into its wings, strenthening its system so that it can fly when it finally gets free.

We all live this story. We all have a crysalis around us. Our struggles support our ongoing evolution. We struggle against that!! Oh yes we do!! (Okay, I speak for myself!!!) We want to fly but often we don't have the internal strength to make that happen. The process of rubbing against what feels so constricting can generate our longing and mobilize our movement to reach beyond what is so comfortable into something larger and more freeing.

I wish this for all of us - the internal fortitude to move through what is hard to the freedom that is always beckoning.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Classic Maxine

1.. My husband and I divorced over religious differences. He thought he was God and I didn't.
2.. I don't suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it.
3.. Some people are alive only because it's illegal to kill them.
4.. I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.
5.. Don't take life too seriously; No one gets out alive.
6.. You're just jealous because the voices only talk to me
7.. Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.
8.. Earth is the insane asylum for the universe.

9.. I'm not a complete idiot -- Some parts are just missing.
10.... Out of my mind. Back in five minutes.

11.. NyQuil, the stuffy, sneezy, why-the-heck-is-the-room-spinning medicine.
12.. God must love stupid people; He made so many.
13.. The gene pool could use a little chlorine.
14.. Consciousness: That annoying time between naps..
15.. Ever stop to think, and forget to start again?

16.. Being 'over the hill' is much better than being under it!
17.. Wrinkled Was Not One of the Things I Wanted to Be When I Grew up.
18 . Procrastinate Now!

19.. I Have a Degree in Liberal Arts; Do You Want Fries With That?
20.. A hangover is the wrath of grapes.
21.. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance.
22.. Stupidity is not a handicap. Park elsewhere!
23..They call it PMS because Mad Cow Disease was already taken.
24.. He who dies with the most toys is nonetheless DEAD.

25.. A picture is worth a thousand words, but it uses up threethousand times the memory..
26... Ham and eggs...A day's work for a chicken, a lifetime commitment for a pig.
27.. The trouble with life is there's no background music.

28.. The original point and click interface was a Smith & Wesson.
29.. I smile because I don't know what the hell is going on.

Appreciate every single thing you have, especially your friends! Life is too short and friends are too few! Thank you, Nancy for sending these along!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

" is what it's all about."

Irene Stiver

As so often is the case, someone came in today carrying a message to live by. This time, today, someone brought something from Irene Stiver's memorial service back in 2000.

Irene was an influential contribution to the world of psychotherapy, bringing in relational aspects that had previously been absent. I had only met her a couple of time so I didn't have the history with her that so many here in Boston had. Nevertheless, I was touched by her words, written in the last days of her life. They are below.

"It has become even clearer to me that love is what it's all about.
Not only at this time, but throughout our relationship, I have felt your love and deep caring for me. In turn, I hope that you feel my love for you. My hope is that you will hold onto this love and build on it in your life. Thank you for the privilege of being part of your life."

- from Irene's last letter to her clients

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Living The Life You Want To Live

I love the web. I love everyone out there thinking and journeying through life. As you share your story with us, with me, my life is enriched.

In the wonderful way that life can be, blogger Amy Murphy
sent me a link to this story published in the New York Times that I love: "Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear." (Amy was right, too, when she wrote that these are the essays that show the NYT isn't done for!)

Laura Munson, and my extension, her husband share the journey Laura went on when her husband of twenty years tells her he's not happy in the relationship nor with her. Instead of caving into that shock, Laura decides not to play along with it. She literally tells him, "I'm not buying it." The rest of the story is about the transformation that occurs.

Thank you, Laura. I am inspired by your commitment to stay in a loving, gracious place even as the world goes topsy turvy around you.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Spelling Bee

I stumbled on these videos from the last two national spelling bees. They made me laugh so I wanted to share them with you.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bit More of an Iconic Image of St. Andrews

A Gratitude Voyeur in St. Andrews

Wandering the streets of St. Andrews, Scotland ("The Home of Golf" as it's known) I happened to glance up and saw this older woman sitting in the window. She vaguely reminded me of my mother who had been active and engaged for so much of her life.

Seeing this lady framed in the window brought a wash of gratitude for whoever she is -- this woman sitting in her window going through her life with no idea of how her just being there would impact me and remind me of my mother.

And now I, wandering the streets with no idea of what I would find, am grateful and thankful for this unknown woman's life.

May she find ease. May her life be at peace.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Antidote to Exhaustion is Not Necessarily Rest...

David Whyte, the poet writes describes being exhausted and without energy and asking his good friend, Brother David to tell him about exhaustion. Crossing the Unknown Sea lets us into this poignant conversation.

Brother David's response "The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest .... The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness."

This phrase speaks so strongly to anyone on a healing journey. The exhaustion can be immense. It can feel like you absolutely have no life left in you to give. The thought of being wholeheartedly in anything seems ridiculous. Impossible.

And yet, it's true. When we listen to what ever calls us we are on the path to more fulfillment, more satisfaction.

Most of us live semi frustrated within our limitations, unsure of how to change. We feel stuck. Our patterns seem insurmountable. It's easier to give in to what's known instead of listening deeply to what calls us.

You can count on it-- whatever calls you will open the door to you being wholeheartedly engaged. There's nothing better.

Take a moment today to ask yourself, especially if you're fatigued. What calls to me? Listen. Listen to how the answer arrives. It might come through a phone call, through something you read, through a billboard, through a song.

Let us know. Take a moment and post a comment, a thought, an insight. Include us in your world.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Michelle Obama follows me on Twitter?

You can not imagine my surprise when I just looked at my email and saw that Michelle Obama is now following me on Twitter. Yes, it's true.

Here's the craziness of it all. I had read an editorial in The Boston Globe by Robert Brown about his wife getting onto Facebook and Twitter. He's a beautiful writer and the editorial was delightful to read. I especially loved how their cats have 5000 unique views. LOL.

So in a moment of my own piddling around this social media stuff I signed up for Twitter. Just to see what it is all about.

Every morning I take a scroll through different blogs. One of my favorites is The White House blog. I love reading what's going on and I love that Obama is as visible as he is. And I love the videos and photos they post.

The other favorite blog is put out by the State Department which sends me daily posts from different foreign service people. One of my recent favorites was posted by Preeti Shah (serving as Vice Consul at the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey) who wrote, "Watching the faces of the Turkish students as they had the chance to talk with the President, my President, I was in awe..."

Another post is by Douglas Silliman who serves as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara. He writes this wonderful story of being told by his boss to get in the car and wait for the President - and then give Obama a briefing.

Silliman shares how Obama asked about himself, his family and then the two of them had an informative discussion about the event ahead. At the end, Silliman writes, "In the Foreign Service, I have met every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan. But I had never even dreamed of sharing 10 minutes one-on-one with a president. There are very few careers that offer you such opportunities. Today I was very glad that I had joined the Foreign Service." I love getting such a fresh and open communique about our country.

Anyway, I'm digressing a bit. When I signed up for Twitter I thought, hmmm, who would I want to follow. Michelle Obama came up. I searched. There she was, so I clicked on "follower."

Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have thought that Michelle's organization would be clever enough to return the favor. I have no fantasy that it's really Michelle -- but come on, let's admit it, even if you're a non-believer, this is a real kick.

Gary's Poem: My Blue Shirt

The greatest gift of my ezine is getting notes like this one, from Gary Whited, inspiring me, and reminding me of the community in which we live. We may all be scattered around the nation and the Globe (like Candace Atwood recently back to Montana from her visit to New Zealand) or close at home (like Mike Ward who LOL when he read his name in the latest ezine...). Where ever we are, though, we are sending out energy of love, consciousness, kindness. Knowing you are all other --and all those I don't know yet (but look forward to meeting) -- remind me of all the wonderful reasons to be here - with you.

Here's Gary's note and poem:

Hi Deirdre,
I was just reading your piece on "Having Some Kind of Practice," and it reminded me of something I heard the poet, Mary Oliver, say once at a reading. When asked after reading some of her poems whether it was important to her as a poet to write every day, she paused for what seemed like a long time, then said, "What I find important is to make appointments with your unconscious and keep them." That has stayed with me. As a poet, it was particularly powerful for me. I thought you might like that little story.

As for my poems, there is one that comes to mind just now. It was published a couple years ago in a magazine called Bellowing Ark. I'll attach it here.

Nice to receive your thoughts and your words.
Warmest regards,

(photo from

My Blue Shirt

hangs in the closet
of this small room, collar open,
sleeves empty, tail wrinkled.

Nothing fills the shirt but air
and my faint scent. It waits,
all seven buttons undone,

button holes slack,
the soft fabric with its square white pattern,
all of it waiting for a body.

It would take any body, though it knows,
in its shirt way of knowing, only mine,
has my shape in its wrinkles,

my bend in the elbows.
Outside this room birds hunt for food,
young leaves drink in morning sunlight,

people pass on their way to breakfast.
Yet here, in this closet,
the blue shirt needs nothing,

expects nothing, knows only its shirt knowledge,
that I am now learning––
how to be private and patient,

how to be unbuttoned,
how to carry the scent of what has worn me,
and to know myself by the wrinkles.

Gary Whited

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


I'm curious. I hear from different ones of you about various blogs, but most of you don't comment here. I find it interesting and wonder about that. I'm always glad to hear, whether it is by email or other forms, but I wonder why that hesitation is about posting a comment here. Drop a comment. Post a remark. Let me know! I'd love to hear.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Hearing and Living Your Own Music

Yesterday I gave a presentation to the regional National Association of Social Workers. It’s certainly been an honor to be with my fellow social workers and to share what I have learned through working with my clients and groups.

Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to give many presentations, whether at conferences, workshops about my own work or trainings through Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute. In the past year I’ve been wondering about something that I repeatedly notice. As I write I realize I am puzzling over my experience of it.

There was a time when it fed my narcissism to be in front of people putting on a show. Over the past 3-5 years though that hasn’t been as fulfilling. I’ve realized I don’t want to be a talking head. What appeals to me is to support others to know their own knowing. To share what I know but only in the service of the other(s) deepening into their own wisdom.

My body is really leading the charge with this learning. WhenI am not present to myself, even if only in a tiny way separated, my body goes into an internal shudder which only gets louder and louder until I pay attention. I’m learning to listen! As I listen the cringe stops. This has taught me something important about myself personally and about the kind of support I want to offer others. And I think there’s something that we can all learn about being present.

People have been telling me they want to “train” with me, learn from me. Sure, there are things I know and I’m glad to share them. What I am beginning to realize is that what people want is not what I “know” in my head, it’s not data, factual information or even the experience I have working with trauma, attachment and dissociation – what people want is the experience of being connected to themselves. How to live in their body-heart-mind and stay centered in that. That’s what people want more than anything. The intellectual information when conjoined with the experience of staying true to yourself is vital.

We’re so used to looking outside ourselves for the answer that when we see “it” in another, we reach for it. We think “it” out there is where it is. We forget that whatever “it” is, “it” is a reflection of what’s inside – otherwise we would never know it or want it.

The feedback I get from people is they are moved by my authentic speaking, by my honesty about the journey. What I know is they are looking for their own inner connection, their alignment, their authentic expression.

My task is to steer you back to your own knowing. To help you to learn how to sing your own song, to hear the music that arises inside you and have the joyous freedom to be able to express it.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

After the Retreat

For some reason I created space this year to go on two weeks of meditation retreat. It’s really been a gift. Wonderful to have the time to deepen, to soften more.

More than any other time it seems easier to take the benefits of sitting on retreat into regular life. Although my mind might have a harder time quieting and slowing down, I am remembering the precious clarity and great light that illuminates. Almost like I'm more aware of that presence through more moments of time. And it feels easier to return to it.

Another way to try to describe it may be that I feel more porous. I can at times more easily release what’s obscuring this glorious presence. Once I touch into that space I’m altered even as I return to concreteness of “me.” It motivates me to practice, not just on the meditation pillow, but in life, becoming even more porous so the ‘deirdre-ness’ dissolves and makes room for more joy, love, and generous compassion.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Meditation Retreat

It can be so simple sometimes. The last retreat I did in January, 09 was wonderful, easy. My mind slid into the groove and stayed there with ease.

Yesterday was the first day of another retreat and my mind last night was not a willing accomplice. It took me everywhere, following every thought down narrow passages, returning gamely to the breath for a moment then skittering off examing everything and anything other than the moment.

I'm grateful for the chance to sit again. To lay the foundation, to explore each mind moment that arises as I take a breath in and then follow that breath out.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Star Struck

I’m not someone who is usually star struck. Then again, I don’t usually run into true, honest-to-God stars.

Last week I was in Tucson, Arizona meeting with my coaching group. I had packed up, was heading to catch my cab, picked up the newspaper and saw Tiger Woods on the cover. I turned the corner and saw this man in a baseball cap walking toward me. We met at the gate. I reached to open it, looked up again, did a double take – and yes, it was Tiger Woods.

A couple things struck me, the most prominent was, how wonderful it would be if this was the way life was: look at something and the boom, there it is. At least, it would be good if it was all the good stuff that came that quickly.

The second thought that struck me was that I perceived a certain wariness on Tiger Wood’s part. Poor guy, I thought. This probably happens to him all the time and who knows how people respond to him. Might be something like swatting away flies on a hot, sultry day. Who knows? It’s not really an experience I am closely familiar with!!

Not being a huge fan, although I certainly recognize him, I learned later on that he had just had another child. In retrospect, I wished I had known that personal piece and congratulated him, sent him good wishes as a person, not as a “celeb”, not as an object.

Instead I said, “hey! You’re the man!” meaning I had just seen him, lifting up my paper. He smiled in a cautious way and said, “I’m not sure about that.”

What does this have to do with healing trauma, you ask, in all seriousness. Two things:

  • I realized, once again, how hard it is for any of us to be an object, to not be seen as a whole person
  • As trauma survivors we’re wired to expect the worst, to protect against possible harm. Our thinking is cautious, careful, protective. Is it any surprise, then, that life greets us with experiences that match our thoughts?

So, I ask you, as I inquired of myself … What would it be like if I looked at something and allowed it to instantly be there. Not the icky stuff – but the good stuff.

What differentiated my experience of running into Tiger was I had no charge at all when I saw his picture in the paper. I had heard vague things about Tiger being in the area, but frankly I didn’t take it in. There was no pull toward him – and certainly no push against him. Empty, clear space.

That’s not how I usually experience life! I love what I love and have to work with not liking some things too! What if, however, I let life be empty, simple, uncomplicated? What if I didn’t objective things, people? What if I didn’t put the in roles or assign them tasks that they don’t even know I’ve done? I wonder if life would be different……

Friday, February 13, 2009

What Makes You Come Alive?

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Howard Thurman

One of the great things about having a blog is hearing from, and being inspired by, people I'm not in constant contact with. Yesterday, I heard from Candace Atwood, a therapist who usually lives and works in Montana but took a month to play and visit in New Zealand. The photo comes from her four day trek on the Queen Charlotte Track walking and seeing sperm whales on the surface dancing with 300 dusky dolphins. "Way cool!" Candace writes.

It is wonderful. Candace included a quote from Howard Thurman which is above. How utterly true -- the world does need people who have come alive. I'm inspired by Candace and your zest for life.

And so I reflect on what makes me come alive? What helps you come alive? Are we ready to go and do it? To live fully, without shame, without fear.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Count on Mary Oliver....

.... to speak with a simple, true clarity. Here's one of her poems:

The Messenger

My work is loving the world.

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird -
equal seekers of sweetness.

Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.

Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?

Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me

keep my mind on what matters,

which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be


The phoebe, the delphinium.

The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.

Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart

and these body-clothes,

a mouth with which to give shouts of joy

to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,

telling them, over and over again, how it is,

that we live forever.

Thank you, Mary Oliver. The last line for me would say... "telling them, over and over again, how it is, that we love forever."

Monday, January 26, 2009

A New Metta

We all have such beauty inside us. One of the great gifts of doing the work I do is listening to others and witnessing them as their unique spirit arises and flows freely.

The photo above is a gift of stark winter beauty, taken by David Boor.

Late last week I received this new metta written Jane. I asked her permission to share it with you. With her permission, here it is:

A new metta

May I see the varied threads that make up my history.
May I recognize the pattern, the blending and unblending, that is me.
May I recognize the weave as sacred, and love it, if just for a moment, today.

May I catch the breeze of my larger self,
May I feel myself as an opening, unbound from time,
May I recognize my self as big and small,
as timeless and historical,
as woven and broken,
as sacred and honorable,
if just for a moment,


--- jane

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Gift of Trauma

Last week I sat in a meditation retreat. It had been a while since I had taken a week out of my life to just sit, to be still, and to train my mind. This year the sitting was easy, almost simple, much different from years past. I didn’t have a lot of internal noise to sort through.

Having been on silent retreats since the late 1970’s it felt like a joy to arrive carrying so little inside. There was less that I had to drop, or set aside in order to be there. As a consequence the retreat unfolded into states of bliss and love.

Over the years, I’ve tasted these states. I’ve come to know that love is what unifies everything. This retreat deepened that knowing and solidified it.

At one point during the week I flashed in awareness that my history of trauma, as painful as it was to move through and to frequently feel stuck in, was the exact configuration that allows me to be open to love more fully now.

The gift of trauma is its promise of living a life undefended knowing of love. All those moments of painstakingly putting internal pieces together, one by one, over and over again, despairing or ever getting anywhere. All those moments solidify an internal self structure which then allows us all to choose to open without fear, instead trusting and knowing, being led from within.

I recently said this to a client with a devastating history. She nodded along as I was speaking then used her words to agree. She knows. It feels true to her. And then, it’s like the darkness of history floats over and shields her from her own knowing, protecting her from this absolute sure future that shimmers ahead.

She says at one level she knows parts of her protect her, keeping her from jumping there -- so that can has to be here – has to put the pieces together so that her spirit can later be unbound and free to love without fear.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Giving Better Back

Mona Barbera is a terrific therapist, especially with couples. She recently wrote a book "Bring Yourself To Love: How Couples Can Turn Disconnection Into Intimacy" and it's really worth reading. I've had many clients read her book and find it immensely helpful.

Here's an interview she gave on Fox News in Boston.

One of Mona's key points is Giving Better Back. The idea is that when someone is reactive with you try not to react back to the reaction. Instead offer them something better, offer them the response you would have wanted for yourself. Give them something better. The simple beauty of this small jewel is that when we give our partner, loved ones, friends something better, their defenses relax and the end result is they give us the better back.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Young @ Heart

It's a new year. I celebrated it watching the documentary Young@Heart which is heartwrenchingly beautiful and moving. Tissues are a requirement. I cried my way through it. How utterly gorgeous to see these people in there 70s and 80s singing and living and loving there way through every song. Bob Cilman, you inspire me! Thanks for taking such a simple thing of getting 25 old men and women together and getting them to sing -- and then getting them to sing for people all over the world. What joy you all bring. Thank you for bursting my heart wide open.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snow Goddess

And as life has it, I just posted the video Stand by Me sent to me by Jane Axelrod, and lo and behold, another email of connection and sacred spirit arrives. This one comes from Bindu/MJ Delekta who teaches her special brand of yoga at The Sacred Circle of Yoga on Martha's Vineyard. Bindu just built the Snow Goddess at her yoga studio. Her retreats are worth the trip at any time of the year.

Standing By Each Other

The world is wonderful in how small it has become and how easy it is to reach out and be with others. An email communicating the very spirit of connection arrived in my mailbox from Jane Axelrod, a therapist in the Boston area who is the epitome of joy in connection.

Jane sent me this video of musicians around the world playing Stand by Me. I had to do my part and pass on the spirit of joy.

Thanks to all you who have stood by me through so many years. May we all stand together in creating a world of love, joy, and good health.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Guiding Arrow

Perhaps this life is about remembering who you really are. Walking like Hansel and Gretel into the dark forest, dropping bread crumbs to find your way home. What trauma does is send in the wolves to eat the bread crumbs so we can’t find them when we look for them. Yet, the path out of the darkness remains. The path has always been there, it has been obscured, hidden, gotten completely covered over. But it’s there.

My father had always wanted to walk the Camino de Compostela in Spain. He had learned about it in the 1950’s when he was living in France. The Camino is one of the oldest Christina pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Having wanted to make the journey, my father put aside this dream when he met my mother, had five kids, and lived a full life. Many years later, almost fifty years later, my mother had died, my father was 84 and he remembered his dream. My sister and I offered to go with him.

Ah, I digress from the main part of the story.

Over the centuries, the Camino had fallen into disrepair. People who walked the Camino had a difficult time finding their way. The path, even today, can be pretty treacherous. Someone decided to help and walked the Camino a box of spray paint and marked the way with arrows: this is the way. Now this way. Take this right.

Those arrows guided our journey. We walked the last 100 k’s which still took 10 days. Those arrows marked the path, and brought us to the cathedral in Santiago de Compestolo.

This story comes to mind as I reflect on my what I'm up to in this life. As I listen inside I'm aware that part of my path is to illuminate that path for others who suffer. Part of what I am called to do is be a signpost on the journey – go this way – this way, try this…. We get lost in this dark period of our life, We feel stuck and unfortunately feel terribly alone. Yet, we aren’t. You aren’t.

What I want is to create a resilient community of people who understand the dark and forboading world of trauma, who have lived the chaos but are willing to serve as helping hands, as guides along the way.

You are not alone. There is help on the road. The path is there. You can, and will, find your way to safety, sanctity, care, kindness, possibility.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Change is coming

Truth is, I wasn't able to blog right after I wrote about the Inc article. Why, you ask? Well, the week after I blogged about the Treadless article, I got an email from Jeffrey Kalmikoff who is the CCO of Treadless. Frankly, reading the email I felt my eyes fall out of my head.

Jeffrey wrote, "It's a great feeling when you read something from someone who not only lives outside of the tech "bubble" but also seems to understand our motivation better than people within it. You're right, it is about connectivity between ourselves and the people in our community, forming and nurturing those relationships."

Now I know there are spiders and robots and all kinds of techie things that monitor postings and web info behind the scenes. I know that and it makes sense that some spider/robot/secret agent thing trolled through the net and pinged the info to Jeffrey.

That's not the big news. The big news is that Jeffry takes the time to respond to these things, to drop a little note of appreciation for the post. (And yes, one of his parents responded too. I'm still reeling from that.)

Imagine if someone in General Motors or General Electric were to take the time to respond to positive press out there in the ether. Imagine the good will that would be generated. Someone told me yesterday that he's been a customer of Verizon since they first started a wireless business. (Frank disclosure here: I've been totally, thoroughly impressed with Verizon's behind the scenes support for our office DSL. Truly magnificient.) But this person, let's call him Keith, has never heard a word of appreciation for his business with Verizon. Not a thank you, not a discount, not a title of "preferred customer" after over 10 years.

Gosh, perhaps Verizon could use a little coaching from Jeffrey. (Okay, I apologize for the sarcasm....) Maybe these "old school" businesses might want to learn to take the time to say thanks, we appreciate your business.

Interesting, isn't it?

The gift for me in this reflection is about learning to be appreciative, learning to give thanks more often, relaxing into the moment and seeing the moments of generosity that live quietly in the corners of our worlds. What Jeffrey did was write a note, probably no big stretch for him. For me, though, it had me realize how amazing the world can be if we're willing to include and appreciate and give thanks.

The weekend after I got the note from Jeffrey I was giving a presentation to the New England Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. Yes, it's a mouthful. Usually people just say, NESTTD. Anyway, I told the story of writing this blog and getting the response... and the standing room only crowd of therapists listened intently. For them, my writing a blog is somewhat mind boggling -- but more than that is knowing and hearing and validating how much the world is changing. The gentle moments of appreciation have quiet, steady ripples throughout our world.

May we open even more to the goodness in the world.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bringing Up Hope

Inc Magazine is undoubtably one of my favorite magazines. It highlights innovations that are happening in entrepreneural businesses. I find it uplifting, exciting, interesting. There's generally something that makes me think differently or shifts my perspective.

I'd gotten behind in my reading recently. Buried under a pile was the June, 2008 issue of Inc. The front cover (shown above) were these two (young) guys in t-shirts and the headline "The Most Innovative Small Company In America." It made for great late night reading.

It makes me feel old to say, or think, this, but boy, these young kids are really interesting. It's a whole new world. Instantly I was reflecting on attachment and how these kids were brought up differently from those of us brought up with depression era parents. It's fascinating.

So, let me slow down. The guys on the cover are Jake Nickell and Jeffrey Kalmikoff, executives of Threadless, which is a t-shirt company, well, not just a t-shirt company, they run design competitions on social networking sites whose members vote on the designs they like best. Threadless then prints up the t-shirts and sells them.

Well, if you're like me, one of the old folks, you'd wonder how t-shirts could be such a hot item. Hot they are. Inc writes, "Revenue was growing 500 percent a year, despite the fact that the company had never advertised, employed no professional designers, used no modeling agency, ... had no sales force, and no retail distribution."

But more interestingly, from a psychological perspective, these guys are wired differently. They are connected in ways we (those of us over 35) never were growing up. Yes, it's obvious, we were never wired to the internet. But I mean wired for connection to other people.

Those of us with depression era parents grew up thinking we were on our own, it was up to us, we had to do it. This article illustrated what my younger clients have been describing. The Threadless guys are listening to people. There's a distance that's been eliminated. The roles have changed. It's not "I'm the company and I'll make what I think you need" but as Nickell is quoted in the article, "Why wouldn't you want to make the products that people want you to make?"

It really alters the power relationship, a movement away from passive consumerism. It makes me wonder -- who are you inside to hold power so differently? What kind of modeling did you have in order to have you think so differently? What environment supported you in being so related to others instead of having to do it alone, tough it out?

Reflecting on those younger than me coming of age, formed by relationships, connected to others, interested in what others have to say gives me great hope. It's intriguing to me to sit here in midlife seeing the hope and connection that those younger are bringing forward.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Couple

How long has it been? I wondered to myself as I sat with this couple across from me. Probably a year and a half.

I knew something had changed when the wife sat on the couch with her husband - instead of on either chair across from him where she'd sat for most of our sessions. Today the wife glowed with her unique combination of light, grace, joy, innocence, and playfulness.

Flirting with her husband, reaching out, touching him the room was filled with this radiant warmth and sexuality. It fluttered around and settled on us all. There were no words. There really was nothing to say but to savor.

I told thim when I first me with them the same thing I say to every couple. I don't know if it's right for you to stay together. But whatever you decide, let's find a way to do it with love, respect, kindness.

Well, they certainly did. There were times when I thought, gosh, I don't know. They may not make it together. The strife, the unspoken and spoken upsets, the small but chronic rejections were there. Yet, they moved through the struggle, the anger, the despair, the ruptures, and somewhere in the middle of all that they each found their own self - and each other.

As the husband readied to leave into the cold November evening he said he wished I would write more in this blog.

This is for him, for his wife, for all of us who sink into the unknown hiding the secret hope that life can get better while doubting it at the same time.

How lucky am I to see through the layers of pain and suffering into the shining truth that love prevails. What a gift to journey with people through such muck and anger and come through to warmth, connection and radiant love.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Looking for Possibilities

I'm a bit puzzled when people ask me how I feel about global warming. People have a lot of energy, a lot of charge about being on one side of the issue or the other. I haven't been able to find myself on that polarized spectrum. Which isn't to say that there isn't an issue worthy of exploration. How about it if we talk about solutions, possibilities instead of who's right or wrong on the issue.

Let's look more at the creative solutions, the possibilities. That's what appeals to me in situation slike this. I'm not interested in positions that ring of doom and gloom or the destruction of the world as we know it. Let's instead unite our create capacities to find unique and exciting solutions to the problems that face us. Let's find ways to bring those solutions to market.

Let's take for example the Tesla, the 100% electric car that can go from 0-60 in 4 seconds and can drive 200 miles on one charge. Now, that's great ingenuity. At the moment there have only been 100 Tesla's produced - and yes, at a steep price, $100,000 (okay, I'm exaggerating, it's really $98,950.) But the company is committed to finding a way to bring the same technology to a more moderately priced car. What's intriguing is that if they can do this for an expensive car, and if there's demand, there will be moderately priced cars out there soon, running only on electricity.

Or, let's look at what's been going on the the International Development Design Summit at MIT. This group is a collection of 50 students, teachers, and community partners who are looking for solutions for some of the world's poorest people. It's quite moving to see what they're coming up with. One solution is a transparent plastic backpack that uses the sun's heat and ultraviolet rays to disinfect the water inside the backpack. This allows the water to be carried much more easily than in a heavy pot on your head as many women in poor rural regions do. In addition to having to carry such weight over often long distances, the United Nations says that almost one-fifth of the worlds population doesn't have access to safe drinking water. This little gadget would disinfects the water on the way home. All for $5. How ingenious is that!

And then there's the charcoal briquettes made from sugar cane refuse intended to provide fuel for the poor in Haiti. These were created by Amy Smith, a MacArthur Fellowship "genius" award winner who wanted to find alternative fuel sources to help alleviate Haiti's deforestation and lack of afforable fuel. She was also concerned with how existing charcoals create respiratory problems. The solution: these sugar cane refuse briquettes. I love that they're made from "refuse" the throw away parts of another product - sugar cane.

Finding out about solutions like these give me a sense of hope, excite me with possibility, stimulate the creative ideas of what else can be. There is an antidote to hopelessness. It lies in looking for possibilities in the midst of what looks dark and empty. It lies in believing in what's next. There's always something else emerging.

Coming Home to Yourself

You believe in something, don’t you?” clients have asked me over the years. I do, it’s true. Even though there are times, like this past week, when I can spin into a crisis of doubt and confusion about what I do believe in. I do believe in goodness, that the world is basically veers toward kindness, that we can change and grow and become more loving. I believe that compassion can encompass all. And yet, like this past week, I cycle into criticizing myself for being so simplistic and overly hopeful, and can’t I see how much pain and suffering there is. I have a part that will soundly rail at me saying, "Who do you think you are…..." After years of living intimately with these parts, I know how easily theses parts can hijacked me into pain. disgust, hurt, or betrayal. More and more, though, I hear an instinctive response of compassion rising to meet those parts. I was actually startled to see myself responding so seemingly effortless to myself with a soft note of compassion. First there was surprise, and then a sinking into the compassion, an opening in my heart, and a relief. Absolute relief. Maybe, I marveled, compassion and kindness is becoming a habit. That kind of habit is what I want more of. Thich Nhat Han says that meditation is really a process of coming home to yourself. Interpreting that psychologically, when our parts relax and give us some internal room, we’re left with our true nature. Our true nature, many of the great spiritual teachers say, is one of quiet, confidence, kindness, clarity, softness, and compassion. One of my clients said it so beautifully today. We were talking about some of Thich Nhat Han's teachings. She said she realized that when Thich Nhat Han says “I am the flower” he isn't separate from that essence. She said, laughingly, that when she sits to imagine the flower, she has to conjure up the image and then become the flower. How nice, she imagined, to arrive at a state inside when she would know that she simply was essence, instead of having to work so hard to become it. I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Courageous Moments

For some reason this morning I told a client the story of my mother’s passing. On reflection, it was because this woman had been struggling for twenty years to accept a devastating experience in her life. She hadn’t accepted it twenty years ago and still couldn’t come to terms with it, all these years later. She hated what it had done to her life.

During our conversation, I flashed to my mother’s passing three years ago and decided to tell my client the story. My mother had had a massive heart attack and had lost half her heart. Unable to breathe on her own, she was put on a respirator while we waited for the rest of the family to arrive. My dad wanted to make the decision with all five kids there. So we waited in that limbo space with her, with him, with all of us. When we were all there my dad gave the order to have the tube removed. It took some time for my mother to regain consciousness. When she did, she looked around, blinking, and with a scratchy voice asked, “What happened?”

That moment will live as the defining courageous and humble moment of my life. My dad, my Irish Catholic, not very talkative dad, looked at my mother and spoke without embellishment or elaboration. The clarity defined the moment. “Dorothy, you’re dying.” He let the words hang in the air. I felt myself explode into the grandness of the moment. The immense reality had been spoken. There was no dissonance there.

My mother, trying to grasp it, spoke the question back, “I’m dying?” “Yes, Dorothy, you’re dying. You had a heart attack and you won’t recover.” No “ifs,” “buts,” or any confusion. There it was. The reality of the moment. My father opened us to reality and allowed us to enter this sacred journey with my mother as she left her body.

The story led my client and me into a larger question: How often do we let ourselves be with reality as it is? Mostly we seem to want to change it, alter it, shift it, bargain with it. What courage it takes to be with it. Soften into it. Allow it to be there, talk to us, communicate with us and alter us. My client thanked me for the story. I thanked myself actually. The memory always alters me. The inquiry invites me into quiet reflection. Mostly I thank my father for the courage of his being.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Mermaid Chair

“I felt amazed at the choosing one had to do, over and over, a million times daily – choosing love, then choosing it again, how loving and being in love could be so different.”

It is as though life is about making those small, moment to moment choices to love to step into that dance. Sue Monk Kidd wrote her novel, The Mermaid Chair about a woman Jessie who travels into her life to re-find what the love that is precious to her. Along the way Jessie dives deeply into herself and begins to dance again, stepping into the dance of the divine running rampant.

“Sometimes I experience God like this Beautiful Nothing…and it seems then as though the whole point of life is just to rest in it. To contemplate it and love it and eventually disappear into it. And then other times it’s just the opposite. God feels like a presence that engorges everything. I come out here, and it seems the divine is running rampant. That the marsh, the whole of Creation, is some dance God is doing, and we’re meant to step into it, that’s all.”

Friday, March 10, 2006

On"Mattering" and Being Aligned

Not being much of a celebrity watcher I had never seen Reese Witherspoon do much until she accepted her Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as June Carter in the movie, Walk The Line. After watching the Academy Awards (which I love since I love seeing people being acknowledged, more than I care about the films) I heard that she was commanding the highest fee (supposedly $29 million) for women in film, equaling that of the top men. In her speech that night, Reese spoke of her parents, "I am so blessed to have my family here tonight. My mother and my father are here. And I just want to say thank you so much for everything, for being so proud of me. It didn't matter if I was making my bed or making a movie. They never hesitated to say how proud they were of me. And that means so very much to a child."

Imagine having someone proud of you for every little thing you did. It's easy to be proud of someone for getting an award or doing something that is obviously successful. It's much harder to remember to be proud of others, or ourselves, for the simple things, like making your bed. I reflect on the lives of most of my clients. They haven't had the experience of someone being consistently proud of them for the big things, let along the little things.

Watching Reese accept her award that night, I could see the "energetic" difference that made in her. She held herself with a certain clarity that was solid and yet clean. Knowing she has a "good" image in the press, I could see why. She looks like someone who doesn't attract "icky" stuff. She seems to radiate goodness and ease and a certain comfort level.

Reese also spoke of the impact her grandmother had on her, "My grandmother was one of the biggest inspirations in my life. She taught me how to be a real woman to have strength and self respect, and to never give those things away. And those are a lot of qualities I saw in June Carter. People used to ask June how she was doing, and she used to say -- "I'm just trying to matter." And I know what she means. You know, I'm just trying to matter, and live a good life and make work that means something to somebody."

How simple that statement is, "I'm just trying to matter." Seeing that desire to matter in Reese combined with the internal, psychological platform of growing up knowing what she does matters to others (like making her bed!) shows up in her energetic alignment. What was/is, so striking is how she has that sense of being completely aligned inside. All the internal pieces line up (hence her ability to command a terrific fee for each movie). The inside lines up with the external reality.

It's so much easier to have that kind of alignment when you had a childhood that laid those positive pieces down. But not having it earlier on doesn't mean we can't have it now! Reese gave us in her speech keys to doing it for ourselves: having our lives matter and being proud of every little thing we do. Sometimes the teachings come in interesting ways!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Finding New Thoughts?

It’s hard to find something to be uplifted about when our minds have been bogged down with negativity for a long time. I saw that this morning as I watched a client this morning come in feeling lousy, heavy, despondant. Having centered myself before she came I wanted some shift to occur and was willing to wait patiently for the opening to support the shift in happening. We explored the anger and hatred that fills her like the tree roots spread deep through her system. Feeling like that how could she change she asked? We tried some techniques to support her shift, especially Internal Family Systems. That worked a little bit.

And then we fell to talking. She expressed how she couldn’t even imagine feeling good each day. She hasn’t felt like that in 20 years. I challenged that thought, after all I knew there were tiny, overlooked moments in every day where she had a laugh or felt a tiny bit better. I told her it only takes seconds built on other seconds for each moment to shift. She had seen the movie, What the Bleep? and loved it. I thought it a handy moment to remind her about Candace Pert’s work and how these little synapse get reinforced with each thought that we have. Each thought builds on the other, sending neurons firing in one direction. The more we repeat the thought the more habituated the synapse are. That path is so familiar and easy. The thoughts come without thinking.

Finding new thoughts can feel more difficult. Thinking about the work of Abraham I suggested we take 20 seconds to feel good. Just 20 seconds. No big deal, I’d help her I told her. I asked her what happens in her body when she imagined her son seeing her feeling good and doing better in life. Relief she says. How’s that feel in your body? Better. Let’s think of other thoughts to help you move in that direction. For the next minute we sat there and felt the relief and the ease and how good it would feel if he saw her that way. Happened easily and effortlessly. Only 60 seconds. Sounds like a miniscule amount of time, but you know, we all know, that when we are feeling bad, shifting those thoughts is not the easiest thing to do.

It’s really the razor’s edge. Shifting our thoughts. Bob Proctor
has an excerpt on his website called the Razor’s Edge. He reminds us that there’s can sometimes be not much difference between one person and the other. Often it’s just those little thoughts that over time tip in one direction or the other.

Thinking about that my client told me that she and her son like to watch American Idol. I had actually caught 20 minutes of the show last night so I could be somewhat intelligent about it. They love watching it and seeing what makes the difference between one kid that wins and one that gets told it’s the end of the road. I asked her if she remembered the kid on the show, Kevin Covais, the one that looks nerdy, with the really short, stubby hair and glasses. Ah, yes! She lights up. Her son loves him. Feels that kids is the underdog and identifies with him. I asked her how a kid like that could have such good energy. Right away she’s nodding. She knows exactly what I mean. This kid wouldn’t be on the show without whatever light he has inside him. He feels like such a good kid. Makes you just want to love him.

She got it. I asked her how she felt inside. Relaxed, happy, pleased. Not like she came in. It’s not anything I did. She did it. All she had to do was remember what makes her feel good and expound on it. Second upon second, minute after minute, until it becomre more of a habit than the anger and pain she’s been living with.

She left smiling. Feeling inspired. Gotta say, I did too.


Monday, June 20, 2005


One of my clients spoke of it today. Was it just that I was listening for it? I’d been thinking about it for weeks now. Is that why the topic showed up? Or is it just that much more present in the world than I had thought? She spoke of needing to find something to belong to. Having been unemployed for well over a year now she no longer wanted to belong to that world, she wanted to work, to find her beloningness in another realm. It’s not, as she said to me, that she doesn’t belong to her partner, her mother, her family, but she wanted more. She wanted more.

I thought once again of a conversation I had had many years ago with the poet David Whyte. We were talking about my work with trauma survivors. He pointed out that everyone belongs to something, even if it’s their depression, their rage, their commitment that nothing good happens to them. David gave me a gift that day. In pointing out that we all belong to something, the psychic itch to support people to belong in more empowering ways began.

“….this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.”

David Whyte wrote those lines in a poem, The House of Belonging. It speaks of the necessary shift to love the things it has taken me so long to learn to love. How often I hear clients long for this life they haven’t yet learned to live. It’s just as often that I hear clients, and myself, riveted to their stories of what isn’t there, what isn’t working, and why it can’t, and won’t, work in the future.

What does it take to learn to love, to belong to something more meaningful?

Over the years, as I listen to clients and hear their profound longing, I marvel at our world which has us live so disconnected from the energy of life that springs unbidden. I watch as people struggle to let go of what they’re supposed to do, who they are supposed to be, to slowly grasp for the energy inside that bubbles and bursts with joy and well being.

Why is it so hard to listen to that well-spring? Why do we struggle to follow it? That is a thread to follow for another day. Today, I write of belonging, of knowing the gentle letting go that comes from holding a baby or an animal, feeling it’s breath going in, and out, and in, and out. Today I want to remember the feeling of my nervous system letting go, one synapse at a time. I want to remember and relax into the groundswell of wisdom that arises in those precious moments of letting go and opening to something new.

“…. Now their loneliness
feels familiar, one small thing
I’ve learned all these years,

how to be alone,
and at the edge of aloneness,
how to be found by the world.”
-- David Whyte Ten Years Later

Monday, June 13, 2005

Life as a Guru

There are moments when life has a will of its own. Those are not the moments I love when they happen. They are, however, the moments that have marked my ongoing evolution. I’m grateful for the years of ashram life that invited me to see everything, and everyone, as a potential teacher. Not always easy when the event, as Rumi wrote, is “a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture.”

I recently had one of those moments. You know, those moments, that last longer than the chronological experience. I shan’t describe it in detail. Its not an event in which I look the hero. I wasn’t at my best. I spent some time struggling to meet that experience in the way Rumi suggests, “treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.”

Those are the ancient teachings of yoga. Rumi continues, “The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” Therein lies the heart of yoga. Whoever, whatever, is the teacher, the guide, the key to transformation.

Well, as I said, those are hard concepts to keep in place when you’re seeing the worst in yourself. I’m relieved to read Rumi’s humanness, to hear that he knows and writes about the darker side of life, “the dark thought, the shame, the malice.” I know them well. They have visited me on more than one occasion.

Having a spiritual life or framework makes it easier for me to bear the dark underbelly of life. Perhaps the cynics are right, spirituality is a panacea. They may be right, but living life where the shitty things are guides to transformation makes it easier for me to bear the heavy ache of my heart when my darker demons emerge. It helps me soften the edge of defensiveness, of protectiveness that I imagine keeps me safe.

My beloved David told me recently that I am a porcupine. Reflecting on that I know the prickly truth. Deepening into those words I felt the flood of compassion that comes from bearing the vulnerability of life. I’m prickly not to hurt others out there from whom the perceived threat comes, but to protect the soft, tender core that still believes there is no love to come her way. In terms of the Internal Family Systems model, that is clearly an exile, a part that has been cordoned off to protect it from harm.

And as I meet this part, perhaps not quite yet laughing as Rumi suggests, but meet it with compassion and tenderness, I find the way through the dark underbelly of life. This is why this experience has come: to invite me beyond the pricklyness of my defended life into a life more rich in love. Softening into life instead of defending against it gives me the possibility of living with my heart steady in the midst of the “crowd of sorrows ready to sweep my house empty of all its furnishings.” Now I can be ready to embrace the events in a wholly different way.

Here's Rumi's poem

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes with an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Trauma Conference 2005

Writing for this blog has been a learning experience. I’m always aware of the internal threshold I have to cross in order to write something, express something from my heart. There are some old fears about being seen, yes. But there’s also this internal desire to shift my working vocabulary from old patterns of Irish Catholic sarcasm and fear to the steady perspective of seeing the best in others. I don’t know if it’s true for others, but it's a discipline, a real spiritual practice.

This reflection arose as a few people mentioned to me that they noticed I hadn’t been posting anything. How gratifying that people notice. There are parts of me that are surprised that people take the time to seek this blog out.

One of the reasons I haven’t been posting to this blog is that I was co-presenting a workshop at Bessel van der Kolk’s Trauma Conference and had some work to do to get ready for it. I’ve been to innumerable conferences throughout the world over the years, but this one affected me in ways conferences don’t. As with most of the conferences, Bessel had a number of people from the “hard” sciences, meaning not the touchy-feely ones that psychotherapy can be a part of. What affected me so much was that these very rigorous scientists spoke from their hearts while they were talking about research studies and neurobiology. Steve Suomi talked about his work with rhesus monkeys and what they are learning about attachment. They’re even exploring the genetic component that might be there between individual monkeys and their inability to fit into monkey society. He spoke very fast for well over an hour and a half, and I sat there enthralled. I can honestly say that doesn’t happen much at conferences!

Alexander (Sandy) McFarlane was another one. Brilliant man and terrific poetic speaker. He wove together the arts and the study of trauma. Again, another chance to sit there for an hour, present and listening while he presented research graphs and described the effect of trauma on a person. He presented studies that showed the delicate interaction of cognition and trauma. There are those with trauma who can’t pull on their cognition as those who haven’t been traumatized. They can be flooded with stimuli and unable to sort out the irrelevant with the necessary. I’m sure I was listening not just to help my clients but to map it onto my own experience.

We also had a talk from David Servan-Schreiber the author of a run-away bestseller in Europe, The Instinct to Heal. The title says it all, the body has an organic instinct to heal itself if we listen to the body, integrate the body and mind, generate more calm and relaxation than not. I bought the book, of course, and am enjoying the read.

The everyday clinical experience was presented by Janina Fisher, who gives wonderful support to the day to day treatment of trauma. Her easy, thoroughly accepting manner calmed us all and reminded us to enjoy the roller coaster ride that is trauma treatment.

We watched the videos Karlyn Lyons-Ruth presented from their attachment research. The most painful was seeing what happens to babies who are ignored by their caretaker. Heartbreaking……

One of the most personally striking impressions for me after the conference was how differently I listen and pay attention when someone is talking from their heart, from their enthusiasm than if they are divorced from their experience. I stopped going to some conferences because the scientists just talk and I sit out there listening and inevitably clicking off inside. I try to return to the talk, try to bring my focus back, but I inevitably wander off again. Yet, here, where people were alive with their work, I can no problem focusing and attending.

The result of the conference was returning me to me. What opens my heart? What thrills me? And how do I continue to learn to speak from that. The last four months I have had to pull back from the busyness of life, of my practice, of teaching and traveling. I want to more balance so that I can genuinely link together my love of life, the work that I do, and my desire to generate more love with others. What could be better than that?