Monthly Archives: November 2011

Embrace ALL of Life

Years ago, when I was going through some issues with my family, I went to my mentor. He shared a story that has stuck with me since.

He began by telling me how much he loved tomatoes. This seemed strange to me & I wondered what that had to do with my family problems, but I trusted him, so I listened. He went on and on about how he fixed his tomatoes, what foods he ate them with, etc.

Then he told me that the tomatoes he bought in the grocery store were pretty good. He knew they were grown in a greenhouse. Because they were protected from the harsh sun and wind, and storms that were common in the town where we lived, they were nice and red and round – and they seldom had any other marks on them because they were also protected from insects and other varmints.

At that point, he began to brag about the tomatoes he grew in his own garden. They grew out in his back yard, had to weather the storms and the hot sun and wind that we often experienced during our Kansas summers. Those tomatoes were not always perfectly round, and they often had spots from the small animals eating on them. But their color was a much richer color of red and they were so much more juicy and flavorful.

What he was telling me is that sometimes life sucks. (That’s a clinical term). 😉 We all have to face the elements of our particular environment.

We aren’t usually able to protect ourselves or our loved ones from going through the sucky part of life. We try sometimes – by helping too much when someone we care about is having a problem that they could (or need to) handle themselves. Or we keep ourselves so busy (or drinking or getting involved in some other compulsive behavior) so we don’t have to feel the pain of some loss in our own lives.

Even if we do manage to prevent ourselves or loved ones from going through the problem, it will come up again – and we (or they) will be less prepared than if we had begun to develop the skills we needed the first time.

But if we do allow life to unfold as it is, face it head on and realize we don’t have to orchestrate it, we’ll learn valuable lessons and develop our emotional muscles so that the next time, we’ll not only be more aware and ready to deal – it might not hurt as much as it did before.

And when we get through it, we’ll have a strength, a sense of accomplishment, and a confidence that will lead to a higher level of peace. (Going through that part of life might look a little chaotic at times, and not as “pretty” or controlled as it looks from the outside when we manage to avoid it. But the colors will be much more vivid and the taste, juicier and more full of flavor!!)

So embrace all of life – the good flavors – and the sucky stuff.

Empty Your Cup

There was a college professor who was researching different religions. Part of his research involved going to Japan to speak to a zen master. When he arrived, the zen master greeted him with a ceremonial tea, and began to pour tea into the professor’s cup. He poured and poured. The cup became full, then overflowed into the saucer and finally began to drip onto the floor. The professor said, “Please sir! Stop! My cup is already full!”

The zen master said, “This cup is like your mind. If you keep it so full of your ideas, plans and judgments, then how can I teach you anything? There’s no room for anything new.”


Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own beliefs that we keep our hearts and minds full of what we think we already know. I have a client who insists on coming in weekly for therapy, but all she really wants to do, is be sure I understand how much SHE knows about her issues. Any attempt I make at suggesting there might be a different way to look at something, she already knows that; or that wouldn’t work for her. I’m sure it helps her to talk about things, but that’s really not what therapy is about. It’s about learning more about ourselves and how we can improve the way we relate to the world around us.

I know many others (myself included at times), who spend hours filling up their lives with tasks that need to be done or obsessive thoughts about things and people around them. We do this to avoid feeling what’s going on inside. But if we could find a way to empty that cup a little, we might feel less anxious and more at peace.

If we already know it all, or if we are so stuck in our own belief system that we can’t listen to anyone else’s perception, we’ll be like that cup – overflowing, but not really functional.

I know I need space in my life. In some areas, it’s easy for me to see – I need to breathe, and life doesn’t always give me that opportunity. I have to make the time to empty my cup. Other times, I become fearful that if things empty out too much (for example, my schedule gets lighter than I’m comfortable with), I won’t have enough (in the case of my schedule – enough money to pay the bills).

But if I take the time to sit with the discomfort of the emptiness, I can look back and remember how every time things have emptied out before, it’s been because something even bigger and better was about to come into my life, and I needed to make room for it.

So take the risk to empty your cup and see what happens.

The Spiritual Partnership

I’ve been telling clients for years about my perception of a marriage or significant relationship, which I’ve called a spiritual partnership. This concept may or may not include a higher power, depending on the couple’s belief system. But primarily it’s about each partner being there for the other – to help him/her grow into the best person (s)he can be. As long as each does this with the pure intent to help the other grow, the relationship should flourish.

My concept is also about staying in the moment and not being in love with the person we think the other can or should be, or trying to make them become something else, because we just know they have more potential. This involves expectations we put on the other person. Expectations throw us into the future. Once we develop expectations of someone, the relationship begins to go downhill.

I could go on with this explanation, but rather than bore you to death, I’ll just add some thoughts I found in the book MINDFUL LOVING, by Henry Grayson. (I didn’t really think my concept of the spiritual partnership was original, but I have to admit, I was very surprised by how similar his explanation is to mine. He just says it much more eloquently).

Grayson talks about the “problem of specialness”. The problem comes when we “need” the other person’s love for our own purposes.

“When we appoint someone as ‘special,’ which we tend to think of as a good or positive notion or action, we set into motion a chain of potential outcomes that create unrealistic expectations and inevitable disappointments. . . . Ironically, as soon as we think of someone as special and try to convince that person of their specialness, we begin to think we have a right to demand things from them.”

“In the moment that we appoint someone as special we instantly connect to a childhood yearning or an unfulfilled desire. Or we expect that person to complete us . . . The special person, therefore, becomes for us the person who will finally love us enough, care for us enough, listen to us enough, and be our soul mate.”

“Not only do we idealize the other person, but we also become disappointed and angry when the person doesn’t live up to our expectations.”

The problem most of us have is that the needs we have developed in relationships are often unconscious because they have been learned from the covert behaviors and attitudes of our parents/family. In order to enter into a relationship without expectations of the other, we need to be able to see ourselves as whole.

That doesn’t mean we all need years of therapy. We can start by just reminding ourselves to stay in the moment in our relationships and leave our expectations at the door.
Love the people you love for what they are – not for what you think they can be.


While I try to practice gratitude for everything that is in my life on a regular basis, this time of year I’m always reminded that one of those “things” is the people in my life – my family, friends and clients.

Since I meditate on a regular basis, it gives me occasion to reflect on all that I have been blessed to experience. Much of that comes from you.

I believe who we are is directly related to those with whom we choose to connect on a consistent basis. The fact that each of you have, on occasion, taken me into your confidence and trusted me with your deepest feelings and concerns humbles me. This year especially, many of you have sent positive energy and prayers my direction, and some of you have even listened as I shared. I’m honored to be in your lives and appreciative of what you’ve each taught me.

As we go into this holiday season, I wish each of you peace, love and abundance.



The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company – a church – a home. The remarkable thing is we have choices everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past . . . we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one thing we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.

-Chuck Swindoll