Monthly Archives: November 2016

Preparing for the Holidays

This time of year can be stressful in so many ways.  Some love spending time with family, but it can be stressful shopping and managing all the extra holiday events and obligations.  Others might have toxic relationships with family members and dread the time they feel compelled to spend with them.  Still others either have made a conscious decision to NOT spend the holidays or any time with family.  And then there are those who don’t really have family to connect with or their family is geographically too distant.  But even if your stress is not around family, it’s just a busy time for most of us, and the weather is often not cooperative, which can make it even harder.

By this point in my life, I’ve learned to not ascribe too much meaning to holidays. That doesn’t mean I don’t celebrate, or that there isn’t meaning for me there, but rather that it’s just another day – and if I need to honor or celebrate the meaning behind the label, I can do that regardless of the day, or in a way other than is traditional.

I’ve also learned to prepare myself for holidays and other days when I will be with family members that push my buttons.  Even if I don’t have time for lots of quiet and meditation prior to a holiday, I can still do several “stopping meditations” throughout the days ahead.

A stopping meditation can be done anywhere at anytime, regardless of how busy we are.  It’s simply stopping whatever we are doing for just a moment and putting our awareness on our breath or body – or picking up an object to focus on it, noticing it’s weight, texture, color, etc for a few seconds to minutes out of the day, several times a day.  (I set my alarm on my cell phone to remind me).  It’s amazing how powerful those few seconds can be in calming and slowing our lives down. It’s most powerful when used in conjunction with sitting meditation and/or walking meditation, where we deliberately take a walk, with the purpose of focusing on a specific experience.  But  when we don’t have the luxury of extra time, at least we know we can find serenity within the storm for a few seconds at a time.

When I’ve been successful at slowing things down, I give myself more space to respond to people or events, rather that react impulsively.  I’ve found that when I’ve prepared in this way, even when a family member tries to get to me, I’m not as available for the fight. I have more capacity to make the choice not to involve myself.  (We can’t have a power struggle if both of us  aren’t struggling!)  😉 And, gratitude is much more accessible when I am in charge of the choices.

Regardless of how you do it, I hope you find peace, joy, freedom and gratitude wherever you are this coming week and in the weeks to follow.


Coping with Holidays After a Loss

Holidays are clearly some of the roughest terrain we navigate after a loss. The ways we handle them are as individual as we are. What is most important is that we be present for the loss in whatever form we can. Holidays are part of the journey to be felt fully. They are usually very sad, but sometimes we may catch ourselves doing okay, and we may even have a brief moment of laughter. Whatever you experience, just remember that sadness is allowed because death doesn’t take a holiday. And feeling joy does not negate the impact your loved one had on your life.

Our friends and relatives often think they know how our holidays should look, what the family should and shouldn’t do. They may just be uncomfortable with our pain, and just want us to feel better. But grief is one of those things in life for which there is no detour. We HAVE to go through it in order to come out on the other side. However, we each go through it in our own way, so don’t let anyone else dictate how you manage your holiday. There are no “supposed to’s”. Now more than ever, be gentle with yourself, but do it your way.

One thing that usually helps is to find ways to honor and remember your loved one. Here are just a few suggestions. Be creative.

-If you miss shopping for your loved one, buy something he/she would have liked, then donate it to a shelter or some other organization that adopts families for the holiday.
-Light a candle
-Say a prayer
-Donate time or money in their name
-Do something you loved to do together on that day
-I’ve even heard of families who set a place at the table for their loved one, and share fond memories of him/her during the meal.

It isn’t as important how you remember. You honor them by the fact that you remember.
Just Remember.

Sending you peace for your holiday season.

Finding the Giving in Thanksgiving

I have posted this blog a couple of times.  When I re-read this, I got the same teary-eyed, choked up feeling of love and connection that I describe in the blog below.  I hope you will enjoy it.


As Thanksgiving approaches, most of us focus on the gratitude we feel for all that we have.  But today, my 4 year old granddaughter reminded me of a different aspect of the holiday.

Her Papa is a professional Santa, so this is a busy time of year for him.  Today (the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving), he had 2 gigs, so it was just us girls playing around the house.  After lunch, we bundled up and drove to the local Price Chopper to pick up a couple of items.  Jess always jumps into the carts that look like a truck and pretends to drive me around the store.  She has never been very shy, so she usually yells, “Beep, Beep!  Get outta the way!” at everyone we meet.

Today was no different.  She jumped into the “truck” and we began our trip into the store.  The flower shop is the first thing you see, and all the cut flower bouquets are at eye level for her, so of course she wanted some flowers. Finances have been pretty tight recently, so it felt a little frivolous at first, but I agreed to buy her a bouquet, on the condition she share.

Thus began our quest to give away flowers.  She chose one, very small bud that she wanted to keep for herself, and one by one, she gave flowers to other shoppers.  I can’t describe the elation I felt as I watched.  Occasionally someone would decline and tell her to keep the flower, but she had none of that!  She would follow them, tug on their coat and say, “No!  These are for you!”  As they accepted, she said, “Happy Thanksgiving!”

A couple of shoppers who weren’t fortunate enough to receive the flowers came up and told me what a wonderful lesson I was teaching her.  I nodded – I know it’s sappy, but I was getting choked up – because in reality SHE was showing ME how to give from the heart.

When we had given the last flower away, we got in line, paid for our items, and as we left, Jess turned around  to the cashier and said, “Happy Thanksgiving!!”

Most of us have so much in our lives.  We get hung up on all the things we don’t have, or thinking we need more.  Changing our energy to one of abundance and giving helps us remember to be grateful for all that we do have!  And I have it on good authority, that when we can really do that, we receive even more.

As for the shopping trips, I have a feeling I’ve started something.  But that’s OK!  I can’t think of a better way to brighten a trip to the grocery store!  Jessica and I challenge each of you to find the “giving” in Thanksgiving this year.

And have a Happy Thanks Giving!

Our New Reality

This blog is not about politics.  It’s about humanity.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016 was probably the most intense and difficult day I’ve had as a therapist.

For the past several months, as the presidential race heated up, I consistently had several sessions a week where clients expressed fear and anxiety about what would happen if Trump won. I do a lot of trauma and grief work. Some of my female clients were being re-traumatized by his misogyny and his sexually explicit language; some feared his far reach into business deals in other countries and the fact that he had given a voice to white supremacists – both of which could jeopardize our country’s security and frankly threaten our democratic way of life.

Other clients (some who had been bullied themselves) were upset by his hateful mocking attitude and what it teaches our children when a man running for President behaved in ways that a 1st grader cannot get away with.  And then there were my LGBTQ clients who were both re-traumatized and fearful of losing the few rights and benefits they have finally managed to gain recently – mostly because of Mike Pence’s history with the mindset and laws he has championed.

On November 9, two of my clients were parents of adult children who have recently met violent deaths.  When people are already struggling with such a trauma, they’re constantly re-living the pain of the incident, and basically live in fear because the unimaginable worst has already happened.  They are more sensitive to everything – especially any violence – behavior or words.   The damage reaches very deep.

(I want to add here, that a few clients did express frustration with Hillary, but it never rose to the level of having to deal with traumatic issues in therapy).

But all of the above are human concerns. As I always do, I want to emphasize that what I’m about to say is my belief, and that I am not trying to make anyone change their belief system.  I simply want you to think outside the box a little here.

From a spiritual perspective, I believe we all come from the same place.  While we are formless in the spiritual realm, the forms we take on in this realm are various sizes, shapes, and colors, so we look and sound different. But inside we are all the same.  That formless part of us is a piece of that place – nothing but beautiful, loving energy – regardless of our personalities, beliefs, religions, lifestyles, countries of origin, color of skin, etc in this dimension.  Some call that a soul, spirit, piece of God – again, the semantics may be different, but it’s all the same.

And we each come with a sense of purpose that usually involves a certain set of lessons we need to tackle. Those have to do with our own spiritual development, and in turn, can help the Universe evolve energetically. Those who make enough noise to get the attention of an entire country or the world are probably doing so on purpose.  They may be conscious of things they want to accomplish in society, but their human minds are not typically conscious of this deeper aspiration.  The soul holds the knowledge. The human mind’s purpose is to experience what we call reality.

It’s pretty clear what humans like Jesus, Buddha or Gandhi (to name just a few) came to do.  They each focused on love, non-violence, freedom, etc.  But often the purpose looks like the exact opposite of what the soul intends.  Someone like Donald Trump, Hitler, terrorists and others who cause upset or pain to their fellow humans by the things they say or do might become a force that changes civilization in some way.  From the human perspective they may be here for the advancement of civil rights or for their own selfish advancement, or some other reason we don’t understand.  BUT, if it causes enough grief and distress for enough people, it may very well be the opportunity we need to eventually move the energy of the Universe forward in a more benevolent way. This is because those who believe in love, unity and equality for all, might become motivated to work even harder to ensure those values are upheld.

To make you think outside the box for a minute, perhaps that is the original spiritual goal of Donald Trump.

Just the fact that since he declared his candidacy, the issues that have become so highly charged are now out there in the open and we have increased the conversation about all of those topics.  Yes, there have been a LOT of arguments in person and on social media, physical attacks at rallies and protesting on the streets, people losing friends over their political disagreements, etc. And yes, many people are dug in and will not listen to the other side.  It’s generally been miserable for all of us.  But at least we’re talking about some of these things!  These issues have always been there, and there’s always been pain around them.  But for a long time they’ve been more covert – at least for straight, white, able-bodied Americans.  Now that they’re out in the open again, it gives us the opportunity to possibly DO SOMETHING to correct them.  Don’t misunderstand, we’re talking a long-term process for all of civilization.  In the next several years, I’m sure it will be painful for all of us!  But, if we let this be an opportunity, rather than an obstacle, it could eventually put us on the path towards understanding and eventually making changes.  If we’re talking AND listening to each other, incrementally we can continue to make the changes that will empower ALL citizens.

I do have to admit that I have a lot of fear about the future, but fear doesn’t serve us if we stay there. PLEASE, let’s not quit talking about these things.  We need to tone it down some and be a little more rational, but we can’t quit talking.  And listening.  We have to be willing to hear the other side.  I don’t want to consider the alternative.

I send you each love and peace as we all navigate this next stage in our country’s development.  Like it or not, we’re all in this together.  There is no “other”. There is only US.


Don’t Drive While Looking in the Rear View Mirror

My husband and I raised our now 7 year old granddaughter for much of her earlier life, most recently from the ages of 2 to 5 1/2.  When she was a toddler, she was constantly running into things, falling down, scraping her arms and legs, and bumping her head.  As I followed her down the stairs I would notice she was looking behind at me, or at the doll she was carrying instead of looking where she was going.

I know this isn’t unusual for a toddler.  They get distracted by everything and for them, the world is an unlimited repository of excitement and things to explore.  But it’s also not unusual for those of us who are a little older than 3 or 4.

We tend to move through life on autopilot, thinking about where we need to be in the next hour, or what’s next on our list to accomplish.  And often we’re lost in the past, ruminating over the hurt of an old pain or even wondering, “why me?” as we revisit some perceived wrong by a friend or co-worker just yesterday. When we live this way, we invariably receive wake-up calls in the way of a crisis that we aren’t prepared to handle.

It’s kind of like when we’re driving. Have you ever been driving down a street with someone following you too closely?  Once I was involved in an accident because the car behind me was following very close as we both entered the highway in rush hour traffic.  I found myself watching that car in the rear view mirror because it was so close I was afraid it would hit me or an oncoming vehicle if the driver tried to pull into the lane of traffic too quickly.  Eventually, the car behind me did swerve into the traffic, and as I turned to look to the front again, I had to slam on the brakes and smacked into the car in front of me because that car had slowed down!

I learned from this experience and spend a little less time looking in the rear view mirror in such incidents and try to stay more aware of both perspectives. We can all heed this advice in life also.  When I encourage my clients to be more “conscious”, what I mean is to stay in the moment, spend more time enjoying what is all around – here and now. And to stay OUT of their heads!

If we glide through life being distracted by routine tasks, staying compulsively busy to avoid something we might be trying not to feel, or focusing on what happened in our past – we’re missing that wonderful, exciting world our toddlers are enjoying.  The one that’s right here around us now. There will still be crises, but if we’re living with more consciousness, those obstacles in front of us will probably give us a sign they are about to come; and even if they don’t, we’ll at least proceed with a little more awareness – and when the inevitable crises arise, we can respond, rather than react.

My head is like a bad neighborhood, and I shouldn’t stay in there alone!