Monthly Archives: August 2018

Lessons from Geese

Fact 1: As each goose flap its wings it creates an“uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common sense of direction and community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Fact 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

Fact 3: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership, as with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skill, capabilities and unique arrangement of gifts, talents or resources.

Fact 4: The gees flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the productivity is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

Fact 5: When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay until it dies or can fly again. Then they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

“Lessons from Geese” was transcribed from a speech given by Angeles Arrien at the 1991 Organizational Development Network and is based on the work of Milton Olson.

The Shift from Attachment

One of the many reasons I loved Wayne Dyer’s writing so much is because he seemed to connect to some of the same lessons I’ve experienced over my life. Having been in the recovery field and having worked my own program for so many years, I’ve learned to love some of those 12-Step Slogans. The slogans are used so routinely at times that they can seem trite. But in the context of immersing yourself into the program, they can become empowering. My favorite has always been Let Go and Let God.  Just saying it, or thinking it gives me a sense of freedom from carrying the burden all alone.

Below are some excerpts from Dr. Dyer’s book THE SHIFT, Taking Your Life From Ambition to Meaning that explain his perception of this concept:

Perhaps the greatest lessons of my life have revolved around the slogan of the recovery movement: “Let go and let God” – a notion that involves relinquishing ego’s attachment to, or fear of, something. The single most pronounced attachment for most of us during the morning of our lives is the attachment to being right! . . . Letting go of an attachment to being right is a fairly simple exercise.

Most stress results from hanging on to beliefs that keep us striving for more, because ego stubbornly refuses to believe we don’t need something. When we make the shift . . . we replace attachment with contentment. Chasing and striving – and then becoming attached to what we chased after – is a source of anxiety that invigorates Ambition, but it won’t satisfy the need for Meaning at our soul level. . . .

Dyer explains that one exercise he used to let go of an attachment to being RIGHT was to say “You’re right about that” in the middle of a discussion.  If you just can’t go that far and really believe the other person is wrong, then maybe you can ease into it by saying, “That’s an interesting way to look at it.  I’ll give that some thought.”

Another practice to break an attachment is to clear out the garage, cupboards, and closets. Let go of material possessions, and practice not being attached to them. If they haven’t been used in the past 12 months, they belong elsewhere.

Something else I do is to ask myself, “am I going to be upset about this in a year. . .6 months. . . tomorrow?” When I can back up & look at more long-term effects of my interactions with other people or even with material possessions or strongly held beliefs, I usually find that my perception begins to change.  It’s often a slow process, but I am able to see situations and people from a different perspective.

This need to be right is so prevalent in our country right now, with the political environment becoming more and more antagonistic. It’s easy to get caught up in all the emotion and let it interfere with our personal relationships, if others believe differently. Any attachments we have as human beings are human obsessions.  I encourage you to back up a little and open yourself to the possibility that, at another level, they are meant to help you understand yourself – NOT TO DEFINE YOURSELF.

We are all spiritual beings who have come here to learn.  Maybe that attachment you have is part of the lesson.  ?  Only when you can truly release it, will you learn from it.

Violence is the Crutch of the Emotionally Crippled

This blog was written prior to the incident taking place in Charlottesville or Barcelona. While those are examples of the violence I am referring to in the first couple of paragraphs, finding a way through to the hatred ignited within those individuals is a whole different thing than what this blog is about.  I send love and healing energy to all who are directly effected by these situations, and hope there will soon be an end to such extreme violence and intolerance.


Every day we wake up to stories about some violence being perpetrated against Americans or citizens around the world. There’s also a lot of anger-filled debate about gun control/terrorism/immigration/police brutality, etc.  Instances of physical, emotional and verbal violence are happening so often that we are becoming immune to the pain they cause. These are all very complex issues, and won’t be resolved quickly. As individuals, the power we have to effect change should not be underestimated, if we unite with activist groups and manage to put people in the positions that can make a difference (as witnessed by the marches and protests/phone calls to representatives around healthcare and other issues have proven). But it will still be a long, incremental process of shifting universal paradigms to change the violent nature of much of our society.

Even though many of these incidents are not necessarily in our back yard, they all affect each of our lives energetically.  While many of the situations mentioned above are caused, or at least fueled by things like institutional or individual discrimination/lack of available mental health services/governmental policies . . . any number of factors that we should all be conscious of and learn how to manage within our own minds and actions; the aspect I want to address here is the general energy of unchecked anger that we all see more often these days – in social settings, athletic events, instances of road rage, political rallies, and on social media.

A lot of people today are SO angry that they are blinded to any possibility other than getting revenge.  It’s a typical human impulse when we perceive that someone else has hurt us, to want them to experience at least as much pain as we did. When someone is in that mindset, it’s difficult for them to understand that their anger really hurts them more than others.  Only when someone is open to entertaining the concept that there may be an alternative perspective, can he/she make a change.  No one else can make that willingness happen.

Some people seem to enjoy being angry.  There are lots of extreme posts on social media, and sometimes comments made by public figures, that fuel the fire for someone who has not developed the emotional maturity to develop the skills to manage and relieve themselves of the energy without taking it out on someone else.  You see, it’s not the anger that is the problem.  It’s the aggressive behavior that stems from the anger.

I’ve often said that anger can be a smokescreen emotion. When we feel anger, we feel a surge of energy, and it gives us a sense of power – helping us to believe we can protect ourselves.  It’s as if we’re putting on a bullet proof vest  (we often act before we stop to think that there might be arrows shooting back at us in reaction to our aggressive behavior, so until those reach us, we feel powerful).

But it’s a smokescreen because there are almost always other, more vulnerable emotions beneath the anger and aggressive behavior.  Feelings like hurt, embarrassment, shame, etc.  And most of those have probably been down there for some time, left unattended.  We may have been able to contain them for years, but as humans we aren’t built to hold them in forever. They begin to seep out, sometimes a little at a time. Since we tend to equate vulnerability with weakness, when we begin to notice these feelings, our “go-to” is usually to slip into anger. And while the stream of steaming anger may be steady, there may also be a pit of resentments inside us.  As long as it’s kept hidden, that pit becomes harder and harder, like petrified wood.

So the way many people try to deal with their anger is to use it against another or an organization with aggressive behavior, abusive language and/or passive aggressive acts.  These are destructive, impulsive behaviors.  They initially make us feel we can control a person or situation, but in the long run, they render us helpless and we eventually find ourselves at the mercy of these weapons. What we typically get in return is resentment from others, often just perpetuating the cycle of anger.  The anger takes control of us, rather than the other way around.

The only way to become invulnerable is to change our view of who or what we deem as our enemies and learn to see every instance of harm as an opportunity — as something we can use to benefit ourselves and others.

Our enemies are our best teachers, because they ignite our anger and hatred. They force us to look at our own shadow sides, which is the first step to moving past impulsive aggressive behavior.

Once we have that wisdom, we can begin to employ more effective tools — tolerance, compassion and love — and begin to reap real benefits. If negative situations didn’t happen to us or keep us from getting what we want, how would we learn humility, tolerance and forgiveness?

We should be grateful to our enemies, for they teach us patience, courage and determination and help us develop a tranquil mind.  

-The Dalai Lama

Get Outside Your Own Head

One of my favorite quotes is:  My head is like a bad neighborhood and I shouldn’t stay in there alone!

I’ve shared that with many people over the years.  What it’s always meant to me is that if I try to analyze my problems myself without verbalizing them to a trusted friend or therapist – or even just writing them down, or without allowing myself to actually feel through them – they just seem to take on more & more power over me. I call it the intellectual violence that I perpetrate on myself.

In the 12 Step Program we talk about getting outside our own heads, which I’ve taken to mean something similar – and also understood that if I carry the message on to others, then I will learn and grow more myself, as well as being of help to others.

At times when I’ve had some real hurt in my life I’ve meditated to help me stay in love as I dealt with it. Then, invariably, a friend or family member shared some very difficult problems in their lives. I’ve “gotten outside my own head” and reached out to them. I’ve put myself in their place and felt their pain.  As a therapist, I’ve learned the art of being compassionate while detaching at the same time, so I can remain objective enough to be helpful. It’s much more difficult with friends and family, but I’ve been able to use that skill to be there for them.

During the time I was focusing on my friends and their issues, I totally forgot my own problems. And sometimes the issue I’d been working through just turned completely around and started working well again. I know it won’t be that way forever but I’ve learned to live in the moment, and take joy in the good times when they are here without waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The part that amazes me is that I just know part of the reason it turned around is because I let go of it for a time, and gave from love to someone else who needed it. Don’t misunderstand.  Very often, our problems need to be revisited until we see them through.  But that means letting go of the obsessive thoughts about them and feeling the emotional part.  And it doesn’t help to stay in the problem constantly. Otherwise, we’d never move toward a solution.  Allowing ourselves to be there for others, even in the midst of our own pain (if we are able), can help us in that process. I swear what we put out there comes back to us – and even opens up the energy field for everyone else!

The energy in the world right now feels very heavy and sometimes dark – depending on who we are listening to or what we are focusing on.   We are all experiencing some very harmful, painful events, even if it is somewhat vicariously for most of us.  It’s difficult to just brush it off and go about our own business.

I have always been the eternal optimist when it comes to societal issues.  I believe we are on the cusp of a more enlightened civilization, but there are those who are not as spiritually or emotionally advanced, and they feel very threatened.  They are hanging on to everything they “know” because the unknown is too scary and they don’t seem to be willing or able to learn about that uncharted territory.  That heavier energy is felt by all of us.

But I do think we can combat it by doing just what I said earlier.  Let it go, even if for a few minutes at a time.  Do whatever works for you to free yourself.  Meditate, pray, play, plan the vacation of your dreams – even if you don’t believe you’ll ever really take it. Most of all focus on love.  Look for stories about the people who are helping in the horrific situations we wake up to on the news every day.

Nothing in this world happens that is not first imagined. Contrary to what you may have been told as a child, daydreaming is not a bad thing.  We need to envision the world we want to see – personally and socially in order for it to come to fruition. That’s the first step towards the solution.

Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.

– Eckhart Tolle

Reality is Where We Focus

I’ve always believed part of my role is to model how a healthy person manages daily life. None of us are perfect. We all have challenges. It’s how we face those that determines whether those challenges become problems or lessons learned.

So like everyone else, I get into ruts from time to time. When I tend to allow myself to get over-committed, I tell myself (and everyone else who asks me how I do it all) that all those responsibilities are things I’m passionate about, so that makes it easier to manage.

However, sometimes those commitments have taken over my life. When that happens, I no longer feel like I’m living my life; but that It *lives me*– and not very well at that! I seldom have the time I have always relied on for my daily program of working out physically, feeding my soul with uplifting audiobooks or podcasts and meditation. I sleep less, work continuously and complain about it the whole time. I become easily agitated and don’t even like myself much.

The most recent time I got caught up in all this, I kept saying “Next week I’ll get back to my routine.” But next week never came. So I finally just got tired of feeling emotionally and physically exhausted and just decided I was going to make that happen. I freed up one morning, made myself stop and meditate and was beginning to feel a little like someone I used to know. Then that weekend, because I had volunteered to help with a retreat, I was basically just thrown back into the concepts that energize my soul. The presentations brought me back to what I’ve always known.

Our reality is limited only by where we put our focus. I know that we are each spiritual beings who have come to this life to experience it fully – good, bad and everything in between. We signed up for those hard times that we pray will not happen. Those are the lessons that help us reach our next level of development.

We are here to be human beings, but we were spiritual beings first. I realize that during those times when I get more wrapped up in the human side of myself, I am keeping my focus on the daily “To Do” list, and on attempting to control everything and everyone around me. If we immerse ourselves in those things, we’ll live in a scarcity mindset. Life will always be a search for more.

But if we take a few moments throughout the day to remind ourselves that who we really are reaches far beyond the satisfaction we get from accomplishing human tasks, we’ll move into an abundance mindset, where we can be grateful for even those overwhelmed feelings – because they exist to remind us of what we need to do to become more of who we really are at our core. Once we acknowledge and allow ourselves to feel the gratitude for just being alive, and for all the abundance we have in our lives, we can know real joy. I won’t promise we’ll be happy all the time. We’re not supposed to be. I think life is really supposed to be like a wild ride on a roller coaster – sitting in the front with our hands in the air – not even holding on. Only when we have faced and conquered fear can we truly appreciate how wonderful and exciting life can be.

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to live the life that is waiting for us.
EM Forster