Doing Something By Doing Nothing

The power of doing nothing.  Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh understood this.  “It’s when a grown up says, ‘What are you going to do today?’ and you say, ‘Nothing!’ and then you go out and do it.”  They wandered, they daydreaming, they played in nature.  While doing nothing, they were doing something—learning, developing critical thinking and problem solving skills like how to get across the stream without falling in, like Eeyore did (who maintains he was bounced into the river by Tigger of course).  They also had to cooperate to save each other and have all sorts of adventures. 

There’s some interesting brain research about the impact of doing nothing.  The brain shows a relaxation response to daydreaming.  Only in a state of relaxation can our bodies and minds heal, regroup, and regenerate.  Daydreaming meant not thinking about problems or solutions to things but just letting the mind flit from one thing to another or thinking about something pleasant. 

I hope that all beings have at least one good memory they can take their body and their mind back to.  That can be enough.  That can be your doing ‘nothing’ in order to do something good for you.  The body will respond accordingly and joyfully. 

Being able to do nothing is like a superpower.  Kids know how to do this automatically if they are given time and space away from school, homework, sports, and especially electronics.  They will find the ‘nothing’ that helps them live and grow better. 

As I get ready to leave to go to the Bahamas to lead my latest wild dolphin retreat (, I am not doing nothing often enough and it is really showing up in my body.  I love days where I have ‘nothing’ scheduled!  Can you have ‘nothing’ day without some anxiety?  Can you challenge yourself to do nothing?  You can do nothing while you take a walk, or sit on your lanai or watch the birds and the clouds go by.  The power of doing nothing, particularly while in nature is profound medicine.  Go try it as the end of summer nears.  I dare you to do something by doing ‘nothing’! 

I leave you with words of wisdom from Mary Oliver:

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver, 1935 – 2019

We still have a few spaces left on our Bimini Wild Dolphin Retreat, 9/11-9/17, 2022 AND it’s on SALE! $200 off and if you bring a friend you get $250 off! Check out my link above or contact me for more information today. is short but inspirations adventures like this are worth the scramble!

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The Ghosts Among Us or Do You Have High EI?

In this blog I try to highlight challenges, behaviors and strategies that can benefit and increase social and emotional health.  I have mentioned the concept of ‘Emotional Intelligence’ or EI which is most often defined as the ability to perceive, use, understand, manage, and handle emotions.  It is considered by some experts to be more important than IQ for success in life.  An excellent early book is Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ.   There are even some tests for measuring EI and you can find some more information here: or from a quick online search.

Recent research on how the brain develops in childhood shows that the parts of the brain in charge of emotions develop before the parts that are responsible for intellectual learning.  So EI is an essential skill to build early in life and keep on building as the challenges get more complicated. 

I have found that children who are not able to cope with their or others’ emotions or demonstrate empathy for themselves and others have feelings, behaviors and focus issues in school that make it harder for them to learn.  Their brains are just not ready to learn intellectually especially in a controlled environment that may not recognize their needs. 

Our ‘lizard’ brain or our limbic system is in charge of expressions of emotion and can ‘highjack’ our higher brain functions unless there is emotional intelligence to mitigate these lower brain functions.  Stress, trauma and low emotional intelligence can all lead to our brain being highjacked AND that has massive implications for our physical health as well.  I have written about this in a prior blog as it is related to the ACE’s research as well as research on resiliency.

For adults, the ability to name, understand and cope with our own and others’ emotions as well as read the emotions of others through facial expressions and body language are big parts of how successful someone can become in life.  High EI also means having good social skills and an ability to work things out with others.  You can imagine how high EI would be a benefit people not only in personal relationships but also in professional, school and leadership roles.  Many of these abilities can be learned and that is what I spend most of my time on working with others and sharing through this column.

I said in my last article, “How Do You Handle the Pool of Life” that I would talk more about ‘ghosting’ and why it is a measure of lower emotional intelligence.  I have seen what seems to be a distinct reduction in EI in conjunction with the rise in social media and electronic devices dominating our lives.  Research has shown we feel MORE isolated, alone, depressed and anxious, especially our children, despite the additional ‘connections’ people have online.  We are not built for these kinds of connections and distractions to dominate our lives. 

I see people more and more unable to have a respectful disagreement and this goes all the way up to our institutions and infects all aspects of our culture.  It seems more difficult than ever for us to recognize and manage our own emotions and behaviors without turning to substances or other unhealthy behaviors.  Communicating through devices when there is a conflict or even just a wee bit of discomfort makes it too easy to become aggressive, cut someone off, or refuse to answer them or agree on a way to work things out.  Ghosting is the ultimate example of how we lower our EI level.  If you aren’t familiar with this term, it means to just ‘disappear’ from someone’s life especially if most of your communications were via an electronic device.

It’s one thing to cut out someone who is abusive or dysfunctional once you have realized it.  You are under no obligation to inform them of your decision.  Unfortunately, I see people doing this who were good friends, partners, spouses, co-workers, etc. and it seems to be getting much more frequent.  I have both been ghosted and done it myself and oh, it’s so easy right?  But I feel my EI going down every time I choose to do it.  I see others’ EI go down in front of my eyes when they think it’s a good idea to have a fight via texting or email or when they go through other social media to ‘tell on’ someone else or a myriad of other ways we cut off or passive aggressively strike back at someone with whom we have a problem. 

Now, people have always struggled with conflict.  We simply are not taught well how to deal with it when we are young—or the exact EI skills we need.  This is generations in the making but mainstream media, social media and electronic devices have exacerbated this problem. 

When you can just drop relationships by ghosting or when you get ghosted, how much harder does it become to trust in the longevity of a relationship and therefore commit to keeping it healthy and vibrant?  Even if everyone else around you continues to ghost others and lash out with their devices as a weapon instead of a tool, you can raise your own EI and watch as you become a leader and more successful than those who stay with their heads down thinking they are doing ok. 

Think of someone you admire and know who can handle a controversial subject or strong emotions from others or their own most of the time.  No one’s perfect but is there anyone like this in your life?  Even if you don’t know them personally, is there someone like this where you follow their teachings or like their example and it appears to be who they are consistently?  If not, it’s hard not to have a role model.  Seek out an example in society, even if you watch them from afar.  There are loads of successful, empathetic leaders and examples out there that you can learn from if you don’t have anyone close in your life.  You can learn these skills through a therapist or coach as well as trusted others in your life. 

What could be different if you had explicit conversations with your friends and other loved ones to NOT resort to dealing with conflicts via electronic devices?  This is the first ‘rule’ I always have for couples who end up in therapy after their conflicts degenerated into cruel, electronic fights.  What might be different if you had an explicit rule to take a break very early when it feels that one or both of you is not able to process their emotions in the moment but that there is a commitment to coming back to work out a solution later? 

When you don’t see the other human during a conflict, you don’t have to deal with their reactions to our lashing out.  I have written before about our ‘mirror neurons’ which cause us to feel what other’s feel when you see it on their face or body language.  This built-in empathy switch can be uncomfortable at times, hence the need for high EI.  Ghosting and electronic fighting takes away this essential bit of humanity and drops our EI like a rock. 

There are many other ways to get help during a conflict but cutting people off is not the answer to what ails us and it will only make the next relationship harder because you haven’t built your EI muscle.  Commit not to ghosting or to pick up the phone or go in person when you have a conflict.  This is high level stuff but we are built for it with the right amount of help and skills.

Of course, reducing our stress levels is an essential step in managing our emotional load and raising our EI.  Self-compassion and loving kindness meditations, in fact many forms of meditation, have also been shown to build our emotional control. 

As always, playing is the number one source of stress reduction, as is exercise (also can be done by playing), and breathing (also can be done during play).  Reach out if you need help with how to start.  Your high EI will pay you back in dividends!  Now go out and play!! 

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How Do You Handle The Pool of Life?

It’s summer and time for playing in the water!  Have you heard the story of the Princess and the Pool?  It goes like this:

Once upon a time, a beautiful princess sat at the edge of a clear, ornate pool in her palace grounds. As she leaned over to gaze at her reflection, her priceless crown tumbled from her head and into the water with a loud splash.

At the sound of her all-is-lost scream, royal attendants rushed to her from all sides. Frantically, they jumped one after the other into the pool, thrashing about in search of the precious object.

Of course, all this effort did nothing but churn the water and swirl up a lot of mud and rotten debris from the bottom of the pool. The water grew murky. The crown disappeared from view. The princess and her attendants panicked.

Now, who should come upon this chaotic scene but the palace storyteller, a bent and bowed old man with twinkling eyes.

With one glance, he took in the chaos. Rather than join the maelstrom, he sat calmly down at the princess’s side and immediately launched into a riveting tale of times gone by.

His sonorous voice wove such a fascinating tapestry of love and adventure that the aides climbed out of the pool to sit down nearby and listen raptly. And the princess herself stopped shrieking, forgetting all about the lost crown.

By the time the storyteller came to the end of his elaborate, embellished tale, everyone and everything – even the mud in the pool – had settled down.

And so, the storyteller reached into the pool, once again still and clear, and easily plucked out the now plainly visible crown.

In your life, when met with something that seems important but unclear, are you more likely to respond like the Princess, her attendants or the storyteller? 

Do you respond with anxiety and then move on to making demands, getting angry, or crying and shutting down, being SURE all is lost? 

Are you more likely to be a ‘helper’ but really end up doing things that are not helpful or actually enable the emotional UN-intelligent behaviors of others?  Do you end up feeling resentful for not having your own needs recognized, acknowledged or met by yourself or others?

Or, as in this story, can you see the un-clarity in a situation and know that sometimes the best approach is to do ‘nothing’ as the storyteller seems to be?  Now doing nothing is, as I have described in other articles, the Way of Pooh (or Winnie the Pooh, the Taoist master).  It is a way of being truly present and accepting of what is.  Not that you don’t feel your feelings but that you don’t cause further suffering, on top of what may be intrinsically painful. 

What would happen if you were to become like the storyteller and not rush in to decide that all is lost or come to conclusions you can’t REALLY know about for sure?  Can you sit with the fact that sometimes we can’t see reality because it’s simply unclear and that fishing around for answers, conclusions, or meaning can cause us more unhappiness?  Can you sit and manage your emotions in the moment in the hope that things become clearer or until you can accept that you may never ‘know’ something or find something, and then you can decide what else you can do with your life or your relationships?

Let’s take the example of being ‘ghosted’.  I’ll write more another time about the problems with this more frequently occurring, very UN-emotionally intelligent behavior but for now, we’ll use this as an example of how muddy the water can be when someone cuts you off and doesn’t or won’t explain why or what happened.

It’s very, very easy to jump to conclusions, make up stories and want to scream for answers.  Even before social media had made it easier to ghost someone, sometimes people just stop being in relationship with us for reasons we will never know.  The road to suffering is the one that churns up the water until there is no way to get to clarity.  The road to peace is knowing there is a difference between ‘knowing’ why and ‘believing’ why something may have happened.  That road also knows how to focus on gratitude for what you do have and the beauty and peace of focusing on the present moment. 

Can you sit and be with the discomfort of the murky water, hoping it gets clear but if it doesn’t, accepting that some things are unknowable?  Can you get out of your own or someone else’s pond and stop making the water murkier?  Can you recognize what is yours and not yours to handle and to ‘know’ about?

Can you sit by the water and listen to the birds sing, or feel the breeze, or smell the ocean while you wait to see if the water will become clear?  Your five senses are your best friends when it comes to being in the present moment with grace and gratitude.  

Will you sit by that murky pond for the rest of your life, hoping it becomes clear or would you get up, dust yourself off and move on after some time–whether or not you used that time wisely?  Which would make you a more wise, compassionate, strong version of yourself?

I would hope you would choose to PLAY by the murky pool of life, either while waiting for clarity or to do something FUN while you decide what to do next.  Often the answers are found in playing, relaxing, being creative, opening our mind to something more fun now, and suddenly we come up with a solution, an idea or we know what we want to do next, no matter what the pool of life looks like.  We can move on to make or find another pool that is more fun to look or play in. 

You can always contact me for help with your Pool of Life or reach out to others to help you remember how to play at the pools. 

So go out and play, leave your crowns at home, jump in puddles and pools and know that clarity will be there when you can just be there. and

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Where’s YOUR Flow?

I was really inspired recently as I read about some new research coming out about how detrimental loneliness and lack of real connection is to our health, mental health and life options BUT finding a state of flow with your own self can counteract these effects.   

This new study out of Penn State found that doing something meaningful and challenging with our free time is essential to feeling less lonely and increasing positivity.  They even go so far as to repeat the old saying, “Time flies when you are having fun.”   They didn’t set out to research fun but that was how they summed it up.

The researchers discuss the necessary element of ‘flow’ or feeling really, fully engaged in an activity—physically, emotionally and mentally, so focused that the participants didn’t realize how much time had passed.  It’s very like being in a hypnotic trance.  It’s also achieved when you are fully involved in play activities.  Anyone reading my musings knows that I promote the value of play and the need for it for ALL ages is increasingly reinforced in research and practical knowledge.

Even before lockdowns, ‘social distancing’ and masks which made it harder for people to give and receive normal communications and distinguish a range of emotion, or even learn it in the first place as with young children, people were reporting more feelings of loneliness and isolation.  Despite social media ‘connections’ which I have maintained (and research continues to back this up) are false connections that are more harmful than good, teenagers especially feel more anxious and isolated and ‘less than.’   This has taken a heavy toll on our mental/health. 

It will be interesting to see how the overall health trends from the stress of these developments affects us long term.  Already, insurance and disability claims have skyrocketed, particularly among those who should be the healthiest among us—young adults, beyond anything that can be contributed to covid itself but more from the response to covid.  We are just not made to be isolated and lonely given our mirror neurons and brain that’s wired for connection, empathy and compassion. 

Fortunately, this new research shows that even if isolated for some reason, we can feel less lonely, at least temporarily, by finding this ‘flow’ state.  Whether that is playing a musical instrument (or learning it), dancing, chopping wood, hiking, painting, skiing, writing, storytelling, anything goes as long as it is meaningful and engages your mind and heart.  Indeed, the researchers found that this state of flow was MORE important to reducing feelings of loneliness than social support.  Different people find different activities engaging but things like watching tv did not help achieve a state of flow because it wasn’t challenging.

I feel most easily in a state of flow when out in nature, doing something new, interesting, challenging or a little bit scary.  For me, this has often been in the form of being out with wild dolphins and whales but mostly from bringing other people out to see them who perhaps have never done it before, don’t know much about their own or Cetacean capabilities and connections, and who are willing to challenge themselves a little.  I love raising the vibration of joy and sometimes think that’s really all I can do on this planet at this time, but maybe that’s enough. 

As we come back out of our isolation more and more, in addition to committing to finding your flow on your own, you can choose to ‘surround yourself with people who take pleasure in your joy’.   Brené Brown has been talking about this lately and says that research shows that taking pleasure in someone else’s joy is a huge predictor of deep relationships, connection and your own happiness.  Since we are neurobiologically wired for connection, its absence always creates suffering, which we see the results of in our world today.   

The last thing the world needs is less joy.  Joy can motivate us to take action and make the world a better place.  So find your flow and joy and know that’s enough.  Play is a first step.  It can be with others or alone.  The main element is to feel connection—with your own flow or with others.  What did you do that you lost yourself in when you were a kid?  Start there.  If you get stuck, reach out for help. 

I still have a few slots left on my upcoming retreat September 11-17, 2022 in Bimini, Bahamans with the wild dolphins as our inspirations and companions.  Our theme is Joy Filled Play so come and find your flow by playing with the dolphins…and me and a whole group of new play/pod mates!  You can contact me for more information or help finding your joy and flow at or go to my website,

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When It’s Time to Put Your F.O.O.T. Down….

Spring is here and besides the spring cleaning that is helpful for your outer environment, I seem to be continually working with people who are doing some internal spring cleaning. 

Being a licensed family therapist and therapeutic coach, I never expected to be assisting so many people who need to put their F.O.O.T. down and get the F.O.C. up!  I thought it would be all about helping family members create more healthy dynamics together.  Instead, I seem to be more often working with adult clients whose families, and often their parents, are so toxic and abusive that there is little to no hope of creating a healthy dynamic. 

Many years ago, and I’m sure I didn’t make it up, I started using the term ‘Family of Origin’, especially since not everyone grows up in their family of origin or stays in a family of origin or birth family.  I often also talked about people creating a ‘Family of Choice’ meaning framing those people who are not our blood relatives (and maybe some who are) who you choose to consider your family when your family of choice cannot or will not meet your healthy relationship needs and boundaries. 

Because I specialize in trauma related issues, I end up seeing a lot of adult clients who have really abusive and toxic families of origins where there really was no hope of healthy relationships since the other members were not willing or able to do their personal growth worth and were really just stuck in blame and their own trauma and woundedness.  This toxicity and abuse made me add another letter (because if you read my musings, you will remember that I like to play with words and acronyms)—T for Toxicity and/or Trauma.  So it was a natural progression to start discussing Family of Origin Toxicity/Trauma or F.O.O.T. 

Sometimes, the only thing you can do is put your F.O.O.T. down both figuratively and literally.  When my clients do this, and stop believing that they HAVE to stick with abusive people because ‘they’re family’, they get better.  They can use the freed up energy from not fighting an abusive system to focus on building their Family Of Choice.  Often, they already have some people in their life who can be in this new family. 

Someone I used to be connected with on social media so often had such nasty comments on her own posts that I approached her directly and asked why she tried to ‘discuss’ things with such people instead of just blocking or deleting them since they were clearly not ‘friends’.  She replied that ‘well, they’re family.’  I told her she deserved to be treated better, especially by family.

Why should we allow family members to be more abusive to us verbally, mentally, emotionally, physically or sexually than any stranger would get away legally?  Family members are supposed to be those who care for us, despite our imperfections and not attack us not only publicly on social media but directly in person or indirectly in other ways. 

How you allow people to treat you is a reflection of self worth.  I often bring up the concept that ‘we train people how to treat us’.  This is true for adults, not for children who have little to no power over how grown-ups treat them.  But if we take that child’s mind into adulthood (which is easy to do when you are abused, neglected or in toxic environments as a child), we will forever remain stuck not claiming our power as a human with an inalienable right to be treated with dignity and respect. 

Laws for prisoners of all kinds around the world lay out the rules for a minimum of decency.  Anyone who can’t abide by at least the standards that imprisoned people receive should be cut out of our lives with a sharp knife.  This may sound harsh but the world is so full of toxicity, abuse and trauma, if we let it go on for one minute too long, it contributes drop after drop to suffering in this world AND it is extended to all subsequent generations.  I see the patterns continually generation after generation and it can only stop when each of us chooses a different path. 

Traumatized people make traumatized decisions and relationships.  So, when a client decides to put their F.O.O.T. down, we do the transformational work so they can do so with compassion for those in their family of origin that cannot, for whatever reason, do the personal work to heal their own wounds.  Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is say goodbye.  My client is then affirming life and ending a pattern that will not go on into future generations. 

Since we all are social creatures that do best when loved and supported by a group, we must have a family and a Family Of Choice can fulfill our needs.  I coach people to be explicit with those already in their life about being ‘in’ their F.O.C. and have them go out and look in their network or new networks for their parents, grandparents, siblings, etc.  More and more people are living in intentional ways and even in intentional communities because it is literally life saving to put down the F.O.O.T. and get the F.O.C. up. 

Families of Choice create new holiday rituals, new birthdays, new vacations, new day to day life with their family of choice.  Fortunately, there are so many others out there who do not want or can’t be in relationship with their F.O.O.T. that they also are happy and willing to get the F.O.C. up.   They also need to do the relationship work- building communication, emotional intelligence, and resiliency skills so that when inevitable conflicts arise, they don’t just stomp away from each other and think they will ‘just’ go find a new F.O.C.  Getting the F.O.C. up means commitment—to doing your own personal work as well as asking others to do theirs and sticking with it when it’s hard, getting outside support whenever necessary and the reaping the rewards of staying in a healthy dynamic. 

None of this is easy work.  Cutting off a F.O.O.T. is difficult and requires help for most people as they have a lot of grieving to do, as well as dealing with the scars of trauma and toxicity, but all of my clients know it’s worth it in the end.  Loss and grief are inevitable parts of life, but it’s what we do with that reality which helps us grow and find joy and gratitude again.  Our cultural notions that family members can and do treat us however they want without consequences ‘because they’re family’ is something from the dark ages.  We can and should demand at least as much if not better treatment that we give to strangers and by law. 

When we put our F.O.O.T. down we will get so much healing from our F.O.C. that future generations will not carry this toxicity into their own future relationships and there will be less need to cut off the F.O.O.T. in the future.  We can have more peace in our families, our neighborhoods, our cities, our countries and our world then.   By putting your F.O.O.T. down, you are paving the path for all to walk on in peace and connection and F.U.N.  Let’s not forget about our Fundamental Universe Need! 

Putting your F.O.O.T. down usually needs some help from a trusted group or professionals.  If you don’t know how to play and have F.U.N. because of the pain of your F.O.O.T., reach out for help.  If you don’t know where to start to get the F.O.C. up, reach out for help.  You, future generations, and the world itself deserve to not pass on trauma. 

Put your F.O.O.T. down today!  First, put on some boots you will use to put your F.O.O.T. down in and go out and have some fun in those boots. Go dance, go play, go stomp in some puddles to get ready.  It will keep your energy up and contribute to better mental and physical health. 

Consider my upcoming healing and wellness retreat with the wild dolphins of Bimini to jump start your transformation.  Check it out here: or contact me at

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The Pooh Way

There’s a well-known Chinese painting depicting three men at a vat of vinegar.  It is a story to illustrate the differences between the ‘Three Teachings’ of China—Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism.  The vinegar represents the Essence of Life.  The story and what it all means is told best in the book called, “The Tao of Pooh”—an excellent read about how Winnie the Pooh is an amazing Taoist master and has Life all Figured Out.  I will attempt to summarize and interpret the story but the book is worth having.

The first man to taste the vinegar was Confucius and he exclaimed, ‘It’s sour!’, which represents how he felt about life.  He felt the present wasn’t as good as the past and that the way Man ran things was out of step with the Way of Heaven, or how things should be done, according to the old rituals and ceremonies where the Emperor was the true intermediary between heaven and earth.  Only through a complex system of prescribed steps and actions will true rightness on earth be achieved.  Confucius, being concerned with how out of balance society was, saw the vinegar as ‘polluted wine.’

The second man to dip his finger in the vinegar and taste it was the Buddha who said, “It’s bitter!”  To Buddhists, life was bitter, full of suffering from our attachments.  The world was seen as a revolving ‘wheel of pain’ for all creatures and generated illusions and non-fulfillment.  To find peace and happiness, Buddhists felt one must transcend the dust of the world to get to Nirvana, and the journey was constantly being interrupted by the bitter wind of day-to-day existence.  To the Buddha, the vinegar was just bitter and shouldn’t be thought of as anything other than that.

Now, the third man, Lao-tse, smiled when he tasted the vinegar and exclaimed, ‘Ah yes, Vinegar!’   Lao-tse saw it as it was, without judgement so he could remain in his naturally happy state.  From the Taoist point of view, sourness and bitterness arise when we don’t accept the natural state of things as they are and when we hold an unappreciative and interfering mindset.  When arbitrary and abstract rules or conditions were imposed from the outside, misery followed. 

To the Taoists, life was already in a state of balance naturally and the earth was a reflection of heaven.  When man interferes with this balance, harmony retreats further and further.  So the world was a natural teacher of lessons, not a setter of traps.  The basic usefulness I am getting at here is that this particular Pooh-ish philosophy is that the natural way of living happily has everything to do with appreciating, learning from and working with whatever happens in everyday life.

Another concept illustrated very well by Pooh is that of the ‘Uncarved Block’.  Pooh is this—one who, in his original simplicity contains their own natural power and wisdom.   In this simplicity, one is able to accomplish quite a lot because there is not a lot of interfering Knowledge.  It is the still, calm, reflecting ‘mirror mind’ that often sorts out what needs to be sorted.  Hence, Pooh, the Uncarved Block, is the true hero in the stories. 

I have often used Winnie and Pooh and his friends with my clients and in training other therapists because each represents a personality tendency but Pooh emulates what many of us might aspire to for a happier, more peaceful life.  The ‘Wu Wei’ in Taoism is a lot like The Pooh Way. Pooh knows how to live life without meddlesome, combative, or egotistical thinking or behavior. He just flows like a river around rocks and sticks and twists and turns.

Rabbit of course, is the busy, judgy, over thinking, bossy pants of the group.  He can never sit still and just ‘be’.  Something is always not right and must be changed.  He draws in others and his schemes always go awry and then he blames others too, and ultimately himself.  Poor Rabbit, even if his intentions are good, his methods make a big mess of everything.

Then there’s Piglet—the anxious, teller of tales and holder of big fears.  He believes that being a Very Small Animal means he can’t handle what life throws his way, even while he’s right in the middle of handling it!  Who thought of putting the note in the bottle to get help?  Who got out of the treehouse when it fell and got help for everyone else?  Who found a house for Eeyore and then gave up his own house for Owl when needed?  Piglet is so anxious, he doesn’t know his own capabilities, and then sometimes, he envies others for what they seem to have (which is really nothing different).

Everyone knows an Eeyore—both inside themselves and outside in the world.  Eeyores are really good at pointing out the negative in and around us, expecting bad things to happen, and finding that a dark cloud does in fact seem to follow them around.  Eeyore may be a more extreme version of that little negative voice in the head, or another person’s you hear, but we all have it at least sometimes.  However, he really just wants to be acknowledged and appreciated for his insight.  The beauty of the Hundred Acre Wood is that they all accept Eeyore just the way he is.  If you’ve ever seen the movie Inside Out, you may recall that it is the Sad feeling character that ultimately sets the annoyingly ever-Happy character straight when she’s mucking things up.  We need all of these parts of ourselves because they have something useful to teach us.

We’ll stop there and go back to Pooh, who has been napping no doubt while I described the others, or looking for honey or just sitting in his Thoughtful Spot.  Pooh just IS and what comes from being simple, childlike—an Uncarved Block, is F.U.N.  If you’ve read anything I’ve shared before, it all comes back to play and F.U.N. (our Fundamental Universal Need).  When you are an Uncarved Block, you are more able to enjoy the simple, quiet and natural ways of being in the world and the world in its natural state.   It’s not that difficult things don’t happen but they happen because we, individually and as a species, are out of step with the natural flow of the universe, and we can hurt ourselves and other beings because of it. 

There is a Taoist/Poohish idea that ‘The Wise are not learned; the learned are not Wise,’ means that thinking you know something—like Rabbit or Owl, doesn’t mean it will bring you any happiness or put you on the right path for you.  In the Tao of Pooh, the author says the ‘wise know who they are and they work with what they’ve got and do what they can do.’  That’s not to say we don’t need or want to improve but we accept what is right now—like accepting that vinegar is vinegar and not judging it as bitter or sour, as if it should be something else.  

Trusting that our own Inner Nature is there, we can recognize it, appreciate it and work with and not against it–this is the key to being in The Pooh Way.  There is more to say about this but I’ll wait for Pooh to tell it.  In the meantime, go find your own Way, with Pooh along as a guide and friend.  It’s always friendlier with two. 

There’s tremendous beauty, magic and F.U.N. out there when we are not preoccupied with Knowing.  If you want some help along the way, I’m available for consultation, counseling and coaching at  For more fun opportunities, check out my website and upcoming Joy Filled Play Retreat in the Bahamans with wild dolphins at For now, go out and PLAY!

Posted in Anger, anxiety, Awe, burnout, Compassion, dolphins, fatigue, Gratitude, Happiness, Help, Holistic Healing, Holistic Therapy and Coaching, Hope, Nature, pandemic, Play, Rage, resilience, Retreats, stress, Uncategorized, Wellness, Wonder | Leave a comment

The ‘Secret’ to Happiness is Not a Secret

I recently watched again one of my favorite Ted talks called ‘The Happy Secret to Better Work’ and while the very funny speaker was talking about the science of happiness related to what we now know about increasing work and educational outcomes, the points made span every aspect of life.  It’s worth 12.5 minutes of your time and you will laugh.  I’m sharing some of the information and my own spin on what we can do with it.   Although the speaker uses the word ‘happiness’ I think of what he is talking about as more than the changeable emotion called happiness.  It is instead the state of contentment, flow, peace, and even joy. 

Positive psychology research consistently shows that when we feel more positive, our brains (and therefore our physical and mental health) perform better then when we are stressed, negative or even just neutral.  We have more productivity, creativity, energy, resiliency in the face of challenges, and even more access to our intelligence.  Playing, finding the funny, laughing and finding the positive increases these states and changes the actual chemistry in our brains.

So, guess what happens to your brain when you bathe it in news which is almost exclusively negative or tv or video or other media that is negative, threatening or overstimulating?  Our brain starts to believe that’s an accurate representation of the negative to positive ratio in the world.  I have noticed over the years that even TV shows and other media that constantly show drama about affairs, backstabbing, bullying, substance abuse and violence has started to alter how young people see the world and it affects their behavior, physical and mental health.  It’s not reality that shapes us but the lens through which our brain perceives the world that shapes our reality. 

Our external world, what happens to and around us, only predicts 10% of our long-term happiness according to research on the science of happiness.  The other 90% of long-term happiness is predicted by how your brain processes the world.  We can change this 90%.  That’s huge!   

It really comes down to the old neurobiology saying of ‘What fires together, wires together.’  If we expose ourselves to constant ‘evidence’ the world is negative, we believe it and perceive it in our bodies and brains that way and we act accordingly, which causes more negative and self-fulfilling prophecies. 

As far as what is known in the work world from this research, 75% of job success is predicted by our optimism levels, our social supports, and our ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat.  Only 25% of work success is based on our intelligence.  It is similar for educational outcomes.  The ability to persevere is worth more than all the intelligence in the world.  The long-term research on resiliency is consistent with these findings also.

So, our typical model of ‘If I work harder, I’ll be more successful, then I’ll be happier’ doesn’t work.  Every time you have a success, then the goal posts move further away.  The brain never gets to be IN happiness for long if we are always looking beyond the horizon to the next goal, the next success, or how to be better, yet again.  Unfortunately, this model is inherent in our cultural concepts of parenting, management, and motivating our own behavior. 

Brains actually work in the opposite.  If you can increase your positivity in the PRESENT moment, the brain performs significantly better—increasing creativity, energy, productivity, resiliency and having less burnout and a host of other advantages.  Even though this research was looking specifically at work and educational outcomes, it applies to every aspect of life.  According to this research, for example, doctors are 19% faster and more accurate at coming up with correct diagnoses when in a positive instead of in a negative, stressed or even just neutral state.  When it comes to health, those increases could be lifesaving!

I often work with folks to flip the script.  Often, they come in with the idea that ‘What I am/get X, I’ll be happier.’  We flip that script to ‘When I’m happier, I’ll be/get X’ and it works!  Does resistance come up in you when you hear this?  It’s so culturally programmed for us to work, strive, struggle only THEN will you be happy.  But you won’t.  Most of us are just programmed to move the goal posts.

Here’s some ideas for how to flip the script.  Increasing dopamine in the brain helps you feel happier and turns on all the learning centers in the brain.  Numerous studies found that making small changes over time can rewire your brain toward more positive states consistently.  Each of these things, done for a 2 minute span of time a day for 21 days in a row can create long term improvements and increases in our available dopamine. 

Here they are and if you’ve read my musings before, these may not be new:

  • Writing down 3 things at the end of the day that you are grateful for in that day.  Your brain starts to scan the world for the positive instead of the negative.
  • Journaling about a positive experience you’ve had over the last day which allows you to embody and embed this experience over again into the body, mind and spirit.
  • Exercise-which bathes the brain in feel good chemicals and can be a more powerful cure for depression than medication.
  • Meditation allows the brain to slow down and focus and not continue the exhausting lie of multi-tasking.  Even something simple like washing the dishes can be a 2 minute or more meditation.
  • A random act of kindness, which can be very small like giving someone a compliment, noticing and thanking them for something. 

So instead of having yet another set of resolutions this year to be better, smarter, faster, stronger, etc., what would it be like to just focus on something today that will help you feel more positive right NOW and consider doing this for 21 days as a curiosity experiment?  Pick one of the above or come up with your own way to play, have fun or experience small or large joys and let yourself be really IN it for a while.  If you want, you can do it even more than the 2 minutes the research showed was enough to create change.  What fun would that be? 

Sometimes this is a much harder task for some because of the way our brains have been shaped by many years of being bathed in negative experiences, thoughts or perceptions.  It not your fault if this is a struggle for you because is largely created by our culture and our family of origin experiences of secure or insecure attachments.  You’re are worth making this change!  Reach out for help with this to start.  Everyone deserves a coach, helper, counselor or loved one to support them. 

I can be reached at or through my website at .  Here’s to playing as the way toward success and lasting joy!

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The Gift of JOY With the Wild Things

As the new year begins, many of us have felt beat up again by the last year and aren’t too sure about what is to come.  I encourage you to actively look for things—experiences, stories, places, and living beings that give you hope, inspiration and gratitude.  I also offer you the Gift of Joy so read on for more.

Happiness, peace and joy don’t have to be complicated. 

If you have read my past article titled “The Three Words,” you may remember those words are Help, Thanks, Wow.  I wanted to review those again at the start of a brand new year. 

Helping and being helped is an essential part of being a living being on this planet.  Animals do it—it’s essential for their survival, especially among animals that live in groups (like dolphins and whales!).  We all need to ask for help at times and by doing so, we can actually enrich the life of another.  Not asking for help or not being vulnerable robs you and those around you of a chance to connect and relate in ways you may have never dreamed possible.

Remembering to find something to be grateful for in the small as well as big things in life—and creating the opportunities to find things to be grateful for, every day is a path to Joy.  I think of it as a pearl necklace.  Every gratitude or every awareness of a perfect moment is like putting a pearl onto the string of life.  There are spaces in between the pearls for sure but eventually, if I stay present and conscious and look for those pearls, the string of life can become a thing of beauty and constancy.

But oh, the Wow! of life.  That’s essential.  Humans are so good at making meaning of what happens in life AND finding things that bring us to a state of Awe.  This Awe (or Wow) state infuses us with hope, joy and contentment and lives within us, to be accessed at any moment.  How will you create some Wow! in your life this year? 

For those who haven’t seen it, I offer this poem by Wendell Barry, an American poet.  It captures the Wow! Thanks! and Help! available to us in the Wild Things of the world.  In nature, there is always Awe, just waiting for us.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

This is one poem that really captures how it feels to be with the wild creatures in nature and for me, my favorite ones to be with are the Cetaceans—dolphins, whales and porpoises.  Looking into the eye of a dolphin and whale who choose to be with you is a moment of Joy, Awe, Thanks and Help all rolled into one. 

I have seen dramatic shifts in people who had just an idea that something needed to shift in their life, even if they didn’t know where to start.  Then, they connected with wild Cetaceans and found transformation through their Joy.  Their lives changed for the better and for the long term. 

So many of us have had a difficult time finding Joy in these last two years, at least, and wonder what the future will hold.  I have been inspired to find my Joy again among the dolphins in Bimini and to re-start the retreats I started in 2019. 

It has been a Joy for me to have meaningful interactions with dolphins and whales for so many years and now I want to bring them to you—or you to them.  I have planned another retreat for 2021—where the Wild Things Are—in Bimini, the Bahamas.  I have partnered with an amazing woman who will teach participants how to communicate with animals.  She will also teach us how to use Reiki to help us heal ourselves and others.

Imagine the Joy and Awe of being able to communicate with a dolphin!  Imagine the freedom of floating in a warm, watery world, the memory of which will be alive in your body whenever you want it, even after the physical journey is over.  Imagine the Gratitude you will have for the Wild Things.  Imagine the Help you may receive for your goals and challenges through the Joy of being with the Wild Things. 

You will also have my help as well as my partner to identify a way of being that will get you where you want to be with more playful ease.  I have seen it happen many, many times and it’s the Joy, Help, Gratitude and Awe of my life to be a witness to it.

I have seen that Joy and Play propels people to achieve their heart’s desire far faster than forever talking and analyzing and planning it.  I invite you to explore the possibilities of personal, professional or family growth and healing in a new way—with the Wild Things.  I have all the information you need at this link: and click on the Bimini Retreat 2022 link!

As part of the Gift of Joy, we even have a special discount and payment plan for the first 10 participants (but as of this writing there are only 7 of these spots left) as well as other bonuses for all participants.  There is a limited number of spots in total so start the new year out with a commitment to finding your Joy, Awe, Help, Play and Thanks with the Wild Things.  You can contact me at for more information or see the link above today and start giving yourself or someone you love the Gift of Joy. 

Let’s find our Joy and go play where the Wild Things Are in 2022!

Posted in Anger, anxiety, Awe, burnout, Compassion, dolphins, fatigue, Gratitude, Help, Holistic Healing, Holistic Therapy and Coaching, Hope, Nature, pandemic, Play, Rage, resilience, Retreats, stress, Uncategorized, Wellness, Wonder | Leave a comment

Have You Been Holding Down a Beach Ball?

 There’s no such thing as a ‘negative’ emotion, only negative behaviors or consequences of our choices.  All emotions are important and give us information we need to know.  They are each like a little flag waving to get our attention so we can understand who we are and what is important to us.  But anger is one emotion that most people, especially women, struggle with the most.  I’ll discuss the difference between anger and rage and what to do about each too.

Most people are taught very young that their anger is not welcome or valid.  Instead of having a trusted caretaker who understands the importance of feeling, validating and then managing our emotions in an environment of acceptance, most of us when angry as children are met with even more, and scarier anger from a bigger person with a lot more power.  So not only is our own anger shamed or invalidated, another person’s anger can be very scary or hurtful.  So we learn not to acknowledge how we feel, to be ashamed of it, or to fear it.  This is like holding a beach ball under the water.  Have you ever tried to do this?  It’s exhausting and often ends up popping up and hitting you or someone near you in the face.  Yep, that’s what anger does when it is not allowed.  And then it can turn to rage over time. 

Imagine a pool full of people all trying to hold down beach balls.  Those beach balls come flying out in all directions in all kinds of inappropriate or unwarranted moments hitting other people in the face who have nothing to do with your beach ball and not ready to catch it because they are busy holding down their own beach ball.  What a mess! 

Imagine this:  When you were very young and you were angry at something very small—someone took your toy or you didn’t get your way and whether you cried in your anger or hit or otherwise lashed out, a bigger, loving person said, “Oh, that just made you so angry, and disappointed, and sad!  I understand why you would feel that way.  Come and let me hold you, and when you feel like it, you can tell me all about it or you can just go play when you are all done” and they did.  Even better would be if they played with you and let you act out all those emotions through your play.  What if this happened over and over until you learned that your anger and the feelings under it were valid and yet you could soothe them?  How would your life be different?

Under anger is almost always a boundary violation, a disappointment, a frustration, a sadness, or a loss, all of which are valid from that person’s shoes.  Anger is just a bigger signal to pay attention to these other emotions or other information.  It’s often protective.  We need to have energy to respond to a serious boundary violation and sometimes anger gives us that because we must assert our boundary.  If you don’t, you are holding down yet another beach ball.  Some of us have way too many beach balls to hold down and they start flying out everywhere. 

Holding down a beach ball can make you sick too.  Holding down a lot of them can cause rage and that can make you REALLY sick.  I’m sure you’ve heard the quote that hating someone (or something) is like taking poison and hoping the other will die.   

The difference between anger and rage is that rage is old.  It comes from when you were much younger and has been held down far too long.  Regular emotions dissipate, often on their own within a day if you give them some space—name it, claim and aim it—see a former article about that.  Rage or other stuck emotions do not easily dissipate.  That’s how you know.  It’s like the beach ball hitting you in the face.  It’s strong and sometimes shocking and does not feel good or proportional to the situation at hand.

I often find it useful to ask my clients, after we identify and validate the feeling or thought they are expressing, how old they feel in that moment.  Almost all clients are able to identify a younger age.  Their inner wisdom knows it’s old and unresolved.  When I ask them the first time they remember feeling this same way, often a specific memory or age reveals itself.  That’s where to start popping the beach balls.  Many clients can also quantify how much of the present situation is part of their anger or rage and how much of it is from the past.  They are so smart and wise when we get the story out of the way and let their inner wisdom lead!

Women, or girls, in particular are taught that expressing anger is unwelcome, unladylike and you will get called the ‘B’ word very early on for doing something boys or men can do without the same censure.  So girls learn even earlier to not listen to their inner guidance or push back against a boundary violation.  This leads girls and women to more easily be targets for violence when they learn not to trust their intuition early on.  And the flip side of anger is depression and anxiety and more women come to therapy with those complaints, as well as physical ones.  Once we scratch the surface of that in coaching or therapy, there are a whole lotta beach balls under there! 

Rage must be dealt with even more on the unconscious level than anger.  With the right help, it doesn’t have to take a long time to pop those beach balls but it’s often too much to do on your own.  If you suspect you are dealing with a lot of beach balls or a really big one, reach out and get some professional help.  Often friends or family have their own beach balls and are not able to respond well to yours since they are often exhausted or fearful of their own beach balls.  Often we judge each other’s beach balls because we aren’t looking at our own or busy fending off the flying beach balls from others. 

A first step in releasing a beach ball is to simply let it rise up.  Name the actual emotion, not the story behind it.  Here’s the cliff note version: Mad, Sad, Glad, Scared, Disgusted.  The basic emotions.  Then breathe and breathe again while you just let that emotion be there.  Notice where you feel it in your body and breathe into that space.  It will naturally rise to the surface and float away.  Then you can decide what to do about the story without the added effort and exhaustion of holding down the beach ball.  Then you have more conscious choice in how you respond, not react, to the situation and emotion.  That’s a simplified version but of course, many of us need a bit of help to work through the feelings and story behind it.  Reach out for help from a trusted guide or professional.  You deserve it. 

It is possible to play with your beach ball above the water.  In fact, playing with your beach ball above the water is so much easier and fun and no one gets hurt!  Let’s play and stop holding those beach balls down. 

I can be reached for coaching, consultation, therapy and beach ball play at  Let’s play!

Posted in Anger, anxiety, burnout, Compassion, Help, Holistic Healing, Holistic Therapy and Coaching, Hope, Play, Rage, resilience, stress, Wellness | Leave a comment

What Gives You H.O.P.E.

What gives you H.O.P.E. and Gets You Into Your Flow Boat?

I like to play with words and make acronyms out of them and when I needed some hope one day I thought about keeping it simple and started playing.  If you’ve ever read my musings, you will know that playing is held in high esteem as a Fundamental Universal Need or F.U.N.  See, I like to play with words. 

So what brings me hope is Helping Others and Protecting the Environment.  It’s a really useful exercise to distill down what helps you into things you will remember when the going gets tough.  If you focus on the bottom line, all decisions become easier.  All situations can be filtered through those values. 

If you’d like to play along, you don’t have to use the word H.O.P.E. to come up with something meaningful.  You can find another word for what it is you want more of like J.O.Y., V.A.L.U.E.S., P.E.A.C.E., H.A.P.P.Y, F.L.O.W… You get the idea.  Pick something you want more of in one word and play with that word until you distill down things that will bring you closer to it. 

I was listening to a speaker name Rave Mehta in a webinar online recently and he reminded me about FLOW.  It’s something we all like to be in—when we are in full alignment with our mind, body, spirit and universal truths.  I think of it like a Flow boat in an easy moving body of water.  There’s that divine feeling of floating and being at one with the universe.  He reminded me that a persistent state of flow is triggered by a number of states that we can put ourselves in at any time. 

What are these?  Are you curious?  Well curiosity is the one of them!  Being curious about yourself, others, nature, etc. is a pathway toward Awe—another kind of blissful state. Being curious without judgement is incredibly freeing, especially if it’s toward ourselves first as it will bring us out of doubt and negative self judgements which hamper our creativity, problem solving, happiness, health and mental health. 

Being Present with how we truly free without judgement is the next logical piece of the Flow puzzle.  Being able to tolerate our emotions and those of others, as well as being fully present for the good stuff, is essential to our health and mental health.  Learning the skills to tolerate your emotions is learnable by anyone so do reach out if you want or need some pointers.  Most people do need assistance at one point or another as most folks aren’t taught it very well growing up. That’s what friends, family, elders, clergy, therapists, and coaches are for!

Being Present for the beauty in the world and the joy that exists and seeking it out is easier than tolerating emotions sometimes, but how many times do we NOT stop and watch a sunset—and really watch it without thinking about something else and missing that present moment?  Practice that for more Flow.

The next move toward Flow (I see a board game needing to be created called FLOW) is Compassion.  So that tolerance of yours and others’ emotions I just mentioned also means being able to be compassionate toward them, all of them, whatever state you or another are in.  I have written about the vital need for knowing how to show true empathy and compassion toward someone or yourself having an emotion or life experience that may be hard to look at as an essential life skill.  Start with yourself and watch it flow (pun intended) outward.

It is then easier to have Humility toward both the greatness and suffering in the world—ours and others.  We can look upon the stars with humility for our little lives down here on earth and we can be humble in the face of our mistakes and faults, and then for the same in others.  If we have compassion, facing these things is only a learning moment, not a shaming one.

What is one Selfless Act that you can do today?  It will trigger that Flow, bring you into the present moment, show compassion and a number of other parts of the Flow boat.  No selfless act is too small—helping someone who dropped something counts!  Giving someone a smile counts!  Not responding to an obnoxious social media post counts!  I hope you get the idea.  Ever heard the starfish story?  Maybe I’ll tell it in the next musing but I want to get to my favorite thing that triggers a persistent state of Flow—Play!

I have written many, many times—in fact at the end of each musing, about the need for play.  Research has backed this up for decades.  Brains don’t grow normally without it.  Bodies wither and die in a heap without it.  Adults need it, not just kids.  It’s even more essential for adults these days it seems.  And play that triggers flow does not typically involve a screen and it doesn’t necessarily need to involve another person.  It is full body, mind and spirit engagement.  Body surfing, check.  Running through a tall grass field, check.  Making a fairy garden, check.  I couldn’t possibly list all the ways to play but most people know when they are playing if you stop to ask them (and the researchers must have a lot of fun doing this). 

If you need ideas or help exercising your play capacity, since many of us indeed have temporary amnesia, reach out for help.  It is essential to life and Flow.  If you need some motivation about how important it is, read the seminal book by Stuart Brown called “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.”

So those letters to trigger FLOW again are: C P C H G S A P.  See what words you can make of that!  Who’s up for it?  Or pick your own word like I mentioned at the beginning and come up with what has meaning for you OR make up your own word with the things you value most or that will bring you into your Flow boat.  Bonus points if you send them to me (or leave a comment). 

Now go out and P.L.A.Y.!  Or F.L.O.W. !  Maybe I’ll come up with what those mean next time!

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