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!

Posted in anxiety, Awe, burnout, Compassion, fatigue, Gratitude, Help, Holistic Healing, Holistic Therapy and Coaching, Hope, Nature, pandemic, resilience, Retreats, Wellness, Wonder | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Hole or a Door–Which Will You Choose?

Recently, this quote came to me at just the right moment.  It’s been circulating on the internet for a while and I couldn’t find out whether it is correctly being attributed to Chief White Eagle from the Hopi Nation but no matter who said it, it’s a good way to look at life at any time and especially now. 

The words struck me as very true—to remember our joy as a means of resiliency.  Decide what to pay attention to.  You have the choice.  Don’t let the dings and likes make the choice for you.  All of our emotional, physical, and mental efforts are really spiritual efforts.  Treat them like they are sacred.  Don’t forget the joy, love and play!

“This moment that humanity is currently experiencing can be considered as a door or a hole. The decision to fall into the hole or go through the door is yours. If you consume information 24 hours a day, with negative energy, constantly nervous, with pessimism, you will fall into this hole.

But if you take the opportunity to look at yourself, to rethink life and death, to take care of yourself and others, then you will pass through the door.

Take care of your home, take care of your body. Connect with your spiritual home. When you take care of yourself, you take care of everyone else at the same time.

Do not underestimate the spiritual dimension of this crisis. Take the perspective of an eagle that sees everything from above with a broader view. There is a social demand in this crisis, but also a spiritual demand. The two go hand in hand.

Without the social dimension, we fall into fanaticism. Without the spiritual dimension, we fall into pessimism and futility.

You are ready to get through this crisis. Take your toolbox and use all the tools at your disposal.

Learn resilience from the example of the Indian and African peoples: we have been and are still being exterminated. But we never stopped singing, dancing, lighting fires and having joy.

Don’t feel guilty for feeling lucky during these difficult times. Being sad or angry doesn’t help at all. Resistance is resistance through joy!

You have the right to be strong and positive. And there is no other way to do that than to maintain a beautiful, joyful, and bright posture.

This has nothing to do with alienation (not knowing the world). It is a strategy of resistance.

When we walk through the door, we have a new worldview because we have faced our fears and difficulties. That’s all you can do now:

– Serenity in the storm

– Stay calm, pray daily

– Make it a habit to encounter the sacred daily.

– Show resilience through art, joy, trust and love.”

          In a time that seems to more challenging than other times, I am reminded by our elders to take the long view—or the view of the eagle and look at the whole, long view of life and history.  Evolution and growth are not in a straight line.  Sometimes it’s so painful it takes your breath away.  When you start to breathe again, make sure you sing, and dance, and play so that you are still moving through the doors. 

          A quote from a teacher named Maya Shetreat says “What you are not changing, you are choosing.” Which will you choose—the hole or the door?

          If you need help learning a new way, reach out to a trusted loved one or helping professional.  You are not alone and help is within arm’s reach.  You can start all by yourself elevating your joy by getting out in nature.  Joy rising is the way forward. 

          If you need some help with raising your joy and finding your F.U.N. (Fundamental Universal Needs), I can be reached at for counseling or coaching. 

Posted in anxiety, Awe, burnout, Compassion, fatigue, Gratitude, Help, Holistic Healing, Holistic Therapy and Coaching, Nature, pandemic, resilience, Retreats, Uncategorized, Wellness, Wonder | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The Man and His Horse or The Power of Maybe

I have been thinking a lot lately about the story of the Man and His Horse.  It’s a parable I came across long ago that reminds us of an essential truth about life that can be a great comfort. 

Let’s hear it from the Man With the Horse:

There once was a poor old man who owned a beautiful white horse.

Whenever noblemen passed through the village, they always noticed the horse and offered handsome sums of money for the stallion.

But the old man always declined their offers, saying, “This horse is my friend. How can I sell my friend?”

One morning the old man awoke to find the horse was gone. The village people gathered and said, “Old man you were a fool not to sell the horse. You could have been wealthy! Now it has been stolen, and you have nothing. It is a great misfortune!”

But the old man replied, “Don’t go so far as to say that. Whether the horse was stolen or not, or whether it is a misfortune or a blessing, is unknown. All we know is that the horse is not in the stable.”

Some days later the horse returned, bringing with it several beautiful wild mares.

Again, the village people gathered, and they said, “Old man you were right! The horse was not stolen, and it was not a misfortune. It was a blessing, and now you have many fine horses!”

But the old man replied, “Again you go too far. Don’t say it’s a good thing, don’t say it’s a bad thing. Just say the horse is back. Whether it is a blessing or a misfortune is unknown.”

Some days later the old man’s only son began to train the wild mares, but he was thrown and trampled, and one of his legs was badly broken.

Again, the village people gathered. “Oh, old man, you were right! It was not a blessing but a great misfortune, and now your only son is lame!”

With a sigh the old man replied, “Don’t say it’s a good thing, don’t say it’s a bad thing, just say my son has broken his leg. Whether it is a blessing or a misfortune is unknown.”

It happened that a few weeks later the country went to war, and all the able bodied young men were forcibly taken for the military. Only the old man’s son was passed over, because he was crippled.

The whole village was crying and weeping, for they believed their sons would probably be killed and never come home to them.

In their grief they came to the old man and said, “You were right old man, your son’s injury has proven to be a blessing. Your son may be crippled, but he is with you, while our sons are gone forever!”

The old man simply shook his head and said, “Will you never learn? Only say that your sons have been forced into the military and my son has not. More than that is not known.”

Life is a mystery, unfolding moment my moment, event by event. 

What looks like misfortune can, in time, be a blessing, and vice versa.

The journey never ends. One path ends, another begins: one door closes, another opens.

Those who are courageous are content with the journey, content to live the moment and grow into it without judgement of its future meaning or value.

I learn and re-learn this lesson nearly every week.  I label and judge and suffer when something goes ‘wrong’, only to find out later it was a blessing in disguise. Sometimes the blessing occurred because of action I took and sometimes it just unfolded different than my story would have allowed. 

I know this lesson and remember years ago reading a quote about not being attached to the ‘bad’ things OR the ‘good’ things that happen because then we are holding on too tight nothing can unfold in this tight grip.

I have a friend who is very fearful and is almost housebound because of something that almost happened to her.  But it didn’t.  Yet, instead of her inner narrative being ‘I survived this, more than once.  I am resilient,’ her story is, ‘I must avoid any possibility of this ever happening again,’ which is a fallacy of control.

What would be different in your life if you changed your narrative, stopped the interpretation of something as ‘bad’ or ‘good’ even and just stayed in curiosity about what might unfold? 

What can you look back on and remember how sure you were that something was so wrong, or so right, and it was turned inside out after all?  Can you laugh at yourself and be compassionate at your ‘rightness’?  That’s the first step.   

It’s like trying to grip sand in a tight fist.  What happens? The sand always finds another way out and around your grip.  So does life. 

Be curious and see what happens to your sense of peace and contentment if you try to be like the man with a horse.

One step you can take is to go out and play in nature.  It is a fastest, surest way to let go of your grip on things.  The world looks different when we play in nature.  Possibilities open and motivation and confidence arise.  It is a gift you are given every day.  Open your arms and let it in.

If you need some help with these questions and challenges I can be reached at for counseling or coaching and your F.U.N.! 

Posted in anxiety, Awe, burnout, Compassion, fatigue, Gratitude, Help, Holistic Healing, Holistic Therapy and Coaching, Nature, pandemic, resilience, Retreats, Wellness, Wonder | Leave a comment

There Are No Cracks

I’ve spent the last two years, during the worst year (and counting) ever for most people, moving multiple times, immigrating to a foreign country, enduring housing insecurity in that foreign country and an excruciating process of finding a permanent home base.  I’m now starting renovations I never expected to have to go through again on the only home I could afford.  So I’ve missed deadlines (like for this blog) and completely forgotten about or missed appointments, which will likely not be the last, among many other messes that have occurred.  While I have recognized my privilege in the process of being called an ‘ex-pat’ vs. an immigrant or a refugee, it was still daunting and overwhelming and I was thankful everyday for the resources I was able to muster, even when I was white-knuckling it.  However, my health has suffered and I’ve seen many of my ‘cracks’ re-appear. 

Recently I was reminded about the Japanese art form called ‘Kuntsugi’ or the process of taking broken things and repairing them into something considered more valuable using gold, silver or platinum dust to fill in the ‘cracks.’

I started contemplating this idea of something being broken, and although many have espoused the idea of using Kuntsugi as a metaphor for life and recovery from trauma, I have to question the idea of ‘brokenness’ altogether.  I say that brokenness is an illusion-a mistaken idea that we are supposed to go through life without cracks.

Perhaps the cracks are part of the natural evolution of a creation, or a being.  While ‘repairing’ the cracks with gold, silver or platinum turns it into something more unique, beautiful and resilient, maybe that is really the true nature of the creation anyway.  It was meant to have cracks so it could become these things, and it’s considered more valuable by being re-formed in this way.  It’s not a repair, it’s a re-formation and a renewal.  A way of opening up to something more, something better.

I wonder if we can hold onto this idea that no one is ‘broken’.  What would change for you if you felt that things didn’t happen ‘to’ you but ‘for’ you?  I have toyed with this idea lately and while I don’t believe we necessarily ‘need’ trauma to grow, we do grow from it given the right circumstances.  That is the key.  If everyone around you is convincing you, and you are doing it too, that you are broken and there is permanent damage, that’s a problem.  If you know how, or get help, to re-form into something better, more beautiful, unique and valuable, it is worth embracing the ‘never being the same’ as a good thing.  The key is the right people around you and the right kinds of help. 

Research has demonstrated that the support around someone immediately following an adverse event can mitigate the negative effects of the event or events.  Our mental, emotional, physical, social and spiritual supports are critical.  They are the critical gold, silver and platinum dust in our lives. 

Our spiritual lives and beliefs about the ‘who am I’, ‘what am I here for’ and ‘what is the meaning of my life’ and knowing the answers are so important as the glue that helps us re-form. 

How could your life be different if you were able to breathe and lean into the re-formation process when something seems to ‘crack’ in your life?  What would change if you realized this event was not a break but just an opportunity to re-form? 

I’m not saying the cracking and re-formation process isn’t painful.  Life is messy and yes, painful.  But suffering is a choice, as they say.  Seeing yourself as cracked is a suffering choice.  Seeing events as happening ‘to’ you instead of ‘for’ you causes more suffering. 

Take just one example of something painful that has happened to you in life.  If you look back on what has happened since, where you are now because of it, did you use it to grow and re-form into something better?  Most times, we do that.  Humans are pretty good at creating meaning from adversity.  Sometimes we get stuck in the cracks and we need help out.  That’s part of the process too. 

I saw this quote and it helped me through a tough moment (or 10) and while the author wasn’t noted where I saw the quote, I hope I can find out who wrote it and thank them:

“Life is like a book.  Some chapters are happy, some sad and some are life-changing.  But if I do not turn the page, I will never know what the next chapter holds.” 

All beings need some help with the process of re-formation.  No creation does its own Kuntsugi alone.  If you need help, please seek out assistance from a therapist, coach, religious leader, friends or family.  We are all out here, just waiting to see what something even more beautiful you will become. 

One way out of the mind-set about cracks is to go out and play.  Connecting with fun, joy and something larger than yourself, especially in nature and with other people, will propel you into your re-formation. 

If you need some help with these questions and challenges I can be reached at for counseling or coaching and your F.U.N.! 

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Whoa There! Steady On!

          I know things are tough out there because I have had many more calls and emails than usual asking for help.  Although we are in a new year and soon it will be spring, things are still feeling a lot like last year.  It’s going to be a while.  Folks are still struggling, or struggling more and again to comes to grips with this ‘new ABnormal’ as I call it.  Having some new rituals to support ourselves through it is key.  It gives the brain something else to focus on and as a new activity, it can bring new pleasures in this now moment.  The proper types of self care will do more for you than any amount of bingeing with new shows online.  Even though that can be fun too at times, it can quickly bring our body, mind and spirit out of balance.  I know this because I’ve done it, plenty, during this pandemic. 

          I’ve also done plenty of getting up and checking the news and social media and ending up upset as a way to start the day.  I have resolved to do something more positive every morning even if it’s looking at funny videos.  The best days are when I start with being present with things I can be grateful for and just breathing those in and out.  The wonderful thing about the internet is there are literally thousands and thousands of guided meditations and visualizations and it’s no harder to find them then it is to look up articles or social media on your phone. 

          What one small choice can you make this day to make you feel more hopeful, joyful, powerful, playful or steady in your life?  Stuck?  Read on!

          I recently read an article called ‘Finding Steady Ground’ and I’ve adapted some tips there for not only steadying your day but steadying your whole week.  The first one I’ve already talked about—deciding daily when and where you get your news AND what to do afterwards.  Will you need to restrict how long you look at news or which sources you look at?  What will you need to do with your body after, especially if you are upset? 

Can you remember before you look at any news or social media that they are designed to trigger fears, sell products or addict you to their source?  Can you remember that we all usually seek out information that reinforces our pre-existing beliefs?  We all do it and only by seeking out alternative information can we challenge these schemas.  One question to ask yourself before you indulge is ‘do I really need this information for my living or can I obtain it from observing the world around me?’  What would change for you if you tried this?

Another critical piece of being steady is having a direct, human to human connection with someone daily.  Online just doesn’t cut it, despite the usefulness of things like video chats.  Nothing beats even a conversation with the clerk at the grocery store.  We humans are just built for real, 3-D connection.

One natural response to fear and isolation is to freeze up in despair but we must work against this urge.  How will you stay in motion?  Writing letters, volunteering, helping others, doing art, moving your body to music or breathing or yoga are just some ideas.  Going outside is critical and now that we know more, we know that going outside is only going to benefit you.  Recognizing what your ‘freezing’ looks like is important because the longer you stay frozen the harder it is to move and take care of yourself, the planet and what matters to you most.

A few times a week, read or watch something inspirational to you—a story of overcoming injustice or oppression or anything about overcoming hardship.  We are an inspirational species.  It’s out there in movies, books, podcasts, storytellers and in our own ancestors.  Ask questions of your family and elders if you are lucky enough to have them.  It’s another great way to connect and do the next steadying action.

Once a week, use some form of meditation or prayer to connect with yourself and others who may be suffering.  Start with holding compassionate space for yourself and all of your feelings.  Breathe through it and extend that compassion to all the others in the world who are suffering.  Then take time to notice that is not all of your reality.  There are still things to connect with that bring joy in the world and to you–music, song, dance, nature, people rescuing animals and saving the environment for example.  Find what still is joyful in you because joy is a necessity, as is F.U.N. (see my other musings on this).  When you find this place of joy, extend it to others, even if just in your thoughts and prayers so that we will all have the energy and hope for the struggle.  How would it feel to you if you knew someone in Bangladesh was praying for your joy?

Much of what has happened in the last year has made many people feel helpless and afraid which can breed passivity and powerlessness.  It’s never a good time to be pulled along in what can feel like a rip tide.  One way to stay in touch with a sense of our own power is to create something weekly—something.  Whether it’s something you cook or make—food, art, a game to play, a dramatic reading or act, a sign, knitting something, playing an instrument, etc.  Anything big or small keeps us in touch with our humanity and keeps us away from helplessness.

At least once a week, take a complete break for a whole day from social media.  The research is clear: social media leads to increased anxiety, disconnection and isolation and mental distress, even while it seems to be doing the opposite.  Fooled ya!  It’s designed to sell and that’s about all—selling inadequacy and addicting behaviors.  Graphic images and inflammatory language set off our stress brain reactions so we need healthy boundaries, especially in young people who are most negativity affected by social media use.  Again, the research is quite clear on these effects for our upcoming generations.

Lastly, every week commit to sharing with someone else what’s helping you.  We need each other now more than ever.  Helping others is an absolute antidote to isolation, loneliness, anxiety and depression.  Helping each other PLAY is a clear path to mental and physical wellness. 

          Remember F.U.N. is what I call a Fundamental Universal Need so go out and start your day and your week with some play, include others, create something, and get inspired by the good going on in the world and you’ve got your week and your life covered!  Stay connected and we will all get through these hard times and be better off. 

          If you need some help with these questions and challenges I can be reached at for counseling or coaching and your F.U.N.! 

Posted in anxiety, burnout, fatigue, Gratitude, Help, Holistic Healing, Holistic Therapy and Coaching, Nature, pandemic, resilience, Wellness | Leave a comment

Be Like Your Dog: Play, Eat, Sleep, Repeat

I’m missing deadlines some weeks and months lately-like this column that I didn’t get finished in time for the new years.  Many of us are tired for reasons that have nothing to do with being ill but facing our ‘surge capacity’ which I wrote about in a prior article. 

We were exhausted by 2020 and now some of that which caused 2020 to be so difficult will bleed over into the new year for some time.  Yes, there is hope on the horizon and like most things, the animals and nature have the most to teach us.

I have watched my dogs sail just fine through the pandemic, multiple confinements where they also have nowhere else to go but on an hour walk for many months this past year, and the stress levels of their guardians spiking on many occasions.  My cat and bunnies did just fine too for that matter.  What’s their secret?  It’s simple, but for us humans, it’s not easy, much to our detriment.

Animals naturally have a magic formula: Play, Eat, Sleep and Repeat.  If that’s not a recipe for happiness I don’t know what is.  Remember the Eat, Pray, Love book?  Eat, Sleep, Repeat is more fun.  That book forgot the play.  There is a new documentary out called “Playing For Keeps”.  I don’t know if and when it will appear in our neighborhood or online but it is worth looking for.

Produced by (now deceased) James Redford, who has also produced several other movies about some serious stress and challenges as well as what builds resiliency in childhood.  Now he and another associate have turned their focus to adults—FINALLY!  The classic book about the importance of play is by Stuart Brown, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.  It’s really clear in the research and from Those Who Play that play is essential for life to feel worthwhile.  Yes, the fun is that serious!

Adults are spending less and less time in pleasurable, fulfilling adult hobbies even though so many other things in life seem to be getting easier.  A big cost of the lockdowns and restrictions is that the loss of the freedom and ability to pursue joy.  One gift from the pandemic for some people was a chance to slow down, spend more time with their family playing together at home or outside and to pursue things that aren’t performance driven.  Many people have or will decide to not go back to the way they did things before because it was just too stressful and did not bring them joy. 

Redford said in an interview I read recently that harmony and balance are essential to health and longevity and we need to get back in touch with that to manage what is.  Seeking a community of others that want to play with you is also helpful and important but playing in whatever form it takes is like getting good health care—often for free. 

Have you ever known a dog that wasn’t ready to play at any moment s/he was given the chance?  Dogs and other animals get this whole play thing and they didn’t need to go to school to study it. 

What have you decided is no longer important in your life and by giving it up it, what will you do that is more important?  And ‘nothing’ is a just fine answer here.  To paraphrase from my Guide to Life, when grown-ups asked Christopher Robin what he was going to do today, he answered “oh, nothing,” and then he and Winnie the Pooh went out and did it.  Do you know how to do nothing?

Of course, after you play you must rest.  Have you noticed and ever envied the way a dog or other animal can just stop, drop and nap without a care for where or how or for how long? 

I wrote before about the Nap Ministry (  This is another great concept that says napping is a form of social justice and change—a resistance to the ills of uncontrolled capitalism that is harming us and our earth.  It’s also love personified that creates space for creativity to arise.  What do you think you could create if you were truly rested?

Napping is a way to build and store the energy we need to do the work of social change, life and more playing when awake.  Animals don’t care about our political system or what needs to be done today or this decade but they do know it’s important to nap.  Will you allow yourself to rest? What would be different in your life if you did? What do you think would arise as possible?

Finally, oh to eat! One of the greatest pleasures in life.  Have you seen the joy of dogs when it comes to eating?  They usually get the same thing, meal after meal but they are no less joyful each time.  We have more choices and so our joy can be even greater. 

Of course, the real magic of eating is truly eating to nourish yourself.  Picking foods and preparations that will fill and truly honor the needs of your body, mind and spirit.  Yes, once in a great while, that is fried chicken but most of the time, your body knows what it needs if you learn how to ask it without all the marketing programming getting in the way.  If you can’t hear your body which speaks quietly, it may be because addictive food and substances are often much louder and more demanding.  People often need help to re-learn how to really hear their body wisdom. 

Animals especially in natural environments have no such issues.  They eat and will leave food behind when they are full.  They don’t seek out foods that aren’t good for them or if they do eat something that doesn’t serve them, they quickly learn to avoid it. 

Have you ever had the experience of listening to your body or asking it was it REALLY needs for food right now, without worry or obstacles like whether it’s handily available?  Just the act of connecting with your body and asking this kind of question is a way to honor, care and know yourself.  Then you can plan accordingly by using this skill as you grocery shop and you’ll also know how to listen when you are faced with food in any situation. 

I work with seemingly ‘healthy’ people who are obsessed about making the ‘right’ choice and not truly listening to their body.  They are no more healthy than the pre-diabetic getting the next sugary snack because they don’t know how else to manage their anxiety.  Dogs don’t do this, although it would make a laughable comic.

So be like your dog if you have one—or watch the dogs, or cats, or other animals. They truly appreciate the present moment whether it be a chance to play, sleep or eat.  What will you do today that will bring one or more of these essential elements into your life? 

I hope this will be useful in guiding us through the bumps of this year too.  Happy New Year!  Go out and play!

I can be reached for life, wellness and family coaching and/or counseling sessions at,

Posted in anxiety, Awe, burnout, fatigue, Gratitude, Help, Holistic Healing, Holistic Therapy and Coaching, Nature, pandemic, resilience, Retreats, Wellness, Wonder | Leave a comment

The Three Words Everyone Needs

Many of us are holding on by our fingernails at the end of this year so I wanted to offer you something simple that will help put the ground beneath your feet again anytime you feel wobbly or like the world is continuing to spin out of control. 

Can you guess the three words everyone needs?  It’s NOT ‘I love you,’ even though that’s a good guess and also important.  Recently, I came across a book by author Anne Lamott called, Help. Thanks. Wow.  She says that’s it–that’s all you need in life to be content and at peace.  After reading her book, I thought she’d hit the proverbial nail on the head. 

Let’s start with Thanks which is squarely about the importance and power of gratitude.  There is scientific evidence that focusing on something you are grateful for, even something small or something we’d normally take for granted creates changes in the brain toward a more peaceful, less anxious state and even reduces the perception of pain.

In fact, in working with myself and my clients, I can easily reduce or eliminate anxiety without medication in about 30 seconds of a gratitude exercise.  This, like any muscle you want to build, is a practice, something that has to honed and cared for and attended frequently.  Writing down a few gratitudes consistently every day has immense power—writing them down, not just saying or thinking of them.  That’s because the act of writing them down slows us down a little bit—hopefully long enough to truly focus on the small but important stuff we can be grateful for and to let our brains shift into that space for a while.

Ever broke a toe?  If you have, you know how important all 10 toes are and how grateful you can feel for every one of those toes working for you on a daily basis.  If you are having a bad day, or week or year and are having a hard time thinking of something, you can always use my go-to gratitude of indoor plumbing.  I am REALLY grateful for that.  My life would be SOOOO much harder without it and indeed, many people in this world are hauling drinking water on their heads or shoulders for miles every single day, let alone having water to bathe in or use of a toilet.  I am amazed at the state of gratitude I can just bask in for a long time just thinking about how much I love indoor plumbing and how lucky I really am.

The next word, and it really doesn’t matter what order you say them in, is Help!  Oh my how we all must have said this word a few times in the last year and may continue to say it in 2021.  No one gets along on this planet without help.  It is not humanly possible, nor is it possible among most other mammals, or even most life in general.  It is actually pretty much a death sentence among certain mammals like Cetaceans (dolphins, whales and porpoises) and great apes and others to not have community or family.  It is also essential to our survival as a whole.  Whether you are an introvert and don’t care if you don’t see or talk to anyone for days, you still need help.  Drove in a car to the store?  You were helped.  All the people, companies and governments involved in making that car, paving those roads and running those stores helped you find what you need.  You can be grateful for it and add it to your list.

Think about your world.  We all need help from each other and/or a higher power if that is your belief.  Help, asking for it and getting it, is a source of comfort, security and inspiration that helps us live a better life.  Paradoxically, being vulnerable and needing help are actually the best sources of real connection.  When we reach out and ask for what we need, and keep asking until we get it or change it, we create connection with ourselves, with others and with the wider universe. 

I was able to finally get a client who was terrified of her vulnerability to reach out and tell someone in her day to day life of her current struggle.  The person was so touched by my client’s sharing her story that she thanked my client over and over for the gift of being included and feeling important.  Did you ever think asking for help could be the gift someone has always needed to receive?  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. 

I challenge you to ask one person around you for help.  Picking the right person and the right request often takes a bit of practice and a skill called discernment.  If you need help with this, reach out to a therapist or coach like me or a minister or another wise person in your life.  Oops!  Asking for help from a professional or wise one to better learn how to ask for help means you’ll get two points in the challenge for the price of one!

Last but not least is the word Wow!  This is the most fun one.  Finding awe and wonder in life, whether it be big or small Wow, is also essential to well-being and contentment.  Whether it’s when you reach a mountaintop, seeing whales or dolphins in their natural habitat, or in the smile of a baby, awe is a feeling that everything is connected and we are a part of that web of life.  Awe is what makes us take a breath, slow down and say ‘Wow!’.

Feeling ourselves to be a tiny part of something so much bigger than ourselves brings that feeling of awe, wonder and gratitude and makes us say Wow!  So really, cultivating and seeking out experiences of awe lead directly to one of the other essential words, gratitude. 

Standing on that mountain top or looking deeply into the eye of a free whale who has chosen to come up to look at you can fill you with such joy and wonder that you may be surprised at its power.  Forevermore, you can hold that experience in your body as a source of inspiration in hard times.  And of course, be grateful for it.  And ask for help from ourselves in remembering it when we need it. 

What people, places, things, and experiences bring you a sense of wonder and make you say ‘Wow!’?  What can you explore right now, this day, this week, this month to find and cultivate your ‘Wow’ frequently?  How can you incorporate your memories of your Wow!-moments into your day to day life to bring you more joy and contentment?  How do you think your life would change if you had more Awe-mazing experiences? 

Finding where you experience awe is like grown up play time and, as more and more research demonstrates, adults need to play A LOT more.  I would love to hear from you about your experiences with finding your Wow!  If you don’t have any idea where to start you can contact me too and we can work on it together—and you get points for asking for help!

Start by going outside, finding something you are curious about and just watching it.  That is the first step toward wonder, then thanks, then Wow!  Enjoy!

I can be reached for life, wellness and family coaching and/or counseling sessions at,

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This Is Why You Feel Awful

Ever heard of ‘surge capacity’? 

Surge capacity (coined by  Ann Masten, PhD, a psychologist and professor of child development at the University of Minnesota) is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters. 

But natural disasters occur over a short period, even if recovery is long. Pandemics are different — the disaster itself stretches out indefinitely.

Surge capacity gets depleted and at about the 6 month mark, we hit a wall.  We are passed that point now with the ongoing pandemic and uncertainty. 

Disaster relief workers and burnout experts also know about this 6 month wall.  Adrenaline needed for disasters is meant for short term energy.  What we are in is now is demanding a long term expenditure for many of us.  Even a low grade expenditure of energy over the uncertainty, the little losses, the fear, the what’s next, is a constant drain.

What do you do when your surge capacity is depleted and you need to renew it because the emergency phase has become chronic?

I couldn’t get my column done last month.  It wasn’t as if I didn’t have the time.  I didn’t have the energy.  I could point to a thousand other things that took up my time and energy but I was just spent. 

Author and speaker Brene Brown said it this way, “It’s like the wind is breaking the windows and we are in clean up at the same time, but in a pandemic, the destruction is invisible and ongoing.  It’s not like a natural disaster where you can see the damage.” 

Trying to find the energy like we had before this year is like ‘looking for disaster relief while hurricane is still blowing the shutters off the house.’

So how do we renew our energy source in view of the new ‘abnormal’?

The first thing is to acknowledge that anxiety and weariness is normal.  You will feel more depleted if you spend time thinking there is something wrong with you or that you are alone feeling overwhelmed.  Feeling that way is normal.  So is feeling a sort of disinterested boredom which is another common feeling in research on burnout.

Second, acknowledge that we are in a time of ambiguous loss and grief.  Sometimes, it’s losses that are hard to name or we judge them as small compared to the big stuff that’s happening to others around us.  They may seem too small but they aren’t, especially for our kids.  

For problem solvers and go-getters or those that already tend toward anxiety, they feel even more of a need for control and can’t figure out how with something so ambiguous and forever changing like pandemics and massive social upheavals.  That helpless feeling surges when we see our kids hopes and dreams crushed (or our own) and we can’t help them fix it.  Author Ann Lamont says, ‘Help is the sunny side of control.’  Darn. 

This ambiguous loss can be many things—the loss of a way of life, of freedom, of being able to meet up with our friends and family, to attend funerals, weddings or graduations—or even plan them, perhaps a loss of trust in our government, or just the daily rituals that became the fabric of our lives.  It’s ambiguous but nevertheless, it’s a major, unexpected and unwelcome shift that we did nothing to cause.

So naming it and normalizing it as well as reality checking our expectations sounds simple but it’s not easy.  Accepting things as they are, at least for a while longer than we wanted and expecting less of yourself and others around you are key plugs to the draining of your energy.

We must also restore our energy resources. 

As highlighted in Brown’s podcast, Dr. Maddus a professor at the University of Minnesota and motivational speaker noted a ‘resilience bank account’ is necessary for the long haul. 

“Dr. Maddaus explained why building things and creating is bringing some of us joy and real feelings of restoration and recharge. He explains that there are two ways the brain deals with the world: the future, including things we need to go after and get done, and the here and now, seeing things and touching things. 

He explained that, “Rather than being at the mercy of what’s going on in the world right now, we can use elements of this natural reward system that we have and construct things to do that are good, no matter what.”  Activities that have meaning for you have that ‘here and now element’ and those that have a planning element provide that future orientation element.

Another big source of energy: Play.  In Dr. Stuart Brown’s seminal work on Play he says, “The opposite of play is not work.  The opposite of play is depression.” 

Our biologically programmed need for play can transform us and renew our sense of excitement in life.

Dr. Stuart’s definition of Play is time spent without purpose including activities where you lose track of time and/or where you feel free to be yourself-liberated and uninhibited. 

I agree with Brown’s suggestion that you and your loved ones make a list of play activities that meet the definition of play.  Then look at your lists and see what you have in common.  Build time together based on these activities and time alone on the activities you don’t share in common.  I’ll be you already know some things that could go on the list.  Puttering around and not getting anything ‘done’ can be one.

Research on play has found that we get constant and predictable energy from play.  It’s not quick and gone energy like from a caffeine or sugar burst but one that, when done regularly, provides real sustenance to the body and brain.  That’s why I say F.U.N. truly is a Fundamental Universal Need. 

Often grown-ups say, “This is no time for play.  The world is falling apart!”  I’ll paraphrase what Brown says so well:  We can’t fight on no energy.  We can’t fight for love or joy unless we’re experiencing it.  We need that energy source not only for the fights we want to fight but just to get through the day. 

As I always say, go out and play (and nap)!  Don’t forget the naps. 

If you feel stuck in how to proceed, I can help!  You can contact me for life, wellness and family coaching and/or counseling sessions at and

I am grateful for Brene Brown’s podcast and the article she quoted.  You can look it up on

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