“Turn you face toward the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.” ~Māori Proverb
I am looking out of the window of the airplane. We are above the clouds; the evening sun is just setting. There is a glow all around me. I am lost in this moment. I feel like I’ve never been closer to the heavens. I can stay here in these clouds forever. I am at peace.
I am returning from my first trip to Jamaica.
I went to this island paradise on what was supposed to be a fun, party trip. Yes I had fun …
“The world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming it.” ~Helen Keller
You’ve probably heard the saying “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.”
For many years, I didn’t understand how pain and suffering were different from each other. They seemed inextricably wrapped up together, and I took it for granted that one was the inevitable consequence of the other.
However, as I have grown to understand my own capacity to create happiness, I noticed something interesting about the nature of my suffering.
As I reflect back on painful episodes in my life, I can recall losing people …
“Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.” ~Cicero
At one point or another, we all question whether or not we are doing enough, making enough money, or if we are going to be “successful” enough. I know this firsthand, as I’ve spent long periods of my young adult life in a persistent state of fear and self-doubt.
When I graduated from college, I worked sixty, seventy, even eighty hours a week in a corporate setting climbing the proverbial ladder. In my mind, I thought that was success, even though it wasn’t what I truly wanted for myself.
“Be gentle first with yourself if you wish to be gentle with others.” ~Lama Yeshe
Several months ago, I sat in a large workshop audience being led by Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the field of self-compassion research.
She directed us to divide up into pairs for a self-compassion exercise. I turned to the young woman next to me. We introduced ourselves and returned our attention to Kristin.
Following her instructions, my partner closed her eyes while I sat looking at her. Kristin led those of us with open eyes through a loving-kindness meditation that was directed at our …
“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” ~Deepak Chopra
We live in an eternally pregnant present, full of possibilities for a bright future. I believe it has always been that way throughout the history of the world. That’s just how the universe works. Unfortunately, we haven’t always experienced our lives the way the universe intended, especially right now.
Humanity seems to be forever in a time of chaos, marked by violence against one another, and most of us do not know how we got that way or when it will end.
I admit that sometimes I long for the good …
“Suffering is not caused by pain but by resisting pain.”~Unknown
Prior to my twenty-second birthday I was spiraling down a self-destructive path, partying at all hours of the morning and drinking excessively to numb my pain. I was a rebel with a cause, as the lure of the nightlife kept me away from my dysfunctional home.
I was searching for love and happiness in all of the wrong places, but the universe stopped me dead in my tracks, both literally and figuratively, when my brother committed suicide.
Devastated by the loss of his presence in my life and the close …
“If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place.” ~Lao Tzu
Long before health experts were telling us “You are what you eat,” some time after Buddha spoke his wisdom “What we think we become,” ancient Chinese sage Lao Tzu mused that we only need to change our way of thinking for our lives to fall into place.
Sounds so easy, right? Easier, at least, than always eating our greens, let alone somehow imagining ourselves into the NASA space program or up on stage on Broadway!
I suspect what Lao Tzu mostly meant was to …
“Since you alone are responsible for your thoughts, only you can change them.” ~Paramahansa Yogananda
In my second year of residency, I went through my internal medicine rotation. I had just been assigned to a particular patient and was responsible for his care during that part of his stay. His medical chart stated he had multiple systemic issues, including more than one terminal condition.
He had been admitted to the hospital numerous times, but this was our first encounter. As I entered his room, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After all, this was a man with a limited …
“It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.” ~Lena Horne
Friends, relatives, and the waitress who served me breakfast said I was the most relaxed bride they’d ever seen. “Most brides are ordering the bloody Mary’s right now, not the green tea,” the server remarked.
This was July 9, 2011, and I was about to marry my husband, best friend, and favorite comedian. Our wedding washed over me like a peace I had long forgotten.
Aside from finding the person I always knew I was looking for, the grace I felt that day resulted …
“A man is not old until regrets take the place of his dreams.” ~Proverb
When Lori wrote her list of thirty-three lessons she’d learned in life (one for each of her years) to celebrate her recent birthday, she gave us some amazing insights (thirty-three to be exact) for someone so young.
It got me thinking of what wisdom I could possibly add to the list from the extra years of life I’ve led, eleven extra years to be exact. (Did I just admit that!)
As someone still so young (well, sort of), I’m still learning too, and hope to keep …
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” ~Robert Brault
Yesterday, as my boyfriend and I were driving home from a quick trip to Vegas, we saw a sign for a ghost town and decided to do some exploring.
I’ve always loved the idea of a ghost town—a place left untouched for years, still reflecting the people who once inhabited it, as if they’d just picked up and left mere moments ago.
Though aged with cobwebs, marred by neglect, and long since deprived of life and laughter, it would seem …
“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” ~Sydney J. Harris
I live on a beach, and I don’t mean in a box under the boardwalk. Rather, my home is just about 60 seconds away. People tell me I’m lucky when they find out that the beach is basically my backyard.
This implies that we all randomly end up living in places strictly by chance, and that my being here is purely accidental. I obviously chose to live here. But beyond that, the beach life can be a choice, even if you don’t live near …
“An unhurried sense of time is in itself a sort of wealth.” ~Bonnie Friedman
We live in a society that favors material wealth over human wealth. Fame, fortune, and glamorous toys are what we are told to strive for with no thought to time, freedom, spirituality, and love. Even if you are just struggling to make ends meet, magazines and television will tell you to keep chasing the material dream.
Philosopher Daniel Quinn describes our economy in comparison to the economies of tribal people. He argues our economy is based on an exchange of products. You make products and sell …
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” ~Paul Boese
Have you ever wondered why it’s so difficult to forgive others?
We all know it feels better emotionally to let go of resentment and anger. We know that our minds are clearer and we function better when we’re not constantly yammering about that story of pain, betrayal, hurt, and humiliation. We even know that releasing all that junk is good for our physical health.
But it’s still hard, isn’t it?
As a doctor of psychology, I’ve learned that the amygdala, that part of our brains …
“It is better to be whole than to be good.” ~John Middleton Murray
Discouragement is usually an unwelcome guest. Every time it comes knocking on my door, I try to shoo it away or sweep it under the rug.
In fact, many of us want nothing more than for happiness to be our constant state of being, and have a hard time forgiving ourselves when we falter.
It happens: We can get immersed in the thick of discouragement for days, feeling mopey, downtrodden, physically, mentally, and emotionally “burnt out” and all in all “not ourselves.”
When I am …
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” ~Mary Engelbreit
Many times in the past, I’ve complained that things weren’t fair.
Sometimes I was legitimately wronged—like when I was a kid and an adult in my life regularly told people lies about me, seemingly to justify her disdain and mistreatment.
Other times, I victimized myself to avoid taking responsibility—like when I didn’t prepare well and bombed at a community theater audition but attributed my failure to favoritism.
As an indignant adolescent, I blamed many of my difficult early experiences …
“Instead of complaining that the rose bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses.” ~Proverb
They sound so cliché, sayings like, “There’s always a silver lining” or “Look on the bright side” or “there’s a positive to every negative.” Whenever struggle or suffering showed up in my life, those key expressions seemed to flow out of the mouths of family and friends.
That’s not to say they aren’t helpful. Sure, it helps a little to hear my best friend say, “It’s going to be ok,” when I spilled water all over my computer and lost everything—everything! …
“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept responsibility for changing them” ~Denis Waitley
It’s still summer, and the last thing I want to be thinking about are the cold months ahead. There are still bike rides to take and gardens to enjoy, and I still haven’t taken that kayak ride that I wanted! But in the back of my mind I am already beginning to panic.
Many people in the more northern latitudes feel down in the winter—less energetic, less engaged, less motivated—and those people may start feeling apprehensive as winter approaches.…
“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Today is my 33rd birthday, and at this very moment I am likely sipping a fruity drink by a pool in Las Vegas.
My boyfriend and I go there often on his Monday and Tuesday off days because it’s not too far from LA; the weekday hotel rates are great; and we’re both huge fans of buffets, shows, and (occasional) poolside day drinking.
Since I’m writing this in advance, I can’t speak to how I actually feel right in this very moment, but …
“What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.” ~Unknown
During the first week of July 2012, a storm left my little town and nearly one million other people in the Mid-Atlantic Region without electricity. The outage lasted eight days for Buffalo, Ohio, and we saw triple digits (F) each day.
I spent much of my free time in a hammock practicing my watching skills. I watched as I breathed in. I watched as I breathed out.
I watched thoughts pop up out of nowhere as I watched the leaves of two …