Friday, November 25, 2011


You're eating dinner and you've had sufficient but the word "more" pops into your head. You're moved by the beauty of a setting sun or by a perfect moment with a loved one and you think, "If only this could last." You want more. And isn't that what everyone wants? More things, more time, more money, more power, more peace, more influence, more happiness. Without the natural drive of wanting more, we would not have our homes, our cities or our country. More gets us out of bed in the morning and to our jobs because we want more for ourselves and for our families. So the drive for more is good...unless it goes wrong. And that happens when the thrill of acquisition becomes the primary focus. Does the guy with thirty cars or the woman with a thousand pair of shoes acquire these objects for the sake of the objects or for the sake of getting? When you eat or drink beyond the need to satisfy appetite and pleasure, when you buy clothes beyond your closet's ability to support them or even your ability to wear them, more is the engine driving you.

More infringes on life in subtle ways as well. You see a magnificent view but mostly it's through the lens of your camera. So many clicks, so few minutes spent just being with the view because you want to acquire the view. Or, your perfect moment with a love one is tinged with sadness because you want it to last, you want more of it and wanting lessens the joy of the moment.

A lot has been written about the various reasons people become gluttonous about food and drink or excessively greedy about objects or loved ones, but underlying all is the desire for more. In the state of more, there is a frisson of excitement, a lift out of the ordinary and a suspension of boundaries. The rational mind seems to stop functioning; you reach out, or stuff in, or hang onto.

These days, we talk about wanting to be present, to be alive in the moment. Being aware of how more operates in your life can bring one closer to that experience. More reduces the present experience by pulling one away from it with the promise that "more is better." And sometimes that's true. And sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's a brief joy ride that leaves us feeling empty and lonely; even though we have a bulging stomach and the company of dozens of shoes.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thank You

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for 4 reasons:

There's the food, of course, and any excuse for a great meal is a good day for me.  

Then there's the gathering of family and friends.  When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was an opportunity to invite whomever had no other plans to gather in a kind of odd mix, for better or for worse. I still have that kind of "the more the merrier" attitude, even though our family is like any other family in all that that implies.

Another thing I love about this holiday is the absence of gift-giving. I've come to think that the forced expectation of giving and receiving gifts actually detracts from the experience of generosity and gratitude.

Which brings me finally to gratitude. The entire expectation of this day is to be thankful which is a very good thing.  In fact, this experiment is worth a try: promise yourself that at the end of every day you will write down 10 things you were grateful for that day. The amazing thing about this exercise is that it puts you in the world in a different way. You are intentionally focusing on all things things for which you are thankful because you have that list to do later in the evening. When you do this, there is less room for your unhappiness simply because you have changed your focus. The result is the expansive and comforting experience that gratitude brings. And don't worry....there will be time later for the gripes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Quote I Love Today

"If you fixate on the worst-case scenario and it actually happens, you’ve lived it twice."

Michael J. Fox

Sunday, November 13, 2011


"When you are old and gray and full of sleep/And nodding by the fire ___." Yeat's wonderful words came to mind the other evening when I was sitting by my fire, more full of Irish whiskey than sleep, and in a poetic frame of mind. Browsing a book of Scottish poems, I came across "Warming Her Pearls" by Judith Radstone in which the poet describes a servant's reaction to one of her duties; the duty being, to wear the pearls her mistress would wear later in the evening in order to warm them up. WTF I said (the whiskey talking) but it got me thinking about comfort and its place in life.

Mostly, comfort is a good thing whose value, rightfully so, increases as the years pile up. The danger lies in becoming so comfortable in your robe and slippers and fluffy this and that, that you stop moving around. Or, in becoming so pampered that you lose perspective, as in the Radstone poem. The world, after all, is a changeful place and a day might come when you have to warm up your own pearls.

We are more likely to be aware of seeking physical comfort than we are of seeking emotional comfort, but similar pitfalls prevail if we are overreaching. Not wanting our hearts to hurt, we dodge situations that might expose us to emotional pain. We can bear second-hand tragedy in films and books but not in real life.

At a younger age, consequences and comfort were less important and our hearts more easily opened. But experience teaches that we can't save everyone, bring home all the animals, give away all our money. We need to pace ourselves, look out for ourselves and that includes our emotional comfort. To a degree.

When the desire for comfort gets overgrown, we lose some of the richness of life. To avoid the heartache of seeing a loved one decline, we don't visit the retirement home but we also miss the expansive feeling that goes with doing "the right thing." And we don't get to have whatever that person had to give that day: a smile, a frown, a bit of wisdom, a window into where we may one day find ourselves. When we don't ask an old friend to dinner because it's too much trouble, we avoid a pile of dirty dishes in the morning but we miss some good laughs and the warmth of friendship.

Hanging a sign on oneself that reads "Do Not Disturb" comes at a cost. Many things, both large and small, remain undone or unexplored because comfort has climbed high on a list of values. Comfort can dull the senses and the heart. When it's too much trouble to look up, we don't see the beauty of the sky. When comfort trumps compassion, we don't nurture the heart. I, for one, will think "pearls" the next time I pass up life for the sake of comfort.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Reminder: How to Post a Comment

Hi everyone: it seems as though there is a bit of confusion about how to comment on a post and we certainly don't want that. we LOVE hearing from you so keep them coming (and "like" us to facebook, if you are so inclined).
Here are two ways to comment:
1) Click on the TITLE of any post...a screen will come up that has the full post and BELOW it is a link that says "POST A COMMENT"...the print is a but small, look for it UNDER THE GRAY BOX
2) If you are on the main blog page, look below any post IN THE GRAY will see the word "COMMENTS" (again, small)---sometimes it says "0 comments" or "2 comments,"etc. THAT'S where you click on the word "COMMENTS."

Under CHOOSE AN IDENTITY, you can use your google account if you have one OR choose the NAME/URL option and enter your name(no need to enter a URL) OR choose the ANONYMOUS option.

Hope this helps.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I've Got a Secret

When I was studying at the Gestalt Institute in the late 1970's, we spent a fair amount of time talking about distinctions between various closely related concepts. In our book, Bridget and I touch on some of the more frequent and important examples of these distinctions and just this morning with a client I was reminded of one .... the distinction between privacy and secrecy. Without thinking, we might use these words interchangeably and, of course, they have a lot in common. Naturally if you consider something either secret or private, the upshot is that you are keeping it to yourself. From the outside they look the same.

This morning my client was talking about her chaotic childhood and the fact that her mother was institutionalized several times for a severe mental illness. She had been at lunch with friends who were telling childhood stories and she decided to stay silent and not chime in with information about her past. Secrecy or privacy?  it might be hard to distinguish between the two but it seemed important to me to explore this with my client.

Secrecy and privacy are motivated by different needs and feelings. And, if you'll pardon the new age-y language, they have different energies. Of course we are all entitled to privacy. It would be bizarre--not to mention a reflection of poor boundaries--if my client went up to the barista at Starbucks and said, "By the way, did you know that I had a very dysfunctional family of origin?" On the other hand, if she and a good friend are talking about their childhoods and she decides not to share any information, it's helpful to wonder why. To keep something secret has implications---maybe she would be afraid of being judged, worried that people will conclude that there must be something wrong with her. More significantly, she might harbor her own fear about what her dysfunctional family means about her. If you are keeping something secret because you are afraid or embarrassed or ashamed, you are walking around carrying a big ole glob of toxic, festering material that can effect your self-concept and eat away at your self-esteem.

My hunch is that when you come up against this issue you will be able to distinguish between the two. Privacy has a sort of easy, matter-of-fact feeling to it...."No, I don't think I know her well enough to share this information." Secrecy has a more anxious energy. When you experience that, try exploring what fears might be lurking underneath.