Chanting for the Heart

   I have been playing with sounding meditation, or chanting. I find chants to be very useful and interesting. Chanting may fall under the umbrellas of both meditation and sound healing. I probably first learned of sound healing by friends, Cynthia and Fabian Maman, founders of the Tama Do Academy, in 1998. We met because our sons were best friends in grade school.

    In 2001, I learned sounding meditations from the Kundalini Yoga tradition from Shanti Shanti Kaur Khalsa PhD, of the Guru Ram Das Center at the “Therapeutic Applications of Yoga,” conference in Estes Park CO. It was the day after 9/11, and we chanted the healing light mantra, “RA MA DA SA SA SAY SO HUNG,” into the world. 

    Vibrational sound therapy is an ancient modality and found throughout many cultures. What I find fascinating are the commonalities in diverse traditions. For example, the sound “AH” seems to be common ground as a sounding for the heart- to awaken the heart, to open the heart, to return the heart to God or love, or fill the heart with love. 

     The Hawaiian word, “ALOHA,” translates to “open your heart,” or “love.” When we sound the word, ALOHA, we sound “AH,” twice. 

    The Arabic word, “ALLAH,” is chanted or sung in the Sufi Tradition (the mystical tradition of Islam) in order to return the heart to love and God. I learned this from my friend Cynthia, who is currently studying at Sufi University. When sounding ALLAH, the sound of “AH,” rings twice. 

    The Hebrew word, “AHAVAH,” which translates to “love,” is chanted in the Kabbalah (mystical tradition of Judaism), teaches Catherine Shainberg PhD in her book, “Kabbalah and the Power of Dreaming.” We may sing AHAVAH in order to return the heart to the positive vibration of love anytime that we feel darkness (ex. fear, anger) creeping in, similar to the usage of the word, ALLAH. Dr. Shainberg teaches us the simple practice of singing “AH HA VAH” to the tune of “MI DO RE” three times. When sounding AHAVAH, the sound “AH” rings three times. 

    The Sanskrit words in the MAHA (great or big) mantra are: “HARE KRISHNA HARE KRISHNA KRISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE, HARE RAMA HARE RAMA RAMA RAMA HARE HARE.” In the Vedic Spiritual Tradition of India this is a transcendental sound vibration of three of the holy names of God. My friend, Gopal Damerla MD, taught me that chanting this mantra brings you fresh life energy from God. You may recognize this mantra as George Harrison and the Beatles featured it in their lifestyle and music. The “AH” sound is in each one of these names of God: “HARE,” “KRISHNA”  and twice in “RAMA,” All together you sound “AH” twenty times in one round of the MAHA mantram. Dr. Damerla is currently doing a research study exploring the effects of the MAHA mantram on the heart. 

    I am thankful for all of these chants for the heart. I find that they are like a life preserver during difficult times, and ring true to course in returning me to the Light, softening and bringing my heart home to love. 

Integrative Cancer Care

    I was a pre-med student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying cancer and doing bench research at the McArdle Labs for Cancer Research. There, we explored oncoviruses, viruses which carry oncogenes, or genes that can be a causative factor in the development of cancer. I learned of the available cancer treatments, and was immediately dissatisfied with them. I thought that chemotherapy and radiation were barbaric, as they destroyed the immune system.

    Although the only legal cancer treatments in America today are surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, I have since learned of other safe and efficacious non-toxic and natural treatments for cancer. I would like to share some of this information and resources with you. It seems to me that in a free and democratic country such as ours, that there is both an ethical obligation, and a human right to choose the medicine that we want to, or don’t want to, put into our own body.

    Let’s begin with some basic information about cancer cells. Cancer cells differ from healthy cells in several distinct ways. What we know about cancer cells is that they are heat sensitive, obligate anaerobes (grow only without oxygen), and feed on sugar and glutamate (glutamate is found in MSG, and hydrolyzed soy protein). Most people with cancer have chronic inflammation. We also know that chemotherapy and radiation do not kill cancer stem cells, and that this is why cancer remains in the body even after chemotherapy or radiation.

    With this understanding and using these basic principles, other cancer treatments have been developed and are used around the world. These include: Hyperthermia and near infrared sauna (this treatment involves heating the body and selectively kills cancer cells as cancer cells are heat sensitive while healthy cells are not), Ozone Therapy and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (this treatment involves infusing oxygen into the body and selectively kills cancer cells as cancer cells cannot grow in oxygen while healthy cells do),  Pulsed Electro-Magnetic Field (PEMF) Therapy (this is FDA approved and selectively targets cancer cells based on cell voltage) , Fasting (cancer cells can’t survive without food, and they die, while healthy cells can survive without food), Diet/Nutrition, and Natural Supplements. The dietary/nutritional approach commonly involves detoxification (removing toxins), sensible dietary changes and flooding the body with readily absorbable nutrients. There are specific nutrients that turn on cancer suppressor genes and turn off cancer promoter genes. There are nutrients which decrease inflammation in the body and increase cellular ATP (energy) production. 

    Many of the natural supplements used in integrative cancer care act by boosting or optimizing the immune response, (available upon request), although some are evidenced to directly kill cancer cells. We know that the constituent, curcumin, in the plant medicine, Turmeric (Curcuma longa L.), kills cancer stem cells. Hemp Oil (THC and CBD) kills cancer cells. The topical cream, Curaderm (from the plant, Solanum linnaeanum) can be effective for non-melanoma skin cancer (90% of skin cancers).

    Clinics which utilize dietary and nutritional approaches in cancer treatment include: the Gerson Institute, the Northern Baja Gerson Center, the Jimenez Hope Clinic, and the Hoxsy Biomedical Center.

    Other resources to know about in the United States are: the MD Anderson Center with Integrative Cancer Care, Moshe Frenkel MD and Integrative Oncology Consultants, Veronique Desaulniers DC, the Center for Advanced Medicine, the Center for Medicine, Nalina Chilkov OMD, Kokolulu Farm and Cancer Retreats, and the Burzynski Clinic. The Burzynski clinic treats terminal brain cancers, including children’s brain tumors, with anti-neoplaston therapy.

     Resources in Europe include: Robert Gorter MD, PhD and the Medical Center in Cologne Germany, the Centro Medico in Hilu, Spain, and the Dr. Rath Research Institute.

    There is no scientific reason not to legalize these other cancer treatments in America, it is solely political. In America today, our pharmaceutical industry (BigPharma) determines our government’s rules and regulations in medicine and healthcare. Many see this as a vested interest and abuse of power. 

    I am thankful for all of what we now know, and for all of the choices that we have. Clearly chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery can be useful treatments in cancer care. Certainly hyperthermia, hyperbaric oxygen, pulsed electromagnetic field, nutrition, and natural supplements can be useful as well. For truly integrative cancer care, we can also address the emotional and spiritual needs of cancer patients. Many find relief from counseling, mind-body techniques (meditation, stress reduction, imagery) and spirituality (prayer) based on a personalized treatment program. I am thankful to live in a free country and exercise free will. May we, as people, community, and country, do no harm, and try to do some good. 

    

Truth

Regena Thomashauer, aka “Mama Gena,” taught me that the Latin root of the word, “nice,” is nescius, meaning ignorant. She wrote about how being nice can get in the way of women speaking their truth. It is true that women may not speak their truth, or speak up at all, in order to prevent someone else’s anger or detachment towards them , to keep the peace, or out of consideration of another’s feelings (not wanting to hurt feelings). 

    I see this with women in my counseling practice. To be fair, women have not always been raised to speak their truth or to speak up at all. Often times, women have been raised to be nice. 

    I raised my own daughter to be wild and unruly. This I did primarily by allowing herself to just be. I never imposed upon her the idea that she not speak her mind. That she conform to being nice. 

    I have noticed that the multitudes raising this next generation of women in the USA (dubbed Generation Z) have done the same. A large wave of consciousness seemed to flow over women bringing up girls across the country. Was this simply because so many more of these mothers went to college, gaining a higher education, so that it was no longer possible to remain “ignorant”? 

    Perhaps so. Perhaps the college education plays a part in the phenomena. We certainly know from experts that educating women is demonstrated to improve the health and wealth of the entire community.

    As Amal Clooney speaks in her UNICEF ad, “holding back women is holding back half of every country in the world.” So how do we let loose our women? How do we free, foster, nurture, and support, women in speaking their truth? 

    What I have learned is that speaking one’s truth is a skill like any other, to be practiced. A first step of course may be awareness. This may be followed by the question of how to do it, and “what language to use as I still want to be kind?” Of course you still want to be kind. And “kind,” does differ from “nice.” It is very possible for all of us to learn how to speak our truth in kind and loving ways. 

    You may start by pausing and tapping into, “what is my truth?” in the very moment or circumstance. This in itself is a huge accomplishment, particularly if you grew up in an environment where your needs or wants were not acknowledged, asked for, or dismissed if given. Your hard-wired unconscious response may be to suppress what it is you truly want or believe, as you were trained to be nice, to not make waves, to cater to the needs or desires of others first, to place yourself second, if at all. 

    Your truth is an honest and authentic expression of your feelings, thoughts, wants, needs,  dreams and desires. This differs from ‘The truth’  about things in the outer world-persons, places, and events-as these are formulated by our perceptions, as Catherine Shainberg PhD points out. We can become conscious of the filters and structures which are calculating our perceptions. We may relieve a lot of suffering and gain a lot of healing by changing or freeing our mind from biased or faulty perception. 

   We engage the voice to speak our truth. You may feel like your voice is rusty and squeaky, scratchy and uneven. I can tell you for sure that once you begin using it, it will become very fluid, fine-tuned, capable and smooth. Does it take courage? “Yes.” Does it take confidence and trust in yourself? “Yes.” Does it take love? “Yes.” You are being very loving to and trusting of yourself when you speak your truth. You are demonstrating self-compassion.

    Your voice may or may not have been allowed you by your parents, spouse, religion, or culture, but all you have to do to activate it is to accept, allow, and approve of it yourself. The only one you need to give you permission to tell your truth is you. 

 

Death, Enlightenment, and The Circle of Life

    Ever since I was a small child, I accepted death as a part of life. It is in the natural order of things. I held death in the palms of my hands, learning how it feels. The body grows very light, and then grows cold.

    I had a dream some time ago (April 9, 2013). In the dream i was making paper pictures of each season in the cycle of life. 

    I came to labeling them and found myself in dialogue with a voice who sounded much like God, or, an old Sage-Like Osho?

    I knew the answers, and God, or Divine Sage, whom i was hearing, seemed more or less to be confirming me. Although on the last stage-just prior to waking up-i wonder if the voice gave me the answer? Because i was so surprised. "Awakening"- wow! How curious. 

    In this extraordinary dream, I was gifted with a secret. Awakening is a stage in our lives between death and rebirth. I had never before seen or heard of a cycle of life depicted as this. (And where i wrote “life,” in the diagram- i feel like it may have been another word but can’t remember):

                Rebirth

   Awakening                 Life

                Death

    I think that we are all born enlightened, awakened before birth. Maybe some, like the spiritual masters, stay awakened or enlightened. Whilst most of us simply forget. As we live our daily lives, with whichever hardships, pains, sorrows, obstacles, hurdles, and disappointments come our way. We temporarily lose sight of or forget this. Things happen, life hurts, we all have something to contend with. Darkness can loom large. 

    This, it seems to me, is the purpose of spirituality or religion. Each time we walk our respective spiritual paths, we recall and remember our true nature. Our soul nature of love and joy. We are filled with light. We reawaken. 

    My dad just died (April 2, 2017).  He used to say that when he came back, he wanted to either come back as my pet dog or a rock. 

    Nothing prepared me for my father’s death. I sat with him and placed my hand on his heart. His eyes opened partway and a tear rolled down the corner of his eye. He blinked his eyes and twitched the corner of his mouth several times to communicate that he knew I was there, likely saying, "I love you," in morse code, the language he would resort to as a HAM radio operator (W9GXR).

    I felt my father and I had an unspoken agreement that I would be there when he died. I think that I reminded him of his mother, a nurse who sat with dying people, before there was such a thing called hospice. I never knew if it would turn out this way or not, but it did. I arrived Saturday afternoon and he died Sunday morning. 

    My brother told me the night before that dad was afraid of dying. And so that morning as I sat with him, I told him that there was nothing to fear. I told him of Ram Dass’s “Spiritual Disneyland,” that he would be in a place of pure and absolute love and joy.

     I let him know his parents would be meeting him, and that it was comforting to me to know he would be there for me when my time came. I told him that I would always hold him in my heart and in my consciousness. I let him know that he was free to go whenever he was ready. And then I heard that he needed to hear that he was a good person. And so I told him that he was a good person. 

    In turn, dad said he wanted everyone to know that he loved them. That was important. We were speaking in our original language, the language of telepathy. 

    Dad died about an hour later. 

    My father gave me many gifts in his dying and he taught me many things. I saw how our body is just a shell. How we inhabit these bodies while here on Earth as terrestrial beings. Hours after my dad died, his body became like the exoskeleton of an insect. He had clearly left it. 

    Grandmother Flordemayo, a Mayan healer, teaches that we are both terrestrial and celestial beings. I now witness my dad as a celestial being. He continues to be with me, to teach me, from the other side. Thank you, Dad. 

Patience

I heard a song in the morning air, one that was popular when I was a teenager. I remember playing the album, some songs I liked and some I didn’t. But in those days of listening to records, one just listened to them all as they played, patiently awaiting the favorites.

    I think of how today I can instantly purchase any song I want to on iTunes. There is no waiting and no patience required. I can choose which songs of an album I want even, no putting up with the unfavorable.

    My husband and I watched two men hunting a gazelle in the African grasslands on a BBC television show. The hunters patiently waited near a watering hole for several days. Then after shooting an animal with a poison arrow, they spent a day tracking her. In all, it was a seven day affair for meat on their table. 

    I went to the post office to mail a package. The computer was down and the mailman apologized to me for the wait. It was a rather long wait of 15 minutes, long because we are so accustomed to instant gratification. We are so accustomed to no wait. It has become everyone’s expectation. We now must apologize to each other if there is a wait.

    I responded that it was no trouble, for it really wasn't at all, and we spoke about our lives. With a computer down, suddenly we have time for humanness. We see each other. 

    I wonder if we Americans truly know what patience is anymore? Do we ever need to exercise patience, get to practice patience? Do we ever have to be patient?

    There is some noble quality to patience. I am sure of it. It may be something that we need to consciously nourish in our lives these days. Patience may no longer be a given, built in facet to our living and lifestyle.

    I was patient with my Hawaii license. From start to finish it took a year. All the paperwork was still actual paper, that had to be mailed back and forth. I was patient for my daughter. I remember 23 years ago I was ready for another child, but my husband wanted to wait a year, and so we did. I considered naming my daughter, “Patience,” since I needed to be patient for her.

    When we are recovering from illness, accident or surgery, we need to be patient. Certainly this is where our word, “patient,” comes from, the art and practice of being patient with our healing. The doctors expect us to be patient. What choice do we have? It takes time.

    The Webster dictionary defines patience as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” Perhaps in this definition we may understand the noble quality or spiritual value of patience.

    How to be patient?  “Live your life as moments,” Ram Dass advises. Place your focus on the now, enjoying and cherishing the moment.

Sexuality

    Women on the beaches of South France, Brazil and Hawaii, where it is culturally acceptable to show breasts and boom-booms, seem pretty comfortable with their sexuality. Sexuality embraces sensuality, beauty, passion, tribal safety and security, and utter surrender, bliss and joy. Sexuality is connected to birth, creativity, power, love, truth, and for some, spirituality and experience of God.

    A woman may embody her sexuality in many ways, she doesn’t necessarily have to expose her body nor does it imply her nakedness. I know Muslim women who, completely covered from head to toe, express her sexuality through her eyes. Sexuality is really about knowing yourself, accepting yourself, and being connected to and comfortable in your own body, mind, and spirit. 

    There are such diverse cultural variations, norms, and traditions around what is acceptable for women in expression of her body, mind and spirit. However, we are sexual beings. Hidden or undisguised, conscious of or oblivious to, pampered and paraded perhaps, or left unattended.

    What is your relationship with your own sexuality? 

    I grew up with five brothers in a culture of modesty, an upbringing with little if any recognition or accentuation of sexuality. My father did not allow me to wear shorts to high school. I put on lipstick for the first time at age 30. 

    My daughter grew up in a more open environment, one that allowed for a greater expression and freedom of the female body. I am thankful that my daughter did not grow up with shame, fear, or guilt about her body, but rather a complete love and acceptance for her beautiful, lovely, feminine vessel.

    How much of your body that you reveal is a personal preference and a choice that I completely respect. I support you in accepting and appreciating your body and your sexuality, however you so like to demonstrate in your own individual and free way. 

    What happens when we deny or suppress sexuality as a part of the human condition? Look what happened in the Catholic Church. I think that if the Catholic Church acknowledged and integrated this authentic part of human nature, then it would have helped to prevent the horrific sex abuses by Priests. It seems to me that it would be a good idea for the Catholic Church to allow Priests to have sex with consenting adult partners. This may bring health and healing to the organization.

    Sexual love is a sacrament in the Tantra tradition of esoteric Hinduism. In Tantra, spiritual connection or union may be experienced in sexual connection or union, the individual self becomes a part of the Indivisible All. Celibacy is simply not required for spiritual life in all cultures. Indeed, some believe sexual ecstasy leads to enlightenment. 

    Sex, as a chosen, pleasurable and loving activity, releases dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is associated with feeling well, and also with our very will to live.

Inspiration

I am inspired by the shapes of the clouds moving across the early morning sky, the arc of a white dove, and the sway of palm branches in tall old trees. 

    I am inspired each morning when I see the Sun rise, which I await in eager anticipation like at child at Christmas. It seems that Hope is the Sun rising each morning, warming and enlightening every being of Mother Earth.

    To inspire is to breathe in, to give rise to, to animate, to fill with urge and ability. We are inspired by beauty, by youthfulness, by newness, by wonder, by love. We are inspired when we breathe in something new, pure, beautiful and hopeful, such as a baby, a puppy, a gypsy jazz concert, or a good story in a movie or a book. 

    The maiden is an archetype of inspiration in stories. She is beautiful and fresh, with a pure heart and a seeing recognition of the knight who is inspired by her to do his good. Without her muse, his action in the world would not happen. 

    This knowingness, albeit perhaps in Jung’s collective unconscious, is embodied in women who are all naturally beautiful and hence, naturally inspirational. This beauty takes different forms dependent upon culture and generation, such as how sexually open or provocative she is in wardrobe and mannerism. 

    Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf schools, knew that beauty was important for children in school. He knew that beauty feeds the soul. So Steiner placed a significance on creating simple, natural, lovely, warm, and aesthetically pleasing classroom environments for children to learn in. 

    Inspiration feeds creativity and purpose. Inspiration is essential to health and healing. Without inspiration we may be stuck in depression, grief, loss, hopelessness, or despair. This may show up in you or your life in various ways. If you are feeling anything like this, then I recommend that you seek mental health counseling. You may also consider going on a trip, anything from an hour at a coffee shop to a week’s vacation in the Bahamas, and greeting your senses-what you are seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting, with something new. Gift yourself with new people and alternative ideas.

    I am inspired learning the ways of others, the words and songs and prayers of others. Sometimes when I am out walking in the fresh, open air, I breathe in inspiration like I am sipping in a long cool drink from a straw. Each inhalation truly does animate each of the cells in our body, bringing it to life-to do it’s job, it’s function, it’s part, for our total health and happiness. 

    Notice what inspires you and encourage your inspiration each day. May you create an alluring and arousing vessel (your body), and living space (home, office, and garden). The simple act of placing a vase of flowers in a clean room, gazing at the sunset, beholding your child doing summersaults in the park, or listening to your favorite Beethoven. In the culture of my ancestors, the Goddess Brigid is the bright light of inspiration, the muse who whispers poetry in our ears. She is here to whisper sweet nothings to us all. 

The Feminine Voice in Psychology

I recently took the National Counselor Examination (NCE). In my study, I noticed how the field of psychology has been so heavily male-dominated historically. Yet, I have learned from so many female doctors.

    To be sure, the contributions from men to the field of psychology are significant, valuable, and important. For examples, Freud proposed the unconscious mind and dreamwork, and the value of catharsis. Jung proposed archetypes and the collective unconscious, and the curious synchronicity. Carl Rogers brought us the concepts of unconditional positive regard, accurate empathy, and complete acceptance. Albert Ellis introduced the ideas of irrational thinking and Viktor Frankl, the existential philosophy of finding meaning in life, even in horrific conditions. 

    Some of these men are called fathers in psychology. We have the Father of Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud; the Father of Analytic Psychology, Carl Jung; the Father of American Behaviorism, John B Watson; the Father of Vocational Guidance, Frank Parsons; and the Grandfather of Family Therapy, Nathan Ackerman. 

    I just wonder, where are our mothers? 

    I can assure you that we do have them. I have studied with some of the best contemporary feminine voices in psychology. So in sharing with you, I hope to awaken the moss on the stone, perhaps rolling it down the hill. 

    Clarissa Pinkola Estes PhD, has contributed immensely with theory and framework on the instinctual mind. I highly recommend her book, “Women Who Run With the Wolves,” first published in 1992, which speaks to instinct and intuition in the female psyche, often disregarded, dismissed, or bound up in chains. Perhaps Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes could be named the Mother of Instinct. 

    Christiane Northrup MD, has published prolifically on the interconnectedness of mental health and physical health, compellingly gifting the field of psychoneuroimmunology. I highly recommend her books: “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom,” “Mother-Daughter Wisdom,” and the “The Wisdom of Menopause.” Dr. Northrup’s work has examined growth and development of the female mind/body in unprecedented detail and cultural perspective. We could name Dr. Christiane Northrup, the Mother of Wisdom. 

    Caroline Myss brought soul and spirit into the conversation. I highly recommended her books: “Anatomy of the Spirit,” “Sacred Contracts,” and “Entering the Castle.”  Caroline Myss, perhaps, would be the Mother of Spirit

   Isabelle Myers and Catherine Briggs, a mother-daughter duo, who are well recognized in psychology for the development of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, introduced  intuition and feeling into personality testing. 

    Instinct, intuition, wisdom, soul, spirit, feeling....yes, these do all sound like contributions from the feminine mind. May the feminine voice in psychology be recognized and included in our textbooks, tests, and history. 

Nature is Therapy

   We raised our children in wilderness. And my son, who is 24 years old, recently thanked me for it. He backpacked in Alaskan wilderness this summer. He grew up taking backpacking trips with his father and uncles, a tradition they continue. 

    Research shows that children who get out into nature have less depression, anxiety, and conduct issues and greater attention and compassion. Simply put, nature supports our mental health. Studies find that nature reduces stress hormones and heart rate, calms us and sharpens our performance. People who simply see trees and grass show less violent behavior. When we look at urban scenes, we activate the amygdala in the brain (associated with fear and anxiety), whereas when we look at nature, we activate the anterior cingulate and the insula, associated with empathy and altruism. 

    People who walk in nature, but not city walkers, have been found to have reduced activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex of the brain, associated with depressive rumination, and nature walkers have been found to have more self-compassion. A 50 minute walk in nature improves attentional skills and short-term memory, while walking along a city street does not.

    Clearly, nature is an evidence-based therapy, and one in which we could all be making more use of, as individuals and as a mental health care profession.

      I have been hiking the wide open spaces of Arizona and Colorado for the past 25 years. I grew up in another kind of wilderness though, galloping horses barefooted and bareheaded across corn fields, woods, and lakes. When I received a full scholarship to the Virology program at Harvard Medical School, it was difficult, not because of the academics but because Boston felt like a concrete jungle. I wished to be in green jungle. My husband and I honeymooned with a five-month backpacking trip across the mountains, jungles, and seas of South America.

    In 2008, I was graced with teaching yoga and meditation at a Nature Retreat Center in Costa Rica. I became aware of the benefits of receiving 24/7 fresh air and oxygen to the brain, and that of quiet, the quiet of nature, frogs and monkey hoots and rain. In this quiet,  I learned how much easier it is to hear the body. 

    Wilderness affords us a glimpse into our connection and belonging to a bigger picture, and our natural world. In this larger world we find our brother and sister two-legged and four-legged, winged and finned sentient beings. We are just visitors here, in the home of our fellow sentient beings. I am thankful for the visit, and tread lightly.

    Earlier this summer I found a grove of trees to lay in. I brought a book and although I was not quite through with my study, I suddenly heard/felt a message to go. As I stood, thanking the space, I looked up and saw a large red coyote looking down at me from the hill. It was slightly daunting, for I was alone out there and he was rather close. The coyote, in his usual trickster fashion, took his attention off me and acted like he was pouncing on some prey. I turned to go, but when I spun around, I saw that the coyote was fixated back on me and moving towards me. I began to sing. 

    I am thankful for my moments with wildlife. These are moments which take my breath away, and moments which give medicine and healing. Medicine is everywhere and in everyone. May we appreciate and steward this earth and her creatures. 

     “Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep with the earth.” - Walt Whitman

 

Hope and Healing from WWII

    I felt hope and healing on the top of Grandmother Lady Le’Ahi (Diamond Head). It was at her summit that I met two young Japanese tourists. They were about my daughter’s age and they were having a great time laughing and playing and taking dozens of selfies with their iPhone cameras. 

    It felt fundamentally healing to discover so many Japanese visitors on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Fundamentally healing because the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu in Hawaii in 1941, leading the United States of America into World War II. 

    So here it is 75 years later, and in this memorial place the Americans and the Japanese are now friends. Not only friends, but perhaps something deeper, with countless young Japanese couples choosing to wed on Oahu. Clearly ceremony after ceremony, and dollar after dollar, the love and soul the Japanese have given to Hawaii has been received. 

    I find it hopeful and healing that two tribes who once fought and killed each other are now playing with and loving one another. I laughed and played with the beautiful Japanese daughters atop Lady Diamond, and felt my namesake, my great uncle Carol, who was killed by Japanese Kamikaze in WWII, laughing and playing alongside us. Surely he, who was only 18 years old at the time, would be delighted to be in the company of these 20 year-old girls and their iPhone cameras. 

    It was a healing moment. Our WWII generation were taught that the Japanese were our enemy and for my grandmother, that lesson seemed to stick for almost the rest of her life. Like the character in Clint Eastwood’s move, Gran Torino.They killed my brother,” she would say if the subject came up.

    Smiling atop Grandmother Diamond with my new friends, I suddenly and unexpectedly found myself to be a part of something so much bigger than myself. The path we trod to the top was built by soldiers of my tribe to be a look-out for the enemy attack of their tribe. Together we now stood in solidarity beneath the vast blue, blue sky, and the endless blue, blue sea. Reconciliation and wholeness seemed to announce themselves out into the whole world. Holy cow. It felt like healing for the whole world. Two generations later, healing has arrived on her doorstep.

    As we approach Memorial Day (May 30), a federal holiday in the United States, and a day to remember the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces. I think of my uncle Carol, who it seems has somehow reached across the veil to save my skin once or twice.

    I joined the pilgrimage up Grandmother Le’ahi, like a string of ants we moved up and down her round and curvaceous body. I call her Grandmother because she is no longer an active volcano, that was 300,000 years ago, she has long since retired. She shows us a softer side to the wise woman, her banks have grown green, she is no longer a threat, but a safe haven. On her sacred ground I see how brief our lives are in the expanse of time. We are just a blink of an eye in time.  

    Here it is 75 years later, and our President Obama will be visiting Hiroshima, Japan this month, the first American president to do so since WWII. President Obama is not planning on apologizing for the American decision to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, which killed 140,000 civilians and severely injured survivors. But apology, pardon, and forgiveness are often what people can do but not necessarily governments. It is a step in the right direction. There is indeed hope for humanity. Two generations later, may healing arrive on her doorstep.

Yoga Therapy

   It was my friend, Janie, who invited me to my first yoga class in Prescott, Arizona in 1991. The teacher was Sally Cheney. What I loved was that we got to shape our bodies into animals. 

    I discovered that during yoga, things stuck in my body were released. I hadn’t even been aware of them. Trauma does this, hiding away in obscure places, like some viruses.

     I remember wondering why on earth Harvard Medical School, whom I had just graduated from, had not taught us yoga. Why weren’t we doing it there? There, where we were learning about healing and medicine. 

    My personal yoga practice expanded when we moved to Boulder, Colorado in 1997, because at that time, I could not even afford $5.00 to go to a class. So, I practiced at home, easily hearing my teacher’s voice in my head. I became self-disciplined out of necessity. My young daughter would often join me and I was soon teaching to her kindergarten class (2000). After my husband was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, he asked me to teach him too, and so I began holding classes outdoors in our lovely, flat, grassy backyard in South Boulder in the early morning hours. I set out a coffee can for donations and invited a few neighbors and friends to join us.

    In 2001, I simultaneously began a PhD psychology program and began consulting for Natural Standard Research Collaboration. I was asked to do a research review of yoga therapy for Natural Standard. I was delighted to thoroughly examine the scientific evidence on yoga therapy for various conditions. I took careful notes on specific protocols. I came to learn that yoga could be helpful for many psychological conditions. (Yoga Journal also hosted a first “Therapeutic Applications of Yoga” conference in Estes Park, CO in 2001).

    During 2003-2004, I incorporated yoga therapy into my clinical practicum experience with children diagnosed with ADHD (Williams Orlando C. Client-Centered Yoga Therapy: A Case Report. Yoga Therapy in Practice 2008; 4(1):16-19). In 2008, I was invited to teach yoga at the Samasati Nature Retreat Center in Costa Rica.

    Yoga therapy is a broad topic, as it includes physical as well as psychological conditions, and it includes therapists from a range of backgrounds. I come from a humanistic psychology background and specifically use yoga therapy in the healing of trauma, anxiety or depression. Yoga therapy is not something that I necessarily do with everyone, but for some it is an appropriate match and an effective part of treatment- (Williams-Orlando C. Yoga Therapy for Anxiety: A Case Report. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine 2013; 27(4):18-21). 

    In particular, yoga therapy can be a good fit for teens with anxiety who want to learn lifelong skills in addition to or instead of pharmaceutical medication. Yoga therapy is excellent treatment for anxiety and trauma as it alleviates hyperarousal and hyper vigilance of the nervous system, lowers cortisol and blood pressure, and develops positive coping, resiliency, and self esteem, without harmful side effects. Another population which yoga therapy holds great potential for are veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress (PTS).

     Yoga is an ancient science from second century B.C. India. Yoga includes fundamental and holistic principles for good health. Some choose yoga as a way to know God, or experience the Divinity within. However, yoga is not a religion, requires no allegiance, and may be enjoyed by persons of all Faiths and belief systems.     

I Have a Dream: Free Universal Healthcare in America

    I have a dream that when a daughter wakes up with a swollen eye, her mother is able to take her to the doctor. She needn’t pause because she doesn’t have insurance, worry if the insurance will cover it, or if it will cover the doctor down the street. She may just go. 

    I have a dream that we integrate alternative healthcare with mainstream medicine. That our herbalists work alongside our medical doctors. That we are given options in treatment plans.  

    When we find that we have a cold or the flu, our evidence-based plant medicines and natural supplements are prescribed. We make full use of the medicine offered to us on this planet, knowing full well that the safety and efficacy of our antibiotics and symptom-relief medicines are limited. Plants may be the answer to viral infections.

    I have a dream that we marry preventative medicine into our healthcare system. All are welcome to monthly massages, six-week vacations, and yearly check-ups. Yoga, tai-chi, stress reduction and meditation classes are freely available. Our government pays a mother (or father) a salary to stay home and raise a child for the first two years. Organic farming becomes mandatory, because pesticide-free and herbicide-free food is good preventative medicine. 

    I have a dream that when I find a spot on my skin, I can go in to the doctor to check for cancer. That if I have a cavity in my tooth, that I can go to the doctor and have it removed. If I have a lump on my arm, a fallen foot, a headache that just doesn’t go away, or a trauma that keeps me awake at night, I can just walk into a clinic and be cared for. Regardless of my income, my job, or my bank account. Regardless of my gender, my ethnicity, or the side of the tracks which I live on. Simply because I am a human being, simply because I live in America.

    There was a time that I considered moving to France, Britain, or Canada because we would then have healthcare. I was musing my thoughts aloud as my son and I were driving home. My son, then 16 years-old, challenged me with, “Oh...are you just going to give up on America...”

    And how could any parent model such a thing. Of course the right way is, “or are you going to do something about it?” For that surely is what our humanity is about, and certainly what we build America with. Doing something about it. What we can do for our country. Our 240 year-old independent country, still in the process of becoming.

    I have a dream that we carry our medical records on a plastic card, like the carte vitale in France. Any clinic we walk into can swipe the card into their computer system and receive and add to our electronic medical record. What a sigh of relief this would be for everyone. 

    I have a dream that all Americans receive free Universal healthcare. No matter who you are, no matter what your circumstance. You are able to take care of your self and your children, because, we as a Nation, can afford to take care of you. In fact, we cannot afford not to. 

    May we join the rest of the rich democracies of the world. May our vote simply be for what type of healthcare we adopt- the Bismarck model of France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Japan, the Beveridge model of Great Britain, Italy, Spain and Scandinavia, or the National Health Insurance Model of Canada.

    [To learn more about these healthcare models and how we can have better, cheaper, and fairer healthcare, please read, “The Healing of America,” by T.R. Reid].

How to Peacefully Win War with Terrorists

    i thought about dropping roses and lilies and marigolds. Chocolate. Maybe truffles from Belgium. These would float down from the air and soften the hearts of all those men with guns. Surely, this is what is needed to cure the radical mind. A show of tenderness and affection. A show of force doesn’t work- the planes dropping bombs. 

    Force creates counter-force. It is a basic law of physics. Bombing Islamic State causes Islamic state to bomb us. Unless...Unless...Unless, this cycle is broken. So, how do we do that? 

    Dr. David Hawkins deduced that power is greater than force. What is the difference between power and force? Power creates win-win. Love and compassion are two of the highest ranking powers. Is it possible to beat terrorists with that? It seems to me that it’s worth a try. 

    The question is, how can we harness power to overcome the evil of Islamic State and other extremist and terrorist groups? How do we, effectively, defeat the dark side in non-violent ways? Without going to the dark side ourselves? Where is Yoda now? 

    It seems to me that it is up to us to find the Yoda within ourselves.

    My friend and director of the Healing Touch program, Cynthia Hutchison, spoke to me about the “knowing glance.” When we look at someone who has committed a wrong or harmful action with the “knowing glance,” it is an act of recognition which banishes evil. It has nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. It must flee. 

    Hildegard von Bingen, a twelfth-century Benedictine abbess from Germany, wrote about casting a net around evil. Just catching it and containing it, i imagine, trapping it so it can not go free. 

    Buddha spoke about transforming our pain and suffering into love and compassion.

    These seem to me like useful stepping stones on this path of achievement. Peaceful strategy is new territory to charter. Do we have the consciousness to do it? 

    What i know for sure is that to strike with flowers and chocolates rather than bullets and bombs would be the greatest surprise attack ever. Imagine this raining down from the sky. How would it not soften the hardened heart? 

    The next round could be candles and pomegranates. Maybe we leave baskets of baguette and brie with bottles of wine outside the door. Suddenly we are no longer the enemy. How could we be? We are now a friend. 

    We have be-friended the dark with light. The dark can no longer exist. It has been illuminated. 

    I say shower the terrorists with hand knitted pillows and blankets made by our grandmothers. Teddy bears. Music and meditation CDs from John Lennon and Deepak Chopra. This is a way to Victory. This is a peaceful strategy to win war with Terrorism. 

    Love and kindness. Love and kindness. Like a beating drum....This may be the best way to infiltrate the radicalization process and the radicalized mind. 

Welcoming Home our Warriors

    My grandfather Candee had the good fortune of returning home to a farm after WWII. He had a home, a job, a purpose, and a wife. He was immediately immersed in the healing environment of Nature, what is now called, “green space,” being outdoors, and being with animals.

    Many years ago, while laying under a tree at the farm, I dreamed of the farm becoming a retreat center for all warriors returning home from active duty. A place to land and stay for a time. This pause would allow for an important rite of passage- the assimilation back into civilian life. 

    I think it would be a good idea for us to create a program for our warriors who are crossing the threshold back into civilian life. I like the idea of retreat centers which are therapeutic and integrative. Perhaps even retreat centers that are farms, for there are always so many jobs to do on a farm, so many ways to be useful, and so many ways to be healing. There would be a whole foods, “farm to table,” diet, our excellent evidence-based methods for healing trauma, such as person-centered expressive art therapy, yoga therapy, mindfulness meditation training or transcendental meditation, EMDR, storytelling and music. 

    As a community, I think it’s time for us to address the needs of our returning warriors. Clearly, this is needed. For there are problems. Problems with veterans suffering from trauma, depression, and suicide. Problems with veterans being homeless and jobless. Problems with the way we, as a community, have received returning warriors. 

    Ways to welcome home our warriors are: 1) Healing the physical, psychological and spiritual wounds with state-of-the-art care. 2) Assisting our warriors into jobs and homes, ensuring each and every returning warrior with a place to live and a job to do. 3) Teaching our community how to support returning warriors. 

    What you can do is begin with a “Thank you for your service.” Next, just listen. Be present and listen. Refrain from interrogation, badgering, and questioning. Follow their lead. Ask if a warrior needs help finding a job or home. You may know someone with a spare room.  Choose to hire a veteran. Understand that many veterans feel that they were just doing their job. Whether or not you believe in war, you believe in the good of humanity. So be the good of humanity. 

    “We were trained killers,” my dad would say, speaking of his army days. In truth, he was drafted because he had a failed grade in college. He never served in a war, rather, as chaplain’s assistant in Fairbanks, Alaska, where he met my mother singing in the church choir. 

    However, what we know to be true, is that the heart of military training is dehumanizing psychology. How could it be otherwise? Something is needed in order to train one human being to kill another human being. This knowledge provides us with the answer as to what warriors need when they cross the bridge back. Humanizing psychology. Humanistic psychology. What you can do to welcome home our warriors is to give them your complete acceptance and unconditional positive regard (lovingkindness). This will help. 

    In my grandfather’s time, the trauma of war was not spoken about nor named. Warriors were asked to simply, “move on.” Fortunately we can serve our warriors better today. May we do so.

 

Honoring our Ancestors

    This is the time of year when the veils between the worlds are the thinnest. In many cultures and traditions, it is a time to honor ancestors. I think one of the best ways to honor our ancestors is by telling their stories. 

    When we tell the stories of our ancestors, we not only honor them, but we also learn something about ourselves. This may be valuable to our health and healing. My friend, Dr. Annabelle Nelson PhD, has discovered that when teens tell the stories of their ancestors, it prevents substance abuse. 

    I had a great-great-great grandmother, Wilhelmina, who immigrated from Germany in 1891. She was 51-years-old when she left Pommern,“the land by the sea,” formerly a part of Prussia, and now a part of Poland. She brought her daughter, Amelia, with her. 

    Many people who lived in that region at that time were Ashkenazi Jews (perhaps this explains my feelings of “Jewishness”). Some converted to Christianity when Hitler was coming into power. Others fled. Maybe Wilhelmina could smell the imminent blood on the waters, or maybe she simply thought her children had a better chance of finding their fortune as they left the land at the sea for the American Dream. 

    They settled in Wells, Minnesota and farmed. Amelia gave birth to Elsie, the first to be born on American soil. Amelia died when Elsie was just a little girl. 

    During the Great Depression, Elsie lost all of her money in the bank and was forced to sell her home. This is why my grandmother (her daughter) never trusted banks, preferring to keep her money hidden under the mattress. The family moved into an old farm house in Northern Minnesota. The farm house had no indoor plumbing or electricity, and the kitchen floor was made of dirt. Yet my mother (who was born there) remembers it fondly. For it was her grandmother’s house and she loved the smell of homemade bread baking in the wood stove. 

    My grandmother, LaDonna, became an officer’s wife during World War II, something she was very proud of. She taught all the army brats (children) how to ride horses. My mother remembers her childhood as difficult, for as military, they moved a lot. Because of this she said she never made friends and barely finished high school. 

    Sometimes, ancestors may not be easy to honor or were downright dishonorable. This may be a favorable time to do some healing from the skeletons in the closet. I suggest that these too are important stories to tell. Any guilt or shame are not your burdens to carry. Releasing the silence will free you and your future generations. 

    May you find some ancestors worthy of your honor. And may you find healing from others. Tell the stories of your relations. All my relations.

Gratitude

    My brother died this month, and then he came back to life. He came back grinning ear to ear. As if all one needed to be happy was the gift of life itself. 

    We may pause to be thankful for the gift of life, and for the gift of loved ones in our lives. I like the practice of gratitude because it thwarts taking all for granted. Like the food on our table. If I eat one meal a day, then I know that I have eaten more than many people in the world.

    The September full moon is known as the Harvest Moon in my culture, as in others. The last of the crops are brought in from the fields. I am so grateful for farmers and for the food on my table. And such good food there is on my table.

    Years ago, my neighbor, Donna, shared with me her Chinese-American cultural celebration of the Harvest Moon. In this tradition, we look up at the full moon and think of our loved ones while eating moon cakes. Loved ones are doing the same. I find this to be a very delicious ceremony.

    This week, my heart leapt and wept in gratitude from the kind and generous actions of two colleagues helping me on my path. It felt like a cup in my heart had been filled to the brim. I felt humbled by the immediate trust and willingness. It seemed like this was what mattered most, and more important than the final outcome. We were playing in the fabric of love and compassion. 

    We are all both heroes of our own journeys and helpers in the lives of others. As we, likeFrodo Baggins, traverse the changing landscape of our personal destinies, we are fortunate to encounter friends who share a piece of bread, sew a tattered shoe, and point the way through the forest which avoids the quicksand. 

    I am grateful for my life, for loved ones, anam cara (soul friends) and helpers, clients, home, purpose, passion, wisdom, and the rich and abundant bounty of delicious and nutritious food from the harvest. We will be enjoying savory gluten-free cakes as we gaze up at the moon this year. 

    Gratitude is a powerful tool. However this magical, mysterious Universe works, I can tell you that gratitude will help your dreams come true. Gratitude is a power that has been recognized by people everywhere in the world throughout the history of time. Ways to harvest the power of gratitude include: keeping a gratitude journal-write each day a list of 10 things you feel grateful for in your life right now-, pausing in thanks at the dinner table, and beginning your day in remembrance of that which you are thankful for. 

    Research finds that people who practice gratitude are happier, less depressed, less stressed, more satisfied, more self-accepting, and have greater positive coping skills. No adverse side effects! Gratitude is contagious, and one thing worth spreading. 

    Thank you for reading my blog today. May your days and nights be filled with a 1000 blessings.

Pet Therapy

   There is no doubt that petting animals lowers your blood pressure. A study found that even simply having a dog laying in the same room with you lowers your blood pressure. Animals have proven to be therapeutic: increasing functioning in autistic children, helping warriors heal from post-traumatic stress, and resolving anxiety in our elders.

   When my son was 10-years-old he said to me, “I think Bowser’s bored at home and needs a job.” We were hiking in Skunk Canyon with his dog, Bowser, at the time. My mind turned to what type of job Bowser could have, considering the possibility of a police dog. But when I asked my son, “what kind of job do you think Bowser should have?” he replied, “the only thing he would be good for is a therapy dog.”

    And thus began our training with the Boulder Community Hospital’s Canine Corps. My son was the youngest to ever enter the program, as was his dog. The director was so enamored with them both, that her only stipulation was that I needed to accompany them. We made weekly hospital visits together between 2004-2008. 

    What I discovered was that a visit by a therapy dog during a hospital stay usually gave people a smile, an opportunity to focus outside of their personal illness, and a genuine connection. It was uplifting to spirits. It was also a welcome break for the nurses, who, at their stations, would keep a box of dog biscuits in the drawer. 

    Bowser generally liked visiting with everyone. After all, what a great job to have, people petting you all the time and occasional treats from nurses. Once in awhile he would communicate to us that he was not comfortable with someone, and so we would not stay. We always took a walk afterwords, where he could run in the trees and unwind from it all.

    Bowser is an old man now and retired from hospital work. However, he still seems to consider himself a therapy dog with clients that I see in our home. He has helped many children to feel comfortable. I remember a young boy on his second visit pronouncing, “Bowser loves me the best.” 

    My daughter's cat, Sky, who has had no formal training, also seems to consider herself a therapy animal. She tends to conclude that if she sits in your lap, you will feel all better. When a reluctant child found out I had a cat here, he said to his parents, “that changes things.

    Sky is a remarkable cat. She breaks all cat stereotypes with her friendly and social nature. She charms complete strangers by walking right up to them to visit. People take selfies with her. Sky has become somewhat of a celebrity in our neighborhood.

    All animals can be therapeutic. I daresay horses were my first therapy as a teenager. Horses have a special and historical relationship with military (My grandfather was enlisted in the US Army’s last Cavalry in World War II). There are many equine therapy programs for veterans across the US. In Colorado, veterans can visit Suzy MacKenzie at Eagles Nest Ranch and ride horses. 

    Pet therapy works for many reasons. People may find it easier to form a safe and trusting relationship with an animal. Animals are usually pretty honest, loyal, and will love and accept you unconditionally. Animals, large and small, may remind us of our inter-connectedness. They bring us outside of ourselves. They may give us purpose and protection, they may mobilize us, and comfort us. Without question. They intrinsically give us permission to be silly, vulnerable, childish, open, adoring and to touch. Touch is a vital nutrient. As essential as food and water. Touch turns on beneficial molecules in our psychology, neurology, and immunology.

Blessings

     I scattered wildflower seeds behind my house and was surprised when a wildflower prairie did not zoom up out of the ground like the picture on the seed package. “Nonsense,” my mother had said, “you need to put in some plants.”

    And so that spring on her birthday, i stopped at the nursery after dropping my daughter off at school. i stood in the chilly morning air, filling a tray with both well thought out and spontaneous purchases. After warming up in the house with a second cup of coffee, i trundled back out into the cloudy day to plant.

    My neighbor, Neyah, walked by just then, and said, “With weather like this it is a good time to plant, and they will do well.” I appreciated his blessing.

    To bless is to wish well. We all have the power to bless. Blessing transcends religion and spirituality. We all may enjoy giving and receiving well wishes.

   A blessing, as a noun, is something which we are grateful for in our lives. When we begin to count our blessings, we find we have much to be thankful for. Counting our blessings is an exercise in gratitude, and gratitude promotes happiness.

    Counting my blessings is a part of my personal practice. There have been times when I do this before falling asleep at night, or as currently, during my morning meditation. My daughter, my son, my husband, my clients, this roof over our heads.... and over time, curious and often overlooked or taken for granted things; my legs, my hands, the functioning of my body, the sweet smell of rain through an open window, the time and freedom to write..... flush toilets... toilet paper even.

    We pause for blessing at our dinner table.  A simple and often times silent, “thank you to this fish, these beans and rice and tomatoes and avocado and lettuce and olives. Thank you for this water, and beer. Thank you to the fishermen and farmers, truck drivers and grocery clerks, and the hands that worked to buy this food and cook this food. And the hands which will eat this food. May it nourish us well.”

     At times, our minds may see a situation as a curse rather than a blessing. This point of reference usually makes us feel miserable. It is always possible to take a different point of view, turning things upside down or inside out, facing them in the opposite direction or from an eagle eye perspective. Flip it on it’s head, and spin it around.

    I remember a time that I was at a party. A mom cried to me that her daughter was still living with her. She was in college and living at home. At that same party, another mom rejoiced to me that her daughter was still living with her. She was in college and living at home. 

   My neighbor, Cynthia, walked by and saw our new Prius parked behind our house. She marveled and instantly placed her two hands on the roof. “May all have safe and happy travels here.

    I am humbled by the vastness of all I have to be thankful for. I feel such an overwhelming sense of gratitude. We are all so blessed. 

    May your days and nights be filled with a 1000 blessings.

Lovingkindness Meditation

Peace on Earth begins with peace in the self. So, how do we accomplish this? After all, we are emotional beings- we may feel peaceful at times- but angry, sad, upset,  or hopeless at others. Meditations (mental exercises) can be useful tools for helping us return to peacefulness. Lovingkindness (Metta in the Pali language) meditation has been used for centuries in Buddhism, but with adaptions may be used as a non-denominational therapeutic intervention.

   The term, ‘lovingkindness’ refers to unconditional positive regard and nonexclusive love for all beings. Lovingkindness meditation emphasizes well-being for self and others, and is evidenced to reduce stress and pain in relationships, promote happiness, and increase social connectedness. Brain imaging studies find lovingkindness meditation activates circuitries linked to emotional processing and empathy.         

  Lovingkindness Meditation may be useful to many populations: from children in elementary schools to parents, neighbors, colleagues, and diplomats in the United Nations. Lovingkindness meditation grows emotional intelligence and is likely to decrease the incidence of bullying in schools. If our politicians began their meetings with this meditation, then we may find that they cooperate a little better. Compassion may be the technology which advances human civilization. 

    Lovingkindness Meditation is a technique which helps us to grow in consciousness of and connection to the values of kindness, empathy, and compassion. It can transform how we consider ourselves and treat others. The development of kind and compassionate thought may lead to greater humane action and global empathic consciousness. Ultimately, I believe lovingkindness meditation is helpful to bringing peace on earth.

     In American medicine and psychology today meditation is considered a mind-body therapeutic intervention. Positioning meditation as a mind-body therapeutic intervention unassociated with spirituality or religion allows it a greater audience and application. It is an important distinction to make, for people may be resistant to meditation if they perceive it to be a spiritual practice inconsistent with their own beliefs; likewise it may be overlooked by clinicians. 

 

Spirituality in Healing

    I walked in the sun and the rain. The sun shone and the rain fell simultaneously. I was thankful for my waterproof jacket. Having the right gear when you’re outdoors can make all the difference in the world. 

    This led me to think about how having the right gear in your indoor world can make all the difference too. The indoor world where your mind lives. What gear do you have to cope with adversity, setbacks, failures, even? What gear do you have to handle your own thoughts and feelings? 

    My husband asked me to blog on spirituality in healing. I published a paper which explored this topic (Williams-Orlando C. Spirituality in Integrative Medicine. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal 2012;11(4):34-40.) When I think of the gear which may help us traverse our inner landscape, I think of qualities like love, kindness, forgiveness, trust, hope, faith, truth, gratitude, courage and joy. 

    These qualities may be considered as spiritual values. Independent and transcendent of any particular religion or belief system, these intangible and invisible qualities can help us at times, like a coat on a rainy day. Spiritual values may be useful gear for us in healing. 

    I like the way Caroline Myss defines spirit: “Your spirit is the part of you that seeks meaning and purpose. It’s the part drawn to hope, that will not give in to despair.” I like this definition because it speaks to our universal humanity, whether or not we believe in God(s), Goddess(s), Great Spirit or higher power of any sort. 

    Today I counseled a teenager who had “losing faith” written in blue ink across her fingers. I asked her about it, and I asked her how she would find faith again. Here the discussion turns to what rejuvenates, refreshes, and recharges us, what feeds our spirit, and our happiness. What makes us feel strong and what makes us feel weak? What uplifts our spirit and what drains it? 

    I remember a time I was counseling a woman who was suffering from depression. A part of what I prescribed to her was to increase pleasurable activities. For her, this was playing the piano. Making it a priority to do something pleasurable each day feeds our will to live. 

    I often make use of lovingkindness meditation for people who are self-critical and “beat themselves up.” Lovingkindness meditation is the antidote to this poison. Lovingkindness meditation builds self-compassion and grows empathy.

    My son taught me years ago that what teens often need from their parents is trust. It is a practice for parents. But it often helps you and your relationship to trust in your teen and trust in life itself. 

    In psychology, we look for gear which enhances emotional well-being, builds positive coping skills, reduces stress, and encourages self-care. Perhaps the greater the turmoil, the more sophisticated our gear needs to be. If you are climbing mountains rather than taking a stroll in the park, you really need good shoes on. You need a good tread. 

    Spiritual values are gear which may suit us up to be healthy and happy, peaceful and well, in our innermost tinkering. We may lean on spiritual values in healing. As my doctoral chair and celebrated pioneer in integrative medicine, Dr. Jeannie Achterberg, defined “Healing is making the heart comfortable.”