Imagine how you treat yourself on a daily basis as if you were another person, in a relationship with you. Are you good to yourself? Is your mind kind to your body and soul?
Anxiety, depression and unhappiness occur when people are not living their lives in a way that is congruent with their authentic selves. This is what I have learned after providing psychotherapy to a diverse clientele for over 20 years. Also, I've noticed many people get stuck on the proverbial “hamster wheel” of life---an endless cycle of work and household responsibilities and obligations. Seldom do they pause to reflect about who they really are or why they do what they do. The lack of deeper meaning or connection to their work and life roles causes them to shift into autopilot---a state of unconsciousness and stagnation. They become disconnected from their true selves, their relationships and even the world around them. A man came to me recently for counseling---an educated, articulate, likable guy in his 40's. He'd never seen a therapist before and wasn't quite sure what to expect. He hated his lucrative job but felt stuck in a pair of "golden handcuffs" because he has a family to support. He reported his wife was unhappy that he doesn't help more with tasks at home---they bicker and had become emotionally and sexually disconnected. He felt badly about himself at work and home. Some bright moments with his children seemed to keep him trudging along. Having cocktails with colleagues a few days a week was apparently the way he coped with his stress, disappointment, and loneliness. It seemed hard for him to even identify his feelings, let alone express them in session. He appeared boxed-in by fears, self-limiting beliefs, and all the thoughts of what he "should" be doing and feeling... It was if he had shut down and lost his voice years ago---twenty years ago, to be specific... Sadly, I see this scenario frequently in my practice. It's my deep honor and pleasure to help people: Reconnect with their true selves through "mirroring" how I see and understand them, their strengths & unique gifts. Re-engage their important relationships via empathy, authenticity, vulnerability & open/effective communication. Rebalance their lives with hobbies and leisure through the setting of healthy boundaries and time management. Refuel themselves through self-care practices and making them a top priority. Realign their work with their greatest gifts and life mission through positive thinking, tapping into their courage, and engaging in proactive behaviors. Revitalize their passion for the great gift of life by practicing gratitude and connecting with their essence or spirit. What a gift to help people recover and awaken! I love my life's work.... I recommend the following to free yourself and live an authentic and amazing life:
I love when I notice I’m smiling when I’m alone. The smile isn’t falsely constructed to please anyone else. Rather, it’s naturally powered by my inner bliss, which radiates and beams through my being. After many years of deep, inner work, I’m at a place in my life where I seem to have found greater peace and more bountiful joy. My mind is free to dream. My heart sings. My spirit dances. My body feels all that is sensual and good. My parents told me they named me, “Joyce” because they were rejoiced by my birth. I’m grateful for this life and to my parents for choosing my name which means, “Happy." For happiness is most certainly the path I choose. After 20 years of counseling clients and working on my own psycho-spiritual journey, I recommend the following ways to choose happiness: 1. Don’t attach your happiness to anything external. We run into problems when we make our happiness dependent on our relationships, jobs, finances or bodies or on anticipated outcomes. Recalibrate your expectations to zero. Happiness is an inner experience that is yours to claim. Everything else is impermanent. 2. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Identifying with your mind exacerbates stress, anxiety, and pressure. Our egos use anger to preserve and protect themselves, causing disconnection and displeasure. Detach from your ego and get over yourself. 3. Give freely. Give and share what you can, whenever you can. Give compliments, love, affection, help, resources, time, consideration, thoughtfulness, respect, empathy, etc. It feels delightful and karma will bring it back to you, threefold. 4. Receive openly. Accept compliments, help and gifts. Embrace touch and praise. Absorb love and affection. Remember that the act of receiving allows other people the experience of giving. 5. Drink in the love. Hard to explain, but let me try...
The pounding of your passionate heart, The endless flow of your breath, The fierce power of your life force, The vital energy of your being, The exhilaration of your dreams, The reverberation of your free and open spirit, The beautiful song of your soul, The intense feeling of being alive. Life is a miraculous gift. Yet, as many of us move through time, we seem to have forgotten. We’ve grown weary, disconnected, distracted or detached. We’ve lost our connection with our inner fire---our unique experience of being alive and belonging in a greater sense to others, and the world around us. Over the past 20 years, I’ve counseled individuals and couples seeking therapy for anxiety, depression, addiction, relationship issues, etc. Regardless of the presenting issue, I’ve felt it my deep honor and profound responsibility to reignite their inner fire. I do this by knowing them, mirroring back to them all of their strengths and gifts, and then inviting them to align their lives with who they truly are as their highest and best selves. One client recently said, “Thank you for making me embrace my life and my light and step into who I truly am.” If your inner fire has dampened from the stressors and challenges of living in today’s world, I recommend the following inspirational intentions: 1) I intend to surround myself with people who see me as my highest and best self and light my inner light. 2) I intend to connect with my deeper self through creative activities that refuel my energy.
Large and rapidly moving, ominous clouds of negativity roll into my mind, infuse my thoughts and deeply darken my mood. As I exhale, I feel the irritability fume from my nostrils like fiery smoke from a dragon’s. As I bristle with defensiveness and hostility, I feel the energetic spikes of anger jet from my spine, creating a non-verbal warning to others to steer clear. My eyes narrow and shoot lasers of fury. My tongue sharpens and my words become cutting and biting. As waves of anger ripple through my body, my energy and power grows. My walk becomes a stomp and I can almost feel the slash of my tail as I move, determined to defend myself and survive anything that comes my way. “I’m in a bad mood today," I said to my dear friend and colleague. I feared she could see the dragon, was ashamed of my rage, and wanted to give her warning of my mood-state to protect our relationship. “Really? You seem totally fine," she said. Interestingly, more often than not, others do not see the dragon. I have spent a lifetime hiding her and have apparently gotten quite good at it. “Anyway, you are entitled to be in a bad mood with what you have going on," she added. What? Entitled to be in a bad mood? This was a radical new concept to me, and one that changed my life.
“Only if you stand on my lab table in the front of the room and sing ‘Joy to the World’,” said Mr. Sneider, my science teacher. It was the first week of freshman year of high school. I’d forgotten my homework and asked if it could be turned in the next day. I looked him in the eye and smiled as I pushed back my chair. As I proceeded to the front of the silent room, I could feel 25 sets of eyes on my back, many of them belonging to students I had not yet met. I climbed on the high, black table and stood in my Madonna-inspired outfit, with a mesh bow in my badly permed hair (it was 1986...) I took a deep breath and proceeded to belt out every verse of the, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog...” version of “Joy to the World.” I received a standing ovation. This silly display of bold behavior led to unexpected blessings in my life. Two girls whom I didn’t know came up to me after class, said it was the bravest thing they ever saw and asked me to be their friend (which I still am today.) Mr. Sneider was dumbfounded as he apparently had been saying that line for 20 years with no takers. He gave me credit for the homework and spread the story like wildfire amongst the teaching staff. As I went to my other classes, my teachers would say, “Aren’t you the girl who...?” This event resulted in the teachers taking notice, and encouraging me to become involved in activities such as student government, cheerleading and A’Capella choir... In my adult life, I continue to consciously choose to push fear aside and to live courageously. This has welcomed
"In the end, these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go?" ~Buddha Therapists, coaches, and yoga instructors love to tell us to, "Let it go!" Sounds divine, yet ambiguous... What exactly is involved in the process of letting go? After 20 years of counseling clients and taking a stab or two at letting go of my own "stuff", I recommend the following strategies: 1) Detach from outcome and focus on the process. If your mind is obsessing about whether or not this is the person you are going to marry, you are going to miss the enjoyment of courtship and that first kiss... Trust in the greater plan for your life and trust that things unfold over time as they should. 2) Understand that the life you thought you would have may not be the life you will actually have. Many of us have a concept of who we are and how we think our life is going to go. The more we live, the more we learn that things don't always go as planned. Understand that not only is this okay, it might actually be better. Practice gratitude and trust in the process. 3) Don't hang your hat on expectations, because this often leads to disappointment. Expectations have a way of keeping us in relationships or situations far too long, investing more and more in hopes to finally hit Pay Day. Expectations are not guarantees, rather they are markers. When our expectations or needs are not met, we need to take note, respond assertively and appropriately, and be flexible enough to change course if need be. 4) Break the barriers you've created for yourself that keep you imprisoned. We all have self-limiting beliefs. "I could never do that!" "I could never wear that!" "I could never earn that!" If you believe you won't, you won't. Expand your thinking and allow more into your life. 5) Relinquish control over others, for it's false anyways. We only truly have control over our own thoughts, behaviors, choices, actions and decisions. 6) Separate yourself from attachment to externals (possessions, beauty, titles, money, status, situation, etc.) Bring your attention to the internal, deeper, psycho-spiritual-relational process within. This will bring you peace, calm and serenity. When we focus on externals, enough is never enough. 7) Commit to not worrying about what other people think. While hanging onto your morale compass, free yourself from being consumed or controlled by the opinions of others. Choose to care more about how you feel about yourself than whether or not your neighbor approves. We are our happiest when we live our lives in a way that is aligned with our authentic selves.
Electric shivers of euphoria ripple throughout her naked body. The summer breeze encircles the lovers, intensifying the deeply arousing sensation of the wetness on her nipples from his passionate kisses. She gazes into his yearning eyes, effortlessly accessing the opening to his soul and harnessing the power of their profound connection. The rhythm of their breath mirrors the push and pull of their craving hips and entwined bodies. Her heart pounds and her genitals throb, wet with the thirst of desire. As her hands explore her lover’s body with reckless abandon, she inhales his dizzying scent and tastes the saltiness of his skin. She feels vibrant aliveness in her parting lips as she moves down his torso. Her cascading hair creates a veil which doesn’t quite prevent him from watching as she draws him into her mouth. With every breath, motion, and fiber of her being, she expresses her fierce desire, unabashed love and undying devotion. She finds herself in a dreamlike, meditative state with beautiful visions, images, colors and light refracting in her minds-eye. Intoxicating energy reverberates throughout her gently rocking body. After her lover climaxes with a deep release and exhale, he pulls her close to his broad and gratified smile. He holds her with a firm and strong caress before his face descends and dips between her softly quaking thighs... This example illustrates that mindfulness enhances sex by increasing sensual connection. The following are five practices for you and your partner to embrace together: 1) Breathe consciously & deeply. Breathe down to the abdomen, giving life force, power, and energy to the sexual regions of the body. Breathe in what you desire and want to receive (i.e. love, connection, passion, etc.). Exhale. Relieve the tension. Surrender to the explosive release of the orgasm and the natural flow of the sexual fluids. Synch the rhythm of your breath with your partner’s and deepen it together. Tantric sex is a way to prolong and transcend your sexual experience. 2) Be present & aware. Instead of obsessing about the past or worrying about the future, bring your complete and full attention to the present moment. Minimize distractions. Turn off the television. Silence your phone. Put Fido or Fluffy in the other room. Silence intrusive thoughts (no grocery lists allowed during mind-blowing sex!) Focus your attention on your sensual awareness (the curvature of the body, the softness, the slipperiness...) Consider kegel exercises for bodily awareness and control of the intricate internal muscles related to sex. Practice yoga for breath work, increased mind/body awareness, and improved flexibility. It can also enhance sex and provide ideas for new positions. Avoid internal mind-chatter about worries about your body or your performance. Sex gurus, Masters and Johnson, refer to this phenomenon as, "spectatoring" because it prevents you from being present in the experience by putting you in the role of the observer.
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~Maya Angelou All too often, we take the people we love the most for granted: our lovers, family members, friends, and even our children. We forget the enormous power of our words, as we carelessly lash out when under stress. We stick our noses in our laptops and smartphones, assuming our loved ones know what we are failing to verbalize, sometimes until the relationships are disconnected or damaged beyond repair. Make a choice to consciously nurture your relationships with verbal communications of love. Be kind and sincere. Ask open-ended questions with an open heart. Listen empathically and non-defensively. Remember, there are no conditions, no strings, no expectations, and no manipulations. Simply, love to love. Sprinkle your relationships with these loving sentiments and watch your relationships blossom: 1. I am here for you. 2. Thank you. Thanks for all you do for me and all the ways in which you add value to my life. 3. You are beautiful. What I find most beautiful about you, inside and out, is: _____. 4. How are you? Truthfully, fully and completely---how are you, really? 5. Tell me about your dreams. 6. Tell me about your fears. 7. Tell me about your beliefs about life, love, the world, etc. 8. I am thinking about you. 9. I appreciate you. 10. I care about your feelings. 11. You are important to me. 12. I made a mistake and I’m sorry. I sincerely apologize. Please forgive me. 13. I value our relationship. 14. I am grateful and fortunate to have you in my life. 15. What can I do to support you? 16. How are you feeling about our relationship? 17. How are you feeling about me? 18. The qualities I love about you most are: _____. 19. I notice and really appreciate your efforts and growth in these areas: _____. 20. What's most meaningful to me about our connection is: ______.
It was 3 o’clock in the morning when I opened my eyes and felt like my body had been hit by a Mack truck. I was in the guest bedroom of my parents’ home in Ohio. As I became conscious, I recalled the previous day’s unseemly events---selecting a casket, shopping for a black suit for my mother, and a surreal slew of other revolting tasks my sister and I completed with robotic formality as silent screams reverberated through my 28 year-old mind. Then I remembered---my father had died following a routine surgery. My body ached with sadness from head to toe as I got up to go to my father’s moonlit den. I picked up a paper and pen with my hands, leadened with grief, and began to write his eulogy. Tears streamed down my face as the words flowed out of my heart and through the pen until the paper was filled. I wrote the eulogy from beginning to end without changing a word. In retrospect, I believe this is because in my grief-stricken state, I was stripped down to my most vulnerable and authentic self. The message I wanted to deliver was easily accessed from my soul and downloaded to the paper. At the funeral, I heard the ‘click clack’ of my heels on the stone floor as I walked alone to the altar and up to the podium, relieved I was standing when I feared I would crumble. As I recited the eulogy, I heard a somber strength in the timbre of my voice as I looked into the mass of saddened faces. When I finished, I returned to my seat where my husband hugged me and my mother and three siblings thanked me through matching sets of blue-gray eyes, all overflowing with tears. “Beautiful, Joyce...,” I recall the priest saying after taking a long pause. He noted that while my father had achieved a Harvard MBA and an impressive career as a corporate executive, I had mentioned none of that. The things I had mentioned included things about who he was as a man and as a father---things that mattered to me. For example: