Out of the Casino and into the Arms of Life

In my last entry I described how emotional healing proceeds by means of Ten Steps Forward, Nine Steps Back. That essay grew out of my recent mood profile: for the last year or so I've enjoyed long stretches of expansive ease punctuated by short runs of contractive neurosis. During sunny times, I feel love for all beings and worry little about my personal fate. But during darker days, I hear myself recite a litany of...


Healing after Trauma: Ten Steps Forward, Nine Steps Back

Most of us have suffered psychological wounds. Just as the body can be damaged, so can the mind. But the similarity ends there, because mental and physical injuries heal by different means.

At another time I'll explore physical healing in detail, but for now a brief outline will suffice:
A wound to flesh and bone heals through sequential processes of fibro-vascular ingrowth, scar formation, and remodeling. Early steps focus on restoring basic integrity. The first-responders are inflammatory cells...


The Empty Fullness of Life

One strain of meditative practice within Buddhism leads us to appreciation of emptiness. As we trace experience to its core, it dissolves before our eyes.

This happens, for instance, in the psyche. Our sense of identity seems solid until we try to locate it in the mind, where we discover only a mass of competing influences without fixed axis.

If we seek solidity in 'real-world' experience, we discover that our minds offer us halls of mirrors. Perceptions are but...


Your Inner River

We know we're made of water. The bodily proportion of H2O is 50% in females and 60% in males. My new project, , aims to help us understand what it means to be a human organism, and to take that understanding inward by way of felt experience. By appreciating our biological nature, we can begin to feel more grounded and less alone, a key task in recovering after childhood adversity. It helps to...


Floating in the Hormonal Sea

Our body chemistry changes, moment by moment. We feel this indirectly as energy levels rise and fall, fullness gives way to hunger, and arousal alternates with sleepiness. Many of these internal shifts are due to hormones.

The pituitary gland, connected directly to the hypothalamus in the brain, drives many of the body's other glands, and so plays a big part in this hormonal drama. It is a primary means by which the nervous system influences somatic...


The Soft Animal of the Body

Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. -- Mary Oliver

Bessel van der Kolk's 2014 book, The Body Keeps the Score, reminds me of how strongly both my physical and mental condition have been shaped by trauma. Spinal arthritis, abdominal pain, chronic muscle aches, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and many other problems combine to form an inner ledger of the abuse, bereavement, and neglect of my childhood and the uproar, frustration, and terror...

The Most Important Key to Healthy Aging

In my recent post, 4 Ways to Embrace Aging, I offered five hints but should have offered a sixth. What's most important when growing older, I believe, is to treat the body with compassion.

There is a temptation to micro-manage our physical forms as they age. Cosmetic surgery, anti-aging creams, hair-growth formulas, erectile drugs, and innumerable other interventions promise to halt, reverse, or compensate for deterioration. Their massive market success is testament to how we resist growing older, how we struggle to hold...


4 Ways to Embrace Aging

Our bodies age. As members of the kingdom of animals, we inherit a biology that grows less efficient with time. Glitches and injuries accumulate. Our youthful form is lost, and our aged one is gained.

By dint of fear of change, the innate sexual attractiveness of younger bodies,...


4 Tips for Improving Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem, which is just another term for shame, is very common in our culture. It especially afflicts those who grew up abused, neglected, or bereaved. Here are some simple tips for building confidence.

1. Be Fair

Everyone suffers from flaws. It's not fair to focus on our own personal defects without acknowledging the messiness of every personality.

If we only notice our own shortcomings, we feel insecure. If we remember that falling short is part of the human...