Get the Courage to Live the Life You Want: 15 Affirmations

“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


Let Go & Free Yourself: 21 Strategies

"In the end, these things matter most:
How well did you love? 
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?"
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.


Mindfulness for Mind-Blowing Sex: 5 Practices

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.

Family Life

50 Loving Sentiments We Should All Say More Often

“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: ______.


What Death Taught Me About Life: 5 Inspirational Lessons

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:


Increase the Resiliency of Your Relationship: 6 Strategies

"Well, you two certainly have a very resilient relationship!" our marital therapist exclaimed to my husband and me several years ago, with obvious surprise and relief detectable in her face and her voice. She was responding to our report that we had nicely recovered from our Armageddon conflict from the week prior and were in a good space.

Damn straight we are resilient. How else do you think we would have made it 25 years from prom to present day?

Resiliency isn't about avoiding conflict. Conflict is inevitable and is something that we can learn to manage better with practice. Resiliency is about bouncing back to connection after conflict.

Through my own personal relationship journey as well as 20 years experience counseling individuals and couples, I recommend the following strategies for developing resiliency in your relationship:

1) Detach from your ego. Practice humility. Be willing to let go of the need to be right. Be willing to let go of the need to win. Be willing to unlock your horns, put down your sword, or let go of your end of the rope in the game of "tug-of-war." When we detach from ego, we become conscious. When we are conscious and practice empathy, we diffuse anger and invite our partner to become consciously connected with us.

2) Zoom out. Step back and see the big picture from a larger perspective. The current issue or argument is just one small blip in time in a much greater context. In my Armaggedon example in the first paragraph, my husband and I were able to see that even though we were both really hurt and mad at each other, the current issue wasn't worth dwelling on when we have a lifetime of positive experiences behind us and a family and a future together. This greater vantage point helps shrink overwhelming mountains back to molehills that you and your partner can manage.


Weaken the Fiction in Your Head: 3 Strategies

“Here’s my advice to you,” said the mindfulness expert I consulted. He wrote on small piece of paper, then set it in front of me. It said, “WTF.” I looked up at him with an amused smirk. “Weaken The Fiction,” he said with a smile.

Oh indeed, the incredible fiction I concoct in my head... Depending on my mood's "flavor of the day", my distorted and fantastical thinking might sound like something from a scene from The Hunger Games, The Cat in the Hat, or 50 Shades of Grey...

Non-reality and future-based thinking is an normal aspect of the human condition (at least this is what I tell myself!) While some of the fiction we write in our heads can serve useful purposes such as artistic creation, problem solving, invention, pleasurable fantasy, and exploring hopes, dreams and desires. However, when taken too far it can move from healthy escapism to reality avoidance and prevent us from living your life consciously in the here-and-now. Furthermore, future-based thinking can add fuel to the fires of depression and anxiety and causes us to expend emotional energy on events that have not yet occurred and may never occur.

For example, I recall one client, a beautiful professional woman in her mid-30's who began hysterically crying during her session. She was experiencing emotional agony in response to the self-torturous fiction she was writing in her head. In her mind, the boyfriend whom had recently broken up with her had already replaced her with a stunningly gorgeous woman who was perfect in every way---meeting his every need and desire fully and completely. She imagined their blissful relationship and him miraculously evolved from all of the lessons he'd learned from their relationship and her teaching him to be more communicative and emotionally available. She sobbed and wailed as she envisioned their wedding, their beautiful children, and her lonely life as a singleton in her studio apartment, never to find love again...


Self-Love: 10 Keys

Healthy self-love is the balance between grandiosity (inflated self-love) and low self-esteem (a lack of self-love.)

The following are key strategies that are critical in practicing self-love: 

1) Consciously choose to be your own best friend. Replace your inner critic with a positive and gentle voice that compassionately coaches you through the trials and tribulations of life. Imagine the grief you will save yourself without the almost incessant criticizing and comparing and instead choosing to tap into the endless source of support that is so readily available?

2) Surround yourself with positive support. Free yourself from toxic relationships and unhealthy life roles by being direct in your communication with others. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Let go of relationships that constrain you and bring you down. Set healthy boundaries, say 'no' when you need to, and create space for joy and love in your life. Spend time with people who believe in you and want the best for you.

3) Live your life in a way that is congruent with who you truly are. Be authentic and honest with yourself and others. Don't pretend to be somebody you aren't just to live up to somebody else's standards. Also, don't live your life for somebody else. Be open and real. Free yourself from the opinions of others and care more about if you feel comfortable in your own skin.

4) Invest time, energy and resources in your dreams. Quite frankly, you will experience a slow psychological death and much self-loathing if you don't. You deserve to have your dreams come to fruition and you are more than capable and deserving. Align yourself with your highest vision. Create a plan with measurable objectives, a support team and a timeline.  Make your dreams your reality. 


25 Affirmations to Align Yourself with the Greater Good

1) I understand that my issues are HOW I am, not WHO I am.

2) I am the whole, unique spirit of light and love that shines from deep within.

3) I accept all choices I've made as the best decisions I could make with the knowledge and information I had at the time.

4) I understand all is as it should be and trust in a greater plan for my life, both personally and professionally.

5) I humbly honor my strengths, blessings and  gifts---I bestow them to the world around me.

6) I turn down the volume on my inner critic---I extend myself the same compassion and forgiveness that I readily extend to others whom I love very dearly.

7) I honor my feelings as normal responses to my nature and life experiences---I allow myself to feel emotions and express them appropriately without residual shame, guilt or anxiety.

8) I see the beauty and the goodness in myself, others and the world around me.


Men Who Work on Themselves Are Sexy

I'm a feminist who loves men. Not only do I appreciate the beauty of the male physique and the intoxicating power of masculine energy---I value the ways in which men process emotions, relationships, and life differently than women.  

I’ve had the deep honor and privilege of counseling hundreds of men (if not more) over the past 20 years. In my opinion, (in general) men are more rational, logical and linear in their thinking, decisive, direct, and more self-oriented than women. I see this as a normal result of nature and nurture. I have harvested great wisdom from my male clients (and hope to have taught them a thing or two...)

I notice (again, in general) that I exercise different clinical muscles with my male clients than my female clients. With women, I am often empathizing, supporting, and building them up in preparation for self-actualization. With men, I find that I am chipping through a wall of defensiveness that prevents them from connecting with their authentic self and having deeper connections with others. Again, I attribute this to nature (DNA) and nurture (psychosocial experiences.)

In the past, men were expected to be unfailing and to know it all. That is no longer a working paradigm because it's unfair. I'm excited to live during a time that these gender roles are converging. Women are allowed to be strong and men are allowed to be sensitive. Subsequently, humanity will evolve, God willing...

Men and women are equal partners in humanity. Times are changing from a traditional division of life roles to something more balanced and evolved. Researchers say that androgynous (high masculine and high feminine) personality types are the healthiest. This means that healthy men and women possess positive traditionally masculine traits (confidence, decisiveness, assertiveness, directness, etc.) and traditionally feminine traits (empathy, thoughtfulness, insight, compassion, etc.)

One of my girlfriends who is raising sons said, "I feel sad for boys. They do not have the same resources as girls to express their feelings and receive support." This is true and this needs to change.