The Holidays, Family, and Spiritual Growth

I just discovered Sally Kempton, former journalist turned meditation teacher, via Facebook (of all places!) thanks to a friend from graduate school, who shared the following article “Your Roots Are Showing.” It’s holiday time, and with holidays, for most of us, comes family, and with family, comes stress. This article highlights what, exactly, is stressful about these gatherings: the family dynamics, the emotional triggers, the patterns of behavior and belief within the family system, and most importantly, what we can do about it all.


Your Roots Are Showing

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How is talking going to help?

Article: How Psychotherapy Retrains The Brain


I just great a great article by Alex Afram, PhD published on the Good Therapy website on “how therapy helps.” The short answer is a little something called limbic resonance, which I first learned about some 10+ years ago when I read the phenomenal book A General Theory of Love. I haven’t looked at my own dog-eared, marked up and waterlogged copy of this book for years, but just realized that the image of the two chairs on the book’s cover must have been where I ‘borrowed’ the idea for my own website’s image! Ha!


The idea behind limbic resonance is that we are (unconsciously) deeply connected to one another, especially in our closest relationships, in a way that contributes to our emotional regulation (or dysregulation). Through both verbal and nonverbal responses, we are constantly giving feedback to one another in a way that shapes our experiences of ourselves, each other, and the world at large. This capacity has huge implications for personality development and well-being.

Here’s how that relationship plays out in the therapy room:

Our brains are always evolving unconsciously through our relationships. People who experienced painful relationships growing up have been trained to expect hurtful experiences with others. It takes a new type of relationship—in particular, a therapeutic relationship—to retrain the brain to expect more positive experiences, which is a big part of ultimately feeling better.

Read the article! 

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May The Force Be Mindful

May The Force Be Mindful

Yesterday was May 4th, a date which in recent years come to be known as “Star Wars Day” thanks to it’s phonetic likeness to the infamous message portrayed in the Star Wars films “May The Force (May the Fourth) Be With You.”

Although I grew up amid the burgeoning cultural phenomenon that was the Star Wars trilogy, the love affair with the films passed me by in my youth. As an adult, however, I have gotten to know the three original films, in addition to the prequels and the recent movie The Force Awakens, and I must admit, I have fallen hard for this epic tale.

While I’m not a huge fan of battle-scenes and the futuristic beings, modes of transport, or weaponry that get others excited about this saga, the philosophy edified by the great teacher Yoda struck a deep chord within. The underlying messages of letting go, sharing wisdom, embracing the present moment, and setting aside all other thoughts to ‘search your feelings’ for what is true are teachings I value both as a student of meditation and psychotherapist.

Check out this great article by Ali Mattu, PhD that further explores the link between Buddhist practice of mindfulness and the Star Wars saga: Mindfulness is the Essential Psychology of the Star Wars Universe 

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Relationship Resources

With Valentine’s only a day away, relationships have been this week’s trending topic online! The task of being in an intimate relationship is, I often say to my clients, one of the greatest challenges of our adult lives. We love to romanticize the act of coupling, but the reality, is that true intimacy can feel scary, shaky, and pretty damn un-sexy. We all have blind-spots, imperfections, and room for improvement. What follows is a compilation of some of my favorites from this past week’s web-surfing activities for your reading and watching enjoyment!

Last night I checked out Esther Perel’s The Secret to Desire In Long Term Relationship on Youtube after learning about her work in this NY Times article The Sexual Healer. Perel began her counseling career with a master’s degree in expressive arts and has, in recent years, refocused her energies toward studying sexuality in couples. What I love about Perel is her non-prescriptive way of posing the important questions and eliciting responses. The way in which she honors the mystery of sexuality and desire, exploring the duality and seeming contradictions in the nature of human wants and needs is a welcome change from the formulaic dispensing of information from a researcher that has found all the answers. Perel makes you think about yourself as a multidimensional, complex sexual being, and may even change the way you relate to your sexual Self.


This week I also learned of a college course entitled Marriage 101 being offered at Northwestern thanks to The Atlantic’s The First Lesson of Marriage 101: There are no Soul Mates.  This immediately elicited college-nostalgia and the wish that I’d been able to take such a course as an undergrad! As part of the reading list, Perel’s 2006 book Mating in Captivity is read and the focus of the course is on experiential self-exploration, which was the main style of pedagogy at my own alma mater, John F. Kennedy University. I have found this approach to learning to be the most transformative method for students, as it enables them to incorporate the class material in a way that reading and writing alone just can’t do. Some of the main lessons covered in the class include:

  • Self-understanding is the first step to having a good relationship
  • You can’t avoid marital conflict, but you can learn how to handle it better
  • A good marriage takes skill
  • You and your partner need a similar worldview


dailyrelationshipDaily Relationship – I learned about Brendan and Juna’s work last year via Facebook. Both are graduates of the Hendricks Institute and residents in the lovely Marin County, CA, a place that I am lucky enough to have called my home for two years. On their website they share their successes and struggles with their own relationship, which I have found to be tremendously courageous and entirely relatable. With their videos and writings you can learn about some of their challenges from the early stages of their relationship to their more recent engagement. Their mutual commitment to honor all that arises for them as individuals in an intimate relationship is clearly evident in their own deep introspection, admissions of imperfection, and their ability to consistently shine the light of appreciation on one another and their union. Definitely check them out.

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Give A Little, Get A Lot

Give A Little, Get A Lot

Feeling down, stuck in your own negative thinking or bad mood? Do something for someone else!

It may sound counter-intuitive, but volunteering when you are down in the dumps is a great antidote. Both in my own experience, and in talking with others about this phenomenon, I have discovered that doing something for someone else truly has a healing effect. There is something about getting out of your own head and routine and making yourself of service to others that seems to create space for some new, positive energy.

Now, studies have found that spending money on others also leads to increased feelings of happiness. So, it seems, if you’ve got time and/or money to spare, use it wisely, and it could be a great investment for yourself and for those around you!

Read the full article:

Be Happier: Spend More Money On Others 


How do you give to others?

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