What made you decide to become a counselor?
Seeing a counselor helped me get through a rough time in my life. She showed me the power of being present with another person and help them embrace themselves in the here and now. Counseling is my life’s passion and I love my work.
If you could teach the world one skill or technique to improve their lives, what would it be?
I would teach self-compassion and self-acceptance. Many of us constantly compare ourselves to others and inwardly demean ourselves and our bodies for falling short. We struggle to please others so that we can feel good about ourselves but later we find that we have lost ourselves in the process. Only by learning to embrace ourselves - flaws and all – we can fill our own well with compassion and give to others freely from the overflow.
What is the most common problem your clients bring to you?
Are you plagued with negative thoughts that keep coming back no matter what you do to try to stop having them? Do you avoid things, places, or situations that tend to trigger those thoughts? Do you try distracting yourself from them by watching TV, staying busy, drinking? Do you try to tell yourself the opposite to counteract or cancel out the negative thought? Have you noticed that whatever strategy you’ve been using hasn’t really worked in the long run?
A few months ago, I had a heart attack. I’m 42 and in relatively good health. And I meditate! This isn’t supposed to happen to people like me. Well, it did and I’m learning how to be with that fact day by day. Statistically speaking, I will have another heart attack sometime in the next 5 years. Now I have that thought in my head . . . Every. Day.
Once upon a time there was a magnificent child who sang and danced wildly under the stars. She was whole and free. She never questioned whether she was worthy or beautiful. She did not worry about yesterday or tomorrow because she was rapt with the exquisite now.
She was SPIRIT - An eternal fire of life force.
She was BODY – In tune with the rhythms of the earth.
She was MIND – Attuned to the yearnings of SPIRIT and finding expression through the BODY.
When she was joyous she lit up the heavens and when she felt sorrow her tears filled the rivers.
The child’s BODY grew bigger and MIND developed skills necessary to communicate and share her things and show respect for the other Souls in her world. She learned how to be pleasing to others and discovered the sting of rejection.
Over time BODY began to change and the MIND began to compare it with the bodies of others. The MIND was not pleased. MIND instructed the BODY to avoid smiling widely so others would not notice her crooked front tooth. MIND demanded her BODY muscles to tighten up to hide the roundness of her belly.
What made you decide to become a counselor?
There were actually a lot of little things over time that made me want to be a counselor, not just one thing. I've always been a good listener and good at understanding people's thoughts and feelings. I've always been fundamentally curious about other people's experience of the world and the nature of human consciousness. For a long time this was a very intellectual pursuit for me, studying psychology, biology, dance, and comparative religion. I tried my best to stay in school forever! When I realized that I actually wasn't well-suited to be an academic, I was a little bit lost (ok, a LOT lost). I started volunteering and working for different social services agencies, and realized how much I enjoyed working directly with people. And I started noticing that I was good at it! It was and is so rewarding to sit with people in the midst of intense emotions, offering gentle guidance and support, and see change and renewed hope right in front of my eyes.
Looking back now, I can see that my intellectual pursuits were a little bit of a defense mechanism against looking at my own emotions and processing difficult things I had experienced. Through meditation, dance, and counseling I was able to add in emotional wisdom and somatic understanding to my intellectual pursuits. First by my own experience and then through the experiences of my clients, I have been amazed by the transformations that are possible in the presence of non-judgmental awareness. It's kind-of magic. So, it's been a long and winding road to become a mindful counselor, but now that I'm here, I can't imagine doing anything else!
The irony is not lost on me that, as a therapist, what I'm about to tell you seems to run counter to my profession's aim of helping people to improve their lives. What if I told you that self-improvement was a waste of time?
Wait, wait, wait . . . Hear me out.
It's no secret that the self-improvement industry, a $9.6 billion a year industry, is having it's day in the sun, and we're all supporting it in one way or another. Do you not have a gym membership, see a therapist, drink kale smoothies, and read, I mean, listen to Brené Brown on Audible? I do. I want to get better, too!
Nothing wrong with any of that by the way. I love smoothies. What concerns me is not the activity itself, but the premise that seems to be driving us in flocks toward a kind of salvation, which incidentally, never arrives. That premise is simple:
You aren't good enough as you currently are.
So you found the ONE!
The person you love to spend your life with. The one that you can grow old with and lean on throughout life's challenges. Congratulations! Now if only you can change them into someone different. Someone who fulfills your needs better, or makes you feel more understood, or remembers to take the trash out.
As a relationship therapist, I often hear clients describe frustrations with partners such as, "I keep telling them what to do differently and they just don't do it" or "if they looked at things from my perspective, they would realize that they were wrong and my way of doing things is the right way." Essentially, people are drawn to someone who is different than them, love these differences, and then once the excitement wears off, we wonder how we can make them more like us.
Often, when these differences create conflict people wonder if they found the right partner. This causes a lot of anxiety. In a reaction to that anxiety a partner might try to change the other partner by nagging, telling them what they can do differently, giving the silent treatment, or use a variety of other behaviors that are targeted towards changing the partner. This is often an unconscious effort to decrease their own anxiety about being vulnerable to someone who is different and to regain a sense of safety and security that most people crave in relationships.
As human beings we all lose our way from time to time along the journey of life. We find ourselves feeling isolated and in pain and nothing that has worked in the past seems to help. I get it. I’ve been in the wilderness too. I am grateful to have found people along the way who have guided me back home to myself. If you found your way to this site you may have summoned up the courage and willingness to seek out a guide of your own.
It is a tremendous honor to serve as a supportive witness to the transformation of another human being. Through my own struggles and as a witness to the journeys of others I have come to understand that our stories are more similar than different.
Here is what I have learned:
"We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves." - Dalai Lama
The state of peace is truly profound - peace is a way of being and a lens for seeing the world. For some, peace may seem like a fantasy, an idealistic dream, and yet, developing inner peace is truly the key to knowing fulfillment. So how do we do that?
Let’s start by looking at how many of us currently relate to peace:
Oftentimes, we have a tendency to make our external world responsible for our peace and happiness. For example: If this job happens, then I will be peaceful. Once I reach retirement, then I can be fulfilled. Once my significant other does exactly what I want them to do, then I will be peaceful. If my child gets into college, then I will be happy. Sound familiar? How successful have you found this strategy to create lasting peace?
“We are born with the capacity to dance together but not with the necessary training . . . It is exactly the same in relationships.” -David Richo
In David Richo’s How To Be An Adult in Relationships, he outlines five keys to mindful loving. These five keys are not just “nice to haves,” but are essential components of a healthy, individuated ego. When we do not receive these gifts, it feels as though something is missing, that we are incomplete, unlovable. But practicing these five keys, is what it takes to love and is what makes us lovable.
“My father turned to me as if he’d been waiting all his life to hear my question.”
What a beautiful expression of what it feels like to be truly heard and valued. There is no judgment in your listening because feelings are neither good or bad, right or wrong. The projections of ego can blur our focus on the other. Openly attending to what is being shared requires neutrality toward our own fearful or reactive states.
When we attend in this way, we elicit a sense of safety and trust in the other. This kind of attention cannot be falsified and must come from a genuine interest and curiosity. As Richo beautifully states, “The real you is an abundant potential, not a list of traits, and intimacy can only happen when you are always expanding in others’ hearts, not pigeonholed in their minds.”
“I am so terrible.”
“I can't believe I screwed that up again.”
“I am so ugly.”
“I am the cause of my own mistakes and unhappiness.”
Are you constantly hard on yourself? Do you find yourself saying negative things to yourself? Does it seem normal? You're not alone.
Underneath so much of our suffering lies our own self criticism and lack of self compassion and self care. So what can you do? Here are 5 simple things that will help you create more self-compassion in your life.
About Our Blog
Here you will find articles contributed by members of our team. We hope to provide helpful information here to inspire mindful living and general wellness. The information provided here is not a substitue for professional mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need to speak to a professional regarding your mental health, please make an appointment.