Revisiting the Why of What I Do

My Manhattan Office

How my New York office looked from where I sat for many years

Reposted from August 2016

[The panorama above of my Manhattan office shows so much of what has been important to me. The watercolor over the couch was painted by my mother, an accomplished artist, may she Rest in Peace. The stone Buddha head was a cherished gift that I gave a colleague when shlepping it home on the subway proved too daunting. The glowing shape near the far window is a Himalayan salt lamp. The green mid-century modern chair is the only furniture I brought with me to Florida where I now live and work. It sits in my garage awaiting refurbishing, its woven tape faded and badly snagged often and enthusiastically by the cat after I brought it home.]

In New York City where I practiced for over twenty years, it seemed as if everyone knew what psychotherapy is, even if they hadn’t ever experienced it personally. Occasionally I’d meet with an older patient whose primary physician or psychiatrist had referred them to me for treatment, and they’d say something like, “I don’t know why I’m here or what I’m supposed to do.” A discussion would follow, and soon we’d be “doing psychotherapy” every week. But many elderly people are psychotherapy-savvy, a case in point being a ninety year old woman in New York who had undergone a lengthy psychoanalysis fifty years before she came to me to address a current issue.

antique blank camera classic

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So these days, I’m explaining psychotherapy a little more often, and helping shed a light on experiences that have baffled, frightened, confounded or annoyed my patients. I’m describing how certain medications treat depression and why they aren’t good for people with the mood swings of bipolar disorder.

photo of head bust print artwork

Photo by meo on Pexels.com

I’m cataloging symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and helping patients gauge how much those symptoms interfere with functioning and their overall quality of life. Sometimes just asking a question about obsessions triggers access to a deeper emotional issue never before spoken to another. As I was psychodynamically trained, I enjoy helping a patient explore a dream for its value in clarifying issues, past and current. I take my role as therapist and guide along this most challenging journey very seriously.

architecture bright building city

Flatiron Building, Photo by Kai Pilger on Pexels.com

As we prepared to move out of New York, I considered retiring. For about five minutes. I got a late start on my career as a psychologist so there’s a practical, financial incentive to continue, but there’s an even more important reason I am still actively working as a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy: I love the work. I enjoy meeting new people and sitting down with them to see what we can do together to alleviate their distress, resolve their conflicts, arrive at healthier alternatives to their problematic habits and behaviors, and find greater and deeper meaning in their lives, both in terms of the past, the present, and into the future.

person holding compass in forest

Photo by Tobias Aeppli on Pexels.com

I find it to be a great blessing helping people traverse very intense points on their path, such as dating, marriage or divorce; pregnancy, miscarriage, or birth; seeking, losing, improving or getting new jobs; illness, accident, treatment, death and grief, and as the late death and dying pioneer Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross taught us, acceptance. Acceptance of what has been and of what is, even when we wish it were different. Acceptance of what we’ve done and who we are, and acceptance of our ability to learn and grow and change despite the past, even though it can be extremely challenging and a lot of hard work.

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I alway have ended these posts with the Sanskrit word namasté, which basically means, “The goodness in me bows to the goodness in you.”

And so it is.

Namasté,

 

Signature

 

Solemnly Remembering Paradise

My friend David in Northern California posted this most timely and saddening blog post today. Thank you, David. Puts into perspective the fact that I stopped up the garbage disposal (again) with vegetable peelings 🙄. May the healing of body, heart and mind, and of our precious Mother Nature begin in every needed way.

smilecalm

Ashes of Paradise (taken at noon Thursday) ~d nelson

Remembering that time when
my journey landed me upon
a special high forested mountainside,
inhabited, mostly, with friendly older folks,
who called the place Paradise.
Perhaps you can remember
such a pleasant place, yourself.

Ashes of Paradise 2 (taken at noon on Thursday)

Hadn’t thought about Paradise
for such a long time
until the other day when darkness
suddenly descended at noon
and its ashes rained down on my valley.
A local witness said it was like the gates of hell opened up.

Ashes of Paradise 5 ~usda

Breathing in (with a carbon filtered mask), I taste smoke, again.
Breathing out, clean carbon dioxide.
Sadly reflecting on those lost, newly homeless,
continued windy, bone-dry conditions,
realizing another catastrophic California inferno.
Details are easily found on current news & here.  (my local air quality below)

Ashes of Paradise 6 ~epa

As…

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If Only He Were a Cat! by Diana St Ruth

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

Happy New Year, everyone! This post by Diana St Ruth really struck me as a cat lover, especially regarding my expectations of others. I have always gravitated to the aloof cat more readily than the excitedly friendly dog. I love how Diana teaches Buddhist truths. These observations promise to help me make this a good year, whatever else happens. And fortuitously, in December we have applied to be “cat socializers” at our local shelter and will have our orientation in a couple of weeks. When the student is ready the teacher comes.

Namasté

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Buddhism now

Photo of Sam and Diana.If you like cats—if you are a total fool when it comes to cats, as I am—you will probably make a beeline for them when you see them in the street, and pet them if they’ll let you. But you won’t be upset if they turn their backs on you, stick their tails in the air, and walk off—because that’s how cats are. And if your cat at home makes self-centred demands—as they are wont to do—you probably won’t mind in the least. And they can be quite moody—all over you one minute and ignoring you the next—but you simply won’t mind, because you don’t expect cats to be any other way. So, cat lovers tolerate their cats’ little quirks and foibles with ease and just think: ‘Oh well, that’s cats for you!’

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Our Dozers of Love

This blog post from our own David Nelson speaks eloquently what my own heart has been saying. He reminds us that the “eternal law of impermanence” means that this too shall pass. And so shall we. If we don’t stand up for what is right and stand against what is wrong, who will? If not now, when? Many make resolutions at this time of year. Others simply vow to live their values more fully. Whatever we call it, let us make the most of this life, however much of it each of us may have left, because that we cannot know.

smilecalm

mighty dozer of love ~d nelson

When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

dozer vs mountain ~d nelson

If it was left up to me, and you,
everyone would have an equal opportunity
to live a simple…

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How do you know when to change things? By Ajahn Sumedho

Buddha, 3rd century
Pakistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province,
Schist; H. 36 1/2 in. (92.7 cm); W. 11 in. (27.9 cm); D. 5 1/2 in. (14 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Denise and Andrew Saul Gift, in honor of Maxwell K. Hearn, 2014 (2014.188)
http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/646117

This interview with Ajahn Sumedho offers some wonderful insights into action vs. inaction, spontaneity vs. impulsivity, ego vs. awakened-ness. Please click on the link below to read the rest.

Q: Sometimes it might be a good idea to change things and sometimes it might not. How do you know when to change things?

A: Well, as you begin to trust in that way of accepting things as they are, then your own intuitive sense will guide you. It doesn’t mean to just put up with unpleasant things as a practice, but at this moment now, whatever way it is, it can only be this way. This is just a fact. Right now whatever we are feeling or whatever is around us is the only way it can be at this moment; it’s like this; this is the way it is. In that accepting and allowing, you will have a much clearer sense of what to do—whether you can change it or not, whether it needs to be changed. This is a way of working intuitively rather than from ideas about what you think should be. 

 

Source: How do you know when to change things? By Ajahn Sumedho

Father Kindness

This poignant poem and sweet photo posted today by a dear friend really do say it all. Happy day to all who read this, father or not! My dad died 32 years ago. He never reached retirement age and the comforting coverage of Medicare as I have. I know he’d be appalled at obscene attempts to remove healthcare benefits from millions now. How I miss him! Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. 😘

Na'ama Yehuda

fatheringPhoto: C. Moriah-Gibor

Be a father to the vulnerable

Guide the path of those who need

A lift

A helping hand.

Be a father to those seeking

To find shelter

Who need help to

Understand.

Show the way.

Provide

Kind counsel.

If by biology or presence

Be the best

Model

You can.

For it is by kindness

That fathering

Takes hold

And

Grows children

Strong

In body, heart

And mind.

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Being quiet and listening

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Recolor design colored by Shielagh

Good morning! As I savor my morning coffee each day I read the daily quotations curated by Karl Duffy of Mindful Balance. I highly recommend subscribing to Karl’s blog so that you too can start your day with these words of wisdom. Some are from the ancient ones, while some, as is today’s, are modern quotes. All give us a positive thought to augment any practice.

Today’s quote is brief and very much to the point:

Everything that happens to you is your teacher…

the secret is to learn to sit at the feet of your own life and be taught by it.

Polly Berrien Berends, US author

Please click on the link below to read it on Karl’s blog today with the comments added by his many readers and consider subscribing to his blog so you can enjoy it every day.

Source: Being quiet and listening