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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,

 

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A wonderful day in my neighborhood

We both needed haircuts, and my Florida hairdresser said I should look for a good barber to maintain the very short cut I’m rocking these days, so I joined the mister when he went for a cut for himself. Our barber Louis at Brand’s Barber & Co gave us each a great look, and before we left a musician came in to play some tunes, and when I told him I used to have a Stratocaster he even urged me to take his guitar for a few minutes, and when I actually picked out a few tentative notes of Freight Train, the guys all applauded! Haven’t touched my acoustic guitar in years, and his steel strings really smarted, but it was such fun!

If Only He Were a Cat! by Diana St Ruth

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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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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 46

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On Week 46 there’s so much going on in the world landscape that we all need plenty of diversions. Let’s see, the winter holidays are nigh upon us, with Hanukkah starting the night of December 12 this year, and Christmas and New Year’s not far behind. Managing the holiday cards, whether by snail mail or email, and shopping for gifts, whether you give them on 8 nights or on only 1 day, there’s a lot to do! And of course, we have the political circus with its many fronts. You just can’t make up some of these news stories! We need our diversions NOW,  right?

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Tony Leonard and the team of coworkers who worked together to make his prosthetics (photo courtesy of CBS News)

First, how about real good, feel good story? Like the sound of that? So do I! Honda workers built a coworker a new limb, and it works!

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Next, it’s been reported in Lancet Psychiatry that researchers have found a treatment that helped schizophrenics suffer significantly fewer auditory hallucinations than those not receiving the experimental treatment, even when both groups continued to receive standard doses of antipsychotic medication. It’s called avatar therapy. As a mental health clinician, I’m interested in learning more!

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Now, check out what happened when a GoPro camera was placed in the path of molten lava. Be sure the watch the whole video.

And to wrap up this week’s diversions, here’s a song in Spanish called “I Lava You” from the film “Lava” because, what else?

Namasté

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Authentic Hummus

 

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I just made hummus for the first time! Recently I ordered some tahini after searching for a non-bitter product, and after reading reviews, bought Soom Organic Tahini, and it is great! Now I felt ready to try making hummus.

There are countless recipes out there for hummus, and I’m sure most are very good, but this one at Vegangela got my attention. Angela writes that the secret to silky smooth hummus is peeling the chickpeas first. I would have moved on to the next recipe but then I read how she couched peeling the peas as a Zen, mindful experience, and I’m so down with that approach. Truly, peeling the whole can took me less than 10 minutes, so what’s the big deal?

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When I finished slipping the chickpeas out of their skins, which is easy once you learn how to keep the peeled peas in the bowl and not bouncing around the kitchen, I added the skins to my freezer bag of vegetable scraps destined for my next homemade veggie broth. We’ve been enjoying a lot of fresh vegetables this summer, from our garden as well as farmers markets and the generosity of friends with green thumbs, so it only takes me about three weeks to fill up a gallon bag of veggie scraps to make my broth. To make my broth, I empty the bag into a large soup pot, cover the veggies with water, bring to a boil and simmer for an hour and a half or two, usually with plenty of herbs and peppercorns because I always strain it. I figured the chickpea skins would add some nutrition and flavor to the broth.

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I adapted Vegangela’s Basic Hummus recipe, making a  few additions after my husband and I tasted it:

  • 1 15-oz can of chickpeas, rinsed, drained and peeled
  • 3 tbsp Soom Organic tahini
  • 1 small lemon, juiced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp water, plus more if needed
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Braggs Liquid Aminos to taste, for extra umami (optional)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Smoked paprika, olive oil and pinenuts to garnish (optional)

I put everything except the garnish items in the food processor and blended it all on high speed, scraping the sides often until very smooth. After tasting I added more salt, the Bragg’s, and more cumin. Totally yum!

After turning the hummus into a glass bowl and swirling the top, I drizzled it with olive oil, sprinkled on some pinenuts, and dusted it all with smoked paprika.

Voila!

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If you make this awesome hummus, please let me know how yours turns out!

Searching Like a Cod

This is a wonderful reminder that going with the flow is the better, less painful option and usually gets us where we need to go. And that is often right where we are.

Find Your Middle Ground

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When the innumerable searches are concluded,
The realization dawns that
The optimal place to be is
Where one already is.

It is an arrival at the place
Where there is no solid footing beneath,
The understanding of all things.

Until the conclusion,
The searcher is like
A cod asking directions to the ocean

~ Wu Hsin from “The Lost Writings” translated by Roy Melvyn

Wu Hsin’s insights into spirituality and Oneness always bring a smile.

It isn’t easy learning to go with the flow, until we stop asking for directions, and find the courage to be with no solid footing.

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A to Z Challenge: E is for Elementary

E is for Elementary. Here in our part of the US, public grade schools or primary schools, are called elementary schools and serve kindergarten through 6th grade, as a rule. Some of the private or charter schools are called academies or day schools or even country day schools. It took me a while to find a good E for this challenge. Everything I thought was an elm tree turned out to be a poplar or something else. Then I remembered our local elementary school!

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Here in our little town of Pocono Pines, Pennsylvania we have an elementary school, Tobyhanna Elementary Center. From their website, we learn what a comprehensive educational center it is for a town of less than 1,500 residents. Opened in 1981, this rural public school draws students from our township and two others.

Tobyhanna Elementary Center, commonly referred to as TEC, is one of the elementary schools located within the Pocono Mountain School District. TEC serves students in the townships of Tobyhanna, Tunkhannock and a portion of Coolbaugh. Tobyhanna Elementary Center consists of close to 700 students and more than 70 professional employees and support staff.
TEC opened in 1981 and now houses 30 classrooms, a cafeteria/multipurpose room, a gymnasium, and a library. Students and faculty also use two computer labs and classroom computers.
The student body consists of children in grades kindergarten through six. In addition to education in the core curriculum areas, students attend library, music, art, physical education, and health (grades 5 & 6). Students enjoy many extracurricular activities in addition to their school day, such as band and chorus. Students have the option to participate in intramural activities (STEM Club, Odyssey of the Mind, Green Team, SGA).

I’m impressed! And I am grateful that our town offers our children and those from nearby towns the S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) exposure so crucial to our collective future in an evolving world.

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Inspired by my WordPress friend Ruth, I decided to take the A to Z Challenge around my little town of Pocono Pines, Pennsylvania. In the 2010 Census, the population was 1,409 persons. We have one gas station, an art gallery/gift store with wonderful artisan wares, a magisterial court office, an ice cream stand, a pizza place, a family restaurant, one bank, several real estate offices, a US post office, a produce stand, an elementary school, a public library, several residential developments, and a number of other businesses. We are located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania, about 35 miles from New Jersey and two hours from New York City. We have two lakes and are 1,805 feet above sea level.