Category: Counseling

Buddhist engaged in mindful consumption of meal

Mindful Consumption

I started my journey of mindful consumption almost 10 years ago after reading the following words by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.

“When I drink my tea mindfully, I can see the universe in my tea.”

I had no understanding of what the words meant. At best, I was only able to sense a profoundly deep nature of such a practice. Although I did not understand the words, when I read them, something inside me woke up. I knew at a very deep level that I had found something I had been searching for.

The practice of mindful  consumption revolutionizes. It has the capacity to revolutionize you and it has the capacity to revolutionize our world. I drink my tea differently than I did 10 years ago. Before I practiced mindful consumption, I practiced mind-lessness and forgetfulness. I would drink my tea in the morning while checking my email, making a shopping list and watching the news all at the same time. I did not taste or enjoy my tea. In our fast-paced world, we proudly, call this “multi-tasking”.

Mindful consumption of tea
Consume in a manner that grows your capacity for love and peace.

Being proud of multi-tasking is ignorant. It is the same as being proud of not showing up to live your own life.

Where is your attention when you are multi-tasking? Scattered. Nowhere. Everywhere. My tea is gone and I have no recollection of drinking it. I never tasted it and did not enjoy the experience. When we live mindlessly, we grow a sense of boredom or dissatisfaction with our lives because we are only giving it half of our attention.  The act of mindlessness and forgetfulness then becomes habituated. After beginning my practice of mindfulness, and my awareness grew, I realized most of my consuming was mindless. I would look down at an empty bag of potato chips, and not remember eating one bite. Everything thing we do with mindlessness has a karmic effect. If I eat potato chips mindlessly, the consequences are not so big. Only my cholesterol level and my mass. I don’t feel well afterwards and I gain weight.

Other types of consumption done mindlessly have big karmic effects. I began to have a deeper awareness of all types of consumption. I realized my ears, eyes, mouth, and mind all consumed mindlessly.  What we watch on TV or read is consumption. The images your children see on video games is eye and mind consumption. Consumption of trashy and violent movies or video games desensitizes us to the images of violence which go into our consciousness.

When we are listening, we are consuming. When you are listening to resolve a misunderstanding with another, be mindful of how you are listening. If your listening has the qualities of impatience, anger and judgement, there will be karmic effects to the outcome of your conversation. If you can listen with patience, peace, and openness, there will be a different outcome.

Man and woman arguing. Mindful consumption includes mindful listening
Mindful listening changes the outcome of difficult relationships. It has the qualities of patience and openness.

We can either choose to consume in a manner that supports or un-supports our mindfulness practice. We can consume material that makes us smarter and refreshed or more ignorant and unconscious.

be in peace – diane

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Ninja Ego

Ninga Ego 

The Ninja Ego

The ego. An elusive but dominating force. It sneaks up on us and takes control of our thoughts, words, and behaviors in a wink of an eye. I have had many discussions with clients, friends and family about the importance of understanding one’s ego.  I have been trying to understand mine for a long time.

The persona of my ego is a ninja. It is shadowy, elusive, potentially dangerous but never far away.

When the conditions are right my ego-ninja takes control of the wheel by hi-jacking perceptions, emotions, rational thinking and behaviors. Often the agenda of my ninja are at odds with my true objectives.

The Latest Coup Attempt 

Please let me provide a little background information for the recent conditions which made a coup attempt perfect for my ninja . My family, like many families, has suffered a great deal due to alcoholism and substance abuse. If you have or have had substance abuse in your family, you know that it is the bad gift that keeps on giving through the years and sometimes, sadly through generations.

Right Conditions

The conditions could not have been more perfect for my ninja ego. It’s summer and I’m at a pool party. An acquaintance, I will call Dean, is drinking shots of Jack Daniels. And…as people do when drinking Jack Daniels…. Dean is becoming obnoxious and loud. A group of vibrant 20 year old girls are at his table. Dean tries  to convince the young women to drink shots with him. None of them do thank goodness. However, Dean was perfectly modeling a crash course in Binge Drinking 101. Responsible Drinking 101 is the course that would benefit the young women. Not to mention Dean’s is breaking the law. And, not to mention, maybe the families of these young women would like to be the ones who introduce them to alcohol by modeling responsible drinking ie Now that you are legal drinking age, would you a glass of wine with dinner?

The Ninja Takes Control

After observing Dean’s actions, I was quite angry. After calming down, I decided to talk to Dean and explain why his actions were not OK on many levels. The discussion I planned to have with Dean began running through my head. It was only through a deep awareness that I understood what Ninja Ego truly wanted. My true objectives were to try and help Dean see how his actions encourage binge drinking of hard whisky to young women and why that is dangerous.   Ninja had a different agenda. Because of my past pain, Ninja Ego wanted to make Dean feel stupid and ashamed. Trying to shed some light on Dean’s behavior had taken back seat to Ninja Egos objectives. Ninja Ego wanted Dean to pay… a little. And at the end of the conversation, Ninja wanted to feel superior and smarter. Yes, Dean should be told that what he did was not smart and explain why. But Ninja wanted more

Surprise….You Too Have an Ninja Too

Your ego has ninja qualities too. Look for them. Understand them. What makes your ninja ego plan a coup? To answer this ask yourself, what do you defend? Is your existence or worth based on some idea of what it  is to be a good man/woman, Republican/Democrat, vegetarian/meat-eater, victim, Protector of Young Women?

When anger, frustration, judgement, intolerance arise, your ninja ego ninja is close by. She is elusive. She is in the shadows, but she is there. Before you know it your good intentions are vanquished.

The most interesting aspect of this experience was the subtle nature of ninja. I barely saw the true intentions, which were to make Dean feel bad, and for me to feel superior and smarter. It was if ninja ego was somewhere, very, very far  back in my subconscious mind.

I know you are there ninja ego. I am watching out for you.

be in peace – diane

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Anger or Happiness? It’s Up To You, but You Can’t Have It Both Ways

Cool the flames of anger with intentions and compassion
Cool the flames of anger with intentions and compassion

Anger or Happiness? It’s Up To You, but You Can’t Have It Both Ways

Barriers to happiness include feelings of disappointment, anger, or unresolved conflict in inter-personal relationships. Sometimes friends, companies, lovers, bosses etc. can behave in ways that are harmful, selfish and draining. When we are hurt, we become angry and resentful. We may think that getting even will make us feel better. The truth is that holding on to Anger will increase suffering. It does not bring justice, restitution or peace. Try to hold the feeling of happiness and anger at the same time. I don’t think it is possible, because they are not compatible. Try letting go of Anger. Realize that it is hurting you.

What Are Your Intentions?

It is said that the happiest people in the world are those with a rich network of close and supportive relationships. We are happy when we feel heard, validated, appreciated and understood by our family and friends. There are many skills that we can learn to help foster loving relationships. One simple and very powerful skill is setting the right intention. We can make it our intention to show appreciation, to validate, or to listen. An intention can help our words to soften, our understanding to deepen, or our true appreciation to be felt by those we love. Intentions can change the dynamics of relationships, even when it is a relationship that has a history with heavy expressions of anger. At first, you may try to change the dynamics of the relationship by simply setting  an intention to remain calm the next time you interact with this person.     

The Antidote of Compassion

Sometimes we know that we should let go of Anger, and we may try. However, our energy of anger may be very strong. Especially if the object of our anger is a person or situation that has hurt us a great deal. I find several techniques to be especially helpful to “cool the flames” of anger. One technique is to try and understand the suffering of the person who is hurting you. Sometimes that can be very easy to see if we only look. We can clearly see their fear or feelings of inadequacy if we can calm our emotions enough to see the other person. Feeling compassion for another person, and understanding their suffering will quite naturally cool our feelings of anger.

with peace and blessings – diane

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Energy Healing Therapy… Much Ado About Something

Energy Healing Therapy…Much Ado About Something

Energy Therapy uses the subtle energy of our thoughts and emotions to promote psychological health.
Energy Therapy uses the subtle energy of our thoughts and emotions to promote psychological health.

There is currently a great deal of buzz and excitement in mental health regarding the multi-faceted modality known as Energy Healing. While specific techniques used in energy healing may vary, the various protocols rely on manipulating the subtle energy within our body in order to promote healing. Because we are made up of energy, we can influence our health by attending to the subtle energies which are thought to be aspects of thoughts, emotional reactions and neurological responses.  Like our heart, our temperature, and the protons and electrons that make up every atom of our body, thoughts and emotions are assumed to also have an expression of energy. We can therefore diagnose and heal through the expression of energy contained in our emotions and thoughts.

How Does It Work?

In energy healing, we begin  by honoring the notion of mind-body connection. Certain thoughts, memories, images stimulate a reaction in the brain which is followed by a reaction in body. These reactions can be classified as energetic reactions. Let us take a specific example. Let us assume a person suffers from anxiety. An anxiety provoking thought activates a certain part of the brain, neurons fire, neurotransmitters are released. These signals tell the body to react in a specific manner. In this example perhaps we begin to sweat or our heart rate increases.  In Energy Healing, energy points are activated through touching, tapping or holding as we attune to the anxiety producing thought.   Stimulating the energy point  adjust the energetic reaction that was occurring in the brain and our feelings of anxiety are reduced.  Researches postulate that activating the energy point desensitizes the memory. The result is a change in neurological reactions with lower levels of stress related neurotransmitters and rewiring new neural pathways.

Does It Work?

I know this might seem a little to “out there” for many. Keep in mind, we still cannot prove, measure or explain several expressions of “healing” that are relatable to each of us such as positive thinking, intention, intuition or visualization.  However, several clinical trials support the use of Energy Healing to treat many mental health problems such as anxiety, PTSD, and phobias. These studies are being conducted by esteemed institutions such as Kaiser Permanente, Harvard Medical School and other institutions around the world. Not only are the results demonstrating Energy Healing as effective, in many cases the number of treatments used is much less than traditional psychological interventions such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Much ado about something … indeed

with blessings – diane

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Energy Therapy

Energy Therapy Available at Authentic-Life Counseling

Energy Therapy is now available at Authentic-Life Counseling
Energy Therapy is now available at Authentic-Life Counseling

Authentic-Life Counseling is pleased to offer clients  energy therapy to improve and regulate mental and emotional health. Energy therapy is based on the premise that there is an energetic counterpart for every emotional reaction in the body. Energy therapy is a holistic approach because it blends traditional cognitive and behavioral therapies with energy therapy. Therefore, the inter-connectedness and complexity of psychological processes is acknowledged and addressed.

You Are Energy

Although the tradition of energetic healing has been used in Eastern cultures for thousands of years, it is quickly gaining recognition in the United States. It makes sense that the  bodies energy be utilized in healing, because the primary blocks of our physical form is energetic. We are made up of atoms which have an electrical component in the positive or negative charge of protons and electrons. Since we are made up of trillions of atoms, our mental and physical health is greatly influenced by our energetic responses. Even the most basic bodily functions such heart rate and body temperature is an expression of energy. More complex emotional functions ( i.e. reacting with fight or flight responses when encountering non-threatening environmental stimulus) is also fundamentally an energetic reaction.

The Process

The use of energy modalities can be multi-layered and adapted to meet individual needs. At a fundamental level, the process includes activating the emotional responses, thoughts, or memories involved in the “problem” while stimulating or activating the bodies energy systems. The charge, or intensity of the memory, thought, or behavioral reaction can be diminished or changed. Clinical research has shown that energy based therapies can be effective in alleviating the symptoms associated with trauma, PTSD, anxiety, depression, pain, addiction and weight management.

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Counseling Is Hard Work

Talking Is Only Part Of The Process

People are best served when they actively work with their therapist to set goals, do homework, acknowledge and dissolve defensive mechanisms, and become more conscious. The talking component of counseling is very therapeutic.  Discussing, admitting or purging your most tender, sensitive, or secret thoughts is an important part of the counseling process. However, it is only part of the process.

Counseling Is Hard Work

If long-term benefits are to be sustained, new skills and tools are needed to solidify new behaviors, emotional reactions, and thought patterns.  There is a reason why therapy is hard-work. Replacing old behaviors, emotional reactions and thought patterns with new ones is an active and ongoing process. There is no finish line. The process is not over at some time in the future. Many times our unproductive responses have become part of our personality. They have been reinforced for years and have become automatic. Sometimes we are not even conscious that these behaviors, reaction and thought patterns are diminishing our health, peace and happiness. It is realistic to acknowledge that changing our automatic reinforced responses will take commitment, time and energy. To make changes requires our active participation in the change process.

Empowerment

We can become attached to our irrational behaviors, emotions and thoughts. Subsequently our thinking becomes clouded and confused by these destructive patterns and we begin to make poor choices. When the suffering becomes unbearable, we understandably begin looking for relief from our suffering. For example, a person who is anxious may have thoughts, actions, or emotional reactions that promote and sustain their anxiety. Identifying environmental triggers which cause anxiety is very helpful.   However active awareness and control of their behaviors, emotional reactions, and thought patterns will be a core component of recovery.   Empowerment, to a large extent, is dependent on our desire and ability to be conscious of how we perceive, define,  attach to and react to our environment.

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Pursuit of Happiness

Foster a pattern of thinking that takes in the sacred, astonishing and miraculous.

Happiness

In my last blog I discussed depression, and the magnitude of this modern day epidemic.  It seems only natural to follow up with thoughts on happiness. I wish the diagnosis of happiness would reach epidemic proportions. What can we do to foster joy and happiness? Despite the complicated world we live in, I do believe that happiness is a state of being that can be fostered. We can help our happiness to grow.

What is Your Persuasion?

Some of the happiest people I know are of the “glass half-full” persuasion. They are consciously aware of the good. They do not focus on the weeds in the garden. Their focus is on the flower. Maybe “glass half-full” comes naturally. If not, fostering positive-ness can increase a sense of happiness and well-being. Instead of focusing on the negative, spend some time with the positive. It may difficult. Perhaps a lifetime of “glass half-empty” thinking has been in the making for quite awhile.

Take in the Positive

Our patterns of thinking and our habits become stronger with each reinforcement. But, you can foster a perspective that begins to notice the positive. Instead of what is wrong, what is right? Name it. List it. Be with gratitude and appreciation. Notice the things in your world that are sacred, astonishing and miraculous. Spend some time with the positive. Spend even more time with it. Foster the pattern of thinking that takes in the positive, and foster your own happiness.

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Buddhist engaged in mindful consumption of meal

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