Monday, May 17, 2010

Janov's reflections on the Human Condition

The most important psychiatrist alive today continues to lead the way into deeper understanding and ultimately peace within ourselves.

Janov's reflections on the Human Condition

About the Act Out

Posted: 17 May 2010 01:06 AM PDT

We keep busy and doing things to keep from feeling there is nothing I can do.

We keep having new projects to give us hope to keep from feeling there is no hope.

We keep controlling things to keep from feeling I am helpless.

We keep making phone calls to keep from feeling I am all alone.

Now why would we do that? Because the feeling I am all alone isn’t just something from yesterday or today; it is the primal aloneness in the first minutes or weeks of life when mother, who was sick at childbirth, abandoned her baby. It became a life and death matter. It is a devastating aloneness that can be triggered off in the present whenever we are left alone for a time.

We are acting-out against the pain, so that the act-out is unconscious; we do not know what drives us and we usually don’t even know that we are driven. It is all automatic. We keep from sitting still by much travel all to keep from feeling confined at birth, stuck in the canal, then later stuck in a tense and depressed household which was again “suffocating.” So we drag along our past but never know it is there weighing us down. One reason we know the pain is there is by the act-out, obsessive, continuous behavior that seems irrational. We are acting-out the feeling/pain, trying to get over the feeling but never knowing what it is or how to get rid of it.

Check your act-out and you will get a good idea of what your pain is. Now the tough part: feeling it.

If the lack of act-out makes you anxious, you cannot sit home today, then you know you are usually dealing with a very early first-line feeling. That is, if for any reason you cannot act-out, say you’re are sick and cannot keep busy, the anxiety will be your companion. The act-out has a purpose, a relief valve from importuning feelings. It lowers tension levels and allows us to function better.

The most universal act-out seems to be keeping busy, never a minute to think or feeling, just keep going, usually to feel there is no where to go and nothing to do. When we cannot act out we most often act-in. We suffer from cramps or high blood pressure or worse, epileptic attacks. I treated a woman who needed constant sex, to keep from feeling having never been touched by her parents early on. When she could not act out her blood pressure rose dramatically. The pain has to go somewhere, so let us not moralize about it. No one is obsessively sexual without that pain; not even Tiger Woods.

So what is it we must do! No we now what our deprivation was early on. If you need the windows wide open or else you get anxious you know you lacked oxygen. If you cannot be enclosed, say in a locked car for any time, you may well have been an incubator baby. So the act-out is usually what we call neurosis. It is not the behavior that is neurotic; it is logic in the extreme. It is our feelings that have been deviated and not normal. When we feel our pain we then normalize along most parameters from blood flow to sperm count, to the speed at which sperm move, to how fast our heart beats. So we see why it is so useless to do Behavior Therapy, treating the logical extension of pain instead of the pain itself underlying the behavior. If someone is awkward and often pushes us and we fall we know to avoid that person. But if we do not know what is pushing us we may tend to focus on the fall instead of the push, missing the point entirely. Behavior therapy is extremely superficial and deals only with what anyone can see instead of focusing on what is not obvious and cannot be seen. It doesn’t take a shrink to figure out Behavior Therapy; it takes a real shrink to go deeper. And that will only happen when someone has reached into her feelings and has complete access to herself. Then she won’t misfocus; then she will understand what drives her and therefore what drives others. She understands the “push” of feelings. No more mystery.


Freedom Through Forgiveness

-Devlyn Steele

Who has not been hurt, disappointed or really let down by someone in their lives? Maybe even worse, heart broken, lied to, cheated by or on by someone? The things we can do to each other from small to unspeakable are not the nice part of the human experience. Even still, they are part of our journey. Big or small, we will all suffer emotional pain caused by the behavior of others.

The tragedy of these negative events live on way beyond the moment. In fact, these painful episodes can live with us forever if we let them. They persist in our minds and have power over us. They effect our happiness, our ability to trust, to love and be loved. Negative experiences by the hand of another have a powerful imprint on our minds and our lives. We are able to feel the intensity of the pain way beyond the moment that the pain is inflicted. In fact, the intensity of the pain can get more severe as we focus on it and relive it in our minds years and years later.

The ability to experience pain beyond the moment can have us trapped, suffering by the actions of others as long as we continue to focus on it. Our bodies are much nicer to us in letting go of the experience of physical pain than we are to ourselves holding on to emotional pain. We have all stubbed our toe at some point or another...geez can that hurt. If you are like me you have done more than once ... ouch. I even broke my toe once ... ouch ouch. Okay, now I want you to concentrate on the experience, remember stubbing your toe, focus on it. Focus really hard.

No matter how hard you focus on it and remember the experience you cannot relive the pain. You cannot feel the pain you had then now. If you could, we would walk around in pain all the time or could hurt ourselves to the same level of the actual physical experience over and over again by just thinking about it. No, our bodies are smart, once the pain we experienced in the moment is over we can never feel the pain again from that moment. We do not have the same luxury with our emotional pain as we can re-experience pain when we focus on it over and over again.

Often what keeps us held a prisoner to thinking about the pain is our anger towards the person or event that was the cause of our pain. That anger keeps us thinking about what happened. The angrier we are the more we focus on it. As we focus on it, we relive the experience and feel the pain over and over again. What you need to realize is that the event, the moment that caused the emotional pain is over. The only thing that keeps that moment alive is the fact that you are thinking about it. The moment you do not think about it, it no longer is happening. It is not happening because it really is not happening, it already happened. What is happening right now is what is happening right now.

The irony is that the person who was the cause of this pain, that person is not thinking about it. The person involved has moved on and is living his or her life while you are stuck living the event of what they did. The road to you be free of holding on to that anger and living that moment endlessly is forgiving that person and you yourself moving on. The same is true of an event, meaning a hurricane might have blown your house down ... forgive and move on, don't stay in anger destroying the quality of your peace of mind.

When I tell people how forgiveness is the way to achieve freedom and peace in your life, I am often met with resistance. Forgiveness is a hard pill for someone who has suffered at the hand of another to swallow. The feelings are often that certain things are unforgivable. Further, forgiveness feels as though you are condoning the act, that you are saying what the person did is okay. To this, there is a great misunderstanding of what forgiveness in these situations mean.

When people hear that someone who has been wronged is able to forgive the perpetrator of the act, they think the person forgiving is an amazingly kind person who is selfless. That in order to forgive, maybe you don't really care what that person did, or that you are trying to be holy. What might surprise you is that forgiveness has nothing to do with any of that, not caring, being kind, holy or selfless. In fact, forgiveness is a very selfish act.

In order to understand what forgiveness is really about you need to let go of your anger. The anger is controlling you and clouding your vision. What you are really saying when you forgive someone is that they no longer have a hold on you. That you will not live tormented by what they did. That you are releasing them from your mind. You are forgiving that person not for them, but for yourself.

I wish you the ability to forgive the causes of the pains you have suffered and let them go. In that you will be free to live without the past dictating your experiences today. Forgive and become free, free to not let the past control how you experience your life today.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I saw a cartoon in a recent New Yorker magazine in which two people were finishing their dinners at a Chinese restaurant and had just opened their fortune cookies. One fortune read, “You are going to die.”

If you let this fact sink in — that life is short, and we all die — it can actually act as a powerful motivating force to help maintain focus and priorities. Everything changes and is impermanent, so are we fully present and making the most of this fleeting moment? Are we fully aware of what we are doing? Appreciating impermanence clarifies priorities, and it helps us identify any frenetic, shallow and ineffective activities we’re being distracted by. We see clearly the things that exhaust us and distract us from experiencing the blessing and opportunity of each particular day.

In Zen practice it is often said that the span of our lives is like a dew drop on a leaf — beautiful, precious, and extremely short-lived. Life is remarkably unpredictable. Whatever you want to accomplish, whatever is important to you, do it, and do it now — with as much grace, intensity, and sense of ease as you can muster. None of us knows what life will bring. In any moment everything we take for granted can change. We must be careful not to dwell on impermanence constantly, to the point that we become paralyzed with fear of loss, but we can use an awareness of change on a deep and wise level to focus our priorities and increase our appreciation of the sheer beauty of existence.

Mindfulness helps us to see that our ideas about who we think we are are limited and inaccurate. What we mean when we say “me” and “I” are often incomplete in profound ways. Mindfulness allows us to see how we weave these stories about ourselves as well as how we see others and the world. As a result of this practice, we can live with more clarity, resilience, and purpose.

BY Marc Lesser

Friday, May 14, 2010


Who were you before you were you? Even though we all identify with a very limited slice of time and space, equating “me” with one body and one mind, in reality you also live outside yourself in the field of awareness. The Vedic seers say, “The real you cannot be squeezed into the volume of a body or the span of a lifetime.”

Just as reality flows from the virtual to the quantum to the material level, so do you. Whether we call this reincarnation or not almost doesn’t matter. The package of body and mind that came before is a stranger to you now, and the one that might arise after your death is equally alien.

But on a deeper level, millions of seeds have already been planted. Some are the thoughts you will have tomorrow or the actions you will follow a decade from now. Time is flexible at the quantum level and nonexistent at the virtual level. As we watch these seeds sprouting in the fertile field of time and space, awareness wakes up to itself. This is how a single fertilized cell learns to become a brain – it wakes up to itself, not on the chemical level but on the level of awareness.

Perhaps you are a single cell among millions too, each cell being a lifetime. It was said that the Buddha closed his eyes for a few minutes and experienced ninety-nine thousands incarnations. If this is not breathtaking enough, we are told that he experienced every minute of them; births, deaths, and time itself expanded in a few minutes of silence.

Such an amazing ability to control time lies not only with the enlightened. If you weren’t a master of time already, you would be an amorphous glob of cells like the sea cucumber; you might have entered a world where puberty could come at any moment and kidney cells could fuse into spleens, or where the first pollen of hay fever season might kill half the population.

Adapted from How To Know God, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2000).


When two people come together in love, they weave a fabric of consciousness. If the fabric is strong, then both lovers have made it so; each loving thought and action is a thread added to the fabric. In Sanskrit the word for “thread” is Sutra, which also has a metaphysical meaning. A sutra is an aphorism or formula that expresses some fundamental truth about consciousness.

You and your beloved have privileged moments in which you understand what your love is. No one else has ever had exactly the same revelations, because you are unique people. Your inspirations are yours alone, even though similar insights have been occurring for thousands of years. To make your revelations your own is important. You need to know what you believe, how far you have come on the path together, how much growth you have shared. Sutras can tell you all these things.

The exercise here is to write down your inspirations as they come to you. Love grows the more you talk about it, think about it, and express it. Even though moments of insight last only an instant, they are touchstones of something eternal, the relationship between self and Self. At this moment your Self wants you to know about love but also about truth, compassion, trust, acceptance, and devotion. These are the threads from which the fabric of consciousness is woven.

Writing Sutras: Do not enter only your inspired thoughts. At any moment spirit is ready to teach you about itself; you only have to set aside some time when you feel receptive. Sit down with your pen and paper, and let your mind relax. Do not force yourself in to a state of inspiration, but have the intention to express what you know – from your heart, a spark of truth, a message from your Self. If words don’t come so easily at first, you may want to start with a standard opening, such as “Love is…” or “My Self wants me to know that…”

The purpose of your sutras is simply to express where you are. Each thread is valuable; non can be taken out of the fabric of love without loss. Therefore keep in mind the preciousness of your own awareness, and let your inspirations be a way to claim your spiritual life as your own.

Adapted from The Path to Love, by Deepak Chopra (Three Rivers Press, 1997).


Love isn’t an emotion or an instinct–it’s an art. –Mae West

Done with conviction and commitment, the way great artists approach their masterpieces, our loving relationships sculpt us into the highest and best form of ourselves. This is their only job and their highest purpose. Through love we entrust our loved ones to mirror and elicit from us the aspirations and values that we have expressed so that the commitment to the relationship transmutes into a commitment to ourselves. The late Caryl Rusbult, coined the term the Michelangelo effect to describe this dynamic of close intimate relationships in her 30 plus years of research. Her studies demonstrated that love thrived and endured when the relationship’s meaning was interpreted through both partner’s ability to focus on and achieve the personal growth that each held dear.

Michelangelo approached his art with this same eye of love. He said “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.” His work of setting free the figures that were sleeping inside the stone is the embodiment of love as art. His mastery and genius was the product of what he himself called: “eternal patience” which reflects volumes of truth about what it takes to make love work in our lives.

Loving relationships of all kinds, whether with romantic committed partners, parents, children, siblings or friendships are the most gentle and effective teachers that life offers us to become the person we aspire to be. Accepting the flaws in the people we love and working with them is the same sculpting work that Michelangelo faced within his blocks of stone. Like a master stone cutter, we learn to discern minor imperfections from the deeper flaws that the “eternally patient” hand of love is able to integrate into the greater beauty of the piece. We create beauty from the inherent difficulties of loving the flaws and imperfections in each of us.

As a mother of teens now, I remember how when my kids were small, I perceived my job of parenting in terms of sculpting my children to uncover the beauty and goodness inside each of them. Now though, with hindsight at 20-20, I realize that my love for them was sculpting me, at least as much and probably more than I was ever able to shape them. This is because loving is first an inside job, especially in parenting. My own personal growth work has always been the primary communicator for my children and so it is with our lovers, parents or friends. Those who have loved me have continuously reflected back to me where I was true to myself and even more painfully when I wasn’t.

The work of being sculpted into our highest selves is not for the faint hearted. Extending the metaphor of cutting away the rough edges of stone that we use to defend our hearts can feel searing and hard to distinguish the loss of what is real and necessary from our ego attachments. I have been suffering these losses as my relationships to my children bend away from my will towards their more powerful independence. Learning the work of eternal patience with these new people, my teenagers remains a daily lesson, and one that I can best integrate while focused on the work of art which is my own heart.



By Darcy Keith

Mother's Day is a recent memory. Like most moms, I was treated to a day where I could do whatever I want. I was Queen of the remote control. The lunch menu detailed food that I wanted, and I didn't have to cook it. My daughter, young as she is, made several Mother's Day cards at school, church, and home with various scrapbooking adornments, which she proudly presented to me and begged that I select my favorite one. The sun was shining, and the day was happy.

There are times in our lives where things may not seem happy or joyous at all. Events happen and steal our joy. How do you recover from this? Where are you getting your joy? I must confess, life is not all roses. One of my six year-old daughter's favorite sayings is, "It's not fair". She is learning that life isn't fair at times.

What would life be like if we had everything we wanted? King Solomon in the Bible had it all: power, fame, fortune, and wisdom. Yet, he put his happiness in temporal things and became very unhappy. Have you ever said to yourself, I will be really happy when I get that new car? How long does this happiness last? Or what about an accomplishment you have achieved. The next one must be bigger and better. It's never enough and the cycle continues, searching for the happiness "high" that you experienced before.

What makes you happy? I'm not just talking about for a few hours or days. I'm talking about happiness for a while longer.

Here are four suggestions on living a happier life:

1. Think of the small things that make you happy and write them down. This could be a sunny day, the smell of freshly cut grass, or hearing your favorite song on the radio.
2. Keep everything in perspective. Put things in their proper place. If something makes you unhappy, consider the scenario in the big scheme of things. Will it really matter when you are 80 years old?
3. Look at the root cause of what makes you happy in your life. Remember what gives you joy.
4. Put yourself second and serve others, which is contradictory to what the world says. Happiness in serving another person first, rather than ourselves, is a humbling experience that shows others that they matter more than us.

Have you heard of the saying, "Giving the shirt off of your back"? Happiness is a great feeling. The wonderful thing about being happy is that it can be found in small packages. Why not take time to look for the small stuff that makes you happy today?

Thursday, May 13, 2010


When we consider our physical bodies, we discover that we are, really, a collection of recycled molecules. Cells of our body are created, die, and are replaced many times throughout our lives. We are constantly remaking ourselves. In order to regenerate, our bodies convert the food we eat into basic building blocks of life.

The earth itself provides the nutrients we need to renew ourselves, and when we shed cells, they are returned to the earth. We might say, then, that we are constantly transforming our physical bodies by recycling earth.

Next, consider our emotions. Emotions are just recycled energy. Emotions do not originate with us. They come and go depending on situations, circumstances, relationships, and events.

Emotions are never created in isolation; they always come about because of some interaction with the environment. In the absence of circumstances or relationships, there is no emotion. So even though I may fly into a rage, it is not actually my anger. It is anger that has settled on me for the moment. Each emotion is dependent on the context, circumstances, and relationships that define your reality at that moment.

And what about our thoughts? Well, our thoughts are recycled information. Every thought we have is actually part of a collective database. All but the most original thoughts are actually quantum leaps of creativity that occur from that same collective, recycled bed of imagination.

So if our bodies are recycled earth, our emotions are recycled energy, and our thoughts are recycled information, what is it that makes you an individual? According to many of the great spiritual traditions, one of the great truths is that “I am the other.” Without the other, we would not exist.

Adapted from The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire, by Deepak Chopra (Three Rivers Press).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


In our culture we are not taught to see falling in love as a spiritual event, yet for centuries that was the accepted interpretation.

When the question “Where does love come from?” was asked, the universal answer was God. The lives of saints of every religion have demonstrated love in its spiritual dimension; at the same time the humblest person who fell in love also realized he was treading on sacred ground. Over the centuries, particularly in the West, the divine connection was lost.

In spiritual terms falling in love is an opening, an opportunity to step into the timeless and stay there, to learn the ways of spirit and bring them down to earth.

All openings are temporary – this is not a limitation specific to falling in love. The real question is, What should we do with the opening? The highest spiritual qualities – those of truth, faith, trust, and compassion – grow from the tiniest seeds of daily experience. How can we tend this fragile opening of the heart, nurture it until it develops into more substantial stages of growth?

We must examine romance, the first stage in love’s journey, as part of a timeless cycle that brings greater and greater knowledge of spiritual reality.

There are four distinct phases of romance: attraction, infatuation, courtship, and intimacy. Although not everyone can expect to experience them exactly the same way, all four naturally emerge once your feeling for someone else go beyond friendship to passionate attachment. These four phases of romance occur in a natural, linear sequence, but at the same time they come full circle.

Although it happens spontaneously, falling in love isn’t accidental – there are no accidents in the spiritual life, only patterns we haven’t yet recognized.

All love is based on the search for spirit.

Adapted from The Path to Love, by Deepak Chopra (Three Rivers Press, 1997).


Adapted from Walking Meditation, by Nguyen Anh-Huong and Thich Nhat Hanh (Sounds True, 2006).

Walking meditation is meditation while walking. We walk slowly, in a relaxed way, keeping a light smile on our lips. When we practice this way, we feel deeply at ease, and our steps are those of the most secure person on Earth. All our sorrows and anxieties drop away, and peace and joy fill our hearts. Anyone can do it. It takes only a little time, a little mindfulness, and the wish to be happy.
–Thich Nhat Hanh

Here are two ways to practice walking meditation, by Thich Nhat Hanh:

We can practice walking meditation by counting steps or by using words. If the rhythm of our breathing is three steps for each in-breath and out-breath (3-3), for example, we can say, silently, “Lotus flower blooms. Lotus flower blooms,” or “The green planet. The green planet,” as we walk. If our breathing is two steps for each in-breath, and three steps for each out breath(2-3), we might say, “Lotus flower. Lotus flower blooms.” Or “Walking on the green planet. Walking on the green planet,” for 5-6.

We don’t just say the words. We really see flowers blooming under our feet. We really become one with our green planet. Feel free to use your own creativity and wisdom. Walking meditation is not hard labor. It is for your enjoyment.
–Thich Nhat Hanh

When you begin to practice walking meditation, you might feel unbalanced, like a baby learning to walk. Follow your breathing, dwell mindfully on your steps, and soon you will find your balance. Visualize a tiger walking slowly, and you will find that your steps become as majestic as the steps of a tiger.
– Thich Nhat Hanh

Monday, May 10, 2010


What do people carry in with them when they close the curtain of the voting booth? They carry their political convictions, whether they align with the right or the left. They carry their sense of civic duty. They carry their emotions. But deeper down, aren’t they also carrying their whole lives? If living in the moment means anything, it means that each moment of existence is a point that contains everything. In a mysterious way, to act is to express the universe, and like the still point of the revolving world, each act is both in time and outside it.

Spiritual people aspire to be in both places, timebound and timeless. In India this is sometimes expressed as “the lamp at the door” – your soul is poised, as if on a threshold between the everyday events that occur in time and the background of the unchanging, infinite absolute.

The reason this is important is it doesn’t really matter what actions you take. The important thing is how much consciousness you add to the whole of human existence, for that is how eternity expresses itself, like a lamp shining in through the window of eternity.

A great soul like Buddha or Jesus wasn’t just a lamp at the door; they were beacons. You and I may feel smaller than Buddha or Jesus, yet that is an opinion formed by our egos. Spiritually, all the light being expressed through a human being is equal, at least in terms of quality. Why? Because light is a metaphor for the power of consciousness.

Everyone’s consciousness draws from the same underlying reality. But it doesn’t really matter if history will remember you as a great soul. At this moment you are expressing the entire universe through your consciousness.

The cosmic plan, whether we call it divine or not, doesn’t need you or me to reach fulfillment. Yet the parts you and I play are unique. No one can duplicate them; we make our own cosmic history every second.

Adapted from: Peace Is the Way, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2005).


Dreams, we all have them. But can we ever really understand what they mean?

Story by Molly Mann, originally published April 2008 on Divine Caroline.

sleeping_teen.jpgDreams come to us in our most private moments: wrapped up in sheets, our public faces stored away for the night. The visions we see in sleep are supposed to be expressions of our individual psyches and imaginations, but most people's dreams are based on themes that are very common. I thought my recurring dream of losing my teeth was scary and freakish until I went online to find thousands of others having the same dream, all trying to find out what the heck it could mean. Just because our dreams are shared, though, doesn't mean they aren't unique; the way we experience these common elements in dreaming life is what's significant.

1. Being chased.
Candice Janco, author of the Bedside Dream Dictionary: 500 Dream Symbols and Their Meanings, describes this dream (the most common) as an indication of a felt threat in your waking life. This threat can take the form of a menacing person or a strong emotion with which you are having difficulty coping. Try to determine who or what is chasing you, where the dream takes place, and what your feelings are during the chase to understand what this dreams means to you.

2. Missing an important event because you are late.
This can indicate regret over a missed opportunity, inability to make a connection, or desire to pull oneself together. In Dream Power: How to Use Your Night Dreams to Change Your Life, Cynthia Richmond suggests asking questions of dreams in order to understand what this common symbol means to you. For example: What are you missing? Who is disappointed by the missed event? Is it only you or are there others involved?

3. Finding yourself at work or school naked.
Not surprisingly, Freud interpreted dreams about being naked as repressed sexual wishes. But the most important part of this dream is the feelings that are involved. You suddenly find yourself exposed, vulnerable, and awkward. What area of your life corresponds to that feeling? Figure this out by noting where you are, who notices you, what part of you is exposed, how people react to you, and how you yourself react to the situation.

4. Falling.
Falling indicates feelings of insecurity and lack of support. What situation have you "fallen into?" Who has "let you down?" Perhaps not surprisingly, this particular dream is most common among professional men and women. The Illustrated Dream Dictionary authors Russell Grant and Vicky Emptage note the close relationship between "falling" and "failing." They also note that the dream's meaning is probably not so clear-cut. Grant and Emptage ascribe dreams of falling to feelings of isolation, the sense of being without the support and affection that success cannot provide.

5. Flying.
Interestingly, Grant and Emptage interpret flying dreams as boasting about sexual powers. The important part of the dream is how you are flying; since the flying itself represents your ambitions, are you flying successfully, or trying and failing to fly as high as possible? From there, they make the leap to feelings of sexual inadequacy, but such feelings of low self-esteem could cover inadequacy of any kind, not just sexual.

6. Losing your teeth.
This theme has a number of potential meanings because of the very different significances teeth have to different people. Our teeth are representative of our appearance because our smiles are one of the first things people notice about us. Therefore, dreaming about losing your teeth can indicate insecurity about your appearance, or even fears of sexual impotence, as teeth are often used to flirt with a desired partner. We also use our teeth to bite, chew, and tear, so losing them can mean a loss of power or fear of getting old. Interestingly, this dream is most common among menopausal women, perhaps for all of the above reasons

7. Snakes.
Snakes have been a fear in dreams for quite some time. The ancient Egyptians used to make snakes out of clay and place them at the doors of their homes to frighten away nightmares, believing that snakes were bringers of bad dreams and that the clay snake would keep real ones away. Dreammoods, an online encyclopedia of dream meanings, reports that snakes signify some hidden threat. This makes sense, as most of us fear the "snake in the grass." Like most other symbols, though, this one has many meanings that depend on context. Snakes shed their skin, so they may signify renewal and transformation. This may be a frightening experience, as most people are uncomfortable with change, or it may be very positive.

In all of our dreams, the true meanings emerge when we decide what they really mean to us. Though these dream symbols are shared among many, and we can determine general explanations for them, it is the context in which we place them that is significant. Read all you can about dream meanings to find information that may be relevant to you, but also ask questions about your dreams and how these symbols make you feel. Once you dig a little deeper, you may find answers and clarity.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Every spiritual master has declared that the present moment is the home of spirit; nothing to be attained in the form of wisdom, love, and vision has to be postponed. Yet we all postpone the day when we will be loving, wise, and inspired by our own vision. This implies that the present moment is a very difficult place to reach, despite the obvious fact that we are already there. Every second is a door to eternity. The door is opened by perception.

What makes each second infinite is its potential; what makes it finite is your view of that potential. Think of an inspired moment in your life, when you made the perfect move, said the perfect thing, had the perfect idea. What made you so different in that moment?

You were open to something new. You weren’t reliving the past or anticipating the future. You felt optimistic and open; you were not defended. You let it happen, whatever it was. You felt connected.

Now ask yourself if you feel that way now. If you did you would be in a very simple, though extraordinary state: you would be in the moment.

Let your mind go blank and allow the sensation of time and space, a single expanding circle, race away from a point. Hold in your mind both extremes – the point and the circle – without letting go of either. Don’t strain or try to visualize too hard; this should be as natural as possible. Let the circle race away from the point until it disappears and you can no longer hold both things in your awareness.

The value of seeing infinity in a grain of sand is personal. The grain of sand is important. You are using this point of focus to slip out of the net of time and space. Beyond the net lies openness, which is pure potential

Adapted from The Path to Love, by Deepak Chopra (Three Rivers Press, 1997).

Monday, May 3, 2010


Story by Gretchen Rubin, originally published April 2010 at The Happiness Project.

These aren't necessarily the most essential tips for being happy — I tried to include strategies that might not otherwise occur to people. So, for example, "helping other people" isn't listed, even though it's one of the best ways of boosting your happiness.

1. Don't start with profundities.
When I began my Happiness Project, I realized pretty quickly that, rather than jumping in with lengthy daily meditation or answering deep questions of self-identity, I should start with the basics, like going to sleep at a decent hour and not letting myself get too hungry. Science backs this up; these two factors have a big impact on happiness.

2. Do let the sun go down on anger.
I had always scrupulously aired every irritation as soon as possible, to make sure I vented all bad feelings before bedtime. Studies show, however, that the notion of anger catharsis is poppycock. Expressing anger related to minor, fleeting annoyances just amplifies bad feelings, while not expressing anger often allows it to dissipate.

3. Fake it till you feel it.
Feelings follow actions. If I'm feeling low, I deliberately act cheery, and I find myself actually feeling happier. If I'm feeling angry at someone, I do something thoughtful for her and my feelings toward her soften. This strategy is uncannily effective.

4. Realize that anything worth doing is worth doing badly.
Challenge and novelty are key elements of happiness. The brain is stimulated by surprise, and successfully dealing with an unexpected situation gives a powerful sense of satisfaction. People who do new things — learn a game, travel to unfamiliar places — are happier than people who stick to familiar activities that they already do well. I often remind myself to "Enjoy the fun of failure" and tackle some daunting goal.

5. Don't treat the blues with a "treat." Often the things I choose as "treats" aren't good for me. The pleasure lasts a minute, but then feelings of guilt and loss of control and other negative consequences deepen the lousiness of the day. While it's easy to think, I'll feel good after I have a few glasses of wine ... a pint of ice cream ... a cigarette ... a new pair of jeans, it's worth pausing to ask whether this will truly make things better.

6. Buy some happiness.
Our basic psychological needs include feeling loved, secure, and good at what we do and having a sense of control. Money doesn't automatically fill these requirements, but it sure can help. I've learned to look for ways to spend money to stay in closer contact with my family and friends; to promote my health; to work more efficiently; to eliminate sources of irritation and marital conflict; to support important causes; and to have enlarging experiences. For example, when my sister got married, I splurged on a better digital camera. It was expensive, but it gave me a lot of happiness bang for the buck.

7. Don't insist on the best.
There are two types of decision makers. Satisficers (yes, satisficers) make a decision once their criteria are met. When they find the hotel or the pasta sauce that has the qualities they want, they're satisfied. Maximizers want to make the best possible decision. Even if they see a bicycle or a backpack that meets their requirements, they can't make a decision until they've examined every option. Satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers. Maximizers expend more time and energy reaching decisions, and they're often anxious about their choices. Sometimes good enough is good enough.

8. Exercise to boost energy.
I knew, intellectually, that this worked, but how often have I told myself, "I'm just too tired to go to the gym"? Exercise is one of the most dependable mood-boosters. Even a 10-minute walk can brighten my outlook. Having trouble sticking to your exercise regimen? Here are 12 tips for staying motivated to exercise.

9. Stop nagging.
I knew my nagging wasn't working particularly well, but I figured that if I stopped, my husband would never do a thing around the house. Wrong. If anything, more work got done. Plus, I got a surprisingly big happiness boost from quitting nagging. I hadn't realized how shrewish and angry I had felt as a result of speaking like that. I replaced nagging with the following persuasive tools: wordless hints (for example, leaving a new lightbulb on the counter); using just one word (saying "Milk!" instead of talking on and on); not insisting that something be done on my schedule; and, most effective of all, doing a task myself. Why did I get to set the assignments? I found it hard to give up nagging — in fact, I came up with 19 strategies to try to cure myself of the nagging habit.

10. Take action.
Some people assume happiness is mostly a matter of inborn temperament: You're born an Eeyore or a Tigger, and that's that. Although it's true that genetics play a big role, about 40 percent of your happiness level is within your control. Taking time to reflect, and conscious steps to make your life happier, really does work.


Have you reinvented yourself? Reinvention is a buzzword that describes many of the 78 million baby boomers who are coming of age this decade. Yep, there are a lot of us out there, and the sentiment that is running through our generation is that we are shifting the way we approach work. Some take the plunge into a new career by choice, while others are dealing with layoffs that make work and life transformations necessary. For retirees, funds may have plunged, forcing them back into the workforce.

Whether it’s the economy or other circumstances, for many, career changes often point to reinvention. For some, it may mean going back to school and becoming trained in a new profession. For others, it means moving on and starting over, and for some, it might mean cutting back and adjusting to a new reality.

Let’s do an “I’ll tell you mine and you tell me your’s.” Here is a synopsis of my story:

I was a teacher from the minute I graduated college. I started teaching kindergarten and worked my way up through the grades, and then became a private school co-administrator. Throughout my 25-plus years of teaching, I loved my job. Of course, I wore other hats too. Along with my husband, I raised two wonderful children and created an EcoNest. I also wrote articles for both national and local publications and books, and I volunteered in my community. It was a busy and fulfilling life. The last three or four years of teaching, I was increasingly experiencing what is dubbed, “teacher burnout.” I still loved working with kids, but the spark and creativity was losing steam. My patience with co-workers was lagging, and I felt my effectiveness slipping. When my nest emptied, I decided to take a sabbatical and see where that led me. I never looked back.

It seems that many of my friends are in similar situations. In fact, in an article called, The Fountain of Reinvention, the New York Times found two factors that generally accompany these reinvention stories - risk and fear. It takes a certain amount of risk to take the plunge (unless your’ve been pushed out of your job), and there is an ample quantity of fear associated with the shifting changes.

Once you face some of your fears, the risk no longer seemed so dangerous. I experienced some common fears. One was the fear of losing my identity. What would I call myself? I’ve always been a teacher. At the beginning of my sabbatical, I found myself saying that I am a teacher, I’m trying other things out. Now I just say I am a writer and educator, and a Green Living Expert (thank you Care2 for that definition). I had a fear of failing. I worked through this with the help of my family. They were very supportive, and while I chose to start over, my accomplishments have been mounting up. But, more importantly, I got that spark back because I am learning so many new things. I was also fearful that I would never make the same amount of money after leaving my teaching job (Geeze, I had two kids in college. What was I thinking?) Well, that is true. But, I am happier not commuting a few hours a day and my stress level is so much lower. Other pieces of life seem to shift around to make it work.

Here are 5 ways to reinvent yourself via this Huffington Post article that describes the essential self-assessment strategies to help empower you towards professional reinvention.

1. Consider What You Value
2. Rediscover Your Interests
3. Embrace Your Personality
4. Scrutinize Your Skill Set
5. Develop Your Brand

Ronnie Citron-Fink is a writer and educator. Ronnie regularly writes about sustainable living for online sites and magazines. Along with being the creator of, Ronnie has contributed to numerous books about green home design, DIY, children, and humor. Ronnie lives the Hudson Valley of New York with her family.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Love is experienced in relationship. Without someone to love you, the feelings of love – the warmth in a mother’s heart, the gladness of friendship, the excitement of intimacy – have no stimulus. That is why the commonest image for being unloved is being alone.

When you are alone, there seems to be no relationship. People who find themselves alone rarely feel any incentive to explore love. They await contact with another person or run out to seek it. Thus we become dependent on other people to make us feel totally and permanently loved.

This expectation will, however, always be defeated, and although we blame those who failed to respond to us, who responded but then left, who stayed but then changed their minds, none of them is finally the cause of our problem. The cause is our inability to develop an unshakable relationship with ourselves. The Self is the source of love. People who live their own love stories have learned this lesson above all.

The absence of love is as devastating as its presence is beneficial. We will have to assume, unfortunately, that most people are not living a love story right now. Even those who say they are most deeply in love may be deluding themselves, at least in part.

Once it has grown to fullness, a love based on spirit has no fear of being wounded. Imperfect forms of love are much more vulnerable. Almost everyone has asked for love and received rejection instead. The effect of rejection, failure, humiliation, and other traumas is to numb one’s feelings.

Love requires sensitivity. It must have openness. Whatever has numbed you makes it much harder for you to feel love. Therefore people who are numb at the emotional level cannot live their love stories.

Adapted from The Path to Love, by Deepak Chopra (Three Rivers Press, 1997).