Posted in Community, Empowerment

Your Tribe Will Get You Through the Unknown

If you follow my blog you know that I travel around the country for work, months at a time. I work long hours and in return my time off is really off. I’ve had the good fortune to visit some great cities and in each one I make sure and find my tribe. My tribe is anyone who engages in artistic endeavors, no matter the genre. In addition, I always make it a point to visit the local attractions such as museums and botanic gardens not to mention quilt shops and knitting shops.

My current work assignment is in Baltimore. My other blog is where I focus on stitching as meditation. I was looking for a particular yarn and found that a local art supply store happened to carry this gorgeous 100% wool yarn. I made it over to the shop, found the yarn, but they didn’t have enough for my project. Little did I know, until I got up to the register, that they have back stock that isn’t on the floor. I found five more skeins of yarn and proceeded to check out.

The staff inquired if I was affiliated with the Art Institute as a student or faculty member, to receive the discount. I explained that I’m visiting from out-of-state for a work contract. Once I divulged where I lived, the two employees proceeded to tell me about all the art spots that I had to see while in town. First they were focused on fiber art, since that’s my medium, but I explained I’m open to anything art related. They gave me a list of locations, exhibitions, and venues to visit before I leave town. They made me feel very welcomed and over the next few weeks will give me things to see and do while I’m far away from home.

So who is your tribe? What makes a tribe? I find that it’s about common passions. It doesn’t matter what you’re passionate about, these folks exist all around you. Another way that tribes are formed is by common experience. I’ve worked in outpatient drug and alcohol programs and the bonds that are formed are very strong. When I worked at The Wellness Community, serving cancer patients and their families, they created a tribe. The tribe can tell you the things you need to do, see, look for, and experience, as well as where the land mines are to avoid.

I was fortunate to attend a graduate school that had the ancient Wisdom Traditions as the foundation of the curriculum. I met amazing people who were on the same pilgrimage as me. We took classes together, worked on our dissertations together, and fortunately graduated together. The experience of traveling with other seekers was amazing. It eased much of the anxiety of the process and increased my level of devotion to the work. My tribe supported and nurtured me throughout my journey.

Where we got the notion that it’s better to go it alone I’m not sure. What I do know from personal and professional experience is that having a tribe makes me feel a part of something larger than me. It gives me the sense of expansion and possibility that exists beyond what I can see in my world today.

Who makes up your tribe? How have they created a safe haven on your personal journey? How have you benefited from being part of a tribe? Be conscious of these questions and I think you’ll be amazed at the connections that are all around you!

Posted in Uncategorized

Size of Your World

I remember the first time I saw the pictures of the earth taken from outer space, what a magical vision.  For a planet that seemed so large the picture made it look so small; I guess that’s a lesson in perspective.  As we stand on this planet, in our bodies the illness experience knocks us off our pedestal of feeling big and cuts us down to size.  It’s not a punishment, or a lesson in reality, but an understanding of our place in the world.

The question “what’s the size of your world?” is important because it’s not uncommon following an illness diagnosis for our worlds to shrink and the unfortunately it’s repopulated with a medical community we had no interest in knowing.  Maybe our world has to increase it’s size like a taffy pull, just keep tugging at the edges and stretching it till it becomes smoothe and shiny. This would happen by friends, neighbors and co-workers engaging you.   Maybe we can increase the size of our worlds the way they do with angioplasty…insert a balloon into the artery and then slowly fill the balloon with air increasing it’s size allowing for increased blood flow.  Perhaps we can increase the size of our worlds by invitation, making specific requests of people.

It’s interesting that President Obama asked the country to engage in acts of service.  Can you think of any greater act of service than maintaining our relationships to their full capacity?  Service is not only something we do for those we don’t know.  Service is about extending a hand to anyone who could use a bit more support and encouragement.

How will you increase the size of your world?   Make a list of five things you can do and then select one that you can do today.  I’d love to hear what you’ve chosen and the actions you’ve taken to increase the size of your world.

Posted in Uncategorized

What Shapes You?

As a kid I used to watch Gumby and Pokey.  As an adult I had both a Gumby and Pokey toy in my therapy office.  The amazing thing is that it wasn’t the kids who played with these bendable toys; it was the adults.  It could be that kids didn’t know who these two claymation characters were and adult knew full well the escapades these two got into in every episode.  It wasn’t unusual for the adult to pick up the figures and bend them in all possible ways, shaping them to match their emotional being in the moment.

I ask the question, “what shapes you?” because you’ll need to have an answer, and a conscious answer as you move through your health challenge.  Facing a chronic or life-threatening illness means you recruit all possible allies to help you move forward on your journey to wellness.  The amazing thing is that the answer to this question can be as unique as the people walking on this earth.

When I ask clients or audience participants this question they respond with everything from how they were brought up as children, to their ethnic or religious backgrounds, to their political beliefs, and to the person sitting next to them on the bus.  There is no “correct” answer because we’re shaped every day whether we know it or not.  Every time you see a news story or read an article and you have a reaction you’re being shaped in some fashion.

The question is do you want to be able to foster that experience or allow it to be spontaneous?  Knowing what shapes you will give you the edge in your wellness strategy because you will look for things to support and expand your belief system and validate, not to mention reinforce your values.  I’ll give you an example.  I have a friend who has become a raw food vegan.  She was a vegetarian, then a vegan and now a raw food vegan.  Why the evolution?  As she dove deeper into her beliefs and values she found that her diet needed to be a part of the big picture.  It wasn’t a chance decision it came from years of personal experience and knowledge about her own body.  The results she reports are truly beneficial.  She not only feels better physically, but she feels more congruent in her mind, body, spirit connection.  She has created harmony within her body and soul and that creates a healing environment.

What has shaped you in the past and how has it manfiested in your life?  What would you like to dive into deeper?  What are the beliefs and values that need support?  How do you feel this will impact your healing?

Posted in after the diagnosis, Living with Illness

The Blame Game

It’s Christmas morning, last night was the fourth night of Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice just passed and Kwanza begins tomorrow, talk about a holiday grouping.  I’ve been flipping through the channels on television and there are numerous programs talking about what the holidays mean, how they began, how we celebrate and noting the time of wonder.  Families are waking up this morning to open presents, the traditional Jewish celebration of Christmas was to go to the movies and then Chinese food and the candle industry is riding the tide during a season of lights.

In many faiths this is a time of wonder and miracles.  I’m sure many of you facing chronic and life-threatning illnesses are hoping, wishing even praying for a cure.  It’s difficult to let go of the anger, the blame or the pity that results from being sick.  Many can’t understand why they just can get past the diagnosis and move on to more fruitful endeavors.

If you read stories about the mystics and the Saints you’ll find they weren’t believing all the time.  Many had battles with their God and they still became Saints.  Following a difficult time in Teresa of Avila’s life she’s quoted as saying to God, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them!” I share that with you because it’s natural to want to blame someone for the diagnosis.  It’s understandable to want to be able to answer the question “why” or even “why me”, but as of today you may not have any answers.

I know that you may feel picked on, but then why would you want to believe or need to believe that you were singled out by God to be given a heavy load to carry.  Last month I was talking to a friend who has a lot of challenges in her life.  She said, “I hear the phrases like, God doesn’t give you more than you handle, or what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.  She then turned to me and said, “If that’s true then I’m mad at God”.

This is one of those times in life when we tend to leave science and move exclusively into our relationship with God.  This is a time in your life when you need more friends than enemies.  This is a time in life when spiritual comfort can mean the difference between soul stamina and soul exhaustion.  This is a time when the belief in the possible far outweighs the belief in victimization.  What if we just walked around with the notion that what happened to us happened and now what am I going to do about it.  Take the pressure off your relationship with the Divine and use that relationship as a pillar of hope.  Miracles do happen.  It’s not time to make something happen; it’s time to welcome something in.

What will you Welcome In this holiday season?

Posted in Emotional Health, Relationships


They say you shouldn’t judge a person before you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.  If that’s true then how do we cultivate empathy in others.  Those who are facing health challenges could hold classes for the loved one’s in their lives to explain the complexities of their illness and all the ramifications of treatment.  That’s obviously an unrealistic expectation.

Let’s look at the continuum.  First we have sympathy.  Sympathy is the experience of enmeshment with the person who is challenged.  You literally feel the person’s pain.  This is not helpful to either of you and can create a cycle of negative energy.  You’ll both be on the hamster wheel with no way off.

Empathy is the absorption of the other’s pain.  It’s like the episode of Star Trek with “The Empath”  she absorbs the pain from the other person and processed it through her own body.  People experiencing challenge believe you’re a hero.  Unfortunately it’s because they have someone doing the work for them.  There is little chance that you, the person with the health challenge, is going to grow and create healthy avenues for wellness.

Finally there’s compassion.  Compassion is the state where you don’t go into the emotional state with the other person but you’re fully present.  This is the greatest gift you can offer someone with a health challenge.  Acknowledging their challenge, their bravery, their courage and their resourceful and allowing them to come up with solutions is powerful.

It’s easy to get seduced by the story of someone who is ill, but that’s a trap without a happy ending.  Developing the ability to sit with the pain, but not have to eliminate another’s pain is difficult, but empowering for the person with the life-altering health diagnosis.

As someone who is ill the obvious would be to have someone remove the pain and let you off with no responsibility.  Obviously that’s not possible, so don’t you want your loved one’s to show compassion and give you the strength to emerge stronger than before?  Let me know how you would encourage your loved one’s to develop compassion.  Sharing this information with the world could end a lot of suffering for those facing an illness.

Posted in Partnerships

Wishing Doesn’t Heal

You can’t wish away a hill or a mountain, so why do some people think they can wish away their illness?  I believe the “wish” mode kicks in when the individual is following one of two paths.   Either they are too lazy to do the necessary healing work, or their belief system in “wishing” is so strong and they have witnessed that type of healing

In my world, I know after years of wishing that participating in my healthcare makes all the difference in the world.  It’s amazing the path your healing journey can take when you plan for it the way you might plan for a vacation (obviously we know which one is more fun).

When preparing for the journey you have to be clear where you want to be.  You have to have that dialogue with your doctor because it may require your treatment plan to be a bit more aggressive.  I know when I have chosen treatment regimens I’ve been very clear to the doctor that I don’t need every symptom to gone, I don’t want to be uncomfortable, but I’m not trying to pass in this world as someone who is 100% without medical concerns.  This conversation allowed us to pick a medication plan that has the least number of side effects, and if it works it has the least long term effects.  The bottom line is that I can manage my illness without worrying about dreadful long term effects that might cause more harm and truly impact not only the quality of my life, but my longevity.

Know ahead of time what you want to spend…I DON”T MEAN FINANCIALLY.  What energy are you willing to exert in return for improved health.  Years ago I had a client with AIDS who have CMV retinitis.  His treatment included a daily home infusion that would take three hours and it had to be done before he went to work.  To save his eyesight he was willing to get up three hours early in the morning to do the infusion and that became is new normal.  You sweat equity may not be that drastic, but know ahead of time what you’re willing to do.  Are you ready to learn to self-inject medication?  Are you willing to attend physical therapy three times a week?  These are just examples, but knowing this ahead of time will aid your doctor because he won’t prescribe a plan that you won’t be on board with, and the treatment regimen prescribed will have greater success with you on board.

Don’t throw wishing totally out the window because the hope of wellness is good for the psyche.  Include wishing in your total medical plan and you may even come to convert wishing into action in your spiritual life…we can only wish.

Posted in Personal Conviction

Does Time Really Mean Anything?

The clock ticks but does it really say anything? Time passes and we yearn for more time. When facing a life-altering health crisis time may be counting down till medication starts working. It is often what passes in waiting rooms. We believe or want to believe that time is endless. I was talking to my father last week about time, really about age, after my uncle’s death at the age of 61. My father asked me if I ever thought about the fact that the time I have left to live is probably less than what I’ve already lived (I’m about to turn 47).

It’s clear that time means a lot to those who have little left. You can go from being here to not being here in a very short period of time. There is an element of surprise when time doesn’t play by the rules we want to set. I can tell you from my work with thousands of clients over the past twenty-years that time waits for no one. It’s as if “time” has it’s own rule book but doesn’t tell anyone the rules.

Stop watching the clock, the calendar, the moon if that’s how you mark the passing of time. Begin living in the moment and you won’t have to worry about what’s passing you. It’s like riding the wave in surfing, you get caught up in the excitement, the drama, the risk, the accomplishment and the fact that maybe thirty seconds passed means nothing… it’s all about how much you lived in that time.

Posted in Personal Conviction, Spirituality and Health


One way that many of us choose to make sense out of this crazy world is to follow a spiritual path.  It can take many forms and can be formal or informal, but it gives us a sense of peace and a groundedness that keeps us centered.  What happens when we receive a life-altering health diagnosis?  Are we sophisticated enough, mature enough, or evolved enough to rely on our spiritual practice to ease our transition to a new life?  Have we cultivated the resources to aid us on our journey to wellness?

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how we create a spiritual bond when facing adversity.  I read lots of stories from people who ask God the big question…Why?  I know I don’t have an answer and no matter how many accounts I read that classify the diagnosis as a gift, does it really reconcile the feelings of betrayal by the body or our shattered assumptions about health?

The biggest piece of the puzzle is removing blame from the equation.  Blaming God, the environment or ourselves doesn’t serve us and doesn’t promote healing.  It promotes stagnation and that’s never a good thing.  I’m wondering how you reintroduce yourself to your spiritual practice following the diagnosis.  It’s like beginning to date again after a divorce, it takes some time to get back in the game, but reconciliation like forgiveness is healing.

Having the capacity to reignite spiritual bonds serves as a cushion for the journey to wellness.  How have you reconciled your faith with your illness?  I’d love to hear.

Posted in Emotional Health, Having a Voice

Don’t Sleepwalk Through Life

How many people have you met over the course of your life who simply go through the motions?  Maybe you were one prior to hearing the doctor say, “I’m sorry to tell you but…”.  If those words didn’t set off life’s alarm clock I’m not sure anything will, but let’s give it a try.

One of my favorite books that I encourage my clients to read (for a complete list go to, is Andy Andrews book “The Traveler’s Gift”.  It’s an easy read and can be picked up whenever it’s convenient.  The lessons are not reliant upon one another so take it at your own pace.  I recently visited my family and decided to give the book to my dad to make sure in life he’s not hitting the snooze button.

The following week I met up with my father and he began discussing the book, without prompting.  The lesson that caught his attention was from the chapter where the main character meets Anne Frank.  The lesson he learned from her is “Today I will choose to be happy”.  That’s a pretty big statement for a 14 year old girl who is hiding from death but ultimately can’t outrun the horror of the Nazis.

When we make conscious choices we are not sleepwalking, we’re not even dozing.  It’s during those times of the day when we make conscious choices that we feel alive.  The decisions aren’t always easy, but each one is a notch on your belt of life’s accomplishments.  You can choose to live in a dream world but unless you’re attune to the subconscious messages of your dreams, it’s only fantasy.

Turn up the volume on life’s alarm clock.  Remove the snooze button and take action.  Even if it’s the smallest thing, what will you do choose happiness today?  Let me know and share it with the world.

Posted in Emotional Health, Relationships

Make it Count

I had the pleasure of going to visit my family this past weekend in Dallas.  My parents moved there a year ago and my brother his wife and their 3 year old have lived their for the past ten years.  I was great spending the weekend with family but of course around every corner there are unforeseen events that derail the train.

My uncle has been a hero battling melanoma for the past three years.  He hasn’t let his guard down for a moment as he searches for new treatments and experts to help him keep living the life he cherishes.  Unfortunately, we received news that my uncle was hospitalized because of blood clots in his lungs, not a good thing.

I’m not sharing this story for sympathy.  The family is currently in a waiting mode, but I know the outcome will be that he will die.  It shines a light on how brave all those facing a life-altering diagnosis have to be to keep in the game.  It takes determination, perseverance, and the ability to keep your physical and spiritual stamina so you have the reserves you need to keep fighting the fight.

It’s easy to get caught up in the bullshit of the day.  It’s convenient when we get distracted by stupid things that in the big picture have no bearing on the quality of our lives; they simply rob of us moments we have to make memories and share our life energy with others.  The derailment is often subtle, unlike the current news about my uncle.  It often seeps in and robs us of those precious moments we could be spending with friends and family.

We have to make it all count.  The struggles are part of the process.  It’s our job to keep them in perspective and not allow derailments to change the course of striving to continue the journey to keep us “Surviving Strong”.