What Happy People Know

Hello Everyone!

I have been busy serving, healing, learning, and growing, but most of all, I have been discovering the secrets to happiness!

With politics as they are right now, it’s easy to be grumpy and to be afraid.  It’s also easy to experience the same energy of “us vs. them” that comes from policies that separate and discriminate people from each other.  Sometimes, it’s tempting to say, “I told you so,” but what’s the use of that?  How do we deal with real life issues, maintain our values, and continue to remain aligned to a source of love, peace, and joy?

Recently, I read a wonderful book that has helped me to do just that, called, “What Happy People Know.”  Its wisdom is straightforward, refreshing, and helpful.  As I share some insights from its contents, I hope its message will help you to live more happily despite this imperfect life.

Enjoy!  ☺


What Happy People Know

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Dr. Dan Baker, Ph.D., published, “What Happy People Know” in 2003.  I just recently discovered it, resting on a table, during this past weekend at my PAIRS mastery classes. 

The title drew my curiosity like a magnet.  What do happy people know? 

As it turns out, Dr. Baker is the Director of the Life Enhancement Program at Canyon Ranch, a luxury wellness resort and spa, where the rich go when they are depressed and need help to make their life worth living.  Despite its name, Canyon Ranch is not located in Utah, Arizona, or Wyoming.  It’s a palatial mansion in Lenox, Massachusetts.  Dr. Baker has counseled billionaires who had everything: wealth, health, fame, power, family, and talent, and yet, they were miserable.  If anyone can be considered an expert on happiness, Dr. Baker would be among the best in the field.

His vignettes clearly illustrate that happiness cannot be acquired or purchased like a new yacht or plane.  Happiness cannot be dependent on something external to ourselves, because everything external to ourselves ultimately makes us dependent on a thing and not truly alive in a state of happiness.

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In teaching others about how to be happy, Dr. Baker first explains the root of unhappiness: fear. 

To transform unhappiness to happiness, we must learn to replace fear with love—especially the kind of love that is found in appreciation. 

In addition, he cautions us to avoid the “VERBs”:
V for victim. 
E for entitlement. 
R for rescue. 
B for blame. 

When we indulge in these habits, we give away our power, remain in scarcity, and lose our self-sufficiency when facing challenges.  When we focus, instead, on life’s positive lessons and memories rather than on disappointments, we enlarge our capacity to be resilient when faced with setbacks, losses, and disappointments.

Of course, he is not trying to preach a Pollyanna attitude.  He encourages individuals to be realistic when facing problems.  But, what he emphasizes is seeing problems from a positive angle.  Problems can become challenges and challenges can become opportunities.  Life invites us to learn how to transform our problems into opportunities for growth.

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As I read his book, I couldn’t help feeling envious of how good some of his clients had it—financially—and found it difficult to empathize with their suffering, though I could understand it intellectually.  It wasn’t until I realized that I was one of those people who had everything, and yet still struggled with unhappiness, that I allowed his words to sink into my heart.

I don’t know when I shifted from perceiving his stories as being about others to being about me.  No, I am not a billionaire, but I am richly blessed.  Once I complained to my son that the house cleaners had spilt blue cleaning solution on my carpet and now I had to hire someone to repair it. 

His reply was, “That’s a rich person problem.” 

End of discussion.  I slunk away and stopped complaining.

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As I read this book, I came to realize that I had allowed some of my adolescent losses and disappointments to define my self-worth.  I had felt entitled to certain opportunities and blamed those who had disappointed me.  I was a victim in my eyes and, therefore, I was powerless to overcome the damaging effects of those traumas.  I had a bad case of the VERBs. 

Because of my focus on past disappointments, I had failed to appreciate who I had become.  I devalued what I had worked so hard to create: an incredible holistic psychiatry practice that was ideal for me in every way.  I wouldn’t trade it even for a job at Canyon Ranch!  I couldn’t see how I had an amazing life, despite my disappointments, and had never lost anything of real value. 

Wherever I went in life, there I was. 

No one and no circumstance could take me away from myself—except for me. 

I was so focused on my traumas that I lost sight of my strengths.

After reading Dr. Baker’s book, I realized my error and chose to be appreciative of everything: the losses, the journey, and the healing.  I decided that my life was worth loving and accepting.  When I chose to see my life from that perspective, I felt happy. 

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Happiness is a choice, and we can choose to live it despite imperfect circumstances.  

Following Dr. Baker’s advice, I decided to enjoy life and live a little.  

Just this past week, for the first time, I decided to get some highlights for my hair.  I must have scared the hairdresser with my repeated emphasis on it being subtle, because no one can see the highlights.  It’s hidden under a layer of black hair.  Also, I registered for an Introduction to an improv class at the Washington Improv Theater.  I anticipate that it will be an exhilarating experience, where I will be partly terrified and partly excited to be there.  

I hope that you’ll take time to enjoy “What Happy People Know.”  It is well worth the $7.00 on Amazon.  I wish this book had been in print when I was a teenager. 

Hmmm…looks like I need a little more work on focusing on the positive. 

Okay, let’s reframe that thought. 

I am so happy that I found this book while in the prime of my life!

Consolations: The Writing and Poetry of David Whyte

Hello Everyone,

I hope that you’ve been growing, learning, and thriving these past two weeks.  Recently, I have been enjoying the extraordinary books and poetry by David Whyte.  He writes of the raw, dark, poignant process of living and dying and makes it glow with renewed purpose and meaning.  His poetry and work teach us to let go of the shame we carry, for being human and vulnerable, and allow us to connect authentically.  

I am looking forward to attending a pre-conference workshop of his, called, “The Art of Asking the Beautiful Question” at the ACEP (Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology) conference at San Antonio, Texas, in May.

In this newsletter, I want to explore how his writing encouraged and enlightened me, as I explored my childhood traumas this past weekend at PAIRS.  I hope that you will enjoy my reflections.

Have a great week!  ☺ 


Consolations: The Writing and Poetry of David Whyte

“Consolations, The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words” by David Whyte was written in prose and published in 2016.  He dedicated the book to “words and their beautiful hidden and beckoning uncertainties.”  These words were arranged in alphabetical order--words such as alone, beauty, courage, and disappointment.

Of the word, disappointment, he wrote:

Disappointment is inescapable but necessary…

What we call disappointment may be just the first stage of our emancipation into the next greater pattern of existence.

The measure of our courage is the measure of our willingness to embrace disappointment, to turn towards it rather than away, the understanding that every real conversation of life involves having our hearts broken somewhere along the way and that there is no sincere path we can follow where we will not be fully and immeasurably let down and brought to earth, and where what initially looks like a betrayal, eventually puts real ground under our feet…

Disappointment is just the initial meeting with the frontier of an evolving life, an invitation to reality, which we expected to be one particular way and turns out to be another, often something more difficult, more overwhelming and strangely, in the end, more rewarding.

This past weekend at PAIRS, we worked together, as a class, on our childhood betrayals and disappointments, letting go of our emotional attachment to the stories that had defined us, yet had nothing to do with us.  We embraced our disappointments and came to understand that “every real conversation with life involves having our hearts broken somewhere along the way and that there is no sincere path we can follow where we will not be fully and immeasurably let down.” 

Perhaps “disappointment” does not adequately express the intense suffering caused by repeated neglect and abuse.  Or, perhaps, the word “disappointment” could be redefined, to include the existential desolation and anguish from such profound loss that to own it would plunge the victim into denigration and shame. 

Whatever word we choose to describe our experiences, each of us, being human, had been “fully and immeasurably let down” and, in our innocence and childhood, had re-interpreted our individual private let downs as a measure of our own worthlessness.

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In PAIRS, we were given the chance, to finally ask for what we needed, and we were able to heal through authentic, compassionate connection.  We supported each other by touching each other with the intent to bring consolation, and affirming each other’s innate worth. 

We became the voices of the past that should have spoken but had remained silent, and the arms of the past that should have embraced but had been absent.  We healed as we faced our disappointments and voiced them together. 

In the poem “Everything is Waiting for You,” David Whyte writes:

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone.  As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions.  To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings.  Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice.  You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.

The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation.  The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last.  All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves.  Everything is waiting for you.

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Our collective mistake, as children of an imperfect world, had been to believe that we were alone.  As I witnessed my classmates open up and become truly authentic in their suffering, I felt myself through them.  I realized that I have never been alone in my suffering; rather, I had been universally connected through suffering.  As a group, we put down the weight of our aloneness and eased into the conversation.

The conversation was neither eloquent nor premeditated.  The words were simple and direct: “I want to be loved and accepted as I am,” “I was so afraid all the time, ”How could you have done that to me?  I was a child!” Finally, after decades of indignant waiting, we heard from our fellow classmates the words we had yearned to hear, “We are so sorry,” and, “you are beautiful and loved.”

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I didn’t notice, at first, any shift, resulting from the exercises we did during PAIRS.  But later that evening, as if a film had been removed, I could hear more clearly, the “tiny speaker in the phone” that was my “dream-ladder to divinity”, whispering softly, kind words--words of self-affirmation—strangely freed from the haunting gray, tattered fabric of the past that once clung to every thought-form and encounter.  

Later, I noticed that the world, and the people in it, had changed.  It was as if the hardened cocoon that had been me had cracked open.  To what?  To an awareness of the  fluttering, fragile, loveliness within self and others. 

It seemed as if the world had become a friendlier place where “the kettle is singing even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots have left their arrogant aloofness and seen the good in you at last.” I had returned, to reclaim the pieces once tossed aside in grief, and had found that Everythinghad been waiting for me.

Our Gifts

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Hello Everyone,
 
What an amazing few weeks it has been, with the holidays flying by, the inauguration in DC, and people gathering to march in protest.  As Charles Dickens would have said: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, …” (A Tale of Two Cities, Para. 1, Line, 1).

This week, I would like to write about what each person can bring to this historic time.  We each have been given gifts, and now is the time to know what they are, and to use them for the good of all.  My reflections on divine gifts stem from my recent interest in a book called, “Medical Medium”, written by Anthony William.
           
Anthony was awakened one morning, when he was four, by a disembodied voice saying, “I am the Spirit of the Most High.  There is no spirit above me but God.” 

When Anthony was old enough to ask the Spirit about its nature, the Spirit described itself as “a word.” 

“Which word?” Anthony asked.

“Compassion,” the Spirit replies, “I am literally the living essence of the word compassion. 

I sit at the fingertip of God… At the fingertip of God sits a word, and that word is compassion.  I am that word.  A living word.  The closest word to God.”
           
Since then, Anthony has had the gift of Compassion, speaking by his right ear, of all the suffering of the human race, and how to help them heal.  What an awesome gift and an awful burden that is. 

I hope we will be aware of our own gifts, and of how we can live to be worthy of them.

Enjoy!☺


Our Gifts

Since Anthony William was four years old, he would awaken each morning to a voice, by his right ear, that said, “I am the Spirit of the Most High.  There is no spirit above me but God.” 

This voice called itself “a word” and that word was Compassion.  

From that day on, this spiritual voice has taught him daily, about all the health problems of everyone he encounters and how they can be healed. 
Isn’t that wonderful?  Well, no, not from his perspective. 

By the time he was ten, he climbed some of the highest trees he could find, to get as close to God as possible, to carve messages on their trunks:

“God, I love Spirit, but it’s time we cut out the middle man.”
“God, why do people have to be sick?”
“God, why can’t you fix everybody?”
“God, why do I have to help people?”
“God, please give me back silence.”
“God, I don’t want to hear Spirit anymore.  Make him go away.”

As he carves the words, “God, let me be free,” he nearly loses his foothold and almost falls off the tree.  Not that kind of free!  He thinks, as he inches his way back down to safety.

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His experience reminds me of the story of Jonah and the whale, where Jonah was asked by God to go to Nineveh, to preach to its people to repent, and Jonah tried to escape his call, by taking a ship going to Tarshish instead.  That was when God transported Jonah back to Nineveh by Whale and the reluctant prophet saved the city from destruction.

At first, I could not relate to Anthony or Jonah.  They are a people and a world apart from the world I live, breathe, and work in.  No one bothers to talk by my right ear, and God hasn’t called me to save a city.  I am just a nobody.  They are special, with special missions, and well, I’m not. 

But then, I remembered all the times I tried to run away from being a psychiatrist. 

Once, I spoke to the head of the English department at Hopkins and the psychiatrist married to Anne Tyler (writer of The Accidental Tourist), all in one week, because I was ready to leave psychiatry behind, and begin my training in creative writing. 

I got nowhere with either of them. 

Then there was the time I took a creative writing class at Hopkins, and my husband printed copies of my story for the class in a strange, illegible format that left out much of the spacing and punctuation, and I didn’t know about it until the day it was being discussed by the group.  I was horrified and mortified.  God delivered me back to psychiatry via Whale.

Not one to give up easily, I morphed my psychiatry practice in 2002 through orthomolecular/functional medicine, and then morphed it again in 2003, through energy medicine, shifting my work from one role to another entirely, twice in two years.  I joke to myself that I am the only psychiatrist that changed my job description twice in two years and still ended up as a psychiatrist.  So, yes, I guess I do relate, a little, to Anthony with his tree carving experience and Jonah with his Whale experience.

But, then I think to myself that I can’t relate to them, and therefore, am not really called or gifted, because Anthony probably has a waiting list about 10 years long—or no waiting list, because he’s too busy giving conferences to adoring admirers—and Jonah successfully saved the whole city of Nineveh.  I feel rather sorry and maybe even a bit ashamed of myself for helping just one person at a time, and sometimes failing to help even that one person.

But then, a little voice pops into my head and says, “But your work is different.”  I agree.  The people I see need a different healer, with a different set of skills and life experiences.  So, that’s where I come in—made to fit the needs of those I serve—compassion manifesting in another form, on another path, but with healing as its focus, nonetheless.

Where did I run across the words “different but equal”?  Was it at a recent movie I just saw?  

Ah, yes, at the movie, “Hidden Figures”, where three African American women broke barriers at NASA, as pioneers in their careers, overcoming prejudice and bigotry with such power and courage.  It was great to hear the audience clapping for them when they overcame their challenges.

What if they thought of themselves as “nobodies”? 

What if they looked at others who had achieved before them and thought themselves unworthy and simply stood in envy of those in the limelight? 

They would not have taken their gifts and used them to live their own courageous stories.  And how beautiful each story was…

Did they save Nineveh?  No.  

Nineveh only needed to be saved once. 

Did they give conferences to adoring crowds?  No. 

Well, the adoring crowds at the movie theaters may beg to disagree . . . but, the point that I’m trying to make is that they are just who they are, wearing their high heeled shoes and getting their hair wet in the rain, running from one end of the compound to the other, just to go to the segregated bathroom.  Yet, when their stories are finally told, even the bathrooms become significant.

We each have our own stories to tell, our own callings to follow, and our own missions to fulfill.

Though you may wish to be someone that you have put on top of a pedestal, you cannot escape your calling, and along with your calling, God’s gifts to help you make it through. 

These gifts may not be in the form of a voice by your right ear, telling you of humanity’s illnesses, but you will be guided nonetheless.  You may wish the universe would free you from your path, from both your gift and your burden, but the universe will refuse you a refund. 

It’s your gift, whether you like it or not.

What are your gifts? 

What sacrifices have you made in your life? 

What do you embody? 

What have you wished to be free from, yet Life has always returned you to it, again and again? 

This is your story, and it will be a beautiful one, because you are also a living word on the fingertip of God.

Love Knots: Twisted Rules that Govern How We Love

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Hello Everyone,

I would like to introduce a book called “Love Knots” by Lori Heyman Gordan.  I learned about love knots during the PAIRS mastery classes.  I thought Lori Gordan was brilliant, for making explicit the illogical, subconscious relationship patterns that implicitly govern relationships.

Enjoy!  ☺


Love Knots

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“Love Knots” by Lori Heyman Gordan (2002) is a book about the twisted rules that subconsciously govern how we love, in our relationships.  A “love knot” is like an equation.  An “If__, then__” kind of thinking process, except these equations block and destroy the possibility of having a loving relationship.

For example, a love knot may go something like this: “ If you love me, you would know what I think, feel, and want, and you would give it to me.  Since you don’t, you obviously don’t care.  So, why should I care for you, or for what you think, feel, say, want, or do?  So, when you tell me what you want, I won’t be interested.  I will be withholding.” 

The book offers this healthy and truly loving alternative: “I cannot assume that you know.  I will ask for what I want and not expect you to know.”  

It’s liberating to untangle an invisible love knot, and to use its enlightened alternative to bring greater joy and bonding in a relationship.

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I was struck by the many illogical love knots that link love to pain.  Here is another common one: “If I love you, I will need you.  I cannot trust you to be there.  Therefore, I cannot (will not) love you.”  

The alternative to the lonely outcome of living such a love knot is, “I’ll decide for myself whether or not I can trust you, based on my actual experiences with you—not on my history or hidden expectations.”

Once it is expressed explicitly, it’s as if a bell goes, “Ding!” above one’s head, and the thought, “Why not?” simultaneously appears.  Why not live one’s life based on what is present rather than on what was in the past?  Why not trust for the sake of love?  Why not?  The beauty of “Love Knots” is that the healthy alternatives offer a way to untangle love from pain and to join it to joy, where it truly belongs.

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The book also describes “double binds”, a no-win situation, where the “If__, then__” offers no alternative path to a positive, loving outcome.  Here is a common double bind: “If you give to me, I feel beholden, obligated, burdened . . . and I distance myself from you.  If you don’t give to me, I feel unloved, uncared for, unwanted.”  With this double bind, the ability to receive joyfully has been blocked, by the fear of giving, because the act of giving has been transformed to an obligation—an unwanted responsibility.

Lori Gordon writes: “The only way a person having such a belief will ever be satisfied is to change, to learn to allow himself to enjoy being given to, to understand that true gifts do not come wrapped in obligation.”

Another double bind: “If I tell you what I want and you do what I want, it doesn’t count, because I had to tell you.  If I don’t tell you what I want, you don’t do what I want.  If you do what I want, but not the way I wanted you to, it doesn’t count.  I feel unloved.”

What is the healthy alternative?  Lori Gordan writes: “I cannot expect you to know what I want, nor to do anything exactly the way I would.  I can still appreciate the gift of whatever you do because you know I would like it.”

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During the holidays, did the process of gift giving hold any love knots for you?  Did those love knots lessen the joy you would have had in your relationships?  What healthy alternative to those love knots can you create for yourself?

The wisdom in this short, paperback book, filled with cartoon illustrations, is brilliant and profound.  One can easily read the book from cover to cover in an hour, but learning to make conscious, the hidden, subconscious love knots in our lives, and to untangle them, will be the work of a lifetime.  

I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy this amazing book and be able to integrate any healthy suggestions that would help you untangle your own love knots.