Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Labyrinth Mondays: Necessary Journeys

It is a journey to Bethlehem from Nazareth which is about 80 miles, traveled with donkey and on foot would be at least a four day journey, perhaps a week given that Joseph was an older man and Mary was with child, not any child, but the Christ Child. That is the traditional Christmas story. In our Labyrinth Mondays, we have been talking about the power of the journey. There are many journeys in our lives that we just do not want to take but for whatever that makes sense to us at the time, the journey feels like a must. Mary and Joseph had to take the Journey as they had to pay taxes. It was necessary.

The 3-Day Breast Cancer walk of 60 miles has become a phenomenon in America. It is a journey that breast cancer patients, their friends and relatives take to punctuate the power of survival and the hope for a cure. It is necessary!

It is only three days before Christmas and anticipation of Santa is in the air, the jolly fat guy that brings us gifts of cheer, journeying all over the globe in a twenty-four hour period to make children happy with delight that they are not forgotten and are gifted just because it is Christmas. It is necessary!

Really, Dr. Dilley, the journey of Santa Claus is necessary? I know it is easy to become cynical about the craziness of the perfect Hallmark Christmas. However, we have made it crazy, not Santa Claus. We have not dealt with are neurosis, our perfectionism, our need to be better, nor our competitive nature, such as “My Christmas lights are better than yours.” As Americans, Christmas has become crazy not because of commercialism, but because our neurosis, our unhealed selves have allowed ourselves to be seduced by more and better, not because the 1% is trying to make a bigger profit. We have contributed to this fiasco of “It is Necessary!” It is not the Jolly Fat Man’s fault.

So what now? Relax, get back on track. Take back a little bit of you for Christmas. Step back to the spirit of the Journey. Make a child smile. Make an adult feel appreciated. Make a loved one know that they are important. Take a step into the center and change turn down the throttle on Christmas chaos. It is necessary!

To have help in getting your life back into perspective, becoming centered, and moving forward, then please join me on the Labyrinth workshop January 7, 2012. That is the day after Epiphany. Come and move forward away from the chaos. Go to to register for the workshop today.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Labyrinth Mondays: Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Power of Pilgrimage

Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Power of  Pilgrimage

Today December 12 is the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Who is she? It is said that the story began around December 9, 1531 when a homeless person (peasant) was walking along the hills of Tepeyac near Mexico City. The peasant, Juan Diego, saw a vision of a dark young woman surrounded by light and she told him that a church had to be built on the Tepeyac Hills, right in the very spot she was standing.

When Juan Diego went to the Bishop and reported that a young woman had appeared to him and told him that a church needed to build on the Hills of Tepeyac, the Bishop sent him back to the spot and demanded proof. Juan Diego traveled back to the spot and the dark woman surrounded by light appeared to him again. Diego said, “The Bishop wants proof that you are of a messenger of God.” The woman told him to take roses from the bush on top of the Tepeyac Hills. Juan Diego did not expect that anything would be growing at that time of the year; however, there was a beautiful Castillian Rose bush at the top of the mountain. Castillian roses were not indigenous to that area, but in the middle of desolation, there was the bush. The woman helped Juan Diego, place the pedals in his peasant cloak and Juan Diego returned to the Bishop. There Juan Diego told the Bishop, “The woman in light said to bring you these flowers.” Diego opened his cloak and the petals fell to the ground and in his cloak where the roses had been were the words, Our Lady of Guadalupe. From that day through December 12, 2011, the story of our Lady of Guadalupe and the church that was built at her direction has become a Mecca for pilgrims around the world with many stories of miracles and mysterious blessings from Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is re-enacted and revisited each year by pilgrims making a pilgrimage to sacred places where Our Lady has been seen or her miracles have taken place. Each year millions of pilgrims find their way to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Tepeyac, near Mexico City. Other pilgrims find other Holy places to make pilgrimage too.

In Los Cruces New Mexico over a 1,000 pilgrims walk early morning, by candle light four miles to the top of Tortugas Mountain and have been doing so since the early eighteen hundreds. In addition, there are hundreds of other stories on the internet about Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is not the patron saint of The Americas. I can fill you full of rich history by sharing the importance of Our Lady, but my focus on Labyrinth Mondays, is about pilgrimage, the journey to the center of the labyrinth and back out again. What is the hunger for pilgrimage, what is the call within that inspires over 6.1 million people to descend on the Basilica in Mexico City or carry on a heritage of tradition of over 1000 in Los Cruces, New Mexico. It seems irrational to spend money, time, energy to go on a real pilgrimage to a place, but rationality is not what spirituality is made of. Rationality would deny that Our Dark Lady spoke to anyone and that perhaps he was hallucinating out of hunger. See, the brain tries hard to make sense out of non-sense. However, for a pilgrimage of 6.1 is hard to deny, to say, “No, this is not happening.” It would ludicrous to deny that the spiritual does not exist, it exist within. You can have the same aliveness as the 6.1 million have that flew, drove, found his/her way to the Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Basilica in Mexico City. You just have to be willing to take one- step outside of your very narrow and dark box. You can start safe by finding a Labyrinth (11 or 7 circuit) near you, drive there start at the beginning. Put one foot in front of the other and say, “Our Lady of Guadalupe, I am here. I come seeking a sense of fulfillment and peace that I hear you can offer me. I want to start my spiritual journey now and let it unfold. Help me, My Lady of Guadalupe. I need you.”

Almost had you considering a spiritual journey until you had to admit that you have a need and regardless of how hard you try, you cannot meet that need without some form of assistance. To begin this journey, you don’t even have to admit that you are hurting or lacking of anything, you can just start by putting on foot in front of the other on path of the Labyrinth and keep your mouth shut. Just do it and see what happens. It is a challenge. I am challenging you to move one-step closer to your spiritual self.

If you do not want to do this alone then join me on Saturday January 7, 2012 at Trinity Cathedral downtown Phoenix. You can sign up today at Please, if you have no interest pass on this information to people whose lives are richer because they take a risk to step outside the box.

Monday, December 5, 2011

St Nicholas Day and the Labyrinth

Tomorrow, December 6, is St. Nick’s day. Legend has it that St. Nick was an orphan boy himself and that he always took special interest in giving to orphans and children. He would go throughout his village and toss sacks of coins through windows and if the windows were shut, then he would toss them on the roof, where they would come down the chimney. Thus, St. Nick’s legend developed from very humble beginnings and to the commercialism of Santa Claus that we have today.

Walking the Labyrinth while reflecting on the real meaning of Christmas, one that actually began out of benevolence and giving of the real St. Nick and not a baby in the manger, then Christmas can take on a whole different meaning for you, what can we give, vs. what can we get?

As you work on developing your own personal relationship with the Labyrinth, I would like to suggest that you take a Labyrinth walk in the spirit of giving. Start with presenting yourself at the opening of the Labyrinth and as you walk from circuit to circuit imagine holding your heart in the palms of your hands. Ask for the mystery of the Labyrinth to heal your heart and open it to be a heart of love and generosity. Each time you find yourself coming across a fearful thought, breath in deeply and let your breath go slowly, releasing the fear to the heart of the Labyrinth and taking the next step forward.

When you arrive at the center of the Labyrinth, imagine yourself placing your heart in the hands of a loving and generous Spirit of Kindness and allow the feeling of unconditional love to wash over you, releasing your hurt and fear and gifting you with an inner peace and unconditional acceptance.

Walk out of the Labyrinth with the gratitude of St. Nick, generous in spirit, full of hope, peace and unconditional love. From that space of gratitude, find ways to give generously this Holiday Season in meaningful ways.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Labyrinth Monday's -All Cultures Share the Mystery of the Spirit


Spirituality in one form or another has always been with us. The more awake and aware we are, the more we are able to see it. The Burden Basket was part of many Native American’s way of life. A Burden Basket was used to gather sticks for fire, seeds, herbs, and tubers. The basket was worn on the back leaving hands free for gathering of daily needs. When the basket was emptied, it was hung on the outside of the tipi or dwelling and used by visitors to announce their presence at the door. If no one came to the door, no feelings were hurt, as it was understood that the home is a sacred space. Also, the burden basket was symbolic, in that its presence invited guest to leave their personal burdens outside of the tipi and not bring them in to the sacred space of the home. It was considered rude and disrespectful to take your burdens to the neighbor’s house and douse their sacred space with unhappiness and negativity. If a person in the village had a problem, they were to take a gift of tobacco, a blanket, or some other gift to the medicine person in the village, and there share their burden. After sharing, the person had to wait three days for the medicine person to share a solution to the problem. During those three days, the medicine person was seeking guidance in a dream or vision from his/her spiritual guides and allies. Also, during the same three days the burden bearer was building self-reliance, knowing that they needed to responsible to act on the advice given to them by the medicine person. Thus, the village was able to live in peace and inter-confidence that their friends and neighbors could handle their own problems and learn the art of self-reliance. If we go back to original use of the burden basket, which was to collect enough of the necessities just for today, then we realize part of the solution to life is to stay in the present and focus on the here and now moment.

In reflection, I see the Labyrinth as a symbol of the burden basket. It is rich in symbolism of the self-reliance. The person entering the Labyrinth, often referred to as “pilgrim” is doing the work of walking. The pilgrim is responsible for taking the journey to the center of the Labyrinth. As a burden bearer, the pilgrim take his/her burden into the center of the Labyrinth and there lets it go, releases the burden to the womb or heart of the universe. The pilgrim needs to have a grateful heart when entering the mystery of womb, knowing that it is a sacred place that he/she can come any time of day or night and find that center of the Labyrinth is there to receive him/her and the burden on his/her heart. The joining of the two, the pilgrim and the heart of the universe is completely sacred and confidential between the two. No one else is invited into that sacred space.

By taking the journey to the center of the Labyrinth, the pilgrim is initiating responsibility for his/her burden and taking the first steps to release the burden to the care of the mysterious other that will take that burden and share wisdom, understanding, and clarity with the pilgrim. It is then up to the pilgrim to follow the direction that comes from the Center. Perhaps direction and wisdom will not come during the walk (as it often does not) but several days later, clarity and peace begin to settle in the soul of the pilgrim. It is hard to explain the mysterious; one has to experience it to become a “knower of mysteries.”

CYBER MONDAY... Novvember 28th. Last Day for Early Bird Registration



Saturday January 7, 2012

9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

Trinity Cathedral 100 W. Roosevelt Phoenix, AZ.

Cost: $50.00 if registered by November 28, 2011

The characters in the Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man will be our guides for the day. What makes us feel afraid, stupid, and un-loveable?

The labyrinth is a powerful tool for healing in so many ways. Its rich history and bountiful symbolism brings to us so many opportunities to present our self for healing. It allows us to come as we are with whatever hurts and seek comfort and care from the center of its being.

This Saturday morning we will be exploring the symbolism of the labyrinth and using tools of self-discovery such as journaling, music, and art to explore our inner most need. During our time together, you will have an opportunity to present that need to the mystery of the Labyrinth and come away with a renewed sense of hope.

To learn more about the labyrinth and why it is such an important tool for your personal and spiritual growth please follow my blog at

To register go to and click on workshops. Follow the prompts. Or email or Call Dr. Dilley at 602-564-1919 for more information.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Labyrinth: Key to Inner Hunger-Outward Change

Are you hungry for change? Do you feel like something is missing in your life? Perhaps, you have become so busy that you do not notice the still small voice inside of you that is calling out to be heard. January 2012 is around the corner. Each year we are inundated with Holiday buying and chaos that takes us away from our center and each year we promise ourselves that we will do better next year. We make promises to ourselves and sometime to others that we will change, spend less, become thinner, get into shape and by November of 2012, it is possible that we will be feeling guilty for not achieving last year’s goals, and wonder what happened to our good intentions.

Walking meditation is a simple and easy way to keep us in contact with that still small voice within. By the time that we are forced to be mindful, placing one foot in front of the other, we have calmed the voice of fear, negativity, and aloneness. Those three voices are representative of the characters in the Wizard of Oz, the Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man.

From a psychological perspective, Dorothy’s three friends are projections of her inner critics that keep her blind to the truth that she can return home at any time by just clicking her red shoes. However, it takes a village of support to help her navigate her way through the dark forest, and down the yellow brick road. It is through this journey, becoming friends with her fear, critic, and broken heart that she harvests her one inner wisdom and gains the confidence to click the red shoes.

One paradox in this story (and there are many) is that we remain unsettled, upset and in search of something outside of ourselves until we go home. One metaphor of going home is finding our spiritual center and one key that will help us to do that is walking the Labyrinth.

The Labyrinth provides us with a way of finding ourselves and our power within. It is hard to define for you what you will experience by walking the Labyrinth, because each person’s experience is different than other pilgrims walking the Labyrinth. Each time I walk it, I have a different experience. Come on January 7, 2012 and start your year off with a walking meditation that can be first step in making 2012 an extraordinary vs. ordinary year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Breast Cancer Journey and the Labyrinth

With October being breast cancer awareness month,  I personally did alot of reflecting on my journey as a survivor.  In honor of that journey and my spiritual relationship with the Labyrinth I have decided to share the entire chapter about my Labyrinth relationship on Labyrinth Mondays.  Here is that Chapter.  To read more about my journey you can purchase my book at or directly from me at



My life has always been a mixed tapestry of spirituality. Spirituality is a part of who I am and not something that I do. I deeply believe that we are spiritual beings and it is our job to attend to our spiritual garden. The spiritual garden is within each of us and we can let it grow weeds, let it dry up and die, or we can gently tend to it throughout all of the days of our lives. When we face a storm our garden can become overwhelmed with waves and wind damage and we must use our resources to repair it and re-establish it. When there is a drought, we must carry water to our spiritual garden. In the next few chapters, I want to share some of the spiritual practices that I used during and after my journey with breast cancer. It was natural for me to turn to my spiritual resources during this time. The Labyrinth, the Healing Power of a Native Sweat, and a Vision Quest are three key components of my journey.
During the Nineties, the spiritual significance of the labyrinth began pouring into print. It seemed that everywhere I turned someone was writing or talking about his or her experience of God as he or she walked the labyrinth. I began to read about this spiritual practice and discovered its ancient history. A labyrinth is not a maze. In the English language, the words “labyrinth” and “maze” are often used interchangeably. A maze contains dead ends and often has many entrances. A labyrinth has one entrance and one exit. It is a path from the outside in and then from the inside out. It has a sacred sense of journey about it; perhaps the eleven-circuit labyrinth began as a spiritual practice for those who could not make the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. No one really knows the reason labyrinths were created but there are eleven-circuit and seven-circuit labyrinths. Seven-circuit labyrinths date back four to five thousand years and are seen in Hopi, Cretan, and Celtic spiritual practices. The most famous eleven-circuit labyrinth is in Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France, and dates back to the twelfth century. The number of circuits simply means the number of times the pilgrim passes the center of the labyrinth during his or her walk.

My interest in the labyrinth grew. I responded to that interest by making a special pilgrimage to San Francisco to walk the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral. There, I, too, experienced a peaceful sense of purpose. I felt a sense of holiness about the journey in and out and around the path that brings us into the center of God, and back out to the world again. Grace Cathedral has an indoor and an outdoor eleven-circuit labyrinth. The indoor one provides the pilgrim with quite an intense experience because sacred music is playing during the labyrinth walk. It was easy for me as I walked it to become lost in the music, feeling as if I was transcending consciousness. The outdoor labyrinth overlooked the busy San Francisco streets. Walking it created a sense of purpose, with a special connection to the world. The two labyrinths provided me with an experience and a picture of God inside of me and outside of me at the same time.

When I left San Francisco, I wanted desperately to have a local labyrinth. I felt a strange loneliness for it. I felt connected, sort of called to it as a way of worship. There was something about this walking meditation that provided me with an experience of God that fed my hungry soul. That journey to San Francisco was in 1997.

In 1998 our Episcopal Cathedral, Trinity, was under reconstruction. Trinity is a local historical landmark for Phoenix as well as the headquarters for the Episcopal bishop and church administration. The Dean of the cathedral at the time, Rev. Rebecca McClain, was in charge of the reconstruction. Lo and behold, she was having a beautiful eleven-circuit labyrinth built in the center of the courtyard. I felt like God had answered my prayers. I was ecstatic about the plans. I couldn’t wait for it to be finished. Trinity finished the labyrinth in December 2000. One of my New Year’s resolutions of 2001 was to walk the labyrinth once a week for the entire year.

I walked it every Wednesday. If I was out of town for some reason, I made arrangements to walk it at some other time. The experience of that commitment created a sacred space inside of me and I developed a personal relationship with this sacred art form that allowed me to be touched and touch God in unique ways. I was very aware during my labyrinth walks of the gift of life. It seemed that each week my gratitude for my life and my recovery became deeper. I was aware on these walks with God that my life was meaningful and that I needed to be awake to all God had in store for me. During this time my gratitude for being alive grew.

I definitely have an attention problem that becomes a bother in times of prayer, but the motion of walking, following a path, and making a pilgrimage to the center where all is well and perfect is a powerful and unifying experience. I used this time with God to refocus my life, to pull close to the spiritual world, recommitting to a life of meaningful experience with God. I not only re-dedicated my life to one of service and ministry but also used the time to refocus on the art of prayer and watched as my prayer life transformed from a dead stick in the ground to a beautiful lush green plant.

The story of the dead stick is significant because when I was a student of spiritual direction during my master’s program, I had a director who told me to plant a stick in the ground and to water and care for it as if it were alive. Of course, I thought this was a silly exercise, but part of being a student of spiritual direction is learning to follow direction. I learned so much from this exercise that it still empowers my consciousness in my psychotherapy practice. For example, many times I think to myself, we are not getting anywhere in therapy. Nothing is ever going to change in this person’s life; it is just the same old thing. In my discouragement it would be easy to give up, but I remember the exercise of watering the stick. This mutually powerful and silly exercise taught me to stay with a project even though it seems fruitless.

The stick did not change, but I did. I learned just how much water the earth was able to absorb in order for the stick not to get too wet and rot. I also had to learn just how much water was sufficient to keep the ground closed around the stick in order that it remained erect. I practiced caring for it daily while acknowledging that I got nothing back in return. I had to live through my own embarrassment about the craziness of watering a stick, thinking horribly judgmental thoughts at times. Sometimes, those judgmental thoughts were directed at me and my stupidity for participating in such a ridiculous exercise and at other times those criticisms were directed at my spiritual director.

In my head, I accused her of being mean and manipulative. Walking the labyrinth on a weekly basis sometimes was like watering the stick. Sometimes I felt silly, as if I were going nowhere. At other times, it was a soul-ripping experience that shook me to my core. I was able to unravel complexities in my life during that time. I was able to pick up pieces of my life that I had laid aside, such as my writing. I was able to focus again on the alpha and omega of God. At the same time that I started my relationship with the labyrinth, I also started a professional relationship with a teacher and healer.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Walking the Labyrinth Helps Quiet the Busy Mind

I hope labyrinth Mondays have begun to tweak your interest in the experience of the labyrinth. We live such stressful lives full of demands, deadlines, and responsibilities. As a result, even the word spirituality becomes something we do or fit into our schedules, rather than something we are. Being a spiritual person is the essence of which we are and how we carve that out for ourselves is up to us and our proclivities toward different spiritual paths. Diversity is the spice of life and I do not believe there is a one spirituality that fits all. We are all different. We have different likes and dislikes, different taste in food, music, culture, and enjoy different places to visit more so than other tourist destination. We also find that we enjoy some spiritual practices more so than other spiritual practices. For instance, if you are and adult that struggles with attention deficit disorder, contemplative prayer is not going to work very well for you. Matter of fact, if you have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity or Attention Deficit Disorder, ADD) and try contemplative prayer or meditation it is possible that you will feel like a failure because it is next to impossible for you to focus or you will end up hating it and throw out all prayer as a result. The labyrinth is a perfect prayer tool for people with ADD or ADHD because the labyrinth gives you something to do while praying. It allows you to walk, to follow a simple path into the center and the same simple path out again. Because the path crosses back and forth and you have to focus on where you are walking it becomes easy for those with ADD, ADHD, high anxiety and stress to relax and let go of their brain’s demands and chatter. If the walker does not let go it is possible to misstep and lose one’s orientation and not be sure if you are coming or going which is a great metaphor for life. The nice part about using the labyrinth as a walking meditation is that the labyrinth is very forgiving. If the walker feels too disorientated, he or she can just exit and start all over again.

The ability to exit and start over again is a very graceful gift that we do not give ourselves permission to do very often in our daily life. Often we are taught once we start something we must finish it, not matter what. As a result, as we age we start less and less because we don’t want to waste our time doing something in case we don’t like it. I find it strange how we box ourselves in like that. It would be more gracious, if we gave our self permission to quit something that we don’t like or that makes us feel lost or overwhelmed. The labyrinth is always gracious, always forgiving, and always permission giving. It invites you to bring YOU just as you are to the center and experience the path as YOU experience it without expectations, demands, or formulas.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Labyrinth Mondays: Healing Tool

Labyrinth Monday:

Last week I started this series entitling it, Labyrinth Monday’s but realize I have so much excitement about this important topic and I have written so much that I may share it more often in smaller segments. Last Monday, we started with the topic, What is a Labyrinth. You can refer to the archives to read about it, but I will sum it up in one sentence for you. A Labyrinth is a circuitous path that takes you from the outside world of chaos and brain clutter and brings you to the center of your private world of hopes, desires, disappointments, pain, and most of all those things that you yearn for deep inside of yourself that you are not likely to share with others. The Labyrinth is a safe place that welcomes you home.

Safety and solidarity are two of many things a labyrinth can be to you. Today, I want to speak to you about how this important spiritual and mystical symbol can help you heal. From my perspective healing is something that is often misunderstood and often placed on “Other,” (using a capital O to represent God out there) to do something for us, to make us better through prayer or sometimes reduced to an act of begging Other to fix us, it, or others. Thinking about healing as something that happens or does not happen places us in that victim status of right or wrong, better or worse, two polar opposites without inviting us to look at all of the middle ground in between.

For instance, recently I had a conversation with someone who was struggling with a Scripture in Romans where it is insinuated that if we are depressed, given over to darkness and confusion, then it is because we are not worshipping God enough. As, she struggled to reconcile her depression with her faith and gratitude scale, she became more and more disillusioned and hopeless. As, I redirected to her attention back to the first thing she told me that she was learning, which was, “God, loves me just the way I am.” I asked her if she thought there was something contradictory about the teaching that God loves her just the way she is and God will give you over to darkness and confusion if you don’t worship God enough. As I watched the wheels turn in her brain, her facial expression changed from disillusionment to one of hope and joy as she repeated, “God loves me just the way I am.” The idea, that if God loved her just as she is, then it must meant that God would not be keeping count of her number of prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude. This thought brought her a sense of joy.

Something beyond ourselves happens to our mood as we walk the circuitous path to the inside of the labyrinth. We now know from studies on the brain that walking allows our left-brain and right brain to communicate with each other in ways that elevate our mood. EMDR also speaks to that phenomenon of the brain crossing back and forth frees us from horrific traumatic events and pictures in our past. During the labyrinth walk, the brain is not only going back and forth from the act of walking, but also the eyes have to follow the path in order to keep you focused on staying on the path. There are times when one might experience feeling lost or disorientated, but nonetheless the act of putting one foot in front of each other on the same path requires subtle and at times not so subtle concentration. The walker cannot look ahead or they will lose their orientation on the path. The walker must focus on where their feet are going. Staying focused for the sustained amount of time (15-20) minutes allows the brain to relax and let go. Worries and not so big by the time one arrives at the center. The center often appears much bigger than one ever imagined it being as just an on looker. The center can also represent many things, but for today’s purpose it represents the heart of the nurturing God that receives you fully, just as you are, listens to you completely as if you are the only person on earth, and holds you like a protective mother letting you know, “You are awesome, just the way you are.” In the center, you leave your concerns and worries and take out of the center the unconditional love of the nurturing God who is always there for you, waiting for you to follow the path to her heart.

The labyrinth is there for you twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Take your heart to the heart of the Universe and experience the difference. Healing is an interactive process between you and Other.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Labyrinth Mondays

What is a Labyrinth?

First, it is important to establish that a labyrinth is different from a maze in a couple of ways. Sometimes a maze has many paths to choose from, often leading to dead ends. A Maze has no center. A labyrinth is a single path (albeit, cursive and windy) that goes toward a center and then exits out of that center on the same curvy and windy path.

The history of labyrinths dates back to the early Greeks and the classical seven-circuit Labyrinth was printed on a coin in Crete as early as 430 B.C. Labyrinths are found in the ancient history of most cultures and here in the South West of the United States we are most familiar with the Hopi Labyrinth, which is very similar to the Classical Labyrinth of Crete. The Franciscan Renewal Center has a beautiful classical labyrinth that you are welcome to walk at anytime. It is found to the back of their property in their beautiful desert.

My personal interest in the labyrinth arose in the early nineties when the spiritual mysteries of the labyrinth began to spring up in the United States. Dr. Lauren Artress, of Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco, was quite smitten with a passionate interest in the labyrinth and began to do research on the mysteries and history of the labyrinth, especially the eleven-circuit labyrinth in Chartres, France. She has written on of the most succinct and clear books on understanding the labyrinth, Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Sacred Tool.

Early in 2000 and shortly after I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, an eleven circuit labyrinth was constructed at Trinity Cathedral, downtown Phoenix. The year after my diagnosis, I established a personal relationship with the labyrinth and walked it once every week that year. If I was out of town for some reason, I made a point to go before or right after I returned. I found my relationship with this powerful mystical symbol to be a relationship of hope, peace, empowerment and overwhelming nurturing. One of the ways I like to describe the labyrinth is like that of a womb, the birthing center of the universe, the lap of the mother of God, a maternal place of being swaddled in the loving arms of the feminine part of God. More about my journey with the Labyrinth and its healing power of hope during my journey with breast cancer can be found in my book, In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer. You can purchase your copy from my website: , or digitally download it to your Nook or Kindle.

This labyrinth is rich in history and it is my hope to introduce you to its power, beauty, and spiritual mysteries at a workshop on January 7, 2012. More on that workshop is soon to find its way to my blog. However, in the meantime, I will be writing about the labyrinth on my blog, especially on Mondays. Please join me for this new series, Labyrinth Monday’s. Please feel free to forward this to friends and family who might have an interest in this very sacred tool and go my blog to follow me on these Labyrinth Mondays.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Move Forward with Your YES

You are the most powerful resource that you have. Yes, YOU.

What makes you so powerful. It is not your dreams or even your desires it is the fact that you are the only person who can make a difference in your life. You can listen to self help CDs, watch empowerment videos and read the latest book from well known motivationalist like Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra. But until you get off the couch and into life nothing will change without your action. You can have all of the positive thoughts, brilliant affirmations, and dream boards in every room of your house, but until you put your foot in the direction of your dream, your dream is going to sit idle without you.

Once you decide that you are going to make a change in your life then you are the one that most activate the change.

What is that you want to change?

How will it make your life better?

What is the first step toward change?

What is the second step toward change?

After the second step it is good to re-evaluate your direction. Are you still on track? Is this feeling like a positive decision for you? Do you still want this change with all of your heart? What do you do need to do next to move in that direction.

Fear is one of the key culprits of not getting the things out of our life that we want.

Fear of:

Change---if you are successful you will have to change something in your life to accommodate the new you.

Pain---Physical Pain if your YES requires you to stretch you physical limits, emotional pain if it means letting go of someone or something in your life.

Non-approval---Can’t make everyone happy, so focus on YOU.

Failure---So what? What is the worst thing that can happen?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Summer Relationship Help

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy: Seven Steps to De-escalate a Fight

1. Stop the Circular Dance (The Game): It is typical for each party of the couple to want to prove their point but the only outcome of that is exhaustion. So, stop the game.

2. Claim Your Own Moves: Once each person has stopped, examine your individual contribution to this game. Own your steps. Define what you do to keep it going. Begin to acknowledge your pattern in the dance. Share your patterns with your partner and listen to his/her patterns of ownership.

3. Claim Your Own Feelings: Own how you feel whether it is angry, sad, regret, rejection, disappointment, or ___________________________.

4. Owning How You Shape Your Partner’s Feelings: “We need to recognize how our usual ways of dealing with our emotions pull our partner off balance and to on deeper attachment fears.” (Johnson, pg,93) In order to be a part of the solution and be willing to comfort our partner’s raw spots we must own how our actions upset our partner.

5. Ask about Your Partner’s Deeper Emotions: Stop and look at the bigger picture. Slow down and check in with what is really going beneath your partner’s reactions and deeper emotional experience.

6. Share Your Own Deeper, Softer Emotions: If you take the risk to let your partner know what is really at stake, (hurting) in your arguments you might be pleasantly surprised at the connection that develops between the two of you.

7. Standing Together: By taking the above steps, the two of you can develop common ground and mutual connection, no longer adversaries but now allies.

Taken from:

Johnston, S. (2008) Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Conscious of the simpliest and most effective tools in dealing with stress related illnesses. The greatest challenge is remembering to breathe in moments of need.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Shame and How it Can Effect Your Faith Negatively

Faith, spirituality, God, religion, church, dogma, and belief systems affect your life in many ways on a daily basis. Faith and religion can be unifying forces and they can also be the most divisive forces on the planet. Perhaps your family had a rule dictated that you never to talk about your religious beliefs because sometimes religious discussions can lead to many family misgivings. Do you have any of those stories in your family? On the other hand, perhaps your family was very committed to their religious system and felt a need and responsibility to share it with others, in order that they too could find the peace and solace your family enjoyed in their particular brand of faith. Perhaps, you had no particular belief system and wondered through-out your life why other people spent half of their weekends in church? Most people have stories about faith and growing up in your family of origin. It might be eye opening as you sit with your journal and list some of the memories and events that you experienced in your family about faith and religion.

Faith is a complex subject but can really assist you with shame reduction once you clear out some old scenes and scripts from your childhood belief system. However, in order to clear out the old faith scripts you really have to do some work on our own faith system.

James Fowler (1996) in his book Faithful Change: The Personal and Public Challenges of Postmodern Life echoes for us some of Erik Erickson’s work on developmental stages, but focuses on the stages of faith development. Fowler identifies seven stages of faith development as well as describes significant differences between faith and religion. He distinguishes between the two by recognizing religion as a cumulative collection of beliefs and actions practiced by groups of people who believe the same things. Faith is personal, inclusive of unconscious dynamics of formation of our individual values, morals, and beliefs. Fowler (pg.56) identifies personal faith as that which gives coherence and direction to individual lives, linking them to shared trusts and loyalties with others, and enabling the individual and/or the group to face and deal with the struggles of the daily difficulties of life.

It is the daily dealing with the difficulties of life where shame can wreak havoc with your emotional and intellectual self. If you have discovered, through my writings about shame that you suffer from large amounts of shame about whom and how you are in the world, you might view God as angry, hostile, and out to get you. Alternatively, you may believe that God has no interest in you because you are just bad to the core. Even if you grew up in a particular faith based religious group that taught you about a benevolent God who is trustworthy and on your side, it still might be a struggle for you to be able to make the emotional connection to a benevolent God because of your shame scripts. As a shame based individual that has internalized that there is something incredibly wrong with you, it may be difficult for you to tolerate positive affect in sufficient doses to believe that God could possibly love you and be on your side. Remembering that one of the positive affects is that of interest and the other of joy, a shame based individual often gives up on interest in God, faith, religion because even the idea of God being benevolent is too difficult to even entertain.

Writing exercises:

What is your first memory/thought about God?

Was there a time that God became more that just a word to you?

Was that time positive or negative?

How are your believes the same or different to those messages now?

If you were “nakedly” honest with yourself, does shame, shameful feeling, memories, or events in the past interfere with your faith in God?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Shame and How it Immobilizes You

Shame, what is it? How does it immobilize you?

Shame is an interesting creature that moves into our souls unannounced at a very young age. Shame begins early in our lives creating feelings that hurt, ache and scream messages like, “Something is incredibly wrong with me.”

Do you remember the first time that you accidently broke something?

Do remember when you spilled your milk on the floor or soiled your pants when you were supposed to be potty trained?

Do you remember how sad you felt when kids made fun of you at school or on the playground?

Do you remember how red your face turned when a teacher attacked you for answering a question wrong?

All of us have experienced situations like these plus many more. In addition, all of those experiences have one thing in common. Each of those experiences was events that interrupted our positive joy or interest. These experiences are the beginning of shame, toxic shame. None of the above experiences is enough in and of itself, severe enough to create toxic shame, but all of that depends on what type of environment we had consistently at home or at school.

If our home environment was safe, then we learned we could survive just about anything that happens to us, because we know what to expect. One of the definitions of a safe environment is knowing what to expect, a consistent environment. An environment where we can depend on our parents or caregivers to be there for us when the chips are down, even when it is our fault. We knew we could count on mom or dad to get over their anger with us and be okay with us again. Alternatively, we could tell our safe caregiver how awful it was at school when the other kids made fun of us or that we didn't have someone to sit with at lunchtime. In addition, we could depend on our parents to stick up for us when a teacher or other adult treated us unfairly. Those are healthy experiences and we learn to develop inner confidence when we have a dependable and safe environment.

However, if our environment was not dependable or if it was consistently chaotic or abusive then what we learn from the above situations, is that there really is something incredibly wrong with us. We learn that when accidents happen it is our fault and that something bad is going to happen to us because of the accident. We learn we to hide our feelings and never tell anyone at home how it felt at school today. We learn that people don't like us or love us and we believe that is because we are bad and unlovable. As those things happen and pile on, one after another, we develop an open wound in our soul, a place where it aches all of the time and where hateful messages are stored. Those messages turn into scripts and then we act them out in "bad" ways in our daily adult lives.

When we have internalized our shame, it becomes toxic to us, just like living in a house full of mold, or sewage seeping into our drinking water. It effects us all of the time and we don't even know it until the symptoms become severe. We act our internalized shame in one of four ways. We attack our self (self-hatred); we attack others (hurt someone else); we avoid (addictions) or we withdraw (atypical depression). By adapting to our shame by doing any of the above, we become immobilized into our little quadrant of the world all by ourselves. Our resources rot around us and we develop a lifestyle that in every way is keeping us bound by scripts, messages, and behavior that keep us repeating old destructive patterns.

So what do we do? That answer of course, is too long for this article, but here are some starting points. First, write down your childhood story in journal form. Look for the times that you cut-off from yourself because it became too painful to by you. We call those cut-offs, parts, disowned parts. Sometimes those cut-off parts are complete developmental stages that we just by-pass and then end up in our adult lives wondering why everyone else seems so confident, and we feel so insecure. Thus, the first step is to identify our cut-off parts.

Second, we find creative ways to work with those cut off parts. We can journal to those young parts of ourselves; we can have those parts journal back to us. Sometimes it is a good exercise to write with our non-dominant hand. It is not important that we are able to read it later, it is important to write with our non-dominant hand because feelings come up that won’t come up otherwise. If journaling is not your gig, you can use guided imagery and internal dialogue to talk to those parts that are cut-off.

Third it is important to find someone to tell your story too, so that you don’t have to keep hiding. It is imperative that the person you tell your story to is safe or you risk re-traumatizing yourself. It is usually best that the person has training, like a psychotherapist, social worker, or a clergy trained in psychotherapy.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Cognitive Interweave of Shame


Search of memory from previous similar experiences.

In shame theory, eight specific areas are interwoven into our stories, associations, and memories. Our bodies carry all of these interwoven stories inside of us producing tightness and tension. Every time I think about the body-mind connection, I am reminded of Peter Levine’s important work that he labels, “Somatic Experiencing. In SE, Dr. Levine empowers clients to focus on the internal experience of the body. By turning our awareness to our body, we learn to let go of those old story lines and create new ones. As you review the list below, allow yourself to ponder and write about an experience in each of the eight categories. As you recall the specific experience, journal the experience in as much detail as possible, and as the details return to your memory, notice what happens inside of your body. Notice what part of your body tightens or feels nauseated. Notice your breathing and your heart rate. Notice your fearful or shameful thoughts. Once those thoughts come to your awareness, use your gentle breath to allow the shameful and fearful thoughts float out of your body and into never – never land. Begin to observe what you need, and gently breath it in from never-never land allowing the peace, comfort, gentleness to begin to fill your body. Notice the difference now as compared to twenty minutes ago when you started with the shameful –fearful feelings. Just keep experimenting with your breath until your body feels different in a better sort of way.

Layered associations of shame:

1. Matters of size, shape, ability, skill. (I am weak, incompetent, stupid.)

2. Dependence/Independence. (Sense of helplessness.)

3. Competition. (I am a loser.)

4. Sense of self. (I am unique only to the extent that I am defective.)

5. Personal attractiveness. (I am ugly or deformed. The blush stains my features and makes me even more a target of contempt.)

6. Sexuality. (There is something wrong with me sexually.)

7. Issues of seeing and being seen. (The urge to escape from the eyes before which we have been exposed. The wish for a hole to open up and swallow me.)

8. Wishes and fears about closeness. (The sense of being shorn from all humanity. A feeling that one is unlovable. The wish to be left alone forever.)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Reflections on Hope

Hope is a word that I have been reflecting on quite a bit over these past few weeks. I have been pondering what it means to have hope. Is it useful to have hope? Does hope require any action from us? If we have hope, how are we different from when we don’t have hope? What is the difference between hope and denial or dreaming?

It appears that philosophers and writers have pondered this word too and I did not remember until writing this article that in Greek Mythology, when Pandora opened the box she let out all of the evils, except one, hope. There are many versions of this Greek myth, however, regardless of the versions; the bottom line is that without hope humanity fell into total despair. How, does hope help in the midst of hopelessness and what are our personal scripts around hope?

In Anthony Scioli’s book, The Power of Hope, he states that hope consists of four elements, the first being that of attachment. Then there is mastery, survival, and spirituality. I have written on and off about attachment theory and it makes perfect sense to me that people I see in my office that have the most difficult time with this nebulous word hope, are those who have attachment issues.

I will not go into attachment here, but offer some ponderings about how to hope even when your attachment style did not come from a secure base.

Pondering 1: Turn your attention to the ant. As far as we know, the ant does not fret about all of the travesties in front of it. It does not worry about your big foot that is about to take it out, nor does it focus on the fumes from the anti-bug killer. The ant continues to do what it does until it cannot do it anymore. Practice being an ant today, focus on the things in front of you that you can do something about, not those things that you have no control over.

Pondering 2: Think about the stars. According to Wikipedia, a star is a luminous mass of plasma held together by gravity. The sun is the brightest of them all. Stars shine all day but the sun out shines them, therefore we cannot see them. A star does not seem to care. Most of us do not walk out of our doors to look up at the sun. We may enjoy the sunset and the sunrise and make special efforts to gaze into the magic of the sun’s display of colors. However, at nighttime, we do go outside and look up, search and marvel at the magic of the evening. We marvel at the mystery of it all and make a wish on the first star that we see. . A star does what it does. Today focus on what you do. You breathe. Focus on breathing. Let the air around you all the way in. Fill up your lungs and slowly exhale as if you are blowing out a candle. Let your worries move further and further away as you breathe in and out. That is hope.

Pondering 3: Think about the rain. It comes and it goes. Sometimes it comes too much. Sometime it comes too hard. Sometimes it does not come hard enough. Most of us enjoy a good springtime rain when everything becomes clean and cool. Even concrete seems to let go of its dullness and sings along with the pacing of the rain. The grass glitters, the cactus smile, and if you allow yourself you can hear the rain saying, “All is well.”

To me, hope does not seem to something that we can command, but that we can experience when we stop, focus on the task at hand, and do what we can.

I hope that you have enjoyed these ponderings on hope and as you move into this Fourth of July Weekend may you ponder being present like the ant, and enjoy the gift of who you are and the gift this country is to us. Be thankful for all that you are and thankful for all you have.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Compass of Shame

The Compass of Shame

The compass of shame was created by Donald Nathanson to help clinicians and clients understand what happens when shame is encountered. Dr. Nathanson defines shame as the interruption of positive affect. That simplistic view makes it easy for me to help clients understand that when they are going about the business of their daily life, enjoying the day, and anything that interrupts that enjoyment or interest, causes shame. I am putting the compass of shame on the blog today because almost every article I have written on shame refers to this compass in one way or another. As, a result I can keep referring people to the blog on June 23rd, 2011 and not have to recreate this simple formula for each article.

According to the Compass of Shame, what do we do when we experience shame? We react in one of four ways, usually a blend of the four reactions. They are:

Demonstrated by:


Masochistic Behaviors


The sense of a defective self - that often leads of addictive behavior

Compares and competes

Creates false self


Atypical depression (self-hatred root)

Becomes overwhelmed by excessive worry or flooding of memories

Avoids eye contact and isolates socially


Blocks any attempt to look at self

Estranges others

Refines the “power over” theme

Friday, June 17, 2011

Series on Overcoming the Darkness of Shame


A Beginning Journey of Overcoming The Darkness of Shame.

These first few paragraphs are share with you some points of view of the psychological aspects of shame and then share with you how shame influences your daily life. This is the first article in many to come on my blog.

Shame has been consistently the stepchild of psychotherapy because it seems that we have found it shameful and uncomfortable to talk about shame and shaming events. Often even well trained psychologists brush the surface of shame in sessions. An example of that might be a situation where a client is talking about peeing or pooping their pants in school. If the psychologist is uncomfortable with that topic, the psychologist may not inquire for further information by asking questions like, “What was that like for you or what happened when you did that?” As the stepchild of psychology, shame has been pushed into the closet and not openly investigated. Recently, our field of psychology we have moved into a “fix-it” or “educational” modality. It is my opinion that keeps the psychotherapy office rather sterile. By an educational modality, I mean often times the therapist will lapse into explaining what happened for the client when they were shamed or telling the client, what they can do about it. The art of exploration from therapist to client can often feel uncomfortable. Therapists must undergo a certain amount of training “unlearning” social standards of appropriate communication. For example, as a Southern girl I learned it is impolite to ask questions, any question, and much less questions about sex, bodily functions, or money.

Theories of shame have been proposed by Silvan Tomkins, Helen Block Lewis, Gershen Kaufman and Donald Nathanson since the early 1960’s. Before that, the only real mention of shame was by developmental psychiatrist, Erik Erickson. He speaks of shame in the second developmental stage of life: autonomy vs. shame and doubt. Toddlers of eighteen months are learning how to do things on their own. It is important that they learn to master their environment, bodily functions, and acquire a sense of self. The more the toddler learns to do master his/her environment, the more autonomous the toddler becomes. Autonomy is equated with a good sense of self. The more a toddler fails at achieving and mastering his/her environment, the more the toddler develops a sense of shame and self-doubt. Self-doubt sets us up to operate our life from an external locus of control which means looking to others for approval as well as trying to figure out what are the right and wrong things for us to do.

Silvan Tomkins’ (1963) work on Shame and Shame Theory conceptualizes shame from an evolutionary perspective introducing into literature the nine biological affects. According to Tomkins, we are all wired with nine biological affects. We become aware of our nine affects when we become aware of our facial, skeletal, and inner visceral behaviors. Affect is primarily facial behavior and secondarily bodily skeletal and inner visceral behavior. Shame is one of our nine biological affects that we are pre-wired to express.

Kaufman (1989) speaks more clearly about shame, speaking of it in terms most of us can identify, such as feeling exposed, diminished, imperfect, and defective.

“Shame reveals the inner self, exposing it to view. The self feels exposed both to itself and to anyone else present.” (Kaufman 1989) So, perhaps you felt exposed. Perhaps, afraid someone was going to point out to you that something was wrong with you, how you thought, believed or acted. Perhaps that fear comes from a history of self-doubt because your memory tells you that your parents were always pointing out what you were saying or doing wrong. It is even possible that you keep remembering a scene that was particularly embarrassing to you as a child. Because of the negative impact of that one situation, that memory might continue to cause you to feel a phenomenological sense of feeling seen in a painfully diminished sense. Kaufman (1989) the experience of feeling diminished in front of someone or even in your own headspace is that uncomfortable affect of shame. Donald Nathanson (1992) tells us that when humans experience shame they respond to that shame from one of four perspectives. Nathanson calls those four perspectives the compass of shame. He tells us that we attack others, attack ourselves, and avoid (addictions) or withdraw (depression). Thus, when we are in situations that trigger old memories of defeat, failures, or rejections the current situation does not need to be actual, only perceived as such, shame envelopes you crippling your ability to respond in ways that might be healthier for you.

In addition to providing a theory for how shame impacts our lives, Nathanson offers strategies for dealing with shame. Nathanson helps us understand shame by reducing to a simple definition, that shame is the interruption of positive affect. The two positive affects, interest and excitement and joy are powerful affective responses. When a person is in the process of enjoyment or interest and something negative or bad happens to them, it interrupts those positive affects and shame sets in. Over time, a person might even stop moving toward something they enjoy or are interested in because of the fear of failure and defeat. Thus, the negative possibilities immobilize them from moving toward something they enjoy. This recurring issue can cause someone to give up their voice, their desire, or their ambition toward something they so desire.

Now, let us look at the practical issues involving shame and how those issues affect us on a daily basis.

It is common to believe that when we turn eighteen or twenty-one that we will somehow magically know how to be an adult. We dream that we will know the right things to say and always do the right things just as we believed our parents were always right. Even when we were fighting with our parents as adolescents, often there was that secret sense that we hoped they were right. Because if they were not right then how could we ever really trust anyone? They raised us and we were completely dependent upon their worldview.

For instance, when was the last time you were out to coffee with a friend and the topic of discussion turned to politics, religion, or just an opinion about a TV show. For instance, let us say you like Dancing with the Stars.

And your friend says, “I don’t understand how anyone can get caught up in these reality TV shows, especially something as ditzy as Dancing with the Stars.

You think to yourself. “Ouch, I thought that was an okay show to watch. I must be stupid for wasting my time doing that.”

However, in the conversation you say nothing, agree with your friend, or find a quick excuse to go to the restroom. What would it have taken you to say, “I disagree with that? I find Dancing with Stars very relaxing and by the end of the season, I can see how each dancer has progressed. I really enjoy it.”

Somewhere along your life’s journey, you have lost your voice. Now, you are at a deciding point, you either have to decide to stay inside of your cocoon and feel silently miserable about your secret opinions and enjoyments or to put your toes into the river of life and learn how to voice your opinion to others. Your opinion is who you are. You have a right to like the things you like and enjoy things that bring you relaxation, hope, and positive feelings. You are uniquely you and that is okay. Not only is it okay, but you need to celebrate who you are. Find one way today to celebrate yourself.

Voice is one of the most important aspects of who we are. Voice allows others to get to know us and to engage us in their lives. Without voice, we are invisible.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It is time for an Emotional Health Check-Up!

Do you need an Emotional-Health Check-Up?

Medical and dental offices always are reminding you that it is time for your annual check-up whether that is your annual physical, annual mammogram, annual Pap smear, prostate, or colonoscopy. Medical doctors see a need to snoop around in your body and make sure that those things we cannot see with our naked eye are still in proper and healthy working order. Dentists do the same thing. For people like me that hate to floss, dentists want me to clean my teeth with a hygienist every three months. My accountant wants to take an annual look at my taxes and if I had a financial advisor he/she would want to sit down with me once a year, and my attorney wants to make sure my will is up to date.

So, what about your mental health? What if we changed the term from mental health to emotional health? Is the word emotional health, more palatable to you? Or have you been raised to believe that the only way to be in life is stoic, non-emotional. Or, do you think if you use a coach or psychotherapist that you are weak? Why is it shameful to make an appointment get an annual “how’s my life” check-up? It usually feels better to talk about what is going on in your life, what hurts, what is working, what you want to make different this year? Why is that you have to wait until the emotional hurt is a full blown bleed that needs a triple by-pass on your anxiety, depression, and adjustment scales before you take better care of yourself?

I would like to offer you a different way of looking at your mental health. I would like you to take a moment and challenge your thinking. If you are wondering if this is all there is or if you are wishing that life were just a bit more interesting, then perhaps you are settling for the status quo of the day-to-day humdrum. When one day of humdrum leads to another day of humdrum then you are likely to become humdrum yourself. Who wants to humdrum? However if the word dynamic or vibrant just do not appeal to you perhaps you are more than humdrum, perhaps you are depressed. Who does not want to vibrant, to squeeze every positive moment and encounter out of life that they can?

There are several ways to think about your emotional well –being. Here is a checklist of five. If you check three out of five it might be time for you to call a psychotherapist, coach, or psychologists and see what is happening beneath your happiness bar.

1. Do you worry about the things that you have no control over? For instance, do you worry about “what-if” I am laid off from my job rather than having a plan B in case you do?

2. Are you more argumentative or negative than usual?

3. Are you more indecisive than usual, even down to where you can’t decide to what to wear or eat?

4. Do you find yourself daydreaming about what you wish your life were like?

5. Do you feel a sense of loneliness and dissatisfaction?

If you find these questions thought provoking, perhaps it is time to call me or someone else, sit down and have a discussion with them about what is going on with your life. Also, there are various psychological tests available to help you and your therapist figure out what might be percolating underneath the surface. Sometimes, emotional health determinates so slowly we don’t even notice that our life is changing negatively. Testing is a good way to obtain a fair and objective read about what is going on with you.

My challenge is that you make your emotional health a priority on a day –to- day basis. You count.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Learning to be Grateful- Reflections from a Vacation

Today I got up, dressed, bought a Pike’s Place Market Starbucks in Waikiki and pretended to walk at a clip on the beach walk. It was about 5:30 a.m. and I soon noticed the homeless people asleep on water front benches. With some embarrassment my first thought was, “Wow, what a wonderful view and peaceful sounds to awaken you in the early morning.” I immediately checked myself and said, “Dilley, what are you thinking. You slept in a comfortable bed and you will have a warm shower, an indoor toilet, and gastronomical delights throughout this trip. They on the other hand will most likely wake up stiff and sore, wonder where their food will come from today and search the beach for a public restroom at best. Homeless people have always intrigued me. I know there are many sides of the debate. Maybe they did not make the best choices. Perhaps, they were raped, beaten, tortured as children and grew up to survive as society’s outcast; those you look away from. How long would I last if my life went belly up and I had nowhere to turn and no way to make a living? Look at all the things that I have to be thankful for in this simple paragraph:

I woke up. I was able to move. I was able to see, dress myself in comfortable clothes and walk in comfortable clothes. I had money to buy Starbucks, eyes to see, ears to hear, and hands to hold my cup. I have taste buds and can enjoy the aroma and miracle of the sensation of coffee filling up my mouth and awakening my tired body and mind. Yes, I am still of sound mind. I have fingers to type and a spell check to help me out with typo’s and words too difficult to remember. I will return to a loving partner, a viable psychotherapy practice, and more comforts than many people in America.

Other people woke up today. Some of them on the cliffs of Santa Monica and others awakened in the slums of India. Some did not wake up today. Many woke up in hospital rooms other’s awakened to the anxiety of their friend or family who are sick or injured in hospital rooms. What to do with the dilemmas of inequity is the question?

The answer, notice and be grateful. It will make your day a better day.

Dr. Robin Dilley, PhD
Psychotherapist, Author and Speaker

"In A Moment's Notice"

"may you awaken those parts of you that have fallen
the parts of you that are thirsty, and discover anew the magic of growing."

Saturday, June 4, 2011

An Exercise in Free Association

An exercise in Free Association.
Hope, Love, Forgiveness, Action, Laughter, Peace, Enthusiasm, Energy, Attitude, Direction, Power, Spirit, Earth, Other, Connection, Time, Health, Relationship, Friend, Community, Quality etc.

Reflections of the past few months helped me create this feature article. I found myself sitting here looking at my to do list and wondering where in the world will I get the time to get all of this done. Then I looked at my list and realized there was not much on the list that I wanted to do and that is why I was just staring at it. I cajoled myself by reminding myself how much better I would feel if I just knocked out one or two things from the list. I dutifully did that, came back to the list, and saw all of the things that I had yet to do. I realized I had spun myself up in a knot by looking at my limitations and not at my accomplishments. Geez my critical voice became even louder, chastising me for being so negative and critical. I allowed that voice to ramble on and on in its self-defeating, provocative discourse of what a negative slug I had become. Finally, as in any abused situation I know I had a choice. I could roll over and agree with the voice, I could fight back, or I could get up and leave. I don’t know about you but I have never….never ever won an argument with a critic whether that be my internal critic or the multiple external critics in my environment. I also knew I did not want to roll over and agree with the critic because after ten minutes of the critic’s diatribe, I did know beyond any doubt that my critic was a liar. Those cursive words of always, never, should, could, failures were clearly lies. However, by that time I was just tired. Therefore, out of the three options that I could identify, I got up and left. Yep. I left my critic, my to do list, shook my head, shook my body as to shake free of its shackles and got in my car and went to Starbucks. I ordered my ice coffee and sat. I had no journal to force myself to be productive. I left my I-Phone at the office. I sat. I sipped. I breathed. I noticed. I practiced smiling. I thought about laughing. I took in the colors, smells, and noise all around me. I continued to breathe. I watched people talk and observed their level of happiness or non-happiness. I looked with envy as the medical students pounded away in their books. I remembered what it was like to be in school, to be free, to be excited about the next topic. I noticed myself relaxing. I felt my chest lighten. I found myself saying inside, “Life is Good.” A natural smile gently spread across my face. I felt different. I felt like I was doing something meaningful rather than calling the cable person or following up on a lost package. Life is Good. I was alive. At that moment of being, I was alive, conscious, and present. I finished my coffee. I got up and walked around the parking lot a bit, just noticing. I got in my car and drove back to my office. I looked the list and felt good. I can do these things. I can get them done. I just need awhile to be with myself and away from my internal taskmaster. I accomplished so much more than I ever thought possible. Yes, Life is Good. Take a break from the mundane. Shut down your multi-media, social networking, and go be with yourself doing nothing. You don’t have to meditate, do yoga, exercise, lift weights, or catch up with an old friend. Just be with yourself until you re-enter your body, the present, and realize Life is Good.

I was at a Continuing Education Seminar this morning listening to Dr. Loes speaking about pain, pain management and healing. One of the most important things that he shared was about how he saw the difference between pain and misery. He said,

“People with chronic pain may always have chronic pain, but that they do not have to be miserable about it.” He went on to delineate the difference between pain and emotional misery. Emotional misery is about what we choose to focus on and how we choose to continue to focus on that negative, woe is me feelings. Less, face it. Life is hard. It is hard for everyone at times. However, life is not hard all of the time in every category of our life. Emotional misery is where I was headed before I took my Starbucks Break. My list was still here when I returned but I was no longer miserable about it. Pain may not be able to be fully alleviated and may leave the person with some real disabilities in their body because of it; however, the misery does not have to go along with it all day every day. His topic returned me to the literature on positive psychology and I leave you with this thought. “It is not what happens to us that makes us who we are, it is what we do with what happens to us.” If you don’t like it, (whatever it is), stop complaining about it and take one-step toward positive change.

Free Association is the art of relaxing enough to let ideas freely float to your consciousness. I have provided you with a list of twenty-one words. Choose several from the list and write them on a piece of paper. Then after each word, write three words that first come to your mind when you think about your written word. For instance, if you chose the word HOPE: Strength, Encouragement, YES I Can are the first three words that come to my mind. Spend about 10 minutes doing this list. Notice if the list is more positive or negative. The direction of the list will give you some idea of whether you have worked your way into a rut. If you feel better when you are finished with this short exercise, then you are headed in the right direction. You brain cells are firing in such away to help you redirect your emotions into a positive direction. The goal is become a more positive person.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Communicating about the Big "C"

Developing Resources and Skills To

Help You and Your Companion Person

Communicate About Your Cancer

An Overview of a Workshop by Dr. Dilley

Cancer defines some things about us. But it does not define us. I am not a cancer patient or survivor, I am a person with cancer and who has survived cancer for 10 years. Why does cancer rock our world more so than some other diseases? Silence, fear, anxiety, depression, and shame, and what I call "THE GREAT UNKNOWN" all impact our experience of living with cancer.

What is cancer? Cancer is abnormal cell growth, stuck in the “on” position. It is the generic name for over 100 diseases that share similar characteristics of malignant cells. A malignant cell is a cell that has lost its mind and is sucking the life out of other cells to survive. 10 Million people survive the malignancy every year. So what is the problem? The problem is that the “cell” is out of control. It must be killed. It will not stop on its own. Thus, the wonders of chemotherapy. Then radiation to “make sure”. But the real problem is the fear it creates within us and between us. Thus we have to talk about it.

So how do we talk about it? The “C” Word ignites our innate Defense Mechanisms of survival. Thus, whatever stressors we have in our lives and our relationships become magnified with that sentence that each of us have heard come out of our doctor’s mouth, “I am sorry, but you have cancer.”Remember that day? I bet you remember every detail of that moment. You knew it was coming. You knew that when you saw your oncologist after surgery, that he/she would have your path report. You were already feeling shaky, scared, and lost, then those words fall out of his/her mouth and your world is turned upside down. Life as you have known it, has come to an end. Who do you tell? What do you tell them?

What are some safe ways to talk about the big "C"?

Journal what you want to say, then edit it.

Write a letter to your companion.

Ask someone else for help to express what you need to say.

Tell your companion, I want to talk, but I am not sure how to say the things I need to say. I need you just to listen and not comment. Then, after you think about it, we can talk. I just don’t know how to do this. So I am going to do my best.

What are some questions to ask when your partner has cancer?

1. What is the hardest part for you right now?

2. What does this treatment do to me/you?

3. What do you need from me right now?

4. Can you share with me what is going on in your head right now?

5. How are you feeling about what is happening?

6. I hear you are sad about losing your hair. Can you tell me about it?

7. I hear you are angry that this is happening to you. I know you are. I am angry too. It should not be happening, but it is. I am not afraid of your anger. You can share it with me.

8. “What can I do to make you more comfortable?” Notice how different that question is rather than, “Can I do anything to make you more comfortable?”

9. I would like to go in with you to see the doctor. Four ears are better than two. Would you like for me to go in with you?

10. I don’t know what you are feeling right now. I do care. Can you talk to me about what you are thinking or feeling?

Things to remember:

Cancer does not define us

Cancer gives us many opportunities to change

While wrestling with this disease, it will be best if we communicate to our companion the things we want, need, wish, desire, and feel.

Words do not have to be so scary.

What's the goal? There are many goals in this race against time, however, there is only one goal that both of you have control over. That is this goal: Live the Best Life Possible in the Time You Have.

Live the Best Life Possible in the Time You Have.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Psychologist Takes a Look at Lady Gaga

Who is Lady Gaga and why do I care?

Boring is one of the words I would use about today’s onslaught of reality TV Shows, uninteresting music, and really bad movies or worse yet remakes of bad movies. Really, can we not come up with some new material? Therefore, when I first started seeing this bizarre woman show up on talk shows and heard her making some statements on behalf of the gay and lesbian community I began to take notice. There is nothing too predictable about the Lady Gaga, but there are some things for sure, she will not disappoint anyone who is looking for controversy or a fight. She says it like she means it and she seems to mean what she says. So who is this woman?

This woman was barely beyond the kid stage, when she started her journey to success. As noted by many, she climbed the ladder of success one rung at a time using her talent and desire. She had no family name, no reality show, or model status and no Lindsay Lohan tactics. In my opinion, she is by far one of the most intelligent entertainers we have seen in a long time. If you do not know her music, you know her for her meat dress, egg entry at the Grammy’s, or her blasphemous religious assertions, such as Jesus love everyone. Now face it she is creative, talented and clearly authentic. What you see is what you get. And sometimes it is raw.

From my studies in Affect Psychology, I have shared that the affect interest is one of the two positive affects. At first, I did not think much about Lady Gaga, but as I began to hear her take on real issues for the gay and lesbian community and immigration, I began to listen more closely. My interest peaked when I realized that Lady Gaga was taking on the Catholic Church and Christian religious issues. She created press when she did part of her show dressed as a nun and was exploitive of the certain Christian symbols such as the crucifix.

When Gaga came to Phoenix for the second time, I decided to go to her concert and see for myself just exactly who the young talented star is. My only regret is that I did not buy better tickets because I could not see as well as I thought I would be able to see, and I am determined to go again and continue the writing on this socially relevant entertainer. What are her religious statements about?

These statements can be viewed as profane or perhaps there is something else going on, something deeper, perhaps even relevant? I thought it best if I was going to write about her, I should experience her in concert. I wanted to explore her entertaining behavior from a psychological perspective. I thought that best to experience. I am a Christian and have sensitivity to how Jesus and the Gospel should be portrayed but then again unlike my fundamentalist friends, I love Jesus Christ Superstar. Any many of my religious friends are outraged at her less than sacred approach to Christianity. But then many of them are concerned about my sexual identity choices too. So what are these religious statements about that Gaga seems compelled to put into her act? I would love to do an exclusive interview but since that won’t be happening before this article goes to press, let me take psychological privilege to make some assumptions.

Let me start with the simple. Why the meat dress? From Gaga personally, "However, it has many interpretations, but for me this evening ... If we don't stand up for what we believe in and if we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And I am not a piece of meat," she added, holding up the magazine cover. Read more:

I gather from that statement that standing up for what she believes in is part of her value system. I don’t hear many entertainers bring Jesus front and center to the stage, so why does she see it as relevant? She has taken heat for being profane, all the while stating that Jesus loves everybody. Is she mocking? I believe, if she stuck with what already has been done from a social relevance, such as the homeless, the addict, the ugly, the fat, the criminal, the intolerant or the insane she would be redundant. So, is it an attempt not being redundant? Why does she take the stage and shout through the microphone, “Jesus loves everyone.” Ah, it not so earth shattering, is it. Don’t we already know that? Isn’t that old news? Really? Oh, wait, she makes a comparison. She says Jesus is like Michael, her bi-sexual dancer. Michael loves everyone and Jesus loves everyone too. And again, deaf ears cannot hear the truth because it is veiled in the comparison to a bi-sexual dancer. And Americans are not comfortable with their own sexuality much less bi-sexuality. Was she calling Jesus a bi-sexual? Not necessarily. She was stating he loved everyone.

Now on to a few comments about the crucifix and her expressive sexual acts with religious symbols. I do not know her motive nor do I find any statements in the press about her personal religious views, but I will remind you that Matthew 18:6 says that “If anyone causes one of my little ones to stumble it is better for a millstone to be tied around their neck and that they be cast into sea.” So, perhaps Gaga is only stating the obvious, that religion in and of itself as it is today is a mockery. Priests and people, who call themselves Christians, abuse children, extort the poor; are caught in sexual and financial scams. We have failed to keep our own symbols sacred and hold them in respect by living lies well below the standard Christ set for us. So why do we get upset when Gaga takes the stage and places religious symbols in our face doing to them what is done to them on a daily basis behind closed doors?

Organized religion is not perfect nor do I think it can be. But it can take a moment and wonder why a twenty-five year old woman would want to make the statements she is making. Perhaps self-reflection and evaluation might bring a new spurt of salvation to those behind closed doors, perhaps not.