Monthly Archives: January 2008

helping a friend with depression

there was an interesting post a few days ago on PsychCentral, predicting that january 21st – yesterday – would be the most depressing day of the year, according to cliff arnall. or maybe not. maybe it’s in october.

whatever it is, the most interesting part of that article to me was that they also touched on the fact that there are so many people out there who don’t feel good, and might very likely be depressed, but don’t go and look for help for it.

it saddens me to see people suffering with symptoms of depression, suffering in silence, when there is help available. of course part of being depressed can often include difficulties with

  • believing that anything or anyone can help
  • being motivated to reach out for help
  • having enough energy to get help

there are so many depression treatments out there. many of them work. and in there: many of the resources are inside of us.

but today, let’s ask the question, how can the depressed person get there? specifically, if we have a friend who is battling with depression, how can we help him or her to reach for whatever it is that’ll help them get better? there were already a few suggestions in a previous post; but since this is such an important and timely topic, let’s talk a bit more about it.

i say just be a friend. just hang out with them. don’t tiptoe around them but do respect where they are emotionally. for example, feel free to ask them if they want to go for a walk with you but don’t drown them in your enthusiasm: “but it’s so beautiful out! you’ll love it, for sure!” people who are depressed often feel nobody understands how they feel, and raining happy-happy feelings on them will deepen that feeling.

when you hang around long enough, an opportunity might arise when you might be able to help them reach out. your friend might say, “well, maybe i should go see a doctor.” you can then casually mention that you could drive them. again, i recommend against jumping on your friend, “yes! great! let’s go right now!” depression often feels like your very foundations are crumbling. if your approach to your friend is too hale and hearty, it might make the foundations feel even tremblier.

if you’re really concerned about your friend, don’t hesitate to honestly share this with them. make sure that you honour both your and your friend’s feelings. you could ask your friend first whether it’s okay for you to tell them what’s on your mind. take their reply seriously. if they say, “no, i can’t hear that right now,” back off. most likely they’ll show a certain indifference.

if you feel you have a go-ahead, tell them how you feel. yes, that’s how you feel, not what they should do. big difference. most likely, too, if you’re honest with yourself, one of the reasons why you want them to go to a doctor is so that you can feel better. if that’s the case, lay it all out on the table. once again, talk about how you feel, how you’re feeling helpless or scared or confused. and then state to them that only they know what’s best for them, that you can’t force them to make any decisions.

if you don’t know what else to do, and particularly if you’re afraid your friend is actively suicidal, call a hotline.

have you ever helped someone who was dealing with depression? have you ever been helped? what worked? what didn’t?

social media megaproject: twitter

good monday, everyone!twitter

many of you know how much i like twitter, the social media site. (if you’ve never been there, go visit here; if you’re looking for me there, you can find me here.)

that’s why i’m really happy to be one of the hosts in my friend vivien’s social media mega project over at inspirationbit. i’m going to be hosting the twitter part of it (and actually also the LinkedIn part, over on alphablogs.)

sidebar – what is social media?

social media incorporates the online technology and methods through which people can share content, personal opinions, swap different perspectives and insights into world issues and generally discuss the evolution of media in itself.

social media website content can come in many shapes and forms:

text – text is often used to put across opinions or write blog posts
images – images and photos can display anything from holiday photos to shots by professional photographers.
audio – social media lets you create podcasts for users to download.
video – video sites mean that you’ll be able to record a video of your child’s birthday for friends all over the world to see.

(thanks to big mouth media for this definition)

in this group writing project, each hosting blogger hosts a section of this project dedicated to one specific social media site. then all participants will join forces by putting together all the pieces to publish what vivien calls the “ultimate list of resources on social media sites.”

so … do you have experience with twitter? share with us how you work and play with twitter. here are a few ideas:

how do you integrate twitter into your blogging, work and/or life? what are your good or bad experiences? how would you compare twitter with other social media sites? what do you and don’t you like about twitter? how did you benefit from becoming a frequent user? what secrets have you learned?

tell us about it!

here are the guidelines:

  1. write a post on your blog about twitter.
  2. contact me with your name, email and a permalink to your post. if you don’t have your own blog, you can always write a guest post on my blog, or simply send me your thoughts by contacting me in person.
  3. once i collect the links from all participants and publish them on my blog, you can write another post and link to either all or only your favourite articles by other bloggers.
  4. you can contribute one article per project/site. you are more than welcome to visit other participating blogs that host projects dedicated to the different social media sites we are talking about and take part in those projects by submitting your articles about other social networking sites.
  5. here are two more guidelines, added after talking to a few more people:

  6. if you want to submit an article that talks about more than one social media site, that’s fine, but you can only submit it once, to one host.
  7. if you’d like to submit an article that was written in the past, please make sure that the information is still current, and please edit the article to show the link to the overall project as well the link to the host to which you are submitting the article.

the project runs until march 22, 2008. on march 24, 2008, vivien from InspirationBit will collect all the posts in one big super mega hyper article about social media. (NOTE: these dates have been extended from their orginal february dates.)

and if you’re curious what other social media we’re looking at, here is the complete list. if you have experience with any of these sites, please write about it and submit the post to the respective blogger.

a buddhist carnival – 3rd edition, part 2

here is part 2 of the january buddhist carnival. you can find part one here.zen teacher

t he first two posts will be particularly interesting to people who are just starting to explore buddhism. samuel bryson talks about living in the now – the philosophy of happiness with a twist of zen at his blog total wellbeing. here is one of the things he explores in this post; it’s a question that often comes up in discussions of buddhism:

there are certain ideas within the buddhist tradition which are of great interest to me. one of these is the idea of living “in the now”. many people’s instinct would probably be to say “but what does this mean, sam? does it mean we should always do things that we enjoy and therefore become hedonistic?

simply put, no. we should not by this theory become hedonistic in a material sense and indeed the buddhists also have a theory of balance known as “the middle way” which also suggests one avoid extremes.

samuel’s post on the nature of happiness pursues this topic further.

jonathan reynolds presents buddhism’s emptiness, dependent-arising, karma, and no-self posted at meditation vinyasa yoga. it’s a little introduction to buddhism for people who feel attracted to buddhism but aren’t quite sure why. his article on practicing with pain is also interesting.

to be honest, one of the things that has always attracted me to zen buddhism are all the wonderful teaching stories. anmol mehta tells us one in true meaning of zen and of life? in just 3 words. here, zen master blumise asks his students to help him answer the question, “what is the true meaning of zen?” so … what is it? you’ll just have to read the article. after anmol reveals the answer, he issues this challenge: can you drop the apple and not take the next bite?

anmol also offers a video on how to practice zazen (zen sitting meditation)

albert foong, the urban monk, has an in-depth article on compassion and self-esteem, part of a whole series on compassion. in it, he explains that self esteem is very much the same as self-love. he refers to tonglen meditation, a wonderfully loving buddhist practice advocated by one of my buddhist “heroes”, pema chodron.

finally, we have tupelo kenyon, who submitted three posts. they’re not directly about buddhism but i’m sure people who read this blog will find them interesting: consciously programming your subconscious mind before sleep; balancing desire with contentment and how to live the life of your dreams through intuition. as usual, tupelo reminds us that you can “enjoy soothing instrumental music as you read plus songs with lyrics related to each article.”

a big thank-you for all the articles! if you have a post about buddhism, please submit it here for the next carnival. it’s scheduled for february 15.

(this image above is by ottmar liebert. this is kind of a neat story: as usual, i was browsing through flickr’s creative commons section for an image that i can use. i wanted something to illustrate the telling of zen stories, so i looked for “zen teacher”. this one seemed just perfect – and it turned out to be by ottmar liebert, whose music i used to listen to most avidly back in the 80s.)

a gallery of compassion

you may remember that a little while ago, i participated in the compassion project put together by the three monks. we were all asked about presenting our unique thoughts, definitions and views of compassion. i wrote about compassion and social media.

this group writing project has come to an end. i’d like to present to you some of the ideas that came up, and give you the list of all the people who participated.

so first, here are some samples:

at the new horizons project, a challenge to reach further with our compassion

how many people notice when others are struggling and suffering at home or at work and consciously do something about it? if you answered yes to that question then think how often you extend that same compassion to others outside of your normal relationships.

paula talks about “i am that“, an important buddhist approach.

this particular brand of i am that awareness started while i was listening to the radio (something i rarely do) while driving my daughter to preschool one day. a popular song written by meredith brooks in the nineties called, “bitch”, came on.

i’m a bitch, i’m a tease
i’m a goddess on my knees
when you hurt, when you suffer
i’m your angel undercover
i’ve been numbed, i’m revived
can’t say i’m not alive
you know i wouldn’t want it any other way

dreambuilders gives us this to think about:

we all conceal love behind the shadow we create for ourselves. we aren’t meant to turn our back on it. we need to learn to work through it.

at good life zen, the connection between compassion and forgiveness is investigated. are some things too hard to forgive?

the four young men who killed amy were pardoned and released from prison in 1998 after serving four years. soon after that, two of them, easy nofomela and ntebecko penny, made contact with amy’s parents. you can imagine how hard it was for linda and peter to meet face to face with the killers of their daughter. but when they saw how bleak their prospects were, they decided to offer help and support to easy and ntebecko. they started training as builders in one of the biehls’ programmes and have since been involved with a construction company that the biehls started.

evan remembers the lessons wecan learn from early christians, the desert fathers:

compassion embraces truth – it doesn’t allow us the luxury of sentimentality and illusion. we do not have the luxury of pretending that our society is better or worse than it is. compassion demands that we deal with the practical details of suffering and the nitty gritty of what creates suffering.

i really enjoyed samir’s post, who looks at the connection between art and compassion.

compassion is a deep awareness of, and a sympathy with, someone else’s suffering. that is the traditional definition, but really compassion is much broader than that. compassion is an innate sense of empathy with things and people outside of ourselves ” not just their suffering but their feelings, their thinking, and their situation. to be compassionate is to see, feel, and sense beyond yourself. it is this broader sense of compassion that truly makes us human. what would such a thing have to do with the ballet of swan lake and musical fountains? i thought you’d never ask.

read on! samir will tell you what it is …

finally, of course i had to go to this blog – you know how i feel about fractals! “compassion,” says this artist, “begins with myself.”

compassion, for me, is about one simple thing: allowing, instead of trying. it is accepting situations as they are, and just letting things flow naturally. yes, in such a state a deep empathy for all living beings arises within, but that is just a byproduct of allowing oneself to see the world from a natural and accepting viewpoint. compassion is also about embracing creativity, expressing the self naturally without any restraints.

so, friends, i this was a little glimpse into this beautiful gallery of compassion. now please, come on in, take your time, and savour all of these delicious posts:

ben lumley at the new horizons project.

kris vockler at beyond zen.

corinne edwards at personal growth with corinne edwards.

paula kawal at journey inward coaching.

liara covert at dream builders.

david bohl at slow down fast.

deb estep at deb_inside.

swami nirmalananda giri and reddyk at the atma jyoti blog.

mary jaksch at goodlife zen.

takuin minamoto at daily action and natural expression.

robin at reflections on compassion, posted at yogini myspace blog.

karen zara at abaminds.

jenny mannion at heal pain naturally.

evan hadkins at

shawn williamson at do you live or simply exist.

patricia singleton at spiritual journey of a lightworker.

alex blackwell at the next 45 years.

akemi gaines at gratitude magic.

vitor bosshard at the fractal forest.

cg walters at into the mist.

john torcello has also contributed an entry by email, i’ve included it in the comments below.

brightdays at brighter days for you and me!

karen at loving awareness.

krista at lucid amphibology.

karen lynch at live the power.

andrea hess at empowered soul.

waters at waters: the last thing i wanted to give.

eric grey at deepest health.

stephen hopson at adversity university.

em dy at pulse: intention to treat.

iain hamp at follow your passions.

rahul at raw speak.

stephen miracle at

pearl at interesting observations.

mark at my tropical escape.

matthew at loving awareness.

daylle schwartz at lessons from a recovering doormat.

charities link at charities link.

mihaela lica at pamil visions ewritings.

david at virginia breeze.

jerry summers at nothing like now.

wishbone at wishbone.

arvind devalia at make things happen.

samir bharadwaj at samir bharadwaj dot com.

wordless wednesday with a twist

some of you have already made the acquaintance of my wonderful friend tina. i’ve rarely met someone so full of fire, fun and creativity.

tina is working on a book project. until about 10 years ago or so, tina couldn’t read. it’s not because she’s stupid. far from it. she just experiences the world a little different from most people. she’s an alternative learner.

her book is about being an alternative learner, or an “allotrilexic“. yup, that’s a word she coined. the woman who couldn’t read and write invents a new word. see what i said about her being amazing?

allotrilexic, btw, literally means reading (-lexic) differently (allotri-).

so. tina is doing a bit of a research project. since her brain is full of pictures and not (like mine) full of words, she wants to know what people’s favourite symbols or icons are. like many of us, she loves emoticons. they’re universally understandable, they’re fun, and they do paint, well, maybe not a thousand words but at least 79, wouldn’t you say?

so please, help tina and tell us, what are your favourite icons? you can also tell us why. and you can also talk about icons or symbols you don’t like.

let’s make this a wordless wednesday with a twist!

to start off, here are a few that i like:

oh, and i just found this at utenzi’s and just had to include it:

okay, it’s your turn now. you can just say which icon it is, or describe it, or send a link to it, or you can get really fancy and embed the image in your comment. for that, please use this code <img src=”http://…” /> and replace the three dots with the URL of the image location. you get the image location by right clicking on an image and then clicking “copy image location”. make sure you have the http:// in there exactly once.

this is a lot of fun! really looking forward to what you guys and gals have to say about this (or should i say, what you’re going to point to?)

a buddhist carnival – 3rd edition, part 1

welcome, friends, to january’s edition of a buddhist carnival. like last time, i’ll divide it into two parts, just to make it a bit easier to read.

let’s start with fellow therapist wayne c. allen, who talks about non-duality at the phoenix centre blog.

non-duality … is about loosening one’s grip on “one note being”. life becomes a dance. you notice that you are judging, labelling, boxing things up, and you have a breath and let go of the definitions. in this letting go process, your experience expands, and you see that whatever is going on has many aspects, all equally true.

chris from martial development has more on non-duality. the non-dual perspective on subjective reality shows how one can look at the law of attraction from the buddhist (and hindu) viewpoint of advaita or non-duality. oh, and you might find his link to the video concentrate with xzibit and team ryouko interesting (or amusing, or weird, or even offensive, depending on your level of interest/tolerance for rap).

a surprise was praveen’s article. when i first saw the title, i thought it was one of those submissions that have nothing to do with buddhism (i get quite a few of those). but then … well, see for yourself: the tao of simplicity: speed golf.

ken nubo, on the other hand, takes the opposite track. instead of running with golf balls, he stares at clouds:

i’m sitting here next to the large window and just staring off into the clouds while playing some traditional japanese music. it’s relaxing.

i think it’s a healthy way just to sit for a day and stare at the clouds. and daydream.

let’s allow those clouds to carry us to wayne, who talks about a random enjoyable reading – the book gay-neck, a classic children’s story about a boy, a pigeon, and the wisdom of lamas. wayne gives us this truly inspiring quote from the book:

think and feel love so that you will be able to pour out of yourself peace and serenity as naturally as a flower gives forth fragrance.

these are our featured articles for part 1. two more little tidbits – posts that are definitely interesting but not directly about buddhism: personal development guru steve pavlina talks about one of his passions in why vegan? and charles h. green gives us a better new years resolution redux at his blog with the great name trust matters.

i’ll serve up the second part of this carnival some time during this week. for tomorrow, i have plans on a bit of a twist on  wordless wednesday.

in the meantime, if you have a post about buddhism, please submit it here for the next carnival, scheduled for february 15.

leaving a therapist, finding a therapist

over at my “buddy blog” finding your marbles, there is a really good discussion about what happens in therapy. this post here talks about ending therapy. scott asked me to comment on a conundrum a commenter is experiencing.

here’s the problem:

i was sure i could go it alone but couldn’t face telling my therapist (of 2yrs) goodbye. so i sent a letter in which i told her thanks to her great guidance i am strong enough to go it alone. just 2 weeks later i am depressed and want to go back but my pride is stopping me.

she was a great therapist and after years of searching she was a great match for me. but i was unable to totally open up to her. i fear it will take me ages to find another one as good as her. but know if i go back it will be the same situation of been unable to open up to her.

really confused. anyone got any advice for me, please?

and here are my comments. yes, they are comments, not advice – i don’t know the person, don’t know the circumstances, don’t know the therapist. but i’ve run into similar situations before and perhaps my experience can shed some light on it. and those of you who read this blog regularly will not be surprised to see that i phrase much of this in terms of questions 🙂

first of all, let me tell you that i agree with scott’s comments. calling the therapist and explaining to her why you left is a good idea. it might bring you some closure, and maybe that’s partly why you’re not feeling well right now. also, yes, making it two weeks on your own is an accomplishment!

discussing the client-therapist relationship
in the course of your therapy, did you ever discuss your relationship with your therapist? my personal stance on this is that this is important. the vast majority of us go to therapists at least partially because something’s not quite right with our relationships. so the relationship with the therapist becomes a testing ground, a playground.

for example, i might say to a client something like, “it often looks like you’re a bit uncomfortable when you first come in the door here. what’s your guess, is that something about our particular relationship, or do you find that happens with other people, too?”

you may want to resolve that whatever your next step in therapy looks like, discussing with your therapist your relationship with her or him is a useful course of action.

going it alone – a bit scary at first
you say you want to go back. let me propose two extremes: “i need to go back because my life is falling apart around me, and i can’t go on without my old therapist’s help” on the one hand, and “geez, i’m missing her comfortable voice and how good she makes me feel” on the other. one is a strong need, like the need for food and shelter, and the other is longing for old comfort, like missing an old sweater that you finally decided to give to the salvation army. if the strong need was a 10 and missing the old comfort was a 0, where do you find yourself now?

it may just be that you’re feeling the normal anxiety that comes with taking off the training wheels.

pride – a strong force in all relationships
you say your pride is stopping you. what exactly do you mean by that? this pride is obviously a strong force. you might find it interesting to journal a bit about that.

shopping for a new therapist
i don’t know how you went about looking for this therapist. if and when you’re ready to indeed look for another one, it doesn’t have to take that long. have you ever thought of writing down what you’re looking for in a therapist? that would be a good idea at any rate, even if you decide to go back to your current therapist. you can take this list and literally go shopping.

helen, hopefully these thoughts are helpful. i’d be very interested in hearing what you think!

for my other readers: if you’ve been in therapy and are comfortable discussing it – do you have any experience to contribute?

frank paul: guilt, truth and reconciliation

there have been times when i’ve pointed out the sometimes not-so-stellar record of our police. this post here about the sad story of frank paul could be another one. frank paul was a first nations man who lived here in vancouver. “lived” not in the sense that most of us do; he didn’t have a home. one cold night he was found drunk (or sick, or both), he ended up in the police station, wasn’t allowed in the drunk tank and got put back on an alley. he died of hypothermia.

this was 9 years ago. on thursday, the police officer who put him in that alley apologized for what he did.

and that’s what i want to write about.

we all make mistakes. many of us make serious mistakes, and not even “honest” ones – mistakes grounded in stupidity, timidity, selfishness, thoughtlessness. often we’re lucky and these mistakes have no serious consequences. i think of the time, for example, when i drove wrong-way down a busy downtown street. that could have caused a terrible accident, with years-long suffering for all involved. here but for the grace of god go i – nothing happened, and the incidence just seems like one more unimportant occurrence in my life.

here, officer david instant’s actions didn’t go unpunished. a rookie police officer, he listened to a senior officer instead of to his own gut instinct – something that happens as frequently, maybe even more often, than driving wrong-way down a one-way street – and exposed an unconscious man to the elements. the man died.

yes, it took him a long time to apologize. but he did. and he said he wanted to apologize to the family in person. i’m glad he wants to do that.

again, taking a long time to deal with our mistakes is not unusual. sometimes we carry something in our hearts for a long time and we just can’t bring ourselves to act on our desire to make things right. we’re afraid that it’ll expose us, that we’ll be ridiculed, that the person to whom we’re wanting to apologize will be angry, that it’ll be awkward. in instant’s case, there were probably also legal reasons, and he may not have been allowed to say anything.

but here it is. he did something inhumane, a horrible thing happened, and he apologized.

frank paul’s cousin peggy clement gave a moving interview at CBC radio.

i’m not holding grudges against anybody because sometimes we make decisions that don’t coincide with what we’re supposed to be doing but if you take responsibility that’s a step towards making things better.

in this tragedy, then, there is peace and hope.

may he rest in peace, frank paul, and may we be inspired by david instant and peggy clement. what transpired is almost like a mini truth and reconciliation commission. it’s not the typical whitewash where no one admits responsibility, everyone passes the buck, and the wounds of the families affected by such tragedies keep on festering.

here, i believe we can move on.

p.s. it occurs to me that this post fits into the series on guilt – here’s the last post, if you’re interested.

p.p.s. one year later: here are the latest developments on this matter.

p.p.p.s.  this post was included in the carnival of healing with the focus on authenticity.