Tag Archives: family

looking into gratitude

this morning, i visited chitowngreg’s sunday post about gratitude. it was fabulous to see all the comments there – 48 at the time i was visiting.

and then of course my research brain got curious. what a great treasure trove to delve a little into to find out what specific things people are grateful for! i spent a few hours to analyze it a bit and cam up with a few surprises and a few things that were expected.

family was the biggest theme. i found 25 mentions of it. most of them were about children, e.g.

three wonderful children with their own uniqueness

and almost as many about spouses, e.g.

climbing into my warm bed, with my husband who loves me, and listening to the rain softly falling all night long……

then a surprise – the next category in “family” was dogs, before mothers, etc.:

for dogs who never tire of seeing me.

chitowngreg’s blog is a 12-step blog, so understandably, there were a lot (21) of expressions of gratitude about recovery and 12-step programs, like

i watched, “crazy heart”, last night. a story about an alcoholic country singer/ songwriter. made me very grateful for my sobriety and the second chance i was given.

indirectly, some of the comments where gratitude is expressed for those kinds of things would also fall into other categories such as spirituality and friends (because of the strong fellowship aspect of 12 steps). i found surprisingly few (5) for friends (“the companionship of friends”) and 4 for spirituality (e.g. “playing ave maria in a little while at mass this morning”).

i was also not necessarily surprised but perhaps “pleasantly confirmed” that those gratitudes contained none of the cultishness that 12-steppers are sometimes accused of.

another topic that came up frequently was basic needs, possibly inspired by greg’s intro to the post about how lucky most of us are. if your combined household income is over $ $26,400 a year, you’re in the top 10% of all income earners in the world. think about that. for many of us westerners, that’s mind boggling. when i think of how many people i know who are wringing their hands because they only make $25 an hour, it’s refreshing to hear this

thank god for running water!

and then there were more comments (14) about the weather/nature than there were about health (11)! that was perhaps the biggest surprise. i would have expected for health to be right up there with family. of course this is anything but a scientific research project – still, i find this remarkable, something i’m thinking of following up (maybe i’ll write one of my brainblogger articles about this sometime soon). loved this comment:

i’m grateful to have had a glorious weekend on the boat and that this afternoon there was a wonderful thunderstorm. we came back through the rain but were safe. nature in all its power!

another surprise: of all the gratitudes i looked at (about 140 altogether), this was the only one that explicitly mentioned nature.

here’s one about health:

i’m grateful today that i can think and speak in words. a dear friend is wordless after a brain hemorrhage, and it’s very hard.

other things that were mentioned more than once, with some examples, and in order of occurrence:


i’m grateful to have blogs that allow me to reconfirm i am doing the right thing in my life.

gratitude itself
people like you who remind me why i should be grateful when i’m grouchy just because its monday

personal growth

having the courage to ask “what am i going to do,” rather than sitting in pity saying “why”

mornings (that was another surprise – mentioned 7 times)

the possibilities of the whole day in front of me

also home, work, baseball (!!!) and peace.

august 2009 buddhist carnival

here’s the buddhist carnival again! last month my blog was still sick and the carnival didn’t happen. glad to be back for august. the buddhist carnival is a romp / surf / drive / ride through the buddhist blogosphere (blugghasphere?) and today’s menu brings you posts on music, fashion, family, war, wishy-washy buddhism, persisting through the agony of sesshin, homelessness and creativity.

buddhist rap
we always start with a poem. this is from a paper entitled buddhism in music – a bit longer than your typical blog post but well worth the read. he includes the lyrics by british rapper maxi jazz, a follower of the nichiren (SGI) path.

my story stops here. let’s be clear,
this scenario is happening everywhere.
and you ain’t going to nirvana or “far-vana”,
you’re coming right back here to live out your karma
with even more drama
than previously. seriously.

buddhists on the catwalk
from chaplain danny:

the associated press has a story today about buddhist monks in japan “[hitting] the catwalk in tokyo…in a bid to spread buddhism among younger people in this rapidly aging society.”

reaching out to family
the ex-bipolar buddhist, a fellow canadian, reprints a moving letter to his family. it’s such an old story: more often than not, we tend to take our families for granted, or even shy away from them. when that family is truly toxic, that may be a good idea. but many families are just – well, normal. garden-variety dysfunctional. busy. a bit indifferent. not quite who we’d have for close friends. in that case, reaching out to them, reminding ourselves of our bonds, is a beautiful and in a way heroic thing. here’s a bit from the letter:

the only way to feel loved is in the present moment, and we are only able to act with mindfulness in the present moment.

i won’t be able to tell you i love you after i’m gone. and i won’t be able to give you the answers or the love you need and deserve. i can only do that now.

emasculated by buddhism?
the new heretic vents on what some might call wishy-washy buddhism. there is an interesting conversation in the comment section where, among others, c4chaos takes me to task on my use of the concept of the middle road.

truth does set us free, but noted that all of their examples were warm and fuzzy, flowery, and that the truth is not always that way. truth is truth. sometimes it is not flowers and sunshine. the truth is that person who you are afraid of hurting you, may, in fact, hurt you. or, to take the opposite position, you may be deluding yourself into thinking that someone is good for you when the truth is that they are bad for you. the truth is that you may be overweight, maybe that other person is more attractive than you, and maybe your sister is going to always score just a little bit higher than you on that test in school. so what? really, so what? that truth is also liberating, and can set you free. isn’t the point to embrace reality? being trapped by irrational fears that are holding you back from enjoying real life is delusion. however, fooling yourself into thinking that life is a bed of roses all the time a delusion that holds you back as well. embrace the reality of the situation, and then you can effectively deal with your shit.

seriously, i think there has to be more “suck-it-up-ness” and “deal-with-it-ness” in the practice.

read here for the rest.

sarah palin and a vow
no need for comment here, i’d say:

i, lazybuddhist, vow to avoid any and all coverage of sarah palin. i shall refrain from participating in discussions about her, and in particular giving into my urge to rant about her. my hatred of her only diminishes me. the energy that would be expended in palin bashing can be much better channeled into something positive and worthwhile.

want to read more? here it is.

the agony of sesshin
genkaku’s blog is one of my favourite spots in the blogosphere. today he speaks of something that has been a huge challenge for me ever since i started meditating back in 1969: the discomfort of sitting in meditation. he compares it to the pain of childbirth:

without trying to compare levels of agony, anyone who has been to a sesshin or extended zen buddhist retreat has probably felt some of the same writhing wrath as the crossed legs burn like fire or the sorrow seems unbearable. who the fuck dreamed this up?!

and yet …

women have more than one child.
zen students go to another sesshin.

analysis (selective amnesia, virtue, greed, etc.) doesn’t interest me much in this realm. what interests me is what actually-factually happens. in the face of what happens now, ‘meaning’ and ‘explanation’ can piss up a rope. analysis can take a hike. whether agonizing or glorious … this is it.

and we do it again.

buddhism – maybe not as peaceful as we always thought
buddhism is all about awakening to reality, isn’t it? ok, so here’s a piece of reality:

buddhism has always been portrayed as the religion of peace. “there has never been a buddhist war,” i’ve heard many times over the years. when the sakya kingdom was threatened with invasion, the buddha sat in meditation in the path of the soldiers, stopping the attack. when the indian king asoka converted to buddhism, he curtailed his military escapades and erected peace pillars. when the dharma came to tibet, it is said that the barbaric tribes were pacified. during the vietnam war, buddhist monks set themselves on fire to protest the fighting.

and now a new study emerges that will radically shake up this view of buddhism. zen at war is a courageous and exhaustively researched book by brian victoria, a western soto zen priest and instructor at the university of auckland. victoria reveals the inside story of the japanese zen establishment’s dedicated support of the imperial war machine from the late 1800’s through world war ii. he chronicles in detail how prominent zen leaders perverted the buddhist teaching to encourage blind obedience, mindless killing, and total devotion to the emperor. the consequences were catastrophic and the impact can still be felt today.

here is the rest of this book review.

bearing witness to homelessness
over the weekend of july 17, 18, & 19 a poet, a zen priest, an industrial designer, a mental health professional and a manager of a soup kitchen took to the streets of boston to bear witness to its homeless.

we only took the clothes on our back, no money, no bedding, no tooth brush, no jewelry, no credit cards, & no desire to do anything but aimlessly meander for three days throughout the city of boston. what did we find there? parts of ourselves that we did not know existed.

buddhism, creativity and the arts
and we come back to the beginning. this event sounds very exciting; i hope we’ll have something like that here in vancouver one day. i signed up with the ning group right away.

the focus of this event was an exploration of the relationship between buddhist thought/practice and creativity with specific reference to the arts. does buddhist thought and practice help or hinder the creative process? the theme was explored through a series of academic lectures, discussion, exhibition of artworks and workshops. the event brought together around 80 people from a broad spectrum of backgrounds buddhist and non-buddhist, artist and non-artists all who share an interest in the theme. the exhibition of visual arts included sculpture, painting and film and represented 40 artists who each share some association with buddhism.

if you would like to make contact with other people interested in this field, go to www.dharmaarts.ning.com/ – the site of the dharma arts network (dan) which was launched at the conference, or the london buddhist arts centre’s website where you can sign up to their database.

what are we going to have for the september buddhist carnival? i don’t know. but if all goes as planned, it’ll be on the 15th.

who owns the poem?

on april 18, 2009 sarah luczaj’s guest post “the lyric self” probed the question of “who is the ‘i’ in a contemporary lyric poem?” in this guest post today, janet riehl brings the question of ownership into the discussion as she now muses on and pursues it in this post.

sarah luczaj is a british therapist and writing living in poland. janet is a writer, artist, and musician living in st. louis. morecently she’s produced an audio book “sightlines: a family love story in poetry and music”   which expanded upon and amplified  “sightlines: a poet’s diary.”  you can explore her work at riehl life: village wisdom for the 21st century; there are also videos.

sarah luczaj opens her april post with a concise literary history of the development of the personal narrator (the “i”) in poetry. beginning with the 1800’s romantic era, sarah tracks its evolution in the 1900s and on into the present. as she noted, at its best this personal style of narration offered poets a new way to express individuality and authenticity.

like sarah in her own work, when i readied my volume of story poems, sightlines: a poet’s diary, for publication, i was confronted with the issue of “revealing self and others in poems.” (the issue is not specific to poetry alone; it is also one that prose memoirists struggle with.) in my case, the i-narrator was close to the same “i” that “made the toast…did the laundry.”  i wrote the literal and emotional truth as clearly as i understood it.

it was not an easy task. my older sister had recently perished in a senseless car wreck. the injuries my mother suffered required months of recuperation. in writing about the accident and its aftermath, i unavoidably probed at the raw wounds in our hearts.

the poems that spoke directly about family members and neighbors raised the question:  as the author, what is my responsibility to them? do they “own” the poems in any way? are they the ultimate holders of the truth of any poem dealing with them? do they “own” the truth?

what does ownership mean?

struggling with this made me come to believe that in the context of my own work, the concept of “ownership” is amorphous. for my purposes, the definition of ownership does not refer to legally defined real or intellectual property rights. rather, it refers to ethical ownership. deciding ownership requires taking into account spiritual, factual, experiential, and aesthetic elements, as well as respect and courtesy.

so who did my work belong to? who owned the truth of any given poem or the project as a whole?

since i was writing about family and community history, there were times when i turned to my father. in his 90s now, his memory is far clearer than mine, and he can reel off dates and details like a seasoned game show contestant. in one poem titled “walking riehl lane,” the viewpoints between poet (me) and historian (my father) amiably clashed.

the poem features the freeman family, whose connection to ours reaches back to my great-grandfather’s time. one particular stanza relates the story of how charlie freeman integrated his son, dickie, into the boy scout troop. my story of meeting charlie’s younger son, jimmy, on riehl lane follows in another stanza. to improve the flow of the poem, i melded the two brothers into one character, whom i called jimmie.

poetic license

my father agreed that the technique worked well in conveying this bit of history. but his historian’s heart protested. “facts! facts!”  my writer’s sensibility retorted, “poetic license!” we tossed the words back and forth like a baseball until we grinned, knowing that in this instance there would be no compromise on my part. i claimed ownership of the crafting of the poem and chose not to defer to my father’s deeply felt difference of opinion.

this question of ownership-in both the ethical and aesthetic sense-is the standard i used throughout both the book and audio book “sightlines” projects.

in two poems about eight-year-old amelia, my great-niece, i’d drawn on material from her life. i asked her mother to read and discuss the poems with her. amelia suggested a few changes, which made the poems richer and more poignant. at eight, amelia wasn’t concerned about subtle emotional or spiritual undertones. facts were what mattered to amelia, and her suggestions reflected that. she owned the facts of her life. i, again, controlled the craft of the poem and incorporated her perception of reality so as to create an aesthetically pleasing whole.

in contrast, there was work i did not allow anyone to read until after publication. i knew that there were those who would undoubtedly be unhappy with some of the poems, but i wanted the work to reflect what i saw, believed, and experienced as the truth. i didn’t want their negative input before the fact. if they were upset that i hadn’t prettied up or whitewashed what our family was going through, so be it. the poems expressed my personal truth. i owned them.

the subsequent audio book included both my poems and music from my father’s youth, so we teamed up on the project. i retained ownership of the overall shape of project and my personal writing. however, i ceded ownership to my father for how his music was presented in relationship to my work. he owned the music not only because he had written much of it himself, but mainly because this music was the purest expression of his heart’s blood.

elsewhere in sarah’s post she asks, “what is the difference between writing a diary and a poem, and is it really the case that a diary is necessarily more authentic?”

“writing poetry is the act of distilling the essence,” she holds. journaling, in contrast, can include as much slush as we need to process what we’re experiencing in our lives and in our souls. we “write poems to find out what can be said about something.”

in “sightlines: a poet’s diary, “as the subtitle indicates i straddled the line between poem and diary entry. i wrote at least one poem every day in my journal, sometimes as many as three. i wrote early in the morning, in bed, tea at my side. at the sounds of slight stirring by my parents, i would rush downstairs to take over the caretaking of my mother. throughout the day i made notes in order to have material to work on later.

how did this writing differ from my usual prose journal writing? during this time almost all my journal-writing energy was channeled into the poetry. my intention was to create a book to share with others, and journaling in the poetic form suited the intimate nature of what i conceived the book to be. i journaled in poetry, later crafting the work into finished pieces.

in a typical journal entry, i might have written “i feel sad this morning,” a factual report of emotion. in the completed book that sorrow became a leitmotif running through the 90 poems. rather than using direct statement, i recorded our hearts in understated language and images.

sarah says, “this seems to be what we are doing all the time, taking people’s stories inside and being changed by them.” this was certainly how it played out for me.

as our family slogged together through our grief in the wake of my sister’s death, i observed my brother, my mother, my father, and myself. we each had our stories. i absorbed these stories and released them again as poetry. the “i” in every one is all of us and each of us. and the “i” is the real life me, telling the story as truthfully and as clearly as i could. these stories were not just for our family. no, these stories reached out to join the stories of the world-and to embrace all the families who knew grief and loss all too intimately.

this post followed the previous stop on the tour at sharmana russell’s blog.  the next stop on the tour will be eden maxwell.

fireflies and a buddhist shrine: a sunday inspiration

in this post, i happily join sojourner in her sunday inspiration project.

fireflies. from ancient times we humans have always been fascinated by these little beings. scientists explain that the firefly’s light is produced through a complicated interaction of a number of chemicals. but for me, its light teaches a very valuable lesson: the firefly is not poisonous and does not bite; its lifespan is short and in its brief moments on earth, it just gives off light.

i believe the light it emanates is truly its buddha-nature.

as for me, i am stronger, more intelligent, civilized and live longer, but i cannot give light. it makes me very humble.

this is a meditation by kenryu t. tsuji, the first japanese-american bishop of the buddhist churches of america, of the jodo shinshu path, otherwise known pure land buddhism. it is the path of my in-laws, and every time i visit them, i enjoy getting a little glimpse of that way of life.

the other day i was given the gift of a few moments in front of their little ancestral shrine, spending some minutes bathing in the light of the memory of loved ones that have left this reality. there was a sense of my family – my father, my dog, my cousin – meeting my in-laws’ family – my husband’s aunt, his grandmother, the cat he grew up with.

we are all one.  and the firefly is our teacher.

image by tanakawho

this post can be found at zen school

raising children, raising parents

spaced-out drug userlin over at telling it like it is has an article on 10 ways to raise children to use drugs. examples:

  • encourage insecurity by telling them to keep secrets from other family members or family secrets from others
  • avoid touching, hugging, and taking time to interact with your children.
  • disregard their physical needs.
  • ignore their worthwhile and constructive habits

it’s a perfect prescription for unhappiness, period – a child who grows up in an environment like this may not necessarily get into drugs but will be guaranteed to have other problems.

it again reminds me of gabor maté’s book, in the realm of hungry ghosts – close encounters with addiction. as i’ve mentioned before, this canadian doctor makes the case that many problems with addiction stem from not only an unhappy childhood but also from pregnancy, where the brain undergoes its formation.

as a counsellor, i have worked with people with very, very serious addiction problems. there was not a one among them who did not grow up in a difficult environment.

conversely, people who grew up in an environment that would score well according to lin’s list: they’re not always angels, they may experiment with drugs for a while, they may have a bit of a brush with the law – but they always seem to be able to right themselves after a while, they seem to have a buffer that prevents them from reaching a bottom that isn’t really a bottom, it’s a neverending pit.

having said all this, we need to look at the parents. parents do not want to be angry all the time, give in to ridiculous demands, ignore the consequences of their children’s behaviour, show low self worth and all the other things on lin’s list. parents who behave like that are clearly unhappy people who need just as much support, encouragement, education and love as their children do.

it takes a village to raise a good parent.

(image by murplej@ane)

cancer: families, communication, self-development, fatigue

pea blossomthe last two frozen pea friday entries were a bit more introspective and heavy. today’s post is heavy, too, but only on science. i wanted to see what solutions health psychologists are looking at in terms of frequently occurring problems for cancer patients,e.g. how to talk about cancer, how cancer impacts family life, cancer and personal development, and the fatigue that comes with cancer.

cancer and family life

i was quite moved by this slide show about cancer and the family by dr. lea baider, a pioneer in psycho-oncology in israel (actually, it’s a lecture but i couldn’t get the audio part to play on my laptop). she asks hard questions such as “how can couples incorporate cancer into their relationship?” and uses beautiful illustrations from art and literature. she uses kafka’s short story “fellowship” to make us sensitive to the intrusion of cancer into family life:

we are five friends, one day we came out of a house one after the other, first one came and placed himself beside the gate, then the second came, or rather he glided through the gate like a little ball of quicksilver, and placed himself near the first one, then came the third, then the fourth, then the fifth. finally we all stood in a row. people began to notice us, they pointed at us and said: those five just came out of that house.

since then we have been living together, it would be a peaceful life if it weren’t for a sixth one continually trying to interfere. he doesn’t do us any harm, but he annoys us, and that is harm enough; why does he intrude when he is not wanted? we don’t know him and don’t want him to join us. there was a time, of course, when the five of us did not know one another, either, and it could be said that we still don’t know one another, but what is possible and can be tolerated by the five of us is not possible and cannot be tolerated with this sixth one.

in any case, we are five and don’t want to be six. … but how is one to make all this clear to the sixth one? long explanations would almost amount to accepting him in our circle, so we prefer not to explain and not to accept him. no matter how he pouts his lips we push him away with our elbows, but however much we push him away, back he comes.

talking about cancer

understanding the difficulties people have with talking about cancer may assist not only the person with cancer but health professionals and those who care for cancer patients. it may help them figure out how support from friends and family may be most beneficial. these were the findings of a study by rosemary chapman, a PhD student at loughborough university.

even managing normal everyday greetings such as being asked ‘how are you?’ could be problematic for someone with cancer. sometimes, responding with how they actually are may create a problem for the person they are talking to since that person is wondering how should they react. consequently, the person with cancer is often faced with an additional predicament; how do they deal with other people’s difficulties of not knowing what to say or how to respond?

it occurs to me that that’s at least part of the explanation for why i keep posting about cancer – it’s about opening the doors of communication, so that we can figure out how we can better support those among us who have this horrible disease (after all, one out of every four north americans is touched by cancer, either themselves, or a close family member or friend).

cancer and personal development

annette l. stanton, PhD, of the university of california-los angeles … discussed how some individuals cope by finding benefit in this adverse circumstance. some individuals look for the positive aspects in their life while experiencing stressors and look for good things that can be learned from that experience. they try to “grow” as a result of the stressful experience. in a sample of 92 women after treatment for breast cancer, 83% found benefits from their experience of breast cancer, and 46% found they related better to others after their experience with breast cancer.

as many of you know, one of my interests is journaling for healing, so this was good to hear:

dr. stanton … and her colleagues recently published the results of a randomized, controlled trial in which 60 early stage breast cancer patients were randomly assigned to write over 4 sessions about either: (1) their deepest thoughts and feelings regarding breast cancer; (2) positive thoughts and feelings regarding their experience with breast cancer; or (3) facts about their experience with breast cancer. after 3 months, those in the first 2 groups who wrote about their emotions had fewer medical appointments for cancer-related illness than those in the control group who wrote about breast cancer facts.

cancer and fatigue

cancer patients suffering from symptoms of fatigue might find some relief through regular exercise and psychological counseling to deal with stress, a review found.

fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of patients with cancer and those undergoing treatment with radiation and chemotherapy. according to the american cancer society, 90 percent of patients in cancer treatment experience fatigue that can range from “mild lethargy to feeling completely wiped out.”

the reviewers evaluated 41 studies. of these, 17 looked at activity-based interventionsin which patients either performed supervised or home-based exercises three to five times a week.

twenty-four studies evaluated psychological interventions. there were a variety of types of interventions, including techniques such as weekly telephone counseling about how to conserve energy and group therapy to teach skills like stress management and relaxation training.

jacobsen and his colleagues found that 44 percent of the activity-based trials and 50 percent of the psychological studies that were of good quality reported significant, if not earth shattering, results. patients who received either of the two types of interventions reported less fatigue than patients in the control groups did, the researchers concluded.

jacobsen concluded the results only provide “limited support” for the use of these types of nonpharmacological treatments to manage cancer fatigue.

steven passik, associate attending psychologist at the memorial sloan-kettering cancer center, said that although there is currently limited research that interventions such as counseling or exercise have a strong benefit on fatigue, patients prefer to try these methods rather than take more medications.

“some of the main barriers of managing cancer fatigue have proven to be a lack of communication from health care providers to patients about how to battle fatigue, as well as an overall reluctance of many patients to take any more drugs to treat the symptom.”

it seems to me the next thing that researchers could look at would be the effect of a combination of mild exercise and counselling on reducing fatigue.

this post is written in support of all my friends who have cancer, and in support of fellow twitterer susan reynold’s frozen pea fund, a cancer fund created especially for bloggers and social media fiends.

(the image of the pea blossom struggling along the fence is by lillian bennett)

a buddhist carnival – 2nd edition

dear reader friends, here is the new buddhist carnival. i feel very fortunate to do this service to the – buddhosphere?

and dear blogger friends, thank you so much for all the excellent submissions to the buddhist carnival. in keeping with the suggestions in our first post featured here, i have decided to break the carnival up into three sections. piling on lots of information is just as un-buddhist as piling on lots of material goods or overextending oneself during the holidays.

here is the first part, presented by bloggers who speak very specifically about buddhist practices.

zen for the holidays – 10 tips – holidays and family drama

this was submitted by wayne c. allen at the phoenix centre blog. he starts out by quoting good old r. buckminster fuller “how often i found where i should be going only by setting out for somewhere else.” wayne goes on to say that

nothing ups the ante for family drama better than “going home for the holidays.” typically, past dramas are minimized as people play the “this year it will be different” game. people expect normal rockwell gatherings, when “those gathered ’round” more closely resemble the bunkers. there are ways to change the game, but only if you decide to end the old game and replace it with something new.” for example:

instead of having an “i’ve sacrificed the most for the holidays’ contest,” give it all up. then, put back the bare minimum. with all of the hours you free up, spend some quality time, peacefully, with your nearest and dearest.

tibetan shamanic qigong

chris offers qi dao – tibetan shamanic qigong: book review posted at martial development. qi dao – the art of being in the flow is a new book written by buddhist monk somananda tantrapa.

the signature element of qi dao as a qigong style is its emphasis on physicality, unadulterated by the choreography of strictly defined forms. just as jesus christ was no christian and shakyamuni was not a buddhist, lama tantrapa teaches that we should not expect to attain self-realization by staring at the ground and tracing another person’s footsteps.

thich nhat hanh and breaking through the chains of identity

matthew spears, on his blog loving awareness observes that having a strong identity is greatly emphasized in this culture. this article explores what identities are, how they’re limiting, and gives an exercise from thich nhat hanh on how to move beyond some limitations.” it begins like this:

when you meet something, instead of a label which implies separation such as “tree”, “house”, or “road”, state instead that you are what you see. “i am this” is a good phrase, or a statement of “i am a tree” when you meet one. rather than this be something enforced on your mind, expand outward to breath in the essence of what you are seeing.

sand mandalas as therapy

my stumbleupon friend megan bayliss talks about sandplay therapy – mandalas and integration at her blog imaginif…,. she explains that “tibetan buddhist monks create mandalas that are considered a dwelling place for a deity. have a look at one mandala produced by the gyatso monks when his holiness, the dalai lama, visited australia in june of this year.”


a tibetan monk creates a sand mandala

this concludes part 1 of this month’s buddhist carnival. the other two parts will be posted before christmas. in the meantime, if you have a post that talks about buddhism, please submit it here on this carnival submission form.

(image by james young)

family and money

the other day, nancy asked an interesting question in her saturday case study:

jeff and his two siblings, a brother and sister, each inherited a sizeable legacy when their parents died. jeff was conservative, and grew his legacy into an even more significant nest egg and is now independently wealthy.

he came to me because there was an unintended consequence to his wisdom: his siblings have very little left to show for their inheritance. he is too uncomfortable to let them know of his secret small fortune in comparison. as you can imagine he then has to hide his lifestyle which has resulted in increasing distance between him and his brother and sister.

what approaches might you suggest to jeff for bridging the gap, while protecting his own inner boundaries about his wealth?

this is an age-old question and i can think of a number of fairy tales with similar dynamics!

if i were to see jeff as a therapist, i might use “miracle questions”:

  • imagine you wake up one morning next year and a miracle has happened: you know that you now have a comfortable relationship with your siblings around money.
  • what would you tell others about your siblings?
  • what kinds of things would you be looking forward to do with your siblings? conversations? family gatherings? little joint projects?
  • how would you be displaying your lifestyle?
  • and what did you do to be so much more comfortable with your siblings?

it’s possible that just having a conversation with these questions as guidelines might bring about a change. for example, maybe talking about family gatherings might help jeff become aware how important they are for him – even more important than the money.

it’s also possible that this whole scenario is only the tip of the iceberg. maybe his relationship with his siblings would be difficult even without the money problem.

another possibility is that the discomfort around the difference in wealth is mostly on jeff’s side. as we all know, a great many problems in relationships stem from lack of communication. unfortunately, we often tend to make up for this insufficient and incomplete communication with imagined scenarios – but most of us are pretty bad mind readers and what we imagine is not quite the case.

but all of these (and more) are just possibilities.

if jeff came to see me, though, i’d do my best to keep these ideas far in the corner of my mind; i want to be as open, curious and receptive as possible when i see a new client. after all, my clients live with themselves 24/7 and are, therefore, much better experts at themselves than i can ever be.

my job is simply to be a midwife – to ask questions they may not have thought of before, to point out a perspective they might have forgotten, to support them in becoming even better experts of their lives.

to paraphrase henley: you are the master of your fate, you are the captain of your soul.

and that includes steering the ship of your financial life. you don’t want that to be captained by fear and discomfort; you want it to be captained by purpose.

now it’s your turn: how would you help jeff?

(if you look closely, you’ll see that this post is included in tony’s crazy surfer’s hullaballo carnival