Generosity

For three years I was the Director of Community Relations for a Hospice program that served patients and their families in their homes throughout the five boroughs of New York City.

I often spoke to the public about End-of-Life care…“How can you do hospice work, it must be so sad and depressing?” All of us involved in hospice care have our own version of a response to this frequently asked question. In whatever way we choose to say it, the theme of the answer is always about generosity-how much we get back from those for whom we provide care.

This generosity comes in many forms; an intimate connection with a patient who communicates insight about what gave their life meaning and how happy they are to have lived it. A cup of hot coffee prepared by a patient’s spouse during a home visit on a chilly morning is a gift. Sharing a good laugh with a witty family member during a difficult time, witnessing the tears of joy as families come together to express their affection for a loved one who is dying, being present during family reconciliations, are blessings we all receive.

Additionally as a staff, we extended generosity to each other through support, connection and humor. We listen to each others’ concerns about patients and families or chat about our kids and partners. We also experience the fullness of generosity in the donations of time, money and art from the community and reading the letters of appreciation sent to us by folks grateful for the help hospice provided.

For all these inspiring gifts and the continuous generosity of paying it forward by many bereaved family members and members of the community, we are all are very grateful.

De-Stressing for Worried Folks!

Did you know that 75% of Americans report that they feel “great stress” at lest one day a week and I’m sure that number has increased during the current Administration! So what can you do to help yourself thrive?

Pay more attention to what you have control over……YOU!!

Should you try meditation, that yoga class or a message? YES, YES & YES!

Thanks to EKG’s, MRI’s and brain mapping researches have determined what effects these techniques have on our minds and bodies. The good news, heart rates slow, brain waves calm and hormone levels balance. In as little as 30 seconds!

Don’t always have time or $$$ or the time to get to a class?

YOU CAN DE-STRESS IN AS LITTLE AS 6 SECONDS!

Breathing: is something our miraculous bodies do automatically. For the most benefit, focus your attention internally close your eyes and center your body. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth several times until relaxation takes over.

Meditation Shortcut: Say a three to five positive word phrase any time you want to feel focused and calm. Repetition clears our minds.

Yoga Shortcut: (1) Mountain pose: raise your arms over your head and breathe deeply. Your posture and balance will improve. (2) Forward bend from your waist will stretch your back and legs, rests the heart and relaxes mind and body.

Massage Shortcut: Role a tennis ball under your foot or where ever you are holding tension. Massage and pull gently on your ears and fingers; your body will release tension and your immune system will thank you.

Meet with friends: Making eye contact and chatting with someone you like/love causes the same positive physiological changes that a massage does!

Belly Laugh: When we laugh our bodies immediately produce oxytocin; the love and happiness hormone which lowers cortisol, the stress hormone and blood pressure instantly. The physical act itself creates the de-stressing effect. Keep a comedy CD handy and your funniest friend on speed-dial.

Sing Out: Belting your favorite tunes is better for you then just listening to them. Choir members got a 240% boost in immunoglobulin, a disease-fighting protein. Note to self: suffering through a song you dislike spikes your stress level!

Be Grateful: Exercising gratitude daily results in higher levels of alertness and enthusiasm. It’s impossible to be grateful and stressed-out at the same time. Make a mental list of your blessings, just doing that will soothe you.

Snack on: Anti-stress fiery treats like chili peppers or salsa and chips. Research has found that eating spicy foods releases stressed-out mood busting endorphins. And of course for melting stress…. my personal favorite; organic dark chocolate!

By focusing more attention on the link between our bodies, minds, spirits and feelings, we can give ourselves more peace on a daily basis. We all need and deserve to take gentle good care of ourselves!!!!

Breathing

We all want to feel comfortable in our bodies, and in our lives. The simple act of breathing, or focused relaxation can have surprising physical and mental health benefits. Research shows us that meditation or focused relaxation helps ward off disease by strengthening our immune systems, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels and stabilizing blood sugar. Chronic pain can also be alleviated. Mental alertness is enhanced and our sense of well being deepens.

While many of us may meditate and or take yoga classes in our spare time, why is it so difficult to remember the benefits of this simple act of self-care during our busy day?

Breathing is something our miraculous bodies do automatically. In order to make it a more conscious, helpful act we must focus our attention internally, breathing in several times very deeply, closing our eyes and centering our bodies.

In our highly externalized workaholic American culture this can be perceived as very challenging. In corporate as well as non-profit environments no one wants to be evaluated as lazy or wasting time. Taking a moment or several for one’s self in ways that don’t involve addictive substances like caffeine and sugar or all our techno “gadgets” very well may constitute a subversive act.

The energy generated from groups of people breathing together this way maybe one of the ways to quietly revolutionize our workplaces. I say go for it!

 

 

 

Full Bloom

Spring arrived late this year; which for me makes it even more delicious!

In Fort Tryon Park with the Hudson River and clear blue sky as backdrop stands an imposing pink flowering dogwood tree. Or, as I call it, a big beautiful pink tree that I worship on my daily morning walks. Continue reading Full Bloom

The Art of Receiving

And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth”

Raymond Carver

Many of us were told as children, some of us relentlessly, about the primacy of giving.

Yes, it is very important to give of ourselves, our time and our money.

We also need to understand that in graciously receiving, we express the dignity of giving; they are both part of the same flow of energy. Continue reading The Art of Receiving

The Park

I was taught in Catholic school that Divine Presence was everywhere, but I was only sure of God’s whereabouts in two places.

As a little girl, my two favorite solitude spots were nature anywhere any time and church, not on Sunday. Continue reading The Park

What I Know For Sure

A lot less than I did in my twenties!

My early intellectual certitude; born of a fine mind mixed with rebellion, anger and fear; has been transformed through the process of living through my heart in partnership with my mind.

The process and challenge of life has grounded me in humility, compassion and respect; most days, for everyone, including myself.

The privilege of being a psychotherapist for almost 40 years has expanded me; deepened my heart and mind and guided my soul.

I have actively participated in the physical, emotional and spiritual struggles of clients, family members, friends and my own, in order that we all become more truthfully alive.

I have enormous respect for the sanctity of living; its’ triumphs and tragedies.

And for the seemingly simple practice of being present as we put one foot in front of the other on a daily basis.

I am deeply aware of the complexities of most peoples’ lives; of the forces, seen and unseen that shape us and push us to act or not be able to act.

My heart breaks at times for the depth of our human vulnerability, which so many of us despise and I see as the path to our healing and divinity.

It is vulnerability that is an essential part of our shared humanity.

My early need to deny my own vulnerability, my belief in the myth that I was in control or should be in control of everybody and everything; made me feel very alone as a young person.

Fortunately for me, the theory that I was in control has been tested and found lacking many times in my life; to say I have been psychologically and spiritually brought to my knees on many occasions, is the truth. That I learned and changed from these experiences is also the truth

Now, the older I get and the more life experience I have, the less afraid I am to feel and utter the phrase, “I don’t know”; which is the ultimate expression of vulnerability for many of us.

Our individual and collective strength can be built on our willingness to not be so sure we know what we know or we know what ta to do or why something did or did not happen in our lives or the lives of others.

We open ourselves to our deep individual and collective strength when we ask our questions and than step aside until guidance, in whatever form it takes; shows itself to us and settles comfortably and deeply within us.

I know for sure that nothing true and lasting in life happens without trust.

I know for sure that trust is a major tool of our hearts and can be developed over time, dedication and the practice of love.

Thank you to Philip Seymour Hoffman, the loss and love of whom and many conversations about, guided me to write this piece.

A Shift in Perspective; Election 2012

What needs to change and how do we get it?

I am longing for a miracle, a real shift that would propel lasting change in our collective human psyche.

I intend to keep my heart open and my mind expansive no matter what happens. I want this for all of us in the world……why not want and dream BIG??? I refuse to focus on the smallness of political debate and believe we are all as beloved children of the universe; we are ment to have more than the fear and crumbs we are being tossed. Continue reading A Shift in Perspective; Election 2012

Summer Walk

It was already 77 degrees at a little before 7:00 when I began my walk this morning. The air was clammy; the Hudson River was veiled with fog like a bride searching for her groom.

Thankfully, a breeze saved my fellow exercisers and me from spontaneous combustion!

Part meditation, part self-reflective therapy, my walks are central to my staying grounded and grateful. Continue reading Summer Walk

Summer Night Sky

When I was a kid I never had much privacy. I shared a five room apartment with my parents and five younger sisters and brothers.

I needed my own space to go to so I could be alone, to think, to feel and to dream.

In the bedroom I shared with my sisters; one of the two windows was at the head of my single bed. Outside it was a fire escape. We lived on the third floor so we had all been warned that the fire escape was only a way out if there was a fire. Continue reading Summer Night Sky

Sun in Taurus; Full Moon in Scorpio

Spring took its time this year; at least in the temperature department.

Some mornings it stayed below freezing, brilliantly clear and the dogs being walked still needed their coats!

I love that no matter how cold it still was; there were flower buds in splendid new colorful outfits poking through the gentle rebirthing earth.

I smiled at strangers and they back at me; we all know what’s coming. Like little kids waiting for presents, our mother earth will reward us with spring’s fertile magnificence.

My morning walk is a meditative exercise that helps me set my intention for the day. I pray as I walk, often I sing and hum. Sometimes it is the only time in the day I feel absolutely free of worry; totally present and embraced. Continue reading Sun in Taurus; Full Moon in Scorpio