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But I have my own cheat code.

In video games, a ‘cheat code’ is a password or series of steps that provides access to a particular item, an ability, or level that’s otherwise unobtainable without completing additional steps. And over the years I’ve discovered my own life-hack for tapping into deep feelings of abundance, relaxation and the kind of gratitude that brings tears – all without sitting for years under a tree in the lotus position.

1. Go far away:
And take very little with you. Just by going away to a place where no one knows me, I conserve incredible amounts of energy and focus. I have no expectations or desire to communicate much less impress. I blend in and become nearly invisible. Even the best of us spend considerable effort and energy on people and things outside of ourselves. Both psychologists and biologists call this an adaptive versus natural state.

2. Make no plans:
I make a cognizant decision not to plan a single moment. I don’t plan activities. None. I don’t plan when or what I’ll eat or when I’ll sleep or when I get up. I just go with each passing thought or moment without any judgement. Surfing, reading, writing or just napping in the sun. Another thing people rarely do is simply be present in the moments they are in. Often, our time is preoccupied with the next moment or the day or the week or even worse, the past.

3.Practice Gratitude:

This last step is now automatic. It requires no effort at all once you’ve done steps one and two. Because a funny thing happens after a few days of this kind of travel. By taking away all the ego driven behavior, worries and distractions we can all impulsively to go to at even the first fleeting sense of boredom, my mind starts really processing. And those old axioms, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and “Out of sight out of mind” become very real.

You get exceptionally clear about who and what you truly appreciate when it’s not at arm’s length anymore. Gratitude becomes more than a nice thought; it becomes a very profound emotion. You also learn what you never missed at all. It’s an effective way to dial in on what’s important to you and what’s not then turn that appreciation into a plan. Because let’s be honest, gratitude is an action and not just a thought. You can tell what’s truly import in your life by the condition it’s in and if it’s not in the condition you want, well then you have some work ahead of you, don’t you?


Posted on April 9, 2014 By 


If Your Life Is A Story, How Do You Make Sure It Has A Happy Ending?


There’s a reason stories resonate so strongly. They reflect real life in profound and mysterious ways. They teach us about ourselves. They teach us how to live. It’s in fantasy that we find ourselves, that we discover the meaning of our existence. Is it any surprise then that your life should actually be the greatest story of all?

In the grand sweeping epic that is your life, you’re the main character. Your story is an account of your progress as you gradually develop into the man or woman you were created to be. It’s about your struggles, your victories, your failures, your desires, your hopes and your dreams.

Like all tales, yours has a beginning and an end. And perhaps it’s the ending that concerns you most of all. Who will you have become when the last page is turned? Will you be a hero or a villain? Will you have lived a life worth living? Will your story have a happy ending, or will it be a tragedy?

It’s up to you.

You have the power to be whatever you want to be. Life isn’t just something that happens to you. You might be a character, subject to the mandates of your story. But you’re also one of your story’s authors. The choices you make shape and mold you as a person.

Of course, circumstances beyond your control will always, to some degree, dictate the course your life will take. But your story isn’t about that. It’s about who you are. Who you are is determined not by the things that happen to you, but by how you respond to them. You choose whether to react to conflict with anger or patience. You choose whether to react to fear with courage or cowardice.

You might be one of the lucky few whom fortune and fate have favored in abundance. Or, your life might be a roiling cloud of doom and gloom. But it’s how you react to the cards you’re dealt that will determine the outcome of your story.

If you’ve been blessed with good fortune, will you share it with others who are less fortunate, or will you squander it on yourself? If you’ve been downtrodden and forced to suffer for most of your life, will you allow that experience to serve as the crucible in which the impurities of untested human nature are burned away, making you wise, empathetic and caring beyond your years, or will you allow yourself to be consumed by jealousy, bitterness and hate?

Your choices will determine whether you were the hero or the villain. Your choices will determine whether or not you lived a worthy life. Your choices will determine whether your story ends in happiness or tragedy.

In the end, there’s only one person responsible for the kind of ending your life’s story will assume: you. So make it a good one.

Uphill and down

Everything takes practice… practice, nd moe practice!

Monkey House


Tourist:  Excuse me, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?

New Yorker:  Practice.

                                                                 ~ Old joke


Recently I wrote here about power, which I defined as the ability take care of yourself, to listen to feelings and act in the service of your own needs.

One reader wrote, “Okay, power means detaching from others and practicing self-care.  I get that.  I want to do that.  But how?  Can you be more specific?”

Not really.  I don’t know your needs, or challenges, or what you want to change about yourself or your life.

But if you want to become powerful, there’s one thing you will need to learn:

How to practice.

You’re out for a walk and you…

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Love, Sex, and Attachment

“Everybody should have three marriages. The first one is for sex, the second one is for children, and the third one is for companionship.”

~ Margaret Mead, cultural anthropologist

Everybody should have three marriages, even if it’s to the same person. Relationships that can evolve into something new at different stages in life are the good ones.

In a podcast On Being with Krista Tippetshe talks with Dr. Helen Fisher, chief science advisor and researcher for, about the insanity of love. This is a summary.

Love and sex do things to our brains. In fact, what happens in the brain has the hallmarks of temporary insanity. Parts of the brain associated with decision-making begin to shut down when you’re in love. You become obsessed. You don’t eat. You don’t sleep. You don’t think about anything else. You focus on this person constantly. You change your hair. You change your life. You change your clothes. You change your friends. People will leave their community, leave their town, leave their family. They’ll go to a different country and learn a new language. They’ll start all over with their lives to do this thing.  They’ll do a million different things in order to win and be part of this relationship. And while most people have been at their unhappiest when in love, it is nevertheless the state  human beings yearn for above all.

Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey wrote:

“That state commonly known as ‘being in love,’ is a kind of madness. It is a distortion of reality so remarkable that it should, by rights, enable most of us to understand the other forms of lunacy with the sympathy of fellow-sufferers.”

But this crazy brew of neurotransmitters can’t last forever, and that’s a good thing. There is this falling in love part – the passion and madness – but just as instinctively, we move into a state of attachment, of commitment.  And for some, children.

This stage of attachment and commitment is what our society seems to be struggling with (hence, high divorce rates). Perhaps because we are shedding 10,000 years of our farming background and all of the concepts that arose with that:  A woman’s place is in the home; Women should not be too opinionated; Men should be the pursuer in the relationship;  Women need to be married; Men should be the sole family provider. ‘Til death do us part. All of that is vanishing before our very eyes – 10,000 years of these concepts. And so we’re in a time of disorganization. Know one really knows how to go forward. We don’t have any rules.

The more we know about the brain and body, culture, human evolution and biology, the more we will come to understand the power of choice to change that biology. Knowledge is power. Our brains take us through these very powerful stages to getting to the point of being with other people. We need to figure out how to be intelligent and caring in this matter of long-term love because, it seems,  our brains don’t do that for us.

For instance, the idea that “not sleeping around” as a strictly moral issue doesn’t explain the whole picture.  We know now that casual sex doesn’t really remain casual – biologically speaking. Our body conspires to make us start feeling attached, or in love, with this person. When you have an orgasm, you get a flood of oxytocin and other chemicals in the brain-body system that forms attachment. Also, experts say it takes about 18 months to really know someone. We should know more about who we’re going to have a partnership with, right?

Dr. Fisher’s access to massive quantities of data via has led her to conclude that our society is doing just that – People aren’t jumping into marriages as quickly as in the past. They are looking for a very special kind of relationship.

“100 years ago, you had a nice husband and that was great. The partnership didn’t have profound intimacy, but you had very profound relationships with all your other people in the local community.  But now your partnership is really all you got. And so we want everything in that partnership.”

Rather than being less serious about that primary relationship, we are profoundly more serious about it.  We don’t want to fail. We’ve seen our parents fail.

In her ongoing study, “Singles in America” she asks, “What must you have in a relationship?” Here are the results:  they must have somebody they can trust and confide in; who respects them; who makes them laugh; who spends enough time; and that they find physically attractive. People are trying to build the most important relationship in their lives. And  they’re very in favor of marriage without children and children without marriage. They’re very in favor of living together. What they will not tolerate is commuter marriages, people living in separate homes, people living in separate bedrooms. They want total transparency in the relationship. They want to have access to the person’s cell phone.




Journaling & The Power of Words

Why Journal?

At times of writing I never try to think of what I have said before. My aim is not to be consistent with my previous statements on a given question, but to be consistent with truth as it may present itself to me at a given moment. The result has been that I have grown from truth to truth.”  ~Mahatma Gandhi


journalingJournaling enables the writer to try various techniques that can lead to self-discovery through a process of expression and reflection. The diary is a place where you can express yourself without inhibition: feelings, thoughts, worries, dreams, fantasies, and goals; to recognize and alter self-defeating habits of the mind, and come to know and feel compassion for who you really are. Journaling helps you understand and resolve your past, discover joy in the present, and aid you in creating your own future. It’s a way to nourish your soul with self-acceptance; a nonthreatening place to work out relationships with others; to rehearse future behaviors; and to explore the “shadowy”, unknown parts of self.

The Therapy Journal

I encourage my clients to keep a therapy journal while we work together. Sometimes there is a temptation to get lazy in therapy and want the counselor to provide all the support needed. But you must ultimately develop these skills yourself. The use of a therapy journal will help assure that you truly learn from our time together.  It will become a place to develop and practice new life skills as you develop and fine-tune alternative ways of observing, thinking, and coping with your inner and outer world. Journaling is the fastest and most effective way I know to become self-aware, and therefore, facilitate personal growth and positive change.

To begin, I ask clients to write a summary after each session. Start with jotting your impressions of the session. It can include the content discussed, feelings you experienced, and even your judgments of the quality of the session. These summaries will help you sift through insights and feelings that occurred during and after the therapeutic hour. You can record some of your therapist’s insights and go back and review the advice when needed, integrating and reinforcing the healing process. You can also write about issues that came up and weren’t examined during the therapeutic hour and explore them more fully on your own.

Also, bring your journal to each appointment to jot notes that you can expand upon later. In therapy, we are often doing deeper work that you may “forget” when you leave the office. Jotting notes provide the reminder.

Other Moments to write about

Sometimes a wish to explore an insight or feeling cannot wait for an appointment. By writing about it in your diary the insight or feeling can be captured when it occurs. (The energy of these experiences has often dissipated by the time you have another appointment, and you might wrongly dismiss it as no big deal). Writing when the topic is hot can also help you track any possible rhythms of thoughts and emotions. You can also use these writings to get a sense of what needs attention during the next session.

The therapy journal will also serve as a sort of ‘timeline’ where you can review earlier writings. This practice will reveal the often hard-to-see progress you made over time (as well as any continued patterns of unhealthy thinking).

Other times, in addition to a summary I may ask my client to practice various skills we’re working on (i.e., the Awareness Wheel, imaginary conversations, inner child work) – writing assignments that will facilitate new skills or evoke fresh insights.

A good therapist may demonstrate HOW to nurture, support, and guide you, but ultimately the central relationship in the diary is to be with yourself, and it is precisely this active, positive relationship with self that therapy works to facilitate.

 A few Guidelines

  1.   Privacy: Keep your journal in a safe, private place. Confidentiality is important, as it will allow you to be honest and express yourself freely without thoughts of judgment from others. You may want to share certain passages or drawings with people you trust. But be selective and avoid showing your work to anyone who tends to judge you.
  1. Setting and time: Create a quiet, comfortable place, ideally where you will not be interrupted or distracted. For some people this is difficult to do. If that is the case, then figuring out how to create privacy for yourself will be an important step in your own growth. Reserve a block of at least 15 minutes when you decide to write. Date each entry and keep them in chronological order.
  1. Write spontaneously: Allow yourself to follow your intuition. Write quickly and allow the unexpected to happen. If you find you are struggling to write, you are probably trying to come across a certain way. Write as you speak: Do not concern yourself with spelling, punctuation, or grammar. This only inhibits spontaneity and engages the inner-critic.

If you have an inspiration and your journal is not available, write on anything you can find! You can then paste, tape, or staple it in your journal later. This will be helpful when you look back over your work to see your progress and evolution.

  1. Materials – Some believe your paper should be at least 5×7 so you can write LARGE when excited or angry, or small when sad or quiet. You also may draw sometimes, and/or use crayons. I prefer an 8-x11 notebook with three sections. The first section might be the “Therapy Journal” described above; the next section could be devoted to “Inner-Child Dialogue”, and the final section might be used for certain assignments, like the “Unsent Letter”, Awareness Wheel practice, dialogues, the Worksheet expansions, etc.

Happy journaling!


“You have to find a mother inside yourself. We all do.
Even if we already have a mother, we still have to
find this part of ourselves inside

Sue Monk Kidd 



Don’t Ever Give Up on Dreams



Alan Watts is a brilliant zen buddhist. Read his books, watch him on YouTube.