What’s Your Rat Park?

The team that helps me plan and host our annual Emotion-Focused Mindfulness Therapy Summer Retreat at the beautiful Ecology Retreat Centre north of Toronto (sadly cancelled this year because of the pandemic) has an inside joke about how the process of getting together to meditate, share, and organize and facilitate these retreats is our Rat Park. This is a reference to ground-breaking research conducted by Canadian psychologist Dr. Bruce Alexander. A new documentary on this research and its implications, Rat Park, was released last year.

Continue reading “What’s Your Rat Park?”

Childhood Magic

Carl Jung recommended, if at all possible, to return to the religion of one’s childhood. For many of us, this is a bit of a stretch, but what was more sacred than sitting on Mom or Dad’s lap sharing Dr. Seuss with us? Here it is brought alive by Wes Tank rapping Fox in Sox…

From the Garden to the Garden

Spring at last! I live in a condo and do not have a garden to stroll in right outside my door, but looking out my windows this morning, I can see Allan Gardens just south of us here in downtown Toronto, its trees beginning to bud. I walked through this park just the other day, socially distancing with an old friend. Entering that park was a balm.

Think of all the gardens, parks and wilderness, you and I, dear reader, have walked in with friends and family, how these experiences change us! 

This morning, I am reminded of words from Rumi, “we come from the garden to the garden.” I used to assume this referred to Rumi’s beliefs about where we came from before we were born and where we go when we die, but also something to do with where consciousness emerges from and returns to, in the moment. This morning I associate these words with integrating the easy aliveness to the world we knew once upon a time when we were young into our adult life, how that changes everything, brings us alive to how experiencing emerges out of our deep participation in the world and returns to it. Coming alive to the felt sense of how the world embraces us and co-constructs us, a thousand kisses deep.

Despair = Suffering – Meaning

A wonderful video interview of Viktor Frankl describing how surviving difficult situations depends on our ability to recognize our freedom to find meaning even in the midst of despair. He says that Despair = Suffering – Meaning.

Emotion-Focused Therapy agrees with this: we are at heart meaning-making creatures and adds that it is by learning how to navigate, make sense of and reflect on emotions that tells us what is most important to us and motivates us to act.

Brief Guided Calming Meditation

A friend asked if I had any recordings of my guided meditation, and I didn’t, but it inspired me to Google how to make a video and post it, and here it is on first take: a brief guided meditation for grounding and calming. This is the meditation I provide when clients are feeling emotionally overwhelmed. 

Continue reading “Brief Guided Calming Meditation”

Touching the earth: exploring a new, secular self-help mindfulness group approach

The SecularBuddhistNetwork.org just published an article I wrote on Touching the Earth:

A group of friends, colleagues and I are exploring a new, less hierarchical way for supporting each other in cultivating more genuine relationships with experience, other people and the world through mindfulness meditation and interpersonal sharing and exploration of meditation experience. Touching the Earth is a volunteer, self-help approach based on egalitarian, inclusive, and democratic values, one that seeks to avoid the ‘power-over’ issues that plague so many traditional teacher-centric Buddhist, Yogic and other spiritual groups worldwide, such as sexual abuse and boundary violations by meditation teachers...

Learning from Nightmares

A new study suggests nightmares have more of a purpose than just scaring you.

I have a theory about nightmares. There is a little old lady in charge of nightmares. She has seen everything; she is trying to get good news to you; she has a wicked sense of humour; and she doesn’t mind scaring the shit out of you. 

My sense is nightmares can represent everyday modes that cause us suffering and are ripe for transformation. A nightmare picks us up and shakes us and says, it’s as if you were living your life like you are being chased by a scary monster or had just murdered someone and the police are about to arrest you, and, the goods new is, you don’t have to live this way. I have found reflecting on and deepening our experiencing of nightmares can be life-transforming. But, of course, deepening experiencing is itself life-transforming.

Emotion-Focused Mindfulness Therapy’s Secular Buddhist Roots

The Secular Buddhist Network, a new global hub for secular Buddhism in all its various manifestations, invited me to write a piece on EFMT’s secular Buddhist roots, particularly its relationship with Stephen Batchelor’s reinterpretation of the Four Noble Truths as four interrelated tasks we can weave into our practice and daily lives.

Therapists Need Therapy Too

Marian Platta writes in her (2018) article “Therapists Need Therapy Too” in Vice: “Acknowledging and accepting what haunts me has helped me become more empathetic towards my patients’ emotional suffering.” Many of us including myself were not aware the extent to which we were drawn to be a psychotherapist because of our own inner pain and unaddressed need for healing. I remember early in my career when the penny dropped for me, triggered by a client’s childhood trauma, and I realized to my surprise, oh, I have to go sit in a waiting room like the one outside my office and see someone like me. This led to many years of psychotherapy with someone much more experienced in trauma therapy than I was at that point in my career, a process that was deeply healing and which deepened my capacity to provide psychotherapy.

What strikes me is, as healing as psychotherapy can be, it can also be an introduction into a way of life where we continue to gradually cultivate making deeper sense of our feelings and motivations and engaging in life in a more fulfilling way, a humbling, lifelong and daily cultivation of a more genuine relationship with ourself, others and the world. I find cultivating meditation in a community of practice invaluable in this process, but we need to take care that our roles as mindfulness-based clinicians, teachers or trainers do not leave us isolated by over-idealization and lack of proper support.