Friday, January 6, 2012


"We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room,
drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.
Maybe this year, to balance the list,
we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives...
not looking for flaws, but for potential."
Ellen Goodman
And, that, is what I love most about a new year: the potential hidden within it. For me, there has never been anything more filled with potential than an empty appointment book (if you don't count the patient appointments carried forward from December). There it is, open, blank, pristine pages filled with plenty of room for new events, new patients, new educational experiences, new friends, new moments in an old marriage, and opportunity after opportunity to grow.
In which areas would you like to grow this year? Do you want (or need) a new skill set for your work? Do you aspire to higher education? Is this the year that you start, or finish, that B.A.? Is there a hobby that you have wanted to explore? Will you be more social this year, or maybe, less social? Who will you prioritize (you, your spouse, your patients, your God)? Has that church or shul down the street seemed interesting? Do you need more quiet, contemplative time (at the mosque, the beach, or in your own backyard)? Would you benefit from a serenity corner at your office? Will you eat more salads and less sugar this year? The choice is entirely yours.
This is YOUR year; the only year that will ever be 2012. Will it end with a contented sigh or a groan of regret? Will you feel more completely and wholly you? Or will you feel the same, or saddest of all, diminished? As trite as it may sound, if you want to change your life, then you must change your attitude. Can you change your attitude alone, or would you have a greater chance of success with a supportive partner (spouse, friend, therapist, spiritual director)? Now is the best time to decide what you need in order to experience success with your goals in 2012. Reach out, take a risk, and to paraphrase the Army's slogan, "Be the best YOU that you can be." Wishing you a wonder-filled 2012.

Compassionate Listening

"My spiritual director is my non-judgmental companion through dark uncertain times." Helena
"Compassionate listening from my spiritual director is a sacred and grace-filled blessing
that continually feeds my soul so that I in turn may spiritually feed others
through compassionate acts of the heart." Genny
"I don't just want to be listened to. I want someone who can help me make sense of what I am seeking to express. That person is my spiritual director." John-Francis

As therapists, we often find ourselves feeling very alone, holding other people's stories and pains. As you journey through the uncertainy of life, to whom do you turn for compassionate listening? Some of us take that pain into supervision or maybe we enter group therapy with other therapists, while the rest of us muddle through it alone. I find that having a spiritual director to companion with me through the rocky journey that has been my life, truly makes all the difference in the world. Whether it is a dark and uncertain time (in my life or a patient's life) or a joyful time, having someone to tell it to can be critical for my mental health.

What is a spiritual director? In a nutshell, it is a layperson trained in identifying spiritual issues and in providing spiritual support (call it clergy-lite), who helps a spiritual directee to find God (whatever the person's definition of God may be) and a joyful spirituality in their life.

"As I am listened to I have space to bring my thoughts into the open; there I can see how different parts of my life fit together and how events during the week are related to issues that were on my mind two or three weeks ago. Without someone listening, many of these thoughts would remain buried within me." John
As therapists, sometimes we need clinical guidance, a different view of a diagnosis, maybe a helpful hint or two, which can be readily available from an old supervisor or a colleague. But, what do we do with our deeper needs, the pains that we carry from our patients, and where do we go for nonjudgmental acceptance and compassionate caring for our woundedness (both secondhand and personal)?
"It is a sacred right to be heard. The compassionate, loving gift of companioning another
is a sacred call to my own journey and the deep responsibility one has to the other." Ruth
Where can you find a spiritual director? Go to (Spiritual Directors International), click Seek and Find Directory. You are free to choose a director from within your own faith or there are plenty of spiritual directors who are inter-faith. Rates for spiritual direction are considerably lower than a clinical supervisor, which is a nice bonus. Or, feel free to call me. I worked for many years in hospice as an interfaith chaplain and I continue to offer spiritual direction when requested. (714) 658-7488. And, yes, for busy professionals, spiritual direction can be conducted via telephone or Skype.