Readings can often help individuals better understand themselves and others and supplement the therapy sessions.
Readings can often help individuals better understand themselves and others and supplement the therapy sessions. Just click on the link for each counselor to see some of the books and other resources we often recommend for individuals:
Marriage Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman Take Back Your Marriage by William Doherty Divorce Busting by Michelle Weiner Davis The Truth About Love by Pat Love Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear by Laura A. Munson, New York Times, 7/31/2009
Depression Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns The Noonday Demon (2001) by Andrew Solomon When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
Anxiety The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook and Beyond Anxiety by Edmund Bourne Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears by Pema Chodron Get Out of Your Own Way by M. Goulston and P. Goldberg
Buddhism A Path with Heart (1993) and After the Ecstasy, the Laundry (2000) by Jack Kornfield Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat Zinn Peace is Every Step (1991) and other books by Thich Nhat Hanh The Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield Faith by Sharon Salzberg
My most oft-recommended book Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality (1990) by Anthony de Mello This last book is a deceptively easy read, so read it more than once, the second time slowly. The text is transcribed after the author's death from talks he - a Jesuit priest from India - gave at retreats. Do not be put off by his strong personality. He has MUCH wisdom to offer us.
I often recommend novels as part of therapy. Some of my current favorites are:
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann Tinkers by Paul Harding Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Essays and poems also touch us and awaken us in life changing ways. I recommend anything by Wendell Berry or Barry Lopez. Below I share some of my favorite essays and poems:
Poems Keeping Quiet ....If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death.... - Pablo Neruda
Love After Love The time will come when, with elation, you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was yourself. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life. -Derek Walcott
The Guest House This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond. -Rumi The Seven Of Pentacles Under a sky the color of pea soup she is looking at her work growing away there actively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans as things grow in the real world, slowly enough. If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water, if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food, if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars, if the praying mantis comes and the lady bugs and the bees, then the plants will flourish, but at their own internal clock.
Connections are made slowly, sometimes underground. You cannot tell always by looking at what is happening. More than half a tree is spread out in the soil under you feet. Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet. Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree. Spread like a squash plant that overruns the garden. Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.
Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses. Live a life you can endure: make love that is loving. Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in, a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us interconnected with rabbit runs and burrow and lairs.
Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen: reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in. This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always, for every gardener knows that after the digging, after the planting, After the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes. -Marge Piercy
Kindness Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth. What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness. How you ride and ride thinking the bus will never stop, the passengers eating maize and chicken will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness, you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road. You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. You must wake up with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to mail a letter and purchase bread, only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say it is I you have been looking for, and then goes with you everywhere like a shadow or a friend. -Naomi Shihab Nye
Essays "Thin Air," by Margaret McCray, as printed in Thin Places, Nov./Dec. 2000 (a newsletter of the Spiritual Growth Community of Westminster Presbyterian Church) I keep a poem on my dresser by Wu-Men that ends with the words "...if your mind is not clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life." Why do we cloud, or as I prefer to call it, ‘clutter' our lives/minds with unnecessary things? Whether the mess is stacked around us, or spilling out of our closets, or polluting and numbing our minds and bodies with too much of anything (food, alcohol, tobacco, work, worry, TV, the Internet) or keeping us spinning with thought and plans and duties and responsibilities, the bottom line is: We are lost in the chaos.
And what is lost is the core reality of our own true self, the very essence of our experience as a human being in this body, in this time, in this place. We build barriers of clutter and numb out our experience, out of fear, anxiety, habit, or the incessant clamor of things, thoughts and duties that we respond to mindlessly.
I remember as a young girl and teenager, I was plagued with the belief that I was clumsy, unathletic, slow and uncoordinated. I soothed these painful feelings that made me appear shy and standoffish by walking off the playground or indulging in intellectual pursuits that came more easily for me. My beliefs persisted into adulthood and I found myself envious of women who could look graceful, powerful and accomplished in physical activity.
Then I went to the Himalayas. Somewhere I found the courage to sign up for 28 days of trekking, most days going straight up or straight down (and always up again!) and into thinner and thinner air. My uncertain and cluttered mind bombarded me with the information that my clumsy body couldn't do this ... and yet I did (because, frankly, I had no choice in the middle of the Himalayas!). I pushed on. I tolerated the feelings and thoughts that before I had found too painful to face. They became just thoughts and feelings. I walked on. And bit by bit I found those thoughts of being slow, clumsy, weak and uncoordinated dissolving and dropping away. I was free. I was free to put one foot in front of the other, free to breathe the thin air of 12,000 feet, then 14,000 feet, then 17,000 feet. Free to be fully present and uncluttered in a landscape that words will never capture.
Thin air, thin places. These are metaphors for where we meet ourselves, and where we come face to face with God. Nepal offers a ready-made place for thinness, a place not so easy to find in the fatness of the Western/American landscape. As a pastoral counselor I strive to offer a space of thinness for others, where feelings can be felt, named, and even exchanged in a safe, non-judgmental environment. Prayer is another means to provide for ourselves a space where we can dare to drop the clutter and risk naming what we feel, who we are.
In his book Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart, psychiatrist Mark Epstein writes, "Emotions, no matter how powerful, are not overwhelming if given room to breathe...(by) desensitizing ourselves to our fear of our own feelings (we break) down the self imposed barriers that keep us at a distance, not just from each other, but from ourselves." That desensitization comes with the courage to feel, and the faith that God will not abandon us, and indeed that God becomes all the more available as the air gets thinner, our steps get slower and our minds become clearer.
I will end with my favorite "uncluttering" mantra, a poem by Marge Piercy:
I will draw air deeply ‘til my lungs unfold, My spine stands rippling like grass. Hands unclench to touch you And the mind's good sky will clear.
Welcome to thin air!
"Savior At Large," The Christian Century, March 13-20, 2002. The author, Craig Barnes, was pastor of National Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C. He writes of the resurrection story as told in John 20:1-18, specifically of the incident of Mary Magdalene reaching to embrace the risen Christ and his response, "Mary, do not hold onto me."
"This is not my favorite part of the Easter story. If I were writing this drama, I would have included a long tearful hug, followed by Jesus saying, ‘Find the others and tell them I'm back. We're getting out of here and going home.' But Jesus doesn't say that. He says. ‘Don't cling to me.'
"Following Jesus is a never-ending process of losing him the moment we have him captured, only to discover him anew in an even more unmanageable form. Every expectation of Jesus is only another futile effort to get him back in the tomb. But Jesus just won't stay there.
"What we long for, what we miss and beg God to give back, is dead. Easter doesn't change that. So we cannot cling to the hope that Jesus will take us back to the way it was. And the only person who can lead the way is the Savior. But not the old Rabboni we once knew, which is only one more thing that has to be left behind. Until we discover a new vision of the Savior, a savior who has risen out of our disappointments, we'll never understand Easter.
"The questions that Easter asks of us is not ‘Do we believe in the doctrine of the resurrection?' Frankly, that is not particularly hard. Our doctrines bend easily to conform to the darkness, and before long our beliefs are reduced to sentimental claims about the spirit of Easter or ‘new beginnings.' Or we make the opposite mistake of insisting only on belief in the historicity of this event. It is all just a way of begging the question. What the Gospels ask is not ‘Do you believe?' but ‘Have you encountered a risen Christ?'
"We get the feeling that Mary was never the same after Easter. Neither is anyone who has learned that what matters is not that we be confident in our hold of Jesus, but confident in his hold of us. Seeing that, we are ready for anything.
"After the resurrection, things do not return to normal. That's the good news. It is basic to everything else the New Testament proclaims. After seeing a risen Jesus, we see that there is no normal. Now we can't even count on the darkness. All we know for sure is that a risen Christ is on the loose. And he knows our names."
Surrender From an email dated Sept. 30, 2002, sent by author and Episcopal priest, Barbara Crafton. Crafton sends out occasional emails to all those who wish to be on her email list. She also is the author of numerous books on prayer and spirituality, all written in a refreshing, bold, often humorous, and always thoughtful manner. She may be reached at BCCrafton@geraniumfarm.org or www.geraniumfarm.org.
"We think surrender is all about losing. But spiritual surrender is really about winning: finally coming into your own by leaving off the false notions of controlling things you don't control. I can't become who God intends me to be until I stop insisting on being someone else.
"Until I admit to an illness, I can't get better.
"Until I admit to a weakness, I won't do what I must do to get stronger.
"Until I face my own sorrow and self-loathing, I'll be trapped in the desperate fandango of self-justification, enumerating, over and over again, the twenty-five reasons why I am really just fine and don't need to change anything. I can't solve a problem I won't admit I have.
"Recovering addicts have begun to do this. Active ones won't. They'll drink or drug themselves to death, insisting all the while that they're doing just fine.
"People who aren't addicts can begin to do it, too. To begin to surrender power we don't have brings us closer to the power we can have. We can't do everything.
"There are many things in life - perhaps most things - that we do not control. But that does not mean we have no help. It only means that our help is not just in ourselves.
"Surrender begins the relationship with God.
"How can I surrender to God? I don't even know if there is a God. I don't know if God loves me. I don't understand. How can I surrender to something I don't understand?
"The same way you emerged from the womb into a foreign world, with a pair of lungs you'd never used, knowing not a thing about what you would find. The same way you took a job without knowing whether or not you'd like it. The same way you got married without knowing in advance what it was going to be like. Almost every major decision we make in life is a decision not primarily informed by lots and lots of good data: we have some data, but what we mostly have is trust.
"Trust in something we have no way of understanding.
"Surrender is deciding to trust God. It's not more irrational to trust God than it is to trust other things we go right out on a limb for.
"Can't trust God because you don't know for sure there even is one? Neither is anybody else. The faithful don't know something other people don't know. We don't have secret information. We all know pretty much the same things. Trust in God isn't as much about knowing as it is about choosing how we will live."
Marriage enrichment Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson How Can I Forgive You? by Janis Abrams Spring
Collegial divorce The Good Divorce by Constance Ahrons
Personal growth for women Any of Harriet Lerner's books, e.g. Dance of Anger, Dance of Intimacy, Dance of Fear, Dance of Deception, Mother's Dance
Understanding adolescents WHY Do They Act That Way? A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and for Your Teen by David Walsh
our favorite quotations
We are not born all at once, but by bits. The body first, and the spirit later; and the birth and growth of the spirit, in those who are attentive to their own inner life, are slow and exceedingly painful. Our mothers are racked with the pains of our physical birth; we ourselves suffer the longer pains of our spiritual growth. - Mary Antin
The bottom line is that (a) people are never perfect, but love can be, (b) that is the one and only way that the mediocre and vile can be transformed, and (c) doing that makes it that. We waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of creating the perfect love. - Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker
Over the years I have developed a picture of what a human being living humanely is like. She is a person who understands, values and develops her body, finding it beautiful and useful; a person who is real and is willing to take risks, to be creative, to manifest competence, to change when the situation calls for it, and to find ways to accommodate to what is new and different, keeping that part of the old that is still useful and discarding what is not. - Virginia Satir
It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear....It's like being between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold on to. - Marilyn Ferguson
Man cannot discover new oceans until he has courage to lose sight of the shore. - Anonymous
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are, quite naturally, impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability...and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually; let them grow, without undue haste. Don't try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete. - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin S.J.
"One’s best friend is the person one loves the most, yet without suffering or yearning, without the sense of lack, the feeling of want; he or she is the person we know best and who knows us the best, the person whom we can rely on and with whom we share memories, projects, hopes and fears, our fortunes good and bad. Isn’t it clear that this description is precisely that of two people in a couple, married or not, who have been together for some time – provided their bond is not one of mutual self-interest or convenience but one of intimacy and love and strength and truth? Montaigne has a nice term for this state. He calls it “marital friendship.” A couple, when happy (when more or less happy, for happiness is never absolute), is a place of truth, of life shared, of trust, of peaceful and gentle intimacy, reciprocal joys, gratitude, fidelity, generosity, humor and love." -Andre Comte-Sponville, in A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues
The Minnesota Association of Community Mental Health Programs includes member organizations which offer a wide range of behavioral health services and may have sliding fee schedules, as well as accepting most insurance plans: www.macmhp.org