Showing posts from December, 2017

“I Apologize.”

Before I started my training as a therapist, I took a short course in community mediation. Most of my mediation experience was as a volunteer in small claims court. We mediators helped conflicting parties try to reach a mutually satisfying agreement rather than simply letting a judge adjudicate the case.Small claims court is all about settling financial arguments, and money was always the identified issue in the cases we handled. But in mediation, a strange thing happened: almost always, it turned out that what the aggrieved party most needed was a sincere apology and a way to remedy their grievance. When the apology came (and it often did), the agreement quickly followed. The change in demeanor from start to finish could be dramatic: I remember one case where two women – a homeowner and a landscaping contractor – began in bitter conflict but walked out with their arms around each other, sharing tears.Something similar happens in couples counseling. Couples often come to therapy as a …

A Wild Beast or a God?

Whosoever is delighted in solitude, is either a wild beast or a god.
– Francis Bacon
Solitude, my refuge as a boy, felt like imprisonment for much of my later life. From my last year in high school and through my 20s, I struggled ceaselessly to avoid it.I structured my life to reinforce connection. I hitch-hiked across the United States and Canada to force myself to ask strangers for rides and places to stay. I lived with roommates so that I was seldom really alone. I made arrangements to meet friends for meals and a movie even when I could afford neither and was living mainly on brown rice and omelets. I found work as a reporter to force myself to interview strangers, and as a teacher to push myself out of solitude and into connection with my students.E. M. Forster’s “Only connect!” became my motto, and without frequent connection, particularly intimate connection, I often collapsed into despondency. Solitude became a necessary evil. The time I spent writing, although absorbing, was ti…

Now, Be, Here

I was 20 when I first encountered Baba Ram Dass’s square, purple-covered Be Here Now, the book that launched many of my generation on an Eastern-inspired journey. I was walking though the student center of the University at Buffalo when I ran into a high school friend sitting on the floor outside the bookstore, guitar at his side, leafing through it. He handed it to me.Be? Here? Now?More than 40 years later, I’m still asking what that means.One of my most important teachers is Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk whose simple exposition of Buddhist principles has been life-changing for thousands of people worldwide. Like Ram Dass, his most compelling observation is that we are already who we are, already in the only moment actually available to us. “The past is gone, the future is not yet here,” he says, “and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.”It seems so simple; yet being here now is not easy for most of us. We are inundated wit…