Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Fishing and Psychotherapy

     I turned 70 in March and have been practicing as a psychotherapist in private practice for forty years.  When people ask me when I will retire, it reminds me of a story. 

There was a fisherman who loved to fish. Every day was satisfying for him even in the midst of all the challenges because he loved his work.

He worked enough to make enough money to support his family and to spend time with them. He felt very satisfied with his life and was grateful for his good fortune.

I am going to change this story: Why couldn’t the person fishing in this story be a woman? 

There was a fisherwoman who loved to fish. Everyday was satisfying for her even in the midst of all the challenges because she loved her work.

She worked enough to make enough money to support her family and to spend time with them. She also found time to take care of herself. She felt very satisfied with her life and was grateful for her good fortune.

Another fisherwoman said to her, “ Why don’t you work twice as hard for the next twenty years? Then you can buy another boat and hire other people and make more money and buy another boat and hire more people and make even more money. Then you would have enough money to retire and do whatever you want to do.”

The fisherwoman smiled and said, “Why would I do that when I already do enough of whatever I want to do now?”           

I love my work. I get to hang out with bright, interesting people who really want to grow and support them in listening to their own inner wisdom. I have always made time more important than money. I have worked enough to support my family, spend time with them and to take care of myself. I am grateful that I am paid well and I can work less than full time. I understand I am very privileged and many other people don’t have that luxury.

I also have been able to save enough money to be able to work even less now. Now I have more time to be with my partner, see my friends and do all the many things I do to take care of myself. I am grateful.

I can’t imagine ever completely retiring from the work I love so much. Who know what the future will bring? Right now every person I see is an opportunity to heal and grow for both of us. My work is a spiritual adventure for me. 

The people I work with and I are collaborating together as we support the evolution of consciousness that we are all a part of. This evolution of consciousness unites us all. In my opinion this evolution of the consciousness of all of us is carrying on in the midst of all the challenges we face with Covid-19, saving our democracy anti-racism and the climate crisis. May all of us embrace the love in our hearts and in each others’ hearts. May all of us open to all that we are in body mind life and spirit. Thank you for listening.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Shoulds and wants

 The Buddha talked about desire and craving. Desire is something you want and is healthy for humans. Cravings are something we think we need to have or do to be OK. A desire would be, I’d like a chocolate cookie. A craving would be, I just had an upsetting phone call and if I can’t get to the refrigerator soon enough, and shove some food in my mouth, I won’t be OK, even though I’m not hungry.

When I was running I was thinking about what the Buddha said and all the Shoulds I have in my life. I should meditate every day, I should exercise every day, I should make sure that other people are pleased with me, I should always do what I think is expected of me and on and on.

What if shoulds are craving? If I think I need to do something or not do something to be OK as a person that is a craving. A should is something I think I need to do or not do to be OK. So shoulding on myself is pretending that being OK as a person, is conditional. Not only that but my shoulds can keep me from healthy desire. If I am concerned about what I should do, what I want to do isn’t a consideration. Relying on outside validation or my perception of outside validation (what someone else thinks) in making decisions keeps me from internal validation or what feels right to me.

So what if the antidote for shoulds is healthy desire? When I tell myself I should do something as if the self worth police have decreed it, I miss out on the opportunity to notice what I actually want or don’t want.

A friend of mine thought that as a therapist she should work with a very high conflict couple. She made up a story that she shouldn’t let this couple down. She decided it must mean she wasn’t a good enough therapist. When she asked herself what do I want, she realized she wanted to refer the couple to someone who specialized in high conflict couples. Without her shoulds, everyone’s needs could be better met.

Another friend felt she should give her time she set aside to be with herself to a person who wanted her help to solve a problem. This friend had a pattern of throwing herself under the bus to meet other’s needs. When she asked herself, what do I want? She realized she wanted some time to herself and apologized to the other person for saying she’d call her back and that she trusted her colleagues ability to solve her own problem.

For me, I have this delicious day all to myself to do whatever I want. There are so many shoulds I could do today. Being what I consider productive is one of them. I should really revisit that on-line class I never finished, today. I have the time? Yes, I do and what do I want?

In working with a should, I recognize and allow the should to be there. I should finish the on-line class today. It’s a good idea because indeed I do have the time. I pause and be quiet and breathe into the idea. Sometimes a should can transform into a want. Maybe, I’d like to finish the course so how much do I want to do today? However, as I look inside now, the answer is I don’t want to work on the course today at all.I am trusting that someday I will either want to work on the course enough to go back to it or I will eventually let go of it and be OK with that. I am OK whether I finish that course or not. As long as I am shoulding on myself about finishing the course, I am pretending that being OK depends on my doing or not doing my should.

Do I want to go to sleep when I think I should? Choosing consciously empowers me. Automatic pilot shoulds rob me of conscious choice. Do I wan to stay up reading a novel? Do I have to stay up til I finish it like I think I should or is what I want to finish the chapter and go to sleep? Choices have consequences and conscious choices have conscious consequences. Can I chose to do what I want knowing that choice is a creative experiment?

I went for a bike ride and I decided to do an experiment to not take water with me and drink before I went. Even though I thought I should take my water bottle, I decided not to. I thought it could mean less stops and a faster smoother ride. Well, it could have, however I was really thirsty. In this way a should transformed into healthy desire. Now I want to take my water bottle when I ride my bike. I notice my energy is behind drinking water more now and I am less likely to forget my water bottle.

I let my shoulds keep me from expressing myself creatively. Writing or painting or making a card usually loses out to a should. Can I trust that things that need to get done, will get done, if I let myself know what I want and do what I want. I have noticed that washing dishes has become more pleasurable when I let myself want to. Never leave dirty dishes in the sink, my should, has transformed into enjoying playing in warm soapy water and the feeling of satisfaction of a clean kitchen. However, vacuuming has not become a desire yet and my carpet looks as if no one has given it attention in a month, which would be true.

I think I should have written a deeper blog today. There will always be more shoulds. When I can recognize my shoulds, allow them to be there and then ask myself what do I want?, I can be happier and more satisfied with my life. What I wanted to write was this blog. I am glad I paused and gave myself permission to consider that what I wanted to do is write my blog today. 

I support you in noticing your shoulds and kindly asking yourself, what do I want? Noticing a should  allows the space to open to healthy desire. My body appreciates the opportunity to move from the tension in my neck and shoulders that comes with a should to the deeper easier breath that accompanies a want.

Doing what I want doesn’t come without guilt. Part of what I want is to move from the resentments of doing my shoulds through the guilt of doing what I want (and my fear of disappointing others,) to the eventual peace of knowing that doing what I want supports all of us. When I do what I want, I can better support others genuinely. Thank you for listening.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Thriving of the Nurtured

Hello everyone,
It’s been a long time since I wrote. This is my first post of 2020. I just finished participating in a zoom group meditation. Sitting with others is very powerful for me. Tonight I could feel my mind wandering into thought. Noticing my thoughts I could feel the familiar pull of my judgement of myself as a loser meditator with a litany of familiar evidence against myself, as in, “you have been sitting for all these years and you still spend it mostly thinking about stuff. What is wrong with you?”
My favorite quote came to mind, Freedom is the pause between stimulus and response. This quote is by Victor Frankl. It originated out of his experience of being a Jewish prisoner in a Natzi concentration camp during World War 2. Contributing to his survival was the realization that there is a choice to do what we’ve always done on automatic pilot or to pause between the stimulus and our usual response and give ourselves the freedom of looking at our options and choosing something different.
Sometimes when I am up against my own habitual harshness with myself, I dive into proving I am inadequate and flawed. I feel awful and defeated and somehow comfortable. I get to be right.
More and more now, I can use the smugness of being right that there really is something wrong with me and I did it wrong again, to become aware of my body. I recognize that I feel heavy and my body feels tight. I investigate further into the tightness. There is pressure in my belly and my heart feels constricted. I breathe into my torso and notice deep sadness and fear. My belief that there is something wrong with me comes from being a child in a family where my mother’s anger and blame was very scary for me. I learned to blame myself and scramble inside to try and make her happy. Believing I had done something wrong allowed me to avoid feeling the terrifying lack of safety of growing up with unstable adults. My brain rut became blaming myself and desperately looking for what I could do to make things better. My mother’s narcissist raging happened when my father wasn’t home, which was most of the time. Her rage was intermittent enough that I would be lulled into trusting in her caring until the next episode sent shockwaves of self-hate through my body. I learned to mistrust in caring and became hyper focused on my mother’s moods, always hoping to make her happy so she would be the loving mother she could be sometimes and I so needed her to be.
 The inconsistency has deeply impacted my ability to relax around others and trust in their love. Uncertainty often leads to high levels of anxiety. When I don’t know what to do I want to pick my nails or overeat. Uncertainty has led me to become a seeker, looking for answers to what makes me and other people react the way we do. I embarked on a lifelong journey of self-discovery in which  I have discovered self compassion. I have learned to be the mother of that little girl inside me who lets that little girl know that she didn’t do anything wrong. I can comfort myself and know that it’s safe now to experience and release feelings, and to speak my truth from my heart.
I have learned to pause and reflect and choose the option of curiosity over harshness with myself.
What else could I say to myself right now besides you suck? How about “maybe you don’t suck as
much as you think and could you investigate what you are feeling right now and see what you most
need?  Lately my journey has been inspired by Tara Brach’s RAIN process. RAIN stands for:
So I recognize the harshness and anger toward myself, allow it to be there, and investigate what it
feels like in my body. Usually embracing self-hate moves into the hurt or sadness or fear underneath and I can breathe into experiencing the feeling and show up for myself with nurturing. What does this feeling in my body most need right now? What would nurturing myself look like? Would it help to rest or move my body around or cry and shake or write or call a friend? The harshness transforms into compassion for myself. Self-compassion enables me to be more compassionate toward others. Kindness with myself  allows me to be kinder toward others.
I call this post Thriving of the Nurtured. What if our survival necessitates a shift from greed to collaboration? What if thriving comes from learning to take care of ourselves and care for others?
What if we really are all one ? What if our behavior could really reflect that deep inner awareness of the interconnection of all beings?
In the presence of the uncertainty of Covid-19 there is an opportunity to take care of ourselves and
care for others to a greater degree than before. We get to pause and reflect on our familiar busyness and our patterns of basing our sense of self-worth on material success and external validation. We get to say, “What else is there?” and explore slowing down sourcing our own self worth and being kinder to ourselves and to others.  Nurturing ourselves and caring for others may lead to the freedom that is the pause between stimulus and response. The Thriving of the Nurtured.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Who would you be if your inner critic retired?

I recently returned from a four day women’s meditation retreat. The three women leaders created a safe warm holding space for all of us. I felt the tension I carry in my body around pretense dissipating. I could see my familiar habitual pattern of pretending and presenting a certain version of myself to create an image as a option I had the choice to choose or not. The collaborative leadership style modeled by our three leaders set the stage for all of us to trust our embodied feminine intuitive wisdom in each decision that we made.  Everything was optional in contrast to more traditionally led structured retreats I have previously attended. All decisions from when to get up to what to eat to how  and when to connect with nature became opportunities to mindfully connect with what felt right to me in my body. It was a silent retreat. The leaders spoke and presented instructions, logistics, talks and exercises for us to do in our journals or speaking in pairs. It was winter in the mountains. It was snowy and cold and clear and sunny and gorgeous and toasty warm inside the lodge. We hiked in a silent procession and lay on the rocks in the middle of our hike soaking the sun into our skin.
I love silent retreats because I don’t have to strain to hear anyone. The leaders passed my little microphone that transmits their voices into my hearing aids with such care and compassion. Their kindness brought me to tears as they treated my microphone as a sacred talking stick. When all 25 of us shared at the end the whole group passed my microphone. I was really moved and sobbed gratefully. The love that we all created for each other was palpable, even though most of us were strangers at the start. Women authentically holding each other in curiosity, respect and positive regard is the elixir of the goddess. One talk was about self compassion and we learned about Kilanda  Swahara the always broken goddess who knows her own fragility and strength and doesn’t have to pretend to be perfect.
 I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this embodied feminine wisdom celebration. I came away with a deeper sense of my power and my humanity with a renewed faith in my ability to love fully. I felt hopeful about the community we created to practice mindfulness and shared love. It was a joy to watch each woman blossom in her own way from the experience of being seen and heard.
One repeating question we asked each other in pairs was Who would you be if your inner critic retired? The process of contemplating that question inspired this poem.

Who would you be if your inner critic retired?

The inner critic is the inner compassionate voice
in the grips of fear.
Embrace the inner critic
Let her bluster and tremble
Hold her in loving kindness
Appreciate her protecting you
Since you were a small child.
Watch her breathe a sigh of relief
And let go into trusting that
You are a grownup now
Who can take care of herself.
She will begin to contemplate retiring,
Content to sit by the river
And sip coconut water.

by Andrea Silver 10/28/2019
with a bow to Jean, Alice and Alicia

Saturday, October 12, 2019


I haven’t written a blog in a long time. I have been writing poetry again and would like to share a poem. I bow to Oriah Mountain Dreamer whose poem The Invitation has long been my inspiration.


Knowing you is inspiring me to buy skirts,
embracing my juicy female spirit.
Being real with you is inspiring me to write poetry
and to speak truth from my heart,
as medicine in support of awakening.
Stretching toward you and setting boundaries
is inspiring me to pay deep attention to myself,
caring for myself and listening to my own needs
as if my life depended upon it,
which, of course, it does.
The past beckons me to abandon myself,
 play small and people please.
Instead I choose now.
Shaking with terror and excitement,
I sing in my full voice, dance in the moonlight,
howl at the moon, and invite you to join me.

                            Andrea Silver
                           August 3, 2019

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Kindness to strangers

Valentine’s day brought these two experiences of the kindness of strangers and I felt hopeful for myself and for humanity.

1) I was the third car in line waiting at a traffic light at a busy intersection. The driver of car number one gets out of his car and walks back to car number two and talks to the driver. The driver of car number two gets out of his car and motions to me that he will only be a minute. Both drivers push the first car together, the driver steering the car and the other pushing from behind.  The first car starts and the first driver jumps in, thanks the second driver and drives off. The second driver walks back to his car looks at me and I give him a thumbs up. He smiles. They were obviously complete strangers and they both risked and made themselves vulnerable for a stranger. The first driver asked for help from a stranger and the second offered help. In these days of road rage both men risked bravely. As I drove off my heart was warmed by their respective courage and generosity.

2) From there I drove to the grocery store in a light-hearted mood. In line at the check-out I was feeling playful. The person in front of me was buying a few items and ten small wrapped chocolate truffles. I smiled and asked him if he was planning to eat them all. He said no, he was gifting them to others. The cashier, the man buying the truffles and I began to have a nice conversation. When the man was ready to leave he gave the cashier and me both a truffle and said Happy Valentine’s Day. We both thanked him and warmly returned his good wishes. She and I felt connected in our receiving of our gifts. We marveled at his sweet act. Kindness to strangers for no reason is an act of service that ripples out. I later gave my truffle to a friend for dessert. Giving felt as sweet as receiving.

In her children’s book called Cara’s Kindness former Olympic ice skater Krysti Yamaguchi writes
about a group of animal friends who pass on kindnesses to each other. In the story the kindness
circles back to Cara who gets help finding music to dance her solo ice skating performance from a blind friend who gifted her the song he wrote for her. Cara was the one to be kind in the beginning by teaching a terrified friend to skate. It is my grandson’s favorite book. I love that book because it is wise and gently and playfully passes on the deliciousness of giving and receiving kindness.

What if every day could be an opportunity to give and receive kindness? Sometimes it’s as simple as giving another attention or receiving a smile and returning it. Sometimes it’s simply saying thank you to a complement. What about acknowledging someone else’s efforts with a “good job”? I am planning to use my creativity to find ways to give and receive kindness in my daily life. Won’t you join me?

Friday, February 15, 2019

Love is your Super Power

My creative daughter made capes for all my grandsons’ fellow pre-schoolers for Valentine’s Day. They all said, Love is my super power.
What a lovely message for Valentine’s Day. I have been thinking about that message and imagining twenty little boys and girls whizzing around in their lives with that message on their backs.
What if it was true for all of us?
If love is our super power how does that super power show up in our lives? In my life loving myself enough to be authentic and vulnerable about who I really am creates the space and safety for other people to be authentic and vulnerable as well. That is my superpower. Other people can sense that energy in me. I can sense the energy of a person who is willing to be authentic and vulnerable and I  am attracted to that energy. Self-acceptance helps my superpower manifest. Harsh judgement impedes my superpower. Judging myself for my harsh judgement is like my kryptonite. Recognizing when I am judging myself and accepting that I am judging is the antidote to the kryptonite. Rocognition and Acceptance of judgement repairs judgement.
When we are children and we feel strong feelings there is often no support for experiencing, expressing and releasing those feelings. At least that was true for me as a child. My parents weren’t skillful about accepting their own strong feelings and therefore coached me by example in learning to suppress mine. Emotion is energy in motion. If the energy of emotion is experienced it can easily be released. When one of my small grandsons is sobbing and my daughter holds him he usually skips off in a matter of minutes. He has discharged the energy of the pain he is feeling by crying and being comforted and the pain has moved. If the pain isn’t released it begins to take up residency in our bodies. Repeated very painful experiences that are suppressed become trauma that is held in our bodies. Research is showing that the pain of trauma creates physical and emotional symptoms. What if giving ourselves more permission to discharge the emotions of mad, sad, glad and scared allows our super power to manifest?
When it’s not safe to feel our feelings we make up stories about ourselves in lieu of releasing them. I’m not lovable, or there’s something wrong with me are two of my favorite stories. As children we turn these stories into strategies to make the world make sense. I’m not good enough or I’m to blame are two stories a lot of people learned to use on themselves to avoid the lonliness and terror of strong feelings felt alone. For instance children often blame themselves for their parents divorcing. If only I was a better girl, my parents wouldn’t have been so mad at each other. This is a common story that becomes a strategy of needing to be perfect for children who blame themselves for their parents divorse. Children who are supported in feeling all of their own strong feelings about their parents divorcing and clearly reassured that the divorse had nothing to do with anything they did can let go of their self-blame stories or maybe not create them in the first place.
When we notice we are judging ourselves or others we can use our super power of love to recognize the judgement, be kind to ourselves and address the authentic feelings we are having underneath the judgement. When I am judging another person it is often that their differences from me scare me. When I can be with myself and ask myself to be willing to embrace my fear and express the energy of it the fear can release and the judgement can dissolve. When I do this work I am often left with a feeling of connection with the person I was judging. Let’s say I am judging someone for having a large body. Looking underneath, I can feel my own fear about having a large body. I can shake or cry and even share that fear with another person, other than the one I am judging. Then I have used my super power to allow myself to feel connected to the person I was judging. I can see that other people experience pain and pleasure too. Other people are suffering and experiencing joy like I am, too.In this way I can use my super power of love to experience the oneness of all beings. Such a gift. I am grateful for my super power of love and I commit to using it to love myself and others. My intention is to support others in knowing that love is the superpower of all of us. What if  all of us could don our capes and and take as our mission to use our lives to practice our super power of love and heal  ourselves, each other and the planet? What if each of us in our own small and large ways feel good  about ourselves for all the ways we manifest love every day? What if that would grow our love to celebrate ourselves for loving in all the ways we do every day? Do you accept this mission? Nod your head and feel your cape shimmer.