Board of Psychology
Bay Area Professionals
All licensed psychologists must meet ethical and legal standards. The Department of Consumer Affairs at the Board of Psychology receives and responds to questions and complaints regarding the practice of psychology in California. You can contact them at their website link here. By emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 1-866-503-3221 or writing to Board of Psychology, 1422 Howe Avenue, Suite 22, Sacramento, CA 95825.
I recommend two publications on the Board of Psychology site that you can download: "Psychotherapy Never Includes Sex" and "For Your Peace of Mind".
San Francisco Psychological Association
The members of this organization are all licensed psychologists located in San Francisco. I am a member of this association and use a select subgroup of these members as my referral network. This link gives you information for all the members. You can also call and ask for referrals for specific needs.
Mental Health Association of San Francisco
This organization has a good list of emergency resources and other local help for all types of mental health issues.
National Alliance of Mentally Ill - San Francisco
This organization offers support for family members of people with mental health issues. There is a good section on residential services for people who can no longer live at home.
California Psychological Association
This website has other consumer resources in California.
This site has information, resources, support groups, etc. for all types of mental health issues. (Tip: Once you select a particular issue, you may first just see large ads. You may need to scroll down to see the real information and links.)
This is the website of Ann Weiser Cornell in Berkeley. She is the best teacher of Focusing that I know. If you are interested in learning how to do Focusing, I highly recommend that you take a beginner's workshop with her. Dr. Cornell is a linguist who studied with Dr. Eugene Gendlin and she has expanded his original basic technique. Her website has information on workshops, books, training manuals, CDs and DVDs from which you can learn the technique. She also does Focusing on the telephone.
This organization has events and resources for people interested in existential-humanistic psychology.
Stir Fry Seminars
This organization gives workshops for individuals and organizations interested in cultural diversity issues. The founder, Lee Mun Wah, directed an excellent film called The Color of Fear.
Family Caregiver Alliance
This organization helps caregivers who are responsible for loved ones with various kinds of illnesses.
UCSF Memory and Aging Center
The Center has a clinic where you can get comprehensive evaluation and find other resources.
This organization offers resources for people with all forms of dementia.
Agesong Senior Communities
This organization operates two full-service residential care facilities (Hayes Valley Care and Laguna Grove Care) that are alternatives to nursing homes for elderly loved ones who can no longer live at home.
Institute on Aging
The Institute on Aging (IOA) has many resources for people aged 65 and older. For example, they will send therapists in training to do therapy with low-income seniors, do testing for dementia, help with concerns about elder abuse or neglect, and offer many other services.
A particularly good free service that the IOA sponsors is called the Friendship Line. This is a 24-hour telephone line staffed by trained counselors for seniors who are lonely, confused, or need help. The Friendship Line phone number is 415-752-3778. Seniors living outside the Bay Area can call for free by using the number 1-800-971-0016.
National Eczema Association
The NEA sponsors an annual patient conference where you can meet others in person and learn how to improve your ability to manage your condition. The NEA also publishes a newsletter that keeps you up-to-date on the latest treatments.
Ted Grossbart, Ph.D.
Dr. Grossbart is a psychologist in Boston, MA. He is the author of the book Skin Deep on living with skin disease. You may find some of his material useful. My essay in his book was written more than 25 years ago and was anonymously attributed to "The Woman from San Francisco".
A few of the licensed psychologists that I recommend have websites.
DeLee Lantz, Ph.D.
You can search for other licensed psychologists at San Francisco Psychological Association.
Robert S. Badame's profile can now be found at PsychologyToday.com
Marty Klein, Ph.D.
Stress Reduction Hand-Out.
A Process Called Focusing
We all have stress and we all use various methods of stress reduction. People typically use a mix of some healthy and some unhealthy methods. Some methods are habitual and learned long ago, other methods may be used when available and convenient or under certain circumstances.
I have written a one-page summary of both healthy and unhealthy methods of stress reduction which you can download and print out for yourself.
Presented in a side-by-side format, you can quickly compare the types of methods you tend to use. As you review the list, you may notice there are some healthy methods you could try adding to your repertoire on an occasional or a regular basis. I recommend that people simply try to increase the number of healthy methods they use and decrease the unhealthy methods as much as possible.
Learning to do Focusing
In my work with some people, I sometimes use a technique called Focusing, first developed by Eugene Gendlin, Ph.D. back in the 1970's. Dr. Gendlin studied why certain people seemed to improve in psychotherapy more than others. What he found was that those people used what he called a "felt sense". They would say things like "It felt right to do that" or "I didn't do that because it just felt wrong". They would consider doing something, and notice how their body felt as they thought about it. Dr. Gendlin decided to teach people how to tune into this felt sense, to become more aware of it and use it consciously.
To learn this simple but profound technique, read Dr. Gendlin's book called Focusing. It's a little paperback that costs about $5-10. You can sometimes find it in a used bookstore because it was first published in 1978, but you can also order it from a new bookstore because it is so popular that it is still in print. Many people have learned how to do the technique just from reading that book.
You can also learn Focusing by taking workshops with Ann Weiser Cornell or reading her books. See the link to her Focusing Resources website.
Once you learn how to do it, you can do Focusing by yourself in private or with a partner. There is an entire community of Focusers who partner with each other for free in what is called a Changes group. You can also do Focusing with me in therapy sessions.
~ An Example of Focusing
To use a very simplistic example, most people have had the experience of feeling "butterflies" in their stomach when they are nervous about an upcoming event. During Focusing, you are likely to learn exactly what bothers you about this event. Let's say that "butterflies" is not exactly how it feels to you. For instance, if the sensation feels more like a "concrete block", you may suddenly realize that this upcoming event presents a heavy obligation or something about it is too structured. Perhaps it reminds you of a time when you worked in construction. Perhaps that was a job you hated yet you needed the money. Perhaps the upcoming event is something you dislike but feel you must do for some reason.
During Focusing, you may decide you really do not want to go to this event and will change your plans to attend. You may become aware that you have a pattern of getting involved in these types of situations and may determine that there are conditions which must be met for you to feel comfortable to attend such events. You may also recognize there is something you can do to make the event feel lighter, less structured, or more playful. There may be a certain person you decide to invite to go with you.
There are many possibilities in the Focusing process and the outcomes are typically surprising. The journey is usually full of specific details that help you grasp the nuances of the situation.
~ More on Focusing
The felt sense is a natural human ability, like a sixth sense that we may only use unconsciously and instinctively. It is a nonverbal body language that is always available to tell us how we really feel about something. In our busy lives, we typically do not make the time to slow down and notice what our bodies want to say. In fact, we may feel stress if we do not pay attention to what our bodies are trying to tell us that we need.
Often when we talk about how we feel about something, we tend to stay "in our heads", and may get caught up in purely mental debates. In contrast, rather than talking "about" how we feel, during Focusing we stay in the present moment and pay close attention to how our body feels right now. We close our eyes, turn our attention inward to body sensations and perceptions, slow down our typically quick mental processes, seek precise words to describe how we feel, speak the words aloud, and check to see if there is a sense of rightness in the body when the language matches our physical and emotional experience.
Research shows that giving voice and language to physical and emotional experiences helps to improve mental and physical health. In the process of exploring the body sensations and finding accurate words to describe them, there is a synergistic body-mind connection, using all parts of the brain, what's called "neural integration".
The right words for our experiences during Focusing usually have some particular meaning or significance, often trigger some emotional memory or association, and help develop insight or clarity regarding an upcoming event, an experience in childhood, something that just happened yesterday, or a trail of inter-related situations.
Focusing helps people to understand complicated experiences in which there are many aspects of the situation, layers to unfold, contrasts between past and present, or contradictory feelings at once. It also helps us to process undigested emotional experiences that were too overwhelming when they happened or there was not enough time to fully attend to all the aspects of the situation.
Insights that emerge from Focusing are particularly useful because new awarenesses are not just in your mind. You feel it in your body and consequently you feel differently as a whole. You are more likely to take action based on these insights because the body is motivated and prepared to follow through. It "feels right" to do so. The mind is not just telling the body what to do. The body has led the way. Changes feel natural and evolutionary.
During Focusing, you are in charge and in control. You decide what you feel ready to explore; when to start and stop. The process allows you to go at your own pace as you sense how close you can get to something that has been bothering you or what you may have been avoiding.
In contrast to techniques that use harsh confrontation or abrupt exposure, the Focusing process emphasizes a simple curiousity about what is there, just sensing its presence and what that much can communicate to you. You welcome all that is there in a very slow and gentle way.
If you do Focusing with a partner, the other person creates safety for you in the external world while you close your eyes and pay attention to internal perceptions. While Focusing, it is easy to lose track of time, so many people like to have a partner who can watch the clock for them.
A partner is also there to listen, and if you request it, to reflect some of your words for emphasis or to help you sense whether certain words feel right. The listener is trained to only reflect key words that you say and does not make any comments or interpretations. There is no hypnosis, no control by the listener. The listener is just a witness with presence on your private journey.
In community settings with a Focusing partner, the listener does not discuss with you what happened or comment on it. If you do Focusing with me in therapy, we can discuss what happened and build upon the insights that you have.
Some people want to do Focusing with a therapist because they are easily overwhelmed by sensory perception and need more support and guidance to go through the process. If you have a history of hallucinations, panic attacks, drug dependence, post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, or tend to be sensitive to strong imagery or sensory perceptions, let me know before you start to do Focusing and we can determine whether it is inappropriate for you.
There are many books that I can recommend. What follows below is just a sample. If you contact me and tell me your particular interests, I can give you more suggestions.
~ On selecting a psychotherapist:
Am I Crazy, or is it My Shrink? How to Get the Help You Need. By L. E. Beutler, B. Bongar, and J.N. Shurkin. 1998. Oxford University Press.
Rating Your Psychotherapist. By Robert Langs. 1991. Ballantine Books.
How to Find a Good Psychotherapist: A Consumer Guide. By Judi Striano. 1987. Professional Press.
The Psychotherapy Maze: A Consumer's Guide to Getting In and Out of Therapy. By Otto Ehrenberg, Ph.D. and Miriam Ehrenberg, Ph.D. 1986. Simon & Schuster.
When Talk is Not Cheap: How to Find the Right Therapist When You Don't Know Where to Begin. By Mandy Aftel and Robin Tolmach Lakoff. 1985. Warner Books.
~ On relationship issues and families:
Party of One. By Anneli Rufus. 2003. Marlowe and Company.
Beyond Motherhood: Choosing a Life without Children. By Jeanne Safer. 1996. Pocket Books.
Why Marriages Succeed or Fail. By John Gottman. 1994. Simon and Schuster.
The Interpersonal World of the Infant. By Daniel Stern. 1985. Basic Books.
A General Theory of Love. By Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon. 2000. Vintage Books.
We Have to Talk. By Samuel Shem and Janet Surrey. 1998. Basic Books.
In Quest of the Mythical Mate. By Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson. 1988. Brunner Mazel Publishers.
Love Between Equals. By Pepper Schwartz. 1994. The Free Press.
The Good Marriage. By Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee. 1996. Warner Books.
Mapping the Terrain of the Heart. By Stephen Goldbart and David Wallin. 1994. Addison-Wesley.
Journey of the Heart. By John Welwood. 1990. HarperCollins.
Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in their Struggle for Self. By Elan Golomb. 1992. William Morrow.
All Kinds of Minds: A Young Student's Book about Learning Abilities and Disorders. By Mel Levine. 1993. Educators Publishing Service.
Community Service and Social Responsibility in Youth. By James Youniss and Miranda Yates. 1997. University of Chicago Press.
The Romance of Risk: Why Teenagers Do the Things They Do. By Lynn Ponton. 1997. Basic Books.
Keep Talking: A Mother-Daughter Guide to the Pre-Teen Years. By Lynda Madison. 1999. Andrews and McMeel.
Peoplemaking and Conjoint Family Therapy. By Virginia Satir.
Dancing with the Family. By Carl Whitaker and William Bumberry. 1988. Brunner Mazel.
~ On chronic illness:
All books by Arthur Frank. In particular, The Wounded Storyteller, At the Will of the Body, and The Renewal of Generosity.
Coping with Prednisone. By Eugenia Zukerman and Julie Ingelfinger. 1997. St. Martin's Griffin.
The Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing, and the Human Condition. By Arthur Kleinman. 1988. Basic Books.
Beliefs: The Heart of Healing in Families and Illness. By Lorraine Wright, Wendy Watson, and Janice Bell. 1996. Basic Books.
The Shared Experience of Illness. Edited by Susan McDaniel, Jeri Hepworth, and William Doherty. 1997. Basic Books.
Living with Chronic Illness: Days of Patience and Passion. By Cheri Register. 1992. Bantam Books.
Finding the Way Home: A Compassionate Approach to Illness. By Gayle Heiss. 1997. QED Press.
We Are Not Alone: Learning to Live with Chronic Illness. By Sefra Kobrin Pitzele. 1986. Workman Publishing.
The Chronic Illness Workbook: Strategies and Solutions for Taking Back Your Life. By Patricia Fennell. 2001. New Harbinger Publications.
Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions. By Kate Lorig, Halsted Holman, David Sobel, Diana Laurent, Virginia Gonzalez, and Marian Minor. 2000. Bull Publishing Co.
~ On aging and eldercare:
Vital Involvement in Old Age. By Erik Erikson, Joan Erikson, and Helen Kivnick. 1986. W.W. Norton
The Measure of My Days. By Florida Scott-Maxwell. 1968. Alfred Knopf.
Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Our Elders. By Mary Pipher. 1999. Riverhead Books.
The 36 Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for Persons with Alzheimer's Disease. By Nancy Mace and Peter Rabins. 1991. Warner Books.
The Complete Eldercare Planner. By Joy Loverde. 2000. Random House.
Fourteen Friends' Guide to Eldercaring. By Fourteen Friends, LLC. 1999. Capital Books.
Necessary Losses. By Judith Viorst. 1986. Ballantine Books.
A Reckoning. By May Sarton. 1981. W.W. Norton.
~ On stress, trauma, and resilience
Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair. At Miriam Greenspan's website, you can download excerpts from her book. This book may be helpful for people who are struggling with feelings that they tend to avoid. It shows that this is much to learn from these feelings, and gives clear exercises for demonstrating that to yourself.
Coping with Trauma: A Guide to Self-Understanding. By Jon G. Allen. 1995 American Psychiatric Press.
Waking Up Alive. By Richard Heckler 1994 Ballantine Books. This book is about people who have survived a suicide attempt and must confront the consequences.
Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood. By Wayne Muller. 1992 Fireside/Simon and Schuster.
Trauma and Recovery. By Judith Herman. 1997. Basic Books.
Recovering from Rape. By Linda Ledray. 1986. Henry Holt and Company.
Treating the Trauma of Rape: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for PTSD. By Edna Foa and Barbara Olasov Rothbaum. 1998. Guilford Press.
Resilience: Discovering a New Strength at Times of Stress. By Frederic Flach. 1988. Fawcett Columbine.
The Resilient Self: How Survivors of Troubled Families Rise Above Adversity. By Steven Wolin and Sybil Wolin. 1994. Villard Books.
Resilient Adults: Overcoming a Cruel Past. By Gina O'Connell Higgins. 1994 Jossey-Bass.
The Survivor Personality. By Al Siebert 1994 Perigee/Berkely Publishing Group
The Transcendent Child: Tales of Triumph Over the Past. By Lillian Rubin. 1996 HarperPerennial.
Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers (3rd edition). By Robert Sapolsky. 2004. Henry Holt and Company. This book is a guide to understanding stress and stress-related diseases.
~ On Anxiety, Perfectionism, and Control Issues
Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets Out of Control. By Allan Mallinger and Jeannette Dewyze 1992 Fawcett Columbine
Anxiety, Phobias, and Panic: A Step-by-Step Program for Regaining Control of your Life. By Reneau Peurifoy. 1995. Warner Books.
The Anxiety Book: Developing Strength in the Face of Fear. By Jonathan Davidson. 2003. Riverhead Books.
Worry: Hope and Help for a Common Condition. By Edward Hallowell. 2002. Random House.
A Bright Red Scream: Self-Mutilation and the Language of Pain. By Marilee Strong. 1998. Penguin Books.
Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation. By Steven Levenkron. 1998. W.W. Norton
The Broken Mirror: Understanding and Treating Body Dysmorphic Disorder. By Katharine Phillips. 2005. Oxford University Press.
Tormenting Thoughts and Secret Rituals: The Hidden Epidemic of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. By Ian Osborn 1998 Pantheon Books.
The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Washing: The Experience and Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. By Judith Rapoport 1989 E.P.Dutton Books
~ On sex and gender issues
Ask Me Anything: A Sex Therapist Answers the Most Important Questions. By Marty Klein. 1992. Pacifica Press.
More Speaking of Sex: What Your Children Need to Know and When They Need to Know It. By Meg Hickling. 1999. Northstone.
The Erotic Mind: Unlocking the Inner Sources of Sexual Passion and Fulfillment. By Jack Morin. 1995. HarperPerennial. This book is a good basic text for all couples in a sexual relationship.
The Survivor's Guide to Sex: How to Have an Empowered Sex Life after Childhood Sexual Abuse. By Staci Haines. 1999. Cleis Press. This book is written mainly for women survivors but men will also find it useful.
Androgyny: The Opposites Within. By June Singer. 1989. Sigo Press.
Gender Blending: Confronting the Limits of Duality. By Holly Devor 1989. Indiana University Press.
Bisexuality: The Psychology and Politics of an Invisible Minority. Edited by Beth Firestein. 1996. Sage Publications
~ On existential-humanistic psychology and psychotherapy:
Quotes and Poems
All books by Carl Rogers.
All books by Rollo May.
All books by James Bugental.
All books by Irvin Yalom. In particular, Existential Psychotherapy. 1980. Basic Books.
The Healing Dialogue in Psychotherapy. By Maurice Friedman. 1985. Jason Aronson, Inc.
How Clients Make Therapy Work: The Process of Active Self-Healing. By Arthur Bohart and Karen Tallman. 1999. American Psychological Association.
The Psychology of Existence: An Integrative, Clinical Perspective. By Kirk Schneider & Rollo May. 1995. McGraw-Hill.
Bridges Not Walls: A Book About Interpersonal Communication. Edited by John Stewart. 1986. Random House.
I Ain't Much, Baby, But I'm All I've Got by Jess Lair. 1972. Doubleday.
The Transparent Self by Sidney Jourard. 1971. D. Van Nostrand Company.
~ The following books are interesting in different ways:
All books by Albert Ellis.
All books by Karen Horney. In particular, Self-Analysis and Our Inner Conflicts.
All books by Sheldon Kopp. In particular, Back to One, An End to Innocence, and If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him.
The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America. By David Whyte. 1994. Doubleday.
Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. By Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen 1999 Penguin Books.
One to One: Experiences of Psychotherapy. By Rosemary Dinnage. 1989 Penguin Books. This book reports results of a fascinating research project about how people felt after participating in psychotherapy and what changes (if any) they experienced. This book demonstrates what really happens in therapy.
Life After Psychotherapy. By Todd Davison. 1997. Jason Aronson Inc.
The Healing Web: Social Networks and Human Survival. By Marc Pilisuk and Susan Hillier Parks. 1986. University Press of New England. This book summarizes research that shows both mental and physical health improve when we feel we are socially involved in the lives of others, and feel connected to others in both emotional and physical ways.
Shame: The Exposed Self. By Michael Lewis. 1992. Free Press/Macmillan
Some Body to Love: A Guide to Loving the Body You Have. By Leslea Newman. 1991. Third Side Press. This book gives specific exercises to help increase acceptance of your body in whatever form it takes.
Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Heal. By Rachel Naomi Remen. 1996. Riverhead Books.
The Feeling Good Handbook. By David Burns. This book is useful for people who want to learn how to change the way they think in order to change the way they feel. It also explains the differences between psychiatric medications and identifies typical side effects.
The only normal people are the ones you don't know very well.
~ Joe Ancis
For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin--real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be got through first, some unfinished business. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.
~ Alfred D'Souza
To be at peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
The world breaks everyone, and afterwards, some are strong in the broken places.
~ Ernest Hemingway
Ring the bell that still can ring, there's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.
~ Leonard Cohen
What is to give light must endure burning.
~ Viktor Frankl
Only to the extent that man exposes himself over and over again to annihilation, can that which is indestructible arise within him.
~ Karlfried Graf von Durckheim
Do not we sufferers always inhabit the edges of the world as pioneers, to prove how much humanity can bear and still be human?
~ Vassar Miller
I have learned to carry it, the way a poor man learns to carry everything.
~ Lucille Clifton
When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.
~ Audre Lorde
Life is constantly providing us with new funds, new resources, even when we are reduced to immobility. In life's ledger there is no such thing as frozen assets.
~ Henry Miller
In the beginning I thought I could change man. Now I know that I cannot. If I still shout and scream it is to prevent man from changing me.
~ Elie Wiesel
I get up every morning determined both to change the world and to have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning the day difficult.
~ E. B. White
How can they say my life is not a success? Have I not for more than sixty years got enough to eat and escaped being eaten?
~ Logan Smith
It is only possible to live happily ever after on a day to day basis.
~ Margaret Bonnano
Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.
~ Charles Bukowski
I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections. And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill. I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self and wounds to the soul take a long, long time to heal, only time can help, and patience.
~ D. H. Lawrence
Sometimes snakes can’t slough. They can't burst their old skin. Then they go sick and die inside the old skin, and nobody ever sees the new pattern. It needs a real desperate recklessness to burst your old skin at last. You simply don't care what happens to you, if you rip yourself in two, so long as you do get out.
~ D. H. Lawrence
There is at bottom only one problem in the world and this is its name: how does one break through? How does one get into the open? How does one burst the cocoon and become a butterfly?
~ Thomas Mann
Life is meant to be a never-ending education, and when this is fully appreciated, we are no longer survivors but adventurers.
~ David McNally
Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you're alive, it isn't.
~ Richard Bach
Books about relationships talk about how to get the love you need, how to keep love, and so on. But the right question to ask is: How do I become a more loving human being?
~ Sam Keen
When we fall in love, we are seeking the people to whom we were attached as children. On the other hand, we ask the beloved to correct all the wrongs these people inflicted. So love contains the contradiction of attempting to return to the past and attempting to undo the past.
~ Woody Allen
Every time I've done something that doesn't feel right, it's ended up not being right.
~ Mario Cuomo
In my day, we didn't have self-esteem; we had self-respect, and no more of it than we had earned.
~ Jane Haddam
Despair is the price one pays for setting oneself an impossible aim. It is, one is told, the unforgivable sin, but it is a sin the corrupt or evil man never practices. He always has hope. He never reaches the freezing-point of knowing absolute failure. Only the man of goodwill carries always in his heart this capacity for damnation.
~ Graham Greene
If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, whom would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?
~ Stephen Levine
by Greg Kimura
You enter life a ship laden with meaning, purpose and
sent to be delivered to a hungry world,
and as much as the world needs your cargo,
you need to give it away.
Everything depends on this.
But the world forgets its needs,
and you forget your mission, and
the ancestral maps used to guide you
have become faded scrawls on the parchment of dead
The cargo weighs you heavy the longer it is held.
Spoilage becomes a risk.
The ship sputters from port to port and at each you
"Is this the way?"
But the way cannot be found without knowing the cargo,
and the cargo cannot be known without recognizing
there is a way.
It is simply this:
You have gifts.
The world needs your gifts.
You must deliver them.
The world may not know it is starving,
but the hungry know,
and they will find you
when you discover your cargo
and start to give it away.
by Billy Collins
The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.
Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller giftnot the worn truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.
by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Native Elder
It doesn't interest me what you do for a living:
I want to know what you ache for,
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.
It doesn't interest me how old you are:
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love,
for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.
I doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon:
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow,
if you have been opened by life's betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own,
without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own,
if you can dance with wildness and let ecstasy
fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without
cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, or to remember
the limitations of being human.
It doesn't interest me if the story you're telling me is true:
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.
if you can hear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore be trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty even if it's not pretty every day.
and if you can source your life from Gods' presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine,
and still stand on the edge of a lake and shout to
the silver of the full moon, "YES!"
It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have:
I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair,
weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children.
It doesn't interest me who you are, how you came to be here:
I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me
and not shrink back.
It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied:
I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself,
And if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.