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Jennifer Freed: The Cat’s Meow!

Greetings all,

What a great show this week with best-selling author Jennifer Freed, PhD. Jennifer joined me on Life Shifting with Dr J to share about her new book: Life Lessons from Stanley the Cat–Nine Lives of Everyday Wisdom. Filled with beautiful illustrations, potent and inspiring information, this book will touch your heart, open your mind, and activate your soul (even if you’re not a cat lover!).

wild, wistful...and wise

Jennifer has done a marvelous job of reflecting on her 19 year-long relationship with her beloved pet, and distilled into this compact book all the wise and wonderful teaching he passed on to her–about life, love, catching rays, rats, and the all-important NAP.

Seriously, this book is easy to digest, comes in small, well-articulated morsels…and is quite profound. As a psychotherapist and depth psychologist, Jennifer knows how to dig below the surface and scratch at the core of our human foibles–with a non-judgmental stance, tons of compassion, and a touch of humor. Much of what Jennifer gleaned from her nine-lived Stanley–and that she shared in the book and with me on the show–is about REMEMBERING the little things that matter most in life:

–Take time to DO NOTHING
(only in quiet repose, can the seeds of your creativity be watered)

High Productivity

–Take time to rest, relax and stretch
(the body is your true home, without it you’d be pretty lost!)

Learn from the best!

–Reach out to TOUCH someone when they are in pain
(sometimes all we humans really need is a HUG and a little caress)

–Eat what your body needs…and leave the rest for the dog
(you can only digest SO MUCH…so don’t be greedy!)

–Spit up instead of swallowing bad food or bad feelings (it is good to purge the system once in a while!)

And so on…

As we approach the holidays and maybe feel a bit revved up with a long to-do list of parties, shopping, travel plans and the like…it is quite easy to get lost in the whirlwind of busy-ness and forget to BE PRESENT, to actually ENJOY the moment(s)…of each day.

what matters most?

I hope you will find time in your busy schedule to download and listen to Jennifer’s wonderful stories (click here) about how this cool new book came into being. Listen deeply as she shares the wisdom passed on by her beloved pet (who passed away recently after 19 years). You’ll definitely want copies of this book for Xmas gifts…and you may just find yourself curled up in front of the fire, nuzzling your dog, cat or significant other, perusing this book…and sailing softly into dreamland…with a smile.

Many thanks to Jenn! Her book deserves a special spot on your gift list…right next to SHIFT: Let Go of Fear and Get Your Life in Gear! (shameless self promotion, I know…but hey, SHIFT would make a super holiday gift for someone in need of a life-shift, or a lift…and a GIFT!!!


Dr J


Celebrating Fear?

Well, I guess this moment had to come. I can now “officially” call myself an expert on Fear!

Why? Well, in the midst of a hurricane gale and deluge of rain last Saturday here in the wilds of New York City, I sauntered into Barnes & Noble (to get dry!) and lo and behold…there on prominent display I discovered my own book: Shift: Let Go of Fear and Get Your Life in Gear!. Wow!!! So exciting to see my dream manifest…the book delivered, published and on the shelves of my favorite book store!

Iphone Blur but Happy!

So was I happy? You bet. Was I joyful? You bet! Was I anxious, worried, verklempt (is that a word?)? Yup! Yikes. How could I be feeling FEAR in the midst of what should be a celebratory moment?

Well, as you’ll discover if you read my book, there is a clear pattern of dread that follows us all through the ups and downs of change in our lives–even at times of accomplishment or great joy. Depending upon what stage we are in as we go through career change or relationship upheaval, different fears will come along for the ride.

The final stage in the journey through life change I call REALIZATION–typically a joyful, exciting and wonderful time in the cycle, when things all line up for us and we cross the threshold known as, “success”.

Sweet Success moments are the last places you’d expect to find fear, right? Wrong! Working with hundreds of clients over the years–executives, leaders, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers–I’ve witnessed over and over the great paradox of achievement: it not only brings great joy and happiness, temporarily, but it also brings on its own peculiar brand of stress, worry, anxiety…and you guessed it: fear!

So…when I saw my book on the shelves, and started putting together my book tour plans, and started thinking about celebrating this amazing milestone with my family and friends…well, lo and behold, I started feeling anxious.

Have you ever reached a pinnacle moment–a graduation, a promotion, an accolade–and in the very same moment you felt exhilaration…you also felt awkward, undeserving, anxious…fretful? Well, here’s the thing: before you reach for the Prozac or the Xanax…or the double scotch on the rocks..take a deep breath and say to yourself: this is normal.

Fear–of success, of making a mistake, of letting others down…and of course, THE BIG ONE: not being good enough–is a perfectly normal response to success. This fear, which may emerge just as we come up close to the edge of manifesting our dream–the altar, the threshold of fame, the signing of the contract–can keep us STUCK…hold us back…and, literally, if we don’t recognize and accept it as OK…destroy the moment.

The Joy of the Spotlight?

Far too often, our media-glitz, sound-bite culture only shows the “happy face” side of fame, of celebrity, of riches and acclaim…and then we act “surprised” when someone famous commits suicide or devolves into addiction. What happened we ask? How could someone so successful be so miserable?

By only seeing one half of the success equation–the joy part–we deny the truth of how life really works. Everything has a dark and light aspect and what we push away or deny comes back to bite us, often just when we are SUPPOSED to be ecstatic. If we clamor for achievement and think it will only bring happiness, we are setting ourselves up–for a fall.

So I am learning to celebrate FEAR…to welcome it in all its glory. It is a partner, a pal, a troublesome sibling all along the road or growth, expansion and creative expression. Here’s the real skinny: If you’re not feeling fear then you’re not growing!!!

My Buddhist teacher Goenka offers these enduring words of wisdom about the fear of success: “Sit still and BREATHE into it–inhale the joy of your success and exhale the fear…but don’t fight it. Don’t judge it. Don’t make yourself wrong.”

You ARE GOOD ENOUGH…you are…as am I…a miracle of creation. Our fears, especially in moments of great accomplishment…are simply a warning signal from an “Old Self” that the jig on an outdated story is up! Some small part of you may want to remain the same, to protect you from the big bad world of CHANGE. This vestigial self hopes you won’t grow and change and become DIFFERENT..new..and BIGGER.

BUT it is too late, the vehicle of self is in the groove…on the highway of transformation: you are on your way!!!! Learn to welcome the fear of success: It is a signal that you are doing something RIGHT…you are growing, becoming, moving and unfolding the next great vision of what your soul is calling forth from within.

I am truly excited to see my book out in the world….AND I have my moments of doubt, anxiety and FEAR…about what the manifestation of this dream might mean. I hope that my book…and my owning up to my fear…will help generate a much needed NEW conversation in our culture, about change, about fear…and about the ridiculous fantasy that we are always meant to be happy. NOT. Life is much too complex for such an seductive…but false, idol.

Terrific or Terrifying? Yes and Yes.

So as I shift into a new adventure…and hit the road to share what I’ve learned about change, fear and the mysterious journey we are all on together, I am learning to celebrate my fear…not to fight it or denigrate myself for feeling it. After all, I am human…and I am happy…but not blind: banishing fear is impossible. It comes with the territory.

“Smiling Buddhas smile because they are wise, not because they are happy.” S.N. Goenka


Dr J


Well, wow! What a historic week. I’ve normally stayed away from politics in my blogs — and will continue to do so — but since Oprah got unleashed this week with the election over, I guess it’s ok for me to CELEBRATE publicly as well. So, even though I’m normally an unapologetic Independent in all things political, this week I do feel jubilant. Here’s what I wrote to my west coast friends early on the post-election morn:

I found myself tearing up in front of the TV way after Midnight last night here on the East Coast…just watching history unfold before my eyes. I had just gotten off the phone with friends who were cheering and celebrating in Times Square…and I could feel the sense of elation and camaraderie and connectedness that was alive in the air– breaking through the tyrannical shroud of fear that we have lived under for 8 long years–with thousands of people just over-flowing in the streets: jubilant and exultant that AMERICA finally got it right!!!

I too, am hopeful again… for our little ones who, when they grow up to vote for president, will no longer think of skin color or any other fear-based “otherness” that has for so long torn us apart. ..and for our friends around the world who had pretty much given up on the U.S. ever being a beacon of human rights, equality and compassion once again. Yahoo…we’re back!

So, as you can clearly see…I was very pleased with the outcome of the election. I was moved deeply by the historic nature of the event, and the quality–and qualities–evident in the man who will symbolically, if not literally, lead us out of this dark period in American history. It is time to celebrate.

It is also a rare moment for me in the Adventures in Life-Shifting: I get to write about my favorite stage in the six-stage process of self-renewal: REALIZATION.

Most of the time in this blog, I focus on one of the other five stages in every cycle of major life change: the Rut, the Release, the Retreat, The Revival, and the Rehearsal. For obvious reasons, we all struggle mightily with the fears and anxieties and challenges that accompany being stuck, letting go, re-inventing ourselves and re-committing to new adventures and new behaviors. What I don’t get to write about as often as I would like is the great moments of culmination, success, and victory that DO arrive now and again in life.

Sometimes we really do break through a glass ceiling. Sometimes we really do transcend our own limitations and transform our lives. Sometimes we realize our dreams. AND sometimes it is important to stop working long enough to relish the moment!

Truth be told, as moved as I was by Obama’s somber and eloquent acceptance speech on Tuesday night, I was also just a tad disappointed. I am hopeful that he went home to Michelle, the kids, and his close pals…and threw a big party, at least for all the tireless workers that carried him along the long, long road to the White House! They–and he–deserve it. I know that pundits were saying that it was “appropriate” and “impressive” that he avoided the triumphal tone of self-congratulation. Ok, I’m all for humility and gratitude. Apple pie and Chevrolet…those are the down home American values. Tried and true.


in my experience with clients who reach a pinnacle of accomplishment and achieve hard fought goals: it is important to ENJOY YOUR SUCCESS. Sometimes the puritanical American cultural baggage of our forefathers and mothers makes it supposedly unseemly to really experience the joy, the exultation and the delight in realizing hard fought dreams. To that, I say BAH HUMBUG: let’s party!

Far too many of my clients–and I see some of this tendency in myself as well–achieve some goal or dream and never bother to even stop, breathe and relish the moment. They are just on to the next mountain to climb.

I remember calling my client Colette, just after the press release had come out that she had received the job as head of Global HR for a major international bank. I was so happy for her, so proud of her. Here was someone who had been let go from another very senior position in HR with no warning or explanation, in the midst of a divorce, who rallied her spirits and quickly nailed down an even bigger job. I wanted her to celebrate — to acknowledge herself and her gifts, her hard work, and her perseverance. Her reaction: “oh yeah, I saw the press release but didn’t read it. I’ve got work to do.”

OK…I get it. We are a nation of Do’ers. Strivers. Worker drones scurrying around always busy, busy, busy on this dust ball called earth. So I guess I shouldn’t have expected to see Obama out there with a big grin and glass of champagne. And he’s right, we do have a huge climb to get out of the deep hole of angst, despair, and distress that we’ve dug ourselves (don’t forget, we elected G.W., sort of) for the past 8 years. Nevertheless, for today, for a moment, it is important to celebrate.

So here’s my question for the day: do you celebrate your life? Do you feel real joy–lasting joy–in your accomplishments?

We are not talking about boasting or ego-stroking or putting others down here. We are talking about celebrating the miracle of transformation–in this country, in ourselves.

So, in unbelievable gratitude for the miracle of a new, black, proud and unvarnished voice that has arrived on the American scene — in a defining moment of history — I suggest that we all step back, take a breath, and embrace the realization of a true shift in collective consciousness! We now know that anyone, of any color, of any race, of any creed, really can become the leader of the free world. Not, of course, without a whole lot of hard work, talent, grit and determination–not to mention a crack campaign team, but it IS possible.

Humanity really is sometimes a marvelous machine of possibility. Evolution is nothing if not a series of unheralded, natural, mystical leaps in the dark. But humans–creatures of natural selection though we may be–are different: we can turn on the lights! We can light up the skies, penetrate the depths of the universe, and pierce through the veil of separation. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

We can jump, as thousands in Times Square, Chicago, Paris, and Kenya, were doing on Tuesday night–for joy!

Yes, we can!

They’ll be plenty of time for work when the next Rut stage sets in…but for now:

Oh Happy Day!

Dr J