Hanging Tough in Turbulent Times

I don’t know about you…but I’ve been reeling with all the turmoil in the world lately. Sitting here in the “relative” calm of New York City, sometimes it feels like the world is falling apart all around me.

Are you hanging on? Or hanging tough?

Look east and nature is wreaking havoc on our friends in Japan. Look west and a psychotic dictator is tearing apart the fabric–and the humanity–of his own country in Libya. Not to mention that the so-called “economic recovery” here in the U.S. feels anemic at best and the slumbering bear of recession seems endlessly poised to reemerge from his winter hibernation!

That’s why it was so inspiring to hear about a great new book that just hit the shelves this week: ” Emotional Balance: The Path to Inner Peace and Harmony” by Dr Roy Martina. Dr Roy joined me on my radio show, “Life Shifting with Dr J” and shared some of his powerful insights from the book. The key theme of which is thus: how to find–and maintain–emotional balance in the midst of life’s inevitable ups and downs. How timely is that!

There are many important and ground-breaking principles in Dr Roy’s work, which beautifully aligns with the themes of my book, “SHIFT: Let Go of Fear and Get Your Life in Gear“. I love the synchronicity of how his work, which emanates from his many years of practice as a holistic medical doctor, dovetails perfectly with my work, which hails from my experience and research in psychology. So cool to see the bio-medical and psycho-spiritual worlds not just collide but INTERSECT and interweave — with far more alignment than discord.

At its core, Dr Roy’s work is all about helping readers find what he calls the “Still Point”–that place of aligned, centered presence, where we are re-connected with our divine essence — and the fears, at least the ones that cause us recurring anxiety and stress, are recognized as the result of the way our brains develop leaving us “conditioned towards stress”. But the good news is that leading edge work in neuroscience has proven that our brains, as well as emotional and nervous systems, are highly malleable and adaptable. In sum, we are powerful weavers of our own stories, and can discard the narrative of fear, insecurity, scarcity and separation at will (with the help of some focused, intentional practice). His book gives us the tools we need to do just that–offering us a “way out” of anxiety, stress and depression, and a pathway to restoring our emotional balance. In essence: a road map for finding our way home to ourselves.

I hope you’ll give our chat a listen–just click here to get the download for free. It was a joy to speak with Dr Roy while he is on his book tour all around the world (he called me from Amsterdam at midnight!)…I came away re-invigorated, empowered and less vulnerable to the onslaught of the outer world turmoil that sometimes feels omnipresent. I also feel most heartened by the way that the disparate worlds of psychology, spirituality and modern medicine are FINALLY integrating and moving towards a unified approach to health and healing. There is a piercing LIGHT of hope on the horizon!

Namaste,

Dr J

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Got Mojo?

“Lost,” she stated. Simply. “I feel lost.”

...in a dark wood

Having “mutually” agreed that she should leave her job as a highly-paid management consultant due to the recession and re-structuring at her firm, my client was burning through her severance package…and feeling very unsure of what to do next.

Another client, that same day, also recently “dismissed” — through no fault of his own– from his accounting job at a Wall Street firm, joked casually about “running a ski resort” (he has recently taken up skiing and loves it!), but quickly dismissed that as an “idle fantasy”…and returned to the more measured state…of “feeling lost.”

No motivation. No direction. A sense of having been ripped off track by huge winds of change…and sucked up into a dark fog…with no light at the end of the tunnel. In other words: NO MOJO!

We’ve all been there. Shift happens. Especially somewhere along the trajectory called, “mid-life” (30-40-50 and up…), the rug gets pulled out from under us–a lay-off, an illness, a divorce–and suddenly the “story” we’ve been telling ourselves about WHO WE ARE no longer rings true. SO…how do we re-claim our MOJO?

As my “unstoppable” guest on my radio show, Life Shifting with Dr J, Frankie Picasso, stated: “We need to reconnect to our deepest dreams…not dismiss them but re-discover over how they fuel our MOJO for living full-out.” You got it Frankie, Bravo!

My “lost” client, above, actually dreamed about being a doctor when she was a child…but got de-railed on that path by parents and life events. Today, she is a mid-lifer who would dismiss the possibility of med school as far-fetched and impractical. Maybe. BUT what about the QUALITIES of being a doctor that her childhood fantasy was attempting to live through her? There are myriad ways to “doctor” the world; she only needs to re-connect, at a deep level, with the dream…and re-configure it to her current life story.

Likewise, my client who fantasizes about running a ski resort: why is this dream so quickly dismissed? He’s a former venture capital consultant; he knows a lot about how to raise money, how to run a business. But perhaps “running a ski resort” IS too far fetched, impractical. No matter. In the dream are the seeds of possibility. By exploring his fantasy–and seeing what’s POSSIBLE instead of what’s WRONG…the MOJO — the motivation, the enthusiasm the creativity can be tapped…and soon he’ll find his way out of the FOG.

mojo in motion!

It turns out that he loves to be in nature, to get his hands dirty…to make THINGS (maybe skis?). Whoa…is it out of the question that one day he just might discard the suit and tie, roll up his sleeves and glide off to manage a ski manufacturing business in Vermont? Sounds like a dream worth exploring, no?

I heartily encourage you to listen in to my conversation with executive coach, radio host, Frankie Picasso, author of “Midlife Mojo” –a guide to re-inventing yourself AT ANY AGE! Her story of becoming a certified master life coach after surviving a devastating motor cycle accident and having to RE-LEARN, literally, how to walk…is inspiring and wise. She never gave up, and today she has a successful coaching business, is a sought-after speaker/teacher…and works on major, multi-million dollar non-profit projects–supplying portable homes to the homeless all over North America! Way to go Frankie!

So…if you are feeling a bit LOST these days…listen in here to my talk with Frankie, and remember: Don’t discount your dreams!

the nugget of GOLD in an endless sea

Dream On!

Dr J

American Veda Hits the Waves!

Want a great new book to kick off the new year? Check out American Veda:How Indian Spirituality Changed the West ..and listen in to my interview with author, Phil Goldberg on Life Shifting with Dr J! Click here to listen. Phil’s new books delves into the timely and fascinating topic of how the Indian and Hindu spiritual legacy has influenced the West. I was amazed at the links between American history and India that go all the way back to Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman! So many of the spiritual practices and ideas that we take for granted now–yoga, meditation, the impact of gurus, etc.–are directly connected to the history and legacy of Indian thought.

Phil’s book traces the history of New Age spirituality here in the West and helps us understand how the threads of culture, philosophy and history from the Indian sub-continent have influenced and impacted just about everything we think of as “spiritual but not religious” here in America. Kudos to Phil for this highly readable and enlightening new book…a story that needed to be told.

As a certified yoga instructor and Buddhist meditator, I wove the themes of an “integral” approach to health, healing and conquering FEAR in my book, SHIFT: Let Go of Fear and Get Your Life in Gear. In my interview with Phil, we talked about how all the benefits of yoga and meditation have now been scientifically documented. Yet, we are quick to forget about the spiritual roots from which these powerful practices have evolved. If you’ve read my book then you know I’m a big believer in inter-weaving the power of the breath, the body, heart and mind into any approach we might take to dealing with life change.

If you’re on a spiritual path–and who isn’t these days?!–I highly recommend Phil’s book…it is a great companion piece to mine. Phil is hitting the road with workshops and talks this Spring all around the country…so check out his schedule at www.AmericanVeda.com and listen in to our interview. If you catch him on tour…don’t forget to tell him that I sent you!

With the rise of India and China as potential new superpowers — economically and demographically — it is fascinating to learn how much we are all inter-connected. As Phil points out in his book, we have been sharing ideas with Asia for hundreds of years. After all, we are all journeying through the mysteries of life on this tiny planet…together!

Check it out!

Namaste (one more phrase…from India!)

Dr j

Life Shifting Re-cap: De-toxify Your Life!

Well…it has been a week since the big first step into the holiday season with Thanksgiving and Black Friday. How did it go? Did you have your fill of food, fun…and family? Did you do the cyber-shopping thing this year or get up and out at 5am and storm down to the mall? I was in an outlet mall on Friday afternoon and I have to say it seemed surprisingly tame and calm. Surreal almost. The people there did seem to be in good spirits. It was nice to see smiles and sales…a nice combo!

Since we’re entering another holiday season, when many of us re-connect with loved ones with anxiety-producing results, I invited “Goddess Coach” Melissa Zwanger to join me this week on my radio show, Life Shifting with Dr J!

Melissa is an expert in helping women entrepreneurs and business leaders/owners take their organizations to greater heights of success…AND she is what I would call a “fitness trainer for the emotions”. Melissa specializes in helping people stay grounded, centered, and compassionate in even the most stressful of family situations.

The perfect guest to help me kick off this holiday season, Melissa comes armed with years of training in a whole host of healing modalities, and an MBA from Wharton. Melissa shared her top tips for “de-toxifying” your emotional self especially when confronted with difficult family members.

Here’s a quick summary of the steps Melissa recommended you take — should you get triggered once again by that curmudgeon uncle, a testy brother or judgmental mom:

1. identify the true feeling.

Key to cleansing, grounding and re-claiming your balance when you get knocked off center, is to step back, breathe, notice your bodily symptoms, and attempt to identify the true feeling. It may be sadness or anger or frustration. The starting point for release and re-centering involves creating a space–a physical, emotional, mental opening–even if only for a few seconds, where you can identify and tend to the underlying feeling.

Calm in the storm?

2. Separate the Feeling from the NEED.

Once you have a sense of WHAT feeling is being triggered in you, then you can begin to re-frame the situation and ask yourself a crucial question: What do I need right now? When strong negative emotions are stirred up in us, usually they are a signal that a deep need or maybe a hurt or trauma from the past is re-surfacing. It is well nigh impossible though, to ask another person to be supportive, or to change their behavior, unless you are CLEAR about what you want/need to have happen. Continue reading

Dancing on the High Wire of Life

Howdy all,

Time for a re-cap of my fabulous radio interview with Gabriele Ganswindt this past Monday on Life Shifting with Dr J. Such a cool conversation! Gabriele, psychologist and executive coach extraordinaire, is an expert on two of my favorite “Life-Shifting” themes: finding balance…and building resiliency in challenging times! A most timely topic no? You can listen to the full interview or download to Itunes/podcast with this link: http://www.transformationtalkradio.com/meet_shows.php?id=3991#

So here is your key question: HOW DO WE DO IT?

What to do?

How do we stay grounded, flexible and adaptable in the midst of what may feel like an “out-of-control” world?

A tough question, needless to say, but Gabriele says, “Don’t despair! There ARE practices and ways of being/thinking that can truly help us stay “on track” and centered, even in the midst of chaos.”

Gabriele knows of what she speaks: She is a successful business owner, a mother to two young children, a homemaker, a philanthropist, a writer, an ordained interfaith minister, an organization development consultant and life coach…and a survivor of a life-threatening illness. Continue reading

Releasing that S.O.B. called J.O.B.

A recent article in the NY Times called attention to a huge paradigm SHIFT that I’ve been noticing for a few years now: The “JOB” as we know it is on its way out! Like a wave that is building…getting ready to make land fall and wash away a cultural icon, the linear, full-time, boxed in life mode called “having a JOB” seems to be dying out. The article pointed out how millions of people coming out of the recession are making a conscious decision NOT to look for a job — but to craft a life built around consulting assignments, part-time work, and freelancing gigs. Welcome to the brave post-JOB world, where we are ALL called to be entrepreneurs and to create businesses, to craft work/life-styles that mine the talents, visions and passions that make us unique…and to bring those forth. In a word, welcome to the “portfolio” world!

Of course, we all know how painful it can be to lose one’s job, to be laid off, or re-engineered out of a corporate gig that we thought was a “secure” position. Losing a job can wreak havoc on our finances, our families, and our sense of security, but sometimes equally important is what it does to our sense of identity, raising the inevitable question: Without this JOB, who am I?

It may sound rather fantastical or unrealistic to speak this way, yet we are so quick to forget that the “full-time” job, and picture we have of work life made up of 60 hour weeks with a couple of weeks break in the summer or at holiday time if we are lucky, is relatively new on the cultural scene. The work world that we consider “normal” actually grew out of the Industrial Revolution–a time when factories arose to replace farms and people became cogs in the new machine of productivity. The “job” –as an arduous, exhausting, all-consuming, clamor up the rungs of a corporate ladder or scramble to get off the factory floor–is not etched in our DNA!

That said, writing as one who has felt the sting of unemployment myself over the years, I don’t want to be cavalier about this transition. It is a big SHIFT in our culture…and in our lives. BUT, and this is a big BUT, there is a true silver lining here, if we choose to see it that way. By letting go of the cultural fantasy that life is a straight line trip up the job/career ladder to nirvana (or golfing by the sea shore), we can reframe the change and see through to an opportunity to reinvent our relationship with WORK. We can begin to create new ways of being in the world that not only pay the bills, but nurture and nourish our creative spirits…and keep our soul’s alive.

So, if you’ve recently lost your job or are just wondering if it is time to step off the corporate ladder and try to fly solo or create a business, non-profit, or other way of working that might better aligned with your soul’s desire, here’s what I consider to be the 3 key steps for making the SHIFT (oh, and read my new book SHIFT too…where you’ll find a whole host of tools and practices to support your transformation:

Your Workbook for Life-Shifting!

1. Release: Letting go–or “being let go” (if the rug-pulling comes from outside your control, as is often the case) can be emotionally devastating to our egos. Grieving the loss, of a job, of an identity, of who we thought we were…takes time. Don’t criticize yourself for feeling a sense of loss, or sadness, just let the feelings come up and flow through you. Exercise, eat well, sleep a lot, if necessary, and be sure to share your true feelings with a loving companion, therapist or coach. Grieving is part of the process of letting go–it doesn’t take forever but it does need to be honored.

Try not to be freaked out by the symptoms of change. Anxiety, stress, worry, lethargy, boredom, mild depression are all naturally occurring symptoms when we are feeling stuck, in a RUT, or experience a rupture in our lives. They, and you, are NORMAL! Our protective egos will try desperately to “rev us up” (anxiety) or shut us down (boredom/depression), as a way to protect us from CHANGE.

Vent...breathe...vent some more...breathe...and...release!


We are bombarded with advertisements and self-help books all wanting to help us alleviate the symptoms and get back on that treadmill. It is ok to want to feel better–but don’t miss the forest by getting caught up in the trees. Sometimes symptoms of FEAR (which most of these are!) are a gift in disguise, calling us forth to do the inner work of re-inventing our relationships, our careers, jettisoning our small view of ourselves as “nine-to-five-ers” or just good enough to hold on to that S.O.B. of a job.

2. Reframe: Step back, take a deep breath, and look for the gift, the opportunity, and the possibilities that are all around you, even in the wake of a major job loss. Do a lot of journaling–about your passions, your gifts, your dreams. Put together a list of what you KNOW YOU ARE GOOD AT…and ask everyone you trust and love what gifts they think you bring to the world. Letting go of the victim energy and going inside ourselves to re-connect with the “through-line” of our passions, our talents and our capabilities is the crucial transitional shift required to begin again.

Embrace your ever-present inner beginner!


3. Re-invent: Create a vision–not a specific goal, but a picture/fantasy–of how you’d like to be living and what work you see yourself doing a year from now…and five years from now. Write a mission statement and create a “vision board”–a collage–that operates as a billboard for the new brand you are crafting in the world. As Tom Peters would say: the advert for YOU, INC.

Then start reaching out to people and offering to help, to serve and provide your talents/capabilities to the world. Don’t “network” in the outmoded ways (collecting business cards: NOT!), but connect with like-minded people, build relationships with key people who you admire, who are doing work in the world that is aligned with your passions and your new ways of seeing yourself. Remember: one deep, abiding relationship is all it takes to link you to the next great adventure in the work of your life. Networking is not about quantity…but quality!

the cirle of giving...always gives back!


Create a whole surfeit of resumes, websites, and FB pages that proclaim your gifts…and, finally, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to GIVE AWAY your time, your energy and your efforts to those who need your help. Giving of yourself, in the areas aligned with your passions/talents is the surest way to have the universe return the favor–in the guise of paid gigs, consulting/p-t work…and very likely, (God forbid) that old stand-by, another J.O.B.

We live in a time of great upheaval–where SHIFTS have become the norm…and the full-time j.o.b. seems to be disappearing. But, deep down, I believe this is all good news: a new day is also dawning (a key theme in my new book: ENDINGS always segue into BEGINNINGS!) when the idea of a “job” is being replaced with something new, something better, something more connected to who we are as humans: the integration of work, passion and play. Can you imagine a day when our adult lives are no longer bounded by “work days” and “vacation days?” A time when we love our work so much that we don’t “need” a vacation from it?

Step up to your growing edge...take the leap...and soar!

Or am I just crazy? What do you think?

Cheers,

Dr J

Sun may set on your job...but rise to the work of your life!

The Trouble With Happiness: Part Two–The Tyranny of “Should”

I have a “fantasy quiz” for you to help jump start this gray, rainy day: If you could “delete” any word, any single word from the English language, because you thought it would make life ever so much more enjoyable, what would it be?

Well…there are the obvious choices: hate, rage, anger, violence. I’m with you. Perhaps you thought, given the themes of my recent blogs, “I know, he’s gonna want us to banish ‘happiness’ from our vocabulary.” Umm…perhaps I would consider this, but no, that’s not the word that I would ultimately choose. We all recognize the "should-meister"Here’s my choice for the bad ass term that life would be ever so much better without: “should“! 🙂

Happiness, as I discussed in my last blog, is a particularly elusive goal. Our cultural addiction to it and our life long dance with it—to my mind—can be a toxic combination. Yet, what really gets us in trouble is the double whammy of suffering that ensues when, driving along the bumpy–and far from linear–road to happiness, we pick up that extra passenger known as, “I SHOULD be happy.”

Should is a particularly egregious term, because so often when it appears, it is a signal, a flash point, for resistance to change–and resistance, playing its role in this toxic game, is almost always a tip-off for FEAR (ummm, perhaps that is the word I’d most want to get rid of…).

Let’s walk through a couple of examples, so you can see how happiness, difficult to experience even in the best of times, gets totally de-railed in the wake of “should”. My client Peter and his partner have been together for fourteen years. They have had their ups and downs–as all couples do–but recently they’ve been on the skids. It seems that Roger (the partner) tends to be harshly critical of Peter, at times bordering on verbal abuse, and his lack of support for Peter’s career growth (most notably in the wake of his own feelings of inadequacy), have led to Peter’s seriously considering ending the relationship.

The dance of intimacy should look like...?

The dance of intimacy should look like...?


Of course, as with all intimate partner dynamics, the situation is much more complex than this, and there is no right or wrong player: everyone in the dance of relationship plays their role, for good or ill.

However, what is particularly striking in the example is the stridency with which Peter reacts to the situation, jumping on his high horse (as we all sometimes do) and beating both himself and Peter to a pulp with “shoulds”: “I’m such a idiot. I should have left the relationship a long time ago.” He goes on, “I don’t know what’s the matter with me, I mean, I should be happy…I should get unconditional love and support from my partner. I should…” (well, you get the idea).

And here’s another example we can probably all relate to. A client I’ll call Mary sends me an email: “I’m not doing well. Can’t seem to drag myself out from under the covers today. I know that I should be up and motivated. I should be getting myself in gear. I shouldn’t be so lazy…” Again, you get the idea.

And finally, lest you think the “should-disease” only strikes my client list, let me share with you the thought process that I often cycled through during the first two to three weeks after my recent mother’s death. It went something like this: “I knew she was dying for a long time, so I should be able to handle it better. I should be able to take care of things and move forward more quickly. As the executor of the estate, I should just get to work on all the paperwork and stop procrastinating. As a psychologist, I know that I need to grieve, SO, I should be able to grieve at night and still work, happily (argh!!!) with my clients during the day…”

Ok, I’m sure you get the idea.

Here’s the rub: we are so addicted to the “idea” of being happy in this culture, that we beat ourselves up whenever life appears other than aligned with this lofty–and quite often–unattainable goal. In all three examples above, “should” is a euphemism, a stand-in, for “something is wrong” with my life. I don’t accept life AS IT IS…and either it (life) or I (me) needs to change.

What’s so insidious about “should” is that it gets us coming and going. It is equally capable of projecting our dissatisfaction with the status quo on the outside world, making it wrong, or tearing up the world inside head, heart and soul–and making me/us wrong. Either way, “should” is a killjoy.

Should: the sure way to short circuit happiness

Should: the sure way to short circuit happiness

In the case of Peter and Roger, Peter’s “should” is mostly a complaint about Roger: If only Roger were different then Peter might be happy. Yet, he also makes it about himself as well, declaring himself an “idiot” for not choosing a “better” partner or for being unable to “make” Roger change. In the other cases, with me and Mary, the de-railing troublemaker on the road to happiness is solely generated from the inside out. We play out something along these lines: “If only (another variation on the “should game”) I were different, better, more motivated–something—then I would be happy.

So what is the antidote to the twisted logic of “should”?

As I think about how to support Peter, Mary or myself, when in the throes of the “should disease,” I try look underneath—to see below the surface chatter of the mind—and observe and connect with the emotional pain that underpins “should.” In its many internal and external guises, “should” is usually a sign of resistance to WHAT IS….and resistance, at its core, is almost always FEAR.

Deep down in our emotional core—often hiding out in the pit of our stomachs, our attachment to the goal of happiness generates FEAR. Can you see the connection?

Swimming in fear-infested waters?

Swimming in fear-infested waters?

Take a moment and think about what the deeper voice–the one bubbling up from the depths, might be saying to Peter, or to Mary…or to me (when in the throes of “should”):

“I am afraid to let go of my partner. I am afraid to change. I am afraid that he doesn’t love me.”

“I am afraid to get up in the morning. I am afraid that my life will be a failure. I am afraid that my life IS a failure.”

“I am afraid that I won’t ever stop grieving. I am afraid that I am truly depressed and won’t ever be able to help people…ever again.”

At the end of the day, if I could return to my fantasy word banishment quiz, I’d like to change the rules. I’d KEEP both words—happiness and should—but banish them from ever being used in the same sentence. That should help. LOL.

Byron Katie, in her powerful book, “Loving What Is” has the right idea: the source of our unhappiness can be found in our attachment to having things look OTHER than the way they really are. We just need to learn to step back, breathe—let go of “shoulds”—and ACCEPT life — and as Katie might say, “love life just as it is” and the shark-infested waters of fear will recede.

Life is not a straight line progressing upward towards a peak point called “happy.” It is at best an endless (although in this form it DOES end!) series of cycles which — like the seasons — guarantee us nothing more than that they will CHANGE.

Happiness, when sought after with the fear-based demand of should, is a profoundly frustrating paradox, very often providing us the exact opposite of what we are looking for. On the other hand, there is good news: there is no reason why we can’t be “happy” a great deal of the time, but — and this is a big BUT — we need to embrace what is right in front of us at any given moment: light and dark, sun and clouds, grief and joy, all of it.

The only route to take...

The only route to take...

The tyrannical “should” is truly an emperor with no clothes: we just need to strip him/her naked, take a deep breath…and sink, or perhaps dive (?), head first… into the mud of WHAT IS!

Playing in the mud of life...now that's happy!  :)

Playing in the mud of life...now that's happy! 🙂

Dr J