How to leap tall buildings in a single bound

The only way to find the limits of the possible is by going beyond them to the impossible. – Arthur C. Clarke During much of my childhood, I lived in the realm of possibility: machine intelligences, aliens, mutants, future worlds, alternate pasts. Infinite possibilities. My first science fiction book was Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot. I was 10 when I found a copy at a Temple Sinai rummage sale. It opened the universe to…

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The Cast of Characters

NOTE: I’ve been working with an illustrator on the characters in my forthcoming book on balance and thought you might be interested in what we’ve developed. Here’s the cast of characters and a brief introduction to them. Know thy self, know thy enemy. – Sun Tzu, The Art of War This is a book about balance: What disrupts it, what restores it, and how to keep it going. It is also a story,…

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Miracles

There are two ways to live: You can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle. – Albert Einstein I am a miracle worker by trade. Or more precisely, a facilitator of miracles. I state this with humility. My powers are as ordinary as those of the Wizard of Oz, whose only real magic was tricking Dorothy, the Tin Woodsman, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly…

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Got Anxiety? How to Help

NOTE: This article first appeared on lifehack.org, where I am now a columnist. In Part I of this two-part series, we looked at what anxiety is and how to tell if you or someone close to you is suffering from an anxiety disorder. Now let’s explore the causes of anxiety disorders and the treatments for them. We’ll also delve into the best self-help strategies anxiety sufferers can practice themselves and how their friends and families…

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The Two Faces of “Anxious”

NOTE: This post first appeared on lifehack.org, where I am now a columnist. “Anxious” is a word with two faces. Sometimes it means eager excitement. “I’m anxious to see you!” we say, as we get off the phone with a friend who’s coming to visit. The other side of “anxious” is a bit darker: “I’m anxious about that test,” we say, when we’re worried about the results. We call the second meaning “anxiety,”…

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My love affair with Georgia O’Keeffe

For many years, people have pointed out that my Flower Mandalas must have been influenced by the flower paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe – which, of course, was not lost on me. But it was not until I traveled to Santa Fe and then north to Abiquiu and nearby Ghost Ranch that I understood how deep that influence was. I feel more at home and at peace (and at the same time, as the…

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How Art Makes You Stronger: Creativity and Madness

I’ve just returned from an incredible week at the Creativity and Madness conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I wanted to share a little about the conference itself and what I presented there. The conference is the creation of psychiatrist Dr. Barry Panter and Mary Lou Panter and is currently run by Dr. Panter and his wife, Jacqueline Berz Panter. Barry began it 35 years ago as a way for health and…

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Be the Change

A man cannot step into the same river twice. – Heraclitis of Ephesus I came of age in the late ’60s, the era of the first man on the moon, the Vietnam War, Woodstock, free love, civil rights marches, and the assassinations of iconic figures including Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X. It was a time of reinventing the mores, values, and attitudes of the Depression-era parents who raised us. Bob…

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5 Topics: A very short manifesto

        “There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War An editor at lifehack.org recently asked me what topics I would choose if I could write about only 5. The question brought meaning and purpose into sharper focus. These are the topics I chose: Acceptance, Gratitude, Perseverance, Self-Love,…

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The Gratitude Cure for (Almost) Everything

Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul. – Henry Ward Beecher During my recuperation from a brush with death, a high school friend sent me a letter. In it, he hypothesized that as a survivor of near-death, every moment for me must be exquisitely sweet, a precious gift, in ways he could not imagine. At first, he was mostly right. Despite the pain, my initial response was celebratory. But the…

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When Failure is an Option

Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat. – F. Scott Fitzgerald In our success-driven culture, there seems to be no end of helpful adages for dealing with failure. But “failure is not an option” is small comfort to those who believe they have already failed, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” seldom encourages the already discouraged, and “we learn more from failure than from success” is scant consolation…

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How to (Really) Listen

The first duty of love is to listen. – Paul Tillich Failures to listen are endemic to our species. The most common complaint from parents who bring their children to me for counseling is that “they don’t listen,” by which the parent usually means that the child does not obey. When I talk with children, they likewise complain that their parents don’t listen, but they mean it literally. Failure to listen to children…

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15 Self-Help Books that Really Helped

If you type “self-help books” into Amazon’s “Books” category, you’ll get more than 675,000 hits, and their “Kindle” category lists nearly 300,000. That’s a lot of self-help! But how many of these books have actually helped? And how many books outside the “self-help” category have been even more helpful? Just for kicks, I drew up a list of the 15 books that, over the course of my lifetime, I’ve found most helpful, either…

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Stay Sane with the Personal Craziness Index

To stay sane in an insane world, we need more than new tools and techniques. To maintain sanity, we also have to keep doing the things that got us there. The final piece of the resilience puzzle is to build Balancer-enhancing attitudes and practices into our daily lives, so they are as much a part of our routines as breathing. Then we keep watch to make sure we’re staying on track. When Balancer…

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Three Ways to Mix Mindfulness into Your Life

At the risk of stating the obvious, in order for Balancer to keep us balanced, it’s helpful to do activities that explicitly promote … balance. Mindfulness-based activities are at the top of the list. The term mindfulness, the state of being focused on the present moment, without judgement, has become part of the zeitgeist in the past several years, and for good reason. The benefits of mindfulness-based activities are physical, emotional, and psychological.…

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Handling Change, Part I:
Radical Acceptance and Self-Compassion

Emotional adaptability is the ability to respond to changing circumstances and events without being unduly shaken by these changes. It’s a Balancer characteristic and a key component of resilience. Those of us who are emotionally adaptable can bend with the wind, like saplings. Those of us who are less adaptable are likely to strain and crack as we struggle to maintain equilibrium. Emotional adaptability varies from person to person and can also be…

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Handling Change, Part II:
Forgiveness and Self-Forgiveness

Forgiveness and Self-Forgiveness Like acceptance and compassion, the ability to forgive ourselves and others can free us from what Romantic poet William Blake called “mind-forged manacles” – in this case, feelings such as anger, hatred, resentment, guilt, shame, and victimization. Liberation from these feelings through forgiveness can help us be more available in the present moment and more adaptable to its ever-changing conditions. Forgiveness, however is sometimes difficult to achieve. Some obstacles to…

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Handling Change, Part III:
Creative Approach and Experimental Attitude

Creative Approach Creative activities – and the creative approach to life that often accompanies them – can also help us become more emotionally adaptable. Creative activities are rewarding as outlets for self-expression. They feel good, they are centering, and they give us a sense of accomplishment. And they’re often fun! But besides these more obvious benefits, creative activities can also change the way we approach our lives. When we work creatively, we dive…

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Strive for Excellence, Not Perfection

My father was a storekeeper and the son of working-class immigrants. He wanted his children to do better than he had, and he believed the gateway to a successful life was education. Consequently, he held me, his firstborn, to high academic standards. This meant I had to get A’s, and to earn my father’s approval I abandoned many other activities so I could focus on schoolwork. By the time I completed high school,…

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How to Boost Connections and Support

For most of us, UnBalancer flourishes when we’re isolated. We are social animals, and separation from others weakens our ability not only to thrive, but sometimes even to survive. Ostracism – being ignored and excluded – threatens our basic need for belonging. In other mammals, being ostracized removes the individual from the protection of the pack and usually results in death from predators or starvation. Human beings are hard-wired to fear ostracism, so…

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