How to Meditate and Be More Mindful

This is How Positive Change Happens… When I work with people in individual counselling or couples counselling in Vancouver or via skype, I often hear requests for “tools”. That makes so much sense. We need tools to be able to achieve our goals in life whether that’s better communication or to feel more relaxed. Many people also tell me they “want to learn to meditate”. I always think “That’s a good idea” when I hear that because I know from my own experience that meditation brings many benefits and serves to improve our emotional and physical well-being as well as our relationships. In order to support the requests of “more tools” and the aspiration of  “I want to learn to meditate”, I want to pass onto you an excellent new tool that makes it very accessible to learn and practice meditation. It’s a book called The Mindful Teen created by my colleague, Dr. Dzung Vo. This resource helps us to develop mindfulness in our daily lives whether we’re teens or older. Dr. Vo gives us tools to help us slow down, connect more deeply, restore ourselves, be more present, and live more compassionately. To learn more, go to The Mindful Teen website: mindfulnessforteens.com You may also want to try some of the really good quality guided meditations Dr. Vo offers on his website (most are less than 5 min long and there’s also a 30 min Body Scan meditation). In my work with people in counselling, I often recommend using tools such as the guided meditatons Dr. Vo offers to support progress on other goals like anger management, stress or anxiety reduction, healing...

Self-Care is Giving to Others too

This is How Positive Change Happens… I just read an excellent article on self-care and one of the main obstacles to it: co-dependency or a pattern of focusing too much on other people and how they are/how their needs are being met to the neglect of focusing enough energy and action on getting one’s own needs met in life. Sometimes, this is understood as the balance between self-focus and other-focus. Self-care can sound like an easy thing to do but it can be a significant challenge because in order to do it on a regular basis the following is also needed:  healthy boundaries and the ability to assert and maintain them, enough self-esteem or enough of a sense that we are valuable and important too, support from family/friends, and the ability to slow down enough so there’s even room available for self-care in a relaxed kind of way not just as another task to jam into the busy schedule. So everytime you manage to practice some self-care, appreciate it as the triumph it truly is. To learn more about co-dependency and self-care, check out this article from the GoodTherapy.org website: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/self-care-enhance-relationship To book in for some extra support through individual counselling or couples counselling in Vancouver, call or email me...

Addiction & the Need for Connection

This is How Positive Change Happens… Today, my mind has been wonderfully blown and my heart has been beautifully blasted open. I’m so grateful a colleague shared an article with me that offers a fresh and amazing perspective on addiction, the causes of it, and the effective recovery from it. I feel inspired to share this article (link below) with you. Please share it with anyone you know who struggles with addiction and/or loves someone who struggles with it. To clarify, when I use the word “addiction” I mean any behaviour that someone does in a compulisve way that backfires on them and their relationships. This could be anything from staying online too long to drinking too much or using a drug too much. Another good gauge for checking in about addictive behaviour is:  Does part of me know this behaviour isn’t really good for me and my relationships but I’m doing it anyway? If the answer is “yes”, you’re engaging in some kind of compulsive, addictive behaviour that has negative consquences. Some people I work with have answered “yes” to the above and want to make a positive change but don’t know how. As the brilliant article I read today shows, we’ve often been trying to make those changes in ways that don’t really work. In order to break free from addiction, we can not go it alone. We need to get more connected to people that matter to us, people that can support us, people that can be there for us. Otherwise, we’ll go back to the addiction and/or find a new one. In addition, in order to...

From Criticism and Blame to What?

This is How Positive Change Happens… From Criticism and Blame to What? One of the biggest obstacles we can experience in communication is attempting to address issues or resolve concerns by coming at the other person with criticism/blame. That approach almost always triggers defensiveness (often in the form of a criticism too) and/or shutting down. It just doesn’t seem to work and we’re in a worst place to boot. When I work with people in individual counselling or couples counselling in my practice in Vancouver, we often do focused work on effectively dealing with this obstacle. The solution is not to back away from addressing our concerns but rather to change HOW we do it. That’s where excellent guidance from the work of the Gottmans as well Dr.Marshall Rosenberg come in. The relationship experts, Drs. John and Julie Gottman, have identified criticism as one of the top toxic behaviours we do and gladly, they offer us the antidote too: complain without blame. Useful but I often find people I work with don’t really know HOW to do that (which is completely understandable). That’s where I like to offer the tool of Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (NVC). NVC is a very clear, four step process we can follow, like a map, to address our concerns in a way that the listener is way more likely to actually be able to respond to them. You can practice applying NVC today. Here’s an infographic and a link that show you what NVC is and how to use it:   http://www.nonviolentcommunication.com/aboutnvc/4partprocess.htm      ...

Remember Death: The Best Intervention?

This is How Positive Change Happens… Remember Death: The Best Intervention? I worked with a client who was having difficulty sleeping because their mind and heart began to get intensely preoccupied with that fact that they were going die. This person did not have an illness and they were not in any real danger. They were going to die…like all of us. They expressed this preoccupation with their impeding death (eventually) as a bad thing they were doing and that needed to be shut down at once. To their initial surprise, with curiosity, I asked, “If there was some wisdom in these death thoughts, what might that be?”. My client paused and perhaps, thought I was a little crazy. But then, the wisdom came. As they shared more, it became clear that a part of them, let’s call it “Remember Death”, was telling them to live more. Every day they were spending a significant amount of time surfing the internet and checking social media sites. As compelling as that was for another more superficial part, the deep Remember Death part knew that they were getting lost and wasting their life. Remember Death could hear the yearning for far more meaningful, challenging, and vibrant experiences and knew that continuing to postpone them was a very risky game to play. As this wisdom was revealed, a sense of relief washed over them and even an appreciation for the fact that they had been going through this whole seemingly weird death obsession. They could feel their own brilliance. And better yet, they were now inspired to live more. I asked them to...

The Gottman Couples Retreat Board Game

This is How Positive Change Happens… Great News! The Gottman Couples Retreat Board Game Relationships can be really hard sometimes. That’s why we need lots of tools to deal with the inevitable conflicts, disconnects, and slumps. One of the effective tools I offer in couples therapy are approaches from the research-based work of Drs. John and Julie Gottman. In my work with couples, I support them to learn and practice new behaviours that are proven to strengthen relationships such as shifting from criticism to complaining without blame and from defensiveness to increasing accountability. The Gottmans and their team have poured a lot of time and energy into deeply observing what kind of behaviours work well in a relationship and which behaviours erode it or destroy it. Their findings provide some very concrete information we can practice in our relationships. And just this week, I was happy to receive the news that the Gottmans are offering their incredibly valuable tools in a board game! Yes, let’s make working on our relationships FUN, whenever possible! Here’s the link in case you’d like to play at home and enhance your relationship in a new, impactful, and fun way: http://www.gottman.com/couples-retreat-board-game/...

The Criticism – Defense Dance

This is How Positive Change Happens… The Criticism – Defense Dance Most of the time, when we perceive we have been criticized, we react with defensiveness. Sometimes, our defensiveness includes an attack on or a criticism of the other person. So then, they get defensive back. On and on this hellish dance can go. In some relationships, it can go on for years. In others, it is short lived, either because we part ways negatively, or we start to hold ourselves accountable and take the challenge to learn to communicate more effectively. When I work with people in couples counselling, dealing with the critcism-defense dance is almost always a key part of the work. I know if you’re reading this you care about learning to communicate more effectively. I encourage you to practice with the following phrases: I hear criticism. Can you re-phrase that? OR I hear criticism. Can you speak to me more gently? It takes awareness, honesty, and courage to be able to state this to someone. Initially, it may feel very uncomfortable to state this because you’ll be getting out of the usual retaliation/defensive mode. Or maybe you have gotten into the habit of pretending you don’t feel criticized (or hurt) when you do. When you practice saying one of the above phrases, you may get a reaction that goes something like this: “Well, I’m not criticizing you…” or “It’s not my intention to criticize you, I’m just saying…”. These are defensive reactions.The fact is that it doesn’t matter whether the person was actually criticizing you or not; what matters most is that you hear it...

Compassionate Forgiveness

This is How Positive Change Happens… Compassionate Forgiveness One of my newsletter subscribers wrote and asked me if I would write about forgiveness.  I am happy to take on the challenge. I say “challenge” because I have long felt that forgiveness, as a concept and as an act, is difficult to really grasp in an authentic way. I better understand “forgiveness” by understanding the practice of compassion. The term “compassionate forgiveness” resonates with me. When we activate compassion in ourselves we open ourselves to acknowledging and feeling our own suffering and the suffering of another. With compassion, we can understand with our hearts (not just our heads) that someone has hurt us because they are suffering. When we know this, we can experience softening, understanding, and release. I have noticed that some people often think they “should” forgive someone and in doing so, they prematurely force themselves into forgiving. The true experience of forgiveness is not reflected in how their body reacts when they think about or talk about the other person. This is not authentic forgiveness. It’s an act of “spiritual bypassing” or forcing oneself to feel forgiveness (or any other emotion/spiritual state) when one is not ready to do so.  We can prevent this by focusing on attending to our wounds first. When someone has hurt us, it’s best to start with giving compassionate forgiveness to ourselves.  When we meet ourselves with a more open and soft heart, we experience healing and, from that place, then we can actually feel compassion and forgiveness for another. Here’s a couple of exercises that can help us to feel more compassionate...

Not Waiting for Others

Real change occurs for us when we are able to stop waiting around for others to change and instead step forward and give ourselves the healing and freedom we seek.