Archive: Balance

Mirrors – How to get the most out of life with them

Dear friend,

We all remember those special times when we connected beautifully with someone, even for a brief moment.  When a kind stranger helped us as a child, perhaps, or when we met the person we eventually married; when we had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time to connect with someone we truly admire.  Those are moments in time that define us, and they are probably as fresh now as when they happened.  They helped to shape who we are today; we remember those times with fondness and often, gratitude.

There are smaller, less significant, yet equally important events that happen daily, that we might not notice as much.  Like when someone lets us in in heavy traffic, or holds the door open for us at closing time, or even gives us a little extra when we go out for lunch.  They are all genuine acts of kindness, where nothing is expected from us in return.  Most if not all of us feel a lift when that happens, and often end up returning that random act of kindness by “paying it forward” to another person we meet.

These instances give us mirrors into our own souls; they are all moments when someone said “I see you”, and reflect back to us through their eyes what we are giving them.

Then there are other kinds of mirrors we like less; those that can be opportunities for growth.  These can be instances when we are triggered by someone – someone who reminds us of others or other past instances that still make us angry, judgmental, embarrassed, protective – and produces in us a compulsion to armor and defend ourselves.  These are the interesting ones because they are the hardest to deal with. They also bring with them the potential for greatest spiritual growth.

Life will always provide these mirrors, and they will keep returning in our lives until we do deal with them.  Here’s a personal example: I have a teacher, who I admire and who also is very demanding.  At times when I’m not prepared, she will comment on something she’s noticed that she thinks I need to look at, and at times I find myself triggered into anger.  My inner dialogue sounds something like this: She’s judging me again! She doesn’t seem to understand I’ve done this before and don’t need this kind of thing.  I feel completely unseen by her! I wish she’d see me and stop judging me!

Byron Katie talks about this kind of mirror in her book Loving What Is. In fact, the entire book is about turning these times around where we find ourselves defensive and judging others.  She calls this process The Work. This isn’t the place to go into how it works; I simply want to demonstrate what I learned about myself when I applied it to the above.

I first asked myself if “She’s judging me again” was true.  On the surface, with no inquiry on my part, it seemed true; there was a certain comfort for me in thinking it was true.  But actually I had no idea whether or not it was true.  In one sense it was true; after all she is my teacher and it’s her job to judge me. In another sense – in the sense that she was triggering me – I had no idea. Then I asked: how do I react when I believe it’s true?  How I react is with anger.  On the other hand, who would I be without thinking she was judging me personally?  The answer: I’d be fine, and able to take in her comments without rancor.  Finally, what happens when I turn this statement around?  For instance, “I’m judging her again”, or ”I’m judging me again”, or even “She isn’t judging me again” – are these at least as true as the initial statement?  In this case, the first two turnaround statements are definitely true, and give me the mirror I need to see – that it’s me who’s judging personally – both me and her. The last statement, if true, would be devastating; after all, if she isn’t judging me, what is our relationship really about?

What I’ve just demonstrated is a very simplified version of what Katie goes through in her book. It’s a powerful tool that helps us see the reflection that someone else is ultimately gifting us.

The point? Every moment that impacts us is a mirror moment, a moment when the universe is giving us a reflection of ourselves.  Without these moments, we’d never grow and learn. And life would be a lot less interesting.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

Byron Katie – The Work Explained

Quote of the Week
If you want to find the real competition, just look in the mirror. After awhile you’ll see your rivals scrambling for second place.
― Criss Jami, Killosophy


At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website or contact me directly at

The power of adversity


I grew up in chaos.  My mother contracted MS early on, then miraculously went into remission, leaving only numb fingers for some years.  Later on, the nerve damage was more impactful, but most of the time growing up, her MS had only one major impact on the rest of us.  That’s right, chaos.

You see, as she was lying on her bed, day after day, unable to move or see, she would contemplate many things; and the biggest thing was: what was truly important to her.  As a result, when the miracle happened, she no longer considered things like housework and order to be all that important.  Creativity, on the other hand, was vastly important, but only a certain kind of creativity – creativity that led to practical solutions, and that bettered our lot in what she considered a meaningful way every day.  So, art was out, but sewing and designing clothing was in; ballet was out, but working in clay creating pots and dinner-wear was in; writing was out but cooking well definitely was in.  One other thing that happened is that us kids were expected to take up the slack in housekeeping, and even though I won’t go into what that looked like, I will suggest you take a few creative moments imagining what 4 kids might do with it.

This molded certain ways I operated into adulthood.  For instance, I would witness friends and associates struggling with whether or not to do what their parents were against, and would get that, in this way, I was fortunate.  I remember thinking more than once as an adult making my own way:  Wow!  This would have been a lot harder if I hadn’t grown up with chaos! We were a pretty independent bunch, and that gave me something very precious: personal power.

Yes, there were many ways in which I didn’t have this power and had to learn to regain it, but not when it came to my own independence. I had that in spades, and all because of the adversity I met in childhood.

Research and scholarly wisdom has thus far focused on the detrimental effects of childhood abuse and/or adversity. Willem Frankenhuis and Carolina de Weerth in their research paper Does Early-Life Exposure to Stress Shape or Impare Cognigion?  discuss evidence showing that, in addition to the detrimental impact of childhood abuse, there are some positives.  This doesn’t negate the negative impacts of such abuse, which can be severe, far reaching, and difficult to correct.  What it does show is that adults who experienced childhood abuse or adversity have, compared to safely nurtured children, better skills that help them deal with potential threats.  These people are better at detection, learning, and memory on tasks that protect them from these possible dangers.

One often-sited example is the study where children are given the option of delayed or immediate gratification, knowing they will receive a larger treat if they delay than if they don’t delay.  Children raised in an emotionally safe environment will opt for delayed gratification; those raised in a stressed unsafe one will opt for the “fast” immediate option, strategizing that something is better than nothing.  These children can never count on a stable environment and so they take what is offered in the moment rather than wait for what might never happen. Both strategies make sense, considering the two different environments.

Another example is the ability to shift focus in unpredictable environments.  Adults from adverse childhood backgrounds are, on the whole, better at shifting focus without loss of accuracy than their peers from stable childhood backgrounds. In other words, flexibility in times of instability is easier for the first set of adults, which is an asset in unsafe times.

The big learning for me from this study is this: no matter what our background is, children take whatever situation they end up with and adapt as best they can.  In Gestalt Therapy, this is called Creative Adjustment. It’s wonderful to know that we have this capacity in us; it’s something some of us can truly appreciate as a strength that is well-earned.


Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at .

Is It Depression or Something Else?


Many celebrities are talking about the positive mental health movement. They want to take away the stigma of mental health challenges and encourage everyone to be more proactive. While I was thinking about today’s post, I came across a story on a popular TV show that dealt with depression…. only the lady didn’t have depression. In fact, she had pancreatic cancer! Her psychiatrist was seeing her for other reasons, noticed the change, and encouraged a follow-up with her doctor.

Depression is serious on its own, but sometimes there are underlining medical issues that need to be considered (or ruled out) before anyone starts treatment for depression. We tend not to think about underlining medical causes for depression because, well – we tend to be busy people with varied stressors within our lives. Depression can happen or we can be hiding it for years, or we don’t want to deal with the stigma of seeing a mental health professional and then we decide to simply “live with it”.

I’m here to tell you, today, that simply “living with it” isn’t a good option because you deserve to address your happiness – or, in rare cases, an underlining medical condition!

I am GIVING AWAY online therapy consultations. I can help you discover what the online therapy benefits are and you get to test-drive my services and see if we are a good match. To learn more about me, my programs, and read my free blog- please click here:

Patience, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness


There are 7 pillars of mindfulness that are contemplated as part of a Buddhist practice.  Cultivating patience is one of these.

It’s said that with patience, we understand and accept that sometimes things must unfold in their own time.  In this way, patience is a form of wisdom – it reminds us that we, along with every thing in existence is in process, and that this process can’t be hurried.  Try forcing a square peg into a round hole: if you persist, the peg will likely break and the hole will become deformed.  The same happens with every process we attempt to force.

So often, it’s us we try to force, becoming impatient with our own process. We loose weight too slowly (then gain it back too quickly); we keep stumbling over mistakes while learning, ignoring or forgetting that stumbling is a necessary part of learning; we want it all – NOW – knowing in the back of our minds that anything worthwhile takes time.

I’d like to distinguish the mindful quality of patience from a natural energetic that some of us have that’s called impatience.  Some of us naturally move fast, think fast, walk fast.  If you’re like this, it’s as natural for you to be this way as it is for someone else to saunter.  Trying to force yourself to slow down wouldn’t work any better than trying to force a slow person to speed up, and may indicate an impatience to achieve some kind of imagined perfection that actually goes against what you are naturally.  It’s a kind of lack of acceptance and tollerance that I’ll cover in a few weeks.

Patience brings self-compassion to our awareness, helping us acknowledge and accept our own process. This kind of compassion melts away all inner resistance, allowing us to be open to each moment as it happens – without judgment – trusting that the process is unfolding perfectly as it is.

The next time you find yourself getting impatient with something you’re doing – even meditating (many of us believe there is a “right” way to meditate, for instance) – take some time to be with the feeling, and with the sensations this creates in your body.  Let is simply be, taking an interest in your natural, organic process of being with these feelings and sensations.

I first read of the 7 pillars of mindfulness in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness Full Catastrophe Living. These pillars are Buddhist principles that help us be present and mindful in our everyday living. The 7 meditations I offer to anyone who signs up on my website are based on these, and I use them in my own meditation practice.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at .

How being depressed is hopeful

Dr. Peter Breggin is a rare bird – a psychiatrist who does not believe in drugs.  He has been a psychotherapist (and psychiatrist) for over 45 years.

He never gives psychiatric drugs to people who are depressed – there are too many warnings on these drugs, and could very well make them feel worse.

He believes, as I do, that depression is a total loss of hope. When we have hope, we think we have a future, love, companionship and connection.  Hopelessness is a loss of all this.  The loss of hope may have begun in childhood or later in life, but the one measure that can predict recovery from depression is hopefulness.

Yes, there is likely a chemical imbalance in the brain, but that is not the cause – just another result of the loss of hopefulness.  Therefore, the most fundamental thing to help someone – and to help yourself if you’re depressed – is to build a hopeful relationship. A loving and supportive relationship with another. If possible, discover where you lost hope, and then seek help to unravel that time in your life, re-adding hopefulness into your life and re-taking charge.

There is a truism that once we realize it, we realize we’ve always known it: that we can only get what we seek; and so this means that if we want to enjoy life, we must seek what we love to do. It’s something we need to take charge of, not something that will necessarily come our way otherwise.

Being depressed can actually be a hopeful sign, because it means you still have feelings: that you hate where you’re at means that you know where you want to be. Your feelings mean you have a passion and a huge capacity for life that has been thwarted and inhibited by life circumstances.

If you’re depressed, then see if you can find the passion that’s been buried under pain and disappointment, and find the help you need to unearth and revive it. Rediscover what you’re missing, what you’ve lost, what blocks it. It’s in each of our hands to discover how we want to live and then to do just that.

Mona Lisa of the Dust Bowl


Quote of the Day
We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.


At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my or contact me directly


Hanging in there – the difference between success and failure

When I researched this topic, most the material I read focused on the success or failure of a particular business venture. What we do is part of our lives and failure in that arena can feel like failure in life.  But I was really thinking about life in general because many people who don’t have great success in their jobs have amazingly successful lives: their happy, healthy, active, and connected with their world.

I believe that’s what most of us want, and why we try so hard to be successful in what we do.  A flaw in this thinking is that once we achieve success, we often find we aren’t any happier than before. Success is more a feeling than a condition – feeling happy supports and even enhances health; and both health and happiness inspire us to be active in our world.

Wayne Dyer  believes that feeling successful depends on a single truth: Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.

In other words, when we have a positive view of ourselves, our lives and our world, what we see is what is positive and beneficial to life and to ourselves.  The world hasn’t changed, only our own focus. We still see the negative, but our focus isn’t on that part of life.

Dyer goes on to say this view is backed by physics: science has discovered that simply viewing a sub-atomic particle will change it. If we extend this to objects made up of these particles – the rest of the universe, including ourselves –  then it’s not that big a stretch to imagine that the way we view our world affects our world.

Given this, how can we begin to change the way we look at things?

  • Failure is essential to success. Success begins with failure, because living is about learning through trial and error.  Without failing first, we couldn’t know or even appreciate our successes.
  • Choose your focus. I deliberately choose a focus for my day, and my year.  This year, it’s physical balance, which means that everything I do has to contribute to that balance. So even on days where I fall short of achieving balance, I feel pretty good, knowing that everything I do – whether it works or not – is aimed at that.
  • Hang in there. It’s often said that the difference between success and failure is whether we stay or go; so stay.
  • Enjoy the benefits of your choice.  Last week I talked about Tolle’s challenge of acting as if we chose whatever is happening to us.  If we have a clear focus of intent that contributes to our success in life, then in a real sense we are choosing everything that happens. So relax, and enjoy the ride.
Deepak Chopra – the 7 Spiritual Laws of Success

Quote of the Day

A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do. -Bob Dylan
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my or contact me directly

Accepting the moment as if you had chosen it

Accept—then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Eckhart Tolle

Sometimes, a moment will jump out at us, as if we’ve been waiting for it all our lives.  This quote from Eckhart Tolle is one of those moments for me.

How often have I said to myself or out loud “Why me?! How did whatever-it-is happen to me?  What did I do to deserve it?” Seeing myself as a victim of circumstances, perhaps being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As an experiment, what would change or alter for me if I accepted any moment as if I’d chosen it?  Because in a way I have chosen it: I might choose the real possibility of being late if I worked late the night before and drag myself out of bed in the morning, not really physically ready for any issues that might arise; or I might choose to put myself in a new situation where a lot I can’t predict might happen; or alternatively, I might choose to rest and remain home, safe and sound, missing any opportunities for growth that day – except what might happen in my nice, seemingly safe home.

As Tolle points out, the challenge isn’t to assume that the state we are currently in is entirely our doing.    Some things are unavoidable: a big or small misfortune, a long-term disease – some things are simply given to us by Nature.  His challenge for us is to act as if we chose what is, at any moment, part of our lives. I believe it’s really about taking charge of the moment, of altering our perspective from seeing the world as happening to us to really simply being in the world.

So, I challenged myself to live this an entire day. Beginning in the morning, I would take a moment throughout the day to ask myself Tolle’s question – What if I accept this moment as if I’d chosen it? – then journal my response.

Here are a few journal entries:

2am – Can’t sleep; there’s a skunk nearby. Get up, heat some milk, take a few drops of walnut tincture, and go back to bed.  Relax; let the skunk be there at that moment.  I think I needed that wake-up call; I’ve been over-busy lately.
Noon – late for circuit training class; left it as late as possible, getting a last bit of research in.  Could it have waited? Yes, but I’m worried I’ll be late in getting it done.  I wonder what I can do differently that will help me stop worrying.
End of day – This day was really pretty uneventful!  No real worries. No real challenges. Kind of a nice day.  I wonder if I chose the wrong day to experiment with.

In answer to myself, I didn’t chose the wrong day. With a different mindset, this might have been a day of annoyances.  Instead, it became a nice day.

If you find yourself in a day that seems to be going badly, see if you can ask yourself the question:  What if I were to accept this moment as if I chose it?

Eckhart Tolle

Quote of the Day

“What day is it?”
It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day,” said Pooh.”
A. A. Milne
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my website or contact me directly at

Compassion Training – falling in love with life

This past weekend, I was at a conference on Mindfulness and Psychotherapy that included, among many worthwhile things, a talk on compassion training. The presenter was Susan Polluck. Much was said about the background and basis for this training – I simply want to focus on what it is and how we can incorporate it into our own lives.

Compassion training is about falling in love with life, and includes extending that loving kindness to those around us. The training has three parts:  self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Self-kindness vs self-criticism; Common humanity vs isolation (It’s not just me who suffers); and mindfulness vs overidentification – be with our suffering as it is. Overidentification happens when we’re engaged in something with little awareness of being engaged, like those times when we’re watching a mini-series and forget that it’s only a show.

It helps us cultivate good will or good intentions towards ourselves and our world. More importantly, it invites us to be fully human, learning to accept ourselves just as we are, here and now, learning to motivate ourselves with kindness and encouragement instead of with criticism, just as a loving grandmother would.

Compassion means to “suffer with” another person, beginning with ourselves.  Moments of suffering happen to each of us ever day – compassion training teaches us how to be with this suffering with kindness and care. Right now, here’s something you can build into your day any time you have a moment of pain, or fear, or shame, or suffering. Ms. Polluck gave this presentation on behalf of her colleague, Chris Germer, who was sick.  She’d been asked only the evening before and was, herself, having a moment of pain.  Here’s what she gave herself, and taught us – she calls it a self-compassion break.

Self-compassion break

Place one or both hands over your heart or belly; and say in your own words
  • This is a moment of suffering (or of shame, of fear, of anxiety, of pain, the word that captures this moment for you)
  • Life has many such moments
  • And I’m not alone
  • May I accept myself just as I am

The Three Components of Self-Compassion – Kristin Neff

Quote of the Week

Close your eyes, Fall in love, Stay there. – Rumi


At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my or contact me directly at

Falling in Love with Nature

This newsletter is really about Louie Schwartzberg and what he’s learned from Nature.  In one of his Ted Talks [link to , he talks about what he believes Nature teaches us: that Nature uses beauty and seduction for survival, because we protect what we fall in love with. And there aren’t many of us who don’t fall in love with that beauty, or who aren’t seduced by it.

In a recent interview, he discussed how, through his filming of Nature over the years, he came to appreciate the drive that all of Nature has to survive, to perpetuate life through generations. From this, he has come to believe that Nature teaches us how to live a creative and sustainable life.

The next time you see a bee take nectar from a flower, take the time to see the attraction between the flower and the bee, and how each gives and takes from the other, so that both benefit from the exchange.

Nature feeds our eyes, ears, all our senses. Our interaction with it floods us with dopamine, bringing us a sense of joy and well-being. From 52 Ways to Fall in Love with the Earth, here are a few you might do:

  • Watch through Nature’s eyes. Spend time watching birds as they migrate back for the summer.  Starlings, for instance, surround us. If we suspend judgment about them and simply watch how they flock and sing, their grace can be mesmerizing.
  • Lean against a tree.  Trees communicate with one another through the fungus attached to their roots.  Every forest contains many “Mother” trees that monitor the surrounding trees, regardless of tree type, and send signals to neighboring trees if a tree needs extra nutrients. Trees provide us with so much. What more can trees tell us about living?
  • Dream with the clouds.  Every child does this – spending hours looking at the ever-changing sky; never the same ever again as it was in this particular moment.  Telling us something about possibility and opportunity.

In a new project titled Happiness Revealed, an old man reminds us that every day is a gift; unique and precious.  If we open up our heart to this day, we are offering something precious in return.

Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.


Quote of the Week
Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.
-Hans Christian Andersen


At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my or contact me directly

When we’re triggered

A few days ago, I got an email from a colleague that made me angry. Not righteously angry – as I might be at an unjust act.  But simply by reading her words, I felt a heat behind my eyes and in my chest that told me I’d been triggered by the words.  Because I was familiar with this feeling, instead of lashing out, I let it sit and waited till the feeling had passed before responding. Whew! Another opportunity for apology and feeling lousy about myself missed!

Tibetan Buddhists refer to this kind of triggering as shenpa. Shenpa is sometimes translated as “attachment”, but Pema Chödrön in her book Taking the Leap prefers liking it to getting “hooked” – we hear a harsh word and something in us tightens, which then quickly spirals into blame or self-denigration.  Whatever it was that triggered us may not bother another person at all: it touches our particular sore place, and that sore place is the place of shenpa.

Self-discipline, coupled with self-acceptance and compassion, is one way of learning to deal with and be with shenpa.

For the Dalai Lama, self-discipline is a fundamental human value, because it helps us take charge of our lives and live responsibly. Self-discipline is really about taking care of ourselves.

But there’s a component to self-discipline that we can easily miss that weakens it’s effect and ultimate impact: whether our efforts include self-acceptance, or not.

Pema Chödrön tells a story – one we might relate to – about working hard, watching our diet, exercising daily, meditating daily. Then one day after years of being very disciplined in our lives, a personal disaster strikes, and we immediately fall apart.  All those years “don’t seem to have added up to the inner strength and kindness for ourselves” that we need to deal with the crises. The reason that self-discipline didn’t help might be because it was lacking in self-acceptance and self-compassion.

The next time you find yourself triggered, once you become aware of it, there are a few things you can do.

  1. Become aware. Notice that you’re triggered.  Identify it as such.  Simply sit with that awareness.
  2. Take 3 deep breaths.  And in that moment, with full self-acceptance and self-compassion, acknowledge where and how you are.  Take it in.
  3. Move on. Relax and move on in your day.  Acknowledge that being triggered is momentary and no big deal.

If you’re new at working with your own triggers, then you might not notice them before reacting.  Once you do realize what happened, that’s the time to practice compassionate self-discipline. At least that way, you will minimize a secondary shenpa that happens to all of us who react to triggers – self-denigration. Then with practice will come increased awareness.

And, once we unhook – Sally Kohn: Let’s try emotional correctness


Quote of the Week

“A disciplined mind leads to happiness, and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering.”
― Dalai Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness


At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my or contact me directly