Archive: Shamanism

Beginner’s Mind, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness

7 pillars of mindfulness

If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.  -Shunryu Suzuki

Last week I decided to wash windows.  The windows in my place are the new kind that fold inward so that you can wash the outside from the inside.  Clever.

But I wasn’t used to these windows, and assumed that they would stay up when I simply put them back – like the windows I’m used to.  This assumption worked fine until the last set, where one of the windows didn’t stay put because, as it happened, the latch was stuck.  The window fell and hit me hard.  That window caused me a lot of pain, and may even have produced in me a mild concussion.

This may seem like a pretty mundane event – one we all encounter daily.  And that’s my point.  Had I approached these windows as something new – which they were – I would likely have saved myself grief.

When we’re relaxed and present, with no agenda going into something, then we have beginner’s mind. The next time you’re with a friend or loved one, try approaching them in this way, and see how that opens up new possibility for you.

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable. -Mary Oliver

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 .

Moments of Peace and Joy

In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.

-Albert Camus

There are so many inspirational quotes like this one (there’s more below) that have the power to give us a lift just by reading them.  Each time, for instance, I read Camus’ quote, I feel my heart sigh – a spiritual pat on my back saying Good job! You can rest now.

For a few lovely moments I can feel a sense of accomplishment and be at peace.  And then in the next moment, I review my daily list (yes, I do have a daily list), and dig in. Then on days like today, I catch myself wondering what my life would be like if I felt this sense of peaceful joy most if not all of every day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love my life: I’m doing what I love, have pretty good health, and friends and relationships that feed my spirit.  Even so, when I’m challenged, there is a tiny voice inside me that can get loud and that is sometimes filled with terror. This tiny voice has a lot of power, because it can stop me from feeling that peace and joy, or even remembering it exists.

The voice isn’t fake – it’s real. But the reasons for feeling the terror aren’t real, at least not any more.  And yet it persists. You might also experience moments of discomfort, or even terror, and if you do … if it helps … here’s what I do to calm that voice down:

  • Be with your pain. That’s right! Sit mindfully with the voice, and the feelings in my body it generates. A know in my stomach, tense shoulders, whatever the sensation, I sit with the feelings and let them be whatever they need to be.  The important thing is to learn to accept the voice as real and genuine, and a natural part of who you are.
  • Limit your time with it. In my meditation practice, I always begin by focusing on my process of breathing; then move my focus to something else, ending with breathing. I do this so that I can begin and end on something that balances me, and breathing is our natural balancer. Each in-breath activates our sympathetic nervous system, and each out-breath activates our parasympathetic nervous system – together, this contributes to bringing us, naturally, into homeostasis. In the middle, I will take 10 minutes or even half an hour to be with my tiny voice and the sensations and feelings it generates inside me.  I will only spend this time on it, limiting it’s influence and impact on me, so that I – and not it – controls my day.  This is important! Being with anything or anyone doesn’t mean they get to take over – taking over isn’t a path to peace or joy. Ever! So limit the time you spend with your pain.  Contain it by giving it time and acceptance, then moving on.
  • Love yourself, including your pain. This may be hard to do, and yet it’s essential. If you can’t get past the judgments about this part of you that you wish didn’t exist, then at least respect it’s reality, and perhaps make an opening for love somewhere down the road.  One way to do this is to think of this part of yourself as a small child who’s been hurt – because in fact this is very likely the source of this pain.  Then ask yourself: What would I do if I were with a small child in pain?  Would I brush the child aside, or comfort him or her?  Then do the same to that small part of you that’s in pain.

None of us is perfect.  We’ve all lived and experienced pain and disappointment.  And this experience can leave scars as well as contribute to our maturity.  I believe we need to acknowledge and accept both to live a truly happy 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.

Matthieu Ricard: The habits of happiness


Quote of the Week
We don’t realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme self who is eternally at peace.
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

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


What Is PTSD?

The myth around Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is that only those who have been to war or beaten and abused as children can end up with it in life. In fact, there are many people who don’t even believe that PTSD is real.

Yes, it is real and NO you don’t have had to go war or have been the victim of childhood physical abuse to suffer from PTSD. Thus, I want to clarify a few things about PTSD in today’s post.

First, let me repost the clinical side of PTSD. PTSD symptoms are grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, or changes in emotional reactions.

Second, PTSD can come from any type of trauma. Emotional abuse, sexual abuse, childhood bullying, witnessing a violent crime, being a teller at a bank that has been robbed, etc. We all have different levels of tolerance, which impacts how we cope (or don’t cope) with various scenarios.

Now- on to the symptoms:

Intrusive memories

Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:

Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event
Symptoms of avoidance may include:

Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event
Negative changes in thinking and mood
Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:

Negative feelings about yourself or other people
Inability to experience positive emotions
Feeling emotionally numb
Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
Hopelessness about the future
Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
Difficulty maintaining close relationships
Changes in emotional reactions
Symptoms of changes in emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:

Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
Always being on guard for danger
Overwhelming guilt or shame
Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
Trouble concentrating
Trouble sleeping
Being easily startled or frightened
If you feel that you have more than half of these symptoms, it is time to seek out help. No, pills are not the full answer. Prescriptions can help with sleep or help with anxiety, but cognitive therapy is a very important element of recovering from PTSD.

Abuse At Work!

Do you work with abusive people? It’s very possible and probable. We don’t get into relationships with abusive people willingly (it usually happens for a variety of reasons) and we can’t select the people we work with, either. This is not to say that we are not working alongside, if not for, some very emotionally abusive people.

Do you know how to spot a workplace bully? If not, I’m putting some tips below.

According to a recent study, 72% of all people bully at work. But what is the difference between bullying (not that its right) and being downright abusive? If your co-workers or your boss are constantly slamming doors, being verbally rude and insulting or erupting in angry tirades, but then appear to act reasonably on the surface – abuse is being dealt out.

In fact, isolation is a form of workplace place abuse. If your boss or a coworker instigates malicious rumors and gossip, provides excessive work with unrealistic deadlines, shuns or ignores you in meetings, giving unwarranted, invalid or public criticism, blames without factual justification, swears and provides excessive micromanagement, the abusive actions and bullying are taking place!

I found a great free website that deals with bullying and abuse at work. It has quizzes and resources, which can be accessed here: I can also help you discuss how to be proactive within your organization or company to prevent employees from abusing and bullying one another. Want to learn more about my workplace therapy programs? Please click here:

On Nature And Us

I’m in the woods, in the middle of nothing but woods, ponds, insects, streams, and other fellow animals this week.  Camping is my favorite way of embracing and connecting with Nature – I expect to have a great time, feel renewed and refreshed, and leave filled with a sense of calm belonging.You don’t have to like camping to develop a profound connection with Nature.  It’s all around us. Eckhart Tolle, among other spiritual people, consider connecting with nature to be spiritually uplifting and necessary to our growth and well-being. “It’s a beautiful access point into inner stillness.”  When we take time to really be with, say, a flower, it gives us an chance to share in it’s beauty.

The link between Nature and happiness has been studied and verified, according toMarilyn Price-Mitchell’s paper in Psychology Today. She wrote that researchers found – not too surprisingly – that our connection to Nature is important not only to happiness, but also to our overall mental health.

If you value your happiness, in whatever way works for you, do something that gets you outside at least once a week.  Schedule it in, like you would an appointment.  Then make that appointment one that you can’t miss.

How Eckhart Tolle Helped Oprah Awaken to Nature’s Beauty
Quote of the Week
Look deep into Nature, and then you will understand everything better.
-Albert Einstein

A Word On Winning Battles In Your Mind….

Our mind can chain us to what we fear the most or set us free from what we fear the most. If you are going through a time of anxiety right now, know that you don’t have to hide it. Many people try to pretend that all is OK when it is not. In fact, most of us humans feel fear, anxiety, stress, depression, and even rage all at once. This said, it is possible for us to unburden ourselves from the thoughts that creep in at night or early in the morning.

Think about this. What challenge do you fear or face daily? What are you wearing around your wrist like a watch? What are you refusing to accept or say out loud? What are you shutting out while fear and anxiety is allowed in? The father of Gestalt Therapy, Frederick Salomon Perls, has a famous saying, which is “lose your mind and come to your senses.” Think about the irony in that statement. I believe this statement is the truth.

When I face challenges now- either personally or in business, I think about what I am ruminating about. Am I worried about what may happen? Am I worried about finances? Am I worried about what someone may say about me? Am I worried about how I treated someone? What my doctor said? What my last test results indicated? And then I pull myself back. Does this scenario sound familiar? While we all have the same types of thoughts, how we deal with it and respond to them is different and decides if we are proactive or reactive.

All that worrying, all that stress, and what are changes? Ask yourself this right now if you’re dealing with anxiety. What happens after you worry and worry and worry? Does the problem go away? Do you change your response? The only that happens is the build up of anxiety levels, sometimes even reinforce a tendency for depression, and the feeling of being overwhelmed and powerless.

The truth is that we can’t navigate or predict the unexpected. We can’t prepare for every scenario. All we can do is act in accordance to what Mr. Perls said and come to our senses in times of strife by not loosing our minds and reaching out for professional help and support. Learning tools is the only way we can start to truly win the battles within our minds. Want more tools? Let’s connect.

Until next time,

Sharpen Your Environment Awareness

DPZPTWJ07TAre you really aware of your environment? Most people aren’t. We spend out days in patterns and forming reactive behaviors that we tend to forget about proactive growth.  I once worked with a client who, at the end of her journey, stated ” What you’ve taught me is the realization that it who and what I am seeing, hearing, moving, is what is making the waves in my life. Understanding the why brings me to understanding the how.” I thought this was a beautiful testament to our online work together.

When I speak to groups about sharpening awareness, I tend to focus on the still Room test.  If you think you are qualified right now, in your space, to really understand how your environment impacts your emotions and moods, even recall of history, think again. For most people, we think we have a great grasp on how the world looks and operates. We are like race horses with blinders on. All we see is all we know, yet there is much more going on around us.

Take this simple Still Room test to start understanding what I mean when I reference the phrase ‘sharpening your environment awareness’. Then if you want to learn more, contact me. I can help you on an one-on-one basis (online or in-person) or I can come speak to your group to boost productivity and individual advocacy.


1. Think about any other room in your home right now other than the one you are sitting in.

2. On a piece of paper write down all the details that you can remember about that room.

3. Now write down three ways that room makes you feel.

4. Write down one memory you have of a sad emotion in the room.

5. Flip the paper over. Walk away from it for at least an hour. Set an alarm if you need to.

6. Without referencing the paper you wrote on, grab another blank piece of paper.

7. Spend 30 minutes sitting in the room picking apart details and thinking about happy and sad memories. Don’t write anything down. If you need to, set an alarm. Really focus on details and don’t have music or any other background distractions on.

8. When the 30 minutes is up, while still in the room, write down one sad memory you have of this room.

9. Now, go compare your current notes with the one you wrote down in Step number four. Is there a difference? Examine how your recall varies from the actual awareness of being present in the now of the room.


Are You Burnt Out?

tired at workI find it amazing when I speak with people who are in burn out denial.  These are often women who are trying to rule the world without taking a moment to be still. I’m of the belief that knowing where you stand within your environment is truly the best way to become self-aware, perhaps that is the Gestalt therapist in me coming out.

Anyway, these women (some men, too) are working 8-12 hours a day, taking care of kids and pets, cooking or picking up dinner, dealing with ordinary stress, dealing with in-law stress…… it goes on and on and on. Where is the time to even become self-aware? And yet, if you were to ask, they have convinced themselves that all is OK and they are not burnt out.

As a result, I’ve created 5 questions to ask yourself right now as a way to discover if you’re truly burnt out. If you answer ‘Yes’ to 3 or more…. you are! I’ve created a FREE 7-day audio program specifically to introduce people to the concept of not only burning the candle at both ends, but how to truly regain control of stress. You can download it here:

Questions to ask yourself:

1. Is everyday a bad day?

2. Does the subject of “extra time” to simply sit on the couch seem foreign or ridden with guilt?

3. Are you exhausted no matter what you do?

4. Is the majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming?

5. Do you often feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated?

I offer personalized help, even over Skype. So, if you feel like you need or want more than the free 7-day program, contact me. I have an array of services at different price levels available. Yes, all sessions are HIPAA compliant.



Asking Yourself the Right Questions

A part of Gestalt Therapy is being able to ask yourself the right questions. This is harder than it presents because we often don’t know what the right questions are in the midst of crisis or change. Using the questions and statements meant to focus the awareness in the present on one aspect or another is a key to my services and helping people identify and then overcome certain challenges.


“What do you feel?” or “What’s on your mind right now?” are some of these questions. They may seem like typical therapy questions, but there is more to reporting simply what you’re feeling. In fact, it is important for you, the patient, to work through the simple answers to get in touch with your true, hidden and often complex feelings / replies.

Let’s say you just were fired. You might say, “I feel upset and scared.” Well, that is ok but it’s scratching the service. Someone who is Gestalt therapy may answer with “I’m scared because I failed to save enough money to get  me through a time like this. I don’t know who to ask for help or what resources are available to me. I’m mad at myself, my employer and my spouse for not understanding where my head is at right now.”

Being detailed about what you feel is really a key component to being present in your daily life, regardless if the situation is pleasant or not.  I can also  help you identify areas of avoidance in your life by how you answer these questions. For example, the recurrent avoidance of using the pronoun “I” and its substitution with “you” or “it” can indicate that you may avoid a particular area of your life or a situation. There are ways I can help encourage you to take ownership of these situations.

Want to know more? Please contact me. I can help!


Life happens! 

This week all plans were rearranged when my suitcase with all my research got lost.  I travelled across the continent to see my soul mate, and am now sitting 20 feet from the Pacific Ocean, entertained and mesmerized by the endless calling of water.

We are made up mostly of water, all living things need water to survive, water covers most of the earth.   The ancients called water both Mother and Father – it nurtures us, births life and makes all life possible; it’s active – sometimes violent – taking us to new and unknown lands.  It can change landscapes.

Leonardo da Vinci had a lot to say about water’s many meanings. Water, to him, is the driving force of all nature. He was both fascinated by and terrified of the impact of water on our lives.  He made a study of water and devoted much of his life to learning how to live with and best use water.

Emotions are like water – they flow and when we let them flow, they inform everything we do.  Also like water, when we block them, they donfffff/’t go away, but build up in force and energy, exploding outward once the dam breaks.

Water is fluid, and our emotions are fluid when we are healthy and open to whatever comes our way, when we trust ourselves and our ability to handle life.  Water is a symbol of open-heartedness.

This week, take a moment to make your own study of water. 

  • Meditate on it’s meaning in your own life – on your every-day life.
  • Treat water as a teacher – of how you can approach daily issues
  • Then choose something to remind you of your connection with water – a river rock, a poem or drawing – something of meaning to you.
  • Carry it with you for a week, and every time you connect with it, also connect with what water has taught you.

Water Painting