Category Archives: Blog

The Post-It Note Method – A Truly Simple Way to Discover your Passion

The Post-It Note Method – A Truly Simple Way to Discover your Passion

Dear community,
In a way, I’ve been working on this article for 15 years! (But don’t worry, it’s short and sweet). I hope you find it useful.

Here is a link to the original article as it appears at Psyched in SF.

I want to go public with an idea of mine that I jokingly call the Post-It Note Method. (I say “jokingly” because it sounds patented, which is not at all my style). The Post-It Note Method is a tool to help us find out why we’re here, alive, on planet Earth. It’s a way to help us come to understand our passions.

Here’s a little background. In this society we tend to believe that we can figure out what we want to do with our lives. So we go inward and think and think and think, and talk and talk and talk, and read and read and read. Maybe we make plus-minus columns too. This path though, as you may have discovered at some point in your life, leads to confusion, stress, and frustration. Why? Because it only involves the mind – the clever, deceptive mind.

Instead, what we have to do is involve our whole bodies, which don’t lie. As the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu put it, “At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.” In other words, our bodies are honest and direct sources of information, and if we pay attention we can receive messages from them about our true selves.

So here’s the Post-It Note Method.

Step 1. Notice when you are feeling something positive – when you are having a physical experience of happiness, strength, excitement, inspiration, and so on.

Step 2. Write these moments down on Post-It Notes. If you feel happy while baking, just note that. If you feel awe while hiking, just note that. Although it’ll probably be tempting, do not analyze what you’ve written. Just take note and move on.

Step 3. Wait until you’ve done this practice for a couple months or even a couple years (I recommend at least 2-6 months) to begin your analysis. Then stick your notes up on a wall and read them. Look for patterns in them. Rearrange them according to subjects like cooking or being out in nature. These clusters will light up your way forward like an airport runway at night. They will point directly to what you want to do with your life.

Here’s a personal example. About 20 years ago I noted loving meditating again and again, I noted loving hearing Zen teachers give Dharma talks again and again, and I noted loving that Zen teachers have lots of heart-to-hearts as part of their job again and again. So I chose to become a Zen teacher and now I love it. It’s really that simple.

This practice hasn’t just worked for me. I’ve offered it to a number of clients and friends, and it has been consistently helpful for them too. So, if you want a streamlined way to find your passions, I recommend this method. Trust me: If you use it, you will save yourself a lot of time and spare yourself a lot of grief.


Can Spiritual Activism Save Humanity?

Can Spiritual Activism Save Humanity?
Dear community,
Here’s my latest article. It was just published in the Huffington Post. I hope it helps you and I hope it helps us.


Here is a link to the original article as it appears in the Huffington Post.

Because of climate change and its various causes, humanity is at risk of going extinct. That’s a polite way of saying that we’re close to killing ourselves. Some scientists think it’s already too late, but many believe we still have a small window of opportunity.

That leaves us with a choice. Either we can be part of the problem or we can be part of the solution.

This article is for those who want to be part of the solution.

For years, I struggled to understand how to help. I have tried helping too. I have failed again and again, and succeeded here and there. Through this process, I have become clear about one thing – the root of our solutions.

The ultimate reason that we have made such a mess in our world is because we have lost ourselves – our true selves. D.H. Lawrence put it this way. He wrote, “Vitally, the human race is dying. It is like a great uprooted tree, with its roots in the air. We must plant ourselves again in the universe.” This is a beautiful expression of a tragic truth. Because we have forgotten that we are interconnected with everyone and everything – that we are not just part of the universe but the universe itself – we have become weak, confused, insecure, aggressive, and to varying degrees, crazy.

There’s an ancient piece of shamanic wisdom that says, “As above, so below. As within, so without.” In other words, we are on the brink because we have created our world from this compromised internal state.

This is the root of our problems. The root of our solutions is just a hair away. What I’m going to say here is quite simple, profound, and difficult to embody. We have to reconnect to who we really are. We have to plant ourselves again in the universe. We have to realize that we are the universe.

When we do, there are so many benefits. Here are five of them.

1) We discover in us incredible peace and strength. We make a huge shift from thinking we’re small, alone, and fragile to knowing that we’re as big and un-overwhelmable as the universe.

2) Our emotional capacity expands enormously. When we realize that we are truly vast, we guard ourselves less and less and resist our difficult emotions less and less. It dawns on us that we are capable of working through our personal, inter-generational, and cultural trauma, as well as our feelings about our current environmental existential crisis. We then increasingly allow ourselves to feel the depths of our pain and gradually move through it. In doing so, we learn how to be fully functional, healthy, sensitive humans who are able to stay awake and engaged.

3) We don’t need to hide as much from our self-limiting beliefs. We come face-to- face with the truth of who we are, and in the light of the truth our negative stories fall away. The energy that we had put into shame or self-hatred gets automatically rerouted into love and service.

4) Our ability to communicate improves dramatically. It’s as if the fog lifts when we become aware of who we really are. Until then, the false narrative of who we think we are clashes with who we actually are and the result is confusion. This confusion gets relayed when we speak, write, build, or even paint. When we are awake, though, we communicate clearly, directly, and compassionately. Others believe and trust us.

5) When we realize that we are interconnected, our love for everyone begins to flow and we spontaneously start working to help others. We try to relieve suffering and increase joy. This is perhaps the most important benefit of waking up. It turns us into activists, formally or informally. In a nutshell, if we are going to turn the ship around then we are going to need all hands on deck, and spiritual awakening is the source of our inspiration.

If you hear me, please take on or deepen into a spiritual practice with fierce commitment. It can be as religious or secular as you’d like. What do I mean by spiritual practice? I mean anything that helps you snap out of your story of yourself and into the reality of who you are. That could be regular heart-to- hearts with other spiritual practitioners. That could be taking regular hikes. That could be doing meditation regularly. That could be dancing more. That could be doing more yoga. That could be singing more. It could be so many things.

Our future depends on us re-planting our roots. I don’t pretend to be an expert in (to expand on the tree metaphor) what the most helpful branches and leaves are. This is sphere of activists, inventors, and artists. However, I am confident in the source of our problems and the source of our solutions. When we return to our true selves, we will help save humanity from the deepest place possible. We will nourish the tree until its branches are thick and long, it is full of leaves, and it is bursting with the fruit of spiritual activism.

Welcome to the Global Spiritual Revolution

Welcome to the Global Spiritual Revolution
Dear community,
I am very excited to share this article with you! It was just published in the Huffington Post. I hope you’re well, and I hope the article uplifts you.


Here is a link to the original article as it appears in the Huffington Post.

We may not recognize it, and there may be quite a bit of evidence to the contrary, but I am convinced that we are in the early stages of a global spiritual revolution. And I want everyone to join it or enter into it even more profoundly than you already have.

There are many examples of this revolution. Last year’s U.N. Paris Agreement is a political one. 195 countries (nearly the entire world) approved an agreement that charts a course to world peace, justice, and sustainability. Here’s an example from the grassroots perspective, offered by the social justice and environmental movement researcher Paul Hawken. “I now believe that there are over one – and maybe even two – million organizations working toward ecological sustainability and social justice… This is the largest social movement in all of human history. No one knows its scope, and how it functions is more mysterious than what meets the eye… What does meet the eye is compelling: coherent, organic, self organized congregations involving tens of millions of people dedicated to change.” (Blessed Unrest)

In other words, we are doing more good than ever from the top down and from the bottom up. Why? Because we are moving beyond a phase of human history that has been characterized by self-centeredness, we are realizing that we are interconnected, and we are increasingly acting from a place of love.

I think this revolution is happening now for myriad reasons but especially because of climate change. Due to our fossil fuel-based society, and ultimately due to our self- centeredness, we are not only facing the threat of the disintegration of the whole web- of-life on Earth but the very real possibility of human extinction, and we care about ourselves and each other too much to allow that to happen.

Yet our habits are deeply ingrained – psychologically and structurally – and we don’t have much time to transform. James Hansen, the former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies and an extraordinarily well respected climate scientist, recently published a paper in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics saying that we need to cut carbon emissions by 6% a year to stabilize the environment. Consider that for a moment. With the exception of what is still thought of as alternative energy, fossil fuels are the foundation of our society. They power almost everything. So achieving this goal will require a massive movement, a series of new laws, great creativity, ingenuity, and vision.

Notice that you might not feel inspired by this article, at least not yet. It might just seem like more doom and gloom. Here is an incisive quote that could explain why. “I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don't know how to do that.” (Gus Speth) To put it simply, the science alone won’t get us there. Only a spiritual revolution will.

Today I’d like to help us fuel this revolution.

Let me offer some personal background. In my twenties, I lived in a Zen monastery for six years. While I was there, I did an enormous amount of meditation and I also developed a wonderful student-teacher relationship with a true Zen teacher. Since then I have been working with another true spiritual teacher who is also a psychotherapist, and we have been on this path together for about eight years. Throughout this time I have learned something critical again and again – that my internal power depends  entirely on who I think am.

Like most of us, I tend to believe that I am just the little “me” inside of my body that I almost constantly try to protect, defend, enhance, or heal. Sometimes, however, I am able to wake up to the fact that I am bigger than my story of myself. I am, believe it or not, the whole universe. In the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber’s words, “I am Thou.” Eihei Dogen, the founder of my school of Buddhism (Soto Zen) pointed to the same thing when he called the universe “one bright pearl.” John Muir put it this way. He said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” Countless awakened teachers, some of whom belong to a particular religion and some of whom are completely secular, have expressed the same message. Here is one more voice that I am especially fond of. “A human being is a part of the whole called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” (Albert Einstein)

From this place of awareness of who we really are, we are able to be our true selves. We are able to let our love, power, and genius flow. And from this place we discover in us the capacity to witness, process, and appropriately respond to even the seemingly overwhelming challenges of today. That’s why spirituality is all-important. It allows us to fully meet what’s happening in this day and age. It allows us to rise to this extraordinary occasion.

So how do we actually do this? How do we wake up to who we really are? There is no one way. I have found meditation invaluable as well as having many open and honest conversations with spiritual teachers. I have also found psychotherapy absolutely necessary, but it’s important to acknowledge that not everyone else does. The last bunch of things that come to mind are spending time in nature, getting regular exercise, eating healthy food, having plenty of time away from technology, dancing, playing, laughing, resting, and doing good work.

If we look, we can find tons of examples of how this spiritual revolution is already happening. Notice the influence of Black Lives Matter, the tenacity of the equal pay movement, the passage of marriage equality, the fact that the topic of transgendered people has taken center stage, the pushback by so many people against closing our borders against refugees, the increasing popularity of vegetarianism, and the success of environmental groups like and the Sierra Club. There is a river of goodness on Earth these days, and we can enter into it more and more deeply.

Spirituality is at the very heart of this revolution. It is the reason we care, the reason we try, and the reason we grow. And if we take on spiritual practice intentionally, it will empower us like nothing else. Then we may just be able to leave behind a livable world for humanity and countless other species.

List of resources:

U.N. Paris Agreement

James Hansen study

6th Great Extinction

Black Lives Matter

The benefits of vegetarianism

Sierra Club


How Can Psychotherapy Help Stop Climate Change? 20 Therapists Answer

How Can Psychotherapy Help Stop Climate Change? 20 Therapists Answer

Dear community,

After months of interviews and editing, here’s my latest article. I wrote it for the magazine Psyched in SF and it was republished in the Huffington Post. It’s an in-depth look at how psychotherapy can help stop global warming and other destructive forces on our planet, and it’s for therapists, clients or patients, and potential clients or patients. In my opinion, it’s both juicy and packed with well-timed wisdom. To get it, click on either link or you can read it here. Thank you to all the amazing contributors!

Link to the original article as it appears at Psyched in SF

Link to the republished version as it appears in the Huffington Post

It seems to me that most psychotherapists are, like most people, just beginning to wake up to the dangers of climate change. More and more of us are starting to grapple personally and professionally with how we can help humanity transition to a life-preserving and truly sustainable society. To help us along, I asked 20 psychotherapists this question: How can psychotherapy help stop global warming? My intention was to spark a conversation. So I hope you read the following short, deeply compassionate, cutting-edge answers, consider the question yourself, and talk about it with others. (And by “you” I mean psychotherapists but also clients, patients, and anyone who gets that tending to the inner world is necessary if we are going to successfully tend to the outer world). I believe that psychotherapy can play a pivotal role in this epic transition, but only if we bring enough attention, open-mindedness, and heart to the table.


How psychotherapy is already helping

In order to stop climate change, all of humanity will need to face painful emotions, recognize unconscious patterns of thought and action, let go of familiar yet harmful behaviors, shine a light on shadowy destructive tendencies, overcome denial, and shed resistance to interconnectedness and relationship. Amazingly, these are the same goals of psychotherapy. As people makes these shifts individually, we can heal ourselves and the planet collectively.

-Carson Brown, M.D., Psychiatrist

In order to help stop global warming, humanity needs to be emotionally equipped to face such a daunting and overwhelming challenge. One of the greatest benefits of psychotherapy is learning how to be with what’s difficult. This means developing a greater tolerance for uncomfortable thoughts, emotions and even physical sensations, which increases resilience and the capacity to face life’s challenges.

Psychotherapy can also increase our ability to feel compassion, not only for our own suffering, but for that of our planet and the future of humanity. Therapists play a vital role in teaching people how to move beyond the denial, fear and helplessness that global warming often sparks, into compassion, acceptance and much-needed action.

-Meredith Singer Garcia, Marriage and Family Therapist

I believe that psychotherapy can be a part of an awakening process for a person to become more connected to their self and feelings. The more we are connected to ourselves in a caring and empathic way, the more love and care we can extend to our relationships to people, animals and the earth.

-Hannah Milan Gottsegen, Marriage and Family Therapist

When someone is suffering internally, whether consciously or unconsciously, it is a very consuming experience. How can you summon energy or motivation to look beyond your immediate self if you are overwhelmed by pain? Something changes, though, as your wounds are healed; more internal space opens up. From this space, you can connect more deeply to yourself and you simultaneously begin to notice the environment around you – people and the earth, too. Psychotherapy can catalyze this chain reaction that moves us from our own healing towards a desire to heal the earth. It is quite a direct link.

-Yael Melamed, Marriage and Family Therapist

Global warming is a deeply complex problem that humanity is facing. It is an issue that challenges us to come together for a common goal, to bridge differences, to look deeply into what is best for ourselves, our children, and humanity as a whole. Psychotherapy helps individuals and groups of people look at themselves with greater awareness. With awareness, change can take place. New choices can arise as one confronts their inner reality and peels back the layers of one’s awareness. It can be easy to avoid painful truths and self-medicate with the pleasures of the modern world, but this only contributes to global suffering. Humanity is at a crisis point. Hitting bottom doesn’t seem like an option in our case and psychotherapy can help us let down our defenses, build trust, find commonality, and join together in hopes of healing the collective psyche or soul of our planetary crisis.

-Rob Schene, Marriage and Family Therapist

Psychotherapy is about slowing down, treating ourselves with more compassion and defining what we value. This goes hand and hand with taking time out of our busy lives to be simultaneously self-compassionate and brave enough to face the impact of our daily living that is causing global warming.

-Rose Schweig, Marriage and Family Therapist


Psychotherapy reimagined

First and foremost, I encourage all of us to go outside each day and be grateful – to use nature as a place to re-source and re-connect. As we stay connected and grounded and live our lives in integrity people will naturally be attracted and want to know more. As clinicians, we can use our role to educate and inform people about global warming through teaching nature as resource. It’s a place to ground, energize, relax, enjoy and breathe our love back into the planet. Honestly, I think the more that therapists can help folks get out of their story, off their sofa and back into the natural flow that exists on our planet, the more we can make the changes we wish to make… first on a personal level and then with other folks too… until we’re walking in integrity and the symptoms of an out of balance life will lessen.

-Syntha Lorenz, Marriage and Family Therapist, Clinical director of the Marina Counseling Center

Psychotherapy can make several important contributions to the issue of global warming. By encouraging people to listen to and trust themselves, psychotherapy empowers people to act in accord with their integrity. Our deep integrity is concerned with much more than the little me; it is interested in wholeness. Psychotherapy also helps people to shed their limiting stories and engage more fully in their lives, which may involve political action, if this is their inclination. In addition, psychotherapy helps people be in touch with their genuine feelings, including compassion for our fellow human beings who are acutely suffering the impacts of global warming, along with those beings with more fur and feathers than we have. Finally, psychotherapy can help people move past anger and despair and constructively engage and confront those individuals and institutions that are in resistance, doing so in a way that avoids unnecessary polarization. In sum, psychotherapy can help us face reality – the facts on the ground – and develop the inner resources of kindness, clarity, and courage to meet this new and extraordinary collective challenge in a truly creative way.

-John J. Prendergast, Ph.D., Psychotherapist, retired professor of psychology, and author

Human connection and our connection to the plants, trees and the earth was easier 150 years ago. We were all dependent on each other for survival, side-by-side, hands deep in the wet soil, sowing the field, borrowing milk, carrying for sick children together, etc. Today capitalism, the decline of agrarian societies, and technology has pushed the independence-pendulum so far that we are ill – mentally and physically. Psychotherapy is one of the few places left where human animals can go to rediscover connection to ourselves, to each other and to the earth. There is little motivation to act on behalf of global warming and the earth unless we feel, in our bones, how much connection matters. Beneath our intellectual prowess and false sense of indestructibility, we are dependent animals who need each other and the earth physically and mentally. Therapy wakes people up to this vastly failing “cult of independence” by helping us re-experience ourselves in connection and that connection makes it virtually impossible not to take action.

-Traci Ruble, Marriage and Family Therapist, Clinic director at Psyched in San Francisco

As therapists we can validate in a strong tone that, “Yes, we are in a climate crisis and YES what you are feeling is real.” Many of my clients come to me ashamed of or shy about what they are experiencing regarding the planet. I tend to work with them in the same way that I treat people with suicidal impulses. When someone says they are suicidal I take it very seriously and this in turn is very validating for them. Similarly, when I really listen to and validate the emotions of fear, helplessness, anger, and shame in clients who are struggling with the climate crisis, they usually discover an incredible amount of potency and power within themselves to heal and ultimately contribute to the betterment of the world.

-Erin Selover, Marriage and Family Therapist

Therapy can play a pivotal role in helping people wake up to our situation. Therapists are known for supporting people in their grieving processes. So they can be a huge support as clients face “the inconvenient truth” of global warming and help their clients catalyze their grief into constructive social action – not so much for political purposes but as a means of empowerment in the face of overwhelming externalities. As clients see their interconnectedness with the climate, and by extension with the rest of nature, they can then also gain increasing access to all the resources that come from belonging to the web-of-life. The unconscious yearning of mainstream America for such a relationship was well demonstrated by the tremendous box office returns of the hit movie “Avatar”, where the “alien” planet was inhabited by a race of people in deep communion with all the sentient, articulate, beautiful beings of their world. Earth is this planet, and as we awaken to the possibilities for connection and belonging, incredible opportunities emerge for addressing global warming and all manner of socio-ecological issues.

-Dave Talamo, Marriage and Family Therapist, Founder of Wilderness Reflections


Individual and collective transformation go hand in hand

Global warming is caused by an economic and political system that is based on the exploitation and domination of humans and the natural world. Global warming, along with a host of other ecological horrors currently underway, will not be stopped and reversed without radical economic and political restructuring. That being said, this relationship of exploitation at the macro-level has its mutually reinforcing parallel at the micro-level where individuals inhabit relationships characterized by neglect, abuse, and exploitation, not only between individuals but also in how individuals relate to themselves and their own bodies. It is at this level that therapists can help individuals, couples, and families begin to cultivate awareness and compassionate action to help transform inter-generational patterns of abuse and neglect to ones of respect and mutual aide. By helping individuals tune into and meet their own needs and the needs of others, psychotherapists can help shift the cultural ideal of the individual as an autonomous, self-interested, rational actor to one of an individual as an interconnected, care-taking and compassionate actor. With luck, this new ecological self may have the resilience to transform our current system into one that is both compassionate and ecological.

-Michael Glavin, Marriage and Family Therapist

Psychotherapy is in large part about learning to love and accept oneself. Loving oneself is a political act. It has profound ripple effects. As each of us feels more resourced and at peace internally, we are much more able to turn outward and act lovingly, abundantly, generously in our interactions with other people and with the planet.

-Rochelle Greenhagen, Marriage and Family Therapist

Individual and collective transformation go hand in hand – inner work supports effective action in the world. Psychotherapy is a process of alleviating suffering, of building reflective capacity to make empowered choices rather than just react, of becoming more integrated and whole. As we care for ourselves in this way, unburdening our hearts and experiencing our wholeness, we recognize this ecosystem we are a part of and become more able to respond to the calls of the world. I don’t know what psychotherapy can do to stop global warming, but I do know that we need as many open eyes and unburdened hearts as possible to care for this planet – to respond wisely, to witness, to take action, to lead, to support, to comfort, to speak up. Caring for this planet is caring for ourselves and anything that matters to us.

-Charis Khoury, Marriage and Family Therapist

Problems that we often think of as external to us like global warming actually have psychological and spiritual roots inside of us. While we absolutely need to transform “the system” to stop global warming and tend to all the other critical issues of our day, if we want to become the most effective agents of change then we have to simultaneously heal ourselves, grow, and wake up. Psychotherapy is an ideal place for doing this inner work. It is the main place in our culture where we get support to be our true selves, which is the foundation of maturity, wisdom, intelligence, compassion, creativity, and power.

-Jared Michaels, Marriage and Family Therapist and Zen priest

Unhealthy culture creates unhealthy people and in turn unhealthy people create unhealthy culture. The same is true for healthy culture and healthy people. Unhealthy people will never create healthy culture, so we have to work to help people become personally healthy. This is where psychotherapy comes in. The intimacy it provides heals the fear and anxiety that drives our sense of scarcity and our preoccupation with consumption.

-Ben Wright, Licensed Professional Counselor


Be the change

As a Contemplative Psychotherapist, I believe that the practice is always to work on yourself since it is your clear and compassionate presence that is the most benefit to clients. Since we can never be entirely neutral about any issue, I think it is important that we all take very seriously the reality of climate change and what is happening to the planet and all of her peoples. It is not easy to feel what we feel about it but the more we are able to be honest and genuine with ourselves, the more we can skillfully make space and directly meet the feelings that other people are having about climate change whether they are conscious or not.

-Tina Fossella, Marriage and Family Therapist

Humanity is in a critical time now as we shift out of a mode of denial about our role in creating what happens on our planet. This opens up an opportunity for us as therapists to be on the leading edge of an evolution in consciousness toward an awareness of our interconnectedness. If we as therapists are embedded in the perspective that global warming is our individual and collective responsibility then even if global warming is never mentioned in the therapy we will be facilitating this transition in our culture. We do this by being with our truth while supporting people to heal, grow, and wake up at their own pace.

-Dan Gottsegen, Ph.D., Psychotherapist, Director of the Integral Counseling Center

Our profession has to do some deep soul searching to be able to thoroughly answer this question, but here are some ideas to help us along. We must place the conversation in the context of global capitalism, in which each person is ultimately considered a unit of commerce rather than an inherently valuable member of the web-of-life. The impact of this economic model on our consciousness is profound and, like everyone else, therapists are affected. For example, I think that we over focus on the unit – the individual self and feelings, personal truth and happiness, and self-realization. What if every therapist asked their client who is seeking a new vocation or a more meaningful path in their life, “What do you think the world needs?” This is a global oriented, climate cooling question instead of “What is your truth?” That is an individual oriented, climate heating question.

-Andrew Groeschel, Marriage and Family Therapist
  • Move your office closer to your home
  • Give up a car
  • Use public transportation, bikes, or Scoot (electric Scooter service)
  • Install LED lightbulbs
  • Take shorter showers
  • Use less heat and install smart thermostats
  • Plant, cultivate, and appreciate greenery
  • Spread the word!
-Robert Solley, Ph.D., Psychotherapist


A few questions to take with you

As I read these powerful messages, I feel touched by the fact that 20 people in my field are hard at work on what I believe is humanity’s most critical issue. I can tell that this small collection of voices reflects a much broader conversation taking place throughout the world. That’s great news!

I’m also happy that so much thought is going into how therapy can help people transform into agents of positive change, and how therapists themselves can grow as agents too.

How are you impacted as you read this article? What points stand out and resonate? What inspires you?

This amazing Pope

This amazing Pope

Dear community,

One thing the Pope said in his recent encyclical (his official Catholic teaching on climate change) has really stuck with me and continues to inspire me. He said that we need “an ethical revolution.”

In a slightly silly but sincere nod to him, I pray that, despite all the noise and busyness and exhaustion in our lives, we hear him.

Although it’s a tough pill to swallow, we humans are responsible, directly or indirectly, for the disintegration of the very fabric of life. And we could bring about total destruction of all life on Earth in the not-so-distant future. This is the conclusion of mainstream science.

The Pope is right. We need an ethical revolution – a massive increase in how much we take care of each other – in order to turn things around, survive, and thrive.

The Dalai Lama put it this way. He said that we need to develop “universal responsibility.” Just imagine what would happen in your life and in the world if you took responsibility for the welfare of every living being on Earth. Now imagine a whole movement of people doing the same thing. It would change everything. That is what these leaders are asking for, and I’d like to echo their call.

It won’t be easy. There will be a lot of difficult emotions and there might even be failure. But there will also be profound rewards – the kind that make life worth living.


P.S. In an effort to build on the momentum of his encyclical, and to focus international attention on the incredibly high-stakes U.N. climate change summit in Paris this December, the Pope has asked that we each pray today “for the protection of Creation.” This is a powerful idea, and I hope we take him up on it in whatever way makes sense to us. Here’s a link to an article about it.

The Pope creates global prayer day for the environment (the Guardian)

Why Going Crazy is So Sane

Why Going Crazy is So Sane

Dear community,
I just published this article in the online magazine Psyched in SF and I wanted to share it with you.

Link to the original article as it appears in Psyched in SF


Sometimes when it feels like we’re going crazy, we’re really having a deeply sane response to a world gone mad. As we become aware of all the suffering and potential future suffering on Earth, it’s natural to feel disturbed. And although these feelings can be extremely unpleasant, they’re actually a critical part of humanity’s evolution.

Take, for example, a client of mine who gets upset seeing people eat red meat. She thinks about the drought in California, the incredible amount of water it takes to raise cows, the cruelty of factory farming, and how so many people habitually order burgers or steaks and perpetuate the negative cycle. It makes her feel crazy. She used to worry that something might be wrong with her because she was the only one who ever talked about it and because whenever she went out to dinner she was the only one who ever seemed to have any difficult feelings come up. So she kept her emotions inside until, one day, she opened up to me and began to see that nothing is wrong with her. After all, she just wants us to have plentiful water, respect for animals, and widespread conscientiousness. After realizing that her difficult feelings come from her protective instincts she was able to allow this intense energy to flow – to gush – in practical, intelligent, truly helpful ways.

Thats why going crazy is so sane. Our feelings are what power change, and we need a lot of change on our planet right now.

Here’s another example – a personal one. It has been mind-bogglingly frustrating for me to witness how slowly my community is waking up to climate change. Just about the entire scientific world, plus a growing chorus of political and religious leaders – including President Obama, the Pope, and the Dalai Lama – say that we need to stop burning fossil fuels to avoid catastrophe. So it makes me crazy when I see my own friends, family, and colleagues unaware and unengaged. Some of them fly wherever they want without a second thought, drive wherever they want without a second thought, and buy whatever they want without a second thought, even while gigantic alarm bells sound. Fortunately, like my client, I am learning how to channel these feelings. I am now using them to breathe life into this article and transmit what I hope is an empowering, liberating message to you.

It’s important to acknowledge that some of you might feel defensive or judged by these examples, but that’s not my intention. Suzuki Roshi, the founder of the San Francisco Zen Center, said it best. “You’re perfect just as you are and you could use a little improvement.” In other words, I know we’re all good people. In fact, I think we’re all great people. At the same time the world desperately needs us to grow right now. Just as in our history we’ve had to wake up to the immorality of slavery, anti-semitism, and unequal rights for the LGBT community, we now have to face the destructive way we eat, burn fuel, and much more in order to survive and thrive.

I’ll end with an aspiration for us. May we honor our agitation, frustration, and unrest. It is the Mama Bear in us awakening. To use another metaphor, it is the Earth’s white blood cells activating. Life itself is on the line and it is absolutely appropriate to go crazy.

Processing the Pope’s Message

Processing the Pope’s Message

Dear community,

Today the Pope released his much-talked-about encyclical, an official Catholic teaching about how climate change is “a dominant moral and ethical issue for society.” In it he talks about the “unprecedented destruction” humanity will face if we continue to treat the planet the way we do, and I want to offer some tips to help us really take in his message without getting totally overwhelmed.

  • We can have confidence that there is a path toward stemming climate change and this “unprecedented destruction.” This path includes buying locally grown and made things, supporting social justice and environmental organizations, advocating for laws that put a price on carbon emissions, increasing our awareness of interconnectedness, healing ourselves, and much more.
  • We can pace ourselves. This might look like genuinely absorbing the Pope’s message for a few minutes, then surfing the Internet for a while, doing some exercise, and then, when we’re feeling ready, returning to the message.
  • We can lean on each other. We can think of someone we know who is grappling with these issues and ask them for some support. If we’re scared, sad, or angry, we can cry on their shoulder for a while.
  • We can be kind to ourselves. It’s a big, hard message and it’s okay to have a big, hard time with it.
  • As crazy as it may sound, we can try to bring fun into the situation. For example, once in a while I imagine that I’m a Jedi warrior saving the world with my fellow Jedi.
  • We can feel grateful for the rapid evolution that we need to undergo to survive. Without such dire circumstances, we wouldn’t be forced to wake up and grow so much, both individually and collectively.
  • We can find refuge in spirituality. It may take some work for us to wake up, but there is a higher consciousness that we all have access to. From this place we know that no matter what happens we’re okay and everything is okay. This is not a recipe for complacency, it’s a source of peace and strength from which we become powerful agents of change.
  • We can remember that we’re not alone. If we want to help, we’ll be joining an unprecedented number of people who are already on board. This quote says it better than I can: “I now believe that there are over one – and maybe even two – million organizations working toward ecological sustainability and social justice. By any conventional definition, this vast collection of committed individuals does not constitute a movement… But after spending years researching this phenomenon, I have come to these conclusions: this is the largest social movement in all of human history. No one knows its scope, and how it functions is more mysterious than what meets the eye… What does meet the eye is compelling: coherent, organic, self organized congregations involving tens of millions of people dedicated to change. When asked at colleges if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: if you look at the science that describes what is happening on earth today and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t have the correct data. If you meet the people in this unnamed movement and aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a heart.” -Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest (2007)

I hope these tips help you as much as they have helped me.

In full support,


A Wildly Bright Kind of Earth Day Activism

A Wildly Bright Kind of Earth Day Activism

Dear community,
I published this article today in the online magazine Psyched in SF and I wanted to share it with you.
Happy Earth Day!

Link to the original article as it appears in Psyched in SF.


In an effort to be of true service in my life, I spent years studying and trying to face the reality of potentially catastrophic global warming, astronomical species extinction rates, devastating economic inequality, deeply rooted racism and sexism, war, trauma, and so on, and it all scared the s— out of me, especially climate change. I tried to get us to talk about it, change our ways, and change the world, but almost no one wanted to touch this stuff with a ten foot pole, so I began feeling resentful on top of everything else. But I stuck with it because… what’s the alternative?

It was confusing because there are some people out there like Derrick Jensen of Deep Green Resistance and Paul Kingsnorth of Dark Mountain who put despair and fear on a kind of pedestal, and people have really flocked in that direction, but people weren’t responding so positively to me.

So I had to dig deep, do a lot of soul searching, and then finally something clicked. I had heard it before. For example, I heard the famous, wise Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hahn say in a number of different ways that fear and anxiety were just more pollution. Somehow though the message finally got through during a talk I went to given by two other spiritual teachers, Andrew Harvey and Terry Patten.

Here’s what I took away. The power, intelligence, and creativity required to adequately respond to the crises we’re in will only come from a wildly bright place. It will not and cannot come from a place of doom and gloom, depression, and fear.

While it is healthy to acknowledge our afflictive emotions, we will only make the whole mess worse if we transmit them. There is even a label for this kind of attempt to make the world better – “reactivism.”

I am not advocating a path of fake or forced smiles here. I am sharing my observation that what is actually effective is a blend of traditional activism with what we could call spiritual fire. The essence of the human spirit is not depressed. It’s alive, buoyant, profoundly loving, and strong. It is in this place of simply being our sacred selves that we unlock our genius and shine. It is here that we become the candle that can light a thousand candles. (I actually think we need a stronger metaphor in this day and age though. I think we need to spread like wildfire).

Why does communicating with spiritual fire work? Because when we are aligned – mind, body, and spirit – we are firing on all cylinders. We become fully functioning human beings. And in doing so, we invite others to fully function too.

So may we allow these existentially-threatening times to be our catalyst for becoming the extraordinary beings that we have the potential to become and growing into the extraordinary community that we have the potential to create. And may our inner flame light the local, state, national, and international fire that we need to create a harmonious, sustainable, truly humane world.

My new blog!

My new blog!

Dear community,

I am excited to share my new, redone newsletter with you, which is actually now a blog where you can leave comments if you are so moved.

This blog comes from my desire to build and support a community of people who are really trying to wake up spiritually, evolve psychologically, and do lots of loving action in the world.

I am taking this step because I believe that we desperately need such people and such communities to heal the suffering of the world.

I am calling this blog “Wildfire” for two reasons. One, the world is literally on fire. From an increase in actual wildfires to our widespread burning emotional pain to global warming, it’s getting hot on Earth on a number of levels. Two, we have the potential to transmute this destructive fire by transforming its energy into spiritual fire – the fire of love, the roar of passion, and the brightness of our shining souls.

I’d love to hear from you.


Unleashing our inner bodhisattva

Unleashing our inner bodhisattva

Dear Friends,

I want to share a conversation with you that I had with a few friends. But before I tell you the details I want to mention that the one who started the conversation called us eco warriors, which I partly love because it captures the heroic energy that we try to bring to the world. But I also don’t like it because, in our society, words like “eco” and “environment” make us think of a single political issue, and this so-called issue gets ranked nationally as something like our 17th most important one. Environmentalism is not just a category that we can compartmentalize. It is inseparably intertwined with a bunch of other issues like economic, racial, and gender inequality, psychological isolation and anxiety, spiritual disconnectedness, and the inherent problem of having a growth-based system on a planet with finite resources. So I want a broader title for us… maybe something like aspiring bodhisattvas, which, for those of you who don’t know, are conscious, loving people who work to heal the suffering of the world.

Now, back to the conversation.


Friend #1:

I just read this article and thought of you. I think it provides a brilliant model for how we can move away from our fossil fuel addiction. There are many cases to be made for why we should do it, but this provides a template for how. I welcome any thoughts.

We can end our fossil fuel addiction by 2050

To my fellow eco warriors,



Friend #2:

Great article. Essential to have a grounded, practical vision. I’d only add that we need, individually and collectively, to unlock the very best in ourselves to inspire the creation of this vision.

Loving having eco warrior community,



Friend #3:

Hi eco warriors, 🙂

I like the info graphic. Makes it look possible to accomplish. I do think we need a zero emissions goal by 2050, then we can plan on how to get there and we can organize and take actions to help achieve those goals. (If we need to shut down X number of coal plants by Y time, if the government doesn’t close them, we can march on them, occupy them and shut them down.)

Thanks D. I feel better knowing you guys are thinking and feeling through these issues.

In solidarity,



Four things from this conversation stand out for me. One, the goal. Let us make zero emissions by 2050 our north star. Two, let us be guided by the path laid out in the article. Three, let us consider how to achieve the goals on this path and then let each of us take responsibility to carry out the solutions. And four, let us bring out the best in ourselves. Let us transform our numbness, complacency, indifference, denial, apathy, paralysis, distractedness, hopelessness, despair, guilt, shame, fear, grief, and anger into brilliant, bright, radiant, powerful, positive, joyful, inspiring, clear, loving energy.
May we each unleash our inner bodhisattva eco warrior, and may we all come together as a worldwide bodhisattva eco warrior community to achieve zero emissions by 2050… which is a boring scientific way to say protecting each other from unimaginable suffering.


P.S. If you’re interested, here is a Dharma talk I recently gave at the Austin Zen Center that is very related to this newsletter. Activism, spirituality, and psychology 

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