Category Archives: Blog

Yoga of Joy

Yoga of Joy

Dear Friends,

As I mentioned a couple of newsletters ago, I recently got licensed as a psychotherapist. What I didn’t mention is that the licensing process, especially in the end, was grueling.

At a few points I got pretty down. In some of those moments I managed to slow down, go inward, and ask myself what would help. Something that a Zen teacher named Lew Richmond said came to mind again and again.

I heard him give a talk about his very scary near death experience. He got extremely sick, went into a coma for about a month, and then surprised everyone including the doctors and came out of it.

Afterward, during the healing process, he felt profoundly disturbed. Among other serious symptoms, he said that he often felt like his mind was somehow on the other side of the room as his body.

He tried lots of techniques to help himself but nothing worked. In fact some things, like meditation, made it worse.

In desperation he turned to the Marx Brothers – the famous comedians from the early 1900s. He watched lots of their movies, laughed and laughed, and gradually healed.

He used the phrase “yoga of joy” to describe what he was practicing at the time. I love this idea. I love that we can approach joy in the same way that we can approach yoga – gently reaching for something, with repetition.

So when times got especially tough for me during those months of studying, sometimes I was lucky enough to remember Lew Richmond, this talk, and the yoga of joy. Then I would think about what might bring me joy, often just follow his lead, look up funny comedians on Youtube, and go down hilarious Youtube rabbit holes of comedy. Eventually I would find myself completely transformed… laughing so hard I was crying (in a good way)!

Now I pass along this wonderful teaching to you.


What heals

What heals

Dear Friends,

Recently I went on a retreat with some fellow therapists who are also close friends. It was a deep and thoroughly safe space.

As the retreat went on, I was impressed by how much each of us healed. During a few especially poignant moments I asked myself how we heal.

The answer was clear: All we have to do is be ourselves.

When we’re undefended, neither diminished nor puffed up, embodied, present, and honest on all levels, we naturally and spontaneously heal ourselves and others.

We move through our wounds in a very organic way, we respond to other’s pain with loving intelligent precision, and we celebrate and play too, which is also medicinal.

With all the messages out there about how to heal, I thought it would be helpful to boil it down to this one core principle. We may need an especially safe place like this retreat I went on or therapy to help us get the hang of it, but ultimately we simply need to be ourselves and we will heal ourselves and others.


Reflections on the longest night of the year

Reflections on the longest night of the year

Dear Friends,

Happy winter solstice! I, for one, am really excited that we are now headed toward the light.

Winter solstice, the holidays, and new year’s often make us reflect on a lot. So I thought I’d share with you a truly inspiring piece of writing that I came across. It guides us toward what is most important to us, it encourages us in this profound and fresh way, and it is beautiful. So as we ponder and mull and consider and dream, may it help us think along the most healthy and positive lines.

Happy holidays and happy new year’s too!




What do you want?
More than anything,
deep in the heart of your being,
what do you want?


If you surveyed your time on this earth
from a deathbed,
what would really matter to you? 


What are the memories that would
engender the peace
of nothing essential left undone,
a life well lived?


Never forget what is most important to you.


Allow yourself for a moment
to imagine a you
who has held steadfast to the clarity of your vision,
who has overcome all obstacles on the path,
who has vanquished all doubts,
composted all darkness
to feed the radiant jewel
of a life giving tree,
your unique offering to the world.


Invoke this liberated,
version of yourself.


Right here.
Right now.


Any time you feel the fog
of fragmenting voices,
the hypnotic sleep of superficial agendas,
any time you lose faith in yourself
and your commitment or capacity,
invoke the one who has already made it through
to the very end.


Let your every cell resonate
with the frequency of victory,
and know that this is no arrogance.


For if you truly listen
to the deepest aspiration of your heart,
then what you discover is that your
core desire is a note that serves
an evolving harmony.


Your love seeks above all
to give itself fully
to the world,
with nothing held back.


When you recognize that you, and only you,
are responsible for your choices,
for mastering your experience,
for the life you weave,
for delivering your gift,
then no-one,
no dark force,
no human insanity,
no sickness of body or soul,
can hinder you.


We are at all times surrounded,
by a great intelligence.


Creation moves
toward healing,
the ultimate revealing of
our magnificence
in the beauty way.


Countless allies
come to the aid
of all who align themselves
with this light.


So offer your willingness
to every step,
however faltering,
with all the sincerity,
and courage
you can muster.


Though you might be daunted by
all that would tear you down,
though your willingness might seem insufficient
for the task ahead,
give everything you are.


Your small willingness will be met by
an infinite supply,
and you will rise up,
and we will all rise beside you.


-Luke Anderson,

The Full Moon

The Full Moon

Dear Friends,

It has been a while since I have written a newsletter. I have been pouring all of my energy into studying for my final licensing exams. I passed them both! (Thank you, I will take a bow now… and a nap.) Now I feel inspired to share a Zen teaching with you in honor of the full moon.

I was told this teaching when I was in Australia. I was in a pretty yucky relationship and I was really discouraged, so I went to a Zen meditation group and ended up getting to talk to the teacher privately. After I told him what was going on he said, “Sometimes the moon is full, sometimes it’s half full, sometimes a quarter, sometimes you can’t see it at all. But it’s always full.”

He meant that no matter what’s going on in life I am whole and profoundly okay. I realized in that moment that I could trust this wisdom, so that during hard times I wouldn’t get overwhelmed or totally disheartened.

This teaching has helped me question my stories about myself. It has helped me remember what’s going on beneath the surface. As I write, another metaphor comes to mind. On the surface the waves of the ocean can be quite powerful, but at the bottom the water is always very still.

Hoping this teacher’s words help you find some degree of tranquility,

The first step to creating a humane and sustainable world: visualizing it

The first step to creating a humane and sustainable world: visualizing it

Dear Friends,

I want to let you know that I am leading a workshop on September 27th from 1-3pm in San Francisco, and you are welcomed to come. I think it will be deeply supportive, a source of real guidance, and fun. It’s called The first step to creating a humane and sustainable world: visualizing it.

The idea was inspired by a psychotherapist, shaman, and author named Sandra Ingerman. In one of her books, called Healers of the Earth, she describes the path to becoming a healer of the world as having seven aspects: intention, union, love, focus, concentration, harmony, and imagination. I think this is a brilliant list. And, because the world needs it right now, I am trying to walk this path and I am inviting others to try to walk this path with me.

If you would like to join me, I’ve created this workshop to get us started. In it we’ll mainly focus on imagination. If there’s enough interest in this workshop, I’ll host six more workshops in the future to give us a chance to practice the other aspects of this path. Here are the details and a sign up link, where you can also find a full workshop description. In addition, I’ll leave you with a handful of pictures and a song containing other people’s thoughts and visions to spark your imagination.

I hope to see you there. And, whether or not you can make it, I hope you join me on this path.



When? Saturday September 27th, 1-3pm

Location? Zazen (a beautiful spot in the Marina district of San Francisco, located at 2219 Filbert Street)

Price? $60/$40 for Zazen members

Where can I sign up?

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Inspired by Stephen Colbert and the founder of Tesla

Inspired by Stephen Colbert and the founder of Tesla

Dear Friends,

Elon Musk, the Founder of Paypal, Tesla, and Space X, and one of the people who conceived of SolarCity (the biggest solar panel company in America), was recently on the Colbert Report. Here is an excerpt of their conversation.

Stephen Colbert: You recently made all the patents for Tesla available for everybody, basically saying you’re not going to prosecute people if they use your patented technology. Why are you giving away the store like that?

Elon Musk: I’m not sure of the right analogy exactly but I sort of view it like this: If we’re all in a ship together and there’s some holes in the ship, and we’re bailing water out and we have a great design for a bucket, then even if we’re bailing water out way better than everybody else we should probably still share the bucket design… because we’re all going to sink.

I am sharing this discussion with you because I feel encouraged by it. First of all, Elon Musk invented Tesla, an electric car company that is slowly revolutionizing the auto industry and helping the world go green. Second of all, he accepted that global warming is a survival issue in need of immediate attention, used the reality of our situation as motivation to do everything he could to help, and then did something shockingly generous. He gave up his patents, which would have probably made him a fortune.

What an amazing example he’s setting for us.

Although this language hasn’t quite hit the mainstream, I’m going to use it anyway. If we are going to survive, I am coming to believe that we need to face the reality that global warming is a survival issue, get practical and creative and selfless like Elon Musk, and find our way into our hearts so that we will have the courage to protect ourselves, our children, and the entire vulnerable web-of-life on Earth.


My Zen and climate change radio interview

My Zen and climate change radio interview

I recently did an interview with Will Sherwin, an MFT, Zen practitioner, and friend who hosts a radio show called Ethical Lifestyle Design. It’s about my attempt to make a positive impact on the world and about understanding that journey for everyone. It’s got good music, good questions, and I hope good responses. Here it is. If you listen, please let me know what it stirs in you!

Ethical Lifestyle Design – Jared Michaels, Zen, and climate change communication

How to return to who we really are

Recently I was listening to a talk by a wonderful, wise psychotherapist and shaman named Sandra Ingerman. She said something that resonated with me in an incredibly powerful way and I’d like to share it with you. She said, “The only difference between me and you is that I know that I am God and you don’t.”

I’m going to explore that teaching with you today, but first here’s a disclaimer: I am well aware that talking about God in our culture is like trying to navigate a treacherous obstacle course. I’d like to ask that if you usually have issues with or fixed preconceived notions about the word “God” then please try to have an open mind right now to hear what I mean when I use it.

When I talk about God, I am referring to the beauty at the heart of our being, the perfection that we all ultimately are, and the sacredness that shines from our soul. I mean that word in a completely spiritual way, not at all in an institutional way.

I think that it is not just important but necessary to remember again and again that we are God. Without this awareness we lose contact with who we really are and, out of fear, begin to act crazy. With this awareness we find profound peace, compassion, love, relaxation, intelligence… you name it.

The shift to remembering who we really are – God – is not just a mental act. We cannot impose this awareness upon ourselves through belief. We have to know it, remember it, realize it, wake up to it, touch it, and connect to it from a place that is much more cellular and ancient than the intellect. As one of my Zen teachers said, “We wake up with our whole body.”

Because we often need help to wake up like this, I’d like to offer you a meditation that I’ve found pivotal. This is not by any means a classic Zen meditation. I have put it into my own language and it has a lot of psychology influences. Here it is.

  1.  Give yourself the gift of quiet time and space. The amount of time can range from 10 seconds to a couple hours.
  2.  Sit in a comfortable position. If you’re wide awake, lying down can be a good position too.
  3.  Form the intention to be with your experience just as it is. Notice your body’s sensations, think your thoughts, and feel your feelings.
  4.  Breath self-compassion into your atmosphere.
  5.  As you relax, let your mind and heart organically open and wake up.
  6.  Ask yourself what you really are.

May this meditation help you remember in every fiber of your being that you are God. And, with this knowing, may you live with great love for yourself and all living beings!

Two great tools for healing ourselves and the world

Thank you to those of you who read my last newsletter, and thank you to those of you who responded with so much enthusiasm. You all encouraged me.

Today I would like to share a recent Facebook post of mine with you. It meant a lot to a handful of people. For most people though I think it was, frankly, overwhelming. But I share it again with you not because I’m insensitive, but because it’s my truth, because I want to have a real conversation with you, and because even though it’s difficult I believe it’s ultimately helpful… which is the point of this newsletter. Having said all that, here it is:
According to the science we have to pull off an incredible, David-and-Goliath sized feat. We have to stop burning fossil fuels, the foundation of our entire lifestyle, within about 10-15 years in order to prevent catastrophe. What do I mean by catastrophe? The dangers vary depending on how much carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere, but we’ve already made our planet much more inhospitable and we’ve only raised the temperature of the planet by 1° Celsius! At worst, if we continue with business as usual we will actually, believe it or not, bring about the end of civilization. And we will bring down a huge portion, if not all, of the rest of the web-of-life with us.
As we work through a whole range of difficult emotions about this – such as overwhelm, fear, helplessness, hopelessness, guilt, shame, despair, and anger – the fact that we still can stop this will become increasingly clear and we will eventually ask, What can I do to help? May we each ask this question with our whole hearts.
For my part, I’d like to raise consciousness about the science and offer two basic resources for dealing with something so scary. One, we can share our difficult feelings with trusted friends. One of my favorite quotes is “A burden shared is halved and a joy shared is doubled.” In other words, sharing alone is profoundly healing. I have found this to be true again and again and again. We can literally get it out. And when we do we end up feeling clear, healthy, and powerful.
Two, here is an insight that many religions and philosophies throughout history have taught us. D.H. Lawrence put it this way: “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.” In other words, we have run away with the assumption that we are separate from the universe – from the Earth and from each other. And this has made us crazy. This has made us afraid, small, defensive, selfish, and neurotic. When we plant ourselves again in the universe, or reconnect to our true selves, we regain ease, balance, confidence, peace, and strength. And from this secure place our compassionate intelligence flows.
There are lots of techniques to help us reconnect to ourselves. A couple of my favorites are meditation and spending time in nature.
So please, let’s surround ourselves with good people. Let’s be brave and face the science. And let’s become like white blood cells, doing whatever we can to save ourselves and the whole web-of-life.

My first newsletter

Welcome to my newsletter!

As a way to get started, I would like to let you in behind the scenes and tell you how hard it has been for me to write this first newsletter. I racked my brain and heart searching for what would be appropriate, catchy, and profound, but not too profound. Basically I tied myself up into knots over this, and I would like to use this experience as a launching pad for a discussion.

I think we all know what it’s like to get stuck in an internal “story” that we need to be some certain way – something other than being ourselves just as we are. We can get caught in this for days, weeks, months, years, or even, sadly, a lifetime. It’s common to get caught up in this kind of spell in various circumstances such as public speaking, but it can happen while interacting with just one other person, or even when we’re alone. I often hear about it when people tell me about their troubles socializing, dating, being with their parents, or interacting in the workplace. The internal story about who they should be becomes so pervasive that it’s stifling to who they truly are.

So how did I deal with it this time? Gradually, as I stayed with it and felt the pain of my self-judgements (i.e., the various ways I sometimes tell myself that I am not okay the way I am), I realized more and more that I hadn’t found a positive way forward. I eventually gave up and surrendered. It became clear that I can only offer myself.

Let’s talk about that word “only.” I felt small when I first had the thought – like I can only give you me, just little old me. I felt insufficient and even worthless.

But then as I began to open up with you – to be myself with you – this natural, bright confidence (that we all have) started to come back online. I remembered in this very solid way that I am great, I am a great offering, I am the best offering, and you are too. Just the way we are.

And with that self-awareness, self-trust, and self-love, my newsletter began to flow.

So, that’s my first story for you. It’s been very sweet to share it with you and also a little scary. I hope these words support you to be your true self.
Until next time,


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