Sunday, November 23, 2014

Staying Relaxed during the holidays?

by Delia Nessim

It seems ironic that on Thanksgiving Day we give thanks for all the riches and bounty in our lives, and then the very next day is the “biggest shopping day of the year”. If we truly believe we are blessed, why the mad dash to keep buying more? 

While we may enjoy holiday shopping and even derive satisfaction from choosing the perfect gifts for friends and family, this time of year can also bring tremendous stress. There are the crowds, the extra time required for cooking and shopping, holiday-themed school activities, and the financial strain of extra money being spent. Add to the list all the expectations we have to make everything perfect for the holidays – undoubtedly strengthened by Hallmark movies featuring a large, happy family gathered around the table enjoying each other’s company. Given all this, the holiday season can certainly take its toll on us physically and mentally.

When we are frustrated or stressed, our clarity and mental capacity are diminished. Our immune system is compromised. It is easier to have accidents, make more mistakes, and use poor judgment. Maybe we didn’t need to buy that third present for our niece, bake pies for three different gatherings, or offer to pick up Uncle Walter at the airport when he was okay catching a cab.  In the midst of juggling all the competing demands of the season, we may lose our perspective on what is most important, spending too much time, money, and energy on things and activities that deplete us rather than bring us meaning and joy. 

During this holiday season, it is critical to make our emotional health a priority. Here are a few simple strategies to help you stay relaxed as you move through the coming month:

·      Wake up a little earlier than usual to meditate, read an uplifting poem, or go for a quiet walk in nature.
·      Focus on your breath, noticing its reliable in and out, deepening it whenever you are feeling stressed during the day. 
·      Build yoga, qi gong, or some form of regular exercise into your daily routine.
·      Practice laughter yoga – laughing at any time for no reason at all – to help you keep perspective and a sense of humor.

·      Bring a feeling of love into your heart by focusing on your gratitude for the people and animals dear to you.

Delia Nessim, MFT, is a Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice at The Resiliency Center in Flourtown, PA. In addition to individual, couples, and family counseling, she offers a group for divorced woman and leads workshops on Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT/Tapping). She is also trained in clinical hypnosis and offers individual sessions in both EFT and hypnosis. For more information, see her website at 

Generosity in the Season of Giving

by Elizabeth Venart

Generosity is a big part of the holiday season. Movies often highlight the theme with humor and poignancy. In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is a curmudgeon who never cared for anyone but himself, yet, by the end of the film, he is transformed into an openhearted, generous, and kind man. Miracle on 34th Street concludes with Macy’s Santa “Kris Kringle” delivering a desired new home to the cynical young girl, causing her to believe in magic after all.  It’s a Wonderful Life shows an entire community of people coming together to help save the beloved main character, a giving man who, in his desperation, had doubted the value of his own life.

Invitations to be generous in December are numerous. Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa are celebrations with distinctly different origins and traditions – yet all include the exchange of gifts. Toys for Tots collection sites are scattered along our commutes to and from work. Men dressed as Santa greet shoppers as they enter stores, ringing bells and asking for money for the Salvation Army. Adopt-a-Family programs like the one organized by the Kelly Ann Dolan Memorial Fund ( invite us to buy clothes, presents, and other needed items for struggling families in our community. Nonprofit organizations count on people being willing to do a little more for others this time of year. And, consistently, we prove them right.

What prompts us to be more generous now?  Is it simply the season? Does the month of December (like the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future) have the power to make us a little softer, a little kinder, and a little more willing to give? Probably not. Perhaps, instead, we have within us a natural desire to be giving and, between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, we simply receive and answer more invitations to be generous.

Our natural generosity is evident in the outpouring of support that comes following any local, national, or international tragedy. It can also be seen in the behavior of young children, expressing joy as they help bake cookies, make presents, and share gifts with those they love. The drive to be kind is an intrinsic part of being human. While sometimes it may be thwarted or distorted by painful early experiences, the vast majority of us continue to be kind. Giving is natural, and being generous feels good.

This season, as you consider how you wish to express your generosity, you may want to reflect on the kind of giving – and receiving – that feels most joyful and satisfying to you. Consider being mindful and intentional with your giving, not simply from the perspective of “what would I like to give” but equally evaluating, “What are the ways I can be giving that will also be uplifting and nourishing for me?”

Giving mindfully doesn’t involve spending more than we have or overextending ourselves and ending up depleted or sick. Mindful generosity asks us to acknowledge giving and receiving as an exchange – and to be intentional with where and how we direct our energy. Often, the best gifts are gifts of time, thoughtfulness, and companionship. Consider baking a loaf of cranberry bread for a neighbor, making soup for a sick friend, extending an invitation to dinner, making a book of free babysitting coupons for a friend who is a single parent, or connecting by phone with a long-distance family member.

As you contemplate the many ways to be generous this year, consider also giving to someone very deserving: You. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Lower your expectations to “find the perfect gift” and consider instead carving out time for yourself to simply be. Take a walk in nature. Spend time with people who make you laugh. Sleep in. Go to bed early. Listen to your favorite music. Re-read a beloved book. Spend time enjoying the dark, sitting in candlelight and sipping a cup of hot tea.
The joy and magic of the holiday season comes into focus more clearly when we listen to and honor our own needs, cultivate a spirit of generosity with ourselves and others, and slow down to fully experience the present moment. Today and throughout the year ahead, I wish all of us true presence, mindful generosity, happiness, and deep, abiding peace.

Elizabeth Venart, M.Ed., LPC, is the Founder and Director of The Resiliency Center and a Licensed Professional Counselor who offers individual, couples, and group counseling. Her focus is on enhancing resiliency, cultivating compassion, and supporting people in healing through comprehensive, trauma-informed care. Elizabeth provides clinical supervision and EMDR consultation to therapists seeking to deepen their understanding of the complexity of human struggles and to respond in meaningful, effective ways.  To learn more, visit her website at  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Periscope View by Dean Solon

sitting, with an unfolding to a wider view, to a larger, broader, more extensive perspective of landscape, of mindscape.

sitting...rising above the easily a spacious view of  big sky stretching to distant a view of a vastness of ocean, opening expanding reaching out to distant a view that fills, and spills over the banks the barriers and the boundaries of our limited awareness;  is a view that transcends belief and logic and scientific theory.

ripples in the sunlit pool.
you are seeing ripples in the sunlit pool...ripples streaming from left to right...
a perfectly manifesting expressing of a spaciousness
for a seeing, in this         this         this         moment---
              that all concerns and cares
             of this world
             are ripples in the sunlit pool.
             are ripples in the sunlit pool of human time.

a raised view, looking down upon a planet whose surface is mainly water.
waves---ripples on the water---streaming on a great expanse from left to right.
all of it---all of this---attractions, distractions, all of the movement and motion, all of the light allowing a seeing of the motion, all of the expressing and embodying and manifesting of the increasing activity that is the living of the planet and is the living of you...ripples on the water.
grist for the mill.

the dance---Shiva's dance,
the rocking and rolling and swaying of zikhr (remembrance)---
the only dance there is.
ripples on the water.

it is a view of loosening the reins.
it is a way of letting go.