Live a Meaningful Life

Have you found yourself overwhelmed and questioning the fast paced digital rat race of society? Ever feel that there is so much more to life than the day to day hustle and within you is a deep longing to connect and live a more meaningful life? We can help guide you back to what really matters.

The Invisible Line

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Catch me on a Monday morning stuck in South Florida traffic, running late to work, having to pass on the venti plain pike, dodging cars, looking down and realizing the stain on my shirt didn’t come off after washing.  “I’m late… what is the boss going to say?… stop, your mind is racing” I tell myself-  Catch me in a state of battling my own mind and you’d probably label this process as unstable. If at this point you were able to dissect my thoughts and feelings within a ten minute frame, you’d discover irrational, random, illogical, self-defeating, catastrophizing, and possibly nihilistic content.  You’d probably change your perception on the kind of person I am if we were well acquainted.  However, you’d also acknowledge that every person experiences between 50,000-70,000 thoughts a day.  You’d probably reflect at your own thought patterns throughout a 24 hour period and come away with saying “I’ve had days like that.”  The reality is our minds produce a plethora of thoughts given each presenting situation.  Most of us are fortunate enough to be able to filter, choose, or ignore such thoughts-unfortunately, there are some who are incapable of doing so.  

If we explored the thoughts of any stable, mentally sound individual, you would find a vast area of uncertainty, anxiety, fears, resentments, selfishness, regret, secrets, desires, etc.  What distinguishes this person from the “psychotic” is a well functioning mechanism of containing, filtering, choosing, interpreting, discarding, and applying such thoughts.  The “schizophrenic” wears his thoughts and feelings on the outside, while the majority of us conceal and process them internally.  Nonetheless, the thought content of fears, dreams, desires, love, anger, etc is identical.  If you ever took the time to know someone that experiences auditory or visual hallucinations, you’ll discover the content has significant meaning.  Whether it seems bizarre or incoherent, if we examine our own thoughts we’ll find a common thread-that we all deal with fears whether real or imagined, we all dream, and we all seek to love and be loved in return.  The person who bears the challenges of being unable to contain and filter their thoughts within deserve our utmost gratitude. There is something magnificent, a life saving quality of being able to hear a familiar language uttered in a dark and foreign land. Similarly, it’s relieving to listen to an unfiltered emotion- a thought freed from the constraints of what is “right” or “appropriate” in the midst of challenges.  It’s in the process of crossing over to understand those society disregards- it’s through the voices and visions of a unique mind that we are able to reflect, relate to others, and manage our own inner world.  

Depth Of Our Wounds

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“The scars had finally healed.  Looking back on every laceration, every opening… was only an attempt to break free, a way to release all the things I wanted to be and all the things I wanted to say.  Each scar collectively became a map of where I wanted to go, a clear direction for a lost soul.  The scars had finally healed, and I knew this because what I had done to myself physically, through the process of healing, was finally transcended and attained on the spiritual realm.”

More Than Crumbs

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Who stole the cookie from the jar?
Well…
You did.
Now let’s talk about honesty.  Honesty, and not in the religious moral sense (going to a bad place of lying), but in the sense of integrity. The sense that if you can be honest with yourself and with the values you’ve learned along the way then you can start to grow.

Therapy can be tough, while it implies that a client will be honest, so does the therapist. And while I believe everyone lies at some point in some form, it’s difficult when you are in the therapy room.

On one side, you don’t want to express your darkest secrets and on the other hand you don’t want to tell the client you are thinking about lunch.

There are different schools of thought on change and behaviors. But I think the common idea starts with admitting to yourself (being honest) that there is something you can change or alter. Then you can begin the process of moving forward.

Integrity is not easy.  It’s not easy in therapy or off the couch. But like anything, as you practice you can find yourself satisfying your own path in life instead of walking another person’s path.

Honesty isn’t always the best policy, but if you want to stop stealing cookies, be honest with yourself. If not, steal as many cookies as you want, but don’t tell the therapist you want to change or it’s someone else’s fault you’re getting fat.

Quote from Bill Ward, drummer of Black Sababth:

During the question-and-answer portion of the evening, an audience member asked Ward what advice he’d give someone who was going through a rough time. He responded: “If you believe in a higher power or if you believe in God, then I would suggest that you go to God and see if you can find some solutions. If you don’t believe in God, then try to be as honest with yourself as you possibly can…When I’ve chosen the light of God or self-honesty, my own misery has brought me to a solution. My own pain, my own sadness has brought me to a place of surrender, so I’ll surrender to the truth anyway and go, ‘You know what? I need to talk to somebody about this.’ Try not to be alone with your own pain. Try to find someone you can trust your pain with. It’s really important that we communally share what’s going on with each other… Otherwise, we’re going to be walking around in a very sorrowful place.”

Noah Goldberg, MSW, RCSWI

Deprivation and Gratitude

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In jail food is a high commodity- the currency that defines an inmate’s status.  Due to the scarcity and restricted variety, the accessibility of food is based on the level of outside support or cunning ability to persuade or take from others.  Food is prisoner’s gold.  It is no wonder the the amount of bricks (sandwiches) or dollars in a commissary account greatly impacts the mood and mental health of the inmate.  Jail is similar to outside society where power and status are of great value, except in jail, possession and rank is brought to the forefront due to scarcity and deprivation.  It was here that I learned deprivation is not necessarily a bad thing.  As a matter of fact, it may be beneficial. 

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned was in simply observing an inmate eat an orange.  He was given an extra orange for lunch by a correctional officer.  He looked at it and held it alternately with both hands.  It was the same way a jeweler would handle an expensive gold necklace or a miner would examine a diamond.  He smiled, peeled it slowly, separated it into pieces, laid it into a paper napkin, smiled again, and finally began to eat it.  There was a level of gratitude in the process that I had never witnessed before. The inmate and his gold, an orange, submerged completely in the moment-something most of take for granted because we become accustomed to always having.  And this applies to most things- our friendships, family, love, our possessions, our health, internal and external freedoms, etc. I have to admit, there was a sense of envy as I watched someone appreciate the very little, grasping to the moment, touching every bit of the orange from its outer texture to the sweetness of taste.  I couldn’t remember the last time I had appreciated the little things, the many that I had take for granted. Because of deprivation, this inmate was given the gift of gratitude in which he could touch life and experience the moment at its fullest vitality.  He was alive and free.  “Who are the real prisoners?”, I asked myself.  Most of us have plenty and yet most of us never experience a genuine level of gratitude for what we have.  We’re taught to write a gratitude list or recite a few affirmations to boost our levels of gratitude but rarely is it suggested to reach out to a life who is far more deprived than we are.  This is the best way to acquire gratitude- to learn it from those who have less.  Often, it’s those that suffer greatly that touch life the deepest.  It’s those who are deprived that can relish and appreciate without reservation when they finally attain something.  Watch and learn through them, because if it’s anything that we more fortunate individuals lack, it might just be the greatest commodity of all- Gratitude. 

Of Angels and Shadows

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The worst sickness in mental health is not classified as an illness.  It is rare in contemporary psych literature and discussions.  I would go as far to say that the majority of us are unknowingly suffering from it.  Yet, when we closely examine the effects of this problem we find that it is correlated with all self-injurious, suicidal, and addictive behavior.  These three problems contain the common theme of self-loathing-a self loathing that is perpetuated by the cunning and deadly  state of denial.  But it isn’t a denial of the actual behaviors that are my concern. It’s the denial of something deeper that evolves out of a mainstream consciousness that people are entirely good and that “badness” is an external mysterious force that selects only a small percentage of us.  Wrong!  The reality of human nature is that within it there is both good and evil and to exclusively attribute one to who we are is to deny our exact nature.  People are good, but they are also inherently flawed and capable of evil.  The goal is to live responsibly with these two natures.  However, the majority point of view tends to deny this fact and what results is a perpetuation of symptoms and high risk behaviors.  When we deny who we are and do not embrace our wholeness we become imprisoned by what we should be.  When the evil or flawed nature arises, on a subconscious level, we experience discomfort, anxiety, and self loathing.  The battle of suppression begins, often to intolerable heights leading to self-harm behaviors such as self-mutilation, addiction, and suicide.  When we internalize the lie that man is good and that’s all that he SHOULD be,  a frantic self-loathing society emerges-addicts use, cutters cut, and the hopeless attempt to nullify themselves into oblivion.

Imagine if we began to break the chains of internalized messages of what we should be and began to embrace what is- who we really are. When people fully acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses-their goodness and flaws- they are prone to inflict love rather than pain on themselves and others.  I believe it’s time we awaken to the reality of the all encompassing duality of good and bad.  

The Dying Tree

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“There’s a mission that treats alcoholics and drug addicts located at the heart of Skid Row, Los Angeles.  It’s a community center, so often beds fill fast and many seeking treatment are turned away and placed on a waiting list, requiring many to wait months before getting help.  A fair percentage of those turned away have an earnest desire to get clean.  Yet, they have no where to turn and so they wait, often in the blistering sun of the summer afternoon or in the unpredictable occurrences of the winter nights.  Vulnerable to the elements, they lay underneath the refuge of an indifferent tree, a piece of nature notoriously known as “The Dying Tree.”  Their desire for a better life far outweighs the predictability of the next fix.  The commitment and focus by which they express in their determination to wait and to abstain, parallels the greatest ingenuity- humanity attempting to change against the odds.  And the odds are heavily against them, as many of them wither and die beneath the scanty branches of The Dying Tree.  Days pass, weeks, and months, and they wait.  Many convulse, falling flat on their heads, scarcely leaving behind a few items for survival.  Others die of dehydration or health related conditions, and those remaining, unable to continue the fight, relapse-  overdosing after a period of abstinence due to the body being unaccustomed to the dosages.  A grim and bitter ending it seems but the souls that never make it through the doors of possibilities of a different life grant us the greatest lesson.  And that is, with every challenge we face, with everything we desire, we should place ourselves at the precipice-at the doors of possibilities and change with an unrelenting commitment, willing to sacrifice everything, willing to battle the elements- in the coldness or the unrelenting heat of daily living-for the opportunity of a better existence.”

The Inherent Power of Mental Illness

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Several years ago I was leading a process group with patients affected by schizophrenia and addiction in a community outpatient center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Each patient took turns sharing thoughts and feelings on challenges of dealing with their symptoms and discovering more effective ways to deal with their condition.  As I listened to the their daily struggles, their efforts, and their level of gratitude, I couldn’t help but to think that in contrast to the rest of the world these seemingly poor souls were in reality the fortunate ones.  These individuals, through their condition, had acquired a keen ability to reflect, to identify weaknesses and strengths, and make difficult but responsible decisions necessary to change.  This group knew themselves at a level so profound they were able to help newer struggling members through their experiences.  These people understood the problem- they were awake.  There was honesty, there was sincerity, and a knowledge of self I had rarely seen anywhere else.  These individuals were fighting for their lives and they were doing it from the inside out.  They were aware that the war they battled was within and when someone attempted to deviate from this reference point they were quickly reminded of the errors of external blame.  This group like several others I’ve worked with stood in stark contrast to the general consciousness of society that declares “I’m fine” and that the solution is “somewhere out there.”  I’ve come to learn the most valuable lessons through people committed to their mental health and addiction recovery- and that is-the ultimate state of being human is not attaining nor portraying perfection, but a full ongoing life commitment to fight, to love, and to do battle from the inside-out.  

The Ills That Save

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How can the greatest ills of humanity serve any good purpose?  The question can only be answered once the defect has been identified and we commence the journey to remedy it.  Those suffering from chronic mental health problems or addictions who have undergone a process of recovery have accomplished the unimaginable.  They have defied the laws of a self destructive nature and have catapulted themselves to state of unprecedented usefulness founded on a basis of knowledge of self and the divine.  I will continue to say of this wondrous matter:  “There is no greater miracle than this!”

You Are Not Alone

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I always thought that statement was pretty tacky, something someone said when they had had no other way of consoling a friend in crisis.  In times of difficulty, a few friends used these words and I’d brush them off, reflecting on the corny nature of the statement. As if four words can take away the burden of the presenting problem.  I’d think how easy it was for them to say those words, those wasteful words they’d assume had some profound affect and I would snap out of my depression and resume a happy life all because I was “not alone.”  But then one day it got pretty dark…so dark that I doubted I’d ever come out of it.  Then, I heard the words “you are not alone.”  These words became the flickering light in the depths of despair by which I was able to find my way back again.”

If you are hurting and in a dark place, please remember, you are not alone…

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