Embodied Gratitude

If you’re looking for a way into a new gratitude practice or wanting to turn up the dial on your current efforts, tapping into the feeling sense is a helpful approach.

It can also help to understand why our minds are so much more easily drawn to the negative and we have to actively pursue an alternative.

I made a short video to offer support for anyone who’s floundering or whose oomph is fading. I think these super-simple tricks will make it easier to cement your practice because it feels so good.

If you’re interested in going deeper into body-mind-spirit healing, let’s connect! I work with people in a variety of ways, including intuitive coaching, remote Reiki, and Reiki classes. If you’re in the neighborhood, there’s Reiki-massage and Reiki in Philadelphia.

Emotional Engagement for Health Relationships

I just loved this article by Emily Nagasaki, a sex expert who brilliantly straddles the worlds of science and emotions. It outlines a simple tip for communicating in close relationships to build emotional engagement.

To Build Trust, Say the Nice Thing First

An important idea that didn’t fit into my next book.

I’ve been working on the trust section of my new book (the one about sex in long term relationships), and I wrote a big section on the relationship between individual differences in temperament and a person’s ability to be emotionally engaged—emotional engagement is the “E” in Sue Johnson’s language about trust. She says that trust is “A.R.E. you there for me?” where “A” is emotional accessibility, “R” is emotional responsiveness, and “E” is emotional engagement. Questions like “Am I there for my partner?” and “Are you there for me?” are excellent starting places for assessing the trust in your relationship.

And the section just doesn’t fit in the book.

So here! Y’all have it! I think it’s interesting and helpful—or at least it was for me, when I learned this stuff!

Maybe you have a serious temperament. You’re someone who, ahem, notices what can be improved before you notice what’s already working. People might think of you as a pessimist, because your ability to notice things that can be improved can come across as if all you see is what doesn’t work.

Let’s go way, way back to my early days of being in romantic relationships. I was in college. My certain special someone had just redecorated their dorm room. When I came into the refreshed space, they asked, “What do you think?”

And I said…

Well, what would you want someone to say to you, in these circumstances?

You’d want them to say, “It’s great!” or “I love it!” or even “It feels so you!”

The first thing I said was, “The rug is crooked.”

Oh geez.

And look, when my college dating partner asked me what I thought of their new room, it’s just not true that “The rug is crooked” is what I thought of the room. I thought it looked nice. I thought it gave me some ideas about what to do with my room. Above all, I thought they looked really happy with the change, and I was glad they were happy. And all of those thoughts mattered more than rug. But I noticed the rug first, so I mentioned the rug first, thus missing a moment of emotional engagement.

My temperament is serious and analytical; I am excellent at identifying problems. I could give a lot of embarrassing examples here about times when I explained to people how they could solve their problem, and they surprised me by being angry with me for solving their problem. If that sounds familiar to you, your necessary skill is:

Say the nice thing first.

Saying the nice thing first is a crucial part of how to build and reinforce trust through emotional engagement. My partner needs and deserves praise, to know that I love and admire him, before I ask for a change, and that’s normal. It’s normal to want or even need to hear good things before we’re ready to accept critical things. Praise, admiration, and acceptance are how people build that tender, vulnerable emotional connection that characterizes so few of our relationships. That connection is emotional engagement.

So even though I still notice what can be improved before I notice what’s working, I’ve learned to say what’s working before I say what can be improved. I’ve even learned that most of the time, people don’t want or need to hear what I think can be improved, they really only want and need to hear encouragement and support. And if they trust you, they’ll come to you when they encounter a problem.

Criticism like “The rug is crooked” is just one of many flavors of non-engagement by a serious temperament. Other non-engaged first responses might sound like:

Partner A: How about we try keeping the plates in a different cabinet?

Partner B: Here’s the history of why the plates have always been where they are.

Not malign, not even saying no, just… not emotionally engaged. Partner B is engaged with the history of their kitchen storage, rather than with Partner A’s interest in changing it. All Partner B has to do is engage with the idea of moving the plates beforethey reminisce about the origin story of the plate storage. Because it is actually true, isn’t it, that your partner’s feelings matter more to you than where you keep the plates.

This can be as simple as:

Partner A: How about we try keeping the plates in a different cabinet?

Partner B: (with curiosity) You’d like to move the plates?

Or:

Partner B: (with affection) Remember when we found those plates at that second-hand shop? I love those plates.

Or even—gasp!:

Partner B: Sure. Which cabinet would be better?

Sometimes “the nice thing” means you talk about the feelings people have before you talk about anything else. Does your partner want to tell you all about their success at work today? Start with, “Look how excited you are! I’m excited, too! Tell me all about it.” That’s emotional engagement.

Does your partner want to tell you how they want to rearrange the furniture in the bedroom, because they keep bumping into things? Start with, “Definitely, I don’t want you getting hurt!” Emotional engagement. And then you help them move the furniture however they like and they will soon recognize what you already knew—that there was no better arrangement possible and actually you need to remove some stuff.

These engaged responses are never insincere. Just because you have a critical, analytical awareness of things doesn’t mean you don’t also have a kind, affectionate awareness of those same things. You’re just choosing to say the kind, affectionate things first, so that your partner feels the warm glow of emotional engagement and your relationship is strengthened. Once the emotional engagement is reinforced, your partner is much more likely to be ready and willing to hear your important ideas about solutions, because they feel more trusting.

Even when the stakes are far higher than moving furniture, I keep a rein on my critical analysis. If I’m worried about money, I start with honest praise and gratitude for the ways we have stayed on budget together. Only then do I say that I wonder aloud if the budget we decided on was too ambitious, or that I notice that our timeline for certain expenses has changed and I’m worried, but here’s a potential solution. (A secondary necessary skill for serious people: When you do present a problem, always accompany it with a potential solution.)

Saying the nice thing first can be effortful, I’m not going to lie, and it is definitely not efficient. But efficiency isn’t the “e” that will keep trust strong in your relationship. Engagement is. Take the time to engage warmly with your partner before you try to problem solve, explain a situation, or contradict a person with whom you hope to sustain a satisfying long-term sexual connection. Emotional engagement prevents disagreements from escalating into fights, which ultimately both saves time and preserves and even reinforces trust.

That way, you can use entirely efficient language when the building is on fire or someone broke a bone, when it’s an actual emergency. The well-established trust between you makes abrupt communication acceptable when it’s necessary.


Say the nice thing first, because it’s honestly true that your partner matters more than any problem that pops into your head or any reluctance you feel about novelty or transitions. Build emotional engagement, to have trust that lasts.

And use your knowledge of each other’s traits to increase your admiration for each other. Never use temperament as a weapon, never criticize or judge someone for their temperament, and never judge yourself harshly for having the temperament you were born with. And also, never use your temperament as an excuse for hurting someone or for letting trust break down in your relationship. Living with temperamental differences is just a matter of developing your communication skills, which all of us are capable of learning with practice. None of us are doing it wrong, all of us are doing it differently; none of us are perfect, we are all doing our best. When we turn toward our differences with kindness, compassion, and, yes, admiration, temperamental differences can enhance emotional engagement and trust.

The Value of Self-Compassion

I’ve already chosen self-compassion as my theme for 2023. I’m guiding a group on New Year’s Day in my Meetup group, and figured I should do my own work ahead of time. I chose the solstice for my introspective inventory of what’s going on in myself and in my life and what I’d like to call in for next year.

What came up for me is a desire to be 100% on my side, 100% of the time. I saw so clearly how I sometimes reject my feelings when they are uncomfortable or inconvenient and how very unkind that is. I had the image of shoving a lollipop in a little girl’s mouth with the intention of stopping her tears. NOT how I want to be responding to my own emotions!

I made short video of a process that I use to cultivate compassion. It’s so simple! And we don’t often see it modeled in our culture, so it might seem completely foreign. I feel confident that everyone can learn how to do this with some practice.

If this resonates with you, you might be interested in an upcoming event, an installment of my Holistic Wellness series, which will focus on self-compassion. You can learn more and sign up here. If that’s not your thing, I hope you’ll at least take the exercise from the video out for a few spins and see how it lands for you.

How Slow Can I Go?

A quick update on my Slowing Down for December intention. The universe heard my request and has responded with half of my clients cancelling appointments this week and last. It’s a good opportunity to let go of the ancient fear of not having enough, to re-examine the wisdom of the “careful what you wish for” maxim, and to renew faith that things always work out, often in unexpected ways.

For the greater part of my days, I’m camped out of my Bio-Mat, surrounded by a stack of books that I’ve wanted to read for ages, a cup of tea, my journal, and an array of colorful markers. There’s something about having a beautiful notebook and great pens that makes the task of inner exploration seem less daunting. As do my comfy pajamas- it’s hard to take things too seriously when you’re covered in lemons and wearing your favorite fuzzy socks. 🙂

I do have some structure provided by guided meditations and written exercises designed to help me uncover what’s beneath the surface identities that I present to the world. The process of letting go of attachments and conditioned beliefs can be unpleasant, and I have a circle of friends with whom I check in frequently. It’s helpful to hear that they are facing many of the same challenges, and like me, continue to show up and face whatever arises, nonetheless.

Curiously some physical discomfort has amplified-or is it that I’ve removed enough distractions that I can actually receive the messages my body is sending? I’ve pulled out some massage tools to apply gentle pressure andstimulate circulation. (This is key! The goal is not to punish muscles for misbehaving or to beat them into submission, but to give them some loving attention and bring awareness to postural and movement patterns. More on this in an upcoming post.)

I ventured out to the farmers market for some produce and have been getting out most days for walks, so I’m not entirely reclusive aside from work. The goal has really been to clear my schedule so I can tune into my needs and desires with minimal influence from those insidious “shoulds”. As it turns out, I prefer books and trees to small talk, media of all forms, and shopping. No surprises there!

Basically, I’m playing detective and discovering what I can let go of and what I can cultivate in order to move into the new year in the most authentic way. Being present with emotions and sensations seems to be the only way to get an accurate reading on what to keep and what to release. Being still and quiet supports the inquiry.

We’re really in the darkest of days here in the northern hemisphere as the moon wanes and the winter solstice approaches. It’s really no hardship to stay tucked inside my cozy little apartment as much as possible. While it’s not exactly easy either, I am grateful that I decided to give myself this gift of doing things my way. It’s my hope that you’ll lean into doing things your way too.

Slowing Down for December

Once again, nature is slowing down during these short winter days. Most of the plants are stripped back to the bare minimum and many animals are hunkered down in their dens. I feel the same impulse to stay at home and do less. When I do venture out, I’m moving slowly and intentionally. 

I’ve cleared my calendar of all extraneous events. Easier said than done, I know! I’m also looking at my daily rituals and habits and wondering which can be paused for now. At first glance, everything seems essential, but I know that’s not entirely true. Which of these tasks are fueled by “shoulds”, such as what society informs me is necessary or from my own ego, clinging to an identity that may no longer be valid?

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be wiping the slate clean. Letting go of who I think I should be, who I think I am, and who I am expected to be in order to allow the truth to emerge without the imprint of conditioning. The activities I engage in will be flavored with this sense of inquiry and intention of releasing old patterns. For example, this post is still being written (obviously!), and aligns with December’s exploration and my desire to share the processes that support me. 

(I’m fascinated by how much of life can fall into the “both this and that“ category when I let go of “either this or that“ thinking.)

While I do still have responsibilities to meet and bills to pay, I’ve created a spaciousness that will allow me to slow down. The goal is to be more present with what arises in each moment in order to be more mindful of my inner landscape. Ideally, this awareness will help me let go of all the embedded beliefs that prevent me from experiencing and expressing my essential self. 

I imagine a backpack that contains all the beliefs I hold about the world. Some of these concepts were dropped in before I had the capacity to object and others snuck past my defenses when I wasn’t paying attention. It’s my hope to empty this backpack, examine those beliefs, many of which I’ve been carrying around since the 70’s, and carefully choose which to keep and which to discard. Ideally, I will be more discerning moving forward, and only collect items that align with my desires and values. 

I’m very much looking forward to lightening my load!

If you have access to Reiki, it can be a helpful tool for analyzing your belief system. I find that activating Reiki when I’m doing any sort of introspection helps me remain in the present moment, focused on the task at hand, without getting too caught up in memories or projection. 

Reiki also helps me calm my nervous system, reduce the impulses to run away from the discomfort, and accept myself just as I am, 40-year-old baggage and all. My go-to technique is to turn on the flow of healing energy, place one hand on my heart and the other on my belly, and state my intention. I do this at the beginning of my process and whenever I feel the urge to do the laundry, check my emails, or any the other distracting/avoiding/numbing strategies that are so familiar. I return to this hand position and my intention, allowing the Reiki to help me find my center again, as often as necessary. 

Is there just one thing you can let go of this month that is no longer serving you? I’m choosing to stick firmly to my work schedule and stop making minor adjustments to accommodate clients. There are parts of me that feel afraid that this will affect my income, but I have trust that the clients who are meant to work with me will adapt, and those who aren’t will move on, making space for new ones who are more compatible. 

I did such a good job of letting something go last year that I can’t even remember what it was! Several years ago, I stopped rushing. That’s one goal that I can recommend wholeheartedly. I allowed more time in between appointments, especially if traveling was involved. I also stopped filling up every last moment with some sort of activity. Now, when I find myself with five minutes until my next client arrives, I take the opportunity to sit quietly and meditate rather than the trying to squeeze in a chore. It’s been great for cultivating a calm feeling within me. 

I’d love to hear how you’re slowing down. Maybe next month we can truly claim to be moving like molasses in January. 

Dance it OUT!

Bad mood? Feeling blue? Running a mental loop of resentful or judgmental thoughts? Frustrated, disappointed, jealous, or ashamed? Welcome to the human experience! There are so many flavors of feelings and life seems to provide ample opportunities to taste them all.

Perhaps you’d like to try something different and allow whatever is alive in you to be expressed. Ignoring it is nearly impossible and stuffing it down just causes future health issues. Putting on a happy face and throwing positive affirmations on top does not make the feelings go away. Some masterful folks can transmute unpleasant emotions with mantra or meditation, but a lot of people are really just bypassing them, leaving them to fester and leak out sideways or explode when the pressure rises.

What if you gave yourself 5 minutes to just FEEL it? Provided you’re not on the edge of a trauma spiral (and if you are, please do get yourself some help!), moving your body while tapping into emotional states can be fantastically cathartic. This is a fun song with a great beat! The lyrics are in Portuguese, making it easy for us English speakers to focus on the rhythm and how it invites movement.

If you’ve become estranged from your feelings, a possible step towards reconciliation would be to invite them into the dance, without any expectations of how they show up. The more accepting we can be, the more likely the parts that have been rejected, neglected, hidden, abandoned, shamed or numbed might make an appearance.

If you’re already having an enjoyable day, you can use a dance break to anchor that, drink it up, soak it in, and savor the good. And if your feelings are pretty neutral, that can also be celebrated. And maybe you just need a break from whatever task you’re doing so that you can come back to it with greater clarity and focus. And let us not forget the endorphins!

If resistance comes up, you could get radical and allow that to express itself through your movements. How would resistance move your body? It can be enjoyable and liberating to experiment. So close the curtains, lock your door, silence your gadgets and give yourself 5 minutes to feel what needs to be felt. You might be surprised at how quickly things shift when they’re allowed to flow.

If you have access to Reiki, I suggest creating a Reiki bubble to infuse yourself with healing energy while you do this. Imagine a bubble with a radius about an arm’s length surrounding you and fill it up with Reiki. If you have level 2 skills, drop in the mental/emotional symbol, and any others that call to you. Allow yourself to receive the comfort and support of this universal life-force energy while you go on about your day.

There’s No Such This as “Just” Anxiety

I get so frustrated when clients come to me with chronic pain, discomfort, or uneasiness which doctors have labeled as “just” anxiety. As if anxiety isn’t real and therefore the effects of anxiety don’t matter. GAH! (Post edited to remove a lot of creative cursing!)

Recurring headaches, digestive issues, insomnia, pain, inability to focus, and skin irritations can all result from anxiety. These conditions are no less problematic than those with medical origins. To suggest that anyone should just resign to living with such challenges because they result from anxiety rather than disease is absurd.

Anxiety produces a very real physiological response that can disrupt all the body’s systems. I’m remembering a time when a friend and I went for a hike. We were having a lovely time until suddenly I thought I might have left a pot simmering on the stove. It didn’t matter that I have never done any such thing or that we’d be gone for two hours and if there was to be a fire, the damage would have already been done.

There was no logic-ing my way out of the racing heart, nausea, and muscle tension that ensued. It’s an understatement to say that I was flipping out. And when my friend refused to join me in panic mode, claiming fatigue as an excuse not to rush back, I could feel my blood pressure rising and intense anger building. (Insert image of The Incredible Hulk!) My body responded immediately with a sympathetic nervous system (AKA stress) reaction that was not helpful (and fortunately not necessary as the stove was indeed off) but very much real.

It took some time for my system to reset itself, but I eventually calmed down. Imagine experiencing a similar state of panic as a common occurrence. The body would be constantly challenged and would suffer very real physiological consequences. I’m sharing this example to illustrate the power of the body-mind connection; it’s not an accurate depiction of chronic anxiety at all, but hopefully gets my point across. This stuff is real!

If you’ve had an experience of being dismissed by the doctor from whom you sought help, I’m so sorry. This is where western medicine fails a lot of people. If the problem can’t be found with a microscope or scan, it’s considered irrelevant. Just because thoughts and emotions are outside the range of the average MD’s practice doesn’t make the situation imaginary or hopeless. Looking outside the box can provide answers that aren’t always visible from inside the system.

In addition to (thankfully) rare anxiety attacks like the one I described above; I experienced a low-grade, consistent anxiety for years. Probably decades, but I was pretty good at ignoring it in my youth and liberally applying numbing and distracting strategies as I got older.

As my spiritual practice evolved and I became more capacitated to sitting quietly and tuning in to what I was feeling, I often noticed an uncomfortable energy residing in my solar plexus that I came to label as anxiety. It wasn’t the flipping out kind, but it was ever-present and kept me from living my best life. Once I discovered its presence, I was able to treat it with Reiki and self-compassion. With consistent efforts and the invaluable practices of slowing down and saying no to opportunities and invitations that didn’t resonate, I’m happy to say that it’s mostly absent. It appears upon occasion with a message that I’ve made a decision that isn’t aligned with my values, and when I correct my trajectory, it fades automatically.

Anxiety doesn’t need to be a lifetime sentence. In addition to prescription medications, there are a wide variety of complementary and alternative holistic options. It’s one of the most frequent complaints I hear from Reiki students and clients, who report relief with consistent treatment. Psychotherapy, meditation, herbal remedies, flower essences, aromatherapy, enjoyable movement, EFT, nutrition, and yoga are just a few of the strategies besides Reiki that can have effective results. Sometimes the shift comes from reevaluating a relationship, living situation, or career.

What if anxiety is the body’s way of telling us something is off and requires our attention? Ignoring such a message can have destructive consequences over time; like taking the battery out of the smoke detector to stop the noise. There are lots of ways to treat anxiety, and likely one that suits your personality, lifestyle, and resources. I’ve gone the DIY approach myself, and guide others who wish to follow this same path, as well as those who seek professional help from a Reiki Master.

One thing is for sure- it’s not going to magically disappear. Nor will the symptoms. If your doctor has let you down, please seek assistance elsewhere. That might be as simple as looking up “breathing exercises for anxiety” on the web or scheduling a long-distance Reiki session. Such an easy step might be adequate to calm down enough so that you can figure out what the next steps are.

For Those Who FEEL it All

Last week I was in a workshop with 27 people. The facilitator asked for a show of hands: who had ever had the experience of being “too much”? 26 hands shot up. 27 actually, because I raised both of mine! The outlier was having internet difficulties and off camera, so it’s possible that we were unanimously agreed.

I’m not going to even attempt to define what being too much means. This isn’t that kind of post.

Instead, I have a song to share for everyone who feels it all and believes they’re too much. You’re not alone!

It’s a sweet melody with touching lyrics. I think it’s worth the short ad YouTube requires.

Here’s the link if you’d rather purchase it. I bought the album and have been listening on repeat today. <3.