by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 1, 2018 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology0 comments
Repair or Run the Other Way? My partner had an affair, Should I Stay or Go?
If you or your partner has recently discovered an affair has been happening in your relationship, in this moment you are likely trembling, a blurry fury of agonizing hurt, the entire relationship now may feel foreign to you. As a couples counselor affairs and their tempestuous aftermath are ironed our my office couch. Both parts of the couple struggle to make sense of the betrayal and its costs, couples seek aid and asylum to find the answers to questions such as; should we stay together or separate, will our relationship ever regain a sense of normalcy, ‘am I weak or foolish for thinking of staying?’ ‘how can we fix this?”
A relationship is founded and grows upon a platform of trust, without the reinforcement that trust provides, the person who was victimized by the affair will be thrust into a state of panic, questioning every action and motive of their life and partner. An affair is a trauma to the relationship, often people who have learned of, or been told about an affair from their partner, suffer from symptoms similar to PTSD or Acute Stress Disorder. Sleeplessness, anxious and intrusive thoughts and images, fear of it happening again. Within the wake of this mountain of emotional upheaval they create their next course of action, remain together or disassemble their lives. Use this guideline to weigh the options, keeping in mind the decision is one that must be made by ones self, as it is personal, intimate, and an infinitely complex choice to make.
- Is the partner who committed the affair being accountable? There must be a high level of accountability if the relationship will be repaired. This means that the cheating spouse accepts responsibility for his or her actions. If instead your partner is blame shifting or gaslighting, by saying that the affair is your fault or someone else’s fault, or if he or she is trying to minimize the impact or the hurt this will not work. The relationship must have truth to begin the healing process. It can be very frightening to own up, and some personality types that are antisocial, psychopathic, or narcissistic will likely use more defensiveness when met with the truth and or will struggle with empathy for their betrayed partners hurt. Under these circumstances it won’t be possible to work thought what happened in a healthy way.
- Has communication been cut off with the paramour? If communication is on going with the alternate partner there is no chance that the relationship can heal from the betrayal. There are people who will try to stick it out and court their partner while he or she tries to figure out which partner to choose. This is not a recipe for healthy connection, jumping around doing the “pick me dance” will likely lead to a major impact on self esteem and an internal sense of anxiety and profound sadness. Many couple’s therapists will not treat a relationship when there is an active affair happening.
- Is your partner willing to have greater transparency with you? This means giving you the codes to his or her phone, email, and social media accounts. Even with the codes and access to your partners interactions, it will take a herculean effort to restore any sense of safety or trust. This is a good first step in letting ones partner in and pushing the affair partner out.
- Do you want to do the work or forgiveness? While it is true that the affair is often symptomatic of deeper issues, the aftermath puts a tremendous strain on both parties. Deciding to work through and forge forgiveness is a toll which most heavily gets heaped upon the person who has experienced the betrayal. If you have learned that an affair has happened in your relationship and that you want to work on repairing it, you will simultaneously actively be committing to forgiving, this will be exquisitely difficult. After enough time has passed, you will be required to work through the process of handling anger, hurt, sadness, resentment, jealously, insecurity, all in the name of staying with your partner. Keep this in mind as it may not be for everyone which is ok!
All of these grim facts in mind, there is hope, if the above questions can be answered with certainty then there is a path to be forged toward forgiveness. Not an easy one but it is possible to have a connection which is stronger after an affair. Trust is a formula of consistency over a time, trust can be rebuilt if the formula is followed. With understanding, truth, and commitment, love is a robust and golden vessel which proudly contains the tender blossoms of our lives. A vessel that is able to withstand complete annihilation and be recreated to become gleaming and full again, or sometimes it is best to pluck our precious contents and replant somewhere anew…
In love and care,
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh and Monroeville
Stephanie Wijkstrom MS, LPC, NBCCLearn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJanuary 6, 2018 meditation, mental health, mindfulness, personal growth, Uncategorized, wellness, wisdom, yoga0 comments
We love wellness and always are committed to bringing to you all the latest and often times most historically revered practices to sustain and support emotional, physical and spiritual health. This month we are highlighting Frankincense. Some of you may be familiar with the giving of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh, in ancient times, these were gifts offered to kings and royalty, they even mention them in the Christian Bible as offerings brought to baby Jesus Christ by The Three Wise Men. Why all of the spotlight on Frankincense? Well in indigenous cultures, Frankincense was treated as medicine to reduce symptoms and even cure diseases of inflammation.
Modern Science is exploring the many benefits of Frankincense, some studies offering evidence that this can be used to cure everything depression, anxiety, and even certain forms of cancer. While we can not conclude the effectiveness of these treatments because it has not been supported of verified by the food and drug administration plant oils and herbs offer a wonderful route to healing and treating our bodies holistically.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghAugust 30, 2017 counseling, mental health, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, therapy, wellness, wisdom, yoga0 comments
A Pennsylvania State of Mind
When it comes to taking care of yourself, your mental health is just as important as your physical fitness. In fact, it’s considered imperative that you treat your mental well-being with the same concern and respect as your physical health… and for good reason. Anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses can be just as taxing on your body as physical illnesses like the flu.
For that reason, mental health days are gaining ground as legitimate steps to better overall wellness. In the past, taking time off from work or responsibilities at home in order to care for yourself has carried a kind of stigma. Those who have been smart enough to recognize the need for a break and brave enough to take it may have been erroneously criticized as weak. In actuality, a mental health day (or weekend or week or month) can help manage stress and emotions, helping us perform better at everything we do, from parenting children to making sales at work.
But what is a mental health day? Where do you go? What do you do? What activities actually help improve your state of mind and your overall well being? Well, that depends on your specific circumstances. How many mental health days you need, how often you should take them, and what type of activity you choose will be based on the issue you are struggling with and how it is affecting your day-to-day life.
If you are feeling anxious about your finances, taking a day off to draw up a budget and de-stress with a yoga class may be just the ticket. If you’re grieving deeply after the loss of a loved one, however, one day of rest may not be enough of a break to work through your depression. And you may not be able to do it alone. If at any point in your mental health journey you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional. Your psychologist or psychiatrist can help you navigate your feelings and emotions and map out a plan to get you back on track.
When planning your next mental health day, there are a few activities you should avoid, like staying in bed all day or purposely isolating yourself from your peers. While sleep and “me time” are both imperative to your mental health, as a general rule, avoidance is an unhealthy coping mechanism.
Instead, do something that makes you feel productive but not stressed. Look for ways to get active, enjoy your hobbies, and promote meaningful social interactions. Whether you’re breaking a sweat, reading a novel, or having lunch with a friend, you’ll trigger your “relaxation response” and counteract the cortisol (stress hormone) that is causing you to feel worried, distracted, or sad.
According to one study, Pennsylvania residents have a lower prevalence of mental illness and greater access to care than those of most other states. That may be because Pennsylvania residents have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to mental health boosting activities. You can take advantage of the great outdoors with a day hike or a weekend retreat in one of the state’s many parks or nature preserves. Spend some time on the lake, soaking up the sun or fishing at the water’s edge. Or, if you’re in the mood to learn, visit a museum or historic site. Go alone or with family and friends, and consider disconnecting from technology for the duration of your trip.
No matter how you decide to care for yourself and your mental fitness, recognizing the need to pursue your state of mind with the same vigor and urgency you would your body is the first and most important step. From there, there will be a plethora of options that will allow you to reduce your stress, cope with depression, and manage anxiety… in Pennsylvania or any other part of the world.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghFebruary 7, 2017 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, dating, divorce, marriage counseling, meditation, personal growth, psychology, therapists, therapy, wellness, wisdom, yoga0 comments
The Valentine’s Day Love Manual For Singles, Married, and Those Who Never Want to Date Anyone Ever
We develop patience because we come to understand demandingness, we best learn to love by having our hearts broken, when our dignity is usurped, and our sanity called into question, sometimes this is the starting point for some wondrous growth and opportunity. We develop spirit by first living soullessly, we begin the path toward discipline because we know the deleterious dangers of living in the aimless direction of ego and ID driven revelry. For the month of February, many of us are more focused on love and relationships with Valentine’s Day upon us. As therapists, as women, humans, lovers and people who know just a little bit about the psychology of relationships, we offer this, The Valentine’s Day Love Manual for Singles, Married, Dating, and Those Who Never Want to Date Anyone Ever. Lets make love to the world with our song, our breath, our actions, and the beautiful ripples of our actions come to life.
1-“The First Rule of The Love Manual” For The Singles, The Free Birds Fluttering Brightly.
Love Your Self!
If we are going to ever get anything done in this world we must first love ourselves. If we don’t come from a place of self-acceptance, self-love, self-compassion, we will never be able to move beyond animal nature, we will never have any real relationship with anyone, anything, or any project. So if you’re single and loving it, rather work on perfecting your down dog or grooming your cats mane, that’s ok, just as long as it comes from a place of mindful self-love, we think that’s swell! You see as we humans evolve, we no longer pay as much attention to where we are going but instead it is how are we getting there, what is the motivation for action? Sound lofty? It is and that’s exactly what we are going for, something a little more! We can fall in a million different directions if we don’t practice mindfulness vigilantly, we may fall backwards into lesser motivation. Motivation, if not coming from love, is then derived from ego, ego quests for power, attention, praise, control, and per The Sage and All of the Worlds Ancient Ones, the ego culminates inferior instincts.
2- “The Second Rule of the Love Manual”, To Be Used If you want to attract great love into your life;
Love Your Self!
Like attracts like or like attracts the opposite, most importantly those who we share attraction with are those who vibrate on the same frequency as our root identity or self-concept. If we are vibrating in our lower elements, or energy centers of the physical realm, we will fall into relationships that are purely on the physical realm, which can be really great if that’s what two people are wanting together. Perhaps we have entered the emotional stage of development, then we will invariably only commit to relationships which mirror that. Perhaps we are vibrating from ego, and we quest for idolatry or fame, we may look only for those who embody false values such as vanity or fame. If we value power then we connect on that plane, if we truly love ourselves, as we develop spirit, then we will only connect with those who have peaked the crescendo toward those levels of being; spirit, morality, goodness, compassion, authenticity, and respect. When we love ourselves, we only acquiesce with those who mirror to us genuine affection.
The Third Rule of The Love Manual, For Those who are in a relationship long or short term, to keep the Love Strong,
Yes, you guessed it!
Love Your Self!
How does loving yourself keep things in balance for long-term relationships? Well unless we are discussing an extreme form of narcissism, chances are we think of your partners needs and do it often. For some, it is hard or guilt inducing to incorporate some self-indulgence into life rituals. How do we make time for a jog in the park when our wife is finishing with work and will be disappointed if we aren’t at home early? Before we know it, we haven’t constructed a relationship, we have constructed a cage! We choose and choose again, others needs and requests far beyond our own and resultant we consciously and unconsciously become overwhelmed, withdrawn, frustrated, passive aggressive, withholding, and depressed. This is not helpful for our love, and furthermore when we don’t love with boundaries, healthy limits, and in loving acknowledgment of our own needs we are not participating in a relationship or marriage, this is bondage and emotional servitude. So go ahead, choose yourself, love yourself and value yourself and watch your relationships flower beautifully!
In love, kindness, warmth, and respect,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh Therapy TeamLearn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghDecember 28, 2016 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, educational, meditation, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, therapist, wellness0 comments
Wellness Hacks; 17 for 2017
Our Therapists Have Compiled 17 Wellness Hacks for your Holistic Optimization. We fancy this list diverse and have included something for individuals, couples, and lovers, we think that this list is so good that it may even have the wellness power to turn a hater to a lover or at least a frown to a smile! Why 17 you may ask? Well, because its year 2017 silly and we want to stick with the theme on this one! If you are much like the rest of the world, you may be wondering how you will fulfill your weight loss goals, how to improve your BMI and drop those pounds on the scale. Well in that case, this is not the article for you but you should continue to read anyway because our professional counselors and wellness gurus are offering you our best wellness hacks for your physical, emotional, spiritual and relational health, this stuff goes so much deeper than the numbers on a scale, when it comes to wellness, we have you covered! If you’re ever in a pinch, like on Wheel of Fortune or something, just remember this, “You can’t spell wellness without “WE”!”
Smiling when in a bad mood is scientifically proven to alter the mood- Yes that’s right, fake it till you make it has a purpose in psychology, smiling alone can be enough to lift your bad morning grumble back into your best internally smiling face and have your ready to sing a happy tune. Learn more here. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/smile-it-could-make-you-happier/
Curate a Healthy SEXXX Life- Do it and do it well, meaning feel good about it, find your orgasm, let go of the mindset that sex is chore or will put you on the naughty list. Healthy, safe, mindful, consensual sex is a stress reliever, a mood enhancer, it has predictive power into the longevity of bonds when its studied within the context of long term relationships. Don’t miss a beat, cuddle up to your partner and enjoy those sheets!
Your ego is not your amigo- Ego crusaders, the Buddhists, they know a thing or two about the ego, we don’t want to get all philosophical on you, or um maybe we do?! Ok, you caught us but how can we help but to share our enthusiasm, some magical things start to happen when we shift away from ego consciousness. According to the Yogis and Buddhists, when we let go of ego attachment and “I” we just may end up basking in the golden light of nirvana, ascending enlightenment and finding oneness with the universe, who could argue with that?!
Coconut Oil- Buy it, use it, eat it, rub it, mix it in smoothies, as an eco-friendly non-toxic furniture polish, as a conditioner, as an oil treatment, as an antimicrobial agent, as a source of fat that insulates the fibers which sustain neurofunction!!!!! Holy wow! Coconut oil is all that and some, follow this link for 107 of our favorite coconut oil uses here. http://everydayroots.com/coconut-oil-uses
Brush and Floss With Baking Soda and Peroxide- There is a reason that many of our leading tooth pastes and products use baking soda and peroxide, it’s because they work brilliantly. Give it a try!
Deep breathing meditation- Meditation and deep breathing can calm, energize, fuel the body, stop addiction, we can go on and on and on and we plan to!
Chew Slowly- One of the reasons smoothies and juices have such excellent nutritional power is because they are easy to digest once macerated. Chewing slowly helps our body produce chemicals necessary to digest and nourish. It’s no coincidence that we are hosting a mind body workshop and offering a chewing meditation in January, it’s because these things work! http://www.counselingwellnesspgh.com/wellness-classes-and-workshops/
Boundaries- This is key in all relationships, at other times such as in flings, marriages, or partnerships with psychopathic, narcissistic, antisocial, and borderline types clinging tight to boundaries is imperative. Step one-Create emotional, physical, and interpersonal boundaries which are minimum standard levels for treatment. Step two- if those boundaries are violated accept your hurt and anger as healthy and rational. Step 3- Assess for how to respond. Has this person overstepped boundaries before? Is it likely to happen again? Is it a threat to physical safety or emotional health? Looking at these questions will guide you to make constructive decisions moving forward.
Sleep Hygiene- Our therapists love sleep hygiene and creating wellness routines which examine how we sleep. Our nighttime rituals and how those bedtime pastimes are effecting restfulness is a great way to get those repairative, restorative, and vital Zzzzz’s on track, who could forget that sleep is one of the most fundamental building blocks for emotional and physical health.
Exercise, we can’t say enough about it for emotional wellness and longevity- Per the American heart association, as little as 30 minutes 4x a week has some benefits. We know that most Americans are missing the mark when it comes to physical activity. Yet here it is as an effective tool to boost mood, reduce anxiety, promote calm, enhance body image, yes, it is that good! Get moving whether it’s down dog or a quick jog, and for good measure, talk to your doctor to be sure exercise isn’t contraindicated for you!
Communicate and do it well- Study the language that you use to frame your thinking and your speech, it has much to do with the outcomes you experience and the way people interact with you. Whether in our family, romantic or work relationships, we should use direct, meaningful, purpose driven communication and then sit back and enjoy the results that you can create.
Listen and do it well- As an addendum to ^^^^^ it’s not only speaking that we must master but a large part of speaking is listening, as therapists, listening is our super power but this is a practice which helps all conversation. When we are at our best it’s a 50/50 deal, knowing what we need to say often begins with listening to others, and if we are being real, listening and really hearing is sometimes hard as heck because its often easy to hear what we want to hear instead of what is being said.
Dream Journal- Study those dreams, record them, start to notice the unconscious patterns and communications, it can be a huge opportunity for life transformation. Typically, the help of a psychotherapist who offers dream interpretation is necessary for this. It is often very hard to understand the meaning of our dreams but working with someone who speaks dream language and metaphor will help you to muddle through your unconscious code with ease! Let the synchronicity unfold!
Try a laughing meditation- Think that meditation is just for the strong, stoic serious types? Well think again, there are lots of forms of meditation and this one is one of our favorites. What could be more contagious than laughter? We cant think of much and this is a contagion we would like to catch!
Volunteer- We know, you barely have time to wash your socks and you’re reading these wellness hacks to get better with yourself so why are we getting all humanitarian on you? Take a cleansing breath wellness warrior. Volunteering is great for everyone and if you have never tried it, you might find that most of us are socially wired to feel good about helping. Social Exchange Theory says so if you don’t believe us! This is a two for the price of one deal!
Take time for yourself every week, make it a priority- Alright, now back to you! This one we insist upon, its necessary, its vital, its “ME TIME.” Sadly, the people who need it the most likely don’t take it much but if we are filling up the emotional cups of those who are around us we really need to serve ourselves first. Before you count yourself as selfish, it’s not just for us, it’s for our friends, spouse, and ability to achieve too…
Love and trust yourself first– This self-loving thing is our final point, this is us saving the best for a last. Be watchful of anyone who threatens, mocks, or tries to diminish your love, trust in yourself, and your precious instincts. When we lead our lives with self-love, every action becomes more natural, our behavior more nourishing, this is the final step, with brimming half-full cups we salute, we connect, we tend ourselves, each other, and the planet here! All we really need is a little self-love, la, la, laaaoove!
Peace, love, and good health,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh Therapy Team
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 3, 2016 couples counseling, couples therapy, divorce, marriage counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy, therapist, therapists, therapy, wellness, wisdom0 comments
Love, Aspires, Inspires, A Verb from the Muses
There are relationships, there are couples, marriages in fact which succeed in months, years, decades even in commitment and in monogamy without living in love. Let us not confuse the fact that because we have created a relationship that we are loving another person. Just as we know sex can exist without love, long and short term relationships exist, co-habitation, partnerships, they are aplenty without love. Often as therapists, we see couples in crisis, they bring in the scathing shards of their shattered romance and wonder how they can rebuild the faith in their affection. Across America the typical couples make a beeline for argumentative conversation which meanders around topics of how can we get our partner to hear, to see, to acknowledge our needs and to change their behavior. Certainly, these lines of inquiry have their place in the creation of meaningful bonds, we expect and validate that there must be a mutual and respectful collaboration and a relationship is a place where both member’s voices are heard, understood, and at the minimum respectfully entertained. For this essay, let us examine the relationship from a separate space, in recognition that true love isn’t about what we can get, how we get our partner to put down the toilet seat or offer more physical intimacy, it is within what we can give, as at its root, love is not about us as individuals it is about the other, the beloved other.
Love is Patient
Love is patient, love does not make unnecessary demands upon time or attention as love remains present when hearing “no”, “not right now”, “maybe tomorrow” or another day. Love excites to hear no because it is within “no” that an opportunity to understand a boundary exists. Love listens and can hear the fears and anxieties beneath the shaking words of long and difficult days, and with best intention, love seeks to sooth anxiousness and fear. Love is the gentle nuzzle which brings the sharp wail of the crying baby closer into bosom. Love is the gracious wind which billows atop positive intentions, the sweet breezes which pollinate The Delicate Cherry Blossom and The Mighty Japanese Maple, alike.
Love is Kindness
Love is kindness and the assumption that our beloved is offering to us goodness. Love is so infinitely gentle in its delivery of words and connection; it is lovingness which exudes its feather tipped delivery, not sharp needling. Love is inquisitive and present; she is the instillation of hope. Love connects and harmonizes towards natures bountiful flow. Love is abundant and shares in the quest for greater understanding and timely compassion.
Love is Sacrifice
Love is sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice indeed because love makes no room for the egos demands and rigid preconceived notions of personal expectations. To love is to receive and respond to another person’s needs. Love is a beacon and a refuge, the replenishment of optimism, as indeed there are many who would proffer that love is a delusion and perhaps it is true. Perhaps there could be no love in the universe if it weren’t for the proverbial rose colored glasses that tinge our earthen bonds with eternal delight. We can see it in those who share in it, as there are indeed relationships, there are passionate romances and sexually fueled emissions of pleasure but many or most of those are not in fact love. Love is connection, love chooses us and then we choose to make the leap of faith offering our brittle bones in their vulnerable frailty to the source of human faith.
For many lofty philosophical types and religious leaders, love is indeed The Source, it is the meaning for human existence, love, the elixir of the gods is all plentiful but sometimes too the well runs dry. Yet I can promise any reader this; that if we have come to a place where we question the integrity, the meaning, the strength of our connection in our relationship, that we have in fact moved away from these necessary components, these loving heart swelling calliopes. Sometimes too, that is for the best, not every person, place or moment is deserving of love and this thing which is so pure and grand, this glimmering star dust may not be within the reach of capacity for each of us or in each moment, dear mortals, this too is much more than ok. Let us all be cautiously aware of loves impostors dressed as the fool, searching for easy answers, demanding knowingness, the ego, suspicions and cruelty, violating boundaries, dismissal, withdrawing, manipulation, these, none of these deserve the association to loves eternal expansiveness. When we speak of boredom and unmet needs we are no longer singing the praises of love, these are only ego.
We always know most immediately those who are vibrating near the pulse of loves harpsichord, their eyes shone a bit more brightly, they are willing to look beyond the shadowy valleys to take in the vistas of the cloudless sky, yes, yes, just perhaps that is it, the source of it all, love a gift pluming and cascading like the most precious gift, the rays of sun dancing down from way, way, up there.
Your friends The Troubadours of The Millennium
In love and light,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 21, 2016 counseling, educational, meditation, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, therapy, wellness0 comments
Often when people like you and I hear the word meditation we imagine mystics high atop a mountain, something that is suited for seekers of enlightenment only. Yet many of us have often nurtured a hint of envy for their calm and serenity. Through mindfulness, the benefits of meditation become relevant and translatable here, far away from the brisk mountaintop and practiced in the concrete and bustling atmosphere of our cities and suburbs. Yet still, what is it?
Mindfulness allows us to deepen our awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we are then free from the constraints of reflexivness and replace it with reflectiveness. Mindfulness peels away the mechanisms of one’s consciousness. Mindfulness has tangible benefits too, it reduces anxiety, it reduces stress, it enhances peace and calm, mindfulness helps us love each other a little more, helps us love ourselves better.
We begin by differentiating that which is a reflexive and irrational thought from those thoughts which are adaptive and soothing. When we become mindful in the choosing of the quality of our thoughts we are then free, free to choose direction, behavior, free to assert direction in the gap between our thoughts and the actions we choose to embody.
Mindfulness is about slowing down, we encourage the reader to do some breathing meditation to first connect with breathing, by doing some long slow inhalations and exhalations, and notice the kinds of thoughts that float through the mind or consciousness as you complete 5-10 minutes of deep breathing. To begin your journey toward mindfulness, journaling may be helpful, even if this is as simply, writing down a few words that capture the quality of the thoughts that one may be experiencing as they do the meditation.
An example of this might be, when you are seated doing the breathing your thoughts keep wandering, as thoughts always do, some of the thoughts that come up are, you are wondering if you are doing the breathing right, wondering if you look silly, thinking about lunch. All of these thoughts are perfectly natural, the point is to notice which thoughts are flitting through your mind, to really deepen breathing and maybe for a few moments at a time to zero in on the rush of the air coming in and out of the nose. It really is that simple and when practiced regularly, this has incredible effects on the body from lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety and stress, helping reduce anger and problems associated with conflict, enhance our relationships with ourselves and others.
A good quote that helps us to understand where we are in a moment is as follows, “when we are thinking of the past, we are often feeling depressed, when we are thinking of the future, we are often feeling anxious, when we are in the present, then we have peace.” Buddhist Mantra.
In peace and love,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghAugust 15, 2016 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, educational, mindfulness, personal growth, popular culture, psychology, psychotherapy, wellness, wisdom0 comments
4 Lessons on Life from Farmer Jim; The Hawaiian Vanilla Farm
As a lifelong lover of all things Vanilla on a recent travel excursion in Hawaii, I opted to spend an afternoon at The Hawaiian Vanilla Companies’ farm. The farm which is a true artisans purveyor of some of the world’s best small batches of vanilla bean goodness. What was most striking about that afternoon wasn’t the lush tropical vistas, although the altitude and sea views were indeed stunning. Nor was it the fantastical process of cultivating Tahitian vanilla, which is in fact an orchid, the coveted vanilla bean are the tiny seeds which grow in the orchids stem. Botany and Geology aside, I am psychotherapist, for me, character succeeds setting, the man behind the bean is most noteworthy about that afternoon.
Jim Reddenkopp, farmer, my host, owner of the Vanilla Company is a man whose adult life began after he had acquired a dangerously steep, craggy, and startlingly cheap and unruly plot of Hawaiian land. Why purchase such a plot, a tour goer dared ask, his blank honesty, Lesson 1, ‘I had only one dream, to raise a family in Hawaii, with just enough money to buy this soil that nobody else was crazy enough to want, my wife and I were well on our way to dreams come true, we lay under glistening stars in our tent while building our home here happy as can be.’ As Jim implicitly seemed to know, the first lesson is that in mindful living every endeavor should first be aimed at cultivating our inner principals, most of the time, the rest will take care of itself if we toil hard enough.
With the thrill of striving for his goals steaming his sails he didn’t think too much about the ‘how.’ It was only in later conversation with his two university professor parents who looked to Jim, their long haired, increasingly thin, patchouli wearing son, living out his dreams in a tent in Hawaii. As good parents do, they lectured Jim and provided him with Lesson Number 2, “Better figure some things out Jim, what are you going to do with your life?” Lesson number 2 is that there will be naysayers and hurtles, Jim had been thinking about this, with lots of trial and error under his belt he had acquired a long list of all of the things which could not be done on this rocky plot of earth. It took years of failed crops for Jim to reply to his parents that he had a solution for the impossible bit of land he had been toiling, “I am going to grow Vanilla!” An excellent but complex choice, the elusive and exceptionally valuable vanilla orchid, a matter which would be much more challenging than he had anticipated.
Jim eventually mastered his craft, mastered in ways he had never thought possible in looking back. Yet the vanilla is not the thing of which Jim is most proud, closest to his heart is that his adult children have decided to stick around on the farm where they had grown up. They can be found working in the kitchen and grounds of the farm. The other tour goers kept astonishing with their consumer values, “why aren’t you growing more vanilla?” “yours is thought to be some of the best in the world! Surely there is a demand for it!” Master chefs reach out to Jim, buying out his stock of vanilla bean in advance of its harvest. Jim in his humble flannel looked to them with such brightness in his eyes, “yes, yes, but the thing is that I am already rich! My family is here with me, I like to take days off and on them I enjoy surfing. I get to grow vanilla and curate other products in a way that is comfortable and enjoyable. Work life balance is important to me.” Lesson number 3; less is often more, we should strive for balance in all things. The crowd of tour-goers looked at him curiously, some in wide eyed admiration, as though he had come to embody some elusive and novel concept, an unsung anthem which some of us had all been waiting all of our lives to hear!
Sometimes we wonder what happened to good old fashion family values, well sometimes they clock out with the 60 hour work week, we work, toil away to put food on the table, to get that bigger house, bigger promotion, yes to win at the game of life, to have that comfortable retirement and with any luck we will actually live to our 70’s to enjoy those golden years, that is a gift in itself. Yet Jim, he was living with that joy and comfort now, by embracing the values of a simple life, remaining surrounded by his loved ones, making contact with nature and his passions, his eyes seemed to sparkle with the happiness of embodying his values and don’t we all know what a tremendous accomplishment it can be to simply hold tight to our values in today’s fast paced world.
The tour continued on, we meandered over hills on a cloudless day, we walked passed a smallish house on the farm and Jim paused there, ‘this is where my father lived, he died last year.’ Myself and the other tour goers offering sad expressions, condoling comradery in understanding such loss. Jim, with dignified melancholy, gently waved it off. “Dad is gone but he died of natural causes at 88 years old right here while we held him in our arms, it was a beautiful thing and we are forever changed by it.” I paused in thinking about that, yes death is an agonizing loss for those alive to be touched by it, yet it is indeed the cost we pay to live life, the finality of it. Jim offered yet another lesson, lesson 4, that there is integrity to a long life, well-lived, clinging to loss would dishonor his father’s life. At that moment, Jims’ son popped out of the house’s shabby front door, holding the hand of a petite framed women who was waddling along with an enormous bulge in her belly. Jim waved proudly, “that is my son and daughter in law, they live there now and they are expecting their first child in a few weeks.” Ah, and now we see the circle of life continues, yes, there is so much honor in that, in a life well lived.
Wishing you all vanilla skies and sweet dreams,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
830 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 9, 2016 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, popular culture, psychology, wellness, wisdom0 comments
“Peace Out Happiness; Why letting go of Happy may make us more Healthy ”
In psychology, in pop culture, in our songs and movies, our social media, we hear words and anthems which suggest that all the world is happy or in search of happy. “Happy” is the new salvation, happiness is quantified, we travel the globe, move our homes and families, friends coach each other through break ups by saying things like “it’s for the best, you weren’t happy.” We take pills, we change directions, we do it all on the quest for the place where we can experience this Holy Grail. Happy is one of those feeling states kind of like love, it means something a slightly different to everyone. What most people mean when they say that they are feeling happy is really more of an ecstatic sensation brought on from external stimulation. We eat, we shop, we serial date, and we orgasm our way into euphoric happy but it’s likely that it’s never enough because this happy is always fleeting leaving us with the notion that something is missing, so begin cycle again, more eating, more shopping, more dating and on and on. Perhaps even most of all, notice the way we judge ourselves or lapse into despair when we inevitably come crashing into the notion that perhaps we are not “happy,” we feel like a failure at life, imagining that everyone else has some secret to being that we have not. Yet maybe, just maybe we are ok just as we are without all of the trappings of that five letter word.
Our proverbial quest changes the moment that we notice that these fleeting sensations are the cheap imitation version of long standing peace. We have been tricked, happiness is a fallacy, balloons bursting, drum roll stopping, external states of joy or daft manic amusements are no place by which to chart the life map. In the misguided journey, happiness will always be a place ahead, sometime in the future looming on a distant horizon. “After the promotion, after the next high dollar sports car, when I graduate school, after we are married, when our first child is born.” Happiness, peace, a space where we can stop and take a breath, the life marker where the “aha’ moment presents itself and the final sense of accomplishment graces our countenance. Be cautious traveler, searching for the treasure trove called happiness will throw off the compass, encouraging the bypassing of eternal states such as peace and serenity which are by far more sustainable emotional destinations.
We can nurture peace when we are living our life in balance, hard things will present themselves but we will assimilate and understands those things and we will allow them to pass by in their right time. Happiness can’t be sustained through the weathers of lost jobs, parking tickets, gossip mongers, accidents and hurtles but serenity, the far more virtuoso milestone can. Yet we know there will be days when happiness will stop by, she will sit down for an afternoon visit, we will always enjoy entertaining her but we know that she must ever move along on her Sunday drive, and we respect this, never demanding that she remain seated for yet another serving of our crumpets, frantic in our fears that the lovely face of happiness may never come again. That which we allow to come and go freely shall remain yet that to which we cling will forever suffocate and seek to escape us.
Our sense of serenity, the little kernel of you which is based upon confidence in personal integrity, the security which knows that whatever may come will be handled with wisdom, we are seasoned captains of our own vessel, when we notice that we have veered into some familiar or odd storm ridden sea which challenges our equilibrium and decimates our sense of peace, fear seizes the cloaked night as we are cradled in the turbulent arms of high winds and sea sprays, white knuckled grasping the helm. The captain allows the winds to die down and high seas ebb away without disturbing his peace.
Storms happen, life happens but peace can remain even in the midst of change, chaos, destruction. Peace is more profound than euphoria, more enduring than pleasure and more tangible than happy. Perhaps the flower children of the 60’s had something right with their peace mantra, maybe we can find a way to come back to that, when we make our life goals, our relationship goals, when we weigh and assess how we are living our life, maybe rather than ask, “am I happy?” or “were we happy together?” “will this new job make me happy?” maybe a better question to ask, “is this allowing me to hold on to my sense of peace?”
Peace and Love…
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Contributed by Stephanie McCracken MSPC
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 1, 2016 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, wellness, wisdom0 comments
50 Wellness Keys to Living a Happy Healthy Life
Our therapists and wellness gurus have compiled a list of 50 happiness keys- Be Well PGH!
- Make peace with your past.
- Have faith in the future.
- Find love for everyone but love some very deeply, this may require learning how to love and feel.
- Forgive yourself, forgive others, especially those who have not asked for it.
- Trust yourself and honor your feelings, feelings will guide you if you let them.
- Find a passion, something that makes you feel alive, practice it regularly.
- Learn the difference between being emotionally reactive and emotionally reflective.
- Prioritize a deep sense of safety and never entertain people or places which stir in you feelings of fear.
- Keep dreaming, nurturing the flame in others and yourself.
- Mindfully indulge your bodies appetites for food, play, connection.
- Learn to find and enjoy the comfort in silence.
- Make time for solitude, it is here that our creativity and vitality is rejuvenated.
- Pay attention to the words that you speak to yourself and to others.
- Wish success, beautiful love, and peace for your partners of the past.
- Try your best, push past the limits, that is where the magic happens.
- Know when to quit, some ideas and people are best left behind.
- Be cautious of too much routine.
- Regularly break into song and dance.
- Connect with The Earth and learn to hear The Words in the Wind.
- Learn to breathe with intention and harness the power of your lungs.
- Stare up at The Stars on long clear nights and think of the infinite.
- Don’t let other’s perception of you define your self-esteem.
- If you want to know someone, watch the way that they treat others in their life.
- Cling fervently to your intuition.
- Spend time closely with the elderly, they hold the wisdom.
- Recognize how short and special each moment of life.
- Hold hands while crossing the street.
- If you experience anxiety or depression start to manage it.
- Encourage yourself as you would others.
- Travel somewhere far away where you know nobody.
- Become enchanted with a strange place, person, or idea.
- Scoop a hand full of soil into your hands and smell it.
- Take off your shoes and walk in the grass.
- Stand the wrong way in an elevator.
- Stop and smell the spring flower blossoms no matter how hurried you are.
- Meditate upon love and light, glow with the thrumming of universal consciousness.
- Stretch often, get to know the little intricacies of your body, your sacred space.
- Savor the feeling of your heart beating fast from exercise, kissing, or the unknown.
- Do something for someone who can not or will not return the favor.
- Talk to a homeless person, hear their story.
- Organize your home and office, a organized mind creates and organized space and life.
- Be cautious of being overly organized 🙂
- Strive for balance in all things!!! ^^^^
- Take Vitamins and eat meals made from delicious food instead of powders or meal replacements.
- Eat glorious multicolored fruits and vegetables.
- Indulge in the second piece of CAKE!
- Chew slowly and savor for a long time.
- Create a meal without using a recipe.
- Paint something abstract without caring how it turns out.
- Tell your parents you love them and make sure they know you mean it.
- Don’t speak in the heat of anger, the words can never be taken back.
- Love an Animal as you would a friend.
- Don’t pay attention to numbers on the scale, bank account, or the years of life.
- Know that there is a deep, profound Sacredness illuminating all things.
These are our wellness keys for health and happiness!
Be Well Pittsburgh,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233