November 1, 2008 
 HealingHeartPower Newsletter
 Reclaiming the Power of the Heart
In This Issue

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With all the economic turbulence we are facing right now, it is often hard to know what course of action to take. I have listened as people living on their retirement savings have been advised by financial professionals to "cut their living expenses in half," as though one can just do that with the snap of a finger.

When people invest in a financial system for their entire lives, based on the understanding that if you "do the right thing," you can count on a reward at the end, it is beyond heartbreaking to experience the betrayal of a system that is broken, and not delivering what was projected, if not promised.

And many people have not been able to save towards retirement at all, since the cost of living day to day has been so high.

At times like these, we need one another, so that we don't weather the storm in isolation. In truth, we always need one another, and our culture has promoted a pathological degree of self-reliance.

When times get tough, people really need more support. Yet, often the response to hard times is to pull in, not to reach out. Our hearts feel so much better, and we do so much better when we can gather in heartful community and experience that most of our struggles are common and human. It feels so much better when we can feel in our hearts that we don't have to do it all alone.

On that note, I wanted to share a reflection sent by a reader, in response to the October 1 HealingHeartPower newsletter:

Hi Linda,

Even though I haven't seen you for a while, I enjoy your newsletters. This one particularly spoke to me on the topic of "Spiritual But Not Religious." I have been so churned up about the political climate that I actually sought some pastoral counseling (for the first time) from my minister (UU) last spring. I felt (and am still struggling with this feeling) that I just couldn't bear the thought of another 8 years like the ones we've had. He actually helped me, partly by sharing some of the same thoughts you did in your article. It is a bit of comfort to focus on the idea of acting in line with my values on a community level when I feel so out of control on a national level."

Great topic, especially for this exact moment in time.


Ellen Kerstein

For those of you who identify as "Spiritual But Not Religious," I have just started a "Spiritual But Not Religious" meetup group, which will meet for a potluck lunch on the first Sunday of the month here in Newtonville. The group will provide a space for kindred spirits to talk about that many topics that are near and dear to their hearts, and support building friendships and community that old-fashioned face to face way. Our first meeting will be on Sunday, Decemeber 7 at noon. For more information, look up the Spiritual But Not Religious Friends Meetup group on

The October 19 Healing the Traumatized Heart workshop was profoundly moving and meaningful! Something magic seems to happen when a group of people gather in a safe, heartful circle. There is something really special when people who experienced EKP for the first time 20 years ago sit side by side with people coming to EKP for the very first time. The courage and stories of those who are drawn to this work is very inspiring.

The last Healing the Traumatized Heart workshop of 2008 will take place on Saturday, December 6 from 1- 5 pm in Newton. Come join us for a treat for your heart and soul, whether you want to have a "turn," or you simply want to gather in a circle of heartful others.

Also, on December 6, come join us for the EKP Community Holiday Party, a potluck dinner from 6 - 8:30 pm here in Newton. Bring your favorite songs, your voice, and any instruments you enjoy playing, so we can join together in song as well as in community!

If you enjoy EKP, please do consider the EKP Apprenticeship Training Program. The first year of the program will begin in January 2009, and provides a wonderful space to do deep healing work, while learning elements of EKP.

Apprentices meet once a month for weekend sessions. We will incorporate some Family Constellations work led by colleague Dan Cohen, into the program. If you are interested in discussing apprenticing, please write to me at

The Wednesday night EKP Therapy Group has openings for a couple of new members. This is a mixed gender long-term committed group with a minimum 6 month commitment. An interview and one EKP session are required to apply for the group. Contact for more information or to apply.

And the winter issue of Spirit of Change magazine features an article I had a wonderful time writing called, "You're Alive Until You're Not: Messages from the Edge of Life." Being old--really old--and living with a terminal illness are two topics that rarely get talked about. So, by shedding some light on both subjects, this article humanizes these very human experiences.

Articles in this issue include : "Reflections on Cougardom,", having just had the opportunity to try on this role at a Halloween costume party, "Softening Our Hardened Hearts," reflections inspired by a passage from Pema Chodron, and "Decompression: The Sometimes Lost Art of Taking Downtime," looking at the importance of the sometimes lost art of taking downtime.

Your comments and feedback are always welcome!

Heartfully, Linda

 Reflections on "Cougardom"

I first learned that "cougars" are just as likely to be found in the suburbs of Wellesley, as in the wilds of the mountains at a meeting of a small business group last year. A woman who was a medical aesthetician, described her ideal referral as a "cougar," and since I had never met a four-legged in search of skin care or plastic surgery, I figured she must be referring to a different breed!

Sure enough, all gender stereotypes change and evolve. While once the media focused on the 60- something man in search of his 30-something "trophy wife," beyond Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin, the media can now cast its lens on the "cougar"--a woman in her late 50's or older, seeking a man twenty years or more her junior as her "prey."

The movie version of the Abba musical, "Mamma Mia," even features a character, Tania, who is a fiftysomething cougar, with a twentysomething love interest who she plays with, but ultimately casts away. She sings the song, "Does Your Mother Know," expressing the temptation and challenges of ethical cougardom.

While at the end of this month I will march across the threshold from 49 to 50, in reality, I am still a bit young for true cougardom. But on Halloween, one can be a little creative, and with a wardrobe full of feline elegance from my West Coast swing dance days, why not take a walk on the wild side?

So, when I was invited to a Halloween costume party, the natural thought was to go as a "cougar." The costume was easy: an elegant tailored leopard print jacket, a low cut black top, a faux-leather mini-skirt with a rhinestone belt, black tights and hot black leather boots were the basics. Add on a heart- necklace-collar, a cat nose and gold cat ears from iParty, and leopard-pattern earrings from a now- deceased crafts person, and the attire was complete.

But what's a cougar without her prey? And since the folks at the party were more likely to be babyboomers than generation Y, it seemed that I'd need to do a bit of importing if I really wanted to play the role. When you are a 49 year old cougar, your pickings lead you to college campuses and internet start-ups, looking for that 20 - 25 year old who would like to pay a visit to your lair. Had I connections with Saturday Night Live, it might have been easier to do my skit there on national television than in the suburbs of metrowest Boston. I realized it was a real stretch for me to ask someone so young to accompany me, even for a simple party skit. And it was scary for the young men I asked to consider playing the part, even though it was only a kind of party improv!

In the end, this cougar went hungry. However, I came up with another accoutrement: a little book of pictures I titled, "A Cougar's Little Book of Hot Prey." Thanks to the internet, photos of Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Jed Lowrie and Jon Lester, all young stars of the Boston Red Sox, for those of you who don't follow baseball, and other sports and entertainment figures all in the 20 - 25 year old age bracket are plentiful in supply. So, I composed the cougar's preybook, and set off to the party.

Little did I know that I had chosen a costume that would be a little bit intellectually challenging for the great majority of the people I encountered! Wonderwoman, Elvis and even Morticia Adams were more the expected currency, than the suburban feline with her grocery list in hand.

A number of women caught on quickly and had some good laughs as I shared my preybook with them. "How come you didn't bring one of them with you?" several women asked me. It happened to be the end of the American League Division series, and I easily retorted that they had something more important to do in Tampa Bay. "Why aren't you down there with them? " countered another woman. I guess it's hard to be a cougar and a single mom with a babysitter watching your son at home!

All in all, it was a lot of fun playing with this role, and something I truly could not relate to in real life. But then again, it feels just as awkward being pursued as a trophy by a man 15 to 20 year my senior. Somehow, these kinds of liasons seem to be more about power and status and less about connection and love.

So, while I am glad to have a few photos my son took of me in cougar garb, I think my clothes will go back into the closet. And short of singing in a "Mamma Mia" revue, I think they'll be pulled out next for a visit to the dance floor, where other babyboomers populate the suburban jungle!

Please share your thoughts... 

 Softening Our Hardened Hearts

"War and peace start in the hearts of individuals," writes Pema Chodron in Practicing Peace in Times of War,(Shambala Publications, 2006). "Strangely enough, even though all beings would like to live in peace, our method for obtaining peace over the generations seems not to be very effective: we seek peace and happiness by going to war."

"This can occur at the level of our domestic situation, in our relationships with those close to us. Maybe we come home from work and we're tired and we just want some peace: but at home all hell is breaking lose for one reason or another, and so we start yelling at people. What is our motivation? We want some happiness and ease and peace, but what we do is we get even more worked up and we get everyone else worked up too. This is a familiar scene in our homes, our workplaces, in our neighborhoods, when we're driving our cars. We're just driving along and someone cuts in front of us and what happens? Well, we don't like it. Sometimes we roll down the window and scream at them."

"Someone once gave me a poem that has a line in it that offers a good definition of peace: 'Softening what is rigid in our hearts.' We can talk about ending war and we can march for ending war, we can do everything in our power, but war is never going to end as long as people's hearts are hardened against each other."

As a child, I grew up with a headstrong father, who would argue and fight when he felt emotionally vulnerable. While I could feel the vulnerability underneath the raging lion, the iron shield that guarded his tender heart was untouchable and impenetrable to me as a young girl, and to most everyone. Watching him and my mother argue incessantly was scary, and didn't make sense. I felt like I lived in a war zone. And one never knew when the emotional bombs were going to go off.

One day I came to the realization that "hearts can hear heads, but too often, heads can't hear hearts." When working with couples and families, I have seen that most conflicts and impasses occur when people become emotionally triggered and headstrong. It seems innate in human nature, that when we are emotionally threatened, we become feral. For protection and self-preservation, we fight with our heads and harden our hearts. Yet, in this hardened, self-protective space, we enter a trance that turns someone we love into an "enemy" or "other." And the only way I know to build a bridge across this great divide is to create the emotional safety to soften our hardened hearts.

When we feel threatened, our initial response may be fight or flight. But when our hearts have been traumatized, we have had experiences where a threat was more than just a possibility: something painful, overwhelming, hurtful or devastating actually happened. Trauma is like a wrecker ball, that crashes through our hearts, our bodies, our psyches, and tears apart the emotional, relational and sometimes literal fabric of our lives.

Trauma sends us into a dissociated trance, where we no longer feel fully connected to our hearts, our bodies, our experience, the moment and the people around us. Our hearts split from our heads. Our bodies split from our spirits. We lose our grounding. And it makes us hypervigilant, mobilizing our resources to survive an on-going sense of unsafety that follows after trauma has struck.

In order to survive, this long-term stressor (long-term stress is defined as something that lasts 15 minutes or more), the body produces a hormone called cortisol, which is the "fear hormone." Cortisol mobilizes us to cope with stress and emergencies. But in doing so, it starts to break down non-essential organs and tissues to feed vital organs. Cortisol produces a sense of aggression, arousal, feeling stressed out, and activates addictions, suppresses libido, can be toxic to brain cells, and is associated with heart disease, clogged arteries, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis. High cortisol levels are associated with anxiety and depression, and a weakened immune system.

A traumatized heart is rigid, while a healthy heart is flexible. A traumatized heart is defended against love, while a healthy heart is open to love. A traumatized heart is untouchable or less touchable, emotionally and physically. A healthy heart is touchable both emotionally and physically. A traumatized heart is tense and hypervigilant. A traumatized heart is relaxed and at peace. It isn't good for our emotional or physical health to live with a traumatized heart.

Yet, when our hearts are hardened for self- preservation and survival, the loving energy that can help us relax, and soften them is often perceived as a threat to be defended against, rather than a healing force. What does it take for us to soften our hardened hearts? And what allows us to recognize that we need to let love in rather than keep it out?

I have come to believe that there is a degree of grace involved. Why is it that some people feel the pain of their traumatized hearts and seek healing, while others feel this very same pain and shut healing out? Some people recognize their pain is more than they can bear alone and search to find safe others who can help them move past the pain. While others turn to drugs, alcohol, work and other addictions to numb it out.

Sometimes, when no one is there in the darkest hour, a part of the spirit dies or gives up. With another person, under the very same circumstances, the spirit gets stronger and the person finds an internal wellspring of resilience they didn't even know they had. And for some people, both experiences can happen at once: a simultaneous giving up, and rebounding. Traumatic experience can be very confusing, emotionally, mentally and physically.

While we cannot control the timing or willingness of someone to "hit bottom," to recognize that there is a real problem, to realize they cannot do it all alone, once a person reaches this place, we can respond with respectful support. Creating safety is such a personal thing. Yet, creating safety is the foundation for any real healing or softening of a hardened heart.

Offering presence is also essential--a non-judgmental, respectful attention to the essence of the other in the moment. Being patient--very patient--is important. And learning to manage your own energy, so that you walk the line between giving the other person space, yet also embrace them, becomes an art form.

In many ways, the heart cannot be softened until it is safe to be touched. Safe and respectful touch, ultimately melts defenses, and allows a profound relaxation, surrender and peace. I will always recall the words of a colleague spoken many years ago at a behavioral medicine conference.

He commented that sometimes a person's defenses were so strong that it took sawing open the chest cavity and pulling back the ribs to be able to reach out and touch the person's heart. When he finally was able to place his hands on the person's traumatized heart, he could tell that real healing was finally taking place.

Quite a dramatic image. May we all find gentler ways of healing that let us soften our hardened hearts! And then, perhaps, we can listen and really hear one another more deeply more often.

Share your thoughts on this article... 

 The Sometimes Lost Art of Taking Downtime

Iraq Weedflower My son, Alex, met his best friend, Ben, when both boys were 1 1/2 years old. They connected quickly, and thanks to the fact that Ben's family values cultivating friendships as much as I do, the boys have been able to spend regular time together for the past 11 years.

One ritual that has meant a lot to both boys is their weekly Monday afternoon playdate. Monday afternoon has been a special time for many years, and all necessary activities have been diverted to other times to assure the sacredness of this playdate is not interfered with. Until this fall.

Alex's best friend, Ben, loves to play sports. And this fall, perhaps believing "more is better" or perhaps just wanting to say "yes" to everything, rather than "yes" to some and "no" to others, Ben committed to travel soccer, baseball and cross country ALL in the same season.

Towards the end of the summer, all of Ben's time was consumed by a baseball tournament. Practices were scheduled for every night, including nights which were meant to be nights off for rest. Games seemed to be every day of the week, and often changed at the last minute, making plans impossible to orchestrate. Alex commented that Ben's plate was so full there was no time to relax. And if Ben's plate was full, so were the plates of his parents, who had to drive him to the litany of practices and games!

Alex looked forward to the fall and returning to the regular rhythms of Monday playdates, with a second one likely over the weekend. Baseball had only been a spring sport in prior years. So, travel soccer would be the only scheduling constraint.

Anticipating an increased workload in 7th grade, Alex decided to scale back from studying two instruments to just one, discontinuing chess, and focusing on travel soccer and advanced Math lessons. At 12, thank goodness, Alex has a sense of pacing, and comes home from school saying, "Mom, I need some downtime."

Discovering how tense Ben was the first week of school was very jarring for Alex. Doing three sports in one season left Ben in a state of constant anxiety, wondering if and how he could possibly find the time and space to do his homework. Even if he had the time to see a friend, he was not emotionally or mentally prepared to do so, because his fear of not getting his homework done was so strong, he needed to stay at home and have one of his parents sit with him to settle down enough to attempt his assignments.

Alex understood, but was also greatly disappointed. Isn't a 12 year old still supposed to be a kid? And aren't kids supposed to have the time and space to get together and hang out with their friends? Ben's schedule seemed more demanding than some corporate executives. And to face such stress day in and day out diminishes the joy of activities originally pursued as recreational outlets.

I am truly grateful my son understands what it means to balance work and play, and that he understands the place of decompression in work and life. Sadly, my son seems to be the exception, not the rule. When we try to arrange playdates with other kids, many parents don't even have the time to return phone calls. Days, weeks or even months go by before an old message is responded to in kind. "Yes, so and so, would love to get together, but he is so busy, we just don't know when it could happen." Once it was overscheduled parents. Now, it's also overscheduled kids.

If kids are living with high levels of daily stress, short- term and long-term, over the next few decades, I am afraid their health is going to suffer for it. As I mentioned in the 2nd article in this newsletter, long- term stress generates cortisol, which is correlated with most of the major physical and psychological illnesses that ail our culture. These very ailments, including anxiety, depression, obesity, diabetes and circulatory problems, will be passed down from parents to their children at far younger ages. And more and more children will learn they must DO to BE--that their worth is based on what they produce, rather than an inherent human quality of being.

Healthy options like relaxing, hanging out, reading for pleasure, and talking with friends will be as archaic as the radio and the the vinyl record. Decompression is important for living a balanced life. And decompression is a conscious and intentional unwinding, rather than an escape or a numbing out. I feel sad as I watch the next generation learning to plug in and tune out, rather than unplugging and tuning in--to themselves or other people.

Share your thoughts.... 

 HealingHeartPower Calendar

Saturday, December 6, is the next Healing the Traumatized Heart Workshop, from 1 - 5 pm in Newton. Join us for an afternoon of heartful healing and community.

The EKP Community Holiday Party is on Saturday, December 6 from 6 - 8:30 pm. Bring a contribution to a potluck dinner, and any favorite music or musical instruments. Friends and loved ones are welcome. RSVP to, so we know who is coming.

Linda will be leading Embracing the Power of the Heart, a weekend retreat at Rowe Camp and Conference Center in Rowe, MA the weekend of January 9 - 11. Rowe is the most warm and welcoming place to go for a workshop! We hope you can join us! Register Online at

The next EKP Apprenticeship Training will begin in January 2009. The apprentice group meets one weekend a month. The program is a four year cycle. The first two years focus on learning skills and concepts of EKP with ones peers, including the very popular second year study of body-centered developmental psychology. The second two years are clinical years, where apprentices get to work with guest clients in our student clinic. If you are interested in apprenticing, contact An interview and one EKP session are required to apply to the first year apprenticeship training group.

Sunday, March 1 Linda will be leading Body Psychotherapy and the Heart for Health Professionals at the New England School for Acupuncture.

EKP opportunities in Newton include:

  • Being a guest client in the Student Clinic
  • On-going Wednesday night EKP Body Psychotherapy Group (which currently has room for a couple new members)
  • On-going Sunday EKP Monthly Process Group (which also has room for a couple new members)

If you would like a Healing the Traumatized Heart workshop near you, or have a group of people who you would like to bring EKP to, please contact

To find out more.... 

 About Linda

Me and Flora Linda Marks, MSM, is pioneer in body psychotherapy who has developed, taught and practiced Emotional-Kinesthetic Psychotherapy (EKP) for more than two decades. Author of LIVING WITH VISION and HEALING THE WAR BETWEEN THE GENDERS, she co-founded the Massachusetts Association of Body Psychotherapists and Counseling Bodyworkers and is the founder of the Boston Area Sexuality and Spirituality Network. She holds degrees from Yale and MIT, and has a vital 12-year-old son.

To find out more about Linda...