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
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
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.
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,
up the Spiritual But Not Religious Friends Meetup
group on www.meetup.com.
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
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
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
Dan Cohen, into the program. If you are
discussing apprenticing, please write to me at
The Wednesday night EKP Therapy Group
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
EKP session are required to apply for the
Contact LSMHEART@aol.com for more information or
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,
"Decompression: The Sometimes Lost Art of Taking
Downtime," looking at the
importance of the sometimes lost art of taking
Your comments and feedback are always welcome!
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
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
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
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
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,
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
longer feel fully connected to our hearts, our bodies,
experience, the moment and the people around us.
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
and tuning in--to themselves or other people.
Share your thoughts....
December 6, is the next Healing the
Traumatized Heart Workshop, from 1 - 5 pm in
Newton. Join us for an afternoon of heartful healing
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
musical instruments. Friends and loved ones are
welcome. RSVP to LSMHEART@aol.com, so we
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 www.rowecenter.org.
EKP Apprenticeship Training will begin in
January 2009. The apprentice
group meets one weekend a month. The program
four year cycle. The first two years focus
skills and concepts of EKP with ones peers,
the very popular second year study of
developmental psychology. The second two
clinical years, where apprentices get to work
guest clients in our student clinic. If you
in apprenticing, contact LSMHEART@aol.com. An
interview and one EKP session are required to
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
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
couple new members)
- On-going Sunday EKP Monthly Process
Group (which also has room for a couple new
If you would like a Healing the
workshop near you, or have a group of people
who you would like to bring EKP to, please
To find out more....