As a young woman, I struggled to find myself and my place in the world.  I dropped in and out of college, held more jobs than I can remember, and moved to and from various exotic locals. I tried marriage—and divorce. Mostly, I lived in a whirl of confusion about who I was and how I would make my way—and I worried a lot about ending up a failure.

Nothing I attempted seemed to satisfy me. I watched my friends successfully pursing their ambitions, while I languished in feelings of inadequacy for the better part of a decade. At the time, I could not know that my experience with failure would give me exactly what I needed to eventually succeed. Not only did that protracted period of frustration inspire me to create something entirely new, suffering the pain of repeated failures helped to humanize me, maturing my capacity for compassion. (more…)

This is the second in a series of posts about depression. You can read “Understanding Depression: A Woe That Is Wisdom” here.

If you grapple with periods of depression, then you know that one of the most insidious symptoms of this often persistent mood-disorder is the feeling of being isolated. At such lonely times it can be difficult to remember that we are not alone in our suffering. According to The World Health Organization, about 121 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In this country, one in six individuals will experience some degree of depression or chronic anxiety sometime in their lives. (more…)

There is a woe that is wisdom, a woe that is madness—Herman Melville

From the moment I was born, depression began to weave itself into the fabric of my life. Alone and frightened by the responsibilities of a new baby, my emotionally fragile mother sank into a black hole from which she only occasionally emerged. At a very young age, I threw myself into trying to understand the enigmatic forces that had taken my mother from me and that threatened to debilitate me as well. (more…)

On a warm and lazy Saturday, my friend and I head east into the Sonoma Valley to enjoy an exhibit by local artists. We leave behind sprawling suburban development that has slowly tamed this wild and picturesque vale. As comforting landmarks roll into view, my body lets down from the demands of the long workweek. Mountain ranges jut in the distance. We pass farm houses, neat rows of vineyards, and a few surviving walnut groves as the country road winds into the hamlet of Glen Ellen, a place I once called home. (more…)

I have spent much of my life coming to terms with a deep and abiding insecurity. My fears come out to greet me most every day. Sometimes they merely wave at me from the periphery; at other times they rush at me with the fearsomeness of a gale storm. Still, over the years I have managed to engage life with more than a modicum of passion. I have charted my own course, taking great risks when necessary. I have also wasted precious time stuck in anxious worry or fierce resistance, holding back from life because I feared what might happen if . . . (more…)

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I am reminded about the ongoing debate about the emotional lives of men and women. As far back as I can remember, the views that have been expressed typically focus on vast differences between the sexes, suggesting that men and women have about as much in common with each other in terms of their feeling lives as a cockroach has with a collie. Indeed, so far apart are the sexes on matters of the heart that, according to author and relationship counselor John Gray, they each must have landed here from different planets—men hail from Mars, women are apparently more at home on Venus.

Of course there are real, tangible differences between the sexes to be sure. But when we speak about something as intangible as the human emotional response, it seems difficult to distinguish nature from nurture—it’s one of those chicken or the egg kind of quandaries as far as I’m concerned. After working for 35 years with the intimate lives of both sexes, I can only conclude that being human is not an easy thing. All human beings struggle with their feelings. People who take a greater interest in this struggle tend to be the ones who reap rewards in the form of greater self-knowledge, along with a heightened sense of meaning and connection. (more…)

This is Part 2 in a series about confronting the reality of death. Read “Death And The Inner Journey” here.

Approximately a quarter of a million people die each day. It can be daunting to acknowledge that each of us are destined to join their ranks. Wise teachers from every walk of life advise us to live our lives with an awareness of Death—not as a depressing reality to be feared—but as an ally who can teach us how to live more fully. (more…)

Last month, in the space of one week, I received sad news about the deaths of two friends. At the funeral of one of those friends I ran into Susan. Two weeks later her husband died suddenly of a brain embolism. Sometime in the coming weeks I expect another friend to die, after losing her courageous battle with ovarian cancer. And just last week, I found out that two more people I know have been diagnosed with breast cancer. (more…)

This is part 3 in a three-part series that explores the difference between healing and curing. You can read “Illness As A Teacher” here. Read Part 2, “My Adventures With Chronic Pain” here.

It is both frustrating and frightening when our bodies lose their resilience.  Sometimes this process unfolds naturally over decades, but other times we may feel blind-sided by the sudden on-set of a debilitating affliction or an accident. Practicing the following strategies with some measure of consistency will help you restore a sense of control and well-being.

1. Embrace mystery.

In an effort to gain control over the fact of illness you may ask yourself questions. Why did this happen? Why did this happen to me? Did I do something to deserve or cause it? It is normal to wonder if you are culpable when bad things happen. It is, of course, important to make adjustments in your life style and habits if they strain and undermine your immune system. But illness remains one of the greatest mysteries of life; in many cases there are no clear answers. (more…)

This is part 2 of a three-part series that explores the difference between healing and curing. You can read Part 1, “Illness As A Teacher” here.

Several weeks after returning from a backpacking trip in the late summer of 2006, I found myself walking down a country road with a group of women friends. I remember the crisp smell of fall in the air—and that first bite of cold that signals the waning of summer. (more…)