Shopping Cart
Your Cart is Empty
There was an error with PayPalClick here to try again
CelebrateThank you for your business!You should be receiving an order confirmation from Paypal shortly.Exit Shopping Cart

integrative wellness

My Blog


view:  full / summary

Hunting Down My Compassion: a Work in Progress

Posted on July 29, 2015 at 4:10 AM Comments comments ()
This is Cecil, the lion slayed by American dentist Walter James Palmer.

In his book, Fieldnotes On the Compassionate Life, Mark Ian Barasch writes;
A friend once told me of visiting the Dalai Lama in India and asking him for a succinct definition of compassion. She prefaced her question by describing how heartstricken she’d felt when, earlier that day, she’d seen a man in the streets of Dharamsala beating a mangy stray dog with a stick. "Compassion," the Dalai Lama told her, "is when you feel as sorry for the man as you do for the dog."
That initial red hot surge of outrage was when I first connected with my Inner Palmer. I wanted to wound him, the cruel bastard, and hunt him down for 40 hours before beheading him, and how would he like that…and I saw that I was pretty much behaving just like him.
I'm trying to understand this trophy hunter, predator, sexual harasser of female employees and father of two, Palmer the dentist. I read a study linking small genitalia to hunters. So maybe he’s overcompensating for a small penis. I read an article about the remarkable similarity between serial killers and trophy hunters. So maybe he’s a sociopath. Yet another article discussed the hunter’s need to hunt and kill off the feminine, another was about ….and then I had to stop reading articles because I had reached my limit of disturbing photos.
How disconnected from his own heart, from Life's heart (so beautifully manifested in Cecil the lion) must he be? How soul-dead must he be to actually enjoy inflicting suffering upon another being? What happened to create this in him?
And again I realized that I was doing to him what he does to animals and other people: I was making him the “other”. One of “them”. I’m objectifying him and making him the monster. Easier to kill him off that way.
If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
So here’s another way I connect with Palmer: I can disconnect from my own heart, I can disconnect from my own body, I can unplug from my own wild nature, and from Nature herself. I can disconnect from my mind, my intuition, my truth, other people. It’s so easy. Not only that; I can feel, see and hear the suffering this causes and still numb out with the best of the walking dead. I don’t numb out with substances and risky behaviors like in the old days, but there are so many ways to disconnect and unplug: I don’t have the time, 5 hours on the computer, I don’t want to know, 3 hours in front of the TV, I’m too busy, it’s time to reorganize the junk drawer, It’s not that bad,  a pint of ice cream gone, I need the money, I’ll deal with it later…. I have a lot of respect for Kwan Yin, goddess of compassion, aka She Who Hears the Cries of the World. She doesn’t whine about being too busy and then unplug. I’d go mad if I had to listen to all of that pain 24-7. This is not an easy path. Thank goodness there’s music and art, meditation and dance, laughter and a multitude of ways to plug back in.
Palmer is the one being hunted as I write this. Part of me thinks; “Good, serves him right.” Part of me hopes he realizes that this is how the women and animals he preyed upon over the years felt, and has a change of heart. And part of me despairs that he will ever realize how disconnected he truly is, because he’s too far over on the spectrum. It's not a line... it's a spectrum that stretches between good and evil, compassion and indifference, connection and disconnection, and we’re all on it.

My Job Here Is Done

Posted on May 8, 2015 at 3:20 PM Comments comments ()
My Job Here Is Done

The last question on the final exam I just gave for undergraduate Music Therapy students in a Medical and Rehabilitative Music Therapy course was:
What are 2 things you learned in this course that touched you deeply either as a person or a music therapist (or both), and why?
The answers below are representative of the majority of responses I received, and touched me deeply when I read them. (Okay, I cried.) I know from a semester of work and correcting their final exams that they learned the academic material. But there’s also the other kind of material I want my students to learn -  life lessons about being human, about connecting with themselves and others, and about compassion and self compassion. Although I open most of my classes with a variety of breath and/or awareness practices and we talk about how caregivers must walk their talk, I had no idea if they were getting it in their lives outside of the classroom.
"Centering & Breathing – Without this word, I am not sure how I would have survived this semester. I know these are not necessarily about Med-Rehab, but they made me think that everything and every population needs breathing and being listened to. I forgot to breathe many times in my life, but I have Prof. T to thank for bringing (her name) back when she drifts away. This was a difficult course with a lot of information, and I am glad I learned all of it through centering and breathing."
"One of the most important things I learned in this course was with regards to how we deal with suffering. Often we may feel tempted to avoid that which bothers us or leaves us feeling uncomfortable. However, sometimes we need to embrace this and allow ourselves to just feel. The  discussions that we had about this in class influenced me greatly, as I took this mentality with me to fieldwork. I even structured an entire session around working with this. The other particularly important thing I learned in this class was that we need to be able to reach out for help when needed. As one of the many “World Saviours” in this major, this lesson hit me hard this semester. I had to deal with some personal demons that I had successfully ignored up until this point. I’m happy to say that I have made it through and that I am doing much better…I think that I am much stronger for it and feel it will serve me in my future both professionally and personally."
"Since I have never taken a class with you before, the use of breathing to relax is something I will take with me as both a student and a music therapist. Breathing promotes feeling comfortable. When I feel comfortable as I lead a music therapy group, my clients will also feel comforted. It is a useful tool for anxiety and it is something I can use for myself but also pass on to my clients."
"The second thing I believe is important that I learned is how important centering and self care are!! I tend to always want to help others through their issues and then put mine on the back burner. Throughout this semester I’ve tried to make sure I am addressing my needs and centering has helped me immensely when it comes to working out these issues. I really realized that I can’t help others without helping myself first!"
"Another thing that I learned a lot about is how to center myself and breathe through things so as to not let them get to me.  This is something that will help me as a music therapist and as a person.  This was definitely a tough course for me at times as I have had a lot of family suffer and die from cancer, a close family friend is suffering from Parkinson’s, and of course my dad with his (condition omitted to preserve student’s anonymity).  A lot of what we learned and what we were addressing really hit home and that made aspects of this course really hard for me.  But as I learned to breathe through the hard things and keep pushing forward while centering myself, I learned that even the hardest things can be easy to get through if we just take care of ourselves the right way.  This will make me a better music therapist when some of the tough things come up and I have to center myself in the moment.  More importantly, however, this will make and has made me a better person.  I was able to get through one of the hardest, most emotionally draining semesters of my life because this class taught me how to center and breathe through the things that are the hardest."
"I think one of the biggest things I have learned in this course is that listening is so important. Many times someone just needs someone to listen to them. Being a good listener is probably one of the most valuable to have as a music therapist. The second biggest thing that has changed my life is: Breath. Breathing is so simple and yet, we forget to do it. Learning to breathe and center myself has made me a better person and a better music therapy student. I will treasure my breath and my center for the rest of my life."
"I  think something that has touched me deeply as a person is whatever gifts I have to give to other people, I should give them. I also learned how important being happy is, and whatever I do, sharing my truth and living my truth is the most important…whenever I leave this class I am reminding (sic) of my worth. Thank you very much Peggy, because besides the actual class material you have constantly reminded me of my capacity to love and connect and I deserve to connect with others…I breathe a lot better now."
"One theme that really stuck with me is the idea that you don’t always have to “help”, you just have to be there…( )The second thing I will always keep with me is breathing. I can’t tell you the amount of times I tell myself to breathe in order to calm myself. I had never known the importance of breathing before taking your classes, even though we hear “just breathe” all the time. I will forever thank you for both of these valuable lessons! Thank you for being with me and breathing with me!"
I close with a deep bow of love and respect to the teachers in my life who taught me all I know about breath, presence, awareness and (self)compassion: in particular to Dawna Markova and Andy Bryner for their invaluable lessons; and to Ron Glick and Susan Taylor for their perennial yoga wisdom. There are countless others who have taught me through their written words, workshops or friendships, and I’ll be bowing in gratitude to them for the rest of my days. And of course, thank you to my amazing, wonderful students!

Blogging on Huffington Post....

Posted on June 28, 2014 at 12:34 AM Comments comments ()
My poor, sadly neglected website Blog...I have been writing recently for the Huffington Post, and you can find those pieces here:

One Word

Posted on January 1, 2014 at 3:34 PM Comments comments ()
For the New Year or Any New Beginning:
One Word
Several years ago I read an article on the internet about choosing one word as inspiration and motivation for making changes in the new year, and I apologize to the unknown author for not being able to credit him or her. I've lost the article in the webosphere, but the concept in all it's beautiful simplicity remains. I've often used the practice with myself and clients since then, and pass it on to you today.

Instead of making a New Year's resolution (you know how those tend to go....), pick a word for the year. One word. But not just any word.

First, take some time to think about what you want for yourself and your life this year. We’re not talking new shoes and a great job here, although both would be nice. We’re talking about a word that describes a quality or energy that you want to focus on because you sense it is something you need for your growth and well being. Or maybe the world is asking this of you. The word will then act as your inspiration and guide throughout the year. Let’s say you want to improve your sense of self worth. As you think about it, you see that you’re rather mean to yourself in your own head. So you pick the word Kindness. Each day you focus on that word. You let the word guide you through your days, as in;  “What would be the kind step to take now?” or  “What would kindness say?”

Find a guiding word from the list below, think of a word on your own, or let a word choose you while you're meditating or walking....

Compassion          Generosity          Effortlessness           Resiliency          Abundance        Caution     
Creativity            Willingness               Change              Growth                Freedom             Balance            

  Mastery         Kindness         Self-Esteem        Laughter         Health         Gratitude           Integrity       
Acceptance            Courage            Magic           Confidence           Self-Compassion               Action
Stillness           Forgiveness             Release              Trust              Knowing              Patience        Fertility

Friendship                Fun                Grace               Laughter               Love             Expansion           Honesty

Independence         Optimism            Exploration           Adventure            Openness              Discipline
Clarity             Communion             Belonging               Responsibility               Serenity               Enough

Curiosity                   Awe                      Awareness                Risk                  Prayerful               Activating

Powerful           Allowing         Centering               Transformation             Mindfulness           Attention

Beauty                 Joy              Unity                Authenticity                Focus             Brave          Healing   
Self-Forgiveness          Order           Community           Steadiness           Presence          Faith          Vision
Connection               Mindful               Softening               Healing            Interdependent              Wisdom

Now that you have your word, here are some suggestions for living your word.....

Make a collage or another type of visual reminder and hang it up where you can see it. When you start not-seeing it, make a new one.

Find or create an object that embodies and reflects the energy of the word you chose, and keep it where you can see it. If you start not-seeing it, move it to a different location, find a new location for it, or make a new one.

Find or create an object that you can carry with you - a talisman or touchstone for your pocket, purse, or as a piece of jewelry.

Practice embodying the word: Where in your body is home for that energy? How does it move through your body? How do you sit, walk, and dance when you are embodying that energy? How do you move when that word-energy is your dance partner?

For some of us, resistance to living our word may arise. Instead of fighting it, welcome your resistance and invite it to the dance! Dance the opposite of your word. What  do you learn from that? Example: When dancing between Warrior and Worrier energy, I discovered that neither extreme is beneficial and went on to learn how to blend with both.The dance became much more interesting!

When you allow the word-energy to animate you from within, how do you sound when you speak, chant or sing? What would you say? How would the way you talk to yourself and others change?

If you play an instrument, how would you play and what would it sound like?

Find (or even more effective - create) a chant, song, or piece of music that can become your “theme song” or mantra for the word-energy, and play it/sing it/chant it whenever you want or need the inspiration. Let it become a call to action, or a soothing lullaby, or an internal fortifying tonic - whatever it is you need. If you start not-hearing it, find or create a new one.

Write a letter to yourself from the word you chose. What would Integrity say? What would Self-Compassion write to you? Let this develop into an ongoing dialogue in your journal, and allow the wisdom of the word help you navigate through your days - especially through times of confusion or discomfort.

Collect quotations and poems (create your own!) having to do with your word, and read them often.

Use the word as you would a mantra for meditation, or as an idea to contemplate in a quiet time of reflection, and just notice what arises.

Look for, read about, study, hang out with and generally learn from people (alive or dead) who seem to live the word you have chosen. They are your mentors and teachers.

Act as if. As if you are already living your word. Ask yourself; “What would (your word) say right now?” and then say it. Ask yourself; “What would (your word) do in this situation?” and then do it. This is called practice. Practice is priceless. All Masters and Maestros still practice.

Pick one small (do-able) task a day, a week, a month (or any combination) that draws on the energy of the word and has you acting in the world with that energy. It might be something from the above suggestions, something you come up with, or an opportunity handed to you.

Above all, have fun practicing!  Happy New Year!


Truly, the greatest gift you have...

Posted on September 2, 2013 at 8:29 PM Comments comments ()
Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation
- Lao Tzu
Cameron Gray, The Neverending Dreamer

I was asked a question as a result of that quote, which led to another question...

Q. There seems to be an implication that if I need to transform, then there’s something wrong or broken with me...          

Not at all! Do we label water as “wrong” when it transforms into a gas or solid? Is a caterpillar broken? Isn’t transformation into a butterfly part of its true nature? A tree bears no resemblance to the seed it once was.
Nature often holds up a mirror so we can see more clearly the ongoing processes of growth, renewal and transformation.  - unknown

In the same way, transformational shifts and changes  - some of them radical and profound, others more subtle and slow moving - are an integral part of the human experience on every level, from genetics to beliefs and beyond. There are aspects of you that are dramatically different today compared to when you were six months old, twelve or twenty-six years old! Just as you wouldn’t judge the water, caterpillar or tree for being themselves at any given phase of their existence, making judgments about the right or wrongness of where you are in relation to where you’ve been and where you’re going is... unnecessary and unhelpful.

        To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.
- Henri Bergson

Q. Why would I want to transform?

 We’re going through the process of transformation all the time, whether or not we want it!  For many of us, it’s usually suffering or discomfort that urges us to begin the conscious, deliberate process of transformation. “I know something has to change”. 

        The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.
- M. Scott Peck

Others seek the process of transformation for spiritual reasons or because they’re curious about new ways to experience themselves and the world.

        The purpose of enlightenment in our time is not just to transcend the world, but to transform the world. How do we transform it? Through the evolution of our own consciousness. We have to realize that this process completely depends on us, on individuals who are willing to push the edge of the possible. - Andrew Cohen

Q. What are we transforming when we engage in self transformation?

On a personality and systems level, we are working with those thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, or ways of relating and responding to ourselves and the world that we continue to hang onto despite evidence that they have outlived their usefulness, don’t work, and may even be causing damage to ourselves and others.

It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear ...It's like being between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold on to.
- Marilyn Ferguson

On the level of consciousness, we're engaging in practices that open our hearts to and expand our awareness of a unified reality, one containing multidimensional facets that we can explore and experience. If that's too woo woo for you, how about looking at it as expanding your potential ?

Take an axe to the prison wall. 
Escape. Walk out like someone suddenly born into color. 
Do it now.
- Rumi

And the day came....

Posted on November 29, 2012 at 9:57 PM Comments comments ()
And the day came
when the risk to remain
tight in a bud

was more painful                          
than the risk it took
to blossom
- Anais Nin

How did the rose
Ever open its heart
And give to this world
All of its beauty?
It felt the encouragement

Of light against its being,      
Otherwise we all remain
Too frightened.
- Hafiz

Self Compassion

Posted on February 26, 2012 at 10:11 AM Comments comments ()
I just read a great posting on self compassion from That path - the one that leads from self blame/criticism/hatred/shame to self compassion and kindness - is one I've certainly been on, and more often than not I'm encountering others on that same journey through my work and in the world. Here are some resources for the trip:

Dr. Kristen Neff  has a book, Self-Compassion, and a website:

Dr. Rick Hanson has a book, Buddha's Brain, and a website:

Dr. Paul Gilbert has a book, The Compassionate Mind, and a website:

Dr. Cristopher Germer has a book, The Mindful Path To Self Compassion and a website:

Here is a song, Gentle With Myself, by Karen Drucker:

"If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete"

(This quote is sometimes attributed to Buddha, sometimes to Jack Kornfield, but why split hairs?)

Musings coming soon.....

Posted on July 11, 2011 at 9:27 PM Comments comments ()
.....till then, if you're reading this, please take a moment for a conscious adding a slight smile on the exhale out..........