- Join me for some tea
If you’ve been sitting for awhile watching news stories, advertisements, or internet eye candy glide across your field of vision, use this moment to pause. Relax into soothing stillness. Take a deep breath. Gradually and gently, become aware of your surroundings–not as they ordinarily feel but as they are in this very moment.
I just made a pot of chai tea. My hands smell like cinnamon and fennel. Over the years, I’ve become fussy about the ingredients. Although I spent the first years of my life in a trailer park consuming Pepsi and white bread that tasted like sock, I also spent many years (perhaps not coincidentally) grappling with chronic fatigue and illness–the sort for which modern medicine (in the West, at least) has few solutions.
That may sound like a dry, depressing little factoid, but it’s been a blessing in disguise. How and what I eat has become a personal ritual for continuously choosing to be fully alive in a body on planet Earth, despite the heartache that comes with it.
When I crush the cardamom for my tea, stir in the ginger, or watch my macadamia milk expand into creamy ribbons in the dark tea, I feel more open. I leave that grievous state of “narrow and constrain” and drift into what psychologist, Barbara Frederickson, called “broaden and build.”
In periods of sadness or anxiety, the “narrow and constrain” state reflects our priorities–find protection, pull inward, weather the storm. There’s wisdom in it. At the same time, we can’t stay in that state too long or life itself becomes an endless hibernation, a waiting room for death.
Periods of joy, in contrast, evoke creativity and inspiration, hope in the future, and the motivation to build. Not just build… but rebuild.
If you are like me, the magnitude of pain and suffering in this world can be a bit overwhelming and disheartening. I’m approaching the age of fifty and grew up believing that the trajectory of humanity was firmly headed for universal kindness, wisdom, and scientific wonder. Instead of entering that utopian vision, many now wonder if the human race will survive the coming decades. It’s like a global, unending “narrow and constrain” state.
If an avalanche of devastating news or personal losses weighs heavily on your heart, know that you are not alone. You live among countless likeminded souls dedicated to coaxing this aching planet into an epoch of healing and wholeness. We can come out of the protective caves, the small hiding places, and feel joy again.
Start small. Make a nice cup of tea. Remember what it feels like to be open to life.
A Little About Me
I’m currently working on several writing projects, giving form to ideas evolving in my head and heart for three decades. I have a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. My goal was to study emotional well-being, to help chart paths from pain to joy, through difficult life circumstances to unconditional happiness. That area of study was challenging, because the field of psychology tends to pathologize emotional suffering. I ended up creating an “individualized graduate major,” blending coursework in various areas to forge my own path, exploring how suffering can arise in any person and how to create well-being in a world that continuously threatens it.
Don’t Miss the Next Letter
Get my Letters in your Inbox. I write about emotional wellness, healing, and happiness from three perspectives:
- Personal experience facing adversity and trauma
- Thirty years of meditation practice and a doctorate in psychology
- The conviction that emotional suffering is normal, and social and economic factors play a large role in shaping our well-being
If you’re suffering, my heart goes out to you. I hope my letters bring a little peace and joy to your life.
What do we need–mentally, socially, spiritually, and economically–to experience emotional well-being and heal from trauma? Follow thoughts and stories from a research psychologist, meditation practitioner, and non-profit advisor.
Discover a journaling system for dream incubation rooted in research on lucid dreaming and tested therapies for transforming nightmares. Watch for the forthcoming journal,
Looking for books and other resources that honor the cognitive, spiritual, and social paths to well-being? Coming soon, get personal recommendations from experienced therapists, teachers, researchers, healers and helpers.