From Fear to Flow ™

The new book From Fear to Flow ™: Set yourself free from painful patterns to create enduring happiness, reduce stress & change your life for good is under way. I am writing a new book proposal for a literary agency who will sell the book to a publisher. I’m finding the process of writing the proposal a wonderful exercise in getting clear about how to refine the system I’ve been using with my clients for over a year now, and with great success. As a clinical psychologist in private practice, a former graduate school lecturer, a trainer and supervisor of new therapists, and a practitioner and facilitator of meditation for 15 years, I have worked to devise a spiritually and scientifically informed, yet simple to apply method of working with my clients and students; one that helps them to understand themselves better, suffer less, and continuously progress on their life’s path to greater happiness, fulfillment and benefit to themselves and others. I call the method “From Fear to Flow ™,” where Fear and Flow are simple acronyms helping people navigate painful situations with flexibility, compassion, mindful awareness and presence. This system unites multiple disciplines of psychology, neuroscience and psychotherapy with the spiritual practices like mindfulness and compassion meditation, which have both recently enjoyed wide appeal in secular and scientific settings alike. FEAR: F = Fixed Ideation (a Rigid Mind/Body); E = Emotional Entanglement (an Emotionally Flooded Mind/Body); A = Anxiety Mind  (Lost in past shame/guilt or fantasies of future disasters); R = Reactive Patterns (By definition, mindless, automatic, and often destructive and harmful). FLOW: F = Flexibility (Nimble and Creative Mind/Body which is Possibility Focused); L = Love (Compassionate Mind/Body which is Benefit Focused); O = Orientation to the Present Moment (Mindful, Non-Judgmental Presence which is Reality Focused); W = Wise Action (By definition, naturally present, intentional, creative and beneficial to all Beings). Using age-old basic meditation skills and wisdom traditions to build an experientially grounded, neurobiologically stable foundation, my clients and students learn to begin noticing themselves in psychological pain with compassion and curiosity. Rather than indulging in Reactivity, they are then free to learn to pause to conduct a gentle inquiry into their experience on the FEAR side of the equation. Once they begin to locate the primary ingredients of suffering and anticipate the Reaction that they might typically engage in similar conditions, they begin instead to experiment with...
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New Video about Integrative Psychotherapy

Are you curious about what I mean by integrative psychotherapy? from Sean Patrick Hatt on Vimeo.
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The 8-fold Path to Happiness—Mapping Modern Positive Psychology to 2500 Years of Buddhist Teaching

The Buddha mapped out the Noble 8-Fold Path to Enlightenment over 2,500 years ago, and included it in his most fundamental teaching: The Four Noble Truths. The Four Noble Truths are, briefly: 1) Human Life is inherently fraught with “dukkha,” a Pali term that is loosely translated in the West to mean suffering (though it more closely resembles “unsatisfactory-ness” than suffering); 2) The cause of our suffering is some form of craving/ attachment (or aversion, craving/attachment’s “evil twin”); 3) There is a path that leads us reliably to the ultimate defeat of this univeral human suffering; 4) That path is the Noble Eightfold Path–a roadmap to the promised land. So what are the Eight “Folds” of said Path? There are many translations. The one I like the best is offered by Lama Surya Das in Awakening the Buddha Within. Lama Surya breaks it up into 3 categories: Wisdom Training (including Right View and Right Intention), Ethics Training (including Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood), and Meditation Training (including Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration). That’s a whole lotta “rights,” isn’t it? Makes me feel claustrophobic just thinking of it. So let’s make an alteration and substitute the word “Beneficial” for “Right.” It’s less judgmental and confining I think, and we can thus make a decision to do what is of benefit or not. In the next eight posts, I’m going to attempt to unpack each of these eight Beneficial Trainings/Practices and map them to evolving Modern understandings of happiness flowing out of the Positive Psychological Literature, focusing upon the following eight areas (in no particular order other than the way they tend to show up on a list in my own head): 1) Mindful Living: The Benefits of Contemplative Practice and Savouring Experience 2) Gratitude: The Benefits of Noticing What Works, and What We Have Instead of What is Missing 3) Forgiveness: The Benefits of Living in Rumi’s Famous Field (Beyond Ideas of Right Doing and Wrong Doing) 4) Kindness: The Benefits of Practicing Compassion for Self and Other and Acting From That Place 5) Movement: The Benefits of Getting Off Our Butts 6) Relationships: The Benefits of Full-Contact Relating 7) Life Goals: The Benefits of Daring Greatly 8) Signature Strengths: The Benefits of Owning our Gifts with Humility, and Putting Them to Work in the World Tune in next time to learn more about Beneficial View:...
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All Stressed Out? Lean In and Breathe.

It’s not a big surprise to anyone that meditation leads to increased feelings of peace and tranquility. Thanks to scientists at UC Davis, we now have a better biochemical understanding of how this happens in our bodies. A newly published study by the Shamatha Project at the UC Davis Center for the Mind and Brain shows an inverse correlation between mindfulness meditation and that nasty “stress hormone,” cortisol. Turns out, as we integrate the benefits of meditation, the cortisol levels in our bodies drop. Cortisol has a long rap sheet. Mostly it gets mentioned alongside conditions like diabetes, excess belly fat, and heart disease. But, it’s actually not all bad all the time. Under normal circumstances, cortisol is a helpful little hormone secreted by the adrenal glands to assist our bodies in regulating our energetic resources through metabolism, blood sugar levels, insulin production, and blood pressure. It’s also part of the bolt of energy (along with adrenaline) that helps us protect ourselves from threats in the environment. But it’s this last function that gets us into hot water. The problem is, what ought to be temporary stressors in today’s complex world have become both chronic and too numerous. We feel overmatched by the quantity and complexity of demands placed on us, and these stressors just go on and on, seemingly without any end in sight. So we are riddled with chronically high levels of cortisol in our blood stream, which leads to the slow degradation of our cardiovascular system and that stubborn belly fat. But it gets even worse than storing fat and dying from a heart attack or diabetes. Cortisol at chronically high concentrations in our bodies is a neurotoxin that may contribute to short-term memory loss, and even increase our risk for Alzheimer’s Disease. This is to say nothing about our poor little adrenal glands. At some point, they become fatigued to the point that we can’t manufacture these essential hormones, and we then experience a syndrome that includes chronic fatigue, a sense of constant overwhelm and anxiety, constant craving of unhealthy foods, and problems healing from illness or injury. Enough with the bad news. What kind of meditation practices did the scientists at UC Davis find to help bring our cortisol levels back into natural balance? In the new study, the folks at UC Davis used a mindfulness assessment questionnaire to measure aspects of mindfulness among...
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New Fremont Office Space.

I just completed building out a new transpersonal psychology office space in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. Here are some Before photos of the transformation, followed by a video of the final product. The camera in my iPad doesn’t really do the space justice, but you can get a hint of what it feels like here. The statue is Kannon (Meiji period Japan ca. 1890-1910), Buddha of Compassion. She is also known as Kwan Yin in South East Asia. The altar is a 100 year old spice grinder from Indonesia and is carved from a solid piece of teak. The scroll is an original piece of calligraphy by Rev. Shodo Uemoto (Gozan is his pen name) — in Japanese: Shoudou Uemoto (Godou). He was the 38th abbot of Kosho-ji in Uji, established by Dogen as the original seat of the Soto Zen lineage around 1233, following his travels to China. Translation: “Everyday Mind is the Way.” The bench in the waiting room is made from a single piece of reclaimed Tamarind from Indonesia. The antique Korean chest is contributed by my office mate and colleague Anna Hedly Goeke. The photograph of the young monks and nuns from Myanmar is an original, signed, and numbered (12/50) print by San Francisco photographer, Lisa Kristine. It is called “Keepers of the...
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Enjoy Every Sandwich

This is the title of a new book by the late Lee Lipsenthal, M.D. It’s a meditation on how he learned to fully live in every moment through his journey through cancer diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately his own death. What can we learn from death that will help us to live joyfully in every moment? Perhaps it is best summarized in a single word: Gratitude. How can that be? How could a man facing the agony of cancer treatment and his ultimate demise be grateful? I think Dr. Lipsenthal would say “How could it be otherwise?” He writes: “A healthy practice of gratitude is simple. You don’t need to whitewash the bad, just remind yourself of the good now and then. Remember, what you look for is what you find.” He suggests a few ways of doing that, both of which I fully endorse. One:  Use a gratitude journal. Keep a notebook by your bedside and each night, write down three things you are grateful for from that day. If you think you have nothing to be grateful for, try just finding appreciation for your ability to breathe, or your capacity just to comprehend language, or the bed you are crawling into under a roof that houses indoor plumbing and electricity. You have to work pretty hard to find nothing at all to be grateful for. I learned a little something about this very directly. I watched my aunt pass away–the result of 9 years of cancer treatment finally catching up to her. It’s amazing that the cancer didn’t directly take her life. She had among the most virulent of diseases–cancer of the pancreas. But she kept it at bay for 8 and a half years longer than she was supposed to. And she had beaten kidney cancer, twice, and breast cancer before she faced the tumor in her pancreas. So even as our family gathered around her bed, grieving as she slipped away, little by little, day by day, there was so much to be grateful for. I found myself grateful for relationships that I had not really appreciated in a long time. I saw my parents through new eyes. Every time I ate or drank something, I was aware of two healthy kidneys and a digestive system that is utterly miraculous in its complexity and efficiency. I was awash in the formerly mundane, and gratitude. Two: Dr....
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