Wanted: Original thoughts only

Is anyone else feeling overwhelmed by the voluminous amounts of information being pushed towards us all day, every day? Between twitter links, direct emails and the endless stream of facebook newsfeed, I am starting to find this onslaught of news, reviews and opinions to be quite frankly TMI (too much information).

As an integrative health journalist and newbie radio host for a wellness show, I am always searching for a great story idea, a fresh perspective or interesting topic to report, write about and share with my friends and internet “family”. But lately, all the posts and links have been feeling like more of a burden of facts versus the possibility of some interesting newsflash.

I am bored to tears with most of the daily news and infuriated with the biased and scarce coverage of those issues I do care deeply about namely—global women and girls, health and safety, human trafficking, domestic violence to name a few.

Studies upon studies on “hot” health topics flood the internet and most are more “hot air” than solid evidence based research. We all have become big skeptics when we read studies that promote or “prove” a point that leads to some corporate or pharmaceutical company’s benefit.

And what do people want to hear more about anyway? Is there any topic that has not been exhausted by well meaning writers or clever marketing mavens? So often the material we see is just an endless repackaging of the same information over and over again.

Where are people developing new ideas? I want to go on an original thinking retreat! I am looking to escape to a place where new thoughts and novel topics leap out of my brain. Is there someplace where people find a respite from the influences of headlines and advertisements?  I am ready to dive deep into some fresh perspective. Who wants to join me?

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Love And Forgiveness At The Core Of Healing

reposted from The Business Of Me newsletter

Recently, I heard Marci Shimoff, best-selling author of the book, Love for No Reason, speak about love and forgiveness. I was amazed by my profound and positive experience using one of her practices for opening up the heart to love and forgiveness. It is called Ho’opononpono and is based on an ancient Kahuna Hawaiian tradition. It is very easy to do. You simply say to yourself four sentences: “I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.”

“I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.” That is all there is to it.

We all know that we cannot have an open heart when we’re holding any kind of resentment, grudges, or any ill feelings towards ourselves or others.

I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you. Close your eyes and just repeat those lines a few times to yourself. No need to direct the words to anyone in particular.

Now just keep running those words through your head almost like a mantra, over and over again for several minutes. Sit as long as is comfortable and try to focus and embrace the feeling of forgiveness as it washes over you.

Tune into the frequency of acceptance and forgiveness. Really be mindful about forgiveness, not just with the intention of forgiving others but with the heartfelt purpose of first forgiving yourself. Bath yourself in the forgiveness, feel the Goddess of Compassion rise up inside you and see your heart opening, and notice what shifts in your world when you begin to embody that compassionate spirit.

After my first five minutes of trying this practice, my heart just melted. I truly felt huge compassion and real understanding, and most importantly, I felt it inside- directed towards myself.

Bring in the possibility of the power of this healing prayer into your world. You will quickly feel yourself releasing and feeling more love. I know that every person has access to this frequency. So I invite you to try it and see what happens when you are open to embracing forgiveness in the moment. Real change can be felt almost immediately and you may be surprised what you are easily able to let go of by practicing this exercise regularly.

Now is a good time to discover where you have the most need for forgiveness and compassion. What situation do you cringe or contract inside when you think about?   You may recognize that you have friendships that have been challenged and now you may feel the possibility of letting go of some of that resentment and hurt. It is really beautiful to just bring that energy of Ho’oponopono to those relationships. Perhaps right now you can just sit silently and say internally: I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you…for yourself, a person or situation. Try saying these four sentences while bringing your hand to your heart to allow for greater focus.

I am sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you. I am sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.

I know how meaningful this practice of Ho’oponopono can be for every person. Practiced regularly, it is sure to create new openings for love and happiness.

Louise L. Hay has a wonderful statement about practicing daily rituals and forgiveness. She writes,

“Forgiveness is a gift to myself. I forgive, and I set myself free. Daily affirmations heal your life and change your whole world for the better. Trust life to hear and respond to your positive words.”

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Heading Into Mother’s Day With Compassion Fatigue? Me Too

(Reposted from the Huffington Post)
Isn’t it ironic? The week of Mother’s day finds me comforting a friend who’s elderly Mom died, consoling a mother whose young daughter passed away and soothing a close relation with a seriously ill Mom. My combined feeling of empathy and compassion for all of their sadness and grief is a bit overwhelming. I think I am suffering from a mild bout of compassion fatigue.

Have you ever heard of compassion fatigue? When I heard a group of social workers talking about this condition I was fascinated by the phrase alone. Most often it is used in discussions regarding caregivers–such as nurses and counselors–particularly those that work with populations who experience traumatic events or work in highly stressful environments. But what about the mothers out there who are compassionate every day? How do we–as caregivers–avoid this fatigue and remain emotionally healthy as we stay present to our family’s needs?

Compassion fatigue is thought to be the result of dealing with too much bad news or having prolonged time periods confronting difficult issues such as terminal illness, anger or death. Charles Figley, PhD, scholar and author writes in 2002:

“Compassion fatigue is a phenomenon that occurs when a caregiver feels overwhelmed by repeated empathic engagement with distressed clients.”

The concern is that when a person experiences compassion fatigue, their ability to function appropriately becomes compromised.

For the professional, the most common coping strategy recommendations include setting boundaries, introducing humor and consulting with colleagues. But for the compassionate mothers, sisters and friends out there–what do we do?

In response to an overload of empathy, I try to remember the long list of things to be grateful for and focus on the graceful response of knowing that even the greatest suffering does pass. Connecting to my own kindness and the happiness felt when one recognizes this inclination within one’s self is helpful. It is an action that does take effort, mindfulness and whole-hearted practice. It is not uncommon for those real life human beings, like us, to react impatiently, annoyed, disappointed or grieved by events that are troubling and unpleasant. The mothers who are listening lovingly and openly should be admired and appreciated.

Another coping mechanism and strategy to avoid compassion fatigue may be to face the very human pain of loss, fear of death, and sadness with an open heart and clear awareness. Sometimes jumping into the situation completely–crying, mourning and authentically feeling the pain allows us to move through the moment and recover from the experience more fully.

Trying to stay detached from the pain and suffering of others carries a much greater burden. Being openly compassionate to the authentic experiences of pain and fear, sadness and suffering transcends the compassion fatigue that we most want to avoid.

This Mother’s day practice friendliness, compassion and appreciation for all those Moms that are holding the emotional strength for others every day.

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Cultivating Wisdom: An Experiential Journey with Koshin Paley Ellison and Robert Chodo Campbell

(Reposted from Huffington Post)
Koshin and Chodo share the stage of a large ballroom, sitting comfortably side by side in their beautiful blue Zen robes, as they begin to explore the differences between compassion and empathy and the practical benefits of meditation practices. The two co-founders of New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care are the opening act of this year’s Integrative Healthcare Symposium. Their lighthearted demeanor and easy-going banter is in bright contrast to their life work of training health care professionals and volunteers to face illness, disease, dying and living within a spiritually contemplative perspective.

There is a Zen saying: “Different body, same heart and mind.” Koshin and Chodo discuss the need to cultivate wisdom through the experience of being present. First we are asked to take a moment to focus on our own breath and our own presence in our chair, in our body, in the room that morning. Next they invite us, a huge room full of hundreds of practitioners, to find someone we do not know and turn our chairs to face one another. We are instructed to just sit and look at one another, not speaking, smiling or touching. Just looking into one another’s eyes, sitting perfectly still, being completely present. This four-minute exercise is uncomfortable at first, then excruciatingly difficult, and then something happens. A shift occurs, and for just a minute or two we are completely connected and present with another human being. Everyone understands the Zen saying a bit more deeply than before the exercise.

Directly supporting patients and medical staff, these two gentlemen, within the framework of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, are lovingly and creatively transforming pastoral care one caregiver at a time. This month they opened up the hearts of several hundred more practitioners with their meditation and experiential presentation.

As true pioneers and leaders in the Buddhist Chaplaincy field, they have also established the first and only Buddhist organization to offer a fully-accredited ACPE Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program in America.


This April 28 the Contemplative Care Awards 2011 will be honoring Dr. Diane Meier, Dr. Russell Portenoy and Sharon Salzberg. For more info go to http://www.zencare.org

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Check out my teleseminar recording with Suzanne Kyra at LivingBig!

Sharon Ufberg Teleseminar Recording « Living Big « Living Big …
Suzanne Kyra & Sharon Ufberg have just finished a sensational teleseminar on Wellness From The Inside Out. Check it out here:


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Transformative Moments: When was yours?

Every now and then the earth seems to shift under my feet. No early morning Northern California earthquake rumble or massive New York snowstorm’s icy street—nope, I am talking about the destabilizing shake up of a new perspective or perception of the self.

My first memory of this type of wake-up call happened when I was heading towards nine years old.  I remember vividly. I was at day camp with my friends realizing that I was two distinct entities. First, I was a girl and second, I was a wholly separate individual. These realizations hit me like a lightning bolt.  This seemingly sudden awareness came out of nowhere. As a total tomboy, I was dumbfounded that there were no professional women football players so my attempt to follow along with my older brother’s dream career came quickly to an end. Fortunately for me, my father pointed out that there were plenty of woman doctors so my second career choice was still a viable option.

The consciousness of my self as a separate individual from my close-knit family was a real eye opener. It was scary and exciting at the same time. Being rather fearless, this newly found separateness launched an entire life story of freedom seeking and travel. I still remember spending hours cutting out pictures of places I wanted to see and explore. And no one needed to go with me! I was free to have desires all my own.

Years later I discovered that nine is precisely the age in which studies indicate that most girls recognize their gender difference. And yet for each girl it is truly earth shaking news.

Many of the other major shifts in consciousness happened when experiencing those expected big moments in my life cycle; falling in love, the death of a parent, and at the absolute top of my list— becoming a mother.  These are the easy places to understand the internal changes that happen. 

What are not so clear are those illuminating and transformative shifts that light up your psyche when you are least expecting it. Historically, this happens most often when I am traveling. Standing on some ancient hilltop of my ancestry or dancing in a circle of women on a boat seven thousand miles from home.  Perhaps it is engaging in expansive heart-opening experiences that allows for a new window to pop open in our brains. It always feels like a huge gift has been dropped down in front of me—a gigantic dose of new awareness to contemplate and feel.

With many externally inspired earth-shifting moments in my past, I now relish with joy when a new perception or enlightening consciousness reveals itself to me when I am just sitting still connecting to the knowledge of the universe from the inside out.

What are some of your transformative moments? When do they happen for you?

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An interview with Dr. Rachel Remen

Reposted from IntegrativePractitioner

Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen is a nationally recognized author, educator and medical reformer. As one of the earliest leaders in the mind/body holistic health movement, she was the first to recognize the role of the spirit in the maintenance of health and the recovery from illness. She is the co-founder and Medical Director of the well-known Commonweal Cancer Help Program, the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Study of health and illness (ISHI) at Commonweal and Clinical Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.

Dr Remen is the founder and director of The Healer’s Art, a twenty year old curriculum on reclaiming the heart and soul of medicine, which is presently taught annually in more than half of American  medical schools  and in five countries abroad. About 1,500 medical students take The Healer’s Art each year. Dr. Remen’s groundbreaking holistic continuing education programs enable graduate health practitioners at all levels of training to remember their calling and strengthen their commitment to serve life. Dr. Remen is also a masterful storyteller and public speaker and the acclaimed author of two New York Times bestsellers, Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal and My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge and Belonging.

Ufberg: Dr. Remen, how did you come to be involved in your work of weaving spiritual health into conventional western medicine? 

Dr. Remen: Actually Sharon, perhaps we do not need to weave spirituality into conventional medicine. Spirituality is a basic dimension of every person, every interaction and certainly every act of healing. Fundamentally, life is spiritual and therefore all we need do is to recognize this, to see the familiar in new ways. A lot in our training numbs us to the spiritual nature of our work. We often are in the presence of mystery and we do not even notice. We can become so focused on our technique and expertise, so rushed and distracted by the paperwork and the many hoops we have to jump through in today’s health care environment that we pass right by moments of deep meaning and inspiration. As one of my medical students said, “Too great a scientific objectivity can actually make you blind.”  Unfortunately the things we do not notice are the very things that can strengthen us in dealing with the frustrations of today’s healthcare and the stresses of being a healthcare provider.

So who were your role models, Dr. Remen? 

I have been involved in promoting holism in medicine since 1967. The problem with being a true pioneer is that you have no role models, just ideas about a different way of being, a different way of working, a larger medicine… ideas which almost everyone around you sees as simply crazy.  At the beginning of change, in order to make a difference, one must often be willing to sacrifice everything: professional credibility, financial security, even career advancement in order to be true to a vision of possibility. It can be lonely. I have a severe chronic illness that I have had since the age of 15. At that time my doctors told me that I would die before I was 40. Because of my own life history, it was necessary for me to look beyond the existing techniques and science of medicine and find a way to help myself and others like me and find a way to live. The ironic thing is that if you follow a vision for long enough, eventually you yourself become a role model.

Your topic for your keynote presentation at the upcoming 2011 Integrative Health Symposium is titled: “Soul Work: Integrating the Spirit in Health Care”. Can you tell us about what you’re hoping to share with practitioners in March 

By telling true stories about the mystery and awe that is a part of health care, I hope to enable people to remember their own stories and become more aware of the experience of mystery and awe in their everyday work lives. I will be pointing to the possibility that people can find a much deeper inspiration, satisfaction and meaning in the work they are already doing.  A good story is like a compass, it points to something that is real and true and universal, it helps us to see ourselves and others in new ways and can cause us to change our way of moving through the world.  It can bring us home to ourselves. Our professional culture often limits the way we think and the way we see things. It interprets our experiences for us in ways that are often very constricted and small. Science describes life but we cannot allow it to define life for us:  life is much larger than science and we are larger than our science. Our daily work is filled with awe. We see love and courage, devotion and loyalty, acts of heroism and self sacrifice on the part of the most unlikely people. We see things that cannot be explained but only witnessed. Healthcare is the front row seat of life and many of us are sitting in that seat with our eyes closed. It is possible to experience this work in such a way that you feel gratitude for the opportunity to do it, to be there with people at very special times in their lives and see things that can make you wise.

Would you share a bit about the curriculum you created for medical students? 

Thanks for asking! ‘The Healers Art’, is a discovery model curriculum for medical students. It is based on tested educational principles drawn from fields outside of medicine and draws on approaches from transpersonal and humanistic psychology, contemplative studies, aesthetics, imagery,  poetry and narrative, adult education, formation and coaching.  The curriculum forms a community of inquiry among students and faculty to explore life experience and uncover principles of healing and healing relationships. It enables students to trust through experience the power of their personal presence and generous listening to heal. It is the most highly rated elective among students in almost all the schools that teach it. Students nationally report that the course fills a gap in their existing curriculum and enables them to become the sort of healers they hope to be. At present we have been consulting with nursing leaders and deans nationally to enable the development of a similar course for nursing students and are presently piloting a Healer’s Art curriculum for medical residents as well.

What is on your horizon, what’s next for you? 

I am interested in furthering the dreams of my colleagues and my students. Healthcare cannot move forward unless we all move forward together, unless we all have a dream of the way this work could be and we are willing to fight for that dream. Medicine is not a job, it is a way of life. Each one of us is called to this work because of an inner direction.  I hope to help people hear and honor the truth of their own vision, their own personal dream of service. That is what is going to heal this broken healthcare system and that is what I am interested in, enabling people to live and work by the best that they know.

Posted in Integrative Health, Women's Global Health | Tagged | 2 Comments