Monday, June 24, 2013

BOOK REVIEW and Reflection on Buddha and the Borderline, by Kiera Van Gelder...Help for your Life

Buddha and the Borderline did not just have an impact on my life, it haunted me.  And not just because I have lived through some of this woman's experiences but because I have experienced so many similarities between this Kiera Van Gelder's experiences and the many, many people who've sat in my offices over the years I've been a therapist.  In those years I felt there was no substitute for the long, painful, often dangerous process of individual psychodynamic therapeutic process in recovery from severe trauma and I was aware of the high incidences of hospitalization and suicide attempts and declarations along the way.  This was the world of the person diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and post traumatic stress disorder.  Now, in this book, and in other places, I was hearing about a new form of therapy where clients took responsibility for their behavior at a very early stage in therapy, avoided hospitalization, worked in groups, and worked at behavior modification as opposed to deep intrapsychic change as the primary mode of therapy.  I was flabbergasted.  It triggered a major change in my approach with the integration of new skills into my therapeutic approach. Eventually I became a life coach and spiritual director, choosing to explore skill-building and people's spiritual paths in life, rather than working as a therapist.  But that's another story.

I was a skeptic at first.  I signed up to attend an introductory workshop, and I sought out a supervisor who was already working with Dialectical Behavior Therapy, the therapeutic approach in question.  The information I gained was anti-climactic.  Information that was common knowledge to a healthy person.  Skills we might take for granted:  how to distract ones' self from a distasteful or uncomfortable situation.  How to deal with conflict in a myriad of helpful coping ways.  Who to call on when needing help and unable to cope on ones own.  How to make a list of ways to cope when in a crisis.  We all know how to do these things, right?

The further I read on in this book, the less convinced I was that we do know how to cope.  I'm convinced now that the busier we become with our lives today, the less we have spent on reinforcing our daily coping skills and attending to our emotional needs AND the less time we have spent teaching them to our children!  So I am left with a funny taste in my mouth as I finish this book that it may be true that it is not just people diagnosed with this serious borderline personality disorder who need help to learn these helpful traits. Many others possess some of the same traits or have some similar deficits and can benefit from Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

Perhaps the reason that there's a profound rise in professions like mine -- spiritual and life coaches -- is that there's also a profound need to learn or relearn the skills that are so pointedly demonstrated in this book, albeit in extreme.  Keira learns how to make healthy choices in relationships and how not to sacrifice herself in the process.  She learns how to differentiate herself from others.  She learns how to cope with a crisis and how to perceive what an actual crisis is or is not.  Most importantly, she learns how to manage, physically and emotionally, her daily life, and to feel good about her choices in doing so.  Ask yourself, how are you doing in these areas of your life?  Pathology or not, I look around me and see that there are many around me who have not acquired a lot of these skills while they have ardently pursued the important life skills needed for their careers.

The book is a good read about how a person, who was admittedly extremely damaged, uses Dialectical Behavior Therapy and the principles of Zen Buddhism to find manageability in her life.  It is also a tool to help you decide if that''s what you need in your own life.  Kiera Van Gelder has given us that gift in revealing her own life.  It is a huge gift for which we owe her a big thank you!

There are still good uses for heavy therapy and there are good uses for wonderful tools like Dialectial Behavior Therapy.  There are workbooks being produced that can be purchased online or in mass market bookstores.  If you'd like to work with a person in a group or individually, that the job for a coach like me!  I'd be glad to talk to you about it.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Over a month has gone by. I can scarcely believe it.  We started the process of putting our house on the market and that was it.  All manner of things boiled to the surface and my daily process of discipline, my reading and writing each morning, it was all gone in a matter of days.

I pride myself on my morning habits.  It has taken me years to build a daily spiritual discipline, and yet, in the stress of getting ready to list our home, poof!  There it went!

I'm sharing this with you because I know that this is true for so many of us.  We strive for a spiritual goal or a spiritual practice which will bring us peace in our daily lives, yet, right when we need it, it seems to evaporate.  Often there is a tendency to beat ourselves up when that happens, and that only makes things worse.

Gentleness is the key.  A soft returning to the practices one knows works.  One morning I awoke and again "noticed" the soft pink sky across the river, just before dawn.  It was a reminder to me to sit in my chair with my coffee instead of beginning a run for the day.  I sat, and lo and behold, there was my meditation book.  Why not read it?  The book reminded me to take a Breathe.

In just a few moments I had returned to my practice.  I was thinking of how I could fit some yoga into my daily routine to help with my increased stress.  My body knew what it needed. I just hadn't been listening.  In a matter of a few minutes I had my life back.  All I needed to do was breathe in and breathe out.  Listen to that inner voice.  Be still!

Gentleness is the key.  Listening opens the door. Once again I have my life back.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Earth Quaker Action Teams (EQAT)

Earth Quaker Action Team leader, Carolyn McCoy began fasting for forty days, as of today, in solidarity with the pain and suffering of the people affected by mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia. She is inviting other members, or any individuals, to join her, as they feel led. This is an excellent example of folks choosing to live from the inside out -- to take non-violent, direct action.  I'm excited about this action and I'm joining Carolyn one day per week.  I live on the edge of Appalachia, and mountaintop removal as well as the new earth-rape, fracking, have disturbed me for a long time.  EQAT members have done their homework.  Mountaintop removal was disturbing them to their core, so they researched who was funding it.  They looked at how this has been allowed to go on, at the economic base that supports it (this is the root of things in our current society, after all).  Then they looked at a form of action that would have impact in this society:   they withdrew their money from the bank, PNC,  that is funding the companies responsible for most mountaintop removal, and they are now showing through fasting that they are willing to sacrifice their lives behind this cause.  They are showing that this is a spiritual issue for them by fasting as a spiritual preparation to continue their efforts on a long term basis.  They are educating and preparing others to do the same. Start here for more info:

Do you have the courage to take action in a manner such as this?  You may be thinking it doesn't take much courage; this is a relatively simple action, no violence is involved -- ah, there's the rub!  Living your life from the inside out does take courage, and faith, and creativity, and imagination, but not necessarily violence or the things one necessarily associates with being counter-cultural.  I think what is involved is being vigilant.  Being aware that so much of the culture we live in is designed to turn OFF your mind to your values, especially if your values would have you question the status quo.

So, here's the challenge:  For the next forty days, follow this news story.  Be courageous in allowing your mind to stay open.  If you feel compelled, join Carolyn in some small way:  give up sugar, give up the internet one day per week, or fast for a day or more yourself.  Do you have money in PNC?  How do YOU feel about the fact that your bank funds mountaintop removal.  Do you know how mountaintop removal affects the people of Appalachia? (Uh, no, I'm not going to tell you -- google it!)  

I will be fasting on Tuesdays throughout Carolyn's fast and sharing about it here.  Maybe more than a day a week, depending on the impact it has on my core.  I've joined Earth Quaker Action Teams, and I'm committed to learning more about the cause myself, and to seeing if they are doing anything about fracking, which is quickly taking over our area.  I want to find out who is the funding source behind fracking and if a similar action can be taken there.  I know I'm mixing coaching and action here folks, but this is important stuff!

Stay tuned, please!  Maybe we can learn together.  This is where faith and action hit the road.

Friday, March 8, 2013

What it Means to Live Life from the Inside Out:

"It's the action, not the fruit of the action, that's important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
I spotted this quote on a friend's facebook page this morning and thought, "that's it!"  Well, that's a lot of it.  Taking action from your values because you must is certainly a lot of what makes people who live life from the inside out, stand out. I'm asking myself, "how do these people get to that point in their lives?  What brought me to the day I said I  must  live life according to my values completely?

Some things, of course, I owe to my upbringing and the times I was raised.  Being a teen in the 1960s was an awesome "ride," as we would say then.   I recall staying home sick and coincidentally being there to see the moment John F Kennedy was shot.  It was etched on my mind forever.  There was Martin Luther King, Jr, and Bobbie Kennedy, The Riots, and The dawning Age of Love of the 70s.  All of this brought with it a feeling of both excitement and responsibility, at least for me.

Some must be personality make-up as well.  I recall during sit-ins and action-alliances having humorous talks with my compatriots where we wondered about the people who were simply watching football games or having the backyard barbecue, and whether we would ever simply be those people (and yes! I have done those things too, and enjoyed them!).

And some is that elusive, hard-to-define but ever pressing spiritual journey that many of us find ourselves on.  Something speaks to us, gnaws at us, letting us know there is something more, some calling we have not quite answered yet!  So we push forth, striving to define, stretching to listen, until we feel satisfied that what we are doing has met what something (God?) has called us to do.  It is the most gratifying feeling in the world.  

So it is not the result we are seeking.  It is the sense we have answered the call.  It is a sense of being in relationship...of speaking directly with the God of our understanding, through our actions. Is this what you are seeking?  Stay tuned for more in this regard...


Friday, March 1, 2013

Why a Coach and not a Therapist?

This has been a transitional time for me, and I thought I'd talk about it with you, my readers:
It has taken about five years to transpire.  It started when a series of small injuries gave me the message it was time to stop gardening as a career, and find another vocation.  I thought I'd given up counseling as a career, but after exploring a few other avenues, I found myself opening that door again.  I even began to feel I was "called back to that place."  It felt good.

However, the counseling job I left, was not the job I returned to.  In the interim, managed care had hit the agency scene.  Now, instead of just the client's stated problem indicating the treatment, insurance coverage, county mandates, levels of care (LOC) and a host of other initials (that I couldn't even be sure what they stood for) dictated treatment planning.  Not only that but length of treatment and goals was also mandated by the agency providing funding.

I was fully unprepared.  When I'd left being a service deliverer, I was in private practice as a family therapist.  Although I would provide a diagnosis when required to for one of the few people I filed insurance for, I was a "systems thinker," meaning that I thought more in terms of how one person fit in the whole of their networks, not how they were diagnosed by some numerical code.  Oh sure, I'd been taught those codes in grad school, and I knew how to use the DSM IV, but I avoided it wherever possible, and most people I knew used it only sparingly, preferring to diagnose people as "Adjustment disorder not otherwise specified" which was the most "non-diagnosis" diagnosis you could hang on a person, and was unlikely to affect a person further down the road.

Now I found myself diagnosing people in order to guarantee length of stay, coverage of treatment, admission to a program, etc, and while the diagnoses fit, this was almost directly opposite to twenty years prior in my life.  I kept adjusting myself to fit the times, adjusting, adjusting....

Then there was the paperwork, and that ultimately was my downfall.  For every thing one writes there is a release, and  privacy warnings, and justifications and history, and so on.  Twenty years later, I found I could just not keep up.  It was sad but true.  Paperwork had gone from five to ten pages to over thirty per client, and often the client did not stay, but the paperwork had to be completed.  I was attending more to paperwork than to client needs.  I was ultimately let go from my last position because my productivity was not up to par -- not my productivity in seeing clients, mind you, but my productivity in completing paperwork.  At one point one of my supervisors was giving me a pep talk saying, 'Come on Linda, get with it, we need your clinical skills!!'  But alas, it was not to be, I could not keep up with that amount of paperwork, even to do the work I so dearly loved.

I have been grieving deeply for that work.  I cannot do work with PTSD, deep depression, or borderline personality disorder in a coaching venue.  It requires psychiatric support and groups and one on one contact that this modality will not afford me and that I would not feel ethically right in performing it.  But there are oh so many benefits in moving to coaching for my beleaguered soul!

I had skills that I could rarely offer in the current climate of the public agency setting:  creative, artistic teachiing and coaching skills that were outside the realm of the cognitive behavioral brief therapy measurable existence.  More and more treatment planning was calling me to measurable goals.  Coaching calls me to the same things, but the difference?  The CLIENT sets the goals, not managed care.  If my client wishes to explore spiritual or esoteric or creative goals that are not so behaviorally measurable, SO BE IT!!

If I challenge my client to dream or visualize or create, and the goals do not fall within the 12 designated sessions funded by managed care, THE CLIENT makes that choice.  After all, isn't the goal of most therapy of whatever form that the person entering the therapy become responsible and be able to make active and healthy choices for their life?  I had begun to wonder how we help people to do so when we just begin to engage and the funding is cut, or we form a relationship and the insurance policy changes to one not covered.  Bye-BYE!!  Sorry you're not covered any more...

Do I sound a little bitter?  Yes, I am.  Public agency work enabled me to see people who might not have otherwise sought out counseling or been seen.  But often the services ended suddenly or too soon, and the client rarely felt in control of their circumstances.  Even private insurance clients felt the same way and were left high and dry before even getting basic needs met.  

So coaching offers us a new way.  We don't deal with pathology, we deal with HEALTHY CHOICES.  We contract ahead of time for clear financial guidelines and clear goals tow ork to achieve mutually agreed upon objectives. These are, of course, open for discussion as the relationship moves along.  No one but you dictates what goes on in your session. The client is responsible for getting their needs met, and each person, the coach and coachee, has responsibilities that can be spelled out in each session. I hope that, given the opportunity, you will try it out.

What a novel idea -- mutual accountability.  That my friends is why a coach and not a therapist!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


There is a grace that must come with aging. After all, we are going to lose our friends, whether we like it or not, so we had better develop some grace, tact and dignity or we are going to be miserable and bitter. Hopefully I'd developed some of these traits before this.

The truth is that I love all beings. It is a gift bestowed on me at birth. Well, sometimes a gift...sometimes a burden. My lot in life has been to learn how to carry it. If you look at the returning lessons of your life you will see that there are only a few lessons that keep returning to you, round and round like a spiral. This is a life secret that my friend Mary Faith Rhodes shared with me many years ago, in a passing conversation, and indeed, it has turned out to be true. I'm grateful to her for it, because once known, I began to watch and the lessons became clearer.

In these few days, a good old friend of mine is dying. We hadn't had contact until through the wonders of facebook, I found him and his wife. They were shaping influences in my young adult years. They have continued to be influential in the lives of many and his dying is a public event thanks to his incredibly spiritual and poetic wife. I have the good fortune to witness it and be back in their lives in this manner. They are teaching me to face my fear of my grief and to love them right through the dying.

This is not my first death in my dawning elder years. There was another just a month ago, and several in the past few years. My aging is dragging me into facing my worst fear -- loss. I don't fear my own death, because I have no fear of the beyond. It represents peace to me. No, my fears are fears of living: pain, loss, abandonment. So often I have left people when they needed me most. Well, not exactly LEFT them, but withdrawn or been less than fully present.

How about you? Are you fully present in your daily relationships? Do you know how to set boundaries to preserve your sanity but be there for your loved ones? Do you know how to separate who is a loved one and who is an "acquaintance?" Being a quintessential observer of life has helped me shape the lines for myself: Who can I help and who can I not? What exactly is helpful? How do I communicate my own needs directly?

This business of living a peaceful life involves communication, observation and decisionmaking. And listening, always listening, inside and out.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


“Communities are places or entities where each member can give something, where they can contribute something that they feel especially able to give, something they are good at. The gift from each member is valued by the whole community and all gifts are unique and individual. The gift that the community gives back to each member is that of a role and a connection.”
—Ed Margason

What do you think about this? I remember in my twenties and early thirties, I would search for a church community more because of what I needed than because of what I had to give. I wanted to belong. I had a need for family where my family wasn't meeting those needs. Frankly, I was still growing up, but I didn't realize that. At a point it dawned on me exactly what Ed is saying, that if I wanted to fit, I had to ask myself what I had to give to, rather than what I could get from, the community I was in.

At that point I had been attending the Religious Society of Friends for over ten years. I'd already become a part of the community but not for the reasons Ed cites. I'd become a part of because the Friends (Quakers) never pushed me to become a part of. They espoused attraction rather than promotion. In other words, they lived what they believed. And this was incredibly attractive. Being a part of a community where people lived on a daily basis what they talked about on Sundays did tend to make one curious about coming back for the next episode!

What attracts you to the people you are with? Is it just familiarity with those you've been with since childhood? Do the people you are with support your spiritual vision and help you to carry out your mission in life? Do you have a mission? Do you live out of a sense of purpose, or does your life run you? Its my sense that community is a place that fosters positive growth and pulls from us the growing edge.
Sometimes other things masquerade as community.

“Some people think they are in community, but they are only in proximity. True community requires commitment and openness. It is a willingness to extend yourself to encounter and know the other.” (David Spangler) Ah, there's the catch -- commitment. One can not be a confirmed individualist and be tied to those nasty commitments! So what are you committed to? Yourself? Your family? Your God? Your job? You may say you are committed, but are your commitments in line with your beliefs? If not, I'm betting you are in a hill of conflict, every day.

This is the stuff coaching is made to get life in line with one's beliefs. Living from the inside out; that's what peace is made of.