Category: Blog

Blog: His Holiness, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

Blog: His Holiness, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

“We all share an identical need for love, and on the basis of this commonality, it is possible to feel that anybody we meet, in whatever circumstances, is a brother or sister. No matter how new the face or how different the dress or behavior, there is no significant division between us and other people. It is foolish to dwell on external differences because our basic natures are the same.”

-The Dalai Lama

His Holiness, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, is a role model of compassion and courage for millions of people around the world. He has, almost single-handedly, stared down the Chinese government as it has dismantled Tibet and turned it into a Chinese fiefdom. He has done this without ever uttering an unkind word as he has watched thousands of his countrymen and women die at their hands.

His Holiness, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama was born in 1935 in Amdo, Tibet. His birth name was Lhamo Thondup. When he was two, he was recognized through a series of signs as the fourteenth incarnation of the Dalai Lama. He was sent to a monastery where he studied Buddhist philosophy.

In 1958 and 1959, as he was taking his final examinations, the Chinese, who had been in Tibet for several years, overran the country. His Holiness barely escaped. Thousands of other Tibetans were not so lucky. The Chinese killed and tortured thousands of Tibetans and destroyed many of the monasteries that had housed the ancient wisdom of Tibet and Buddhism for centuries. The losses of the Tibetan people were overwhelming.

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Blog: Malala Yousafzai: Education is for Everyone

Blog: Malala Yousafzai: Education is for Everyone

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

When I was 12, I attended a small one-room school in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Most of us were from other countries, and I was one of the few students who spoke English as a first language. There were a few Saudi children, in spite of the fact that girls and boys were not supposed to be educated together.

The story I heard was that the King looked the other way when he heard this rule was being broken because the children there were from influential foreign families. However, when the headmistress admitted a 13-year-old Saudi girl, the King closed down the school overnight. He was furious that a girl was being educated past the age of 12.

I had been told that I would be sent to a boarding school in Lebanon, and I was excited about the prospect. When I arrived for the last day of school, I found two of my classmates crying in the corner of the room. They were both Saudi. I asked them what was happening. They were upset because they had been told they could no longer pursue their studies.

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Blog: Misadventures in Mindfulness

Blog: Misadventures in Mindfulness

By Judah Pollack

Morning Mindfulness

Here we go. I am going to sit on my pillow and light my incense. I am not going to follow my thoughts. I am going to focus only on my breath. I am going to breathe in the incense. It smells really nice. Is this the Japanese incense? Should I pick up more of it? Did I get it at that store on Valencia Street? Or was it a gift? Wait, I think it’s somebody’s birthday this week. I need to make a note to look that up. Ok, ok, back to my breath.

There we go. Just my breath. Feel it on my upper lip. In, and then out. That kind of tickles actually. I used to hate it when my older sibling would tickle me. It was really a form of torture. Just thinking about it is making me kind of enraged. That was so screwed up. Ok, back to my breath. This must be close to the end. Seems like it’s been a while. My foot is almost asleep. Maybe I should just call it. I do have a lot to do today. Am supposed to be on a call right now?

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Blog: John Lewis and the Good Trouble Path of Peace

Blog: John Lewis and the Good Trouble Path of Peace

By Laura Chandler

In a commencement speech he gave at Emory University, the late civil rights leader and Congressman from the 5th District of Georgia, John Lewis said, “You must find a way to get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble.” For decades, getting into good trouble has been the creed of Lewis, described as the “Conscience of Congress” by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. His death on July 17, 2020 comes at a time of great social unrest in this country, yet his legacy offers us an example of how to proceed in these times and, even more importantly, it offers us hope.

Lewis was the last living member of the Big Six leaders who organized the 1963 March on Washington, and he led the historic first march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which became known as Bloody Sunday. His actions and work with the civil rights movement contributed to ending legal segregation in the United States and he continued his work and lifelong commitment to social justice and the causes of democracy, serving 17 terms in the US House of Representatives.

John Lewis’ life was one of activism informed by his faith. He was dedicated to nonviolence and learned the concepts of nonviolent protest through his study of Christian texts, trainings with the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference, and the example set by Mahatma Gandhi. Like Gandhi, Lewis and the participants in the early civil rights movement understood the power of nonviolent action and stood bravely in the face of oppressive hostility. Lewis endured physical beatings and was arrested over 40 times without succumbing to violence himself, and he held to this principle of nonviolence his entire life.

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Blog: Martin Luther King’s Vision 60 Years On

Blog: Martin Luther King’s Vision 60 Years On

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

I first became aware of Martin Luther King when I encountered his, “I Have a Dream” speech in Social Studies class. I remember wondering why he was only dreaming that whites and blacks could be friends. I found out why when I moved to Texas for a year of schooling. My most enduring memory of that school was when I was sent home from school for playing with a group of African American children on the playground. I had such a hard time understanding what was happening, and it made me pay closer attention to the issues around racism in a way I never had before. As I grew older, and as the race riots of the sixties took center stage, Martin Luther King became a voice of reason for me.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. He came from a family of sharecroppers, and his father was the second of ten children. His father took over as pastor at an influential black church, so King received a better education than most black children could hope for in Atlanta in the 1930’s. Both his education and his father, who had led campaigns to advocate for racial equality, had a major influence on him. However, his father was also a strict disciplinarian and regularly beat him for the smallest of infractions.

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Blog: Reflections on Endurance and Trust at the Summer Solstice

Blog: Reflections on Endurance and Trust at the Summer Solstice

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

As the Shelter in Place order continues to stretch into the foreseeable future here in the Bay Area, the days are stretching longer and longer into the night as we approach the summer solstice. June 21 is the longest day of the year and its night is the shortest night. The solstices and equinoxes are important moments in the Sacred Stream‘s calendar. This is a time where we come together at our quarterly drum circles to honor our relationship to the sun and its relationship to events on the earth. The marking of these moments of the year is a time-honored tradition in many cultures. Bonfires have been lit across the world for millennia in summer solstice celebrations. Native Americans celebrated with fire as well, and the Sioux people have the special initiations of the Sun Dance during this time. One aspect of the Sun Dance initiation involves helping initiates focus on the development of endurance and trust.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we cannot come together in person as we have for every summer solstice since 1995. However, we can still reflect about this moment in time together. Endurance and trust are two qualities that are helpful to reflect upon as we enter into our 16th week of Sheltering in Place here in California during a time of increasing social unrest. This is a time where our capacity to weather difficult and unforeseen circumstances is being challenged as the protests to demand racial justice uniquely highlight the complexities of our situation.

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Blog: Conscious Parenting while Sheltering in Place

Blog: Conscious Parenting while Sheltering in Place

By Joanna Adler, PsyD, CHT

The demands of parenthood have perhaps never been so daunting as they are now during this Shelter in Place. Parents now need to be their children’s teacher, coach, friend, and parent, without assistance or break, while also doing their own jobs, caring for their house, etc. Parenting is already the toughest job there is, but add in the uncertainty and overwhelm of COVID-19, and uninterrupted childcare duties for months with no end in sight, and we have an incredibly tall order.

As a Depth Hypnosis Practitioner and clinical psychologist, I have had the opportunity to counsel many parents over the last months, and as you all probably know, parents are struggling!! The effect of being thrown together 24 hours a day is wearing on even the most skilled of parents.

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Blog: Look for the Blessings

Blog: Look for the Blessings

By Joanna Adler, PsyD, CHT

In Isa Gucciardi’s upcoming book on Tara and the Sacred Feminine, she recounts a story told by the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Bokar Rinpoche about his flight from Chinese occupation in 1959. He was only 18 years old when he had to make the dangerous crossing of the Himalaya mountains with a group of 60 others. Early in the trip, the group asked for a divination from the Tibetan goddess Tara to help them plan their escape. They were told unequivocally they were not to take the easy route, but instead they were to travel over a steep mountain pass where if it snowed, the journey would be quite difficult.

They did indeed encounter a snowstorm, and were told by a group of nomads that they were being pursued closely by Chinese troops as they attempted the high pass. They lost many of their belongings down the mountainside as the pack animals struggled and lost their footing in the deep snow. The snow blinded them, and yet they had no choice but to push on. In the end, they made it safely over the pass and into Nepal.

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Blog: The Importance of Staying Grounded

Blog: The Importance of Staying Grounded

By Judah Pollack

There are stories of Polynesian Wayfinders laying down in the bottom of their boats feeling for a long wave, their backs like a needle to the compass of the ocean. I’ve heard of Inuits in the Arctic finding their way in the midst of a blinding blizzard because they know which direction the snowdrifts form. Similar stories come out of the desert where the San people can orient through a sandstorm because they know the directions of the dunes.

These are stories of people deeply connected to the earth. This state can be rare for modern, digital humans. We hurtle through our landscapes at extraordinary speed. Most of us do not know where on the horizon the sun will set tonight, nor where the moon will rise. Some of us cannot even see the horizon. We rely on GPS to guide us through the streets of our own cities.

We find ourselves cut off from the signs and symbols of the swirling whirl of the earth and cosmos — the very cycles that gave birth to our internal rhythms. When is the last time your bare feet touched the bare earth? In short, we modern humans suffer from a profound lack of grounding, or connection to the earth and its cycles.

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Blog: Liberation through Song: The Activism of Miriam Makeba

Blog: Liberation through Song: The Activism of Miriam Makeba

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

Miriam Makeba is perhaps one of Africa’s most famous musicians. I became aware of her when I was about eight years old. I was growing up near Honolulu as Waikiki was becoming a destination. In the evenings, as the sun was setting, all the hotel bars along the beach had musical shows, many of them right on the beach. Invariably, the person who was supposed to be watching me started having cocktails at about 5 o’clock at one of these bars. This meant I was free to cruise the different hotels along the beach, watching the shows.

Most of the hotels featured hula dancers and Hawaiian music, but one hotel had a band that also played African and Caribbean music. They almost always played Harry Belafonte and Miram Makeba’s recorded music before the live show. I loved the songs they sang together, and I always made a beeline to the beach in front of that bar to hear them in the evenings.

As I got older, I learned more about how Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba worked for social justice. I learned that Miriam was famous for her resistance to the social system of apartheid in South Africa. It was through her music that I learned about apartheid, which segregated whites and blacks and kept blacks in poorer, often substandard living conditions. I was appalled to learn about apartheid, and as I followed Miriam’s life, I struggled to understand how it persisted the way it did.

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Blog: The Three Little Kosher Chickens and the Big Bad Coronavirus

Blog: The Three Little Kosher Chickens and the Big Bad Coronavirus

By Judah Pollack

Many of us are familiar with the children’s story The Three Little Pigs. It dawned on me that it is a wonderful parable for how we can handle this current crisis.

(Growing up Jewish I was never really comfortable identifying with the little piggies. So please indulge me as we tell the tale of the Three Little Kosher Chickens.)

Once upon a time there were three little kosher chickens. One lived in a house made of straw, one in a house made of sticks, and one in a house made of bricks. One day the Big Bad Coronavirus showed up and the three little chickens ran into the house made of straw.

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Blog: Reflections on the Spring Equinox

Blog: Reflections on the Spring Equinox

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

On the day of each equinox and solstice, I make a point of spending some time alone in the early morning hours at the Sacred Stream Center in Berkeley, CA. The center was the home of a Lutheran church for almost one hundred years. It has beautiful stained glass windows and large open wood-paneled spaces carefully crafted by Finnish carpenters in the early 1900s. The sun always rises through the arched stained glass behind the main altar, illuminating the room in a spray of rainbow light.

This morning on the spring equinox of 2020, I am here to check on the center to make sure the repair on the roof is keeping out the rain. We are almost a week into the Shelter in Place Order due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is always quiet in the sanctuary in the early morning, but this morning it is especially still. The usual sound of starting cars and people heading off to work is absent. There is no laughing or singing from the neighborhood children who often pass by as they walk to the school down at the other end of the street.

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Blog: Life in the Time of COVID-19

Blog: Life in the Time of COVID-19

By Laura Chandler

I’m fired up! I just read the most myopic “opinion” piece on a well-respected news site and it has me boiling. Not only is the news site prominent, the positioning of this opinion piece was, too. I like opinion pieces. I often learn things when I read them. However, after reading this, I was left feeling irritated and wondering how anyone could find this opinion useful. I am not going to site the article here, simply because I feel when people behave in this way, they are pretty clueless that they are behaving badly, and I don’t want to bash anyone. What I would like to do is point out the significance of focusing on what is important and what we all have to learn. This isn’t going away anytime soon, and we need to develop some tools for coping if we haven’t already.

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Blog: Resisting Fear: Courage and Determination in Hard Times

Blog: Resisting Fear: Courage and Determination in Hard Times

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

These are difficult times for many people. Many of us have been increasingly distressed about the political situation, the destruction of the natural environment, the deterioration of social networks, and increasing financial insecurity. Now we have an invisible threat to our health in the form of the coronavirus that is spreading rapidly around the world.

Given all of the conflicting information about the virus, we are trying to discern what is real and what is not. It is difficult to make decisions about daily activities because the presence of the coronavirus and its effects are so unpredictable. It is in times like these that a spiritual practice is especially helpful because it provides a compass that is not dependent on external opinions or other people’s fears and hopes.

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Blog: How Integrated Energy Medicine Heals

Blog: How Integrated Energy Medicine Heals

By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.

Integrated Energy Medicine is the most subtle aspect of Depth Hypnosis, and also one of the most important features of the model. In addition to providing access to information about subtle experience influencing presenting symptoms, it is an important tool in healing.

With Integrated Energy Medicine, fields of light and sound can be focused by practitioners and guides to help clients move through resistance and blocks. These fields are used to support clients working at any level. They are especially helpful for those who are venturing into new and sometimes uncomfortable spaces within themselves for the first time. They can also be used to reconfigure and retrain patterns of experience and behavior arising from the deepest levels of the psyche.

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