Week 15/Shining the Light to Find Our Way Home

No matter with whom I am working therapeutically, it’s inevitable that we end up making our way to the subject of suffering – physical, emotional, spiritual – and a route to becoming free from it. The temptation to ignore our thoughts, feelings, physical discomfort or pain is strong, and seems logical. But, if you simply build unpleasant experiences into a narrative or sweep the unpleasantness under the rug, you’ve sent it into the dark where, I believe, not only will it not get better, but it will actually grow. Is there another option that might instead decrease our difficulty? 

How do we “shine a light” on, i.e. see, what arises within us?

How do we have mindful, present awareness and become an objective observer of our own sensations, emotions, and thoughts?

How do we objectively observe the story that might arise when we look (which we might use to justify the attachment to this suffering)?

If feelings and/or stories arise, how do we look at, yet not identify with them?

How can we have compassion, kindness, and tenderness for ourselves in the face of this?

It is my strong belief, and my experience, that being an objective, compassionate witness to what is happening within ourselves not only doesn’t make what we are seeing worse, but actually decreases our reactivity, decreases the physical and emotional distress, and ultimately decreases the power of what arises!

I have a process I have started calling “shining a light.” Nothing out of our awareness (in the dark) will change. Only in the light will we become more aware of what causes our suffering and the truth of our divine nature.

Try this process:

1. Begin to notice when you have an uncomfortable bodily sensation, thought, or emotion that arises.

2. Then, “shine a light” on it – actively observe it with curiosity; try not to push it away.

3. See it, but don’t identify with or get grabbed by it. What does this mean? Look at what you see as if it’s not yours – no judgment, no wishing it different, no diving onto the story associated with it.

4. As one of my students asked, “What do you do with the stinker once you see it?” The habit to respond and dive in to the feelings and the story is strong, so if you feel it growing as you look, relax further, step back and observe more, and very important – have compassion for yourself.

5. It is through repeated looking with compassion that it begins to decrease its potency and reveal some insight.

This process takes time and practice, and perhaps a bit of courage, too! Each time you practice this, you will make your way, step-by-step, toward greater freedom. 

Yours, in service, K.O.

Kathy Ornish, c-IAYT

Kathy Ornish is a practicing and certified yoga therapist (c-IAYT) and a certified yoga teacher (E-RYT-500). She serves as Senior Faculty at Gary Kraftsow’s American Viniyoga Institute where she is Faculty Specialist in the Viniyoga Foundations Program for Teaching and Yoga Therapy. Kathy’s yoga therapy practice involves addressing individual’s structural, physiological, and emotional conditions. Her primary emphasis in all her teaching is the breadth of the yoga tradition using the appropriate application of the many tools of yoga in hopes that she can help people realize their highest potential.  For more information, please visit her website at

Week 14/I Am Grateful For ________! Life Through the Lenses of Gratitude & Mindfulness

I was on my way to pick up my daughter from school the other day, poking along in busy late afternoon traffic as I headed due west on a local major thoroughfare. I noticed the stop and go traffic, the day-to-day busyness, and the hustle to get from here to there (and back again). I popped on a tune from a playlist I made for my daughter, and while I waited for traffic to edge forward on its own time I took a moment to observe the way the sunlight broke through the low hanging clouds, as though the universe was reminding me that there’s always sunshine even when there is darkness. At that moment I felt deeply grateful for this life — the opportunity to show up present each day for my kids, the blessing of having reliable transportation, the joy of music, this moment of solitude, and the heartfelt knowing that I am connected to something bigger than myself. It still warms my heart to reflect back on the feelings felt that day.

Science has spoken loud and clear about the benefits of gratitude.  Beyond positively impacting life satisfaction and our overall sense of wellbeing, studies have shown that practicing gratitude can improve our relationships, physical health, and job performance.  Gratitude leads to feeling more able and effective, an increased ability to weather stress, and heightened optimism about the future.  Practicing gratitude builds resilience and connection with others and ourselves.

Mindfulness and gratitude go hand in hand. It is often reported that with a regular and consistent mindfulness practice comes an increased feeling of appreciation and gratefulness for the little things in life.  A gratitude practice, simply, is the practice of (1) paying attention, (2) reflecting upon what we are thankful for, and (3) expressing gratitude when the opportunity arises.  In addition to incorporating mindful awareness into your daily life, here are a few more ideas about how you might increase your felt sense of gratitude.

1. Gratitude Tracking

Setting aside a time each day to reflect on the blessings in your life not only brings joy and appreciation to that moment, but also retrains your brain to see the world through the lens of gratitude automatically. Tracking your gratitude may involve traditional journaling, or might be more creative or interactive, like having a gratitude jar or posting about gratitude on social media.  Consider adding a brief moment to reflect on all you are grateful for into your daily routine for one week and see what you notice!

2. Replacing “I am sorry” with “thank you”

We often find ourselves apologizing when we are late, forgetful, or under the weather.  Welcome to the human condition! What if each time we feel the urge to apologize, we instead shift to expressing our gratitude for the patience or understanding of a friend? Shifting from judgment to appreciation can have a huge impact on how we view ourselves AND our ability to connect on a deeper, more intimate level with others.

3. Write a Gratitude Letter

Not only does gratitude impact our own emotional wellbeing in a positive way, but it can also bring joy and connection with others when expressed.  Whether it be a small sticky note left on the desk of a colleague, a card in your child’s or partner’s lunchbox, or an email to a friend or family member who lives far away, sharing our gratitude is a gift for both ourselves and others. Making it a habit of saying thank you in ways both big and small is a powerful practice of love.

I don’t always connect with gratitude automatically, as I did on the day described in the above passage. Many days I am find myself swept up in “autopilot” mode, trying to navigate the hectic (and at times difficult and challenging) life I live. It is a practice, and one I am grateful to incorporate into my life.

Nicole Davis is a licensed clinical psychologist at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches  Dr. Davis has received extensive training in mindfulness, meditation, and yoga, and maintains her own personal practice in these as well.  At Sacred Treehouse, she facilitates group mindfulness courses, including Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention, and other mindfulness-based seminars and workshops. She also offers meditation & yoga classes at Sacred Treehouse.

Week 13/A Teaching on Forgiveness

All relationships are fraught with difficulties.  They require us to develop the ability to forgive, reopening our hearts again so that we can love and trust. In teaching mindfulness meditation and working with clients in psychotherapy, I have observed that this is the most difficult part of the path to travel. Our natural reaction is to avoid pain. Sometimes we cross the path too quickly and end up bypassing the process of true forgiveness.  We find ourselves taking a convenient detour – only later to realize that the destination we find ourselves in is a mountain of unresolved pain. At other times, forgiveness is offered and it may feel complete until feelings of hurt, anger, or resentment arise and catch us by surprise.
I believe that Anne Lamott’s quote is talking about radical forgiveness. Radical forgiveness occurs when an individual has released themselves from the pain and suffering of holding onto the wish for things to be different. This complete and total letting go is not only difficult, it can seem utterly impossible in extreme life situations of abuse, death, neglect, dishonesty, theft, or infidelity. Forgiveness has the ability to unfold naturally as a person works through the traumatic pain or injury. I have seen many clients work through trauma, but stop short before reaching acceptance and forgiveness. This is a form of protection, like a shield one keeps up to prevent future harm.  These individuals deserve compassionate understanding from others, as well as the ability to practice self-compassion.
Many recovery groups enlist individuals to make a list of resentments.  The purpose behind this exercise is to facilitate the first step in recognizing and bringing the hurt to the surface. The path of forgiveness is not possible without feeling the original pain of hurt, betrayal, abuse, loss or disappointment. It requires the powerful presence of love and compassion toward oneself, as well as the guidance and support of others who have been through the process. This process reveals to the seeker that very little that is done to us is personal, but rather the result of complex causes and circumstances. This combination of courage to feel, combined with care, love, and mindful awareness allows the process of forgiveness to set our hearts free.
If someone has hurt you or a loved one, do not mistake this passage as a prescription to go through the steps to forgive. There is a readiness that must precede this process.  It is also recommended to have a guide to help you on this path. I invite you to simply open to the possibility or intention of one day freeing your heart through letting go. Mindfulness and self-compassion are excellent stepping stones to strengthen your capacity to feel the hurt, preparing your heart to open again.
With an open heart,


Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.  She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.

Week Four/The Power of Passage Meditation in Cultivating Self-Awareness

All of us want peace of mind, but many of us search outside of ourselves.  We hope that external circumstances, conditions or even other people will bring us that desired feeling of peace. Instead, I invite you to consider the following passage:

This passage gently points us inwards. I find it reassuring that we do not need to rely on another person’s behavior or wait for ideal conditions to attain peace of mind.  By directing our attention inwards and practicing mindfulness, we develop self- awareness.  This self-awareness helps us discern important truths.  When we look inwards, we are able to see more clearly the inner workings of our mind.  Through this process of self-discovery, we may also notice how we contribute to our own pain and suffering.
One way to facilitate this inner journey is by participating in passage meditation.  This specific form of meditation can help quiet the mind and build self-awareness.  The practice is straightforward:
(1) Pick an inspirational passage and commit it to memory.  Make sure your passage is positive and uplifting.
(2) Find a comfortable position to practice the meditation.  You may sit on a cushion, chair or the floor.
(3) Recite the passage – focusing on each word.  When the mind wanders (and it will!) gently bring your focus back to the passage.
(4) Repeat the passage for the entirety of the meditation.  Try practicing for 10 minutes each day.

Passage meditation has helped me to pause and notice the habit of finding fault with others. Without judgment, I bring a shared awareness of humanity. There is no you and I, there is just we… and we are all the same.
This week, try incorporating passage meditation into your daily life. Take notice of what annoys you or times where you are finding fault with others. Pause and note what it is you are believing or saying in your mind. How do your thoughts influence your state of mind? Be honest and gentle – this human experience is fraught with challenges.

May you look at yourself through eyes of love and compassion.

Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches.  Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.  She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.

Sacred Treehouse Introduces “52 Weeks of Mindfulness”

A successful and meaningful life starts with self-awareness, a commitment to living according to your values, and a consistent practice of setting intentions in multiple areas of your life.

Beginning in 2019, Sacred Treehouse will deliver 52 weeks of weekly inspiration –straight to your inbox -every Sunday evening.  Each week will include mindful living inspiration in these seven areas of daily life:

We encourage you to reflect on each week’s message, setting an intention that is in alignment with your goals and ultimately deepening self-awareness.

Some general guidelines to follow when using the weekly tips:

  • Read each quote or passage and pause, allowing the words and images to give rise to any personal meaning.
  • Consider keeping a companion mindfulness journal.  Journal with simple bullet points or a complete journal entry after you take time to pause and reflect. 
  • If a particular quote or prompt is unwise or conflicts with your personal goals, simply note it and return to a previous week for further practice and reflection. 

It is also helpful to note that the definition for mindful living means moment to moment awareness without judgment, noting what is wise and supportive of living according to your core values.  You may find it helpful to explore some core values to use as guidepost for weekly practice.

We hope you enjoy this mindfulness journey. If you have any comments, suggestions, or feedback, feel free to email us.

We wish you a happy, healthy, and mindful New Year!