Psychology Today Blogs by Mark Matousek


Mark Nepo: More Together Than Alone
The prolific poet-philosopher takes on the subject of conscious community
November 13, 2018

Mark Nepo has been clearing the path of spiritual inquiry for more than forty years. He is the author of twenty books, including The One Life We’re Given, The Endless Practice, and the #1 New York Times bestseller, The Book of Awakening. In his newest offering, More Together Than Alone, the philosopher-poet examines the subject of belonging and our urgent need for community in today’s challenging, fragmented world. Continue reading.

Ordinary Heartbreak
Just being alive can break your heart.
October 23, 2018

I was working out at the gym this morning, lost in my own head, when I failed to notice an old man grinning at me, shaky on his twin canes, trying to get my attention.

“Ey, mon, he sayin’ hello to ya,” his Caribbean assistant said as if I’d been rude. It was only then I turned to look at the old man’s dim eyes behind his dirty glasses, searching mine, trying to connect.
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Micro-Dose Anyone? The Journeying Craze Takes Off
Ayahuasca, DMT, LSD, ketamine ….and sassafras? Why is everybody “journeying”?
June 4, 2018

My friend was having a mid-life crisis. A clinical psychologist with a trestle of Ivy League degrees on her wall, she was feeling the slump of 57 and the ennui of asking is that all there is?

“I need to think outside the box. My practice has sucked the life out of me. I have to get my life back!”
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Writing To Awaken: The Story of Your Life
When your story changes, your life is transformed.
November 9, 2017

Realizing you are not your story is a quantum leap in self-realization.

I started to write compulsively when I was in the second grade; journals filled with secret thoughts and shameful truths that I could tell no one. Many writers begin this way, turning inward as children to look for answers they can’t find around them. These notebooks were my confessional, the place where I could reveal my true feelings and attempt to make sense of myself and the world. Continue reading.

The State of Affairs
Esther Perel has a whole new take on infidelity.
October 20, 2017

Esther Perel is one of the most insightful and provocative voices on the paradoxical nature of human interaction in intimacy. She is the best-selling author of Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence and has been featured in two highly popular TED Talks (19 million views and counting). Born in Antwerp, she is the daughter of Holocaust survivors and was educated in Israel and the United States. As a psychologist, her early work focused on couples and families in cultural transition, a subject she knew intimately from her own family history, later moving on to gender roles, child-rearing practices, and finally arriving at the subject that would make her famous: sexuality in human relationships.
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Heart on Fire: Confessions of a Love Warrior
Author Scott Stabile talks about his new book, Big Love.
September 27, 2017

Both personally and artistically, Scott Stabile is a charmer: a vulnerable, funny, intelligent writer who takes himself not too seriously, but seriously enough to ask important questions. In his newest book, Big Love, a courageously honest collection of personal essays, he takes the reader on a wild ride through the landscape of love’s possibilities. Stabile writes about his parents’ murder when he was 14, his struggles with coming out into gay life, his brother’s heroin overdose, his 13-year membership in an unnamed cult, and the everyday struggles and triumphs that have given him quite remarkable insight. Continue reading.

Where the Rubber Hits the Road: Sage Advice In Unwise Times
The American-born master, Adyashanti, on staying awake when the going gets tough.
May 30, 2017

Adyashanti is among the most gifted and original spiritual teachers practicing in the world today. Though trained in Zen Buddhism, Adyashanti has since shed the trappings of traditional dharma, and developed a non secular, lingo-free, forward-looking teaching all his own, delivered in his unpretentious, California-guy style. He teaches with his wife Mukti throughout northwest America and Europe, and offers weekend intensives, silent retreats and a live, internet radio broadcast through his organization, Open Gate Sangha (
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Stop The Search: An Interview With Gangaji
The American-born master talks about stopping the spiritual search entirely.
May 23, 2017

Gangaji was born Merle Antoinette (Toni) Roberson on June 11, 1942, and grew up in Mississippi. After graduating from the University of Mississippi, she married and had a family, then taught school, before moving to San Francisco and entering the counter culture movement. She sought to change her life via political activism and spiritual practice, took Bodhisattva vows, worked as an acupuncturist, but was unsatisfied with the fruits of her seeking. This took her to India at 48, where she met H.W.L. Poonja, the renowned non dual master, who instructed her to drop the search immediately — and thus became the teacher she’d been waiting for.
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Real Love: A Conversation With Sharon Salzberg
The renowned meditation teachers talks about her new heart opening book.
May 17, 2017

Sharon Salzberg is a New York Times best selling author and pioneer of Buddhism in the West. She co-founded the Insight Meditation Society at Barre, Massachusetts with Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein in 1974, and has been leading retreats around the world for over three decades. Her books include Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness (1995), A Heart as Wide as the World (1999), Real Happiness, and Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection, which has just been published. I talked to my longtime colleague and friend about what she means by real love, and the possibility of feeling such love for individuals we cannot like — especially in these ethically challenging times.
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Make Peace With Your Mind: A Conversation With Mark Coleman
The popular mindfulness teacher and therapist on silencing the bully within.
January 31, 2017

Mark Coleman is an internationally recognized mindfulness facilitator who has guided students on five continents to find greater peace and fulfillment through nature-based mindfulness practice and mindfulness retreats. The founder of The Mindfulness Institute, Coleman is the author of several books, including Awake in the Wild and the recently published, Make Peace With Your Mind. A popular mindfulness consultant, he has worked in a variety of corporate settings, bringing the gifts of meditation to such companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Gucci, Prana, Dolce Gabbana, Gap, Responsys and others. He leads backpacking and nature-based retreats, and has a counseling practice in the Bay Area, where he integrates his Masters in Clinical Psychology and meditative work and works with people how to integrate their mindfulness practice into daily life. We talked about useful tools for stopping the battle within and confronting our inner critic and bullies.
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Speaking Truth to Power: An Interview With Peter Buffett
The son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett talks about the enigma of Trump and the antidote to greed.
December 3, 2016

Peter Buffett is living proof that compassion and power can go hand in hand. The youngest son of investor Warren Buffett, Peter is an Emmy Award-winning musician and author who cares far more about healing the planet—particularly addressing the plight of women and girls—than he does about ego, status, or wealth. He is the co-chairman of the NoVo Foundation, an organization dedicated to catalyzing transformation in global society by moving from a culture of domination and exploitation to one of equality and partnership. Along with his wife Jennifer, Peter helps guide NoVo’s vision, strategic mission and program development. His first book, Life is What You Make It: Find Your Own Path to Fulfillment was a New York Times bestseller published in 2010 and translated into 15 languages. In the wake of the presidential election, I caught up with Peter to talk about the enigma of Donald J. Trump and the importance of speaking truth to power.
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Dropping the Struggle: A Conversation With Roger Housden
Author Roger Housden offers an antidote to compulsion toward self-improvement in his new book Dropping the Struggle: Seven Ways to Love the Life You Have
November 10, 2016

Roger Housden calls himself a lifelong student of the beauty of the word. To this end, the British-born author and teacher has has published 23 books, including the best-selling Ten Poems (which began with Ten Poems to Change Your Life), Keeping the Faith Without a Religion, and Saved by Beauty. His latest book, Dropping the Struggle: Seven Ways to Love the Life You Have, is a radical, transformative look at the limitations of over-achievement and the ethos of “I struggle, therefore I am.” In a world addicted to self-improvement, Housden offers a voice of sanity and spiritual wisdom. We talked about some of the major pitfalls of our “struggle culture” and how to bring balance to our frenetic lives.
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The One Life We’re Given: A Conversation With Mark Nepo
Mark Nepo, poet, philosopher, and cancer survivor, talks about the secrets to living an awakened life.
October 7, 2016

Mark Nepo’s latest book is called The One Life We’re Given: Finding the Wisdom That Waits in Your Heart. It explores how our hard work and authenticity ready us for meaning and grace in our lives, and how our sincerity and effort help us survive and thrive. For several decades, Mark has taught poetry and philosophy and is a renowned storyteller. His writing and teaching is devoted to the journey of inner transformation and the life of relationship.
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Marrow: A Love Story: Sitting Down With Elizabeth Lesser
The author and spiritual pioneer talks about the love of her life.
September 23, 2016

Elizabeth Lesser is one of my favorite writers and someone I have long admired. Best known as the co-founder of The Omega Institute in upstate New York, Elizabeth has been at the forefront of cultural change and spiritual development for the past 30 years. She’s heartfelt without being Pollyanna, wise without being condescending, and spiritual without being woo woo. Her work has been featured on Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday” as well as on the TED stage, where her “Take the Other To Lunch” talk explored the polarization of our public discourse — and the urgent need to bridge our divides. Elizabeth’s books include Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow and A Seeker’s Guide: Making Your Life a Spiritual Adventure. Her new memoir, Marrow: A Love Story tells the mesmerizing story of two sisters uncovering the depth of their connection through the courageous experience of a bone marrow transplant. I spoke to Elizabeth recently about this life changing experience and the journey she describes in the book.
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Sacred America, Sacred World: A New Book by Stephen Dinan
The visionary CEO of The Shift Network can see light at the end of the tunnel.
August 5, 2016

Stephen Dinan is the founder and CEO of The Shift Network and a member of the Transformational Leadership Council and Evolutionary Leaders. The Shift Network was founded in 2010 and has served over 700,000 people worldwide, with customers in 150 countries. A graduate of Stanford University and the California Institute of Integral Studies, Dinan helped create and directed the Esalen Institute’s Center for Theory & Research, a think tank for leading scholars, researchers, and teachers to explore human potential frontiers. His powerful new book, Sacred America, Sacred World: Fulfilling Our Mission in Service to All is an eye-opening manifesto for our country’s evolution that is both political and deeply spiritual.
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The Writing Life: An Interview With Natalie Goldberg
The author of “Writing Down the Bones” on passion, art, and spiritual practice.
July 19, 2016

Natalie Goldberg shoots from the hip. The the author of Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Goldberg is an artist and teacher who doesn’t suffer fools, mince words, or waiver in her passionate commitment to writing as a spiritual practice. In the 30 years since Writing Down the Bones became a phenomenon, selling over one million copies worldwide, she has been both prolific and profligate, spreading her talents across a number of artistic genres with 15 books, including the novel Banana Rose, The Great Failure, Living Color (which features Goldberg’s paintings), and, most recently, The Great Spring: Writing, Zen, and This Zigzag Life.
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It Didn’t Start With You: The Mystery of Inherited Trauma
A revealing talk with Mark Wolynn of The Family Constellation Institute.
June 23, 2016

Mark Wolynn is the author of the fascinating new book It Didn’t Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle. As Director of the Family Constellation Institute and the Hellinger Institute of Northern California, he specializes in working with depression, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, fears, panic disorders, self-injury, chronic pain and persistent symptoms and conditions. Wolynn, who is also a published poet, lectures and leads workshops at medical and teaching centers as diverse as the University of Pittsburgh, the Western Psychiatric Institute, Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, New York Open Center, Omega Institute and California Institute of Integral Studies.
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The Journey Within: Autobiography of a Modern Yogi
An inspiring talk with the remarkable Radhanath Swami.
June 7, 2016

Radhanath Swami is a visionary force of nature. The American-born spiritual leader, social activist, and author (who began life 65 years ago as Richard Slavin in Chicago) has been a Bhakti Yoga practitioner and teacher for more than forty years. Best known for his bestselling 2008 memoir, The Journey Home: Autobiography of An American Swami, Swami is a senior member of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), and the inspiration behind a meals program that feeds some 1.2 million children in the slums of Mumbai. For the past twenty-five years, Swami has worked tirelessly to end hunger, establish missionary hospitals, and eye camps, eco-friendly farms, schools and ashrams, an orphanage, and a number of emergency relief programs throughout India. His most recent book, The Journey Within: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Wisdom of Bhakti Yoga, picks up where the first memoir ended, and offers eloquent insight into compassion, open-mindedness, and spiritual activism as the foundations of an enlightened, modern life.
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Play Life More Beautifully: A Meeting With Seymour Bernstein
The fabled mentor and musical prodigy shares his wisdom, wit, and philosophy.
March 8, 2016

Seymour Bernstein is a phenomenon. A piano prodigy who gave up his successful concert career at 30 to devote himself to teaching, Bernstein is the subject of a new documentary by actor Ethan Hawke, Seymour: An Introduction. Bernstein, now 88, is a font of artistic passion and wisdom whose philosophy of teaching, music — life itself -might be summed up in a single sentence: “The real essence of who we are resides in our talent, whatever that talent is.” The best-selling author of two previous books, With Your Own Two Hands and 20 Lessons in Keyboard Choreography, his most recent book is Play Life More Beautifully, co-authored with spiritual scholar and activist, Andrew Harvey. As eagle-eyed as he is eloquent, Bernstein spoke about how to locate our essential talent, why life without discipline leads nowhere, and why he doesn’t believe in God.
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Living the Eternal Way: A Talk With Ellen Grace O’Brian
Timeless wisdom from a thoroughly modern master of yoga.
February 26, 2016

Yogacharya Ellen Grace O’Brian is the Spiritual Director for the Center of Spiritual Enlightenment in San Jose, California, a meditation center in the spiritual tradition of Kriya Yoga that serves people from all faith backgrounds. The author of numerous books including, Living the Eternal Way: Spiritual Meaning and Practice in Everyday Life, O’Brian was ordained to teach in 1982 by Roy Eugene Davis, a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda who brought the teachings of Kriya Yoga from India to the West. She is a popular speaker on the value of meditation and the importance of ethical and spiritual awakening to contribute to world peace, and among the most open-minded, down to earth, and effective teachers I know. I had the opportunity to speak recently to Yogacharya O’Brian (known as Uma to her devoted students) about the importance of commitment in the seeker’s life, and the role of discernment on the path of spiritual awakening.
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Story of A Soul: An Intimate Conversation with Mirabai Starr
The renowned author and teacher talks about grief and the miracle of healing.
January 27, 2016

Mirabai Starr is an interspiritual author and speaker who leads retreats internationally on the mystics and contemplative life. She is best known for her acclaimed translations of Dark Night of the Soul and The Interior Castle, as well as God Of Love. Her long-awaited memoir, Caravan of No Despair, is an extraordinary account of the author’s search for her lost daughter – a story both intimate and universal – and Starr’s fascinating experiences at the epicenter of the American spiritual scene for the past four decades (Be Here Now author, Ram Dass, is her godfather). We spoke recently about her new memoir and the path of healing, grief, and transformation that characterizes her life and work. Continue reading

Inside the Miracle: An Interview With Mark Nepo
How can suffering lead to wholeness? The beloved poet-philosopher explains.
December 3, 2015

Mark Nepo is an author and teacher with more than forty years experience teaching poetry and philosophy. His published works include The Book of Awakening, a New York Times Best Seller, and his newest Inside the Miracle: Enduring Suffering, Approaching Wholeness, a meditation on awakening, healing and impermanence. Featured on Oprah Winfrey’s “Super Soul Sunday,” Nepo devotes his writing and teaching to the process of inner transformation and the life of relationship. In this interview, we spoke about the paradox of healing, working with adversity, and the redemptive forces of beauty and wisdom. Continue reading

Releasing the Barriers to Love: An Interview with Tara Brach
What is the role of radical acceptance in intimate relationships?
November 24, 2015

Tara Brach, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, lecturer and popular teacher of Buddhist mindfulness meditation. She is the author of Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha, and True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart. On December, 4, Tara will be leading a three-day retreat at The Garrison Institute in New York, with her husband, Jonathan Foust, called “Releasing the Barriers To Love: A Pathway to Conscious Relationships. In preparation for this retreat, I spoke to this extraordinary teacher about the barriers to love and the role of radical acceptance in intimate relationships. Continue reading

Evolutionary Love: An Interview With Dr. Marc Gafni
How can we consummate the marriage between sense and soul?
September 9, 2015

Marc Gafni is a cutting-edge thought leader and the founder, together with Ken Wilber, of the activist think tank, the Center for Integral Wisdom. He received his doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University and is the author of eight books on spirituality and religion, including “Soul Prints,” “The Erotic and the Holy,” “Your Unique Self: The Radical Path to Personal Enlightenment” and “The Mystery of Love.” I recently had the opportunity to speak with him about Eros and spirituality and how to bring passion to the seekers life. Continue reading

The Insecurity Paradox
Well-being comes from remembering that life can change in an instant.
August 17, 2015

Life can change in the blink of an eye. Your number comes up and you win the Lotto. Your doctor calls with a bad diagnosis. Your boss kicks you out without any warning. Your wife-to-be sits next to you on a plane.

Joan Didion puts it this way. “Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends,” she wrote in The Year Of Magical Thinking. Her husband had died at the kitchen table. Nother was ever the same again. Continue reading

Waking Up To the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age
Clark Strand’s brilliant new book on electrified life and its discontents.
May 11,2015

Clark Strand has been studying the world’s spiritual traditions for more than thirty years. A former senior editor at Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, he is the author of Waking the Buddha, Meditation Without Gurus, and How To Believe in God, and is the founder of The Way of the Rose, a growing nonsectarian rosary fellowship open to people of any spiritual background. His latest book is Waking To The Dark: Ancient Wisdom For a Sleepless Age. I talked to Strand about what we’ve lost in an electrified age and the soul’s hunger for the gifts of darkness. Continue reading

A Woman’s Father is Key To Her Power
What Pythia Peay learned from her dying father & America’s greatest therapists.
May 10, 2015

Pythia Peay is an author and depth journalist on psychology, spirituality and the American psyche. Her essays and interviews have appeared in a wide range of publications including The Washington Post, Utne Magazine, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the Huffington Post. This month, her two long-awaited books will be published, American Icarus: A Daughter’s Memoir of Father and Country and America On the Couch, Psychological Perspectives on American Politics and Culture. The memoir is a profoundly moving, beautifully written testimony to a daughter’s love for her Greatest Generation father with all his wounds and troubles. As a longtime fan of Peay’s work, I wanted to speak to her about this obsession with the American ethos and her transformative journey she had with her father. Continue reading

Kevin Sessums 2.0: Waking Up After the Fire
What happens when a skeptic goes up in smoke?
March 10, 2015

I’ve known Keven Sessums for 35 years. When we met, he was a publicist at Paramount Studios and I was an editor at Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine. The week before leaving my job, I talked to Kevin about replacing me, which he did, moving into the magazine business. The rest as they say is history. Continue reading

Practicing Real Happiness: An Interview With Sharon Salzberg
The renowned meditation teacher talks about the path of freedom.
October 29, 2014

Sharon Salzberg is a New York Times best selling author and teacher who co-founded the Insight Meditation Society at Barre, Massachusetts with Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein in 1974. Her books include Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness (1995), A Heart as Wide as the World (1999) and Real Happiness – The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program (2010). I talked to my longtime friend and colleague about practice, compassion, and why happiness is more than what we think.
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Click here to listen to the podcast of our talk

Two Ways to Listen: A Visit to “Enlightening Conversations”
What can psychoanalysis and Buddhism teach one another?
July 10, 2014

One recent evening in New York City, eight luminaries from the worlds of psychotherapy and Buddhism were onstage talking about ways in which their disciplines can work together and others where, despite best intentions, their worldviews will never meet.

Analyst Polly Young-Eisendrath, author of the upcoming book, The Present Heart, was the force behind “Enlightening Conversations: Opportunities and Obstacles in Human Awakening,” in sponsorship with Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Young-Eisendrath, a practioner of Buddhism for 40 years, is passionately interested in the healing potential of this dialogue and invited a world-class array of teachers, analysts, and authors to explore the possibilities. Continue reading

No More Masks!: Advice From A Master Poet
Ellen Bass, best known for “The Courage To Heal,”
on how to live with open eyes.
May 26, 2014

Ellen Bass is an award-winning poet and teacher whose work I’ve admired since the 1980s, when her bestselling book, The Courage To Heal, helped to open my eyes to the power of writing as a tool for self-realization and –reckoning. Bass did her graduate work at Boston University, where she studied with Anne Sexton, and currently teaches at Pacific University in Oregon (she lives in Santa Cruz). Her most recent book of poetry is Like a Beggar, with previous titles including The Human Line, Mules of Love, an No More Masks! An Anthology of Poems by Women. Bass’s poems have appeared in hundreds of journals and anthologies, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The American Poetry Review, The New Republic, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, and The Sun. Continue reading

Click here to listen to the podcast of our talk.

The Awakened Heart: A Conversation With Tara Brach
The groundbreaking author of “Radical Acceptance” teaches us how to live.
May 15, 2014

Tara Brach, Ph.D. is one of my very favorite teachers. A leading western teacher of Buddhist meditation, emotional healing, and spiritual awakening (whose talks are downloaded free nearly 200,000 times each month by people in more than 150 countries), Brach is a practicing clinical psychologist and the founder of the Insight Meditation Community in Washington, D.C., having practiced and taught meditation for over 35 years. She is the author of two remarkable books, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha and True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart. I spoke to Brach recently about the integration of mindfulness practice in therapy, and the importance of compassionate presence to the healing process. Continue reading

Click here to listen to the podcast of our talk.

Master of Soul: An Interview With Thomas Moore
The renowned Jungian talks about the art of soul making in everyday.
May 12, 2014

Thomas Moore is one of my favorite authors and thinkers. The author of Care of the Soul as well as fifteen other books on deepening spirituality and cultivating soul in every aspect of life, including, most recently, A Religion of One’s Own, Moore has been a monk, a musician, a university professor, and a psychotherapist, and today lectures widely on holistic medicine, spirituality, psychotherapy, and the arts. I spoke to the renegade Jungian recently about creativity and awakening in everyday life. Continue reading

Click here to listen to the podcast of our talk.

Walk Out of Your Dream: A Meeting With Adyashanti
What do spiritual masters know about the mind?
April 28, 2014

Adyashanti is an American-born spiritual teacher devoted to serving the awakening of all beings. His teachings are an open invitation to stop, inquire, and recognize what is true and liberating at the core of all existence. He is the author of The Way of Liberation, Falling into Grace, True Meditation, and Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic. I’ve done a number of retreats with Adya who is in my estimation one of the three truly original spiritual thinkers of our moment, the other two being Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie. We had a great time talking about the process of enlightenment and how Christianity lost its way. Continue reading

Click here to listen to the podcast of our talk.

Fixing a World That’s Out of Balance
Peter Buffett speaks on what’s wrong with the super-rich.
April 16, 2014

Peter Buffett is a poet in philanthropist’s clothing. The youngest son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Peter is an Emmy Award-winning musician and composer, and an author who cares far more about healing the planet—particularly addressing the plight of women and girls—than ego, status, or wealth. The NoVo Foundation, which he heads with his wife, Jennifer, is dedicated to catalyzing a “transformation in global society.” Its empowering, hands-off approach to philanthropy is runs counter to what he called “The Charitable Industrial Complex” in an op-ed for the New York Times that ruffled feathers of some among the super rich whose philanthropy he calls “conscience laundering.” Continue reading

Click here to listen to the podcast of our talk.

The True Secret of Writing: A Talk With Natalie Goldberg
Does writing reveal our true mind? And what do we do
with that information?
April 9, 2014

Natalie Goldberg is the author of Writing Down The Bones: Freeing The Writer Within, which broke open the world of creativity in the 1980s and started a revolution in the way we practice writing in this country. The book has sold over one million copies and been translated into 14 languages. Since then, Goldberg has written nine other books, including the novel Banana Rose. Her new book, The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life With Language, is a masterful distillation of the “True Secret” workshops that Natalie has been giving for years near her home in Taos, New Mexico and around the globe. We talked about what this true secret is and why it matters so much for people who write — and those who don’t. Continue reading

Click here to listen to the podcast of our talk.

How the Words We Use Reveal Who We Are
An interview with social psychologist James Pennebaker.
March 21, 2014

James Pennebaker is an American social psychologist and the Centennial Liberal Arts Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. Pennebaker’s groundbreaking research focuses on the relationship between language, health, and social behavior, “how everyday language reflects basic social and personality processes. A pioneer of writing therapy, he has spent decades examining the link between language and recovering from trauma, and been recognized by the American Psychological Association as one of the top researchers on trauma, disclosure, and health. His books include, Opening up: The Healing Power of Confiding in Others, Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma and Emotional Upheaval, and The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us. Continue reading

Click here to listen to the podcast of our talk.

Risk Is Extra Life: Can Writing Make Us Brave?
Award-winning poet Michael Klein on the courage to surprise ourselves.
March 11, 2014

Michael Klein is living proof that real poets are born not made. Big-voiced, big-hearted, and utterly wild, Klein transforms a room when he enters it, injecting a kind of liberating madness, an exuberance that challenges others to be larger, more original, and free than they already are (this is what real poets do for the rest of us). “Risk is extra life,” wrote Klein, 59, in one of his poems, and risk has been his credo, indeed, in the award-winning books that have earned him a formidable literary reputation as well as the love of his writing students. “Surprise yourselves!” he is fond of saying. “Otherwise, you won’t be worth reading.” In life and work, Klein always surprises. The Talking Day, his most recent book of poems, is a both a Lambda Literary Award and a Thom Gunn Award Finalist this year. Klein has also written two memoirs: Track Conditions (Lambda Literary Award Finalist) and The End of Being Known, as well as another collection of poems, then, we were still living. He teaches in the MFA Progran at Goddard College and lives in New York City and Provincetown. Klein spoke to me recently about the role of courage in powerful writing and why it is never okay to be boring. Continue reading

Can We Keep the Faith Without a Religion?
Bestselling author Roger Housden talks about the path of wonder.
February 28, 2014

Roger Housden is a bestselling author, teacher, and lifelong “student of the beauty of the word.” A native of Bath, England, he immigrated to the United States in 1998 and is the author of twenty books, including three travel books, a novella, Chasing Love and Revelation, and the best-selling Ten Poems series (which began in 2001 with Ten Poems to Change Your Life and ended with the publication in 2012 of Ten Poems to Say Goodbye) and, most recently, Keeping the Faith Without a Religion. Housden has led contemplative journeys in the Sahara Desert, India, and the United States, and gives public recitals of ecstatic poetry from the world’s great literary and spiritual traditions. While living in England, he founded the Open Gate, a holistic workshop and conference program. He now makes his home in the Bay Area of California. Continue reading

Click here to listen to the podcast of our talk.

Voice of Beauty: Mirriam-Goldberg Speaks From the Heart
The gifted author and teacher talks about how to write our way home.
February 11, 2014

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is author of 16 books, including The Divorce Girl, a novel, Needle In the Bone: How a Holocaust Survivor and Polish Resistance Fighter Beat the Odds and Found Each Other, and The Sky Begins at Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. A professor at Goddard College, Mirriam-Goldberg founded the Transformative Language Arts track at Goddard and facilitates workshops, retreats, and readings to broaden different communities’ ideals about the spoken, written, and sung word. She was honored as the third Kansas Poet Laureate (2009–2012) and is, in addition to her writing achievements, a beloved teacher, inspirational artist, cancer survivor, and spiritual seeker. Mirriam-Goldberg talked to me recently about the sacred power of words and why, as Dostoevsky contended, “beauty will save the world.” Continue reading

Click here to listen to the podcast of our talk.

Journal To The Self: An Interview with Kathleen Adams
The renowned teacher of therapeutic writing explains the
healing power of words.
January 28, 2014

Kathleen (Kay) Adams LPC is a psychotherapist and clinical journal therapist in Denver, Colorado. Since 1985, she has pioneered the use of writing as a tool in therapy, personal growth, human potential, and beyond. Adams is the author/editor of ten books in the field of therapeutic writing, including the best-selling Journal to the Self and Expressive Writing: Foundations of Practice. She directs the Center for Journal Therapy [] and its professional training division, the fully online Therapeutic Writing Institute []. In 2013, she launched the Journalverse [], an online learning community for journal writers and facilitators worldwide. In an poll, Kathleen Adams was listed (with Anais Nin and Anne Frank) as one of the three most significant influences on contemporary journal keeping.
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Click here to listen to the podcast of our talk.

Saved By A Poem: An Interview with Kim Rosen
The renowned author and teacher talks about how
poetry heals and transforms us.
January 25, 2014

Kim Rosen has awakened listeners around the world to the power of poetry to heal and transform individuals and communities. The author of Saved by a Poem: The Transformative Power of Words, she combines a lifelong devotion to poetry with her background in psychotherapy and spirituality and offers lectures, retreats, and poetry concerts in a variety of settings around the world, ranging from universities, churches, corporations, and hospices to the New Orleans Superdome, the crypt of Chartres, and a Maasai Safe House in the Great Rift Valley. Rosen, an award-winning poet, earned a B.A. from Yale University and an M.F.A. in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, and has been published in O Magazine, The Sun Magazine, and The Texas Review (among others), and founded, in 2012, the Poetry Depths Mystery School, a “multi-dimensional immersion in the power of poetry to nourish and heal oneself and others.” I recently talked to this extraordinary teacher and writer about the transformative power of poetry and how to bring “healing words” into our everyday lives. Continue reading

Click here to listen to the podcast of our talk.

The Artist’s Way: An Interview With Julia Cameron
The grande dame of creative self-discovery talks about
how to meet the muse.
January 23, 2014

When Julia Cameron began sharing her ideas about creativity with a few friends in her living room 25 years ago, she never imagined that these conversations were leading her to a gold mine (both artistic and financial).Since its publication in 1992, Cameron’s landmark book, The Artists Way, has helped millions of people around the world to discover–and recover– their creativity through daily, free writing exercises she calls Morning Pages. Continue reading

Click here to listen to the podcast of our talk.

Exit Laughing: The Story Behind “The December Project”
An extraordinary rabbi and a skeptical seeker talk about
life’s greatest mystery.
January 21, 2014

Sara Davidson is the New York Times best-selling author of Loose Change, Leap! And Joan: Forty Years of Love, Loss and Friendship with Joan Didion. A few years ago, she was surprised by a call from Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, a colorful and brilliant rabbi of 89 (and founder of the Jewish Renewal Movement) asking her to talk with him about something he called The December Project. “When you can feel in your cells that you’re coming to the end of your tour of duty,” he said, “what is the spiritual work of this time, and how do we prepare for the mystery?” She jumped at the chance to spend time with him, and they met every Friday for two years to explore the mystery of what happens at the end of life—and beyond. The resulting book—December Project: An Extraordinary Rabbi and a Skeptical Seeker Confront Life’s Greatest Mystery—is a wonderful read full of humor, insights, and strategies for cultivating fearlessness and joy—at any age. Interspersed with their talks are sketches from Reb Zalman’s life—barely escaping the Nazis in Vienna, becoming a Hasidic rabbi in Brooklyn, seeking wisdom from outside his own community, taking L.S.D. with Timothy Leary, becoming friends with Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama—all in an effort to “take the blinders off Judaism,” and encourage people to have a direct experience of God. Continue reading

Why Mysticism Isn’t A Dirty Word
An Interview With Science and Non-Duality Founders
Zaya and Maurizio Benazzo.
January 2, 2014

Non-duality is the philosophical, spiritual, and scientific understanding of non-separation and fundamental, intrinsic oneness. For thousand of years, through deep inner inquiry, philosophers and sages have came to the realization that there is only one substance and we are all, therefore, a part of it. This substance can be called Awareness, Consciousness, Spirit, Advaita, Brahman, Tao, Nirvana or even God. It is constant, ever present, unchangeable and is the essence of all existence.
Continue reading

The School of Life: An Interview with Alain de Botton
The Author of “How Proust Can Change Your Life” Tells It Like It Is.
November 29, 2013

Alain de Botton is one of my favorite living writers. Best known for brilliant, genre-rattling books that include How Proust Can Change Your Life, Essays in Love, Status Anxiety, and most recently How To Think More About Sex, the Swiss-British philosopher, television presenter, public intellectual, and entrepreneur has made a career out of smuggling high-minded topics onto bestseller lists as way of getting “ideas to impact on the way we actually live.” In 2008, de Botton helped to found an educational establishment in London called The School of Life, “devoted to developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture” by offering courses on the important questions of everyday life, including “how to find fulfilling work, how to master the art of relationships, how to understand one’s past, how to achieve calm and how better to understand and, where necessary change, the world.” The School of Life has been highly successful and now has satellite operations around the world. Continue reading

Use Your Body To Heal Your Mind: Dr. Henry Grayson
The Mind-Body-Spirit Pioneer Talks About Self-Healing.
November 13, 2013

Dr. Henry Grayson is on the cutting edge of mind/body/spirit psychology. He received his Ph.D. in psychology from Boston University and a post-doctoral certificate in psychoanalysis from the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health. He has studied neuropsychology, the major psychotherapies, the new power therapies, quantum physics and Eastern and Western spiritual philosophies. This rich background led him to his work in spiritually based, mind body energy psychology and his creation of Synergetic Therapy. He is the Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Trustees of the National Institute for the Psychotherapies, a leading postgraduate training Institute in New York; the Founder and Director of the Institute for Spirituality, Science and Psychotherapy; and continues to appear in numerous documentaries and PBS specials. Continue reading

Click here to listen to a podcast of our talk.

The Transformation Catalyst
An interview with Christine Kloser.
October 7, 2013

Christine Kloser is a force of nature. As a leader in the burgeoning field of transformational writing, Kloser is an award-winning author and teacher known to thousands of students around the world as “the transformation catalyst,” an entrepreneurial powerhouse whose mission is to help authors “unleash their authentic voice, share their message on the pages of a book, and make a difference in the world.” Combining emotional and spiritual guidance with nuts-and-bolts writing, publishing, and marketing expertise, Kloser provides an oasis of can-do encouragement and positive reinforcement in a field of creative endeavor not known for congeniality or optimism. In contrast to the defeatist messages dominating the publishing world—where authors are viewed as Quixotic crazies, too often, and books as failures waiting to happen—Kloser is convinced that producing a book is a rite of passage that connects a writer to personal power and deepens his impact on the world. Continue reading

Hello, Genius: Five Steps to Creative Freedom
Each of us born with creative genius. We just need to follow the signs.
August 27, 2013

You are a genius but probably don’t know it. Each of is born with a specific gift that exists nowhere else in all of creation. In ancient Rome, it was well understood that everyone had his or her own genius, or tutelary spirit, whose sole purpose is to inspire our lives and guide us to our unique destiny. This is a wisdom, alas, that we have forgotten. Continue reading

Ethical Wisdom For Friends
Navigating life’s most complicated, curious, and common relationship dilemmas.
August 2, 2013

Friendships are the great unexplored love relationships in most of our lives. We pay attention to romance, we attend closely to family, but we often forget the complexity — and urgency — of caring for our friendship bonds. We forget that friendships, like all affairs of the heart, bring along with them a host of emotional issues similar to those found in romantic love: jealousy, possessiveness, envy, competition, exploitation, betrayal, insecurity and, of course, sexual attraction. Since many of us don’t admit the complexities of friendship in their lives, we’re confused — and often flummoxed — over how to deal with platonic demons when they rear their ugly heads. Continue reading

The Eros of Friendship: What To Do With Platonic Passion?
Friendships are affairs of the heart. How can we learn to
treat them that way?
May 12, 2013

Every friend is a lover, too. Not a sexual lover, necessarily, unless friends are playing it fast and loose, which usually spells the end of the friendship. Lovers in the sense of a shared bond related to passion, or life’s work, or secrets. Sometimes, the shared bond is a wound or a common enemy, and other times it’s a strange mutuality bordering on romantic attraction yet aimed at something beyond one another. Many close friendships begin with romantic feelings, although we don’t like to admit it. We’re confused by intense emotions that feel, sporadically, more than platonic and may or may not include physical attraction. Continue reading

Unlocking Erotic Intelligence
Advice from Esther Perel.
March 29, 2013

Esther Perel is a triple threat. Visionary, beautiful, and ferociously intelligent, the Belgian-born psychotherapist and author best known for “Mating In Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence,” a landmark book that introduced millions of couples to the conflict between intimacy and sex, and how to be married and hot at the same time. Perel’s TED talk in February attracted more than a million hits in the first month. Continue reading

Click here to listen to the podcast of our talk.

The Breath of Freedom
An interview with breathwork pioneers Richard Brown.
and Patricia Gerbarg.
December 10, 2012

It’s among the most important physical functions our bodies perform—we do it about 20,000 times a day—and still, somehow, most of us get it wrong. Breathing properly is a secret health weapon rarely spoken of by mainstream physicians or mental health practitioners. Yet nothing could be more vital. “If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be to learn to breathe correctly,” says Andrew Weil, MD, a well-known pioneer in the field of integrative medicine. Continue reading

Other People’s Children
It’s hard to know when to tell people the truth about their kids – without them shooting the messenger.
September 4, 2012

It’s hard to know when to open your mouth when it comes to other people’s children.

Take my friend Felicia. I’ve changed her name to protect the paranoid. Felicia didn’t mean to spy on Trevor. At least, that’s what she told herself. Fifteen-year-old Trevor was the son of Felicia’s friend, T. Felicia discovered Trevor’s Facebook page accidentally, while vetting the page of her daughter, Tiffany, who was Facebook friends with Trevor. Continue reading

When Friends Get Rich or Famous (or Both)
We always want the best for our friends. Don’t we?
May 29, 2012

Penelope was not an envious person. That is what she told herself. At 36, Penelope was satisfied with her life as a mid-level editor at the women’s magazine where she had been hired straight out of college. She was not a person who ‘lived to work’—Penelope never had been—but, rather, a person who ‘worked to live’ as a way of helping her husband support their family, which had always come first. Penelope had made her choices—to be a Mom, create a beautiful home, cultivate a happy marriage—and these priorities overshadowed whatever ambition Penelope might have had, once upon a time. Continue reading

Deacon Don and His Broken Neck Boys: Resilience in Action
The Broken Neck Boys of Chicago are teaching the rest of us how to live.
February 26, 2012

Deacon Don Grossnickle isn’t a saint. He is on a mighty high road, however, thanks to his Broken Neck Boys.

Twelve years ago, this 63-year-old Chicago minister and educator was called to the bedside of a suicidal teenager named Rocky Clark. Clark, 19, was a former high school football star who’d broken his neck the previous year and desperately needed spiritual guidance. Trapped inside a frozen body without hope of physical recovery, Rocky believed that he had no reason to live. When Rocky refused to eat, doctors had been forced to insert a feeding tube into his abdomen. Continue reading

Oscar Wilde Slept Here: The Funny Side of Death
Death has a funny side. You might as well enjoy it.
January 21, 2012

Death isn’t funny, but people are. And when people die, funny things happen.

A few years back, I was volunteering at a hospice in New York City. Two afternoons a week, I spent time with dying people I didn’t know, rubbed their feet, fetched them liquids, listened to their eleventh hour stories. On one such day, I was in a patient’s room reading a magazine while she slept, minding my own business. Suddenly, the door flies open and a frazzled-looking, preppie dude demands to know what the hell I’m doing there. Continue reading

What’s Your Metaphor? Shifting Shapes in the New Year
Our life metaphor profoundly affects the quality of everyday life.
December 29, 2011

One wintry afternoon last month, I was strolling through a forest with a philosopher friend when she stopped dead in her tracks, all of a sudden, staring up through the trees at a patch of blue sky. “This is exactly what my life feels like.”

“What is?” I asked.

She held out her hands to mean the forest. “I spend my days on this tiny path, surrounded by overpowering things, hoping—praying—that if I keep walking, I’ll find my way into some kind of clearing.” Continue reading

To Gossip Is Human: Why We Share Secrets
Gossip is a good thing. It all depends on how you do it.
December 7, 2011

The most painful breakup of my life occurred when four of my best friends dumped me, simultaneously, over an incident involving gossip. Though I meant no harm by this slip of the tongue to a best friend who — I assumed — knew this story, too (since he was better friends with the source than I was), I instantly became persona non grata, the big mouth, the scapegoat, the not-to-be-trusted. This group of best buddies shut me out of their lives overnight, sending me into a year of therapy where I questioned my worth as a human being, and someone to whom others might risk telling secrets. Continue reading

The Happy Beggar: You Are Enough
Enlightenment is here and now. Happiness too. Open the box.
December 2, 2011

There’s a story about a beggar who’s sitting on the side of a road. The old man has been on the road for years. A stranger approaches one afternoon. “Spare some change?” mumbles the beggar, mechanically shaking his tin cup.

“I have nothing to give you,” the stranger said. The beggar turned away in disgust. Then the stranger asked, “What is that you’re sitting on?”

“Nothing,” the beggar told him. “Just an old box. I have been sitting on it for as long as I can remember.” Continue reading

A Turkey, a Tablet of Prozac, and Thou: Thanksgiving in Troubled Times
Sometimes being alive is enough for thanks giving.
November 28, 2011

My mother-in-law was having her Thanksgiving Breakdown. “I hate this holiday,” Bev complained, keening back and forth in the kitchen chair.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, knowing the answer already. Bev has had a tough year. Her husband’s illness is getting worse. Her grandson just had a kid out of wedlock. She has pain in her legs, the economy stinks, and Barack Obama is still in the White House.

“The world is going to hell,” she told me. “How’s anybody supposed to be thankful?”
Continue reading

Post-Catastrophe Living: Gabrielle Giffords’ Secret Weapon
Where do people like Gabrielle Giffords find the strength to carry on after they survive the worst?
November 16, 2011

Where do people like Gabrielle Giffords find the strength to carry on after they survive the worst? How can the ex-Arizona Congresswoman shot at point blank range last year in an incident that left six people dead and a dozen other injured, even think of getting back into politics after almost dying, as she told ABC’s Diane Sawyer on Monday night? What makes Gabrielle Giffords run? Continue reading

Confessions of a Mask: The Temptations of Online Anonymity
Dating is a miserable business.
November 11, 2011

Dating is a miserable business. Part popularity contest, part Nuremberg Trial, part aikido (block that rejection!), we meet and greet and hope for the best, sometimes clicking, mostly not, and often wondering: Why do we bother?

When I was single, I hated it (the dating part). Until I hooked up on the Internet. On friends’ advice, I went anonymous, describing my nameless self in glowing terms, and hoping against hope that the people checking out my profile were being a lot more honest than I was. It’s not that I was lying, exactly. I was just massaging the truth. A lot. Continue reading

The Paterno Effect: Keep Your Job or Lose Your Manhood?
There’s no such thing as an innocent bystander. Paterno is guilty.
November 9, 2011

As investigators are working to figure out what Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno and other administrators knew about the ongoing sexual abuse perpetrated by one of their staff, another, equally troubling question is burning in the public conscience: How guilty are we for crimes we do not commit but fail to report? Are we, as innocent bystanders, responsible for bad things we know about? Or is See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil a conscientious M.O. in morally complex situations? Continue reading

It’s None of Your Business
How to Keep Friends and Not Influence People.
October 21, 2011

Though gossip is inevitable, it also gives us a false sense of power. While evolution has prepared us to dish about others, it has not provided us with the power to change them in any way whatsoever, no matter how brilliant our input may be. Continue reading

The Life Saving Power of Hope
We cannot live without hope. But why? How does it save our lives?
September 17, 2011

One rainy afternoon in London, under an ominous mackerel sky, I find myself in a back corridor of the Tate Gallery, standing before an 18th century painting I have never seen before. It is an oil-on-canvas portrait of Hope, the allegorical goddess, as depicted in 1886 by George Frederick Watts. This is no triumphant, trumpeting Hope (no hope springs eternal let’s sound the trombones!). Instead, this Hope is a waifish thing stranded on a lonely cliff, tempest torn, barefoot, eyes concealed behind a blindfold as she reaches her empty hand out toward a harp with only one string. Continue reading

Your Secret Destination: Every Life Is a Labyrinth
Every life has a secret destination of which the traveler is unaware.
September 7, 2011

“Every journey has a secret destination of which the traveler is unaware,” a philosopher wrote. The notion of life as a labyrinth is an ancient one, with each pathway we follow digressing, recircling, occluding, delivering us, unexpectedly, to unsuspected crossroads and brinks. You leave the house to buy a quart of milk and meet your true love near the frozen foods. Your blood tests come back not as you’d hoped, you experiment with acupuncture, enjoy the needles, take up studies yourself, quit your job at the bank and wind up living in Chinatown with a Pekinese dog, a new hairdo, and your once-overwhelming condition in retreat. Continue reading

The Ethical Guerrilla
Boomer Alert: The Young Don’t Owe Us Anything.
June 22, 2011

Dear Ethical Guerrilla:

I’m no spring chicken and a member of the work force. For obvious reasons,I think a lot about how businesses like to get rid of us after we hit 40. Till now, I have always taken offense at this — as if the younger generation owes us a job, owes us respect, owes us the courtesy of not being held to tough standards. Continue reading

The Ethical Guerrilla
When Dating Turns Ugly, The Scandal of
June 21, 2011

This morning, I received this hair-raising letter from a concerned reader:

Dear EW:

Recently, the Danish dating website,, dumped 30,000 members who were designated as “too ugly.” I was flabbergasted. We already know that attractive people get hired faster than “ugly” people (not to mention married). The beautiful people — whoever THEY are — seem to have been born with the keys to the kingdom. Should society level the playing field and protect the rights of the esthetically-challenged (like myself)? Or are we heading toward a future when not being beautiful will likened to a civil offense? Continue reading

The Ethical Guerrilla
Questioning the incest taboo.
June 14, 2011

It’s a jungle out there — sexually speaking. That’s why the Germans say that when the penis gets hard, the brain goes soft. We’re overwhelmed by pheromones, smitten by lust, rendering our ethical brains kaput.

Having spent the past three years researching a book about ethics, I’ve become a target for people — friends, mostly, but also friends of friends — wanting advice about how to free themselves from unforeseen, sometimes embarrassing, moral tar pits. The nurse in my doctor’s office confessed to being a shoplifter, my neighbor asked me what I thought of abortion. And just yesterday, minding my own business, I was asked a question at a dinner table full of liberals that stopped me in my tracks, morally speaking:

Is it ever OK to have consensual sex with someone in your family? Continue reading

Are We Born to Be Wise?
We are born with a moral aptitude, just like a natural ability
for language, math, or art.
May 10, 2011

It’s interesting to learn that we are born with a five-part moral “organ” that helps us make ethical choices. Moral psychologists tell us that in spite of the fact that we can be competitive, greedy, dishonest,unfair, aggressive, philandering, power-hungry and slothful, we are also endowed with an ancient quintet of human concerns that have enabled our highly imperfect species to survive against the tremendous odds. These universal moral foundations appear to have remained the same throughout recorded history according to psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who first popularized this theory. Continue reading

Two-Minute Memoir: My Muse (With Benefits)
Sometimes right and wrong can get all mixed up when the pleasure principle comes into play.
May 3, 2011

I didn’t know my teacher was a thief until after she had already seduced me.
The night it happened was magical. I was a 19-year-old surfer from California enrolled in Marguerite’s* college French class. She was a 33-year-old, Sorbonne-educated hottie with a mammoth intellect and luminous copper eyes. Our chemistry was heated and glaring. A few weeks into the semester, Marguerite invited me to dinner. After couscous and wine at her bachelorette pad, she led me by the hand into an Arabian Nights bedroom, complete with a hookah and shawl-hung lamps casting it in a scarlet glow, and had her illicit way with me. I felt as if I’d won the sexual Megamillions jackpot. Continue reading

The Happy Face Advantage
(or How To Save Life on Planet Earth).
April 26, 2011

Emotions speak a language all their own. We’ve known this since the 1970s, when maverick scientists like Dr. Candace Pert redefined how emotion works throughout our physical structure. Pert, a researcher and pharmacologist, rocked the neuroscience world when she and a group of colleagues discovered the opiate receptor in the brain. A receptor is like a chemical lock on a cell into which a particular substance or key fits. A typical nerve cell has millions of receptors on its surface, each waiting for another molecule to wander by and bind to it. In the case of opiate receptors, this discovery showed that the brain is hardwired to respond to the body’s internal mood enhancement system. Continue reading

The Meeting Eyes of Love
How Empathy Is Born In Us.
April 8, 2011

You learn the world from your mother’s face. The mother’s eyes, especially, are a child’s refuge, the mirror where children confirm their existence. From the doting reflection of its mother’s eyes, a baby draws its earliest, wordless lessons about connection, care, and love, and about how being ignored – which every child is sooner or later – makes the good feeling disappear. Continue reading

I Feel Your Pain, But Why?
Mirror neurons are the reason for the chameleon effect.
March 28, 2011

Why do we feel each other’s pain?

The ability to suffer not only our own pain — which anything with a rudimentary nervous system can do — but also the pain of others, has long been considered the distilled essence of our humanity. Altruism, which comes from the Latin root alter, or “other,” could not exist without this distinction, but it is only since the mid 1990s that we’ve actually come to understand how empathy is sparked in the human brain, and why our species alone — in all of creation — has the hard wired ability to step far enough outside ourselves to walk in another person’s shoes. Continue reading