Your Soulmate is Closer than You Think

How to have more Love in your Relationships Finding love. Learn to give love rather than get love, by being your own Soulmate.

Our deepest desire, as human beings is to be loved. We search (sometimes in all the wrong places) for that partner who will love us, fulfill us, complete us, care for us, take away our pain. Sometimes we search all of our lives, even after we have found someone. We often don’t realize that our true love – or Soulmate – the one who truly makes us whole – is much closer than we realize.

Spoiler Alert: Our true Soulmate is our own self.

Often the partner we seek – whether we are alone or coupled – is that someone who will love us, take care of us, adore us, let us be ourselves. We want to be that other person’s PERSON – first and always thought about; the one they tell everything to; the only one they are intimate with. We want that person to prioritize us; always include us; be romantic with us; communicate; share their inner selves with us. We want someone who desires us, who reads our mind and anticipates what we need. We want someone who unconditionally loves us, accepts us even with our faults.

01-heart.pngSomeone with whom we can be vulnerable and safe, and not be laughed at or rejected, or betrayed by. We want someone who agrees with what we say and who knows we’re right – or someone who likes things just the way we do.

We know what we want in love – someone who desires us; can’t wait to see us and is enthusiastic about us when we’re together. We want someone who loves and lives to please us; anticipate our needs; never makes us or leaves us suffering. Someone who tolerates all our moods without negativity. Someone who makes us feel good, someone who enjoys being around us. Someone who doesn’t ignore us, or de-prioritize us, or disappoint us.

We want someone who is never unkind, or mean, or violent; or appropriately apologizes if they ever are. Someone who makes us feel special, wanted. Someone who always has our back; who always consults or includes us when making plans. Someone who knows when we need closeness or space – and who acts accordingly. Someone who wants to talk when we want to talk or who is comfortable with silence when we need silence.

We want someone to show us they love us by following through with what they promise; not letting us down, or by doing their share (and often more than their share) of household chores or parenting tasks. Someone who doesn’t take advantage of us or take us for granted. We want someone who accepts us totally, unconditionally – someone who gets us. Someone who notices all the little things we do and fully appreciates us. We want someone who loves and cherishes our body and is not judgmental or critical in any way. Someone who comes up with fun and interesting things to do or wants to share in all the things we think are fun and interesting to do.

02-heart.pngWe want to be loved by someone who is trustworthy, who protects us from pain or suffering; someone who doesn’t make us feel angry, or frustrated, or lonely or disappointed. We want love to come in the form of listening to us, understanding and allowing all of who we are. Someone who brings out the best in us – helps us to be the best person we aspire to be all the time.

We want someone who is flexible, but structured enough; independent, but able to be intimate; healthy physically and emotionally; someone who cares about the people and things we care about, with the same intensity.

…That’s a pretty powerful list of what we long for when we wish to be loved. That’s a pretty psychologically evolved human being who can provide even 60% of that! And wouldn’t it be nice if we could think about or treat ourselves in these same ways, even 60% of the time?

Two truths about this expansive list:

  1. A lot of this list comes from how we as human beings desire to GET love. Very little03-heart.png of it is about how we long to GIVE love – which is actually the more important part of any love relationship. We could improve our love relationships – or bring more love into our lives by having the intention to be this kind of Soulmate to our partner…
    If you want to be loved, try loving. Give the love you would like to get. Challenge yourself to continuously, consciously choose to fall in love with your partner. Be the partner you long for. Remember your person is another separate human being, with their own thoughts, feelings, wishes, dreams, needs, experiences; just like you. Look for, love and nurture the beauty and the good in your partner. Remember, the relationship you have with an other is a reflection of the relationship you have with yourself.
  2. Not only are these admirable qualities to one becoming a loving partner (and more admirable to find within yourself then to solely seek and evaluate in your significant other – present or to be), but these are excellent qualities to present and be with your self.
    Be your own Soulmate. Be the partner you long for, to yourself. Look for, love and nourish the beauty and the good within you. Remember, the relationship you have with yourself is the source of the reflection of the relationship you have with another – the love you give to your child, partner, friend.

How to do this you may wonder…

First, become aware. Check in with yourself and see if the ways you want to be loved by another are resonant with the ways you, yourself give love. Do your actions do love the way you’d like to receive it? Make some intentions to put your love into action. Be willing to go first.

Then check in further with yourself and notice how you treat yourself (you know – your real Soulmate).

Make an effort to be:

  • Nonviolent with yourself; non-hurtful or demeaning or critical or judgmental… Don’t finish a negative thought or sentence about yourself.
  • Communicate with yourself kindly; listen to your own feelings without contempt or avoidance. Acknowledge your voice. Don’t yell at or berate or judge yourself.
  • Change curses that you were told as a child, that you couldn’t help but internalize – into blessings or affirmations, about your strengths and resilience.
  • Repair that inner child and heal those old wounds. If you can, forgive those parents. If you can’t, at least forgive yourself.
  • Continuously, compassionately, consciously, caringly choose to fall in love with yourself – see yourself in a loving way. Have your own back.
  • Take yourself on a date – spend some time with you yourself; give yourself uninterrupted time to be with yourself. Enjoy what you discover.
  • Spend time in nature; do meditation; take a break from being digitally connected. It’s here that you can truly listen to your own voice.
  • Do self-compassion practices. (May I be safe. May I be at peace. May I treat myself like I would my best friend. May I be as strong as I am able to be…)
  • Have a heart-to-heart intimate talk with yourself – journal it or write a letter to yourself.
  • Remind yourself to remember the perspective of someone who loves you when you are reflecting internally. Be happy to see yourself.

Be the partner to yourself you long to have in your life. Every day. Listen with Heart. To yourself, and to those you love.

Regular simple efforts and shifts in your thinking and doing build a strong foundation to being able to receive the love you want in your life. And giving it becomes easier too.

If you or someone you love struggles with wanting more, different or better love in your life, please contact me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
(510) 482-4445

Real Ways Meditation Can Help You

A sample meditation to improve your workday.

improving work productivity, how meditation can help reduce stress , anxiety and depression

I believe that helping busy, warm-hearted, individuals, couples, parents, teens to live mindfully is the most effective way to deal with stress, anxiety, depression, loss, and really, to make the world a better place, one heart at a time. And there are many ways to live mindfully that contribute to having more harmonious relationships, navigating the challenges of family life, and managing your own emotional life with grace.

A regular meditation practice is just one way to expand your practice of living mindfully. For many, it is a core practice.

I hope the idea of a regular meditation practice doesn’t scare you. Please know, you can start it with just a few minutes a day, and still experience some benefits.

I have been meditating regularly for over ten months now. Mostly for 30 minutes at a time. A handful of days for 5 to 15 minutes only. But every day some formal meditation since March 12, 2017, when daylight savings time changed. The biggest impact for me is experiencing a kind quieting of my internal whirring of the mind. And appreciating all the related experiences that come with that.

I’ve noticed many benefits to this, like:

  • Paying even better attention to my clients
  • I have a more harmonious home and family life
  • The typical annoyance or upset coming up with my partner and being truly embroiled in it – for a moment – and then noticing it has passed – like a fire that doesn’t take
  • More focus as I do my writing and work projects
  • More moments of being awestruck by nature or my surroundings
  • I’m remembering things better
  • Less personal sense of inadequacy
  • More calm and more confidence that I can become calm, or get to it, or help others get to it
  • Less irritation with those things that get to me
  • When I notice my reflection in the mirror, I like it
  • I can directly feel when my heart is closing and notice it before acting on it
  • I can be with a hot flash or other painful feelings (like jealousy, resentment, loneliness, rejection) for the whole course that they take, as they arise and eventually pass
  • I breathe better and pay more attention to my breath
  • I am endlessly aware of simple things I feel gratitude about
  • I am more competent
  • I am less afraid
  • I navigate sticky or conflictual interactions better
  • I feel depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, lonely less often, and for less length of time
  • I have deeper empathy
  • When I get panicky I can slow my breathing down more easily
  • I feel generally less defensive, and more open when I hear criticism
  • I feel better about myself, and listen less to negative self-talk
  • I have more capacity to learn
  • I can tell better, what’s true to my heart and right for me

Many of these things are subtle, nuanced, not necessarily noticed on the outside, but felt and profound on the inside.

There are many ways to do formal meditation. I might vary the focus of my daily meditations, depending on what I need or where I’m at – physically or internally. Sometimes during my meditations, I listen to sounds or use the time to think through all my projects, or I focus on the feelings I’m having about a particular experience. Sometimes I count breaths, sometimes I count the waves I hear, or let my feelings conjure up beautiful colorful abstract paintings. Sometimes I practice loving kindness, wishing well for someone who is suffering. Sometimes that someone is me. Sometimes I sit at that tender place of tenderness and vulnerability and poignancy and just bring forth compassion. Sometimes I do a body scan. Sometimes I just am aware of my breath. Sometimes I’m just aware of my awareness; or my humanity. Sometimes I feel connected to the whole world. Sometimes I just amplify the feelings of love. Sometimes I do special breaths (a 7–11 Breath, or a 4-7-8 Breath, or four short breaths in and one long exhale…). Sometimes I listen to a guided meditation. Almost always I have chimes and waves.

When I have a day dedicated to some work projects I want to complete, I might meditate on that, asking for things that will help me be productive.

This morning it went something like this:

May I be present to the work in front of me…May I be clearheaded and ready… May I integrate what I’ve been learning… May I share information that’s helpful to others… May I write freely and with wisdom…May I take regular breaks… May I get up and move several times an hour… May I not be distracted when I feel dis-ease… May I stay with my moments of discomfort a moment longer… May I be responsive to influences outside of me that require my consideration and care… May I be attuned to the influences inside of me that bring forth character, courage and compassion… May I keep coming back to the work at hand… May I give thanks before each meal… May I do breathing exercises throughout the day… May I be honest and true… May I be more proactive than passive (write more than I watch/listen to)… May I trust that I already have everything I need to know for this day’s work… May I stay present… May I be grateful for being able to work with a clear head… May I appreciate all of my teachers who have given me guidance… May I be able to check some things off my list… May I not multitask…May I be creative and strong. ..May I work well… May I not fritter my time away with procrastination, self-doubt, resentment or negative thinking… May I appreciate the preciousness of this time before me, and be with it to the best of my ability… May I work in a flow that doesn’t overthink or overlook anything…

The work time that followed was indeed productive and came from a place of clarity and depth. I credit the precious time I had spent, being present with myself in morning meditation. All of my wishes for myself were stated as intentions that would favorably impact my work day.

You might try to build some quiet moments of meditation into your daily life, and notice more focus in your work life, better sleep, more harmony in your relationships, being better able to manage your emotions, more ease in parenting, conflicts that get resolved a little easier, decreased depression, anxiety and worry.

If you or someone you care about needs some help to develop some constructive self-soothing tools, please contact me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
(510) 482-4445

Heart Full Moments – January 2018

Wise words for uplift and keeping your heart open

wisdom for living mindfully; living in the moment with kindness; simple everyday mindfulness practice to ease stress.A monthly feature of “Listening with Heart” blog, sharing wise words, meaningful things read or good things found, to help warm your heart.

Happy New Year to you! I hope this first month of 2018 has had the right combination of energy and calm for you, and that you have been blessed with peace in your relationships and gratitude in your heart.

These are the most impactful things I have read or heard this month that give me pause, or uplift my heart. I am happy to share them with you. Take a moment to go through them and maybe highlight a few that speak to you. Enjoy…

  • Acknowledging the good that is already in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” – Eckhart Tolle
  • Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Victor Frankl
  • Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand – and melting like a snowflake.” – Sir Francis Bacon
  • When you speak, speak. When you listen, listen. When you drive your car, drive your carDo something until you are done. After you are done, then you can move onto the next thing.“ – Rob Brandsma
  • Celebrate the little things.
  • Thoughts aren’t facts so don’t take them seriously.” -Ruby Wax
  • And while the news often features the worst of humanity, there are a billion acts of human kindness every hour of every day. Take another breath and sense this truth.– Jack Kornfield
  • You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.” – Pablo Neruda
  • Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.” – Golda Meir
  • Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).” ~James Baraz
  • When given the choice to be right or kind – choose kind.” – precept from Wonder movie
  • Compassion is the capacity to feel love and pain at the same time.“ – Susan Piver
  • Think more about how to give love rather than how to get love.“ – Susan Piver
  • It really is a shame, this feeling of shame, that keeps us from being there for each other, and feels isolating.” – Parent at San Quentin
  • We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” – Carlos Castaneda
  • We all have needs, and we all want those needs to be met. But we also need to learn how to achieve that and how to manage the time between having the need and having the need met.” – Mercedes Samudio
  • People have said, “Don’t cryto other people for years and years, and all its ever meant is, ‘I’m too uncomfortable when you show your feelings. Don’t cry.’ I’d rather have them say, ‘Go ahead and cry. Im here to be with you.’ – Fred Rogers
  • Yoga helps to get the issues out of the tissues.” – Nicky Myers
  • We believe that people of all genders and ages should live free of violence against us. And, we believe that women of color, and women who have faced generations of exclusion indigenous, Black, Brown and Asian women, farmworkers and domestic workers, disabled women, undocumented and queer and trans women — should be at the center of our solutions….We look forward to partnering with them and others to organize, support all survivors, and find solutions that ensure a future where all women and all people can live and work with dignity.” – #TIMESUP initiative
  • “Failing at a task is not failing as a person.” – Jenny Anderson
  • Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
  • So today capitalism has outlived its usefulness. It has brought about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
  • In a real sense, all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be… This is the inter-related structure of reality.  – Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” – Attributed to the Talmud
  • All addiction comes from a sense of lack, a core feeling that something is missing. And when we feel this lack subconsciously or consciously, we tend to breathe poorly.” – Tommy Rosen
  • May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.” – John O’Donohue
  • You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can decide how you’re going to live. Now.” – Joan Baez
  • The moment we choose to love we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others.” – Bell Hooks
  • Courage is facing your fear and doing it anyways. Confidence is a slightly over rated mask for insecurity.” – Dani Shapiro
  • The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” – Barack Obama
  • Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.” – The Dalai Lama
  • I think 99 times and I find nothing. I stop thinking, swim in silence, and the truth comes to me.” –Albert Einstein
  • What’s past is past, nothing can change that. But the future can be different if we choose to make it so. We have to cultivate a vision of a happier, more peaceful future and make the effort now to bring it about. This is no time for complacency, hope lies in the action we take.” – Dalai Lama
  • “I don’t want to be somebody that I’m not. I like me, and I’ve been pretty successful so far being me and I was raised in a really big family. And, you know, my mom liked me, my friends liked me … I don’t care about a title or a position. You know I have to wake up with me every morning, and I want to be the best version of myself. I don’t want to be this person you’re trying to make me, so I’m really sorry but I have to go. So, I left, and literally a month later got the call to become the CEO of Burberry.” – Borrowing from Shakespeare, Ahrendts then sums up the lesson in a single, beautiful sentence:
    So, I just think that to thyself be true.” –Angela Ahrendts

I hope you have enjoyed this month’s Heart Full Moments, and that you have read or seen or heard things, in your own life too, that made you pause and breathe in, the wisdom or wonder of that experience.

You might keep your own list of Heart-full or mind-full gems, and re-read them when you need an uplift. Simply to be on the lookout for gems that speak to you is a mindful practice that helps to keep your heart open to all that’s good in the world. To deepen your experience even more, you might use any one of these as a journal prompt, where you add whatever comes to mind about how this applies in your life, and how it makes you feel.

If you or someone you care about needs help to overcome some of life’s struggles, please contact me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
(510) 482-4445


Lessons Learned From My Time At San Quentin

Do NOT read this if you don’t have a teenager or young person in your life that you have concern for.

How listening and emotional sharing can help at-risk youth to avoid prison and manage anger.

I had the privilege to go to San Quentin along with the SQUIRES program on a spectacularly picturesque day this weekend. The setting itself of the prison is breathtakingly beautiful. Once inside the prison walls, the environment is breathtakingly painful.

The SQUIRES program brings inner-city youth, and concerned adults into the prison for a day of face-to-face and heart-to-heart discussions with inmates, with the purpose of keeping the young guys out of the penal system. It is not a scared straight program where the kids get yelled at in their face, but one of sitting in a circle with the inmates, listening to their stories and sharing about one’s own personal struggles. The rules for the participants are to maintain confidentiality, to have respect for self and other, and to be 100% real (a good code of behavior for anyone).

By the end of the day, (and actually, within 10 minutes of being with the inmates we met with) I was completely impressed with the quality of character of these inmate Squires, as they are called.

The inmates very graphically and honestly speak to the kids about what their crimes were (most had killed someone) that got them to San Quentin, and about what life is really like in the prison, day after day for 20+ years and counting.

The most moving and painful part of the discussion was to hear the inmates’ personal stories – usually one of loss, trauma, extreme challenge – that got them into the position to commit a crime in the first place. Many of them had committed crimes as teenagers (including murder) or as young adults, and had already spent more than half their lives in San Quentin.

Each inmate referenced childhood trauma, insurmountable loss, violence witnessed in their family or neighborhood, poverty, insecurity in life, that seemed to lead to hanging out with the wrong people; feeling lonely; escalating drug and alcohol use; making poor decisions. Most had anger issues that had showed up in their attitude, or they did poorly in school; or got bullied and beat up. Several had poor attendance at school; or were always late; or rejected parents and adult figures they felt ashamed of, rejected by, or who had abused them.

Then the inmates got the young guys talking – first inquiring about the challenges they face in their every day lives. Most of the young guys portrayed a sense of cool…Everything is OK. I get in trouble sometimes because of someone/something else. I get mad. But nothing’s too challenging. I’m cool. I ain’t no punk.

Gradually their tone changed. One young man acknowledged “Yeah, I don’t do so well in school. Yeah, I miss a lot of school or get there late. The bus makes me late. (I have to take a longer bus ride so I can avoid the kids who call me names and want to fight at the closest bus stop.) Yeah, I could improve my attitude. I just get mad. But nothing really bothers me… Oh yeah, a cousin of mine was killed a few weeks ago… Oh yeah – and my dad was killed four years ago.” When queried further by the inmate about his mom, he admitted she had died too – the year before his dad did.

I and the other adults in the room silently wept – bearing witness and grieving for this 14-year-old boy who had already suffered so much loss in his short life. No wonder he’s been acting out. We mourned his lost childhood. And the potential dismal future he may have if he keeps getting too close to the edge. Tears ran down my face as I realized I was in a roomful (actually a prison-full) of young and middle-aged men – mostly males of color- with similar stories – most with no outlet for all of that emotional pain.

The inmates were artful in knowing what was underneath the kids’ suppressed anger or the Joe cool attitudes of the young visitors. They probed, shared their own experiences, probed some more, and soon had the kids identifying and speaking more about their own pain. It was beautiful and poignant to see the young guys unfolding about the hurt and trauma they were living currently – and acknowledging that they were trying their best to hide that pain by seeming angry or tough. Best way to protect themselves, that ultimately doesn’t work.

The inmates powerfully made the connection between the underlying emotional suffering, the lack of healthy emotional outlet or true listening, and the outward expression of anger, violence,  addictions that took place for them and landed them in prison. They talked about how important it is to let your emotions out, to give voice to what hurts you, even though the kids clearly did not want to hear that.

After hearing them out, the Squire inmates took us all on a tour of the prison.

I was struck by the beautiful murals on many of the walls outside. And by some inmates who seem to be in their 70s or 80s, hobbling around. I was struck by how, when a death row inmate was escorted nearby us, the inmates (murderers with 20 years to life sentences themselves) with us, had to turn and face the wall – and not look into the face of the shackled presumed psychopath. I was touched by how open and responsive the inmates with us were in answering questions or sharing about their situations. I appreciated the accountability and responsibility they seemed to take for their own actions.

I was struck by the dehumanization that occurs for the prisoners, from the time they are processed in; receive their sentences, and live for years in their cells. It was sobering (and horrible) to go into their cells – realizing the space was smaller than my bathroom at home – in which two men lived and shared a complete lack of privacy. I soaked in the clear blue sky, and wind on my face, every time I was outside, knowing that this was the only sense of freedom the inmates could experience.

I repeatedly noticed my sadness at the waste of human life that occurred here. I was rattled when we walked by the yard where the most recently sentenced inmates were, who were grabbing the fence and yelling threats, pleas, obscenities, at us, like underfed, abused and brutalized animals might. I could see the recent recognition of the misery of their long-term future settling into them. I kept trying to meet some eyes and reflect some warmth, simple human regard and compassion to them. I could meet very few eyes. Some of the young kids on the trip recognized relatives behind that fence. And they cried from both sides of the fence.

We ate a tasteless prison lunch in the chow hall. The adults sought and gave solace to one another for all we had witnessed and felt so far. The Squires sat and ate separately with the boys, getting their impressions, listening and talking more with them. They kept saying they don’t want to see these young men in this place.

We returned to the classroom for more deep dialogue among inmates and kids. More 100% real talk. More listening. More emphasis on the processing of deep wounds and painful feelings. The boys had been profoundly impacted. The adults had been visibly shaken and moved toward deeper understanding.

I felt emotionally drained – and I am someone who is familiar with and used to bearing witness to the deep emotional expression of pain. (I often say my “best days at work“ are when I’ve made people cry and connect with their deepest feelings). This day was heart-wrenching on so many levels. And so uplifting as well, as the boys unloaded, and the inmates presented the incredible deep personal work they’ve been able to do, in the most inhumane of conditions.

Everything they said about their own experience and in relating to the kids was so psychologically sound. I came away thinking they were really decent and beautiful human beings. And hoping against hope that none of the young men with us – who had been equally courageous and open and taken risks to reveal their inner pain – would ever set foot within these walls again and not be able to leave at the end of the day.

After a day “in prison“, I came away with the following lessons and takeaways…truths that are applicable to any young person…

  1. Men in prison have and show a lot of anger outwardly. If you look behind their ‘Wizard of Oz’ curtain, you see underneath that anger there is an even greater amount of emotional pain and hurt – which often goes unseen…And real men cry. And it’s good.
  2. 30 seconds of an adolescent’s bad decision can lead to 30 years of a bad life, once incarcerated. Many bad decisions come from not being able to process painful emotions or experiences adequately.
  3. We all have the capacity to make better decisions and must accept responsibility for our bad decisions.
  4. Listening is a powerful way to help someone else and to help oneself to heal. The Squires knew the value of listening deeply to themselves, to each other, and to the young men to facilitate healing.
  5. Expressing one’s feelings about the frustrations, hurts, losses, aggravations, traumas, pain and suffering is hard but empowering.
  6. Daily morning reflections, breathing exercises, prayer and meditations are a helpful and necessary way of staying sane when one’s basic freedoms do not exist and one has to face a world of chaos.
  7. Helping others to heal from their pain is also healing to the individual who is helping.
  8. Incarceration strips beautiful young men (too many of color) of their dignity and humanity, treat them like animals or objects, and is not a humane way to rehabilitate anyone.

I’d love to hear from you. What takeaways do you get from this blog? What might the Teens in your life be struggling with?

If you have a teen or young person in your life who is struggling and needs help before making too many irreparable bad decisions, please contact me about adolescent or parenting therapy.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
(510) 482-4445

MLK Quotes & Women’s March Wisdom

Inspiration and meaning to share

the power of Words

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke eloquently about themes that were powerful and difficult 50 years ago (and for hundreds of years before that), and remain central and challenging in our world today.

He addressed racism, poverty, the terrible and growing economic divide between a few and the masses, social justice, equality, nonviolence. He spoke of our planet, and ecology, and the awe of the dream he envisioned for his children together with all children. He was thoughtful and mindful in his message. Said things that were difficult for some to hear, but necessary to give voice to.

He orated about brotherhood, compassion, love and peace. To hear or read his words now, presents a bit of a dilemma – sadness that the tragedy of so much of what he described 50 years ago, remains true to this day; and hope that we can all take this opportunity to be stirred again by his beautiful message and turn toward actions and voices of respect, equality, inclusion, service.

I heard a linguist talk about our current president as a man who has no handle on semantics – he talks as if he has no idea that his words contain meaning. He doesn’t understand the meaning of his own words.

I noted this in particular contrast to the powerful words of Martin Luther King – every word he spoke was thoughtful and precise and carried full meaning – and meaningfulness. He spoke, being heart-fully connected to his words and knew the power and grace of them all.

I am humbled and hopeful to reconsider his words. As you may know, I appreciate quotes of inspiring and courageous people – from the renown and famous or from everyday heroes. Here I have listed some of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

May they touch your heart and soul too and inspire you as well in your daily journey. May we all connect with our inner courage and each of us find our own ways to make the world a better place.

Quotes of significance from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr:

  • Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
  • Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
  • The time is always right to do what is right.
  • Life‘s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?“
  • Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.
  • We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.
  • Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
  • We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.
  • Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
  • I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
  • The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.
  • The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
  • We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
  • I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
  • Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
  • I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
  • We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.
  • There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.
  • We are not makers of history. We are made by history.
  • The quality not the longevity, of one’s life is what is important.
  • Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
  • I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
  • Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.
  • Peace is not merely a distant goal that we see, but the means by which we arrive at that goal.
  • A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.
  • The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.
  • An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.
  • There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.
  • Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
  • The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.
  • Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
  • Seeing is not always believing.
  • We must use time creatively.
  • Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.
  • At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love.
  • A lie cannot live.
  • The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.
  • Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level. That’s the way the system works and since we know that the system will not change the rules, we are going to have to change the system.
  • Whatever your life‘s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.
  • We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.
  • Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.
  • History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.
  • The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man what will happen to me?“ But… The good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?“
  • He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.
  • Almost always the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.
  • Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.
  • Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.
  • Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace.
  • I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.
  • Means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.
  • Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.
  • A riot is the language of the unheard.
  • Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.
  • The nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.
  • Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control.
  • Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.
  • Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
  • The art of acceptance is the art of making someone who has just done you a small favor wish that he might have done you a greater one.
  • It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.
  • Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself.
  • The Negro needs the white man to free him from his fears. The white man needs the Negro to free him from his guilt.
  • Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them.
  • It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.

Given that the anniversary of the Women’s March is upon us and happening again, I thought it apt to include here the powerful words I saw printed on people’s signs at the first march – inspiring, truth-telling and insightful as they were…

Women’s March Signs: 1/21/17

  • America just went from a grown ass man in the White House to a toddler on Twitter
  • Humpty Trumpty: all the presidents men can’t put America together again
  • Our rights are not up for grabs & neither is my body
  • Make America think again!
  • Science is real
  • Real men don’t grab
  • You can’t comb over sexism and racism
  • Your swamp drain is clogged
  • Empathy not apathy
  • Thanks Trump you made me an activist
  • I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept
  • Never doubt that a small  group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has.
  • Feminism: the radical notion that women are people too.
  • No uterus –
    No opinion
  • Respect my existence or expect my resistance
  • We the people
  • If u cut off my reproductive choices, can I cut off yours?
  • The power of love will overcome the love of power
  • Men of quality don’t fear Equality
  • Hope dealer
  • To be great u must do good
  • A woman’s place is in the revolution
  • A Woman’s place is in the resistance
  • It takes a village to Trump   -ism (race, sex)
  • Greed = American carnage
  • Hear our voice
  • Imagine a nation where women’s rights are inalienable human rights
  • Girls just wanna have FUNdamental human rights
  • Prejudice + power = racism
  • It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness – Eleanor Roosevelt
  • We March forward – not backward
  • Make America Mexico again
  • Bernie Sanders: 2016(crossed out) 2020
  • We demand care not chaos
  • Power to the peaceful
  • Xenophobia is not a toy
  • We are the ones we’ve been waiting for
  • Don’t mess with my mommy
  • I can’t believe I still have to protest this fuckin’ shit!!
  • There will be hell toupee
  • We teach the 99% (NEA)
  • Women are the wall and Trump will pay
  • Make America empathize again
  • WTF
  • Everything is not fine
  • Up with empathy down w/ hypocrisy
  • Hands too small to build a wall
  • FREE hugs
  • Don’t play nice – fight back
  • Dear world – we are so sorry
  • 2 teachers + 1 engineer = 1 immigrant mom
  • We will over comb
  • We’re better than this / our children are watching
  • The emperor has no clothes – truth not tweets
  • This is what a scientist looks like
  • Keep your rage
  • Vivir sin miedo
  • White silence is violence
  • UGH!
  • Quit tweeting and start leading
  • Carefully watching our new temphire
  • A child holding up a sign: If you want a child in the White House vote for me in 2020
  • Yo no creo en fronteras
  • Make America love again
  • No importa de donde eres, estamos contentos que seas nuestro vecino.. no matter where you’re from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.

If you or someone you care about is having difficulty with finding meaning or facing insurmountable challenges please contact me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
(510) 482-4445


How to Bring Awareness to Your Cravings

Mindful awareness of cravings related to food and other addictions Manage your cravings rather than let them manage you

How often have you been lead astray by your cravings? Or maybe set off with good intentions or resolutions to break a bad habit, but can’t seem to get past your own cravings for something on the bad habit list?

It’s been holiday time and everyone has candy on their desk, or goodies laid out. You’ve been working (fighting hard actually) on not snacking or grabbing a handful of M&Ms every time you walk by, but it is oh-so-damn-hard. You try so hard to talk yourself out of it; try to ignore it; not give in again. You cajole yourself; you demand; you plead don’t do it. Then you bargain. Just this once. One little bite won’t hurt; you can do this. You may have resentment toward the people who put those goodies out, or toward the people who seem to walk by so easily and not be affected by the treats calling their name.

But something happens that you can’t quite even recognize. A moment passes so quickly and un-noticed. Pretty soon you’ve grabbed another donut; a sliver of chocolate cake; handful of M&Ms; another See’s chocolate, and scarfed it down. You’ve quieted that vicious battle within you, at least for a moment.

You feel the immediate pleasure, the satisfaction, the enjoyment of this delicious sweet thing –

and then it passes REALLY REALLY quickly. In a moment it’s gone and all that’s left is the wish for more – or the punishment, shame, anger with yourself that you gave in to your cravings – or worse, that you have cravings at all. You turn on yourself and think ugly things about yourself. You loathe yourself (which incidentally is actually the fuel for the next craving to arise).

What to do with your cravings if not fight them or indulge them?

Try bringing awareness to your cravings.

Bring kind attention to your cravings.

Turn toward those craving feelings rather than toward the desired item.

Notice the feeling of craving. Pay attention to where you feel it in your body – chest, stomach, shoulders, heart? And what does that particular craving for chocolate cake (or insert whatever craving here) feel like inside of you? Where do you feel it? How much space does it take up? Is there pressure, hollowness, heaviness, warmth, rumbling associated with it? Is there a body sensation that goes with craving? How would you rate its intensity on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being low)? Does it have color, size, dimension, shape?

Breathe into that…and breathe again.

And what emotions are there, associated with it? (Comfort, loss, shame, hunger, loneliness, longing, etc.) and what do those feelings feel like inside of you? Where in your body do you locate them? What’s their intensity, breadth, range?

At this time, if not sooner, you might feel like running, or giving in to the craving. It might be very difficult to simply let the craving be. You might feel the urgency of needing to satisfy that craving – that you might not be able to bear these feelings a moment longer…Easier to go for what you crave and put up with the disappointment in yourself that always comes up, than to allow yourself to really feel the sadness and disappointment that you might be feeling from that slight you experienced earlier. Or the sense of inadequacy and being unlovable that you’ve been carrying for much longer. You might feel your anxiety heightened…

See if you can just hold these feelings a moment longer. Breathe into them. Experience yourself bearing them. Just a moment longer. Check in where and how intense are they in your body. How would you rate the intensity at this moment?… And then at this moment? Breathe again…

Notice if the intensity has decreased even just a little.

How do you feel noticing your craving and paying attention to what you’re doing in response to the craving, rather than just giving into it? Maybe the intensity has peaked again – you’re at three instead of the one you were just at. You might’ve gone back into your head and left your body – thinking all those terrible things you think when you have a craving, or mentally punishing yourself for having the craving and for being who you are.

Bring yourself gently again back to your body. Drop into this place of simply being aware of the craving and feeling it and the associated feelings in your body. Move away from the storyline or negative thoughts you have going on in your head, while you are experiencing that craving. Allow yourself to go just below that craving that’s on the surface and that seems to want to direct your behavior.

Maybe there’s a hint of loneliness or sadness or boredom or inadequacy there. Maybe you’re missing someone or something, or feeling not enough. Maybe you’re feeling hurt and angry about some injustice done to you. See if you can have kindness about these emotions being present and simply allow them to be for a moment longer… And another moment again.

Notice your caring breath that you’re bringing to these uncomfortable feelings. See if you can notice what you might really be craving – like a hug or reassurance from someone, or validation for your feelings, or being seen and heard, or a sense that what you think and feel matters.

See if you can practice awareness, allowance, forgiveness of these feelings. Appreciate your craving for having brought to your attention these deeper feelings, and appreciate your awareness and witnessing of these feelings without necessarily acting them out. Let your cravings know they are not the boss of you.

By this time, that intense craving may have passed or lessened in its intensity. You have successfully let it be, and then pass, and it no longer has a strangle on you. Feel the empowerment of that experience; the resilience you have just built, the positive sense of yourself for having agency with your cravings and not letting them control you. Savor your capacity to choose your own behavior even when you have cravings.

I’ve talked here about cravings as related specifically to something sweet or foods we crave. You can practice this kind of mindful attention to your cravings with food and especially sweets (it’s been said that sugar is actually the gateway drug to all of our other addictions in life), but know that this kind of being with your cravings is not limited to food.

It can be helpful to bring this kind of awareness to other areas of life where you experience cravings (a glass of wine to help you unwind; particular behaviors you want from a partner or your child to prove they’re listening to you; needing to check social media and email on your device from the moment you wake up until you go to bed; shopping or spending more money than you have on something that you don’t need, etc).

Cravings usually arise from some sense of dis-ease or discomfort within us. Not being connected to our own sense of ease in the world (security, connection, belonging, mattering); and we long for something outside of ourselves to fill up or fix that dis-ease or emptiness. We usually crave something that we think will take that uncomfortable feeling away. And it might, but usually only on a temporary basis. Very temporary.

Try instead to fill up your cravings with the meaningful. Be with your cravings in a kind and intimate way, and they’re more likely to pass without causing harm.

If you or someone you care about needs some help in dealing with cravings in a meaningful way, and would like to feel freer from the negative thoughts and feelings that come with them, please contact me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
(510) 482-4445

New Year’s Intentions

I wish you many blessings and joys in the New Year

positive Intentions; mindful living; New Years intentions rather than resolutions

Happy New Year!

I wish you many blessings and joys in the new year…

As you are winding down 2017 and looking toward 2018, you may be reflecting on how the year was for you – maybe with relief to be done with it all; maybe with anticipation or dread about what lies ahead. You may be exhausted from all the activity, eager to pull in with some quiet time; or feel replenished and ready to start the new year with gusto.

You may have suffered heartache and loss in the last year, and/or completed some important projects or uplifting accomplishments for yourself. You may have quit (or lost) a job that was oppressive to you; or parented your kids through some very challenging times; or gotten married, or retired or started some other new phase of life – probably with mixed emotions along the way. Your world or that of someone you love may have been turned upside down with devastating fire, unimaginable violence, unprecedented hurricanes; or divorce, infidelity, health scares, debilitating mental illness, or the unbearable political climate.

Most likely your 2017 was quite a mixture of many rich moments that make up daily living – including highs and lows, strengths and vulnerabilities, joys and sadnesses, frustrations and triumphs, love and loss.

I hope you take the time to pause and reflect on whatever 2017 was for you, and notice the full spectrum of your experiences.

I also urge you to set intentions for yourself rather than resolutions for 2018. Intentions come from the heart and are gentler ways of getting yourself to live the life that matters to you. Setting intentions is more about connecting with your values rather than some wished for outcome. Intentions help you to align your daily living practices with what’s most important, and they don’t set you up for failure the way resolutions do… How many years have you made the same resolutions, only to fall off the path before February?

By setting intentions, you can always come back to them as gentle reminders about how you want to be in daily life. As in mindfulness, you can always come back to the breath as a reminder to be present, and you can always return to your intentions as a guide for daily living and start fresh each time. No need to give up on your resolution because you haven’t been able to be consistent with it. When you set an intention, you are creating a scaffolding that always helps you to go in the right direction.

Once you’ve allowed yourself to pause and pay attention to your breath for a few moments, some questions to ask yourself when setting an intention are:

  • What’s in my heart’s desire?
  • What is it that I value deeply?
  • Given whatever time I have left on this planet, how would I most like to live it?
  • What are the attitudes, beliefs, feelings that are important to me that I want to live more days than not?
  • Are my actions matching my values?
  • What in the depths of my heart do I wish for myself, my loved ones, and for the world?

Your intentions allow you to take an important first step toward deciding what you want to pay attention to, which helps you to stay focused and connected to a guideline for what you wish to include more of in your life. Set your best intentions to keep inclining in the direction you truly need to go.

Setting intentions requires deliberate articulation of a conscious goal and how you wish to achieve that. It’s not about living from a reactive stance or one that lacks consideration. Intentions are thoughtful and meaningful.

Often our resolutions are based on the shoulds of life, which ultimately tap into our resistance. An intention is a more positive and welcoming statement. Intentions set the tone and can influence our mood, thoughts, feelings. When there are gaps between our intentions and our behavior, it’s important to not judge ourselves to be self-critical, but simply to renew our intention.

Take a few moments to set your intentions for 2018; or better yet set an intention for each day… Something like Lee Lipp’s daily intention,

Today, may I be more mindful of my body, mind, and speech in my interactions with others. May, as far as I can, avoid deliberately hurting others. May I relate to myself, to others, and to the events around me with kindness, understanding and less judgment. May I use my day in a way that is in tune with my deeper values.”

Or something simpler like:

  • May I be kind today
  • May I be more non-judgemental in my daily interactions
  • May I consider something new today
  • May I practice road kindness rather than road rage
  • May I remember to compliment my loved ones
  • May I notice when I’m getting self-critical and offer myself another option
  • May I be with and feel my feelings a moment longer
  • May I pause every time I take the elevator
  • May I not berate myself so harshly
  • May I be reminded of and appreciate all that’s good
  • May I take the time to watch a spider spin a web; or to count the stars on a clear night.
  • May I set a daily intention
  • May I share more
  • May I laugh more
  • May I dance more
  • May I find something each day to take joy in
  • May I smile at my thighs, my belly, my gray hairs
  • May I find the beauty
  • May I just breathe more
  • May I walk with awareness
  • May I cultivate patience with my partner, my children, my co-workers
  • May I have more compassion for other people’s human-nesses .
  • May I play more
  • May I rollerskate, bike ride, splash in the ocean, blow bubbles, play games more
  • May I love what I have. May I need what I want. May I accept what I receive. May I give what I can.

Thank you for reading and sharing, and living with me in any way you have, over the last year. I look forward to continuing this shared journey. Many blessings to you and May your intentions be fulfilled tenfold in 2018…

I’d love to hear from you about what intentions might be most meaningful to you as you start the new year. Send me an email or post a comment.

If you or someone you love needs help to live more mindfully in the new year, or to heal from past loss and pain, please contact me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
(510) 482-4445