Category Archives: Coping

More Beautiful for Being Broken

Healing through times of loss


I’ve had an Idea Explosion this week; (like fireworks where each brilliant display sparks the next, bursting in the sky with sparkle and surprise), thanks to some deep involvement with a mastermind group I recently participated in. I’m not sure what’s given me more energy and creativity – that cohesion and support with my peers reminding me of who I am, or the fact that the sun has burst through the relentless clouds and has spectacularly framed the days.

Everything is brighter and more bearable somehow.

Spring has sprung, and with that many ideas. I’ve had a wonderful optimistic, energized, I-can-do-anything kind of mood and spirit.

One of the many gems of ideas I’ve had, came in the form of a poem that I wrote this morning for someone who is suffering profoundly. I was trying to offer solace and comfort on this anniversary of terrible trauma she’s so courageously faced.

I’d like to share it with you and offer some support to you, in the event you are struggling with loss, and not felt spring’s sprung for you, or haven’t had the delightful experience of a community that believes in you and your ideas:

Oh Beautiful Woman with Heart
Broken into a million pieces.
Slowly picking up the shards of life,
Rich with memory, and full of grace.
Sometimes cherishing; sometimes raging
At the ever-present and bittersweet heartbreak.
Tears of sorrow healing what has been shattered…
And like Kintsugi, mending with care of gold,
Becoming more beautiful for having been broken…

(Isn’t that beautiful? : Kintsugi, known as golden joinery or golden repair, is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. It’s treating breakage and repair as part of the history of an object rather than something to disguise or throw away. It’s an embracing of the flawed or imperfect or broken. The scars and cracks are as important as the whole. Once it’s repaired, and even in the repair process itself, it’s a new work of art, not blemished in any way.)

…And ready to be present in this next part of life, however, that might be.

May your own breakage and repair, your hurts and healing, your wounds and mending, be graced with the dusting of golden care, the warmth of community, and the gentle kisses of spring.

I’d love to hear from you. What’s the gold dust in your life that helps to smooth life’s jagged edges? Just hit reply and share your thoughts.

If you or someone you love is having a hard time picking up all the pieces from loss, grief, devastation, 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

Life is like a block of Swiss cheese

What do you do when you fall into a hole?


It started when I checked in, with my consultation group – stated my feeling of frustration and lamented about how hard it is to change my brain and live free of self-defeating thoughts. The same unkind thoughts that come up and replay over and over. I tried to change them but couldn’t. I had been feeling not good enough/unloved yet again – after a (minor transgression, really) hurt that I had experienced from someone I care about.

When I spoke it in the group I felt like I was just checking in honestly – acknowledging an awareness I had had about how stuck and pathetic I was feeling, and felt some relief just to articulate, say it. Having an awareness about a feeling is a little better than simply being overrun by that feeling. I also felt a little stupid and not as effective as my colleagues who always seem to have it all together. I thought I was speaking about something unique to just me.

But I was further uplifted to hear everyone else acknowledge in their check-ins that they too had self-defeating thoughts at times and they too struggled with how to deal with those.

We began talking about how life is like Swiss cheese… And I felt immediately understood – gotten. And oh yeah – not alone.

So often my clients tell me about some slip or dip they’ve had in their lives that brings them down. Ruminating about how they were feeling so good, but suddenly got caught off guard when their partner said something unkind; or when too many challenges piled up (being sick, tired, having a misunderstanding with their teen; not having enough time to have a conversation with a loved one, worrying about a sick coworker; and hearing of one more anti-immigrant sentiment expressed in the news, or another person of color who has been mistreated… Etc.) and they felt overwhelmed or inadequate; or feeling a pervasive sadness or irritation for seemingly no reason at all.

Sometimes they’ve eaten too much, or not eaten well; or not slept or not taken good enough care of themselves. Sometimes they’ve been crying too much, or raging too much, or feel hopeless or unmotivated. Sometimes they’ve been impatient with their kids and snapped at them. Sometimes they can’t seem to ever like themselves even though they’ve tried, or they’ve just had a long period of feeling some unwanted feeling (self-judgement, sadness, loneliness, vulnerability, heartache…) that they couldn’t shake or don’t know where it came from or what to do with).

These experiences remind me of Swiss cheese and how life is like a block of Swiss cheese.

Don’t you also think of Swiss cheese automatically, whenever you’re struggling with one (or several) of life‘s hardships? Let me explain…

We go along, feeling more less secure, intact in our lives. We have some good relationships, housing, families and friends we can choose to be with or not; a job, activities we enjoy. We’ve grown to feel mostly OK about ourselves, even if we don’t always take the best care of ourselves. That’s when we’re living on the structure, ridges, solid parts of the Swiss cheese.

And then, usually quite by surprise, we fall into one of those holes. Some holes are small, tiny, almost unnoticeable. Some are bigger and deeper. Suddenly we’re in the empty space of the Swiss cheese; the holes of life. It’s not just that Swiss cheese (life) is full of holes that is bad enough, but it’s what happens to our mind when we fall into those holes that really wreak havoc.

Typically we’ll experience a different state of mind when we fall into the holes. And sometimes one of those holes in the Swiss cheese leads to the next hole, to the next empty space, or to the next series of holes just like that.

Our state of mind shifts (or crashes) into being hurt, insecure, feeling unloved or not good enough like always when we slip into a hole. We might become distant or shut down, or hyperactivated; pessimistic; angered or very anxious. We get down on ourselves and can feel like pitiful examples of human beings. We may fall into old negative self-talk or those repetitive messages that always come up when we feel bad. We think we’ll never get it right; we’ll always be stuck.

Now Swiss cheese is actually pretty yummy. And the essence of it is that it’s full of holes. In fact, Swiss cheese has the right balance of cheese and holes so it still has flavor. The holes are what make it Swiss cheese. When people eat Swiss cheese, they don’t lament that the holes are there or that one hole is bigger than another. And maybe it’s the holes that actually hold up the cheese part, giving it definition, character, surround. Sometimes the slices are all holes… Sometimes it’s more firm. Sometimes a slice is rather lacy in design.

The holes in Swiss cheese come from bacteria that creates carbon monoxide bubbles that pop or from particles that get that process in motion. The holes in Swiss cheese are actually also called eyes. The holes are the identifier of the cheese – not a source of imperfection in the cheese. Turns out that the larger the eyes in the Swiss cheese, the more pronounced is the flavor. Although of course, cheese that has too many large eyes does not slice well and comes apart, so the size of the holes in the Swiss cheese are actually regulated in order to have the best cheese possible.

  • We all have self-defeating thoughts, criticisms, disappointments with ourselves and others. This is our default mode.
  • We all have some degree of difficulty when we fall into the holes of our Swiss cheese life. This usually takes place with a shift in our minds.
  • We all experience something in our bodies when our mind shifts (rapid breathing, heavy heart, tension in our necks or forehead, upset stomach, etc.). Our memories can even change.
  • We can soften the impact of falling into the holes of our Swiss cheese life: We can bring compassion to ourselves.
  • We can appreciate the “holes“ as what makes the Swiss cheese what it is. Maybe even see the holes as the foreground and not where something is missing. See the holes as what supports the structure of the cheese.
  • We can get out of the holes with kindness rather than making the holes bigger and losing the whole essence of the cheese.
  • We can see the holes as just another interesting hole, not a bottomless pit.
  • We might acknowledge the hole to someone who cares about us and feels instantly better by their sharing their Swiss cheese story also.
  • We might meditate our way out of a hole.
  • We might laugh at the absurdity of expecting we would never fall into another hole again.
  • We might notice that when caught in the middle of a hole in the Swiss cheese, that there is always some cheese nearby.
  • We might see the holes as what makes the Swiss cheese whole.

What happens when you fall into a hole in your Swiss cheese life? I’d love to hear from you about what you notice or how you get out (or stay in!) the hole. Just reply to this post.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with, in, or getting out of the (Swiss cheese) holes of 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

Heart Full Moments – September 2018

Help! Things have been so hard…

A monthly feature of “Listening with Heart” blog, sharing wise words, meaningful things read or good things found, to help warm your heart.

Coping with injustice, grief in a mindful and respectful way. Quotes of wisdom.

These are the most impactful quotes I have read or heard this month that give me pause or uplift my heart. Wisdom spoken in just a few words. They reflect what I’ve been reading or learning, or values I share, or what’s been going on in our world.

It’s been another very challenging month, and I know we each need some insight and encouragement to keep carrying on. I am happy to share these quotes – that speak to coping with injustice, compassion, respectful speech, grief, mindfulness and even a hero’s words – with you. Take a moment to go through them and maybe highlight a few that speak to you. Enjoy…

  • “We’ve got the gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard, or just think it’s gonna get on with itself. You gotta keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it…and nurture it.” – John Lennon
  • “The world is a shitty place and I’m not gonna make it worse.” – Alex Williams
  • “One must view the world through the eye in one’s heart rather than just trust the eyes in one’s head.” – Mary Crow Dog
  • “If you are neutral on situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu
  • “Interdependence: This is the practice of remembering that we are part of something larger than our individual selves—a karmic web of humanity—and what we do has impact.
  • Compassion: The practice of compassion is a weapon of mass healing.
  • Harmlessness: The practice of nonharming in body, speech, and mind is essential for respect and safety.” – Ruth King, Mindfulness of Race
  • “In my country, we go to prison first and then become president.” – Nelson Mandela
  • “What would your parrot say about your speech?” – Ruth King
  • “When we attend to the discomfort that kindles unwise speech, we discover that unwise speech is a habitual strategy that attempts to disguise the anxiety we are experiencing in the moment. Once we give kind attention to the impulses of our speech, we are more likely to uproot the habit of uttering unwise speech.” – Ruth King
  • “Real strength never impairs beauty or harmony, but it often bestows it; and in everything imposingly beautiful, strength has much to do with the magic.” – Herman Melville
  • “Two things to remember in life: take care of your thoughts when you are alone, and take care of your words when you’re with people.”
  • “Appreciation is the highest form of prayer, for it acknowledges the presence of good wherever you shine the light of your thankful thoughts.” – Alan Cohen
  • “Walk fearlessly into the house of mourning for grief is just love squaring up to its oldest enemy and, after all these mortal human years, love is up to the challenge.” – Kate Braestrup
  • “Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.” – Maya Angelou
  • This month, welcome the opportunity to share celebration, kindness, gratitude, and empathy with a heartfelt message. Peruse our free eCards, newly updated with fresh beauty and grateful sentiments. Make a difference – share your love and care. Enjoy our collection –
  • “Are you aware of any laws that give the government power to make decisions over a male’s body?” – Kamala Harris
  • “If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself; if you want to eliminate suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own transformation.” –Lao Tzu
  • “Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.” –The Dalai Lama
  • “Mindfulness meditation helps you say to yourself, ‘This is a feeling. It doesn’t define who I am and it’s not going to last forever.’” – David Creswell
  • “When the waves close over me, I dive down to fish for pearls.” – Masha Kaleko
  • “Joy is the gift of love. Grief is the price of love.” – Valarie Kaur
  • “If all eligible young women voted, you would have the power to determine EVERY. SINGLE. ELECTION.” – #IGNITETHEVOTE
  • “They say ‘this could ruin his life’; without acknowledging it already has ruined hers.
    They say ‘he was just a kid’ without acknowledging she was too.
    They say ‘it was just a few stupid minutes ‘ without acknowledging how those few minutes changed all of her years.
    They say ‘he doesn’t deserve this’ as if she does.
    They say ‘boys will be boys’ without realizing that denied this girl her girlhood.
    They say ‘he deserves better’ while implying she does not.” – Marisa Kabas
  • “I draw prayer round me like a dark protective wall, withdraw inside it as one might into a convent cell and then step outside again, calmer and stronger and more collected again.” – Etty Hillesum
  • “Apart from the assault itself, these last couple of weeks have been the hardest of my life. I have had to relive my trauma in front of the entire world, and have seen my life picked apart by people on television, in the media, and in this body who have never met me or spoken with me. I have been accused of acting out of partisan political motives. Those who say that do not know me. I am a fiercely independent person and I am no one’s pawn. My motivation in coming forward was to provide the facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life, so that you can take that into serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed. It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell the truth.” – Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Hero
  • May I be filled with lovingkindness.
    May I be safe from inner and outer dangers.
    May I be well in body and mind.
    May I be at ease and happy….
    May you be filled with lovingkindness.
    May you be safe from inner and outer dangers.
    May you be well in body and mind.
    May you be at ease and happy.” – Loving kindness practice

…So that’s this month’s short list of Heart-Full Moments that holds some meaning for me. I hope your month has been graced with compassion and reflection and that you might take a moment of pause to connect with what inspires you and replenishes your soul.

I’d love to hear back from you…what’s inspiring you these days? What’s meaningful that touches you? How are you coping? Just reply to this email.

If you or someone you care about is struggling to find moments of full-heartedness, 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