Category Archives: Mindfulness

Heart Full Moments August 2018

Keep on Keeping

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


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 what’s been going on in our world.

It’s been another 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 the challenge of creating good relationships, dealing with the unpleasant, truth and integrity, and even a little humor – with you. Take a moment to go through them and maybe highlight a few that speak to you. Enjoy…

  • “Always do the right thing even when no one is watching.”– Maui bathroom
  • “Listen without judgment. Talk without criticism. Put differences in reverence.” – Harville Hendricks
  • “Listening is the price you pay to be heard.”
  • “An amazing couple is one where only one person goes crazy at a time!” – Kohut
  • “The greatest challenge in life is discovering who you are. The second greatest challenge is being happy with what you find.”
  • “President Trump’s inner child is very wounded. He’s always looking for validation. He probably never felt good enough as a child. He needs love, compassion, joy.” – Deepak Chopra
  • “The most important thing I learned on retreat is how to find a deep and authentic care for both myself and others.” – teen iBme retreat participant
  • “The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • “If you can be with the pleasant without chasing after it, with the unpleasant without resisting it, and with the neutral without ignoring it – that is an incredible freedom.” – Rick Hanson
  • “This thought doesn’t serve me well. What could I think instead?” – Shari
  • “Some people feel intimate when they joke and laugh together. Some feel it sparring with one another in a playful way. Other people feel it much more sensuously, like when they’re taking a bath together or making love. Others feel intimate when walking side by side exploring ideas, talking philosophy or dreaming about future goals.” – Ellyn Bader
  • “Patriarchy damages both sexes” – Terry Real
  • “This is the essence of straight white privilege: to not have to worry that your neighbors will be violent toward you because of the color of your skin; to not have to assess each neighborhood for signs of racism or homophobia to make sure you and your children will be safe.” –
  • “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” — Oprah Winfrey
  • “Is she someone you find interesting?”:
  • “You will spend more time with this person than anyone else for the rest of your life,” Obama said, “and there is nothing more important than always wanting to hear what she has to say about things.”
  • “The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.” – Henry David Thoreau
  • “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” – Jane Goodall
  • “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
  • “Everyone is doing the best that they can with the resources they have.” – Hailey Magee
  • “You are not here merely to…make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” – Woodrow Wilson
  • “Healing from trauma is about regaining access to those parts of you that shut down in order to cope, and/or the things that trauma took away from you. Sometimes the reclaiming doesn’t work for you, but even the attempt can be empowering.“ “I can’t emphasize enough that “resolving“ trauma is not pretending it never happened, or going back to the way of life you had before the Traumatic incident. Resolving trauma is becoming aware of your coping mechanisms and triggers, and acting from conscious choice rather than automatic reaction’s.” – ‘Reclamation is a Part of Healing’ in Fierce Passions Blog by M’Kali-Hashik
  • “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” – Rumi
  • “I think over again my small adventures, my fears, those small ones that seemed so big, all those vital things I had to get and to reach, and yet there is only one great thing: to live and see the great day that dawns, and the light that fills the world.” – old Inuit song
  • “R-E-S-P-E-C-T
    Find out what it means to me
    Take care, TCB
    Oh (sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me)
    A little respect (sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me) Whoa, babe (just a little bit)
    A little respect (just a little bit)
    I get tired (just a little bit)
    Keep on tryin’ (just a little bit)
    You’re runnin’ out of fools (just a little bit)
    And I ain’t lyin’ (just a little bit)” – Aretha Franklin, Respect
  • “Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace.” – Barack Obama
  • “Soul: The deep place inside every human that gives us the power to overcome obstacles, care for those in need, and assert ourselves when our minds tell us we don’t have the energy or heart.” – Ted Perry
  • “What I know for sure is that you feel real joy in direct proportion to how connected you are to living your truth.” – Oprah Winfrey
  • “Freedom is not given to us by anyone; we have to cultivate it ourselves. It is a daily practice.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
  • “If I had my life to live over again, I would ask that not a thing be changed, but that my eyes be opened wider.” – Jules Renard
  • “When we can sit in the face of insanity or dislike and be free from the need to make it different, then we are free.” – Nelson Mandela
  • Walls and Bridges: interesting conversations about race, politics, gender, immigration, extremism, etc. Definitely worth listening to here.
  • We all need some fun to lighten our load and lift our spirits. Check out this video of ten hilarious easy and cool party games. These would be great to play with your family too, and believe it or not – are actually mindful practices disguised as fun!
  • “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” – E.B. White

…So that’s this month’s short list of Heart-Full Moments that has 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 nourishes your soul.

I’d love to hear back from you…what’s inspiring you these days? What’s meaningful that touches you? 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

Best Tips for Dealing with Back to School Stress

Suggestions for easing Your Teen’s Mind

back to school stress; therapeutic activities for teens; calming resources.

Wow! Once again summer has raced by and back to school time is upon us. It seems that kids have to get back to school earlier and earlier every year, which sometimes seems to correlate to the time when it actually gets hotter and hotter.

Getting back to school can be stressful for the student who has enjoyed sleeping in a bit (it seems that the early hour that we start school really is not conducive particularly to Teens’ natural wake up rhythm). Or to the student who is starting high school, or just having concerns about new teachers, a new schedule, wondering if they’ll have friends, or feeling scared about all the work coming. Kids experience stress in response to the social dynamics at play with classmates, bullies, social media, and the socio-cultural-racial (and racist) world we live in.

Even if kids are excited to get back to school and looking forward to reconnecting with friends, they can experience stress as they make the change in their routine.

Of course, the stress can also be felt by the parents who have to get their kids back into an ‘early wake-up and get out the door quickly’ routine, and who have to deal with the frustrations or low energy or struggle that comes up about doing homework and other school-related projects. Or who are faced with fear and unease as they send their kids into potentially hostile and unsafe environments, that lack diversity or sensitivity to those kids’ needs.

Some parents may be happy to be back into the school routine and out of the challenging ‘summer time I’m bored’ routine, but as with any change (desired or not), there is some related stress as each person has to adapt to the new.

It’s important to remember that any change brings about some stress and we need to be mindful of that and make some room for the variety of responses to stress that can occur in ourselves and in our family (irritability, quick temper, tiredness, tearfulness, difficulty sleeping, restlessness, drama, grouchiness, withdrawal, intensified anxieties and worries, needing to talk a lot, sullenness, etc).

Here are some potentially fun and lighthearted ways to help your kids and teens to manage the back to school stress that they might be feeling. These are tools that your kids can learn and do, in order to be more present and therefore better able to deal with school and home life stress that is inevitable:

  • Play the game of sounds – that is, write down for a few moments all the different sounds that you can hear. Your teen can do this by himself, or you can do it together and see who hears the most sounds, or take turns and go from one to the next person naming the sounds that you hear.
  • Counting sounds – when you first arrive somewhere and you feel a little anxious, your teen can count the first 5 to 10 sounds that they hear. This can help them to settle in and get comfortable.
  • For an entertaining video that illustrates the point of going from our fight/flight/freeze response (which happens automatically whenever we feel threatened) to feeling more at peace, watch “The Fly“ on YouTube. It demonstrates that what we resist persists, and helps us to be more accepting of whatever is – which allows the hard stuff to actually pass more easily.
  • Listen to music. Have your teen identify a favorite song that makes them feel happy, sad, anxious, mad, etc. When listening to music they can listen for any silence that happens during the song or they can listen for one particular instrument only.
  • They can use a breath ball, opening it as they breathe in and closing it as they breathe out. Count to four in, pause for the count of four, breathe out and count to four, and then pause for a count of four again. Keep repeating this. This helps to calm down any anxiousness. They can also breathe in thinking “I’m giving myself a hug,” and then breathe out thinking “I’m giving the whole world a hug.”
  • The important thing is to build in purposeful pauses throughout their day, where they simply take a deep breath and check in with themselves to see how they’re feeling emotionally and physically, and to be kind to themselves, however they are.
  • Do a mountain or lake visualization. When breathing in, say to yourself ‘I see myself as a mountain. Breathing out I feel strong and solid.’ They can visualize a tree or an animal or someplace that holds meaning for them and that they connect to a sense of calm.
  • Parachute or scarf breathing. Toss a light scarf into the air and breathe in, and then allow yourself to breathe out at the same rate as the scarf as it falls.
  • You and your teen can align your breath with each other and be a mindful mirror. Change your breath to mimic theirs. Let them vary their own breath any way they like, and you follow. Then switch.
  • You might have mindful minutes with them by drawing with your finger on their back and having them guess what you’re drawing.
  • Encourage them to have every interaction of a day be meaningful.
  • Set limits on device use and screen time. Have designated tech-free areas in your home, or times in your week. Put your devices down too. Let alerts and reminders be reminders to be grateful about something or check in with your body.

All of these suggestions are tools to help be more mindful that are useful for your teen, as they’re getting back to school, as well as for yourself as you are adjusting to the next routine in your daily lives. Being mindful is about being present in the moment and paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, without judgment. Being mindful to your immediate experience helps to create more sense of calm and ease with whatever you are facing.

I’d love to hear from you. What’s helpful to you or your teen as you deal with back to school stress? What are some tricks you might have for creating calm in the midst of the storm?

If you or a teen that you care about is having difficulty making adjustments to changes in routine or dealing with adolescent issues, or you’d like more help with parent-teen interactions, please contact me for a parenting or teen 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

Best Tips for Making Your Relationship More Secure

When we feel safe in our relationships, we can have more closeness and trust

Learning how to calm yourself can help build security in your couple relationship.

When we feel safe in our relationships, we can have more closeness and trust.

Often, we come into our relationships expecting that OUR PARTNERS are the ones who will make us feel safe and secure. We have the fantasy or wish that THEY will respond to our needs in positive ways, and THEY will be trustworthy, and THEY will be supportive no matter what we’re going through; that THEY will communicate clearly and understand us when we don’t.

It might come as a difficult realization to find out that our partners have the same wishes from us: that WE will be able to control our reactions so they can feel comfortable; that WE will be able to communicate our needs in a way that doesn’t overwhelm them; that WE will be available and supportive and affectionate in just the right ways whenever they are feeling stressed; that WE will read their minds and know just what they need, when; and WE’LL be able to prioritize their needs over our own.

We might forget that a relationship really is the creation of two people 100% and it’s never just one partner who should take on the lion’s share of the responsibility or who is the only one needing to make changes. Both people in a relationship contribute to the sense of safety (or discomfort) that is felt by themselves internally, and that felt by the partner.

I talk to so many couples who get caught in a terrible cycle of reactions that don’t feel good to either one of them, and that seems to lock them into some repeated pattern of poor communication, or who immediately feel the need to defend themselves or react intensely from what has hurt them. Many of these couples are needing a sense of safety in the relationship but have been ineffective in bringing that about.

Usually, when we are in a reactionary mode it doesn’t bode well for how the rest of the communication can go. When we feel unsafe or threatened we are reactionary and not thoughtfully responsive. We try desperately to get safe from the feeling of being rejected or hurt or pulled away from, or having somebody be angry with us. We do whatever it takes to protect ourselves, and unfortunately, this is often hurtful or aggressive toward or withdrawing from our partners.

What we often don’t remember is that our actions and reactions to our partner contribute as much as their actions and reactions do, to the wellbeing and feeling in these important relationships. We may be making our partner feel unsafe and anxious by the way that we express our emotions, or react to something they’ve opened up about, or when we pull away or come in too close in a demanding or critical way. We think that’s the way we should be because they have come at us in bad ways also, and we don’t want to be hurt again ( or taken advantage of, or dismissed, etc).

The good news is we can also impact the cycles of communication in a positive way and we can actually be creative and resourceful about bringing safety into the relationship. There are things that we can do that can create more an environment of comfort and security, that will contribute to our partner feeling safer in a relationship with us, and therefore not being so reactive with us, and so we can feel safer with them. We can take responsibility for the tone of our interactions, and actually enhance the connection that we have with our partner.

Here are a few suggestions for how to create a sense of safety within yourself, and a safe space for your partner and the relationship, and it goes without saying, it will be better for the both of you.

Don’t threaten that you will leave or that you can’t take it anymore. It is very stressful and not enhancing of a relationship to live with the uncertainty of wondering if your partner will stick around. Commit instead to not leaving, and to being there while you work on things. Even when things get hard and you think the only way to get through this is to leave. Greater willingness to stay present actually brings about more freedom and allows one to live with more security and safety.

Do the ‘Welcome Home’ exercise whenever you’re reconnecting or one person is coming home or you’re seeing each other after being apart. This rebalances a sense of safety with each other to deal with the stress, demands or distractions that do come up. To do the ‘Welcome Home exercise’, whenever somebody enters the door, stop what you’re doing and give a full body embrace or hug and hold onto each other for a few seconds, until you feel your partner physically relaxing. This re-stimulates the connected warm secure feeling we had as babies with our caretakers and restores our sense of security in the world.

Take a few moments to gaze into each other’s eyes at least once a week. This also resets the body and sense of safety that you feel. Really look at and notice whatever you see in each other‘s eyes. Hold a warm gaze and convey your appreciation or love for your partner through your eyes only. Again, this repeats important bonding that occurred when we were babies and helps us to feel loved and safe, from the inside out… If you didn’t experience this as a child, it’s not too late to begin experiencing the secure feeling this provides as an adult, and the healing that can come from this.

Be present with each other. You don’t have to discuss anything but be fully present together. Notice mentally and then out loud what you’re experiencing in your senses, emotions, body sensations, thoughts. Listen to sounds together. Maybe do a walking meditation together where you are both attentive to the experience of walking each step, and of doing that together.

Try to get to know your partner from a new perspective. Notice his or her mannerisms, body posture, reactions, facial expressions, signs of hunger or anger or tiredness or other emotion. Approach your partner with curiosity while trying to become an expert on their behavior by noticing subtleties and nuances about them. Especially look at the things you think you know so well about your partner, with new eyes. Approach your partner with curiosity in order to understand more what it feels like to be them, not through your lens as much as from their perspective.

New experiences can help to build attraction for someone. Even in your long-term relationship, you might be able to have increased experiences of novelty and share that excitement with each other. You might walk in a new neighborhood, or try out a new activity. When you do something you enjoy, tap into the good feeling that comes up in those new situations to spark enthusiasm for each other – acknowledge how happy, excited, interested, blessed you feel being with each other. Call your partner when you’re thinking of him or her in an exciting way. Tap into those feelings of excitement when you try novel experiences and direct a similar level of enthusiasm to your partner.

Do a writing exercise meant to clear the clutter before having a discussion about something potentially difficult. Both of you take a moment to acknowledge and write down your immediate stressors, your distracting thoughts, what you notice about your breath, and what you notice about any body sensations. Taking 5 minutes to write this down will help clear away the “noise” allowing for a clearer and more present conversation to be had with your partner.

In order to calm yourself and make yourself safely available (before things get too heated, or even in the moment of noticing that stress is still present) try some diaphragmatic breathing where you take slow deep breaths in and intentionally fill up the lower half of your lungs, and hold your breath a few seconds before exhaling even more slowly. A calm breath leads to a calm heart and better performance in the art of relating. Diaphragmatic breathing slows the heartbeat, helps to disengage from distracting thoughts and sensations, and promotes internal quieting and relaxation. This creates a safe space for each of you.

Another calming breath: Try breathing in through your nose to the count to five. Then hold for a count of five. Then breathe out through your nose for a count of five. And repeat five times. This kind of breathing is always available to you in whatever your circumstances are. You have the power to create calm and safety within you and to impact the sense of security that both of you have in your relationship.

So I’d love to hear from you. What do you notice brings security and trust to your relationship? What are things that you are aware of that can make the level of safety better or worse?

If you or someone you care about is having difficulty finding or bringing safety into your relationships, please call me for a couples 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 July 2018

What has touched you this month?

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


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. It’s been another 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 the challenge of managing our anger, feeling our pain, and carrying our hope – with you. Take a moment to go through them and maybe highlight a few that speak to you. Enjoy…

  • “Let’s be wise and not go about acting out our anger, but instead act upon the wisdom of our anger.” – Amber Ray
  • “Unlike self-criticism which asks if you are good enough, self-compassion asks what’s good for you.” – Kristen Neff
  • “Deference is different from unquestioning acceptance,” Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, blasting the majority opinion. She made the rare move of reading her dissent from the bench and closed with an ad lib: “History will not look kindly on the court’s decision today — nor should it.”
  • We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Zeno
  • “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic to the striving and tolerant of the weak and the strong, because someday in life, you will have been all of these.“ – George Washington Carver
  • “Sometimes I go about pitying myself when all the while I’m being carried by great winds across the sky.“ – Ojibwa saying
  • “To this day I believe we are here on Earth to live, grow, and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.” – Rosa Parks
  • “Until we extend the circle of compassion to all living things, we will not ourselves find peace.” – Albert Schweitzer
  • “I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all, I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” — Agatha Christie
  • “Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi
  • “We live in a time when science is validating what humans have known throughout the ages: that compassion is not a luxury; it is a necessity for our well-being, resilience, and survival.” – Roshi Joan Halifax
  • “I know what happens when children are separated from their families. They collapse into themselves and try to become as small as an atom, infinitely divided. They fold their sorrow over and over again – hoping that by taking up less space they may create room for their families to rejoin them.” – Marcela Rodriguez-Campo
  • “In appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something truly sacred.” – Fred Rogers
  • “We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what,” the Thai navy SEALs posted on Facebook. “All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave.”
  • “Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay.” — Dalai Lama
  • “Separating children from their parents contradicts everything we stand for as pediatricians — protecting and promoting children’s health,” reads a statement from AAP president Dr. Colleen Kraft. “We can and must do better for these families. We can and must remember that immigrant children are still children; they need our protection, not prosecution.”
  • Writer Dell Cameron, who was sent to foster care during a custody battle, notes that workers at such centers often have no understanding of the children they’re caring for. When these kids inevitably act out as a response to their emotional stress, they are punished. “Hope is what I lost as a child. It was destroyed by the state,” Cameron wrote. “Detaining children when parents love them and want them is a crime against humanity.”
  • “We all want to be happy. So if you want to be happy, be grateful. Gratefulness is the key to happiness.“ – Br. David Steindl-Rast
  • Paying attention is an ongoing act of reciprocity, the gift that keeps on giving, in which attention generates wonder, which generates more attention—and more joy. Paying attention to the more-than-human world doesn’t lead only to amazement; it leads also to acknowledgment of pain. Open and attentive, we see and feel equally the beauty and the wounds, the old growth and the clear-cut, the mountain and the mine. Paying attention to suffering sharpens our ability to respond. To be responsible.” – Dr. Robin Wall-Kimmerer
  • “Turns out that their coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, who led them on a hike into the cave when it flooded on June 23, trained in meditation as a Buddhist monk for a decade before becoming a soccer coach. According to multiple news sources, he taught the boys, ages 11 to 16, to meditate in the cave to keep them calm and preserve their energy through their two-week ordeal.” – Eliza Barclay
  • “In meditation, “you’re cultivating [peace, kindness, clarity] so you can offer it to others. When you sit with someone who’s calm, you can become calm. If you sit with someone who’s agitated and hateful, you can become agitated and hateful.” – Brother Phap Dung
  • “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Henry David Thoreau
  • “The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.” – Henry Boyle
  • “I sat with my anger long enough, until she told me her real name was grief.”
  • “Fear does not prevent death. It prevents life.“ – Church billboard
  • “We don’t know what life will bring, so it is what we bring to life that matters.” – Patricia Campbell Carlson
  • “In a time of destruction, create something: a poem, a parade, a community, a school, a vow, a moral principle; one peaceful moment.” -Maxine Hong Kingston
  • “This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.” – Maya Angelou

So that’s this month’s short list of Heart-Full Moments that has 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 nourishes your soul.

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


Best Tips for Getting Better Sleep

Sleep is your friend

IMG_8172 (1).jpg

This morning I woke up to an amazing sunrise. There was a beautiful orange ball surrounded by strata of clouds of many shades of grey, pink, mauve, gold. It was absolutely breathtaking.

The first words out of my mouth (actually in my head) were “Good morning new day! I awake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for this beautiful sunrise, and for another day of loving and living.” The sunrise was so incredible it reminded me of this morning practice that I like to do but had not been consistent with lately. Wow!

What a good way to start the day. I love this time of year when waking up correlates with when the sun comes up even if I have set my alarm for a later time. Today this gave me extra time to do my morning routine and morning meditation practice…

But it also made me notice that I felt especially sleepy.

I must admit, I have been burning the candle at both ends, waking up when with the sun rises but not going to bed until hours after midnight. I try to get my business work done late at night when it’s quiet and I’m not interrupted, but more often than not, this means that my head is bobbing as I try to send emails, and my finger gets stuck on a key creating nonsensical words, or I accidentally move things around in my phone calendar, or I come near slithering out of my chair because I keep nodding off. Not really good for getting any good work done!

Then I heard an interview today with Matthew Walker, who wrote a book last year called ‘Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams’. He is the director of the UC Berkeley Center for Human Sleep Science. I listened with peaked interest, knowing the importance of sleep, and knowing that I may be shortchanging myself with a regular dose of short sleep hours. Let’s just say I learned a lot about sleep or the lack thereof, and its impact on our lives.

Of course, during that talk about sleep, I heard some startling facts that I hadn’t realized before about sleep. Walker reports, and backs it up with evidence, that shortened sleep correlates with a shortened life. GASP!! I really don’t want to contribute to anything that potentially shortens my life! Especially if I’m not getting anything done anyways, in those wee hours around midnight.

Also, there’s a pretty strong relationship between lack of sleep and the development of Alzheimers. As a client said to me recently, “I need all the brain power I can get – I don’t have too much extra as it is, to spare”! My thoughts exactly.

AND, Walker mentioned that coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world! A pretty powerful indicator about how we are trying as a society to fight the need for sleep or the sense of sleepiness that many of us are overwhelmed by, and live with daily.

Here are some facts and good things to know about how Sleep or lack of sleep affects us:

  • Sleeping pills and medication create more of a sense of sedation rather than the healthy sleep that we need.
  • You can’t catch up on the weekend for lost sleep during the week. It just doesn’t work that way. You forever lose the benefits of a full amount of sleep on a regular basis.
  • REM sleep or rapid eye movement sleep is really important for one’s mental health.
  • Sleep is really good for our memory – it helps us to remember things. And it also clears up storage space. It acts as a clutter removal, it gets rid of things that aren’t so important. It removes the “noise“.
  • When we’re awake, we do information collection and reception, gathering and analysis of that information. When we’re asleep, we do more reflection, which improves the integration and consolidation of all of that information.
  • Melatonin is a hormone naturally released when it gets darker, which then helps the process of sleep to begin. It doesn’t make us sleepy per se, but facilitates the wind-down process that needs to occur for good sleep to happen.
  • Caffeine works to block the sleep pressure process that makes us tired, that naturally builds during the day. So it attempts to trick that system but it ends up making us more tired.
  • We suffer cognitive decline when we don’t sleep enough.
  • Many of our diseases (diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s) are made worse by a chronic lack of sleep (less than six hours a night).
  • Chronic lack of sleep ages our reproductive systems by about 10 years.
  • Our lymphatic system is the sewage system of our body. The brain has its own sewage system as well and it works to clear stuff, out especially during deep sleep. It removes a toxic protein that is often found to be underlying in Alzheimer’s. The thing is, the more of this toxic protein that you have, the less you’re able to sleep and the less you’re able to sleep, the more this toxic protein builds up.
  • We do a disservice to our kids and teens by making them start school so early when their natural circadian rhythm is wired to wake up later and perhaps go to bed later. (Not to mention the havoc wreaked on their brains when they sleep with their phones, or text all night – but that’s another blog post!)
  • Better sleep affects the quality of your relationships.
  • Stage four sleep brain waves are similar to being in a coma (no dreaming here and you may not even be able to feel pain during this time of sleep). This lasts about 30 minutes max in a sleep cycle.
  • Fatigue increases auto accidents and medical errors. The Monday after daylight savings time change in the US there are increases in the number of heart attacks and car crashes.
  • Insomnia is taking too long to fall asleep or waking up for a prolonged period during the night.
  • The first part of the brain affected by no sleep is the prefrontal cortex, which is where our decision-making and problem-solving happens. It makes us more irritable, moody, irrational and decreases our cognitive functioning.
  • Sleep reinforces memory. The brain curates what to keep and what to toss. Sleeping soon after a major event or ordeal can turn those experiences into long-term memories.
  • Sleep is important for the preservation of life itself. It’s universal in every animal.
  • Sleep is necessary for a healthy immune system, to regulate our moods, maintains our blood pressure, and allows us to recover from injuries.
  • Maybe sleep is even more essential than food – many animals will die of sleep deprivation before starvation.
  • Good sleep decreases the risk of developing dementia. 

And here are some best tips for getting better sleep:

  • Make sure the room is dark.
  • Have regularity in your schedule, which means go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day, whether it’s weekend or travel time or workdays.
  • Keep the temperature relatively cool, between 65 to 68°.
  • Don’t stay in bed if you’ve been awake.
  • No caffeine after 2 PM or alcohol nightcap.
  • It’s recommended that we get eight hours of sleep (some others say seven hours per night) which means creating the opportunity for eight hours, which means being in bed for longer than that.
  • There is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia that has proven to be very effective for people who have prolonged difficulty sleeping.
  • Remember, Sleep is not the adversary. No need to diminish it, avoid it, put it off, try to get out of it, feel ashamed that you need it, or see it as the thing that gets between you and your work.
  • When you have a problem or decision to make, it’s actually good to sleep on it. A whole different kind of healthy processing actually takes place when you’re sleeping.
  • When we can’t sleep at night it’s better to get out of bed and go into a dim room and read (no devices or screens) until feeling tired again. Otherwise the brain begins to associate the bed with being awake.
  • An even better way to deal with lack of sleep at night is to meditate!
    See these article for more tips about using mindfulness to help you sleep: Turning Your Worries Into Blessings and Anxiety and Panic in the Middle of the Night

So, I was reminded that getting enough sleep is an essential part of our self-care practice, and it is pretty central to our physical, social, and mental health, and to our emotional well being. It really is not something to take lightly because the potential negative consequences can be substantial and far-reaching.

We seem to have an epidemic of poor sleep going on, with the excessive demands on our time, the availability of and expectation to be in “connection” 24/7 with our devices, the overload of information coming at us that we don’t have time to fully absorb, and intensified by the complex and troubling goings on in our world today.

The good news is that by being more mindful about how we ready ourselves for sleep and how we embrace it into our lives, we can create environments and spaces that are more conducive to sleeping better and feeling and BEING better. With intention, we can take better care of ourselves and build our resilience so we can more effectively handle the next batch of waves of overwhelm, struggle or pain that we encounter.

I wish you many sleep-filled nights that are long enough and deep enough, and restorative to you as you continue on your journey of working, parenting, being in relationships and living fully.

If you or someone you love is losing sleep and feeling the worry, exhaustion or sense of depression about that, 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

Three Simple Tips for Calming Yourself Down in a Hot Mess World

Wishing you the balm of calm


I hope you’ve been able to enjoy some downtime this summer and that you’ve been able to participate in gatherings of your liking with people that you care about and enjoy being with. Hopefully, you’ve had some time to appreciate the warmth of the outdoors without the discomfort of too much heat (internally or externally!).

I hope you’ve had a chance to play around a little, maybe have a lighter schedule, maybe get to the ocean or mountains and experience their summertime glory.

My niece was just telling me about all the cool things she got to do while away at teen camp, and it sounded like so much fun, and brought back great memories of having all that freedom, and all those deep connections that get bonded during summer camp.

I think adults should have summer camp also, where you get to try new things, build new teams, laugh and play games, and run around carefree. We all need that kind of a break from the busyness and challenges of being responsible adults all year long.

Sometimes that can be in the form of a vacation. I hope you can or have taken a vacation and experienced a little respite, waking up on your own internal clock, and had a chance to just breathe.

I know though, that even if you have taken a vacation, or gone to summer camp this summer,  that you probably still feel stress at different times. Maybe realizing your summer is more than halfway over, or not having had much of a summer break at all, or having challenges at work that keep ramping up the pressure on you, or trying to keep your kids occupied through what feels like an already too long summer, or arguing with your partner while on vacation, or dealing with a myriad of microaggressions and the negativity of racism in your daily life.

To help you feel a little more calm when you are faced with different stressors, I’ve put together a nine-minute video for you that describes three practices you can use to calm yourself down in your life when you’re starting to feel the stress build. Wouldn’t you like to feel more at ease or have access to something that can put you more at ease the next time you have to deal with something stressful?

You can check them out here.     Tips for calm- video

There are three practices that wouldn’t take you more than two minutes each to give yourself a dose of calm balm. I hope you enjoy them and that they are helpful to you.

Here’s the video again:         Tips for calm- video

I’d love to hear how these tips for more calm work for you. Let me know what situations you might find them useful in.

May you be blessed with some downtime out there, so you can take some time to have calm time on the inside. Take good care.

If you or somebody you care about is having difficulty finding the calm in their lives,  Or managing the stress, 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

Best Tips for Mindfully Parenting Your Teen

Be the kind of parent you aspire to be (and maybe wish you‘d had)


Parenting teenagers can be really hard and often times ungratifying. (I know that’s not really a word, but you know what I mean – sucky, or just not getting any of your wishes met and not being gratified in any way as a parent. Disheartening and displeasing.)

The challenges and negativity can feel relentless. Aggravating. So tiresome. Endless, and you know, just ungratifying…

But you know in your heart of hearts it doesn’t have to be this difficult. You know you’re a good parent, and you’ve got a good kid…If only she could be more responsible, or he could have less attitude…

Maybe you’ve had one too many conflicts with your teenager this summer and you feel pretty exasperated at this point. You are so sick and tired of repeating the same lectures to him or her, over and over, and getting no cooperation. Your teenage child has made another bad decision (not turned in school work, gotten poor grades, picked on their younger sibling relentlessly, lied or distorted the truth about where they were, not cleaned up after themselves, hung out and gotten in trouble with friends who are bad influences, not taken responsibility for negative behaviors, etc.).

Or maybe you feel really wounded by their ugly attitude or the obnoxious disrespect that they seem to freely throw your way. Your feelings are mostly hurt, but actually, that just makes you feel madder at them. It sucks to be not appreciated for all that you do and then raged at on top of that. You may wonder (or resent) ‘How can they be so ungrateful when they have so much, and I work so damn hard?’

You are so tempted to throw your hands up and pull away so they can see for themselves once and for all, the difficulty or how hard it is to take care of themselves. You are no longer interested in being the parent because it’s so unrewarding and maddening most of the time. You have fantasies of banishing them from your household and letting them fend for themselves, never to bother you again and figuring it out on their own. They have let you down so many times.

You may be struggling with your own bitterness, anger, frustration, disappointment and feel like those negative feelings are causing you lots of stress and eating you alive. You know It’s not good for your health to be marinating in these feelings day after day. You can’t stand feeling like this.

Well, the good news is that it is possible to move through this time of discontent. This too shall pass.

The bad news is that you can’t make it go away instantaneously. So, to make it a little gentler and bearable on you (the person who wants to parent more positively), I have a few suggestions…

The main thing is to be mindful of your feelings, thoughts, actions. Strive to be responsive rather than matching your teen’s reactivity.

First, honor your own feelings. Do a RAIN practice for yourself:

Recognize what you’re feeling (discouragement, rage, sadness, fear)

Allow those feelings to simply be present. This is what is right now.

Investigate with kindness. What’s underneath these feelings? How are you treating yourself about these feelings? What does this feel like? Get to know your feeling rather than dismiss it.

Nurture whatever is needed. Maybe place a warm hand on your heart and breathe in kind attention.

Find a positive way to express your emotions. Or take a break and breathe until you are calmer and ready to talk. Know the damage that kids can go through to be the recipient of those negative feelings that too often might be expressed in a negative way (feeling not liked, not good enough, disconnected, angry – which inevitably goes inward in a self-destructive way, or outward in an aggressive other-destructive way.)

Do your best to remember that your teen’s anger or unappealing behavior is partly a cover-up for some shame or sorrow that he’s feeling inside, but can’t adequately articulate. And remember that grownups are like that too.

Here are some questions to reflect upon for yourself as you try to feel better about your parenting and try to improve the harmony in the household. It’s important to take some time and maybe even journal the answers to these questions, to give yourself time for consideration, before engaging in another argument with your teenager. Remember, the time you invest in tending to and having compassion for your own feelings and experiences will be meaningful in having more understanding and ease in your relationship with your teen.

  • What are you proudest of in your parenting?
  • What are your strengths as a parent?
  • What’s the last time you felt like you were being the kind of parent you wanted to be, and felt close to your child? What was going on?
  • What’s hard for you in parenting (or step-parenting)?
  • What kind of relationship do you aspire to have with your teen? What kind of parent do you have to be to have that? Make that your intention.
  • What was your relationship like with your parents when you were a teen? Are you close to one or the other of your parents? Yes, or no, what impacted that?
  • What do you appreciate and/or resent that your parents did, that helped you or hurt you?
  • When did you first notice you felt disappointed by your teen?
  • What are you aware of, about yourself that makes you not so easy to live with? And how have you tried to change or improve upon that?
  • What are your hopes for this teen? What are your fears?
  • What would you most love to hear from him/her?
  • What do you wish he understood better about you?
  • How do you make apologies, or like to be apologized to? How would you prefer to be approached by your teen?
  • What kind of support do you need to be a happier parent?

After spending some time checking in with yourself about your feelings around parenting, consider these tips:

  • Don’t come AT your child/teen. Try to come alongside him or her.
  • Don’t be a lie–invitee. Make it safe to express vulnerability, making mistakes, confusion.
  • Love the child you have and don’t punish him for not being the child you wish you had.
  • Listening deeply builds an open heart; it humanizes your teen.
  • Look at what you might be doing that’s contributing to the problem.
  • Reflect thoughtfully on how you were raised and see how much of that you want to repeat.
  • When you shame a child, it makes his anger grow (inwardly or outwardly). Pay attention to the words coming out of your mouth or your actions that might be shaming her.
  • Take care of your own self so you can be your best self when doing the hard work of parenting and not make things worse. Try to do no harm.
  • Give reasonable “punishment“ for the crime. Give an opportunity to earn privileges back, by acting responsibly and humanely.
  • Kids lie because they feel they’ve lost the connection (lost the feeling of being loved; or they want to appear good so they won’t lose your love; or they’ve lost some sense of security in who they are) – Acknowledge how hard and courageous it is to tell the truth. Check in with your own distortions of truth. Ask how you can help them to own their truth, even when it’s uncomfortable.
  • Show them how to, and model yourself healthy ways of handling discomfort (not self-medicating or zoning out; yes, articulating their feelings, asking for support, being in nature, having compassion, not believing thoughts, building resilience, pausing so they can calm themselves down, etc).

So thank you for reading this far. That means that even though you might be feeling frustrated, you have not given up on your teen, or on yourself. Clearly, you have it in you to keep being the good and courageous parent that you are.

I’d love to hear what your thoughts are about how to parent your teen and not lose your own sanity. It’s really important work that you’re doing and you deserve kind awareness about that.

If you or someone you care about is struggling in parenting or being parented, please contact me for a parenting or adolescent 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

Best Tips for Hope During Heavy Times

I’m at a loss for words, and my heart it hurts

“I’m at a loss for words, and my heart it hurts. Things going on in this world so absurd – Mr. President tell me what’s the word?”

mindfulness when you are angry and sad about world events helps the healing.

These words are from Landon McNamara’s song “Loss for Words” which is about the grief experienced by witnessing all the violence going on in the world. But I find it equally applicable to what’s going on right now. Here we are in another time of unfathomable trauma and heartache going on in our country and many are struggling to find the words to express the complex and difficult feelings that we are experiencing.

Feelings like helplessness, anger, sadness, grief about all the unnecessary loss and separation that’s going on. Or feelings of anxiousness and being afraid of what’s to come. Many of us are struggling with trying to make sense with what feels so crazy-making, each day with a different mandate coming at us. We experience these feelings in our bodies, we have a visceral sense of the trauma and torment that is being carried out.

My clients talk to me from time to time about the strain and overwhelm they feel about what’s going on politically and socially in our country. But this experience in particular, related to children that are being separated from their parents at the border, seems to have hit everybody’s rawest nerve and deepest heartstrings. Most every hour I’ve had someone pouring their heart out to me about how disturbed they feel about this example of humankind not being treated with human kindness.

Mostly there is an experience about helplessness and questions about what one can do to alleviate some of the suffering (in the world or within themselves.) Or people wonder about how to handle their feelings of outrage in light of the circumstances that are happening, that are inhumane, egregious, akin to torture and abuse, and even kidnapping.

Anyone who has suffered trauma in their lives or been victimized seems to be especially vulnerable and re-stimulated about these horrific things going on. Clients are talking to me about feeling like the world’s soul has been deeply injured, and humankind has taken an enormous blow.

Some have called this fascism on American soil, equal to what many in Latin American countries already live with and expect regularly. These immigrants who have already narrowly escaped the tail of the shark in their own countries, have sought to protect their families, only to travel north and land in the mouth of the shark.

Others have talked to me just about how terribly sad it is, and how they are reminded of their own children, and the pain they would feel if their own children were in any kind of pain. Still, others have talked to me indicating that they really don’t have anywhere else in the world to talk about this in a personal feeling way.

As a human being and as a mother I have been deeply impacted by this terrible scenario. I am heartsick and alarmed in a profound way over the separations and the lack of cohesion demonstrated, as ICE and so-called ‘Human Services’ are trying to reconnect parents with their children. I have been horrified by the lack of compassion demonstrated.

Before this, I had already felt personally affronted by the ways this administration thinks about and treats people of color, particularly Latinos (calling immigrants rapists and criminals; humiliating proud Puerto Ricans after hurricane Maria with paper towels; eliminating hopes for Dreamers; wanting to build the Wall), but these actions after zero-tolerance have been even more unbearable.

As a psychotherapist I am deeply troubled by what’s currently going on and by what I know will be the likely future that plays out for these children and families that have been separated. To be separated from one’s parent when one is a child is a traumatic event with lifelong negative implications. To be separated from your child when one is a parent is equally traumatic, and there seems to be no level of support for the devastation that has occurred and continues, day after day. We all know that racism is an ongoing traumatic experience to bear. It affects our psyche, our relationships, our sense of security in the world, our families.

Admittedly I have had difficulty to find the words to respond to peoples’ anguish adequately. I have been at a loss for words myself. But I have also felt inspired by the positive and compassionate actions taken by many to address this outrage, like the grandmas who want to make sure someone is looking out for the children.

And from listening to or reading those people who give me guidance and solace, here are some of the best tips I have encountered for holding on to hope in heavy times:

  • Be inspired by all of the support that’s out there – know you are not alone.
  • Let your human compassion grow – be kinder to the next homeless person or person you see who is struggling.
  • Send peace, care, compassion, empathy into the universe.
  • Take action: go to a rally and make signs (Click here to see some of the signs that I witnessed at this weekend‘s ‘Families Belong Together’ rallies). Take only actions that reflect those coming from your heart.
  • Call your Senators and Representatives.
  • Give money to causes like the ACLU or Raíces, or Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande, so they can continue their important work.
  • Cry, share your sorrows, grieve collectively.
  • Remember, all living beings want to be happy, belong, connect and be free. We are all similar that way.
  • Take breaks from the news.
  • Don’t use your suffering to cause anguish to others – use it instead to elevate others.
  • Treating someone as an outsider increases our experience of them as less than human. Do the opposite – see their similarities to see them as more human and more connected to you.
  • Be fully present, even when loss has come. Make space for the “One who knows“ inside of you. Remain calm and clear and bring forth your own wisdom, conscience, compassion.
  • Be fair and generous with your courage as you acknowledge how things are. Remember that many others know how to survive, as do you. Let yourself experience the hardship intimately, personally within yourself, and then also share it with the world.
  • When angry, Breathe (with presence into your heart), and Push (act with intelligence and love, that comes from your best self). Redemptive anger is better than reactionary anger.
  • Pay attention to how you touch your sorrows – is it with fear, anger, aversion, tenderness, warmth, acceptance?
  • Feel underneath your anger and connect to what hurts.
  • Become present and aware of that unbelievable beauty and inevitable tragedy that make up human life. The juxtaposition can be painful.
  • Mindfulness practices empower you to carry on, and help you to remember who you really are. No matter what happens, you still have your courage and good heart. Mindfulness also helps to reduce racial bias and the treating of people as unreal others.
  • Bear witness. Listen deeply to the stories.
  • Share compassion. Let yourself feel another’s pain. Let in other peoples’ suffering. Get close enough so your heart can be broken (open).
  • Offer loving kindness to yourself; then to a benefactor/friend; then to someone you have a complicated relationship with (like a parent, or a spouse); then to a neutral person you may often overlook; then to an enemy or difficult person; then to all living beings….

May you be happy
May you be safe
May you be healthy
May you live with ease
May you not suffer.

What’s your experience like during difficult times? What helps you to get through? I’d love to hear from you. Reply back.

If you or someone you care about is having difficulty managing the overwhelm of racism or discrimination and would like some support, 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 June 2018

Comfort for the Soul

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


These are the most impactful quotes I have read or heard this month that give me pause, or uplift my heart. It’s been another challenging time this month, and I know we each need some comfort and encouragement to keep carrying on. I am happy to share these quotes – that speak to the unbearable beauty and inevitable pain of our world – with you. Take a moment to go through them and maybe highlight a few that speak to you. Enjoy…

  • “I do want to create art beyond rage. Rage is a place to begin, but not end. I’m not as wise as my work, but I know if I take the writing deep enough, something larger and greater than myself will flash forth and illuminate me, heal me. I do want to devour my demons—despair, grief, shame, fear—and use them to nourish my art. Otherwise they’ll devour me.” – Sandra Cisneros
  • “We’re all under the same sky and walk the same earth; we’re alive together during the same moment.” – Maxine Hong Kingston
  • “That’s what, to me, carries teams over the top,” Kerr told the sports website Bleacher Report soon after the Warriors defeated the Cavaliers. “A lot of teams have talent, and obviously we have great talent. But when that talent is committed to the greater good . . . that takes you over the top.” – Steve Kerr
  • “When researchers studied the gender composition of management teams of the top firms in Standard & Poor’s Composite 1500 list, they found that, on average, “female representation in top management leads to an increase of $42 million in firm value.”
  • “Prejudice hurts the health of both targets and (to a different degree) perpetrators. The targets of prejudice experience the well-documented “weathering effect” on their physical and mental health. On the other side, many studies suggest that people who discriminate are at much greater risk of cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, interracial interactions needn’t be stressful. In many of the same studies, low-prejudice people respond to interracial interactions in ways that are happy and healthy.”
  • “The most fortunate are those who have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder and even ecstasy.” – Abraham Maslow
  • “The wound is the place where the light enters you” – Rumi
  • “Thanking is difficult. That’s why most people judge.” – Carl Jung
  • “Life is fragile and short and worth all the loving presence we can bring to it.” – Rebecca Kushins
  • ”Racism is a heart disease. How we think and respond is at the core of racial suffering and racial healing. If we cannot think clearly and respond wisely, we will continue to damage the world’s heart.“ – Ruth King
  • “Every choice made has both good and evil results. The best we can do is to intend the good.”
  • “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” – Louisa May Alcott
  • “If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.” Thich Nhat Hanh
  • “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” — Desmond Tutu
  • “We find ourselves again upon a time where we will one day utter “how could we have let that happen?” We cannot afford to forget that there is a history of separating children from their parents: during slave auctions; during the forced assimilation of American Indians; and during the Holocaust. The reverberations of these barbaric stains on our history are still felt today and future generations of these original victims will inherit the intergenerational transmission of these traumas. To try and argue that this policy of ripping children from their parents at the border is somehow different from the systematic traumatization of children during the times of slavery, forced assimilation, and the Holocaust is to disregard history. To somehow convince ourselves that this systematic traumatization of children has no bearing on the lives of these children and no impact on the legacy of our country is to be living in an alternate universe. And to not care about the impact these policies have on these children is to succumb to the worst potential of humanity.
    We, the undersigned, implore you to recognize what is at stake when children are taken from their mothers and other attachment figures. As psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, and counselors we have a responsibility to report any concern of child maltreatment. This policy of separation is an indefensible violation of children’s civil rights and we uphold our responsibility as mandated reporters to sound the alarm.” – Petition to Stop Border Separations of Children from Parents
  • “In its passivity and resignation, cynicism is a hardening, a calcification of the soul. Hope is a stretching of its ligaments, a limber reach for something greater.” – Maria Popova
  • “When my daughters were born, I made a pledge to them, and to myself, that I would do everything I could to give them some things I didn’t have. And I decided that if I could be one thing in life, it would be to be a good father.“ – Barack Obama
  • “I imagine that one of the reasons that people cling to their hate and prejudice so stubbornly is because they sense that once that hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with their own pain.“ – James Baldwin
  • “Now a time of change has come.
    We must listen deeply, bear witness, honor everyone, and choose our actions wisely and courageously.
    Do not worry if the Right Action is not yet clear to you.
    Wait in the unknowing with mindfulness and a clear heart.
    Soon the right time will come and you will know to stand up.
    I will meet you there.” – Jack Kornfield
  • “Our ideal should be to create something beautiful that did not exist before us.” – Zapotec saying
  • “I started to view caring for my mental health as a revolutionary act, a form of resistance to the forces of oppression that were threatening to extinguish me, a working-class black woman. I come from a legacy of people who fought simply to be and I view my effort to fight my depression as a battle for freedom.” – Sherri Williams, PhD
  • ”In each of us, there is a little voice that knows exactly which way to go.” – Alice Walker
  • “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong, because someday in life, you will have been all of these.” – George Washington Carver

So that’s this month’s short list of Heart-Full Moments that has 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 and nourishes your soul.

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

Best Tips for Being a Good Father

In appreciation of Fathers

how to be a good father; positive parenting

Father’s Day has just passed, and I wanted to take the opportunity to acknowledge some of the many acts of fatherhood that I have been honored to witness lately.

In this time of unrest, where the images that we are bombarded with seem to be filled with hurtful, harmful actions of thoughtlessness and hate – often committed by men in power, I wanted to offer some other examples of strong men – particularly Dad‘s – who demonstrate care, consideration, inclusion, stability, kindness. I believe there are more good men in this world who really want to do right by their families and communities, than the ugly actions of a few would have us believe.

In my family, and my community and in who I work with, there are many more men who are unsung heroes; who plugin, are hands-on and deeply caring in everyday life as fathers.

This then is a simple but profound thank you to you who are actively creating a culture of care and presence and are mindful about fathering. Your contributions are important and not unseen. (My auto-fill first put the word ‘insane’ there – which in this day and age is appropriate also!)

First, to my own father – thank you for your steadiness; your endless offers to help; for your patience and mostly for your kindness. Thank you for working so hard so I could be OK. I know from my work that many people have not been as lucky as I in terms of having a present and generous father. Thank you for not letting the hardship of your life be destructive toward mine.

Thank you to my male relatives – grandfathers, uncles, and cousins – who have acted in a fatherly way toward me and my family, and been generous with time, attention, kindness, and hard work.

Deep appreciation to the father of my children who has been a blessing in their lives – instilling confidence and much love; sharing strength and tenderness – and who has been in a true parenting partnership with me.

Warmest regard to the dads I know through work and life who:

  • Are not afraid to shop for their teenage daughter or who take pride in teaching them how to wash a car the right way.
  • Who tear up when they make a wedding day toast to their kids.
  • Who raise their sons with love and tenderness after that son’s mom has died.
  • Who leave a legacy of doing good in the world, who continue to teach their children even after they (the dads) have died.
  • Who teach their kids practical skills like painting, construction, car maintenance.
  • Who delight in playing with their kids.
  • Who delight in being with and playing with their grandkids.
  • Who listen to their daughter’s feelings and even bear their tears.
  • Who teach their sons to be beautiful, strong, capable, contributing adult men of color.
  • Who can be loving and attentive to another man’s child and treat them as his own.
  • Who is excited about the upcoming birth of his child.
  • Who takes pride in his ethnicity and culture and imparts that to his children.
  • Who works on his own mental health issues, while trying to create a better life for his kids.
  • Who acknowledges his own privilege, racism, sexism and makes amends for ways he has been insensitive or been at fault.
  • Who are working on maintaining sobriety because that means a better future for their kids.
  • Who intentionally try to treat their kids in better ways than what they grew up with.
  • Who works a second job around children’s schedule.
  • Who care about giving children different opportunities than what was available to them.
  • Who want to protect their daughters from getting into abusive relationships.
  • Who accept their daughters and sons when they come out, and continue to love them fully.
  • Who love to laugh, play music or dance with their kids.
  • Who through it all, try to maintain respectful communication with their children’s mom.
  • Who aren’t afraid to say “I’m sorry” or “I love you” or “I’m afraid”.

These are just a few of the admirable behaviors I have witnessed, done by good fathers. How about you? What are you thinking and feeling about the fathers in your life – present or passed? How would you add to this list? I’d love to hear.

If you or someone you love is mourning the father you had, or never had; or struggling in your relationships with fathers in your life, and need help to come to more peace, 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