Category Archives: Positive Living

How I Help with Racial and Political Anxiety

Dealing with the overwhelm of the times


It’s been another difficult week, and this week people have had to contend with hearing about more negative interactions in the government, and the possibility of long-lasting terrible implications related to our justice system. Anonymous op-eds, the continued separation between parents and children, deaths of the good ones…the stress from these news events is enough to make anyone anxious.

You might notice you are carrying an underlying current of agitation or feeling hopeless and frustrated (or horrified), even more often than not. You dread hearing about, yet another ludicrous decision made by those in government. You cringe in the face of everything happening, you have heartache in response to the bad leadership we have, you might rather stick your head in the sand, or barely be able to put one foot in front of the other, you feel so overwhelmed. You might feel powerless or enraged. Or afraid for the future.

And you really care – about the impact of this troubled time on your children, your family, your community, yourself. You care deeply about all those people who are struggling so. And often don’t know how to respond or what to do next.

While there is no easy answer, and no one thing that will resolve everything, there are many things that can ease the overwhelm, and continue to bring light into your life. Even with so much suffering going on, it is possible to live a life filled with compassion, courage, and meaning. And even joy.

At this anniversary time of 9-11 and in honor of all the lives lost and devastation that impacted so many, physically, socially and psychologically, I offer these suggestions for living a whole life, even amidst the heartache and wretchedness that surrounds us. This is not meant to ignore all that’s going on and the precarious state of our world; but to provide support and a buoy, if you will, toward strength and well being, especially during difficult times.

Here’s a list of some things I do to help clients who are struggling with the  political/ racial anxiety of the times:

  • As a bilingual woman of color therapist, I offer a safe place where clients of all backgrounds can share deeply about their real experiences, sometimes in the comfort of their mother tongue, and have the experience of being heard, understood and not judged. My warm down-to-earth presence lets them know I get them.
  • Sometimes it helps to simply let my clients grieve their deepest feelings, hold those feelings, and even grieve with them about the world’s sufferings or their own. I invite the depth of the emotion of their woundedness, and often shed tears with them, in my heart or on my face.
  • I honor whatever acts or actions of courage my clients have demonstrated.
  • I encourage putting into the universe small acts of kindness, or sending goodwill to self, to loved ones, to difficult people, to acquaintances, to strangers, and then to enemies, if possible.
  • I advocate self-compassion as a key to empowerment.
  • I encourage listening deeply to each other.
  • I encourage my clients to speak with their wise voice.
  • I support honest reflection and soul searching into oneself, and the welcoming of all emotions, even the difficult or hard to admit ones. I help them to unpack their own biases, and to recognize the damages of internalized oppression.
  • I suggest, teach and practice mindfulness skills as a way of calming the soul.
  • I advocate dance, journaling, walks in nature, yoga, a variety of breathing techniques – and various ways of freeing the body from the bondage of hatred or discrimination.
  • I help couples, and parents and their kids to have calm caring discussions especially about sensitive issues, with the intention of doing no harm, especially when they themselves are triggered.
  • I offer that those of us who are resisting must take great care to not get stuck in the bitter rage and divisiveness and negative thinking of the times, or we become part of the problem and no better than those we are angry with. We must care well for ourselves, so we can continue in the struggle.
  • I remind people that often the turbulence comes just before the true transformation that occurs. I offer hope that things will change for the better.
  • I offer guided meditations, mindfulness apps, body scans, sleep practices and ways of bringing mindfulness into everyday life, in order to build resilience so they can continue on in the struggle without being completely overwhelmed.
  • I listen. And listen. And listen some more.
  • I share a RAIN practice to use when dealing with difficult experiences: R for Recognize (Notice and name what’s happening in the moment); A for Allow (Can I be with what’s happening right now?); I for Investigate (How am I relating to what is happening? Can I do it without judgement or avoidance or resistance?); N for Nurture (How do I care for this distress?).

These are but a few of the ways I help clients to manage the distress and overwhelm of the current negative political and racist society we are surrounded by.

I am also proud to acknowledge that I was quoted in a colleague’s blog, who talked with several therapists to get best ideas for helping clients who are dealing with anxiety related to the difficult and stressful political and racist times we are living in. He is the creator of the progressive mental health directory, Therapy Den. To read the blog of Jeff Guenther, and to get more ideas about how to take care of yourself during these very upsetting times, click here (I’m honored to be mentioned three times): how to cope with political and racial distress.

I hope these suggestions are helpful and thoughtful to you and others. I’d love to hear from you…How are these times affecting you? How do you tend to what’s really important in your life?

Take good care.

If you or someone you care about feels overwhelmed and is struggling to find peace amidst all the negative political and racist injustice swarming around, please call 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

Heart Full Moments – November 2017


Good things to warm your heart

Gratitude, relief for anxiety and depression, wise words for difficult times

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

At the end of this month of giving thanks, I offer gentle wisdoms and warm words I have read and been touched by. I have much gratitude for the lovely ideas presented and shared. May they touch your heart as well…

  • “We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.“ – Marcel Proust
  • “ May we all live with ease of well being.“ – Mindfulness reminder
  • “And when they knew he was listening they formed a bond with him faster. Life almost immediately felt richer and more meaningful”. As professor Graham Bodie has empirically noted, “listening is the quintessential positive interpersonal communication behavior.”
  • ”Ask not for a lighter load, but for broader shoulders to carry it.” – Jewish saying
  • “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” -Chinese Proverb
  • A Pledge for grateful living
    It is within my own heart that I must recognize fear, agitation, coldness, alienation, blind anger and the impulse to retaliation. Here in my heart I can turn fear into courageous trust, agitation into stillness, confusion into clarity, isolation into a sense of belonging, alienation into love, and irrational reaction into Common Sense. The creative intelligence of gratefulness will suggest to each one of us how to go about this task.” – Br. David
  • Clouds In Each Paper by Thich Nhat Hanh (Mar 25, 2002)
    If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.”Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter” with the verb “to be”, we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud, we cannot have paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.
  • “When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
    I was a bride married to amazement.
    I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.” – Mary Oliver
  • “The fear of failure can actually be helpful. It can motivate us to do planning. But it can also be really unhelpful if it causes us to procrastinate and put things off, because we get consumed by fear.” – Mark Aoyagi, director of sport and performance psychology at the University of Denver
  • “Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light.” – Dr. Albert Schweitzer
  • “…Having each person in the room come forth to lay hands on my head, with no hurry. I bowed my head to each person who came forward, receiving their power and blessing. Spirit was afoot in that room, weaving us together, supporting us in our endeavors, blessing us in our friendship and our journey. This night altered us all individually and as a group. And as I lay on the gurney awaiting my surgery, all of this came back, each person’s touch and intention for me, and the music singing me forward. I am generally terrified of anesthesia, but not this day. This day, I remembered the singing, the touch, our eyes and hearts meeting in a space so completely unexpectedly.
    Wisdom received had something to do with allowing my vulnerability, accepting the care and blessing of others, allowing a moment to shine unexpectedly, and a reminder that while I may have the name of teacher or minister, I am as well ever the student and recipient of grace.” – Pilgrim
  • “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
  • “As I walked down the avenue, the late afternoon sun was turning the lovely and dying sycamore leaves into fragments of brilliant stained glass, and I said to myself, ‘This alone is worth the price of admission to our broken and glorious world.’” – Linda Larsson
  • Blessing for the Fullness of This Day
    “I bless this day in the fullness of good it already contains, in the many occasions it offers to listen deeply, to be of service to others, to express gratitude moment by moment and to keep my mind so filled with love, beauty and joy that no negativity can find even the tiniest crack in which to set foot. I bless this day in the infinite opportunities it gives me to love: to love and bless every human I meet, every beast or bird I pass by, every plant I behold, for all are but the manifold expressions of the infinite Life that undergirds all. Truly, I bless this day for the wonderful adventure it can become as I walk through it with the eyes of wonder rather than boredom, use every opportunity to express peace rather than irritation, and chose love over fear. Thank you, Life, for this day.” – Pierre Pradervand
  • “Occasionally we will be overwhelmed, but mostly we will be enchanted.” – Jean Houston
  • “Let our lives be full of both: thanks  and giving “ – in Concert
  • Even Socrates, who lived a very frugal and simple life, loved to go to the market. When his students asked about this, he replied, “I love to go and see all the things I am happy without.”- Jack Kornfield
  • “To see a world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wildflower…To hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour…”- William Blake
  • The ABCs of Grateful Living: A Practice – by Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB
    The following practice is from Br. David’s introduction to Stop-Look-Go: A Grateful Practice Workbook and Gratitude Journal (June, 2016).
    “One practice that I use sometimes – say, in my dentist’s waiting-room – I call The ABCs of Grateful Living: I go through the alphabet and note for each letter the first word that comes to my mind. Then, I try to make a connection between that word and my practice of grateful living. It’s a kind of game I play with myself…
    **Watch for next week’s blog post, where I share my own ABC’s of gratefulness…

I hope during this month of November that you enjoy this list of Heart Full moments, and have had many more of your own full heart moments, to add to.

If you or someone you love is struggling with finding meaning, relief, or peace for your troubled heart, 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