My work in the human services started in 1984 as a volunteer in a Boston homeless shelter. Seeing that I could hand out sandwiches but was otherwise unprepared to be of help, the experience led me to graduate school at Boston University, and work in several psychiatric group homes and hospitals. I loved my time at Cambridge Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry, and especially the psychiatric emergency room. The psych ER was a place where idealism about treating suffering people with dignity and compassion was very central to the mission. I also saw how people were often both helped and hindered by diagnosis and medication. It naturally raised questions for me about other, less traditional ways to help people alleviate mental suffering. When a friend invited me to a meditation retreat, I was shocked to experience the chaos in my mind as I sat on a cushion for most of 5 days. It was a mess in there! The teachings promised clarity and peace of mind, which encouraged me to study yoga, meditation and Buddhist psychology. I have found more common sense and wisdom in the teachings of the contemplative traditions than all of the theory I learned in formal classrooms. I was amazed at the directness of the ideas which essentially teach, “Okay, here’s how your mind works. And here’s how you can work with it.”
I continue to study meditation and yoga, and have devoted my private practice to integrating these wisdom traditions into counseling work. They are not a magic cure, but the most direct route to self understanding and empowerment I have found. They guide us to be at home in both body and mind.
Recently I’ve had the good fortune to begin to write about mindfulness and yoga. My first book, a practical, portable guide to walking meditation, was released in January 2017. It’s called Five Minute Mindfulness: Walking, from Quarto/Fair Winds Publishing in London and the US.