The Bliss Blog



As those who have been reading the Bliss Blog for awhile may know, I wear many hats. Tonight I donned the one that is labeled recovery counselor in a drug and alcohol outpatient program. On Monday nights I offer a group for folks who have co-occurring conditions which translates to mental health diagnoses and substance abuse issues; not an easy combo for them and not always simple to facilitate. There are times when I feel like I am pulling teeth to encourage speaking about what is on their minds. Fortunately tonight wasn’t one of them. I brought into the room a book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens written by Sean Covey who is the son of Stephen Covey who wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People which I read for the first time in the early 1990’s. What jumped out at me was that although using a substance to get through life, to self medicate, to relieve boredom, to socialize are clearly habitual, even more so are the daily activities of every person on the planet, even if they never indulge in their drug of choice.

My definition of a habit, is something I do routinely, sometimes as a ritual, sometimes unconsciously.

Some of mine include:

Setting intention each morning before getting out of be to “have extraordinary experiences and connect with amazing people.”

Writing throughout the day.

Social media interaction.

Tending to hygiene.

Lately, starting my day with a fruit and veggie smoothie.

Going to the gym 4-6 times a week.

Doing laundry.

Cleaning the house.

Going to my various jobs.

Putting my seatbelt on before I drive.

Using cloth bags when I go to the store.

All of these sound like responsible and healthy adult things to do. Let me add that others are not indicative of a wellness program.

These are:

Biting my nails at times.

Over-indulging in my drug of choice-chocolate.

Self deprecating thoughts.

Going to be too late.

Making my son wrong in my mind if he doesn’t do things my (a.k.a. the right) way.

Taking on too much at once.

Saying yes when I really want to say no.


Both Coveys recommend these core actions:

The First Three Habits surround moving from dependence to independence (i.e., self-mastery):

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive

Take initiative in life by realizing that your decisions (and how they align with life’s principles) are the primary determining factor for effectiveness in your life. Take responsibility for your choices and the consequences that follow.

  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Self-discover and clarify your deeply important character values and life goals. Envision the ideal characteristics for each of your various roles and relationships in life. Create a mission statement.

  • Habit 3: Put First Things First

Prioritize, plan, and execute your week’s tasks based on importance rather than urgency. Evaluate whether your efforts exemplify your desired character values, propel you toward goals, and enrich the roles and relationships that were elaborated in Habit 2.


The next four have to do with Interdependence (i.e., working with others):

  • Habit 4: Think Win-Win

Genuinely strive for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships. Value and respect people by understanding a “win” for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten his way.

  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Use empathic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, and positive problem solving.

  • Habit 6: Synergize

Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals no one person could have done alone.

  • Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle. It primarily emphasizes exercise for physical renewal, prayer (meditation, yoga, etc.) and good reading for mental renewal. It also mentions service to society for spiritual renewal.

As we explored these ideas, the energy lifted and they were willing to be more courageous with taking a look at what may have held them back and kept them stuck. As I spoke with them, I was of course, also addressing myself and my less than sterling habits as I mentioned above. Because we teach what we need to learn and I’ve heard it said, that when we teach, we learn twice, it was no accident that I chose this as tonight’s topic. Needing to clean up the habits that no longer serve, sweeping them up into the dustpan.

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit.  Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”-Lao Tzu


I was listening to an interview and concert today on World Café on WXPN with Scottish singer-songwriter K.T. Tunstall. I was introduced to her music when Black Horse and The Cherry Tree came out in 2004.  Besides loving her melodic meanderings, I discovered that she and I have something else in common. It was a life changing experience on July 17, 2008 when (not at the same time, though) we each had an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama when he came to Philadelphia. I was fulfilling a 20 year journalistic dream when I interviewed him and it still feels surrealistic.  She, along with musicians Moby, Joss Stone and Serge Tankian  joined him in celebration of  The Missing Peace Music Project.

One of things she offered close to the end had to do with one of my favorite subjects; creativity and the ways in which inspiration comes to us and is expressed. She envisioned it as if it were a ‘wispy stream that flowed above my  head’ and that she needs to grab ahold of it, lest someone else do it first. I feel the same way, since there have been times when I have seen something elsewhere that I could have written. We are all part of the collective mind that ponders and processes reality. I find inspiration everywhere. It shows up in the simple things, such as sitting on the porch of my ‘office away from home’ called The Zen Den, in Doylestown, PA sipping a glass of multiple-herbal, anti-oxidant infused iced tea in the midst of birdfeeders and wind chimes at a brightly painted rescued and restored wrought iron table. I had the serene experience of breathing and being while waiting for my friends Jon and Chris to arrive to put the finishing touches on a workshop we are co-facilitating next Sunday. It arrives when driving in the car on winding back roads, arm breezing out the window, catching an updraft as my hand rides the wave~  It peeks in through my bedroom curtains in the form of sun dappled branches playing like a Balinese shadow puppet. And it visits my dreams as I drift and float on cloud cushions. Black Horse and The Cherry Tree


In the midst of a very late night conversation with my son, this thought kept running through my mind. It’s nothing new and yet, as much as I talk about, teach about, counsel about and write about love, there are moments when spiritual amnesia kicks and my experience of love feels as if it is in ‘another galaxy far, far away’. (I’m a bit of a Star Wars geek:)

What brought this to the surface is that he points out that more than 14 years after the death of my husband (his father), there are still messy, threadbare edges to clean up; places where I have held on to resentments and regrets, anger and ‘shoulda-woulda-coulda’, ‘what-if-and-if-only’ dynamics. He would like to see me forgive what I could not change.  He would be right about that and yet, even with all of my years of experience as a therapist, I feel at a loss as to how to heal the wounds that I have been carrying, ways of putting down the boulder of unforgiving thoughts. Every relationship is comprised of two perfectly imperfect beings; the sum total of their genetic and experientially gathered makeup and the choices they have made based on those factors. When they come together, they attempt to merge, for the purpose of creating a greater sense of wholeness, companionship, children, an alignment with the Divine, great sex, whatever…. there is also bumping up against each other’s rough edges, either polishing them or tearing them. In my own nearly 12 year marriage that turned to widowhood when my husband Michael died at 48 of Hepatitis C, while awaiting a liver transplant, there were elements of both dichotomies. I’m grateful for what we shared, knowing that love is never wasted. If not for this relationship, I would not be writing this column, since my journalistic career began in 1988 when we co-founded Visions Magazine. I would not have become an interfaith minister, since Michael was in seminary when he died and I enrolled and took his place in the class and became ordained.

Now, nearly a decade and a half later, I still ponder the mysteries of relationship. Having remained single with short term relationships and wonderful lovers since then, I know that it is easier and safer to be a ‘relationship expert’ with the information to impart, than to actually be in a relationship. Far less messy, far less emotional upheaval, surface intimacy, which is an oxymoron if ever there was one. Since 1999, I have, as an interfaith minister, married hundreds of couples at all stages of their lives; some as young as 21 and others in their 70’s. Each relationship had a different flavor, since each couple was unique and I have been privileged to be an outside observer, blessing their unions, while beaming beatifically. Then I go home to my own life, that is full and rich in many ways, but ultimately solitary. I come and go as I please, have a wealth of friends and juicy experiences….and yet, there is a wistfulness; a wondering about my ability after all these years, to engage in full union with another. I have also witnessed the messy, conflicted, dramatic and traumatic relationships of clients over the years and shudder at the thought that I could find myself in that situation again.

At a wedding I officiated  last weekend, these words were shared. I borrowed them from the ceremony of my friends Patti and Michael and I use them as a reality check for how I would like to be in my next relationship. It is part of a hand-fasting ritual in which we used a long piece of lace, wrapped around their joined hands in an infinity symbol.


I bid you look into each other’s eyes.

Will you cause her pain?

I May

Is that your intent?


Will you cause him pain?

I may

Is that your intent?


*To Both*

Will you share each other’s pain and seek to ease it?


And so the binding is made. Join your hands

Will you share his laughter?


Will you share her laughter?


*To Both*

Will both of you look for the brightness in life and the positive

in each other?


Will you burden him?

I may

Is that your intent?


Will you burden her?

I may

Is that your intent?


*To Both*

Will you share the burdens of each so that your spirits may grow in this union?


Will you share his dreams?


Will you share her dreams?


*To Both*

Will you dream together to create new realities and hopes?


 Will you cause her anger?

I may

Is that your intent?


Will you cause him anger?

I may

Is that your intent?


*To Both*

Will you take the heat of anger and use it to temper the strength of this union?

We will.

And so the binding is made.

Will you honor him?

I will

Will you honor her?

I will

*To Both*

Will you seek to never give cause to break that honor?

We shall never do so.

The knots of this binding are not formed by these cords but instead by your vows. Either of you may drop the cords, for as always, you hold in your own hands the making or breaking of this union.


I ask that my heart remain open and available to a love that spans the abyss of anger and regret and takes me safely home. Love Is The Answer-Todd Rundgren





A few months ago, I was invited to be part of a growing movement, as it were. It meant claiming a part of my identity that I had kept under wraps for far too long and honoring aspects of myself that felt grandiose, over the top…too much.  Holy Rascal is what it is named and by definition it is “One who does justly, acts kindly and walks humbly with their God” I was introduced to the concept by my long time friend Rabbi Rami Shapiro. I had met Rami in the early 1990’s when I was living in South Florida. It was one of those serendipitous experiences, or perhaps ‘beshert’ which is Yiddish for ‘meant to be’. I had been in a local book store, perusing the psychology and self help section, when a book literally jumped off the shelf into my waiting hands. I looked at it and saw that it was a 12 step recovery book geared to those of the Jewish faith…something like This Too Is The Path; since often the languaging of the sobriety community has a Christian feel to it. I turned it over and saw that the author was a rabbi whose congregation was nearby. Beth Or was located in Kendall, Florida which is a suburb of Miami. That Friday, we attended a Shabbos service and I was mesmerized by the stories he told and one of my first impressions was that he missed his calling as a stand-up comedian. For the next two years, most of my Friday nights were spent in that sanctuary and I felt a sense of homecoming, since I had become disillusioned with the aspects of Judaism as presented by the most recent rabbi in the synagogue of my childhood, that had felt archaic and not only sexist, but misogynistic.  At Temple Beth Or, I felt like an equal member, valued as the unique individual that I was, regardless of my ‘plumbing’.

Fast forward and I left South Florida following the whirlwind that was Hurricane Andrew (we lived in Homestead) in 1992. I kept up with Rami’s activities via his writings and was delighted with the ways that his work took on a more interfaith flavor, while maintaining the soup stock that was Judaism. The same is true for this nice Jewish girl who became an interfaith minister, via The New Seminary in 1999. Rami proudly claims the title of Holy Rascal and the site has featured notables such as Rabbi Zalman Schacter Shalomi (who is Rami’s mentor), Joan Borysenko, Matthew Fox, Sister Jose Hobday, Andrew Harvey and John Cleese. I am honored to be in such esteemed company.

One of the attributes of Holy Rascality is humor. I find it easy to laugh at the absurdities of life and see it as a healing balm. On June 18th, I will be presenting a webinar and will be speaking on the topic How To Have A Ridiculously Amazing Life. Tune in and join us and if you feel so moved, discover what it would mean to you to claim the not so super secret identity as your own.