Thursday, May 31, 2012


No amount of alcohol
(or drugs, food, spending, shopping, sex, work or the self-soother of your choice)
can provide absolution.

No amount of alcohol can truly be the salve.

Facing the fears, worries, doubts, sadness, guilt and pain
using your true voice
with faith, hope and love leads us to the other side.

Soul retrieval and power animal retrieval helps too (Everyone needs this done).

With forgiveness and bravery come freedom.

I know this for sure.

Notes on Grief & Loss

"If you are old enough to love, then you are old enough to grieve."
-Alan Wolfelt via Michelle Post

"The six-month old baby cried uncontrollably at 6pm every evening.  That is when her Dad used to come home and hold her."
-Michelle Post

"We all have to learn how to grieve."
-Rose Monteiro

"You just learn to accept that it's always going to be hard."
-Martha Marquez
"Nothing lasts forever - nothing good and nothing bad."
-Sandy Armstrong

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Creativity by Jobs

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something... that’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.” – Steve Jobs, Wired, February, 1995


A study found that exercise increases support system, increases capacity to handle difficult situations, and increases the ability to focus. *

Two out of three ain't bad.  I'm still trying to focus!

I can't even provide the reference right now, but I wanted to get this message out ASAP!

*Thanks, Vanessa :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Collecting Gems

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” 
Harriet Tubman

(Thanks, Patty)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Walt's Advice

Walt advises that we not fall in love.  He says at this age, aim for companionship.  Have a great weekend everyone.

(Thanks, Pia)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Spirituality & Addiction

Quote:  A major paradigm shift of shamanic healing is 'soul recovery,' involving reintegration of dissociated aspects of the self.  Shamanic treatment of soul loss involved a conceptualization similar to TM and AA views of addiction as resulting from a lack of spirituality.  Spirituality can be seen as reflecting collective dimensions of, and the individual connectedness with, the social group.  Soul loss reflects this lack of individual connection with broader units of social identity" (p. 347).

Article:  Alternative and traditional medicine approaches for substance abuse programs:  A shamanic perspective


Quote:  "Drumming produces physiological, psychological, and social stimulation that enhances recovery processes.  Drumming induces relaxation and produces natural pleasurable experiences, enhanced awareness of preconscious dynamics, a release of emotional trauma, and reintegration of self."

Article:  Complementary Therapy for Addiction:  Drumming out Drugs

Strategic Family Therapy

Quote:  "To encourage forgiveness and kindness - the only way we can survive from day to day without emotional breakdown is by forgiving and forgetting.  We must forgive our parents, our children, our friends, our teachers.  We must also forgive ourselves for our mistakes.  If family members are to continue to relate to each other, they must forgive."

Quote:  "Often, a therapist needs to raise people from the grimness of their situation into a better way of being.  It is useful to start every session by pointing out to clients, as well as to remind them during the session, that they have come to therapy out of love and concern for each other and that they are seeking a better way of being and relating to each other.  These comments by the therapist prevent angry interactions and petty hostilities among family members."

Article:  Strategic Family Therapy by Cloe Madanes

Mind-Body Medicine

Quote:  "Most modern attempts to adopt mind-body medicine such as biofeedback, breathing techniques, muscle relaxation, and massage may briefly relieve the symptoms of stress, but they do not address the root causes of suffering and stress."

Quote:  "The challenge of mind-body medicine is to embrace, contain, and include the human need for purpose, connection, and meaning."

Article:  The First Mind-Body Medicine:  Bringing Shamanism into the 21st Century by Mark A. Hyman

Family-Proof System for Engagement

Quote:  "The adoption of our engagement strategies will contribute to a needed paradigm shift from blaming individuals or families for resisting treatment to a systemic understanding of the barriers to treatment."

Article:  Brief Strategic Family Therapy:  Twenty-Five Years of Interplay Among Theory, Research and Practice in Adolescent Behavior Problems and Drug Abuse by Jose Szapocznik and Robert A. Williams

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Like a plate with a a hairline crack
The slightest tap
might cause it to break

Like a tree in the storm that is solid & flexible
It may sway
but will not fall

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Graduate Research Mentorship Fellowship


Hi Maria A Acuna,
You were nominated for the following fellowship(s):
Research Mentorship Prog. -- Awarded
Congratulation, we are very pleased to inform you that you have been awarded this fellowship.  The fellowship will provide student fees in the amount of $14,617.89 and a stipend in the amount of $--,---. 
I woke up this morning (Saturday, 6am!) to this notification.  God loves me :)

I submitted my application for this fellowship on the day it was due.  I hastily put it together because I really needed funding in order to work less (in order to finish my dissertation and get back to work full time to support myself and my daughter).  I was competing against a large cohort of second year doctoral students.  My adviser nearly declined to submit a letter because my request was short notice and came at a busy time for him (he is in the middle of writing a book).  I had to tell him about my personal situation (I am separated and financially responsible for myself, my daughter and my mortgage).  He wrote a beautiful three page letter immediately.  He is a heavyweight in the department so I am sure his letter helped me secure the funding.

The truth is, his decision to be my adviser three years ago was a vote of confidence.  One of my mentors said that he usually takes on the stars himself.  He was the editor of the most respected social work journal.  Water seeks its own level.  I am proud and humbled that he saw me as such.  Sometimes it takes expert eyes to help us see ourselves in a way that we had never imagined.

On my daughters birthday, I ran out of gas on the freeway on my way home after buying 40 cupcakes for her class.  I called triple A and help came out in five minutes (for free).  I was going to settle in and skype with a friend until help arrived but I didn't even get a chance to make the phone call.  I took a pic of the man who filled my car with gas.

He said, "You took a picture?"
I said, "Yes,  it is a sign of my disorganized life right now that somehow works out."
He asked, "Why does it work out?"
I responded, "Because God loves me."
He said, "God loves everyone!"
I said, "Yes, that's true!"

It will work out somehow, everyone!

Recently and through a medium, my mom told me not to take the slow route in finishing up the program.  She said that if I am worried about the money to consult her and she would help me figure it out.

The truth is, I never worry about money.  I have learned how to make money and I have learned how to manage it.  God has always taken very good care of me.

My daughter will get her braces - no more waiting.  We will go to France when I am done - she's been jonesing to get on a plane for nearly three years now.

I will finish my dissertation proposal, defend it, conduct my study (mixed methods), and defend my dissertation.  I will revise my publishable paper and submit it to the department and then to a journal for publication.  I will secure an assistant professor position.  My life will continue to find a delicious balance between love, work and play.  No more workaholism - those days are finally over.  I am free.  I will teach because it is what I was born to do - it makes me feel as solid and creative as a jazz musician.  I will do research - I love using my imagination to develop hypotheses for testing.  I am curious about the world and the power of relationships.

It is happening.  I have so much juicy work to do.  All there is left to say is, "Thank you, Yesus!"  This one is pretty special so I am saying it on my knees and smiling.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Yalom on Relationship

Irvin Yalom is a bada$$.  He is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Stanford University.  He is author of many books about psychotherapy (Love's Executioner and Momma and the Meaning of Life) and textbooks (The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy).

The following excerpt is from Momma and the Meaning of Life:
My first step was to move the members into a circle and to ask the three residents to sit behind the patients, out of their immediate line of vision. I started the meeting in my usual manner by attempting to orient the members to group therapy. I introduced myself, suggested we use first names, and informed them that I would be there for the next four days. "After that, the two residents" - whom I named and pointed out - will lead the group. The group's purpose," I went on, "is to help each of you learn more about your relationships with others."As I glanced at the human devastation before me - Martin's withered limbs, Carol's death-mask grin, the intravenous bottles feeding Rosa and Carol the vital nutrients they refused to take by mouth, Dorothy's urine bottle holding the urine siphoned from her paralyzed bladder, Magnolia's paralyzed legs - my words seemed puny and foolish. These people needed so much, and "help with relationships" seemed so pitifully little. But what was the point of pretending that groups could do more than they could? Remember your mantra, I kept reminding myself: small is beautiful. Small is beautiful - small goals, small successes.
I referred to my inpatient group as the "agenda group" because I always began a meeting by asking each member to formulate an agenda - to identify some aspect of themselves that they wished to change.  The group worked better if its members' agendas pertained to relationship skills - especially to something that could be worked on in the here-and-now of the group.  Patients who were hospitalized for major life problems were always puzzled by the focus on relationships and failed to see the relevance of the agenda task.  I always answered, "I know that troubled relationships may not have been the reason for your hospitalization, but I've found over the years that everyone who has encountered significant psychological distress can profit by improving their mode of relating to others.  The important point is that we can get the most of this meeting by focusing on relationships because that's what groups do bestThat's the real strength of group therapy...For some patients, forming an agenda was the therapy.  To learn simply to identify a problem and to ask for help was therapy enough for many in our brief time together. 
In class, I tell stories all the time - about former clients, my mother, my daughter, all my significant relationships.  I got some anonymous feedback in week 3:  "Too many non-relevant topics (nothing to do with Social Work)."  I tell stories about relationships because Social Work is all about relationships. I am now trying to be more explicit about the connection that every story has to Social Work.

The most important relationship is the one we are having with ourselves.  The relationships we have with others are just a projection of this.  When people are mean to us or do not value us, it is not about us.  Love and forgive others because you love and forgive yourself.  We all want to be cherished just as we are.  These are some of the things that I know about relationships.  I am always learning.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

Feliz dia de las madres to all the caring adults that nurture children and youth.

John Bowlby said that if you care about children, then love their parents.  Lord knows we need all the loving we can get :)

Every parental sacrifice and every joyful experience as a parent begins and ends with love

Today, I honor my daughter and the best letter I ever got:
Dear Mom,
Thank you for being such a supportive mom.  It's awesome that you're studying to get a PhD, and you can still spend time with me.  You helped me overcome my fears and you stand up for me.  You're the mom that got me to watch SNL (Saturday Night Live) when I was 2 years old, and helped me find my calling.  You make me who I am today.  Even though you sometimes lose control and start yelling and cursing like a sailor with a cornial (sic) papercut (a Tina Fey line, a gross exaggeration and poetic license, I assure you), you are still a pretty kick-butt mom.  You're smart, intelligent, creative, funny and weird (personal fav).  I would never ask for a better mom (I'm a keeper!  I get to stay!).  I am eternally grateful (I get to be her mom?).  Thank you for being my ("my" is underlined 5 times) mom.

Your loving daughter,
Paolina (age 11)
I have a letter to my own mother:
Dear Mom,

Thank you for being a beautiful, charming, flawed, side-splittingly funny, spiritual, wise and adventurous mother and force of nature.  Thank you for being manipulative, rageful and selfish too.  I am harder to scam because of it.  I am not scared of anger because of it.  And I have learned to think of myself first now, despite it.
I miss you even though I know that you are with me always.  Thank you for continuing to lecture me about making my bed and turning on the lights when I read (No!  My eyes are sensitive to light and it is more comfortable for me to read in the dim light.  Please believe me!).  Thank you for being proud of me - it will always matter to me.  Thank you for loving my daughter the way you did and continue to do.  Thank you for every story, every laugh, every meal, every caress, every, every, every, every...

I will cry dammit!  Paolina says I look like Rudolph when I do, but then my skin clears up and I look fresh ;)  Better out than in, I always say.

I am so glad I chose you, you chose me and God put us together, however convoluted that story was - I get it now.

Te adoro, Irene, bruja hermosa y mujer, alma de mi corazon.  Gracias a Dios.

Con mucho, mucho amor,

Tu hija, Alejandra (age 43)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Shamanic Treatment Stories

In September, 2011, I saw a shamanic practitioner and wrote about my experience with her in a previous post.

I tell my nearest and dearest about my experience and they inevitably ask for her number and go themselves.

I am calling the 20 or so souls that have done this and I'm asking you to please write about your experience.  That is, the part of the treatment that you would like to share - that might be helpful to others (soul retrieval, spirit helper identification, clearings, messages, images, an so on.)

At this point, I know that most people have undergone at least one traumatic event (trauma is pervasive) in their lifetime that may have caused soul loss.  It's time for the cast off soul parts to come home so you can be whole.

I waited 43 years to be whole.  I am grateful.  In shamanic cultures, you can see a shaman within three days of a traumatic event.  That makes more sense :)

Thanks for calling me after your visit or having lunch with me to tell me about it.  Now I wonder if you could write it down so I may post it here.  I look forward to sharing your stories.  

Balancing Being Woman Manly

A high school English teacher once told me that for a woman, relationships are everything in the world.  For men, relationships are a thing apart.

Being woman manly (in the words of Virginia Wolf), I find myself trying to strike a balance between my relationships and my work.  I am passionate about my relationships.  I am passionate about my work.

My mother said to me (through a medium):  You have to be softer, don't be such a man.

The last few weeks have inordinately been about my relationships so I have not blogged or worked on my dissertation proposal at all.  Sometimes balance means alternating between passions, sometimes it means finding a way to integrate them.  Always it means acknowledging that both are important to me.

I become passionate about the people with whom I work.  I love them actually.  That's one of the reasons that I am passionate about my work. 

I share what I am doing and learning and reading about with the important people in my life.  I share it with you too and I have not even met you!  Actually, my friends read my blog and are very supportive.  I was talking directly to the readers my blog stats say are logging in from around the country and world.

My relationships and my work are fusing.  My daughter imitates me:  "CBITS, CBITS, shamanism, shamanism, do you know what I mean?"  Wow, she listens and is reflecting back what I sound like.  Not bad.  I'll take it.   

I used to be a workaholic - it was my "upper" during the day.  That is, work activated my fight-flight response.  I used to be a food addict - it was my "downer" at night.  That is, eating triggered my relaxation response.  The body shuts down in order to digest food.  Our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work in tandem to regulate our mind-body. 

Now I do paid work part-time.  I eat three smaller meals and two snacks per day.  I exercise daily.  I take naps (instead of drinking coffee).  I still have a lot on my plate (so to speak) and it is spilling over, but I know this is temporary. Balls are dropping because I cannot summons the stress response to care too much.  I am working on finding a balance.  Otherwise, I'll be calling you from jail to bail me out of unpaid traffic tickets.   If you call and I don't answer, please know that I am not ignoring you - I am driving safely.

Balance has meant happiness.  Left and right brain engaged and communicating.  Head and Heart acknowledged and consulted on all major decisions.  The negative and positive in life continue to occur side by side.  I choose to focus on the good.  I go to bed with a smile on my face.  I wake up with a smile on my face.  I find myself smiling throughout the day and saying thank you to what shows up.  People are nicer to me.  I am more forgiving of myself and others.  I am walking instead of running.  I am breathing instead of hyperventilating.  I am laughing instead of eating more.  I listen to music and cry.  I listen and sing along and smile.  I enter new work projects and relationships fully knowing it might not work out and I will get hurt.  I am not scared.  I am open to all of it.  I get to be alive.  I get to feel.  I will be surprised.  It will work out.  It will be okay, eventually, even if it doesn't work out. 

I am balancing being woman manly.  Thanks, Ms. Wolfe, what a concept.

Truth Opened

Freud presented a paper in April, 1896 to the Society for Psychiatry and Neurology in Vienna on the sexual abuse of his female patients by t...