Tag Archives: life

Woman draws her life from man and gives it back again

Dr. Ken Larsen

Peter, Paul and Mary did the “Wedding Song” back in the 1970s.  It nearly became a wedding cliché in many of the weddings I attended.  The one phrase stuck out for me in a powerful and wonderful way.  “Woman takes her life from man and gives it back again.”  This had a deeply mystical meaning for me that speaks to the flow of life and love among us.  I believe that the phrase need not be gender specific.  We all have the opportunity and the joy of giving life to one another, and receiving life in return.

Our mental health and happiness depend on our need for love and belonging.  When we talk about “love” in this way, I believe we are talking about our connections with one another that allow for the flow of that life giving energy we call “love” to flow freely among us.  We know what this feels like when it is working.  From the near ecstasy of the first blush of young love to the comfortable connections we enjoy with those close to us through the years.  This state of being connected in life giving ways is the cornerstone of mental health and happiness.  Sometimes we don’t know just how much these connections mean to us until they are lost.


What would happen if each of us would recognize that we have the gift of life to give to others?  A cheery smile to a stranger, a word of appreciation to someone who serves us in a restaurant or drug store, these are ways to give life to others.  Flowers, a lingering hug, tender touches are ways that we give and receive life and love from those in the intimate circles of our life.

We’ve heard for millennia that we ought to love one another, but putting this into practice seems to be elusive.  We are faced with the many ways that we are separate and different from one another.  This sense of separation makes it easier to remain distant and disconnected.  Carried further, our history shows that when we focus on our separation and differences, we can blame “them” for our problems.  This leads to enmity, hatred, and sadly, to violence and warfare.

What if we were to begin to look at our connections?  What if we were to make an effort to recognize one another as persons in the greater whole of humanity?  What if we worked consciously to find ways to share life and leave behind our long history of separation, hatred and death?  What if we recognized the truth in John Donne’s oft quoted words:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

John Donne  1572-1617.

What if each of us in some small way started to live our lives as though we believed in our connections as human beings? What if each of us would make a choice to give life in some small way each day to those we meet?  I believe that the impact on our world would be more than some small thing.  It could mean a step in progress toward a whole new and  better world.

Try it, you may like it.


If you don’t know where you are going, you may already be there!

Dr. Ken Larsen

Life is an educational voyage from birth to greater life.  On this journey, navigation is critical.  If we don’t know where we are going, any road will do.

We have excellent navigational tools for our physical world.  From the basic compass, to maps and GPS, if you know where you want to go, it is easy to find the way to get there.

gpsI have found navigation in the realm of the mind and spirit to be a bit more difficult.

I’m going to share with you five open ended questions we can ask ourselves.  Answers to these questions can be one helpful resource for guidance on our journey.

The questions:

  • To whom do we owe what?
  • How much is enough?
  • Who owns the problem?
  • Compared to what?
  • Why or why not?

These questions take us to a cornerstone of living the mentally healthy and happy life.  That cornerstone is that the course of our journey that shapes our destiny is driven by our choices.   Our instinctive response to the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” is to look outside ourselves.  The knee jerk reflex of criticizing, blaming and complaining is often our first response to life’s challenges.   We are learning that the direction we need is found within us.  These questions can be one way to access that internal power.  They can lead us to make the choices that are essential to mental health and happiness.

I am going to address each of these questions in a separate blog over the next couple of weeks.

As we go along  I’d like to hear from any of you with your thoughts on this process.  You can tell the rest of us about some of the navigational aids you use to help keep you on the path of  mental health and happiness.

Life is Hard

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Life is difficult and awesome. Life is fulfilling and frustrating. Life is filled with one loss and sadness after another. Life is filled with surprises and delights. Life is a series of choices, satisfactions and disappointments. The journey of life includes the peaks and the valleys.

Isn’t it amazing that life is all of those things at once? How is it that each of us has the strength, perseverance and optimism to keep on keeping on? The will to live and keep on living, struggling, succeeding and failing, laughing, loving, crying and celebrating is an awesome force inside of all of us.

Living is hard. Whether a person was born into privilege or scraping by from month to month it is challenging, difficult and occasionally rewarding. What can you do to cultivate greater happiness and mental strength through it all? Intentionally meet your needs for safety, love, power, fun, and freedom every day in responsible and respectful ways. When we meet our basic psychological needs we are continually cultivating our Mental Health & Happiness during the hard times as well as the good. Meeting the basic needs gives us strength to keep going as we face struggles. Consistently meeting our basic needs brings even greater happiness during the good times.

Several years ago a woman learning Choice Theory psychology told me about her adult sister, Mary. Mary had suffered with mental illness since she was a teenager. She had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals since age 15, with a diagnosis of undifferentiated schizophrenia. Over the many years Mary had taken the entire range of psychotropic medications. Some were better than others, but even the best turned Mary into a zombie. Mary complained of feeling flat and “out of it.” She went through the motions of her life but felt empty of any joy and expression of  all feelings, good and bad. Mary did stop hallucinating so her need for hospitalizations were less frequent. After almost fifty years of treatment Mary was able to function and live in the world independently with supervision from Mental Health Counselors.

I just learned something, Mary told her sister. You, who are normal and happy, have to work hard too. I thought once I got well, cured and was normal life would be easy. I just found out that this isn’t true. I thought life was hard for me because I don’t know how to do it right. I just learned life is hard, whether you’re sick or well.

This woman, who is now in her mid-60s is just discovering that part of being human means that life is hard work with hard times for all of us. Now that she is learning to meet her needs for safety, love, power, fun, and freedom every day in respectful and responsible ways she is also discovering how to create more joyful times too. Mary is finally learning what she can do to be in charge of her own Mental Health & Happiness.

Gifts & Challenges

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

I’m single by choice . . . just not my choice (Best line ever from a movie — thank you Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) Because of my single life there are many choices, challenges and obstacles that I face ALONE.

For instance, recently I moved from the east coast to Denver, the biggest leap I had ever taken since leaving home at age 18 and going to college. When I left home at age 18 however,  I entered a community of my peers. There were many other college students facing the very same challenge that I was. Now, many years later I was plopped into Denver where people already had established their life with their peeps, tribe, gang, or what ever you choose to call it.

If I had a mate, I figured to myself, it would be easier for me to go places, engage in activities, and hike in the glorious Rocky Mountains. Even if I never connected with another person, at least I would have my mate as my companion. Because I’m single I am reluctant to dive into these activities fearlessly. And because I have yet to establish my gang, I don’t have anyone I can ask to join me. I’m faced with doing things alone or not doing them at all.

These are the challenges I presently face in my life. What are yours?

Several years ago I learned something very helpful from a Montessori teacher. Her wise lesson keeps me from falling into a deep hole of self-pity or singing the blues longer than necessary. Let me share in the hope it may help you.

All people experience gifts & challenges in life. No one has a life filled with only challenges, one difficulty or hardship after another. Nor does anyone have a life filled with only gifts. Despite how it may appear on Facebook, no person is able, capable or living a life without bumps and disruptions with sad times and difficulties along the way.

Living a solo life as a woman “of a certain age”is a challenge. At the same time, this is also a gift. I get to do or not do what I want when I want. No one talks with me about money and the worry of money. At the same time, there is no one with whom to share my money plans and worries. Do you see how this may be both a challenge and a gift?

What are your challenges? What are your gifts? What are the areas in your life that represent both challenges and gifts?

Today is the perfect day for you to start counting these gifts and challenges to improve your Mental Health & Happiness. With your lists a perfect plan for improvement may emerge.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you Moms

By Dr. Ken Larsen

momThis day has value to help us remember the person who brought us into being in her body and then gave us to the world.  Our mothers were there to hold us, to feed us, to care for us with all our basic needs.  Hers was the voice of comfort in distress, soothing, softening the harsh world that was so new to us.

She was a sturdy support as we grew and learned to feed ourselves, to walk, to play  and to rejoice in the freedom of not needing diapers.

As we grew we didn’t need her quite so much.  Yet even as we moved on in life, we were still connected.

It’s sometimes hard to understand why Mom is still interested in us, is still concerned for our well being, still wants to be part of the life that she brought intmom2o the world.

“The changes that happen in the mommy brain are the most profound and permanent of a woman’s life.  For as long as her child is living under her roof, her GPS system of brain circuits will be dedicated to tracking that beloved child.  Long after the grown baby leaves the nest, the tracking device continues to work.  Perhaps this is why so many mothers experience intense grief and panic when they lose day-to-day contact with the person their brain tells them is an extension of their own reality.”1

Marty Robbins wrote the song “You gave me a mountain.”  One of the lines goes: “My mother died giving me life.”  In a way this is true for all mothers.  They die to who they were in their own individual life to become a mother, a giver of life and love and support to those she has borne.

Thanks, Mom.

1The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine M.D.

Take one colored square position at a time

By Dr. Nancy Buck

It’s a bad break. Something has gone wrong in your life, not what you wanted. And if that isn’t bad enough, what too many of us do making things even worse is imagine all the additional bad things that might follow:

  • You bounced a check. This will probably be followed by even more bounced checks. Now not only are you going to have to pay more bank fees, but now your credit rating is going to suffer and your ability to make your planned future big purchase will be in jeopardy! (Please note, these thoughts written in italics are only the story you’re making up in your head.)
  • Your child has received a bad grade in school. Oh no, if she isn’t doing well in this class now, what will happen when she moves onto the next higher grade level? Is she always going to be an underperformer? Maybe it’s even worse. Maybe she just can’t learn this subject. (See above for thoughts in italics.)
  • You’ve missed the bus home. Just great. Now you will probably miss your train connection so you may not even make it home. Okay, you can call your spouse to come pick you up. But what if s/he’s gone to a meeting and you can’t reach him/her? Will you be stranded and stuck for hours? Maybe you should call him/her now. But you really don’t want to hear the complaining and nagging about your being late again, blah, blah, blah.

Sometimes bad and inconvenient things happen in our lives. But do you make it worse by imagining all the next bad things that will happen? And who says these things will happen? They might happen!

Here’s my solution for improving mental health and happiness when you find yourself imagining the worst:

See yourself on the Candy Land board of your life. Ask yourself:

What color square am I presently on? The red? Am I worrying about what might happen on the gold square? Too soon. If I’m on the red square, I only need to know about the red square and the purple one to come. Once I’m on the purple square I get to learn all about the troubles and details of the purple square and some about the yellow square that’s next.

Get the idea? If life isn’t great in the moment, try to avoid making it worse by worrying about something that might or might not happen two or three squares from now.

Who knows, you might just land on a green and go up the rainbow trail avoiding all the potential perils you’re presently worrying about!

Happy Trails.