Thursday, August 30, 2012

New Website

Please visit my website, Jacki Dilley LMSW, for new blog posts and more information about my therapy practice.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Invitation to a Great Blog

I recently had the honor of writing an article for a thoughtful, well-written blog called simplyminded. The author, Dave Thielen, writes about clearing away the excess that clogs up our lives and prevents us from living out our values.

Dave writes on such things as the lessons to be learned from drinking tea, resources for starting a low-overhead online business, and practical ideas for cultivating more happiness. Sit down and take a look at his blog, and leave some comments.

The post I wrote for him is How to Get Started Meditating. Leave comments for me, too!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Right Livelihood: Veterans Farm

Under the best of conditions it’s difficult to find and maintain work. Imagine trying to do so while learning to adjust to a closed head injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a feeling of alienation from the culture in which you grew up.

This is the experience of a huge percentage of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The rate of unemployment in this group is 10%, one-third of the homeless population are veterans, and 20% of suicides in the United States are committed by veterans.

Veterans Farm, an organic blueberry farm in the Jacksonville area of Florida, takes a life-affirming approach to empowering disabled veterans to heal, return to work, and reintegrate into American society. It was begun by Adam Burke, a veteran who came back from Iraq with PTSD and a closed head injury. Seeking to come to terms with his disabilities and wartime experiences, he remembered peaceful and satisfying work on his family’s farm growing up. He realized “horticulture therapy” provided an ideal environment for rehabilitation, and talked his wife into buying a small farm.

With the help of Michael O’Gorman, an organic farmer with the Farmer-Veteran Coalition, he started growing blueberries on 2 1/2 acres, got 5 other veterans on board, and began collaborating with other organizations. They now have 8 additional acres and a 14-week program in place that provides a stipend to the veterans while they learn farming skills. They will also be able to ease back into the social rhythms of civilian society by selling berries at farmers markets, to local stores, and at the farm. And work with plants re-develops gross and fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination lost to closed head injuries.

Other reasons why farming is uniquely suited to veterans returning to a troubled economy is that 45% of the military come from rural areas. Farming is one of the few growth industries in the current economy. Two farmers retire for every new one entering the field, and they are all desperate to hire skilled workers.

Veterans continuing to serve through growing healthy food for us and educating the public about sustainable organic farming. Demonstrating that life can still flourish after trauma and injury that only another veteran can really understand. Abundance happens!

Friday, August 20, 2010


Whatever is important to us deserves our careful and compassionate attention. Mindfulness, the practice of paying close attention, can enhance and enlighten every area of our lives.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the pioneer of mind-body medicine, defines mindfulness in his classic book Full Catastrophe Living this way:

“Simply put, mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness. It is cultivated by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily never give a moment’s thought to. It is a systematic approach to developing new kinds of control and wisdom in our lives, based on our inner capacities for relaxation, paying attention, awareness, and insight.”

There’s probably no better way to learn to live more mindfully than to develop a regular meditation practice. I’m going to give you some simple instructions, and also refer you to this beautiful video of meditation master Thich Nhat Hanh teaching mindfulness.

Since your breath is always with you, this method of “observing your breath” is a good starting point. Sit up as straight as you comfortably can and close your eyes, or look at one spot on the floor about three feet in front of you. Find a spot in your upper body where you can distinctly feel yourself breathing. This might be in your diaphragm area, your chest, or your nostrils. Now, just pay attention to your breath naturally coming in and out of your body. Don’t try to breathe deeply; some of your breaths will be short and light, others will be longer and deep.

That’s it. Oh, one other thing. Your mind will definitely wander all over, and, if you’re like 98% of people, you’ll get mad at yourself for this, or feel that you aren’t doing it “right.” The wandering thoughts happen to everyone. The Dalai Lama even says it happens to him. When you notice it, just gently bring your attention back to your breath.

Try to start out meditating 3 to 5 days a week for 5 to 15 minutes, and gradually work up to 5 days a week for 30 minutes. Since you will no doubt come up with questions, look for a group of people in your area who meditate, and join them. It is much easier to keep your meditation going with the support of other people. If you can’t find a local group, do a Google search for an online support system.

Readers — please comment!

1.  Do you meditate or practice any other form of mindfulness? Please tell us about your experiences with it.

Mindfulness and Money

The ways we spend and don’t spend money have such rich information about the real issue: our internal landscapes, and the places where they intersect with the outer world.

You’re standing in a store. You see something you want. Here is an opportunity to mindfully tend and water your internal landscape.

Move out of the aisle into a quiet spot, so you can consciously breathe a few times. Go into the rest room if you feel self-conscious. Now, find where it is in your body that you want. It may be a watering in your mouth, a warmth rising up your neck to your face.

This sensation is not good or bad. There is no need to figure out if the sensation is telling you “buy” or “don’t buy.” Your only job is to notice that this is what your body is creating in response to this desire, today, in this store.

Now see if any statements come into your mind:

The kids need this.

The kids would like this.

"You spend too much!"

I never get to have anything!

I should get this.

"You don’t need this."

Check in again with your body. What are you feeling now, in your chest, your gut, your arms, your face?

There is no hidden agenda here of “spend less money, you over-consumer!” You may, in fact, do well to spend more, especially on certain things. How can you know how much to spend if you don’t know your internal landscape? Right now, we just want to see what’s there. You’ll learn how to access your own internal wisdom to guide you in spending decisions. If there is any “agenda,” it would be to learn to give yourself what truly satisfies you.

Readers, please comment:
  • What was your immediate reaction, physical, emotional, or mental, to this meditation?
  • Did you try it? If so, what happened for you?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Overspending: A Map That Tells Us Where We Need Healing

Since overspending and debt problems are so prevalent in our country, let’s take a non-judgmental look at this topic. When your relationship with money involves overspending, worry and shame preoccupy you throughout your day. You can’t be present to other people, your work, or your efforts to relax when you carry too much debt, as overspenders usually do. But overspending can become the means of self-transformation if you stop haranguing yourself and instead start to figure out what is driving you to self-destruct in this way.

What might be going on within you? Many people come into adulthood never having had the opportunity to learn productive ways to deal with problems. You may feel insecure at a deep level; overspenders are often trying to fill an inner sense of emptiness. You may be trying to drown out ghosts from the past, including early trauma, with the intense feelings that come with recreational spending. Any kind of compulsive behavior is a distraction: if you weren’t overspending, what unpleasant things might come to your awareness?

In his excellent book Money, Heart and Mind, William Bloom talks about relative deprivation. Our sense of “being ok” and “normal” is strongly related to looking like other people. Unless we have a firm grounding in something like our family, community, or spirituality, most of us feel a deeply distressing sense of relative deprivation when we see others enjoying things we cannot afford. Much advertising is expressly designed to intensify this sense of desire and dissatisfaction.

There may even be biological factors involved in overspending. One of the identifying symptoms of the illness of bipolar disorder is a periodic uncontrollable drive to spend vast amounts of money, whether you have it or not. Many of us who are not bipolar are “hard-wired” to feel emotions so intensely that unless we learn ways to manage everyday stressors, we require strong distractions or sedatives to help us handle things that don’t seem to rattle other people.

Depressed yet? Don’t be. These are all solvable problems. Many good, decent people struggle with these issues and find ways to overcome them. It is of utmost importance to treat yourself gently and with compassion if you are an overspender. The very thing that seems like your greatest flaw becomes the means to your freedom if you let the problem tell you about what hurts within you.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sadness, Grief, or Depression?

There are important differences between sadness, grief, and depression, and each one calls for a different response.

Sadness is a normal, healthy part of life. Many things cause it: disappointments, losing something important, negative thoughts, and so forth. We often want to just get rid of sadness or avoid it by distracting ourselves. Unfortunately, this makes it last longer and even makes the problem worse. The best thing we can do when we get sad is to let ourselves feel it and know that it will pass on its own.

Grief is also a normal part of life. When we lose someone important through death or divorce, we go through grieving. The terrible sadness we feel shows how important that person was to us. If we don't push grief away, it also will pass, and we will no longer feel so empty. Grief after a death lasts a long time, so it is important to have caring people to talk with.

Depression is a medical illness. Even though it feels almost just like sadness or grief, the brain and brain chemistry are involved in a very different way. Unlike sadness or grief, depression does not go away naturally. Someone with depression may feel worse when well-meaning loved ones say to cheer up, because the person is biologically unable to do so. Medication may help, and is often used only temporarily. It is not a “crutch,” but more like taking thyroid medication.

Understanding these differences helps in finding good solutions. Since it can be so difficult to tell which is which, see a therapist or a doctor if you feel concerned.