First Do No Harm

First Do No Harm

A doctor, like anyone else who has to deal with human beings, each of them unique, cannot be a scientist;
he is either, like the surgeon, a craftsman, or, like the physician and the psychologist, an artist.
This means that in order to be a good doctor a man must also have a good character, that is to say,
whatever weaknesses and foibles he may have, he must
love his fellow human beings in the concrete and
desire their good before his own.
– W. H. Auden

Veteran Journaling Workshop in February

Mindful Writing Workshops for Veterans

No cost. All welcome.

Bring pen, journal and an open mind.

We are both the narrator and the main character of our stories.
Share a new perspective. Small group format. Offered monthly.

This month bring a 5 min reading of prior work to share if desired. No critique.11010033

Where: Coastal Peaks Roasters, 3536 S. Higuera, Suite 150, San Luis Obispo

Times: Sunday,Feb10th, 2013, 12-2 p.m.

Other: Group will be lead by Roslyn Strohl, M.A., LMFT and Lani Steele, Ph.D. Both Roslyn and Lani have Veteran family members and experience in writing, teaching and mindful practice. Coastal Roasters donates the space. Food and coffee for sale.


Why I Still Do Practice Psychotherapy

In this quiet setting of a traditional therapy hour or hour and a half, you can reach a level of reflection and trust that reenlivens a belief in your own imagination and character. No fancy tricks, just deep presence and reflective conversation. From honesty with one self in a supported environment, courage and resolution can arise and become action.
The office is 20 minutes South of San Luis Obispo. Right by the office is a lovely walk along the Bob Jones trail ending at Avila. Close by, the Sycamore Hot Springs offer soaking pools and massage if you need to extend your reflection or self care.


Bringing Attention

Upon entering and leaving my home I pass through the life of my garden. In about the time it takes for me to take three breaths, before I reach the gate my eyes catch something new, a surprise. Today a hummingbird feeds from the hollowed out “lantern” of a persimmon opened by the crows, feasted on by an assortment of others. Half its body disappears inside the fruit as it hovers and darts in and out.
Hummingbirds eat fruit. I never knew…..I watch and smile and remember the native bees that somehow found juiciness in the leaves and canes of the climbing roses after the blossoms were spent.
Just when the story seems to get thin, new possibilities. Resourcefulness.


This time of year…

As the winter descends this week and the fierce retail seduction sets in, we can succumb to sadness and feelings of deprivation, or take a breath, change the thought and proceed with gratitude, humor and joy…..more moments practicing builds resilience and resistence to the onslaught. Through the toughest times I have learned to say, “Watch for the miracles”.
Hold to the beauty of gathering together before descending into the cave of winter. Find and polish your favorite symbols, perhaps one candle not twenty, a branch not a tree, tea not champagne, if money is tight or you are already busy.
Symbolically winter is the time for sleep, poetry, renewal, dreaming, the North, the stripped tree as well as the evergreen and the dark giving way to the light. By savoring this time we are ready when the Birth and rebirth occur.
While our fearful, addictive culture says keep all the lights on, party and decorate, Nature says gather the Beloveds, stay simple, feast on what you have already harvested, believe.

Here is my Winter Solstice offering to you.

Thirteen crows perch
on the wires
above the persimmons.
These fruit have sung to me for months
with their bright refusal to be melancholy
I have watched their curves fill into sweet polished cheeks
their orange clarity against the dying leaves.
It is past Thanksgiving, almost Winter Solstice
and so the crows and I are gathered here
to a communion of ripeness.
Who will eat first
the raven priests or I?
Who will feast on these last fruits, robust
while leaves show their age
give in,
take one last spin to Earth
a leave-taking?
The persimmons glow.
They hold a star within,
taste foreign
almost too sweet
not orange, not apple.

It takes years
to bend the tough persimmon wood
into the tea boxes of Japan.
Yet these most prized.

Now see,
I have written too long.
Up in the persimmon tree
five crows are feasting.
The fruit yields empty baskets
orange skins hold to branches
like tiny lanterns.

RAS. 11-30-2012


Sandy’s Flotsam

Some amazing photographs were published in the NYT. The subjects were ordinary acts by families and individuals. But when the storm Sandy swept them up they were transformed and ethereal and spoke to me of life’s transience and of what endures. I wrote this for a poet friend…little haiku to hold my thoughts.

A Response.

Do not wait for great
Chop onions, sort laundry; write
when the heart says write.

The great storms are here
What if yours is the poem
Flotsam left behind.

Write in indelible ink.
Speak of our friendship,dear poet
How it survived all.


The Problem Is The Problem

In our angst and advertising driven society so often I hear people self diagnose and identify with their diagnosis, “my depression” or “my OCD”. One of the things I like about Narrative Practice is the idea that the problem is the problem. You are not the problem. This allows for a collaborative problem solving and some interesting new possibilities. There are many ways for persons to engage in therapeutic conversations that strengthen and expand a personal knowledge of one’s resourcefulness.
Read about narrative practice from the originals. The Dulwich Center in Australia generously shares material in their library.

Courage to be kind

I awoke this morning to the twittering of the tiny hummingbirds in the sage outside my window.
In my office hangs an etching of a hummingbird by Rosey Rosenthal from Los Osos,Ca.
The hummingbird speaks of highly focused attention, all that energy to be still and gather nectar.
There is grace in taking only what we need. We are not deprived because the sweetness is already distilled into nectar waiting for us. That was the work of the sun,earth and flower.

Life still is sweet even after trauma. It won’t stop the suffering around you to be still, to be kind to yourself but it will give you delight and strength to do your part.