On Resolutions

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Many years ago, my then three-year-old daughter Katie told me, “I just met the nice fat lady who lives next door.”

“That’s great, honey,” I said. “But from now on, let’s call her Mrs. Ellis.”

Katie frowned, “What if I forget?” 

“No problem,” I said, “I’ll remind you.”

Katie thought a moment longer, then asked, “What if I refuse?”

That was one of those special parenting moments, the moments we realize we have no ultimate control over our own tiny toddlers, let alone anyone larger. 

“Oh well,” I remember thinking, “at least I can control myself.”

As if.

January is the month when many of us, overfed and overworked by the holidays, set […]

Long Dark Nights

When I moved to Boston, the most northerly place I’ve lived, winter hit me like a hammer. Massachusetts can get colder than a psychopath’s heart, but I could handle that. It wasn’t the cold that got me down; it was the darkness.

Living up north, I understood why so many winter holidays focus on light. Long before the first Christmas, Nordic pagans lit bonfires at the winter solstice. Hanukkah and the Hindu Diwali are both “festivals of light.” Kwanzaa is all about candles. Lighting winter’s darkness can raise our spirits no end.

But this can go too far. Electricity has allowed [...]

Conversations Across Time

I owe my mental health to thousands of different counselors, almost none of whom ever met me. What they did do was write books—books I read and reread until they became part of my psyche. Books that taught me how to be happy.

When I was young, my anxiety and depression made me somewhat unusual. These days, they’re par for the course. This is partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2019, ten percent of Americans reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders. In 2020, that rose to over 40 percent. Other mental health issues—insomnia, alcoholism, drug addiction—also skyrocketed.

We all [...]

Light Side Rising

So there’s this board game called Dark Side Rising. It’s based on Star Wars and features Darth Vader, so I guess you could say it’s pure fantasy. 

But every morning, when I get up and read the headlines, I smack right into things that aren’t fantasy: continuing racism, sexism, xenophobia, conspiracy theories, violent pointless arguments, the Taliban yanking Afghanistan backward into the Dark Ages. 

The dark side rising.

Sometimes, I just go right back to bed. 

But then, after lying in defeat for a while, I remember something. We live in a dualistic reality. For every up, there is a down. For every [...]

Even before you hear it, you know it

Even before you hear it, you know it. It’s in your DNA. Thrilling and terrifying, musical and primordial: the roar of a lion.

The sun is setting over Londolozi Game Reserve in northern South Africa. I’m sitting in an open Land Rover with guests at our yearly Self-Transformation Adventure Retreat (STAR). Twenty feet away from us stands a huge male lion. 

The lion lifts his head, sniffs the air. Then his massive body seems to swell as he draws in a huge breath. We hear a low moan that rises rapidly until it’s nearly as loud as a jet engine. It [...]

Follow Your Own Path Away from Culture

In case you haven’t heard, I am prone to “paranormal” experiences. In fact, without many startling moments of transcendent peace, when I felt gently supported by a conscious universe, I’m pretty sure I’d be dead. 

There, now you know.

I’ve written about my own mystical side for years, but it still scares me. Among educated people, this topic gets you lumped in with folks who find fairies on their sunflowers and get messages about Jesus from their cats.

So I’m always surprised when I confess to a mystical side and not everyone is scathingly critical. In fact, many people—friends, colleagues, participants in [...]

The Cure for Post-Covid Anxiety

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” a friend told me recently. “I freaked out when the pandemic shut down my life. Now things are opening up again, and I’m freaking out about that. Am I crazy?”

She’s not crazy—and she’s not alone. This is a liminal moment in our collective history. “Liminal” means “on the threshold.” At the moment of crossing a threshold we’re neither in nor out, so in a sense, we’re nowhere. This is unnerving, no question. But if we use it right, it can also be a huge opportunity.

In many traditional cultures, thresholds were seen as [...]

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