Wednesday, January 28, 2015


At least once a week - often twice - I take a solitary walk in some local woods. Many years ago I recognized my need to be away from everyone to restore myself, to recharge my psychological and spiritual batteries. Our work is depleting. Trying to be a compassionate caring person in the presence of so much suffering and struggle for so many hours each week is draining. As I became increasingly aware of this issue I decided to return to my old sanctuary - the woods. As an adolescent,trying to cope with the inner conflicts created by my father's alcoholism, and needing to find some refuge from the psychological battlefield of the blacktop playground of a working class housing project, I fled to a nearby woods. During that difficult period of my life I spent many hours alone there feeling safe.
It has always been fascinating to me that when I recommend to my patients that they too seek out some local nature setting during periods of profound struggle, they also go to some local nature place - woods, lake, hills, ocean, city park - that was a refuge for them during difficult childhoods.
Whenever I return from my woodland mini-retreats I almost always feel replenished and reenter my ordinary life with a sense of renewed energy for my work and family.
I do not consider these walks as "hikes". They are contemplative sojourns. By walking mindfully I am trying to connect with other levels of consciousness within and outside of me. By physically going away from the pulls and distractions of life I am going toward a deeper connection with my own Higher Self, other aspects of non-personal higher consciousness and the consciousness of the natural world. In this way I am following an ancient pathway. For millennia throughout a wide spectrum of spiritual traditions other seekers, during episodes of personal struggle, have separated themselves from ordinary life and gone out into the natural world in order to connect to higher consciousness. Even though I do not feel affiliated with or attached to any particular spiritual tradition I do not feel alone. I am walking a path that many others have travelled. Many years ago in a moment of playfulness I named this aspect of my personality "the old monk." I have grown very fond of that label.
On the walls of my office I have placed images - a tranquil small pond, an old deeply rooted tree, a woodland path - that remind me of the nature places where I sit in meditation and say my prayers. These images are there to help me to connect with and draw upon those other levels of consciousness as I do my work.

The ideas described in this entry are discussed more fully in the Recharging chapter of my book "Working From the Heart: A Therapist's Guide to Heart-Centered Psychotherapy" and depicted in the Recharging video on