Life as a career

Life itself is your career, and your interaction with life is your most meaningful relationship. Everything else you’re doing is just focusing on a tiny subset of life in the attempt to give life some meaning. What actually gives life meaning is the willingness to live it. It isn’t any particular event; it’s the willingness to experience life’s events.

Singer, Michael A.. The Untethered Soul (p. 161). New Harbinger Publications. Kindle Edition.

Covid-19 has turned so many things upside down. The upside down, blurry vision sometimes offers glimpses of hidden perspectives. Like: since we can work from home, why were we “going” to work anyway? Why do 9-5 jobs exist? What is the relationship between time and purpose? Who do we shelter with, and potentially infect and are infected by? What are essential services? What is home when a social boundary as well as a retreat? What are we losing in this social distancing? What are we gaining? How do I connect to loved ones outside my bubble? How do I love from a distance? How do I have hope without expectations? How do I plan without hubris?

How do I show my willingness to live? How do I serve and do justice to life itself? How would I write my resume for a career in life?

The quote above reassures me that I don’t have to be anything. I just have to live life the best I can. Let life flow through me including all the questions, uncertainties and losses. It isn’t good or bad, its simply braving life, willfully.

Living well is an miraculous achievement.

Today I have eaten well, rested well, noticed my surrounding well, connected with those sheltering in place with me, I spoke, I shared, cooked and cooked, cleaned, contributed beyond my walls as best as I could. I did not change the world. I witnessed life lived in my tiny corner of the universe. That has to be enough.

I’ll admit, some days it feels easier to stay under the covers and hide from life.

We are all independent contractors invested in the career of life. We do better when we collaborate instead of compete.

Give yourself a performance review today. How do you rate your career in life ?

I wish you willingness to experience life’s events, beautiful and scary,


Relief in Social Distancing?

My initial concern, as a counselor, with social distancing in this time of COVID-19 was the increased potential for social isolation.

I worry about the elderly, the children in abusive or unsafe homes, the victims of partner violence, the ones living alone, the ones sick or afraid.

One of my first remote sessions caused me to think a bit differently about our situation.

What if, social distancing allows for a moment of respite not only from the judgment of others, but also from self-expectations? What if, in sheltering in place, we allow ourselves the grace of non-productivity grounded in social caring?

For one client, anxiety and anger melted away over the past week of interrupted activity. No issues to report. Nothing to discuss. Just ease sitting on the couch and watching television.

How powerful is simply pausing and distancing.

Thinking of this self-imposed quarantine as a vacation instead of social rejection, isolation or imprisonment may help explain my client’s sense of ease.

Of course, many cannot afford times without work, travel, social interaction. With social distancing, how can we get food and shelter to those who need it? How will small businesses survive? How can people working hourly shifts, work? How can children learn and grow? How long can we distance for the sake of collective health? Can we continue this sense of solidarity from a distance when we are able to approach each other again?

Alongside these broad social questions, maybe an important spiritual lesson to slow down is being taught to us. Our lives depend on it. Maybe beyond threats of COVID-19.

How are you experiencing social distancing?

Is it a relief? a suffering? a break? a welcomed pause? an uncomfortable uncertainty? are you worried about your parents, family who may seem further away and more vulnerable? Are you playing more games with your kids? Eating more meals together?

Are you distancing the events on your calendar, softening expectations, shortening to-do lists? Are you able to hear yourself better as other move away? Are the voices that rumble “you are not doing enough” distancing too? Do you find yourself weirdly at ease?

I do.

Wishing you health and self-aware ease,


Therapist for Artists, not Art Therapist

I studied architecture. I studied philosophy. As my studies of social work comes to an end, I find myself thinking about how I can combine my skills. I wonder if there are any models out there. If there are and you are reading this please comment below. For now this is how I feel….

“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for meaning I can tell you I don’t have answers, but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a guide for people like you. If you find your own meaning now that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you, but if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you and I will find meaning with you.”
Hungryphil ( modified from Liam Neeson, Taken

My husband and I came up with this parallel. We thought it was funny for those of you familiar with the movie reference. I do have a very particular set of skills that verges on irrelevance. Yet, one that can be very useful to people who confront the seemingly meaningless everyday.

Why therapist for artists you might ask? What makes them different?

It is not so much that artists are different but they may be, in so many ways, avant-gardes of emotional ownership and expression. Artists struggle and transform their pain into material expression. They own and give trauma, life. Some can’t bear the process and fall. Others manage to integrate and map their maze of reality, dream, nightmare, hyper-reality, delusion and ecstasy. Some rely so much on their pain as a creative source that they rather remain depressed, enraged or erratic in order to feed their work. To be a therapist for artists, one has to respect the creative power of dark emotions. It is never about eliminating such powerful feelings. Rather the goal is to harness the power. Without this ability, either the artist dies or the art dies.

I admire the audacity of artists. I fear their invitation and vulnerability to dark emotions. I love art and self-expression. I love self-awareness more. As a therapist for artist, I need to “see” not only the artist as client but also their artwork as client. In essence, my therapeutic commitment must be to both: artist and artwork.

Only with this dedication would an artist trust me.

Show me your art, show me your heart, so I can help you see yourself at the center of all the chaos.

I’m sending this wish, to serve artists, out to the universe. May it guide me on this beautiful warm February Sunday and beyond.

It has been cold and dark for so long. I am so glad to see the sun and see the completion of another piece to my particular skill set.

With love,


Metabolizing Sweet Joy

Dear Readers,

I have a confession.

I’ve been converting joy into fear. My desire to help into a fear of hurting others. I haven’t been digesting life or metabolizing my nutrient-rich loving supports in spirit or in body despite this blog’s mission.

Mostly I’m guilty of being unaware of my own indigestion.

The literal and material story is that my A1C reports pre-diabetes, a blame that can easily be laid at the feet of my parents. How could I, mindful eater hungryphil, fail to notice my own decreasing ability to metabolize energy?

In fearing failure, I failed.

The spiritual story is that new to my practicum site of community mental health, I let my desire to help morph into a fear of paperwork- forms, checking the wrong box, not asking enough, asking too much, not converting subjective information into correct numerical value, writing the wrong words etc. etc. The stress turned my dream job into a haunting.

I know, you’re probably thinking like my doctor, this isn’t so deep hungryphil, “just stop eating carbs and sugar, all will be well.” Part of me agrees with you.


Those of you familiar with the work of Louis Hay know that diabetes expresses a:

Longing for what might have been. A great need to control. Deep sorrow. No sweetness left.

In order to counteract this association she recommends that I need to remind myself that:

This moment is filled with joy. I now choose to experience the sweetness of today.

You Can Heal Your Life . Hay House. Kindle Edition.

Yes, I know this maybe voodoo and completely unrelated to the mechanics of genetics and biology. Again, agree.


What if there is more: a spiritual dimension to all that challenges us whether physical or emotional?

This my own intervention plan for the next six months until I get tested again:

  1. Reduce Carbohydrate and Sugar intake following medical advice.
  2. Walk an hour a day. Expend energy reconnecting to my ground by focusing on each step.
  3. Educate myself on how to identify supportive and nutrient-rich good things in food and people. This also means accepting help and guidance from others, for example, trust my supervisor and peers at work. I’m also working with a nutrition coach to introduce me to food that can support me better. Interestingly the first lesson involved a form of “grounding.” Nutrient rich soil produces nutrient rich produce, therefore buy from farmers who nourish the soil. Simple, right? More on this later. Fascinating how our ground and earth matters: emotionally and digestively.
  4. Recognize fears present alongside positive emotions instead of replacing or rejecting.

May I metabolize sweetness into energetic joy. The last months I have let the joys of my life ferment in fear. I will celebrate learning new things instead of focusing on mistakes. I will celebrate my baby growing into higher learning instead of fearing her departure. I will celebrate my warm loving home and husband instead of fearing all that can interrupt.

I will celebrate you, dear readers, my willing community of ears and eyes, as part of my nourishing support.

This moment is filled with joy. I now choose to experience the sweetness of today.

May we all metabolize and accept joy with gratitude (and enjoy a warm glazed chocolate doughnut occasionally).


Empowered Filter

“OOO holds no grudge against the socio-political interpretation or effectiveness of art, but simply insists that not all of the elements of the context of an artwork are relevant to that work, and that an artwork either admits or forbids its surroundings to enter through a fairly rigorous process of selection.”

Harman, Graham. Object-Oriented Ontology (Pelican Books) (p. 102). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

The above is a quote by Object Oriented Ontology philosopher Graham Harman. It makes me wonder how would an artwork “admit or forbid its surroundings to enter”? Suppose I am a human object aspiring to be an artwork, how I relate or negate my context, how I compound or distance myself from other objects would reshape me as a sensual object. Right?

Me as an object among other objects am not just a “person in environment” as social work teaches us, but enmeshed, compounded, yet distinct. Depending on how I admit or reject my context, other things, other objects shifts my status as a quadruple object, a sensual object and a composition of sensual qualities. Maybe at the moment of filtering there is freedom? Maybe as an object I can change? I can recreate my compound object existence? What is my own process of “rigorous selection”? Can I think through this quote about artwork in the context of counseling?

To what extent do you consider yourself a product of your context?

When you introduce yourself, what elements of your context are relevant ? Where you grew up, went to school, what you do, your parents, your family, children, your race or religion………

Just a wondering. I need to sit with this for a while.

Photography by: Nate Dale – New Adventure Productions

Cookie Monster and Oscar’s Guide to Life

As long as I can look back and say “There’s no way I could have been grouchier,” it was good day.

Oscar the Grouch, The Pursuit of Grouchiness

I aspire to Oscar’s about the author page… “Oscar the the Grouch doesn’t need to explain himself to you. He lives in a trash can on Sesame Street.”

My hero.

Early bird gets worm. But cookie tastes better than worm. So me sleep in.

Cookie Monster, The Joy of Cookies

Life, for me is a balance between the unapologetic self-acceptance of Oscar the Grouch and the laser focused cookie pursuit of the Cookie Monster.

These wise monsters demonstrate Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills of Radical-Self-acceptance and Meaning-making.

If there is a why, then a person can figure out the how.

Victor Frankl

Oscar the Grouch and the Cookie Monster know their “whys.”

I’m still working on mine. How about you?

Wishing you enough cookies to share and a smelly trash can to rest in,


Lurking Dangers of Online Images

Dear Readers,

A confession. No. A lamentation.

Recently my beloved Community Yoga, (West Lafayette, Indiana) was sued for copyright infringement based on a re-posted Hungryphil blog post.

I am mortified and confused. In all my work, I aim to always attribute images and honor the work of writers, artists, and designers. I quickly learned that “free downloads” and filtered public domain images are not so, attribution and plagiarism are not same, and the copyright/fair use issues are very gray.  The image I had used was a comic cartoon of a yogi doing a handstand, sideways (funny and creative work, thank you artist whom I don’t know and have inadvertently offended). Ironically the post was about the dangers of ego-focus. It had the website and the image id number ON the image. I wrongly assumed the on-image attribution would operate as an advertisement. A very unintentional misunderstanding of “free downloads” and fair use. Confessedly, I’m ignorant of the shades of copyright gray not malicious. What makes my mistake worth $660 for a third party who simply re-posted?

The system, or rather the single letter received over mail is based on guilt, shaming and punishing rather than creative protection and public education. How is the calculation made that one can be sued for an indeterminate amount between $660 and $150K for an $11 image? How much of the $660 would the artist get? Once I have a clear view of the rules regarding online image use on personal blogs, I’ll be sure to post it. So far I haven’t found an easy list to follow and would be grateful for recommendations.

It doesn’t help that the law firm suing Community Yoga has an unsavory online reputation for copyright infringement related “extortion.

This makes me hesitant to use ANY online imagery. So, from now on I’ll be posting random potentially unrelated images of things, myself and my family.

Community Yoga did not make a penny from the image I posted. Yes, I should pay for my unintentional mistake, like I would a traffic ticket. In this case, the passenger is getting the ticket and the fine is random.

Part of me wants to sulk quietly in fear of being sued myself. If I’m quiet maybe they won’t hit me with a lawsuit too. But, I believe it is important to share and warn of the dangers. In a moment of unaware image use, I opened myself and those who would support me up to legalized blackmail by online ambulence chasers.

Let this be a gentle warning to you, my dear blog reading and writing friends. Protect yourselves and your friends. I’ll try my best to do better.










Socks and Defiant Fragility

I thought back to med school, when a patient had told me that she always wore her most expensive socks to the doctor’s office, so that when she was in a patient’s gown and shoeless, the doctor would see the socks and know she was a person of substance, to be treated with respect.

Kalanithi, Paul. When Breath Becomes Air (p. 187). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

This story makes me think about the socks I will wear to my next checkup. It is an apt representation of the struggle to maintain our identity, respectability, and humanity when being medically or otherwise analyzed and assessed.  If I were to choose a pair of socks to carry the burden of expressing my personality, which would it be? My colorful Frida Kahlo socks, dignified black socks, sporty pink lined ankle socks, lace-rimmed boot socks? What makes me, me? and how can I protect and show that I am more than my faulty body, thoughts or feelings? I love this patient’s resistance to being reduced to a medical chart and her insistence on presenting herself as a “person of substance” despite being sick, weak or broken. To know that I am fragile and substantive, or rather because I am fragile, I have meaning. The patient seems to say, “I wear socks as an expression of my defiant fragility. I confront my own exposure to the threat of meaninglessness with the best socks I have.” I find myself inspired by this small act of resistance.

In my training as a hospice volunteer, protecting a sense of choice for patients is paramount. Choice gives them/us, humanity. Choice gives them/us, personality. Choice makes the difference between suffering or confronting death. Hospice gives them/us, socks.

A while back when I was having a difficult time, my good friend K. gave me these socks, with the note “walk in love.” I think this will be my socks when defiant fragility is called for. It is good to have good friends.






Happiness as Defiance in Bangladesh


According to the Happy Planet Index, Bangladesh ranks 8th among 140 countries. Just for comparison, the USA, where I live, ranks 108.  How is this possible that a place plagued by a high density of population, poverty, halting traffic, uncertainty and low life expectancy be so….happy? There seems to be no reason to be happy in the developing world. Afterall, most of my family chose to emigrate to the West. What did I miss?

Over my brief holiday stay in Dhaka, I caught glimpses from a fourth story veranda that might explain the high happiness factor.

Here’s my personal observation:

People seem to actively pursue small joys despite the inconvenience of crowds, traffic, workday, etc. No excuses. Morning walks by the lake, tea at the street corner with friends and strangers, wearing vibrant colors, music on the rooftops and streets and prayers on the street. Two things stand out:  socializing and eating. A lot. Everywhere. Based on the quantity and variety of food in the streets no one would believe hunger existed in Bangladesh.

New Year’s Eve there was a government ban on fireworks. Yet, I was woken up at midnight to the sound of fireworks shooting off the rooftops along with a steady stream of rising gentle glowing paper lanterns. Some caught on fire, some blew off to far away places to litter a different neighborhood the next day, there were explosive color and noise, alongside flickering floating lights, there was the sound of laughter, the smell of food cooking on the rooftops. People are willing to burn money for a good show of joy (fireworks are super expensive!) as a social service not mere personal luxury. It was the most private yet shared joy I experienced in any New Year’s Eve celebration ever,  as much a spectacle as a meditation. It was beautiful and unsafe. Whenever I need a moment of magic I’ll remember that dark night sky shot through with color, light, laughter and joyful defiance.  Thank you, Atiya for the photograph capturing the lanterns.

There is no reason to be happy. Like beauty, happiness is not efficient, clean, predictable, convenient or contained. In Bangladesh happiness doesn’t perch on your shoulder gently when you are not looking, as a side effect of ease. It is a  hard-fought battle against difficult circumstances and with considerable risk, along with others sharing tea and snacks.

Snack on and socialize everyone!

May you be happy,









Non-Judgemental Judgement?

The practices of yoga and social work both encourage maintaining an attitude of non-judgemental judgment. This requirement feels like Kant’s demand for an “disinterested interest” in the judgments of beauty. Suffering, care, and beauty all depend on our ability to notice what is happening without forcing theoretical preconceptions. Practicing this attitude of noticing without prejudice (i.e. pre-judgment) about how a pose or human well-being or a painting ought to look, is difficult. One suggestion, according to Prof. Ogden Rogers, is to go with the defense, to run with a running a man instead of trying to stop him. To stay “with” before trying to yoga terms…stay with your breath, notice what is happening for you, stay with the discomfort…………stay with…stay with….stay with…….

Going With the Defense

Whatever a client brings to you, accept it as a gift. There are thoughts, feelings, and behavior, seen and unseen, and whatever emerges is something to be tracked, followed, and used to help the relationship. Never stop a running man. Run with him and wave others off who might stop him. Slowly slow your pace, travel to a place where the running no longer serves a purpose, and perhaps sitting and talking will emerge. Some wise workers call this “exhausting the resistance” or “going with the defense.”6 I like to think of it as simply unwrapping a gift and using it.


Rogers, Ogden W.. Beginnings, Middles, & Ends: Sideways Stories on the Art & Soul of Social Work (p. 40). White Hat Communications. Kindle Edition.

In the Middle of a Middle

We need nonjudgmental judges. We need those who can enter respectfully into the middle of our private muddles and echo the outside of our public rule. We need those who can understand the craziness that keeps us sane, and yet interpret the taboos that glue us together. We need advocates of the infinite diversities individuality provokes…and speak it to the Leviathan, and make it understand.

Rogers, Ogden W.. Beginnings, Middles, & Ends: Sideways Stories on the Art & Soul of Social Work (p. 83). White Hat Communications. Kindle Edition.