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Jason Seidel, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

303-377-0999

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inspiring quotes & passages


Words for the examined life

The Invitation, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer A prose poem about connecting to the heart, and living from the heart.

The Way of Transformation, by Karlfried Graf Durckheim (1971, pp. 81-82). An existential examination of courage, dignity, and the experiences that threaten to annihilate us.

Follow Your Heart, by Susanna Tamaro (1995, p. 204). A simple passage illustrating that sometimes the wisest advice is: "Don't just do something, sit there!"

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. . . From A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson (1992, p. 165). A widely quoted passage often attributed to Nelson Mandela.

Joe Heller, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr
     On the state of grace known as having "enough."

Rumi's poem: Today, Like Every Other Day
      A meditation on not getting too "into your head" about things.

Rumi's poem: Who Makes These Changes?
      On the futility of trying to control everything.

Rumi's poem: Acts of Helplessness
     Beauty and possibility arise from connection; emerging from agony and desperation.

Rumi's poem: Love Dogs
      Reaching out is the ultimate devotion, the ultimate humanity.

R. Frost: We dance round in a ring and suppose

Shakespeare: We make trifles of terrors

Seneca: Troubles half seen do torture

J. Arleth: Forgiveness

Lao-Tzu: Softness triumphs over hardness


The Invitation

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain. I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty, even when it's not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, "Yes!"

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

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The Way of Transformation

Karlfried Graf Durckheim

The man who, being really on the Way, falls upon hard times in the world will not, as a consequence, turn to that friend who offers him refuge and comfort and encourages his old self to survive. Rather, he will seek out someone who will faithfully and inexorably help him to risk himself, so that he may endure the suffering and pass courageously through it, thus making of it a 'raft that leads to the far shore'.

Only to the extent that man exposes himself over and over again to annihilation, can that which is indestructible arise within him. In this lies the dignity of daring. Thus, the aim of practice is not to develop an attitude which allows a man to acquire a state of harmony and peace wherein nothing can ever trouble him. On the contrary, practice should teach him to let himself be assaulted, perturbed, moved, insulted, broken and battered-that is to say it should enable him to dare to let go his futile hankering after harmony, surcease from pain, and a comfortable life in order that he may discover, in doing battle with the forces that oppose him, that which awaits him beyond the world of opposites.

The first necessity is that we should have the courage to face life, and to encounter all that is most perilous in the world. When this is possible, meditation itself becomes the means by which we accept and welcome the demons which arise from the unconscious-a process very different from the practice of concentration on some object as a protection against such forces.

Only if we venture repeatedly through zones of annihilation can our contact with Divine Being, which is beyond annihilation, become firm and stable. The more a man learns wholeheartedly to confront the world that threatens him with isolation, the more are the depths of the Ground of Being revealed and the possibilities of new life and Becoming opened.

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Follow Your Heart

Susanna Tamaro

Every time you feel lost, confused, think about trees, remember how they grow. Remember that a tree with lots of branches and few roots will get toppled by the first strong wind, while the sap hardly moves in a tree with many roots and few branches. Roots and branches must grow in equal measure, you have to stand both inside of things and above them, because only then will you be able to offer shade and shelter, only then will you be able to cover yourself with leaves and fruit at the proper season.

And later on, when so many roads open up before you, you don't know which to take, don't pick one at random; sit down and wait. Breathe deeply, trustingly, the way you breathed on the day when you came into the world, don't let anything distract you, wait and wait some more. Stay still, be quiet, and listen to your heart. Then, when it speaks, get up and go where it takes you.

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A Return to Love

Marianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

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From the poem, Joe Heller

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

JOE HELLER

True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter Island.

I said, "Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel 'Catch-22?
has earned in its entire history?"
And Joe said, "I've got something he can never have."
And I said, "What on earth could that be, Joe?"
And Joe said, "The knowledge that I've got enough."
Not bad! Rest in peace!

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Poems by Rumi, 13th-century Sufi Poet



Today, Like Every Other Day
Rumi

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

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Who makes these changes?
Rumi

Who makes these changes?
I shoot an arrow right.
It lands left.
I ride after a deer and find myself
chased by a hog.
I plot to get what I want
and end up in prison.

I dig pits to trap others
and fall in.

I should be suspicious
of what I want.

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Acts of Helplessness
Rumi

Here are the miracle-signs you want: that
you cry through the night and get up at dawn, asking,
that in the absence of what you ask for your day gets dark,
your neck thin as a spindle, that what you give away
is all you own, that you sacrifice belongings,
sleep, health, your head, that you often
sit down in a fire like aloes wood, and often go out
to meet a blade like a battered helmet.
When acts of helplessness become habitual,
those are the signs.
But you run back and forth listening for unusual events,
peering into the faces of travelers.
"Why are you looking at me like a madman?"
I have lost a friend. Please forgive me.

Searching like that does not fail.
There will come a rider who holds you close.
You faint and gibber. The uninitiated say,
"He's faking."
How could they know?
Water washes over a beached fish, the water
of those signs I just mentioned.
Excuse my wandering.
How can one be orderly with this?
It's like counting leaves in a garden,
along with the song-notes of partridges,
and crows.

               Sometimes organization
and computation become absurd.

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Love Dogs
Rumi

One night a man was crying,
            Allah! Allah!
His lips grew sweet with the praising,
until a cynic said,
             So! I have heard you
calling out, but have you ever
gotten any response?"

The man had no answer to that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.

He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
in a thick, green foliage.
             "Why did you stop praising?" "Because I've never heard anything back."
             "This longing
you express is the return message."

The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.

Your pure sadness
that wants help
is the secret cup.

Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.

There are love dogs
no one knows the names of.

Give your life
to be one of them.

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Various Quotes

We dance round in a ring and suppose.
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

-Frost

Commentary on Frost
Frost's couplet expresses the theme of body-centered therapies: that our heads get busy trying to figure things out, but we are often looking in the wrong place for the answer. It's as if we don't know how to communicate with the problem--don't know how to listen properly. . . and we don't know that we don't know. There's an old joke about this: A man walks up to the counter and says, "I'll have a corned beef with mustard on rye." The man at the counter says, "We don't have corned beef." The customer says, "Well then, I'll have a roast beef, lettuce and tomato on wheat, with mayo." The man at the counter says, "We don't have roast beef either, sir." The customer, growing irritated, says, "Well, how about turkey on a kaiser roll?" The man at the counter says, "Sorry, sir. We don't have turkey either." The customer shouts: "What kind of a deli is this?!" The man at the counter replies, "Sir, this is a hardware store."

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We make trifles of terrors,
ensconcing ourselves into seeming knowledge when we should submit ourselves to an unknown fear.

-Shakespeare, All's Well That Ends Well

Commentary on Shakespeare
Shakespeare, the great psychologist, noted that intellectual understanding--and thought itself--is sometimes a defense against encountering the mystery and felt power of the unknown. So, why should we "submit ourselves to an unknown fear"? See Frost's couplet, above for an answer.

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Who shrinks from knowledge of his calamities aggravates his fear; troubles half seen do torture. -Seneca

Commentary on Seneca
The down-side of playing ostrich: What we don't know can really hurt us. This is the basis of depth psychology: "knowing" our calamities, by connecting with how they've affected us, lessens our torture.

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Forgiveness is when I take responsibility for the effects of other people's mistakes on my life.
-author unknown, cited by Jens Arleth

Commentary on quote cited by Arleth
This pithy existential definition of forgiveness is very different than the usual idea of forgiveness: that we should somehow give up our resentments. This definition says that for me to forgive someone, I will not be responsible for their behavior, but for the effects of that behavior on my life. Why is this important? It shows that forgiveness requires a shift in focus from the perpetrator as the center of action to the victim as the center of action. Meaning: "I have been wounded, but I have to live with the outcome of all this; so what do I need to do, to regain my dignity or peace?" What does the word "mistakes" mean here? What if it wasn't a mistake, but the act was done on purpose? My interpretation of the word "mistakes" is that it refers to a kind of "soul mistake"-that if the perpetrator were truly "awake" and aware of the effect of the behavior on their victim; if the perpetrator were "in touch," conscious, and emotionally connected, then they would not have done the act. Through this definition of forgiveness, we can see that the giving up of our resentments comes later, and is the side-effect of re-taking our power in the aftermath of tragedy and letting go of our wish that the perpetrator should or will correct the problem, and realizing that the correction or healing must come from us.

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Softness triumphs over hardness, feebleness over strength. What is malleable is always superior to that which is immovable. This is the principle of controlling things by going along with them, of mastery through adaptation.
-Lao-Tzu

Commentary on Lao-Tzu
This is as true in relationships, psychology, and business, as it is in martial arts and nature: brittleness looks strong but is weak. Flexibility looks weak but is strong. In psychotherapy, one often fears acknowledging the ultimate feeling of weakness that comes from connecting with one's suffering or inability to "master" their problems the way they had been taught to do. Paradoxically, from such (apparent) weakness and relinquishment of one's firmly held position, comes real mastery and a very different feeling of strength, resilience, and even joy.

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