Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Proverb by Ed Kozeny

A friend, Ray Becvar, sent this missive as a followup to a recent conversation:

Alan Watts recounts the tale of the Chinese farmer:

One day his horse ran away.
And all the neighbors gathered in the evening and said, “That’s too bad.”
The farmer said, “Maybe.”

The next day the horse came back and brought with it seven wild horses.
The neighbor’s said, “Aren’t you lucky.”
The farmer said, “Maybe.”

The next day, his son grappled with one of these wild horses and tried to break it in and he got thrown and broke his leg.
And all the neighbors said, “Oh that’s too bad that your son broke his leg.”
The farmer said, “Maybe.”

The next day the conscription officers came around gathering young men for the army, and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg.
The neighbors said, “Isn’t that great, your son got out.”
The farmer said, “Maybe.”

The point that Watts is making is about the limits of rational human thought and the relativity of things we define as good or bad.  He notes that we can’t always know in which direction “progress” lies.  We have been told that the same Chinese symbol is used for crisis and opportunity.

My thanks to Ray for the above:

I see juveniles in detention once a week.  Part of the message I bring is that there is a good side and a bad side to everything that comes into our lives.  I'm often surprised by the number of these young people who can see the good side of being locked up for weeks or months at a time.  My hope is that each and every one of us can see the good side of each and every thing that comes into our lives, including yours truely,


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Halloween: Now That's Scary.

Halloween: - a time when we put on masks and pretend to be someone else. Some of us put on scary masks and pretend to be bad; some of us put on gentle or inviting masks and pretend to be good.
What a lesson for life. Don't we do that all the time? Isn't every day a Halloween? Don't we put on a mask ever day.... every minute of every day?
When we see an attractive person and feel that rise of attraction; what do we do? We search through our bag of masks, pick a mask that we think is attractive and we try to impress.
I visit kids in juvenile detention. Not nice kids. At least they didn't look nice to the neighbor whose lawn was destroyed or to the kid on the losing lend of the fight, or to the parents of the kid that got a start down the road to addiction. In detention, sometimes, it's OK (almost safe) to remove the mask. Sometimes I get to see the real kid underneath. Sometimes I get to see the kid whose brother sold drugs, the kid whose sister overdosed, the kid whose adoptive family doesn't want her anymore. Sometimes I get to see the hurt and hurting person behind the mask. Sometimes I get to see the joyful and loving person behind the mask. Sometimes I get to see the tears. Sometimes I get to see the smiles and hear the laughter.
In juvenile detention, when the masks come off we talk. We talk about compliments. I give each a compliment and they give each other compliments. Sometime I hear, "I've never heard that before" and, inside, I cry.

When the masks come off we get to see that there is only one. And your one is the same as my one and there is connection. I love my job, sometimes.

Ed Kozeny

Friday, August 21, 2015

Yoga for Anxiety and Depression

By Andrew Jovanovic, RYT-200, Professional Counseling Intern

A lot of people have initial fears and reservations about starting a yoga practice.  What is yoga?  How does it help?  What will be expected of me? Is this something I can do?  These reservations are normal and natural – so take a deep breath.  My name is Andrew and I have been practicing yoga for 11 years now.  I have learned a lot about yoga since I became a yoga teacher 3 years ago.  Let me share with you what I have learned.

What is Yoga?  Is it a religion?
Yoga is mind-body-spiritual practice, however, you can choose which combination of those three avenues you want to venture on.  The aim of yoga is to “yoke” you back into you.  Much of our daily lives are spent observing and reacting to the external world, so eventually we become more focused on what is going on around us.  Or, perhaps you spend so much of your day being internally aware that you can’t shut your mind up or calm your nerves.  Yoga aims to bring your awareness back to you and also to learn how to operate your brain.

Yoga is part of a bigger system of health and can be practiced with any religious beliefs.  Yoga does have a ‘8-Limbed System’; this system consists of values pertaining to how you treat yourself and others, physical yoga poses, breathing exercises, and various levels of meditation that help you learn how to control your awareness and not let the daily internal and external struggles overwhelm you.  No drugs, no diet change, you don’t have to buy anything.  The only thing you have to spend is time towards promoting a better you.

What makes Yoga exercise?  Can I get hurt doing Yoga?  Do I have to be a contortionist? 
What you can expect at Walter’s Walk’s Yoga classes are physical yoga poses, breathing exercises and various meditation exercises.  The beauty of doing yoga at Walter’s Walk is that you get personalized small-class attention.  Do you have to be flexible to do yoga?  No, in fact you become flexible by practicing the physical poses and the breathing exercises.  This small-class attention makes a huge difference in the potential for injury.

Doing anything physical has a certain possibility of injury.  There is the potential for injury while practicing the physical postures of Yoga.  However, with the small-class attention Walter’s Walk Yoga classes provide, that potential for injury is low.  With that being said, the potential for growth and expansion comes with each pose you practice, each breath you take with every thought you think.  Both Patti and I bring multiple years of experience of both practicing and teaching Yoga.

What makes yoga exercise?  By engaging in the physical poses of Yoga you are engaging muscles and assuming positions that you probably haven’t been in for quite some time.  Many students speak of relearning about their bodies as they learn the poses.  Each physical pose carries multiple benefits that help the body become stronger, toner, more flexible and helps to purify the body of toxins that come through the air, water, and food we consume.  Also at Walter’s Walk we take our time in teaching you the poses and answering any questions you have about anything we are doing in class.

Keep in mind, you can always not do a pose – it is your yoga practice, not mine.

Is Yoga for men?
I get this question quite common in fact and I can understand why people would feel the need to ask it – most yoga classes you see on television mostly contain women.  Which is quite ironic considering the history of Yoga.  Back in the beginning yoga was developed by men for men.  A lot of the poses that have developed over time hold specific benefits to men.  However, Yoga has grown and adapted to many different groups of people and has created poses with specific benefits for anyone who wants to try Yoga.

So what are the benefits of Yoga?
Keep in in mind; just like anything else in life, if you do not practice it you will lose it.  The benefits you receive from a yoga practice depend on how often you practice and what poses you enter.  Generally speaking the more you practice yoga the more benefits you will experience and they will come quicker as well.  Also, Yoga teaches us how to relax – so not every yoga class is about the body; sometimes we focus on letting go, experiencing ourselves in a calm atmosphere, learning how to use our breath to affect our mind and learning how to operate our mind.

For the body the benefits include…
·         Increased core strength
·         Lowers blood pressure
·         Weight management
·         Improved digestion
·         Improved circulation
·         Body detoxification
·         Pain and tension relief
·         Increased flexibility
·         Improved posture
·         Increased immunity.

For the mental benefits they include…
·         Improved intuition
·         Increased self-acceptance
·         Improved concentration
·         Neutralized stress
·         Improved memory
·         Increase mental awareness
·         Focus on the present
·         Increased confidence
·         Unlocked energy flow
·         Balanced brain hemispheres.

Walter’s Walk Yoga Class Schedule
Yoga for Anxiety and Depression
10am to 11am
Yoga for Beginners
6pm to 7pm
Yoga for Anxiety and Depression
6pm to 7pm

Yoga Videos
I want to end this blog with some examples of what you can expect at Walter’s Walk:

Relaxing Chair Yoga Flow

Waking Up Chair Yoga Flow

Yoga for Complete Beginners – Anxiety Relief

Yoga Nidra

Pranayama/Breath Exercises

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Scarves for Mental Health

              Dr. Jean Moretto, a licensed professional counselor and the founder and executive director of Walter’s Walk - A Not-for-Profit Counseling Center in North County, approaches her clients’ often “knotty” problems one step (and one stitch) at a time.
              A couple of years ago, she started bringing her hobby of crocheting into the therapy room with her, and she has found that the quiet work of her hands while she is listening has had a relaxing effect on those with whom she is working. And her handiwork brings even more benefit to Walter’s Walk and its clients – the scarves she creates she sells as $10 fundraisers for the relatively new non-profit that aims to provide psychological and emotional wellness to all who walk in the door, whether or not they can afford to pay. 
              Moretto’s drive to serve others is nothing short of inspirational. Often rising early to meet clients for 6 a.m. sessions, she averages about 10 clients a day, about half of whom are “Walter’s Walk” clients who do not have insurance or cannot afford to pay. She crochets during most sessions and made about 125 scarves last year, a number she has already surpassed this year. So while it’s not a huge moneymaker for the small agency, her scarves provide one more piece in the financial puzzle of keeping the place open and operating.         
              “Our clients know that every little bit of money we raise helps those who cannot afford to pay for services,” Moretto says, “and they are so used to my crocheting that they’ll question me if I’m not. I also use it as a teaching tool, emphasizing the importance of developing relaxing hobbies.  Several clients have started crocheting themselves and it has allowed them to relax and refocus.”
More About Walter’s Walk

Walter's Walk provides services to individuals who suffer from mental illness and/or addictions through counseling and education, with an integrated treatment approach. Walter's Walk provides these services that are not traditionally covered by health insurance, or for those without access to health insurance, at little or no cost to the client.
Moretto founded Walter’s Walk in memory of her father, Walter (1913-2005). His philosophy was to walk through life’s difficulties by remembering that love, support, activity, and creativity will get one through any situation. Walter was creative, and introspective.  A master at woodworking, he also had a green thumb.  He loved caring for his flowers, especially roses.  Always the supportive father, Walter was behind Jean when she received her Masters Degree in Counseling, and Doctorate in Counseling Education.
While in her private practice, Moretto saw healthcare coverage diminish for many clients.  She and others became aware of the need to provide integrated treatment to people seeking mental health care.  The vision began with the development of Walter’s Walk. Jean follows in her father’s footsteps of providing a supportive network.
For more information on the services of Walter’s Walk or to purchase scarves in support of the work that Moretto and other professionals do, visit:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Yoga at Walter's Walk: A Beginner's Perspective

I grew up watching my mom stretch and do her leg lifts every evening while my dad watched his crime dramas.  Adopting a regular routine was natural for me as I’ve grown older and realized the benefits of regular stretching on my everyday comfort!  So you might think I am a regular at my local yoga studio or that I have at least taken a class, but, like so many people, the thought of exercising as a group was intimidating.  After all, I can’t stand on my head or do the splits, so a yoga class couldn’t be for me!  Well, I am happy to say that a beginner’s class taught by Patty Alvarez at Walter’s Walk certainly proved me wrong.  

People around the world have been practicing yoga for more than 5,000 years.  The idea of yoga has three tenets: exercise, breathing, and meditation.  In fact, the word yoga means “to join or yoke together”.  The mind and the body are brought together to improve overall health and encourage healing from everyday stress.  If you’ve looked at your local yoga studio or fitness center offerings, you may have noticed a variety of different styles of yoga possibly including hatha, bikram, vinyasa, yin or restorative.  Hatha is the basic foundation of all yoga styles and incorporates physical movements and postures, plus breathing techniques.  Bikram is also called hot yoga because it is practiced in a 95-105° room which is said to encourage detoxification and flexibility.  Vinyasa is similar to hatha because it focuses on breath and movement, but it is a more physically active style.  Yin yoga is also known as yoga for the joints as opposed to the muscles.  Unlike the other styles, yin is more passive and poses are held for 5 to 20 minutes. Restorative yoga incorporates blocks, blankets and bolsters to support the poses and allow the muscles to fully relax.  No matter what your level of fitness or overall goal is, there is a style of yoga for you!   

Patty teaches a beginner’s class so the poses were adaptable for all levels.  I appreciated the options Patty gave us for each pose so that I could find what felt most comfortable for my body.  Calming music and clear instructions definitely enhanced the feelings of relaxation and I felt my anxieties about attending a yoga class decrease and my interest in this ancient practice increase!  Sharing such a peaceful, rejuvenating experience with others is another benefit of a regular yoga practice.  One that benefits us physically and mentally.  

Patty Alvarez offers a weekly class at Walter’s Walk on Tuesdays at 5:30pm.  A donation of $7 is suggested, but the class is open to anyone regardless of ability to pay.  I hope to see you there!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Value of Communication

                 You cannot not think.  You are a thinking machine.  And you are an emoting machine.  Feeling, not so much.  The difference between feelings and emotions is that emotions are what your brain is telling your body.  For instance, in a dangerous situation, “Look ferocious." Or, if the situation is joyful, "Brain to face - 'Make joyful.'"  Or with a despicable person, “Look scornful."

                The problem is that while the lower parts of the brain are telling the body how to look, the upper parts of the brain have to consult the body to know what the lower parts of the brain are thinking; in other words, we have to be aware of our feelings.

                We aren't always aware of our feelings but other people are.  They can see our body language and they know what the lower part of our brain is thinking and if we don't know, there is a disconnect between us and others. 

               "Why am I mostly lonely?" I asked myself many years ago.

               "What are you afraid of?" my therapist asked me.  "Nothing, I'm not afraid," I responded; but I was and I didn't know it.  And that's how my work began. Among the skills that have proved most helpful to me were the communication skills.  If you want to know what's going on, talk about it. 

                Talking is a skill.
                 As small children, we learn language but we don't learn to communicate.  Well, we learn a rudimentary form of communication.  A few words, stomping our feet, kicking and screaming until we get what we want.  Some of us have never advanced beyond that level of communication.

                When a scientist studies a mold he endeavors to learn all there is to know about what he is studying.  He endeavors to get the whole picture. We would do well to do the same.  Me, I don't study mold.  Mostly I am seeking to create a better relationship with my family, friends, peers and professional associates. 

                 In order to have the best possible relationships, I need good, constructive communication skills; skills that give me the whole picture.  Out of my endeavor to understand the whole of my communication partner, I develop a more complete picture of what is going on inside of me.  No more, "Nothing, I'm not afraid (angry, happy, scornful, or whatever....)."  Now I get the whole picture, first of my communication partner and then, as a bonus, I get the whole picture of myself as well. 

                 There are eleven talking and listening skills that form the basis of constructive communication.  The skills include:
         -    speaking for myself;
·     -   describing sensory data;
·     -    expressing thoughts;
·     -    sharing emotions;
·     -    disclosing wants;
·      -   stating actions;
·      -   attending (which includes looking, listening, and tracking);
·      -   acknowledging the other person's experience;
·      -   inviting more information;
·      -   summarizing to ensure accuracy;
·      -   asking open questions

                  These skills and more are taught at the counseling offices at 737 Dunn Road (a.k.a., Walter's Walk) in classes called Core Communication and Couples Communication.  If you, like me, are endeavoring to create better relationships with family, friends, peers and professional associates and self, then I strongly recommend one of these communication classes.

Ed Kozeny, MA, LPC

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Few Extra Tools...

by Teresa Gunter, MA, LPC

         I was recently at a weekend get together and overheard a grandma recounting how terribly behaved her grandchildren were. She babysits twice a week while both parents work.  She is a part-time primary care giver and one of the most loving people I know.  I could hear the frustration in her voice as she went on and on about how disrespectful, defiant and sneaky they were.  They never did what she asked, argued with her, and fought with her and each other.  My heart went out to her as I overheard the conversation from the other room.  Without missing a beat, my husband jumped into the conversation and contradicted everything she said.  I heard my husband say, “They never fight around us.  They always do whatever we ask.  We never have any problems with them.”  My heart broke as I heard her sputter and try to defend her experience. 

            What I knew was that they were both right.  I could see first hand how the kids could be argumentative, disrespectful and defiant.  As children struggle for control, these are the natural by products.  It’s not that they’re bad kids; they are normal kids who are exercising control in undesirable ways.
             I could remember the last time we babysat with them like it was yesterday.  I gave the kids a 5-minute warning that it would be time to clean up and go to bed.  The oldest (about 7 years old) looked at me as if to say, “You can’t make me.”  I didn’t respond.  To respond would be to begin a power struggle.  I gave the one-minute warning and again I received the look, but this time his sister joined him.  Finally, I let the kids know it was time to put toys away and head upstairs to get ready for bed.  I received even more defiant looks with grins of confidence.  They had been through this routine before. 
        In my earlier days, I would have begun to sweat with panic.  What am I going to do if they don’t clean up?  Being challenged by kids was a common part of my early teaching experience and my efforts lacked grace.  The contents of my tool bag were sparse and contained, repeated requests, threats of consequences, rewards for correct behavior (I admit to bribing, not my proudest moments) and finally losing my temper and yelling (also, not my finest moments).  To my surprise, these skills failed more often than they worked and I was left feeling frustrated, angry, and often embarrassed when others witnessed my skill set and my ineffectiveness. 

            As I looked at the kids and their grins of defiance, I did not worry this time.  Instead, I grinned back at them.  I knew something they didn’t know.  I had filled my toolbox with all kinds of tools, proven winners, if you will, for handling unwanted behaviors.  I actually looked forward to the challenge.  My favorite tool is: What you notice, you increase.  It’s a way to praise a child and also works to encourage desired behavior.  As a natural part of play, someone would pick up a toy.  I would notice the action and connect it to the desired outcome.  I would say something like this: “I saw someone pick up a toy and move toward the toy box.” I would say this with a big smile on my face and just the right amount of excitement.  Again and again I would notice tiny actions toward the desired goal.  Within 5 minutes all children were scrambling to clean up the mess so they could be recognized. Though this is one of my favorite tools, it is not always appropriate.  I use between 5-10 skills each night my husband and I babysit. 

            My favorite part of knowing these skills is that I like how I feel when I respond now.  I don’t know if you are like me, but each night, I think over the events of the day and my responses to them.  Did I like my response?  Was it effective? What can I do better next time?  I used to lie in bed at night agonizing over my frustrating attempts to control the responses of the children I taught.   Now I know I can only control my response to them.  It’s amazing.  This shift feels miraculous, but it is simply the result of learning a little extra information.

            If you would like to increase your child response tool bag, check out the Parent Talk classes offered by my dad and me at 737 Dunn Road.  The Parent Talk System was developed by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller and is successfully used by parents (and babysitters) throughout the world.  Teachers across the country use these very skills in their classrooms every day.  As a babysitter and educator, I can tell you they really work.