The great poet and Buddhist, Thich Nhat Hanh held an ordinary piece of paper in the air and lit it on fire. As the paper fell to the floor in flames, he said to those of us on retreat, “the substance of this paper has turned to ash, but the smoke from its burning has filled your lungs and become part of you.” He then slowly traced back the history of the paper to all the people involved in producing it, from those who planted the seeds of the tree from which it came to the workers who lumbered it and merchants who sold it. He was vividly demonstrating the “interconnectedness” of all things as well as the idea of foreverness.
With the dying and death of my mother and strange reburial of my father, those ideas took on special meaning. In our conversations over the course of her long illness, my mother journeyed backward into her past, from her difficult childhood as the youngest of 9 siblings during the Great Depression, to her subsequent rescue by my father, a handsome soldier who grew up on the streets of the Lower East Side, New York where he learned to turn a penny into a dollar by wit and determination. In My Mother’s Death/My Father’s Resurrection, I recount the intimate moments that took place at the end of my mother’s life that brought to light the psychological legacy that influenced my own relationships and perspective on the world. Who we are takes generations to create and doesn’t end with death.
Jeff Warren broadens this idea in his column, Environmentalism and the Mind. His connection to the planet is made of such deep compassion he feels, “all of nature is intelligent and in constant communication with everything else. With practice, it is possible to tune into that conversation.”
“There are many ways into the brain and body-space of ecstasy,” states Rev. Dr. James Reho, citing meditation, prayer, breath work, physical and sexual practices such as yoga and tantric maithuna. In Kirtan: Chanting the Names of God, Dr. Reho introduces us to a simple though powerful method that can trigger significant changes in physiology and psyche, altering our experience of ourselves and of our world.
In his deeply personal column, When Our Beliefs Fail Us, Michael Schellenberg shows how his deafness to the conversations around him led him to a system of beliefs that had powerful effects on his life, not always for the better. In a painful exchange with a new friend during a visit to Istanbul, he is confronted with the cruelty behind his beliefs using the experience as a moment for lasting change.
Addiction: A Nonlinear Path to Recovery, by Alyssa Siegel, examines exactly what an addiction is and how different therapists approach this issue with clients. For Alyssa, addictions grow out of a complex attempt to master anxiety or depression, and must be understood as an individual event and treated with multiple interventions rather than formulaic prescriptions.
Zak Cron’s Becoming a Heterosexual Man chronicles his sexual development from the time his mother shamed him for looking at pornography to his current “fetishes” with women. In his animated and provocative prose, Cron brings to light not just his own story, but the challenges that many men and women face in the current sexual landscape.
There is something otherworldly about Ben Peck. He is an Ivy League educated attorney and feminist porn star. He also unfailingly serves as the primary caregiver for a partner who was seriously disabled more than seven years ago in an unusual accident. In his essay from From Ivy League Lawyer to Porn Star, Peck recounts his extraordinary journey of self-discovery from his days of at Columbia University to his videos on X-tube.com, guided by a system of beliefs about justice, loyalty, and honor. In Bill Hayward’s collaborative self-portrait of Peck, Peck seems to emerge from the pages of a Nordic poem about honor and battle.
Beyond the blaming and gun politicking following the Sandy Hook tragedy, the community of artists in Newtown Connecticut came together under the banner of Healing Newtown to create an awe-inspiring project that gives the residents opportunites to express their feelings of pain, anger, fear and hope through painting writing, singing, dancing, throwing clay and more. Anne Pyburn’s review, Healing Newtown, shows the evolution of the project and how it harnessed a community’s creativity in the service of healing.
Did you ever wonder about women’s fascination with shoes? Ever since Sex and the City glorified the phenomenon, women have been coming out of the shoe closet in droves. Alyssa Siegel’s charming and insightful review of FIT’s exhibition, Shoe Obsession, explores the psychological meaning shoes have in our contemporary world.
Dr. Velleda Ceccoli, psychoanalyst and PTM dance editor, reviews a performance of the Rodin Project, based on the work of Auguste Rodin, brought to life through Russell Maliphant’s choreographic reverie. Dr Ceccoli says, “Each element of this performance was unique and transporting in its own way, and the weaving of each element with the others a creation of sheer beauty. It was arguably the best spectacle I have seen and experienced in many years.”
It has been said of Mary Ann McFadden, that she has a voice like Whitman’s, “at once uniquely human and recognizable in all of us.” Small moments in nature, sexuality and family history drive her language and fan out with broad impact on our consciousness. In Night Windows and In Phoebus’ Car, memories of past events trigger current disappoints and longings.
Sarah Arivio’s extraordinarily original book, Night Thoughts, excerpted here, is a deep meditation on her psychoanalysis expressed in the form of “dream poems” that read like sonnets, followed by notes offering her own analytic interpretations of their images and the feelings and experiences behind them.
While there is no paper to burn or smoke to breath in, reading Psychology Tomorrow Magazine in its entirety will connect you to the aesthetic, ecstatic, sexual, intellectual and psychological elements of yourself and to the writers and artist, their families, mentors and those traditions that enabled their stories to appear on our pages. We are never alone in anything we achieve.