The power of ritual

Easter is the highpoint in the Christian calendar, a celebration of eternal life over physical death. But while Easter has specific characteristics and potency, such celebration is not confined to Christians or Christianity alone. All faiths and faith cultures offer stories and rituals to affirm the co-existence of some form of eternal or infinite life […]

Families: Speaking Up

Our emotional wellbeing depends to a great extent on how fairly and kindly other people treat us. (How we treat others affects their wellbeing just as directly.) But where does that leave us when we are unsure what to expect of others or whether our demands are half-way reasonable? And how does this affect the […]

Surviving the stress crisis

In any year it makes sense to monitor and limit stress. But increasingly, that task seems crucial. Some of us are already coping with dramatically reduced work or financial options and almost all of us are looking for ways to cope with some new and unwelcome demands. Public attention has been focused fairly relentlessly on […]

Column writing

It’s good to be back and I would like you to know that I have been missing you.  I don’t just mean that I have been missing writing this column, although that is also true. But it is you (the readers) that I have missed most and especially the sense that we are thinking together […]

Shock of the new

Could this possibly be the year in which the lovely phrase “shock of the new” comes to have a special and even more positive meaning? Let me put this hope into context. Over the last decade, knowledge of the brain has changed dramatically. The pioneering science of neuroplasticity is showing for the first time how […]

Towards a new year, 2009

When the last old year slipped into the new, even the most keen-eyed soothsayer could hardly have predicted that 2008 would be a year of quite such tumult. And 2009 is shaping up to be just as much of an inner and outer upheaval. As I have been thinking about it and reflecting on the […]

A renewal of courage is urgently needed

Courage is an inner attitude that comes to life through words, gestures, feelings and deeds. It can be cultivated and enhanced, but it is not, itself, an emotion.  It involves emotions and it can certainly change your emotions, but it arises from thought, and is supported by “right thinking”. That is, it is supported in […]

Sarah Palin and small town values – an interfaith perspective

Is US Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin a “”small town”” thinker – and does it matter? When you are running for second-most powerful position in what is still arguably the most powerful country on earth, I believe it does matter.  And not to Americans only. My reading of Deepak Chopra’s recent (September 2008, Huffington Post) […]

Using the mind to think about the brain

The health of our brain is vital to our quality of life, yet when most of us ask, “How are you?” we are usually asking after general health and emotional well being rather than brain function. That’s understandable. There is something intrinsically private about this motor of our being. But it does rather overlook that […]

Putting “failure” in its place

In a society that worships success, it’s easy to fail – but hard to fail well.  It is even hard to be sure what “failing well” might mean, although it’s likely to include being fairly graceful about it, avoiding bitterness or blame, learning something from it and not allowing it to obliterate your hard-won confidence. […]

Following your nose

Have you ever made a truly awful decision – and berated yourself afterwards because at some level you actually did know what you were getting into?  Or have you ever quite spontaneously done something that seems to make no sense, only to find that it has rewarded you exceptionally?  We human beings are different from […]

To thine own self be kind

A recent conversation has reminded me how routinely many thoughtful, lovable people put themselves down or talk disparagingly about themselves – reflecting a harsh inner monologue and a shaky sense of self that is almost certainly hard to endure. I had been at a meeting with a talented young woman in her late twenties who […]