Desire Is At The Core of Our Being

Desire woman looking into forest

It takes us towards things. Relationship, lovers, work, purpose. When we shut it down, we shut down our life force energy. I think for much of my life I didn’t allow myself to feel desire, or I just wasn’t connected to it. Afraid to feel hurt, rejection? Where did I learn these things? When I started to allow myself to feel desire and started to really feel passionate about things it was potent, engaging, magnetic. As I started to dance with these potent feelings, I remember a man I was super attracted to. Feminine Shakti drawn into the magnetic field of this powerful Shiva.

But I couldn’t have him. He wasn’t available to me. I loved playing with him on the dance floor but at some point I realized I couldn’t have it, wasn’t going to have it and I kind of shut down. And as I was practicing a lot of mindfulness and self-inquiry, I noticed I was feeling depressed or that shut down ambivalent feeling that was so familiar.

So I decided to let myself feel the potency and primal energy of my desire for him knowing full well I couldn’t have him. I let it be the fuel to feel alive, passionate, wild, and take me on a journey. A wild ride into myself that needed nothing else. And in doing so, others felt my passion, the world responded to my aliveness, other doors opened for this energy to be met. And I was also content to just be in that field within myself. It was joyful, ecstatic, and I felt deeply connected to my essence.

What is your dance with desire? Can you live wildly in your own energetic primal life force energy? How do you shut it down?  

Want support in feeling yourself more fully, reconnecting to your deeper self, passion and desire? Contact me at 650-332-4656 or email me at


An Old Oak Tree Speaks

An Old Oak Tree Speaks

FullSizeRenderYesterday, an old oak tree on a path I’ve walked a hundred times
Now sat forlorn, broken in a half
Seemingly strong, alive, sturdy, and vibrant
I vowed to visit, as many times as I’d passed
Promising tomorrow I’d slip off and play
To sit a while and listen to what you had to say

To climb on your low reaching limb,
like the arms of my grandfather inviting me to climb on your lap.
How unexpected, confusing, now suddenly different, a part of it gone
Something we expect that will be solid and strong
Breaks and gives way to fragility, loss; a lap that can hold us no more.
A shattering of what we expect will always be there for us,
To visit whenever we felt or would like
And suddenly not knowing what life has in store

There’s the challenge of our own strength when we come across weakness,
or life that streaks lightening, suddenly toppling a big branch of “us”
Shattering our solidness, confidence, safety, and trust.
And then there’s the shedding of a weightiness we can’t hold any longer,
that leaves us leaner, more able to grow.
Remaining limbs are left stronger, with more life to know.

I honor your ancient ways, Grandfather Oak
The strength you imparted, the wisdom you spoke
And the part of you that stays with me always, even if broke.

Reflection Questions

How have you experienced a sudden loss of something you felt was so solid, a relationship, a job, and part of yourself?

Is there something you’ve been wanting to do but putting off? How might you engage before it’s too late?

How have you grown from shedding heavy branches that weighed you down and you couldn’t support any more?




Coyote Exchange

Coyote Exchange on Rt. 84, 10 am

Coyote came suddenly, across the road
I was meandering along, to feel my feet
On the earth, meet a friend, and through nature, recharge and unload.
When four feet before me, he crossed in my path
He stopped on the bank. I stopped in the street.
I became acutely aware, of the magnificent animalness
Something unexpected and hidden, seen in the light of the morn
Causing me to notice, take you in, forget my urbaness
In a moment of awe, Presence was born.

I turned and I looked, and you looked back at me
A long drawn out moment that seemed forever, meaning so much.
Auspicious, numinous, a feel in the air
Of magic, delight, excitement and such.

Aware of my interest and sharing your own
I asked you, “Coyote, How are we in relation? What do we see?
What do we know in this great unknown?
Who are you to me? What faces we share?.”
You walk between worlds of chaos, illusions, and snares
Of darkness, and sorcery, lightness and play
A paradoxical dance inviting me into your ways.

Your wisdom comes in shadows
Indirect, speaking puzzles, perhaps saving face
You beg for simplicity, no complications, leaving no trace.

What magic was there on the road, when we crossed
And you asked me to dance?
Or I stopped and I noticed and you took a chance.

Coyote Reflections

In what ways are you experiencing the unexpected?  What might this be inviting you to experience? How is this challenging or delighting you?

Coyote is a symbol of wisdom and folly. What is the wisdom your life experiences are trying to convey to you now and how can you bring a sense of humor to what you are learning/needing to learn.

How can you simplify and make things less complicated. How are you doing that?

How are you experiencing play or do you need to have more fun? What do you think of when you think of the word “folly”.


Coyote Spirit Animal


Benefits of Mindfulness

Benefits of Mindfulness

Mindfulness can be an antidote to delusion and is a powerful tool to reduce suffering. Being human involves experiencing pain. We cannot love without also grieving and/or feeling loss. Suffering is what we do to add to our pain. Mindfulness helps to support this human experience while reducing unnecessary suffering.

Mindfulness supports the arising of wisdom and helps us move organically towards health and wellness. The stabilization of emotions and cognitive processes that occurs with mindfulness practices has been increasingly found to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and the prevention of relapse of depression and addiction.

Research shows that mindfulness practices promotes improvements in metacognitive awareness, decreases rumination (repeating thoughts), decreases stress, improves working memory, improves focus, and reduces emotional reactivity. Additional benefits include increases in relationship satisfaction, improved insight, improved immune functioning, and improvements in well-being. It has also been found to promote empathy and compassion.


What is Mindfulness

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a state of attentive awareness, in the present moment with curiosity and without judgment. John Welwood writes about the great strength and courage it takes in observing ourselves and others and the need for compassion and acceptance for what we see. When we judge, we lose the ability to be compassionate and accepting and in its place we may experience shame, self-loathing, and separation.

In a mindfulness practice, without the veil of judgment, one can begin to more fully notice one’s experience which may include physical sensations, impulses, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, memories, and meaning making. While some spiritual traditions use mindfulness practices to achieve higher states of consciousness (enlightenment or bliss), the practice of mindfulness can be used in a non-dogmatic practice to more fully observe and experience what is. It allows for sensation and tolerance without over identification with thoughts and feelings. As a result we may feel calmer and have more ability to sit with what we are experiencing rather than reacting or contracting.  It’s the ability to observe anger without being caught in it, or to notice the impulse to become defensive without succumbing to the underlying anxiety and need to protect one’s self. It can be about observing when we want to be right rather than work collaboratively to solve a problem.

Using mindfulness in psychotherapy can compassionately reveal patterns, conflicts, and tension and help to find new options and unwind habitual holding. Awareness cures!


Get Resourced – Safety, Stabilization, Skill Building, Development of Allies

Building on existing or developing new resources is critical to stabilization of trauma. There are a number of different types of resources one can and needs to call on when dealing with symptoms of trauma that address physical, practical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual well being.

  • Practical – food, shelter, clothing, job, locks on door, watchdog. Get safe!
  • Physical – strength, endurance, agility, activity – anything that gives feeling of strength, confidence, or peace will help contribute to an embodied experience of being able to protect one’s self. Running, boxing, model mugging programs are great physical activities that build on a sense of physical confidence.
  • Psychological – Calling on important psychological skills and abilities are essential. Intelligence (for insight), sense of humor, curiosity, other healthy defenses are important to draw on and may need shoring up after a traumatic event.
  • Interpersonal – calling on social support engagement rather than isolating is one of the key elements of mitigating trauma symptoms after a traumatic event. This can include people in your life and animals. Everyone needs comfort. You are not alone. Call someone now.
  • Spiritual – One often loses their faith at times of crisis and when it’s needed most.  Calling on spiritual strength can be faith or non-faith based and include things like being in nature or reading wisdom literature. If you’ve lost your faith, books such as When Bad Things Happen to Good People can help.

Healing from Trauma

Help is available to reduce the symptoms of trauma, improve nervous system and emotional regulation, and return to pleasurable activities and living life rather than managing symptoms.

Working with a trauma trained therapist using evidence-based CBT, somatic or other practices can address important elements of healing symptoms, including:

  • sensory-motor integration (riding out the bodily sensations of intense emotions such as fear and anger);
  • slowing things down and putting on the brakes to stay within the window of tolerance to allow the ability of integration of difficult memories and experiences without dissociation or numbing;
  • cognitive restructuring of erroneous perceptions and beliefs resulting from the trauma;
  • healthy activation of the flight/fight protective response which has been shown to mitigate trauma symptoms;
  • reclaiming one’s personal power and developing assertiveness and healthy boundaries;
  • processing and integrating painful memories and experiences
  • building on resources and strengths.

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of trauma, contact Dr. Valerie Sher at 408-507-4329 for a free consultation and get help now.


Self-Regulation and Trauma

Trauma changes the brain in specific ways by increasing limbic system (emotional) activation and decreasing pre-frontal cortex functioning. It compromises capacity to regulate autonomic arousal and handle everyday stress. Trauma affects cognitive, affective, somatic, and physiological neurons.

PTSD, along with anxiety, mood disorders, and eating disorders are characterized by autonomic nervous system dysregulation. Persistent dysregulation compels one to seek various means for controlling or numbing the activation.

The compromised ability to self-regulate and manage distressing emotions is believed to be the force behind addictive behaviors – alcoholism, drugs, aggression, self-mutilation, and avoidance behaviors.

Learning or improving self-regulation using diaphragmatic breathing, relaxation training, and mindfulness is an important element in assist those suffering from symptoms of trauma.

If you are suffering from trauma related symptoms, help is available. Contact Dr. Valerie Sher for a consultation if you are suffering from symptoms of trauma.


What is Trauma?

Trauma is a psychobiological reaction to a traumatic event that can include threat of safety including war, illness, car accidents, assault, kidnapping, and/or sexual/physical abuse.  Complex trauma results from exposure to prolonged social and/or interpersonal trauma with lack or loss of control, disempowerment, and in the context of either captivity or entrapment, i.e. the lack of a viable escape route for the victim. It includes ongoing abuse, domestic violence, community violence, war, and genocide.

Trauma involves an emotional state of discomfort and stress shattering one’s sense of invulnerability to harm. It may include memories of an extraordinary, catastrophic experience, or sensorial fragments, which is as if it were happening now. Research shows that brain structures related to storing narratives in memory, time context, and the alarm in response to threat go offline during trauma. Raw sensorial data is stored in a fractured narrative that often leaves one confused and unable to integrate the event in way that allows normal fading of memories and processing of life experiences.

Stress is a nonspecific response of the body to any demand and can be a response to both positive and negative events such as weddings and divorces. Psychobiological stress reactions includes changes in heart rate, breathing, and digestion and reflexes of fight, flight, and freeze.  Chronic stress can tax the system and result in adrenal stimulation and fatigue, shrinkage of lymphatic organs, gastrointestinal ulcers, and weight loss. A person’s internal and external resources (ability to cope, social support systems, etc.) and age can determine whether a particular event is experienced as traumatic or not. Not all traumatic events lead to trauma responses though many do. Clarification of Post-Traumatic Stress and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are differentiated below.

Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS)

 •Traumatic stress not relieved through a successful fight/flight or by resolution of trauma by other natural or therapeutic means.

•May be characterized by chronic hyperarousal of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), flashbacks, and/or dissociation. Does not disrupt general functioning.

 Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

 •Traumatic stress resulting from traumatic event not relieved through working through or integration of trauma

•Sufficient severity to decrease a person’s ability to function in life

•Characterized by symptoms of ANS hyperarousal (including sleep disturbance, lack of concentration, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle and continued activation of fight, flight, freeze and/or dissociation.

–Acute (less than 3 months), chronic (3+ months), delayed onset (after 6 months)


Anger – What Is It and What Do I Do With It?

People ask me all the time, “What do I do with my anger?” And the answer is, it depends. There are different levels of anger which can range from annoyance, anger, and rage. There can be anger experienced in the here and now, and there can be rage which may be an accumulation of unprocessed anger and unmet needs from the past.

There can be raw, primal anger when someone is hurting you or violating your boundaries. This comes from our primal reptilian brain response of fight/flight when we think we are in danger or being attacked. This is a healthy protective response and one we can easily be enculturated out of (“I shouldn’t feel anger”) which leaves us unable to protect ourselves adequately and may lead to depression and victimization. Owning and honoring anger in response to personal violation is an important step towards healing, acceptance and forgiveness and cannot be bypassed or ignored. This type of anger may serve as a change agent and may help guide us in taking important steps towards self-care.

Chronic anger may be something we perpetuate with automatic trigger thoughts to life situations that perpetuate negative emotions, such as “other’s are out to get me”, “they’re disrespecting me,” or “they never ….” Examining our negative thought responses to events can help us develop alternative responses that allows for more ease and joyful living. See for a list of typical thought distortions and determine which ones are causing you the most distress.

The cycle of anger usually follows a course of elevated stress followed by a trigger event. We either respond either in healthy choiceful ways to address the issue and relax our physical being that gets activated with cortisol and stress hormones or we react in habitual negative patterns that can be damaging to not only our relationships but our physical body. Effects can include:

  • Hypertension
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as abdominal pain
  • Insomnia
  • Increased anxiety
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Skin problems, such as eczema
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

A key influencing factor to anger is stress. Being aware of stress levels, notice your symptoms for stress (elevated heart rate, increased rate of speech, can’t relax, worrying or ruminating thoughts, little things annoying you).

Anger can also become a manipulation having learned how to get your needs met as children. While being effective as a child or young adult, chronic use of anger as a way to get needs met can result in damaged relationships and resentment from others.

Change comes through doing something in the cycle such as changing thoughts, doing something physical, changing an action.

Things to Do

  • Manage Stress by Taking Steps Towards Self-Regulation and Balance.
    • Ongoing exercise, meditation, or relaxation practices are essential to maintain equilibrium and deal with life’s demands.
    • Engaging in pleasurable activities and allowing unscheduled down time are all helpful to balance life’s busy demands.
  • Evaluate your Anger Cycle
    •  Consider your last angry outburst and note the cycle of:

Thoughts->Feelings->Physical Symptoms->Behavior/Actions

Note any alternative responses you might do:

    •  Breathing – Breathing can calm down your physiological state which is useful before responding
    • Counting to 10 works!
    • Developing more positive self-talk – I’m doing the best I can, or They’re doing the best they can
    • Ask for what you want/need in a neutral positive tone – Turn gripes into requests!
    • Get more information – checking out assumptions
    • Walking away, let things go, pick your battles
    • Exercise, go for a long walk or hit the gym

Helpful Resources to learn more about your anger cycles:

  • When Anger Hurts by McKay, Rogers & McKay
  • The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships by Harriet Lerner, Ph.D.
  • Healing Rage: Women Making Inner Peace Possible by Ruth King
  • Mind Over Mood by Greenberger and Padesky