The Challenge of Being Present with People


For the past two years I’ve surveyed people about their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the skills of mindfulness and attention.  Mindfulness as an idea is quite well known, but as a practice it actually involves a collection of attention-related skills.  I’ve identified four skills that relate to the way we use our attention: Single-Pointed Attention (Focused Attention) Broad (Scanning Attention) Attention to Detail Presence (Present Moment Attention) Generally, when it comes to…

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THE QUESTIONING SPIRIT by Gregg Krech The renowned Indian pandita,  Aryadeva, was the principle disciple of the great Buddhist teacher, Nagarjuna.  Aryadeva once said that to merely question that things might not be as they seem can shake the very foundation of habitual clinging. Pythagoras questioned whether the earth was flat.  Aristotle questioned whether the earth was flat.  Magellan proved the earth was round by sailing around the entire world.  This questioning spirit changed the…

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For over ten years I worked very closely with people who have been diagnosed with serious mental illness.  That work, which proved to be immensely rewarding, was prompted by a family member’s personal experience with mental illness.  Through that event, I was suddenly exposed me to a world that I had known nothing about and confronted with a mental health system that was misguided and ineffective.  This experience launched me on a mission to find a more compassionate and empowering way to respond to the needs of those facing mental illness.

Today I’m going to speak to you about my experience using Naikan and Morita Therapy with those who have a serious mental health diagnosis.  In my role as director of a psychiatric rehabilitation program, first in New York and then in Vermont, I had the opportunity to integrate Japanese Psychology, both formally and informally, into the therapeutic community through classes, groups, practice exercises, individual sessions and ongoing discussions.

Naikan offered a gentle but profound method for questioning the story that members of our community were telling, primarily to themselves but often to others as well, when they were struggling with their lives — stories about who they were and where they came from, stories about how they were treated and where they fit in to the bigger picture of life.  We all start with a story that might seem obvious to us, a story that develops naturally and without effort, and it is important to have someone listen to that story and try to understand our experience and our perspective.  But it’s also important to know how to challenge that story and find out what else might also be true.  Naikan, it turns out, provides a profound process for doing just that. Sometimes the original story merges with a bigger picture of realty, sometimes triggering a paradigm shift that changes our basic view.germany-linda

I’d like to tell you two stories from my own life that reflect a paradigm shift . . .

When I grew up I had a friend who lived next door to me.  We weren’t friends of the heart – we were more like friends of convenience – but we did spend a lot of time together.  When Laura learned that I could not really see out of my right eye, she was fascinated.

I never knew anyone before who was HALF BLIND”, she told me.  I had never thought of myself before as half blind because I could see perfectly fine through my left eye.  But Laura thought of me that way.

“You’d better be careful,” she would say, when we were outside tumbling around. “You only have ONE EYE,” And this made me feel like . . . a cyclops!

And no matter how many times I would tell her that I could see okay, she wouldn’t hear of it.  If something happens to your good eye someday, you’re REALLY going to be blind.”

So one night I told my father about these disturbing comments of Laura’s, which were getting me really worried about my vision.  And he came up with a good idea.  He suggested that the next time she made one of these comments, I could say to her, “Laura, did you ever realize that . . . you only have ONE HEAD?”


(This is an excerpt from Linda’s presentation made at the 11th International Naikan Congress in Germany, Sept. 2016.  The complete presentation will be available in the Fall 2016 issue of Thirty Thousand Days.)

Make Yourself at Home in the Unknown

Trey Ratcliff

Make Yourself at Home in the Unknown Dzigar Kongtrul We are most at home in our own home.  We have arranged everything according to our preferences.  And when we come home from dinner at a friend’s, or the movie theater, we know exactly where everything is.  Because we feel at home in our home, we also give ourselves permission to relax.  We may leave our socks on the floor or a glass by the sink…

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Chani - Green Mtn Reservoir

“Being out of reach isn’t a problem — it’s a blessing. It’s a salve that heals the wounds of a life with constant distraction.” — Gregg Krech   My oldest daughter, Chani, is leaving for college at the end of this month. So we decided to set aside a day to do something enjoyable together. For our father/daughter last-outing- before-college day, we strapped two kayaks on to the top of our red Toyota RAV4 and…

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The Essence of Life

THE ESSENCE OF LIFE by Gregg Krech   “The essence of life is that it’s challenging. Sometimes it is sweet, and sometimes it is bitter. Sometimes your body tenses, and sometimes it relaxes and opens. Sometimes you have a headache, and sometimes you feel 100% healthy. From an awakened perspective, trying to tie up all the loose ends and finally get it together is death, because it involves rejecting a lot of your basic experience.…

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The Best Unproductive Day Possible


The Best Unproductive Day Possible Just as I was recovering from a bike accident, we discovered a tumor in my dog Barley’s mouth which was diagnosed as malignant.  Within a week he was at the animal hospital for major surgery to remove the tumor. I started sleeping in the living room after Barley got back from surgery so I could keep an eye on him.  But I was only getting about 4 hours of sleep…

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Sharing Dad

Sharing Dad by Victoria S. Freeman I am basically a can-do kind of person. When my husband of eighteen years said he preferred our next door neighbor as a companion, I used up several tons of Kleenex and lost three dress sizes. Ultimately, with the help of many friends, I figured out how to get my tires balanced and use the TV remote. When a remodeling contractor gave me a five figure estimate for removing…

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