Wednesday, January 30, 2013

When Tragedy Strikes close to home....


This piece is not about journaling - it is about an event that occured in the town that i live and the need to write about it.  I am not going to name the incident, I am not going to name names, because that is not what is relevant - what is relevant is how does one process a tragedy when it strikes close to home and what is the impact to you - directly or indirectly.... Yesterday I got some horrifying news about the loss of a student in my son's school.   Although I did not know the child personally, nevertheless, it sent shivers down my spine because it hit so close to home.   

Here I am at work consulting on child abuse cases that come in and incidents of domestic violence, mental illness hit us in the face everyday - we see the direct impact it has on the children that are in between it all, but when it is so close to home -in your own neighborhood, you begin to look at it from a different perspective.


The separation between work and home is so important so you can leave behind the course of the day's happenings and focus on your family - focus on urself- but when the two intertwine especially if that is your line of work then how does one keep a balanced perspective.   For one, your radar goes up more, and u become a little bit more suspicious of the world - more heightened awareness, and more sensitive....

Children know more than what they say - if the news is on - and they see does one explain it to the child?   I don't have answers for my child - i can't answer him and say to him  why something like this occured - i can't shield him from the news either - and i can't give him answers that at that age they want to know - children are curious - they want to makes sense of things, they want to understand the logic behind it, they want to see the cause and effect - but how can we provide answers to things that we ourselves don't know how to deal with.

I also think that those that work with children have an obligation to be aware of societal issues such as domestic violence, mental illness, and substance abuse and the impact that it can have on children.  Often times, it may imply that we are asking teachers , day care providers &healthcare professionals to take on the role of a helping professional - but on the contrary - it is just asking them to being more informed, it is educating oneself on the impact that some of these issues can have on children and knowing who to contact as a result of this rather than turning a blind eye or thinking that "kids are just being kids."  Sometimes kids are being kids, but sometimes it is more than that and as a society we need to be more aware and more intuned to the effect of trauma on children's lives.   This starts from a very young age - and if we are to change the future for our children - each of us as a whole need to have a collective responsibility - we can't turn a blind eye.

See full size image
A friend of mind encouraged me to have an honest discussion with my son about the incident and as a parent it was very difficult for me to bring myself to talk about something like this with him - I did to a certain extent - but i wasn't prepared emotionally yet because i did not know what/how the school would address it - but i have to be ready mentally for it before i can do it with him - my composure, my tone, my fears need to be processed before we can have an honest discussion about this with him.   And i think that's the point - as a society - we need to begin the dialogue in our schools and with one another - and i mean a continuous dialogue -not just when tragedy strikes about societal issues - it is the first step.

We all have a purpose in life - we all come here with some purpose and we need to find out what our purpose is - we need to tap into what our calling is, but we need to also recognize that tragedies like these can continue to happen as long as society continues to remain silent and turn a blind eye. For me I know from this incident that my work and my personal is not separate - as a parent, as a mother, as a wife, as a woman - my responsibilty is to continue to educate, provide information, spread awareness and continue to advocate for elimination of violence against women and children - in whatever way I can - especially because we have children who are going to be our future.  What is your calling? And how will you begin to take a stand against something that you believe in? It doesn't have to be big - but begin it NOW!!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Wkshp Presentation



ENGLEWOOD, January 28, 2013 - - Anjali Mani, LSW, LMSW, of Englewood to present a talk, titled “Therapeutic Benefits of Journaling,” on Wednesday, February 6, at 7:15 p.m. in the Englewood Public Library’s Mackay Room. The program is free and open to the public.

“The use of a journal can be a powerful tool for healing, and more and more has been used as an adjunct to therapy,” Ms. Mani noted. “Writing can be a daunting task for many; however, if provided with the opportunity on basic exercises, techniques, ways in which one could journal, it can be a wonderful companion. My program will be an introduction to journaling and the benefits of journaling.”

She continued: “We will explore questions such as “Why do I write?’ ‘What power do words have in my life?’ ‘Can journal writing be therapeutic?’ Will I begin to have deeper access within myself through journal writing?’ ‘How can I begin to tap into my inner creative resources?’ Through the use of writing exercises, poetry prompts, and visualizations, we will gain a basic introduction to this wonderful art form and tap into the surface of the basic elements of journal writing.”

Ms. Mani has a background in Social Work, specializing in Trauma, Interpersonal Violence. 
She summed up: “On a personal note, I have been journaling since I was a teenager, and have used it professionally and personally with a number of various populations - - from those coping with a terminal illness to domestic violence survivors to those wanting to practice mindfulness.”

. For further information on the February 6 program, please call Dick Burnon,

Head of Adult Programming and Public Relations at the Library, at 201-568-2215, e-mail Burnon at, or visit the Library’s website at The Englewood Public Library is located at 31 Engle Street, Englewood, NJ.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Commitment - a word that is so loaded with definitions.  Commitment is sticking to something/someone no matter what.  For many of us it could mean a relationship, while for others it could be a job, a habit, a quality.  Whatever it is -it is something that requires a lot of hard work and courage from us. 

There is alot of fear, anxiety, guilt, anger, and perseverence that is involved in sticking with commitment, and yet at the same time there is also a sense of pride, joy, lightheartedness, beauty, love, and growth that comes with.   Taking on a commitment, we really don't know what is in store for us until we are in it.  Most of us either have a flight or fight attitude to new situations - we either want to run from it or face it head on. 

Depending on our personality, we may look at it with excitement or we may look at it with anxiety.  Regardless of how we look at it, the journey is something that most of us really don't know how to appreciate.  It's not so much about the outcome  as much as it is the process and the journey that we are on.   We don't know where or what it is going to go, but the key to keeping committed is resolving to stay in the moment and enjoying the process.

A commitment is a promise to stick to something no matter what.  That means no matter how bad or rotten the situation is, no matter what, you are sticking by it.  In theory it seems easy to do, but in reality, it is probably one of the most difficult things that a person can do.  

Think about it - how often have we started a hobby, a sport, an instrument and when the moment it gets tough, the moment it gets daring, the moment we feel our weaknesses in our knees we start to take a step back and make excuses for not wanting to go through with it.  And this starts from childhood.  My son will be the first to say this - that i'm always telling him - never say I can't --things will always be difficult, but it is more about trying and saying to yourself - "I know it is hard, but i will keep trying.". 

We all don't have to be perfect in what we do, but we have this sense of perfection that is instilled in us because of these experiences and because of our obsession with wanting things to be perfect, we lose sight of enjoying the process and learning to be mindful.  This begins with us as children - we are given the freedom to find rationales for things not to work out, or to stop doing something because it is too difficult, or because it may not be "our thing", or we give up on people in our relationships because someone may have given up on us when we were younger. 

If we look at our interpersonal relationships, think about how many misunderstandings, how much sabotage, how many hurtful words may have been said because of a projected assumption and because of a fear of what the possible outcome may be.   The two people in the relationship have to be willing to look at each other honestly and at themselves honestly and see how each of them pay a part in the dance and how to keep the dance going. 
Being committed is an exercise in being true to ourselves.  It really takes us to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror  and say -i have to look at myself in the mirror and i have good days and bad days - and i really don' t like what i see when the going gets rough - i don't like the ugliness of my vices coming out but i am willing to accept the feelings and the emotions and i'm willing to let it sit there because that's what is going to help me through the process of staying on my path - whatever the path is - a job, a sport, a relationship -  i may not like what i see, but i'm willing to take the risk and go all the way with it.  I like to look at the analogy of commitment similar to that of being in a job for 10-15 years.   How accustomed do we get to it? how much of it is burn out? how much resentment do we have? how tired have we become? or is it the opposite - do we look forward to coming in everyday? do we say to ourselves - what are we going to learn today? do we be joyful in our day to day activities even if we do the same thing everyday?   

It is a real test to how much each of us can really withstand each other and let go of so much that we have in our head in order to enjoy what we have in front of us.  
Journaling is an excellent tool to keep committed to anything - a person, a hobby, a sport, anything -it gets us to really look at our own issues and see where we need to improve, where we need to back down, where we need to move forward.  It pinpoints our triggers, it pinpoints our anxieties, but most of all it really gives us a chance to be honest with ourselves and begin the process of accepting us for who we are.   If we can accept us, we can accept another - we may not agree/understand - but acceptance can help with being committed.  
What kind of journaling exercises can help with that? A standard practice for me is the Dialogue.  I love it and use i over and over again - not only is it helpful with understanding ourselves better in the context of a person, but it is also helpful in the context of a situation, an event, or a conflict.   It  helps us communicate better, helps us be in tune with what our issues are, and helps us be more ourselves.   The dialogue is an internal dialogue with your Higher self - it gets u to be in tuned with your inner self, your higher self and allows u to do that through the process of writing.   It may seem silly for a while, but it is important to let go of the silliness and tune into what u think the other person is thinking/feeling/anticipating and allow yourself to have a written dialogue with that person. 
I have done this over and over again and everytime it never ceases to amaze me as to how so much of what we think is going on is about us, and how much we project onto others.   It also is a letting go and cathartic exercise -    An example...

Each line u write, allow it to flow freely rather than restricting yourself to see what comes....i really encourage you to try works wonders.

Another tool that is amazing is going for a 20 minute walk or run and writing for 15 minutes after that.  

And yet another tool is picking three feeling words to describe to your day at the end of the day and then write for 5-10 minutes.  After that write three feeling words again...

It clears your mind, lets you look at the picture in a more wholistic way and gets out all the stuff from your head so u can be "YOU."

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Now....

Let's See if I have the time, i say to myself.....

What a concept it is - TIME--

We are always counting the minutes, the hours, the seconds.  either wishing for more time or at times wishing time would stand still or wishing we could go back in time.   It is something regardless of whether we wear a watch or not - something that is constantly in the back of our minds. 

How many of us feel like time is flying and wish we had more time to do things.  We go through our lives counting the moments, but do we really savor the moments. 
I'm a planner by nature - always planning ahead, anticipating what could happen and planning for that just in case and if you think about it, i'm creating my own future through that, i'm not really enjoying the actual moment - and then take it one step further - how much of it is about us controlling our lives.  We know in theory certain things are beyond our control - but our obsession with time is about control - it's about power...if we manage this, we can have some autonomy about it....rather than just allowing certain things to unfold and enjoy the process. 

I recently finished Mitch Albom's The Time Keeper .  In his fictional story he writes about the concept of time and how much control we want to have over  OUR TIME.  The book sits with me and really spoke to the heart.  How many times have u said to yourself, i want to just be....i know i say it - and i also know that i can BE it. 
The book made me stop and really look at my self inwardly and check and see do i really make most of the time that i have.  Co-incidently while i was reading The Time Keeper, one of the bedtime stories I read to my son last week was called Milton's Secret.  It started of as a book about bullying but the essence of the story was really about being in the now - and praciticing the now - What is the now you may ask? The now is not worrying about what tomorrow brings  and what happened yesterday.  It is being in what is happening right now.  How do you practice the now? By reminding ourselves of who we are/where we are and what we inherently are.

Part of not being in the present moment is about the various emotions that accompany us while we are dreaming somewhere in the future or reminising the past.  Emotions like fear rule us, or emotions such as anger, sadness, sometimes happiness - all these things can cloud us and as the cloud us, it prevents us from really savoring the moments that are staring at us in the face. 

We imagined a light inside of us and that light eliminating any negative feelings that could prevent us from being in the now - and reminding ourselves that everytime we find ourselves getting away from the present, feeling the presence of the light within us.  It was a simple exercise that we did together, but yet very profound. 

There are always 101 millions thing to do and honestly those lists will never end.  We have to be the one to put a stop to them.  We have to say to ourselve "Okay -for today that is all I can do." If we spent so much time planning or creating or worrying about what is to come and how it is to come, so much of what is actually happening to us gets skipped.  There is a saying- "it is not the number of breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away." Do we really do that? We are always in a rush.  We rush to get our kids to school, we rush to get to work, we rush at work to meet deadlines and jump to the daily demands that our work puts on us, we rush to get home from work only to repeat to same thing again the next day.  Everything is on a schedule and every thing about making sure we have enough time in the day. 

What if we woke up and imagined we had all the time in the world? Would it make a difference as to how we approached our daily tasks.   There would be more quality in the form of our work, there would be more quality in our day to day relationships.  I have to say doing this exercise has been very helpful - it makes me slow down my pace yet be productive and most of all it makes me present.  

A journaling exercise that keeps me centered and allows me to be present is the following
"What would make me happy if i had all the time and money in the world " Try doing the exercise and you will see that it is most simple things that bring us pleasure, that bring us more centered - and if we actually take the time to practice more of that - how much happier would we really be.   Another excercise is repeatedly saying to yourself "I have all the time in the world."  Affirmations work wonders and this one has been very helpful to gets me to focus on now. 

The Present Moment
~Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment~

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


I, Me, You,
We,They, Them
We are mirrors to one another
Some sad, some happy, Some intense, while others angry.

Our faces say one thing, our voices say another.
Who are we really? Are we just another number?
Wake up o wise soul from slumber.
Your work is just beginning.
The mask you have is just another layer to push away your fears.
Waiting for you to be your authentic self.

Authenticity - the word in essence means being true to yourself.   Part of journaling is really being honest with yourself and there has to be a balance between your inner and outer world.  The pages in your book that you write reflect your inner world -but to the outside, who are u really? Are u really being the person you portray to be? or is it just another facade.  

Many many years ago, i took a course in mask making at the Jungian institute.   The goal of the course was looking at the many faces we carry throughout our life span and linking it to mythology.   The difference between our inner and outer world culminated with a final project of making our own masks which we believed defined our real self.   I bring up this incident because it speaks to the many layers that each of us have within us and the many faces we put on as masks on a daily basis thereby not being fully our authentic selves.  Authenticity is just that - it is shedding the many layers of our skin so that we can look at ourselves in the mirror and really like what we see and be the same self to everyone.  We are acting in accordance with our truth rather than how we think others may expect us to.  It takes years to get to that point.   Our mask is a way of coping with our fears and often become a defense mechanism when truth looks at us in the eye. Have you ever looked at a total stranger right in the eye and almost feel like you know their story without words- that is authenticity.  Authenticity is the willingness to look at the someone in the face and admit your mistake but still hold onto your beliefs of what makes you "YOU." 
A couple of months ago, I took an online course at the Therapeutic Writing Insitute - and one of the books we read was by Kathleen Adams - entitled "Scribing the Soul."  One of the very first chapters in the book was Scribing the Authentic Self - and she puts it very beautifully " The journal as mirror of the psyche, captures the inner man.  Stay with the journal process for even a little while and you'll start to see the layers of your life.  You'll begin to hear the voices  inside.  Like the increasingly soft leaves in each layer of an artichoke, the journal peels of layers of conditioning, habits, and worn-out beliefs and reveals the heart nestled snugly inside."   See

To me that's authenticity - allowing that piece of our heart that is snuggled inside to be open.   How many of us are hard like a rock/stone and so difficult to break?  And what is there to be afraid about? being naked?
Shery Arrieta-Russ, creator of Writesparks, a software that generates 10 million story sparkers for writes, says that
"When you live your life authentically, there is congruence between these two worlds. You close the gap between who you are, what you do and what you want others to get about you. Others get the real you when you speak from the heart and walk your talk.   Authenticity and personal power go hand in hand. The more you live authentically, the more personal power you possess. Even though you may have more conflicts, problems or fears by choosing to live authentically, these things can no longer control you and mess up your life. You are able to choose how you respond and deal with them. Choosing to live authentically requires honesty and a willingness to accept what you know to be true for you in every situation. It means not succumbing to the pressures to do what society views "right" or "acceptable." It involves self-trust and a deep conviction"  see link ... -

Every since i started journaling and I guess not realizing going even further then that, i have been on a quest to going back to who I truly am - and i find that practicing authenticity requires courage - it takes patience with yourself  - but most of all it becomes a way of life and then there is no division between the outside and my inside world - we synch into one another and move with the flow rather than against the current.   In the long run i have to say that although i am not there yet, the journey has totally been worth it.  The message that has stayed with me throughout is that there is no need to strive to others' expectations - or your expectations of how you should be - to be that perfect mother, that perfect friend, that perfect wife, or that perfect father....but more so to who you truly are...
Some food for thought and exercises that have helped that i would like to pass on:
- the many roles I play -
- how do you practice authenticity in your life?
- Make a list of words that describe you? Now who knows about those qualities? you - everyone that you are around? or just those whom you are comfortable with?

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Friday, January 4, 2013

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to listen to the story of one man's journey from trauma as a child and adolescent days and his healing process and journey to where he was in life.  Words of wisdom flew through him and it was a positive way to start the new year.   The first being - never underestimate the impact you have on others - and you can take that on many levels - for him he was speaking about his specific life expereince and the people in his life that made a difference.  
But as I listened to him, i began looking at it on many layers - whomever we come in contact with - we may not be conscious of how we indirectly or directly impacted that person....think of examples in your lives where you or others have got in contact with you and either mentioned how "they thought of you" or "they thanked you" because of that one incident or that one word you may have said - and you probably thought nothing of it....but to THAT ONE person you did make a difference....  It was food for thought and on many levels made me revaluate as a person our connection to society as a whole and being more in tuned with our thoughts/actions/words.  We can be so oblivious to our nonverbal cues, we can be so out of tune with our energy that we may give off - both negative or positive - and being in tune with that or being more conscious of it was a reminder.  For those of us that are parents, it was a reminder for us to be aware of our behaviors because children will mimic us whether we realize it or not and be impacted by the words we say to them - positive and negative.  How many of you changed your life around because of that ONE person who encouraged you to keep going? How many of you are still stuck in your ways because everytime you want to take one step forward -the voice of THAT PERSON OR THAT EXPERIENCE will say STOP?   We may not be aware of it until each of us begins our own healing process - whatever that may be.   And we all have healing to do....we all need to return to our whole selves again.   Which brings me to his second word of wisdom....
Our health - and the need to take the time for us to take care of ourselves -that if we can't devote time to ourselves - on all levels - spiritually, physically, emotionally, etc then we can't perform our tasks appropriately - our jobs appropriately ---For those of you who are in the caring profession or for those of you who are caregivers - how important is that - all else is secondary if you can't be ur full self - and no matter how much you push yourself to do all that you want to, because of the health gap - or the spiritual gap - it prevents us from fully being effective in our work and relationships.   
What does that mean for so many of us - it starts with learning to say no - and set boundaries to things that we know may be impeding us from being full and whole.   Identifying what those things are is key and to the outside world you  may seem aloof or you may seem crazy, but trusting your heart, trusting your instinct and going with that so that you can return to the state of balance is key.  It takes courage and it takes repetition because habits are dfficult to break, patterns are difficult to break. 
There was an exercise I once did where you make a wheel and list the five most important things in your life and examine in each category where you are fulfilled and wehre you are lacking ---the goal of this exercise was really to see how each one complements the other - and one can't truly stand on its own - so if one feels financially deplete - how much of it is linked to beliefs, what could one be doing more of to fill that gap.  it was a very interesting exercise- and i would encourage you to look into that.  see link attached -
Taking stock of what is deplete and complete in us helps us make the wheel fuller and makes us as human beings more conscious beings. If the theory of six degrees of separation is true, then think about each of those people in their own way made some form of impact on the other person and the ripple effect that can have - in a positive or negative way.   Or think about if we work on our wellness charts by beginning to take care of ourselves how much more of a positive difference we would have on those are close to us and those that surround us.    Imagine that....

An exercise - think about someone who made a positive difference in your life and tell them about it either writing or verbally -
Amazing Inspirational Quotes