right action 4


I know what to do about staying sane. I don’t always do it, but even when I lose it, when I’ve had enough upset, I can self soothe.

Having soothed, the question remains, since I care about my country, my compatriots and my grandchildren, what can I do? Here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

What can I do? In the arena of national and world politics, very little. I feel helpless and hopeless. I am not a politician and have no inclination to, or talent for, becoming one. Neither am I rich enough to buy one. Neither am I willing to shoot anybody.

So, I will vote, send my meager donations, sign the petitions and submit an occasional letter to the editor and to my congressperson.

So far, so good.


I ration my news intake, I don’t tweet, twitter or twix and I edit what I read on facebook. I breathe, I meditate, I write to sort myself out and remember the “big picture.”


Beyond that, I engage my heart and my compassion and focus on my sphere of influence – my family, friends, colleagues, clients, readers and students. I will continue, as a therapist and author, to teach my clients, readers and students to maintain their sanity and make their own decisions about right action from a place of clarity and calm.


When I consider the Human Dilemma and my place in it, it seems that ever changing world and national events, politics and the economic conditions have always provided a context for the experience of being human. My life is experienced on a very small stage of that huge amphitheater and the “actors” are me, my family, friends, colleagues, a few readers, students and clients. My task, it seems, is to evolve personally and professionally, to live with integrity and love, help those in my sphere of influence as best I can and trust that the ripples of that way of being have some influence on that vast pond of humanity.


Recently a friend commented that her life was very satisfying and that she was grateful for that. She said that when she remembered the horrible condition of so many of our fellow humans, she was sad, disturbed and somewhat guilty and overwhelmed about doing anything to help them. At times I have that experience as well.

To me the dilemma is this: I can never live a life of equanimity, fulfillment and satisfaction if, having achieved it, I feel angry, sad, guilty or otherwise burdened with the responsibility for everyone who is in need?

My answer, so far, is that when I am in that state of peace I am clear about my desires, my aspirations, my compassion and my capabilities. From that place I decide what action I will take. Feeling disturbed, guilty and overwhelmed about the plight of others doesn’t motivate me to right action, it takes me out of my clarity and is disempowering.

What I’m getting to is this: Having achieved equanimity, my obligation is to maintain it. Then, from that place of calm, competence and compassion, decide how I can most effectively pass it on.


An important part of my personal cosmology is that us humans have the responsibility and the ability to create a peaceful and satisfying life for ourselves. I believe that the troubles that life presents us are opportunities to learn, to do right action and expand our experience of self. I choose to think of the human experience as a boot camp for our soul’s evolution. As such, wars, disasters, hatred and violence are as much a part of the Great Plan as love, abundance, comfort, harmony and peace.  

I believe that the evolution of the human condition takes place one person at a time. The more you and I embody equanimity and love, the more the human race will reflect equanimity and love.




I know a man, a good man, who has mastered his vocation. He competes with others at his company and is the top man. He makes plenty of money, has a very satisfying marriage to a good and successful woman and he has 2 good dogs. He strives. He takes vacations. He has digestive problems and says his belly is too big.

This man is motivated by the competitive challenge and the desire for more money.

Yet, he’s dissatisfied. He asks, “What’s next? There must be something more.”

“Why do you compete and aspire to more wealth?” I ask.  He reflects and responds, “Perhaps I’m not good enough and I’m hoping I’ll be good enough if I continue to win and have increasingly more money”.

“What if you’re already perfect? I asked, “You’ve mastered the Game in human terms. It may be time to transcend the human Game. It may be time to BE, in peace, inspired and entitled to be comfortable.  It may be time to PLAY the human game – for fun.”

“Imagine that you are exactly who you are supposed to be. Now imagine your life from there.”

The man is a sincere seeker and he imagines well. His gut relaxes with a great belch, his striving disappears and he declares, “I am exactly what and who I need to be. From there my doing is guided by inspiration, aspiration, volition and LOVE”.

“That’s what’s next.”




Riley K. Smith, M.A., MFT


I’M ALL FOR ROMANCE. I’ve been there and it’s fun and exciting.  I sure wouldn’t want to live a life without my share of it.fluffy expectations

From my point of view as a therapist who helps people get over the rough spots in their relationships, I believe that one of the best things about romance is that it is the powerful beginning that provide the impetus to work through those rough spots.

Romance is also a set-up for trouble – an expectation that cannot possibly be met. In this article, I will describe the problem and how to resolve it and move on to a solid and realistic loving relationship.



THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS PERFECT PARENTING. Some parents come close. Some parents are worse than no parents at all.. Most parents are between. Think of a bell-curve graph with the peak skewed toward good parenting. Very few parents aren’t doing their best – even the worst parents are probably doing the best they are able.

SO, NO CHILD – NONE – GETS ALL HIS OR HER NEEDS MET. As infants we experience Abandonment when Mom is not there for us enough –- Mom had to work or Mom was an addict or Mom was depressed or simply busy with our siblings. We experience Inundation when there is too much Mom (or Dad) –- too much control, too much smother love, too much abuse or too much fighting. That Abandonment and/or Inundation experience is carried in us unconsciously as a wound, a hunger, a yearning, and a wariness about being close with someone. The more intense the Abandonment and Inundation, the bigger the wound and the stronger these feelings and needs are felt.

THEN, ABOUT THE TIME WE ENTER PUBERTY, and get some hormones going and start to notice possible candidates for bonding, we start to dream about someone who will be there for us in that special way — you know, someone who loves me, sees me, is excited about me and makes me feel OK about myself. We start looking for someone who can heal our wounds

THE KICKER – no one else, no one but I, can heal my wounds. Not my lover, not my parents, not my dog. Only me.



Writers know the formula: Two people fall in love. Something happens and they lose each other. There’s a lot of action about whether they will get together again. If it’s a tragedy, they don’t. Otherwise they get together and live happily ever after and that’s the end of the story. Notice that we don’t find out how they went about living happily ever after.

IN LOVE. Being in love, then, is the excitement of the hope that we’ve found the ONE. We’re open hearted, turned on, on our best behavior, vulnerable, and glowing. We’re pumping endorphins and hormones. We’re turned on and sexy. All this action is at least partially from that wounded child in us who believes in the possibility of finally finding someone who is there for us in the way our parents couldn’t be. We’ve found someone to heal our wounds and now we can LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

THE HONEYMOON IS OVER WHEN we discover that our beloved is not going to heal our wounds. At that point, we can feel profoundly disappointed and probably betrayed.

NOW WE HAVE A CHOICE TO MAKE. We can fight about it, go numb and tough it out, leave and keep looking for that Someone, or keep an open heart, face the truth and learn to heal our own wounds.



I help couples to understand one another in a new and deeper way.

First, I help them become aware of their wounds and how they learned to cope with them, i.e.; survival strategies like being the helper or caretaker, being oppositional, spacing out, keeping distance, being critical, controlling, or passive.

Second, I help them understand where the wounds come from and how their survival strategies make sense.

Third, I teach them to nurture themselves in a way that directly addresses the wounds. At that point the survival strategies that cause the stress in the relationship are not necessary and are greatly reduced or softened. The couple has tools for getting out of conflict and healing the feelings of disappointment and betrayal.



I have found that once we learn to nurture ourselves in a deep and genuine way, we can be open-hearted, energized, present and alive in our relationships.

At that point, a magical thing happens. Our partner can actually help us heal. I think of it this way:

If my wound is about feeling unworthy and unlovable, no amount of love or acknowledgement will feed me. I can’t recognize it. I’m suspicious of it. I can’t really believe it. I am a bottomless bucket, craving love and appreciation and never getting enough.

When I nurture myself I believe and feel that I am worthy and lovable. I have put a bottom in my bucket. From that place, I fully acknowledge and experience the love that comes to me and it fills me. I am grateful and peaceful and loving and generous with myself and my beloveds.





The Trouble with Romance is a gift.  A relationship struggle can be a motivator for resolving impediments to living a more satisfying life, such as addictions, low self esteem, anxiety or depression.better&better



We’ve all noticed a high degree of upset in our selves and our world. Mystics of several traditions have described this time of anxiety, chaos and upset. They say that we’re in a time of transition for the human race and that our challenge is to focus in love and not succumb to fear. I am not a poet, but in a moment of clarity I wrote a poem anyway. 




Go To The Sweetness…


The sweetness in your heart.

The sweetness in your life.

The sweetness in your core.


There is FEARsome conflict going on…

A roiling of feelings,

A hurricane of ideas,

A tectonic shift of certainties,

A chaos of rules and customs,

A disturbance in the Force.


As we enter a new stage of being human

the old ways, behaviors, habits and assumptions

have slipped their moorings

and the new has not yet anchored.


In this emergency

you can trust the inner Sweetness.


Where everything is Okay.






I’m bounding through Central Park, Manhattan. In my sweats, I’m leaping, almost flying, across the meadows and through the trees. I’m exhilarated, expansive, flowing and effortless. Full of myself, my expansive Texas-born smart-ass self takes hold and I’m inspired in mid-bound to shout to the world, “The best running backs come from Manhattan from dodging all the dog shit.” Without missing a beat, the deep and resonant voice of the Universe responds, “NO! They come from Texas from dodging all the bull shit.”

I laughed so hard I woke myself up.

I was having some interesting dreams in the late seventies!

I was also coping with a mild and chronic depression. It was a time of spiritual and psychological exploration as I was completing my training as a psychotherapist, doing my own psychotherapy, meditating and exploring expanded states of consciousness.

One topic I was exploring was called Senoi Dream Work*, a process for extracting the wisdom and insight of a dream. An anthropologist while living with the Senoi people, an isolated primitive tribe in Malaysia, participated in a dream processing ritual. He learned it and adapted it for modern American use. I had learned the process and was using it for myself and guiding my therapy clients in the process with amazing results.

MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE NIGHTMARE: I’m working the Renaissance Pleasure Faire drawing caricatures. I’m watching one of the Faire characters/employees – a wizened little old man dressed as a leprechaun. He’s prancing around, flirting with the pretty girls, laughing, making jokes and generally having a great time. In the midst of the scene, there is a large metal box like a corner mail-drop box or giant bread box with a roll top lid.

The old man approaches the box with the comical caution of a mime. I watch as he laboriously climbs inside the box and closes the lid. Silence. Moments pass. What’s going on? Then there is the sound of racking coughs and choking. Then dead silence. More moments pass. I’m feeling worried, anxious. Is he OK? I approach the box with a deepening sense of dread. I lift the lid of the box.

Not only is he dead, but he has already begun to decompose! In terror I slam the lid closed. Panicked, I lift the box with no clear intention. I need to get the box out of my dream! As I stagger along under the weight of my burden, I hear a voice like old-time radio emanating in a sing-song rhythm from the box, “Do you want to dance? Do you want to sing?”

I am so terrified I drop the box and wake up soaked with sweat.

Trembling from the residual fear and the chill of drying perspiration, I’m thinking, “That was doozie!” Still half asleep, I remember the dream process and I know I have to work this one.


I have to go back into the dream, “Yikes!. . . OK, here goes.”

1) I begin to remember the dream in sequence as if it’s happening right now. As I remember I retrieve the feeling quality of the dream.

Once I finish repeating the whole dream, 2) I select something or someone in the dream that seems important and, 3) I ask for the spirit of that important element to show itself and speak to me. I select the corpse in the box. I imagine I am there with the box and, per my request, and to my great dismay, a figure in a hooded black cloak jumps out from behind the box and shouts, “BOO!” Seriously startled, I whine, “What did you do that for?” “To scare you, of course.” “Well, you sure scared me, but why did you want to scare me?” “I wanted to scare you to get your attention.” I’m starting to calm down, “OK. You’ve got my attention. 4) Have you got a message for me?” “Yes,” the figure replied, “you must pay attention to death. You must make peace with death, especially your own.”

Then, in accordance with the dream work process, 5) I ask for a gift of esteem from the wraith. (In the sixties there was a rock album cover with a picture of a skull with bright red chewing wax lips – a wonderfully powerful image.) So, no surprise, the shrouded figure hands me Red Wax Lips! Perfect. The Kiss of Death.

I cracked up.

So, 6) I began the dream’s assignment of exploring death (short of dying, of course). Over the next few years I read Kubler-Ross, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Bryan Weiss, MD, among several others. I did a number of past-life regressions where I experienced my death and its aftermath. I was able to speak to my deceased parents and others. I studied and meditated on Key 13 of the Tarot – Death. I talked with others about it. I imagined death and thought about it.  

During that time, death as a fearsome specter, lurking in an unknowable future vanished for me. Years later as I enter my eighth decade, I can say with a light heart, “I’m going to die sooner than later and it should be a very interesting experience.” In retrospect I am also convinced that my quest was an important influence at the time in dispelling my depression, which never returned.

I continue to use the dream analysis process for myself and with my clients from time to time – always with a positive effect. For my clients who are interested I teach the process so that they can do it for themselves.


*Check out:

and a bibliography on the topic:



















A POINT OF VIEW about the state of things, New Years 2007

I received a questionnaire in the spring of 2007 pursuant to the celebration of the 50th anniversary auld-lang-syneof my college graduation. One of the questions was, “What is the most important and surprising event since you graduated college?” It started me thinking. I decided I couldn’t give a simple answer. Ten years later not much has changed. I’d like to share with you what I came up with.

Important changes since 1957: the information age, fall of the iron curtain, fall of the Soviet Union, assassinations of our visionary leaders, introduction of eastern spirituality to the west, evolution of racism and sexism, environmental crisis, global economy, our American culture of fear, our American culture of consumption.

Meanwhile life goes on. People are doing greedy, dumb, angry and hurtful things and people are doing courageous, smart, kind and loving things. About two percent of these events, mostly the negative ones, show up in the media, but daily life goes unreported.

So, after careful deliberation, I realized that the surprising and important changes for me in the last fifty years are within me.

First is my own disillusionment about my country. When I left college in 1957, I still believed that we were the good guys. I have come to realize that we are both very good and very bad with lots of subtle shades in between.

The good part is in the Bill of Rights – as Lincoln put it, “a nation of the people, by the people and for the people” and the extent to which we practice it. Examples are; a partially functioning judicial system, a mostly functioning electoral system, a mostly egalitarian culture, mostly freedom of speech and worship as well as a miraculous ability to mostly cooperate for the good of the community.

We and our forebears hold these democratic, egalitarian ideals, yet have so often and profoundly fallen short. Hidden between the lines of our history books are many disastrous acts of ignorance, arrogance and greed – the genocide of the native people, two hundred years of slave labor and another hundred years of Jim Crow, stealing land from Mexico, taking land from Spain in the Caribbean and the Pacific, from Columbia to build the Panama Canal, from Hawaii, dominating the “Banana Republics”, overthrowing elected governments in Iran, Nicaragua and Chile, assassinating foreign and domestic leaders, and destroying small countries like Viet Nam, Cambodia and Iraq.

Second is my self-discovery and personal experience of an infinite consciousness that is the benign motivator of Everything.

That leads me to an oft-times uncomfortable “split personality.”  

On one hand, I’m anguished about the dilemma of us humans. I want a just and peaceful world and I can even see the possibility of it (many are working hard to realize that possibility). Yet, when I see an exponentially expanding population dependent on finite resources for survival, I feel hopeless and discouraged. When I see the greed and violence of the Haves and the desperation and violence of the Have Nots, I am hopeless and discouraged. When I see human beings polarized (good/evil, right/left, us/them), I am hopeless and discouraged. When I see people paralyzed or passive or complacent, I am hopeless and discouraged. I feel frustrated and, frankly, scared for our grandchildren and the human race.

On the other hand, there is a point of view that I have found. It’s way up on “Mount Olympus.” It’s a place of deep inner peace from which I can see human history. It’s a place from which I can see the ebb and flow of civilizations. From there, I know that everything in creation is born, grows to maturity, declines and dies. Everything. Every single time – continents, mountain ranges, species, civilizations, empires and humans – you and me.

There is a Rightness about it and I find peace in that.

The American Empire is in decline. Our Consumer Culture cannot be sustained. We’ve gone as far as we can go in the direction we’ve chosen. It’s time to make way for something else. Perhaps something better.

There is an old Quaker hymn that goes, “For every thing, turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn, and a time for every purpose under Heaven.”


So, I do my best to take what comes without taking it personally. I do my best to keep an open heart and an open mind. I do my best to live with integrity and do as little harm as I can. I do my best to hold my “Olympian” point of view.

Sometimes I don’t succeed: I had a dream the other night. I dreamed I was looking from a second story window at a downtown street as American soldiers, our young men and women, in crisp, new uniforms with weapons and full packs were embarking for the war. I wept.

And sometimes I do succeed: Within the deep Peace of my Olympus, I experience joy in the love of my family and friends. I see the hope, inspiration and determination of people working to make things right. I experience my therapy clients coming to life and an inner sense of well-being. I feel the exuberance of the cycle of life and death.

God Bless

And Happy New Year



In the midst of the political upheaval and general upset, seeking peace of mind and heart, I have come to speculate that there are two lies at the foundation of human suffering:

First is that death is the ultimate evil and to be avoided at all cost.2-truths

Second is that I am (us humans are) fundamentally bad, unlovable and/or unacceptable.

Until I accept that they are lies, I am in a constant, if unconscious, state of fear and defensiveness. That fear drives aggression, greed, hatred, lying, hunger for power and control, living as victims, depression, imperialism, competition and addiction.

Contrary to almost universal consensus, here is the truth that can set us free:

First, death is natural. Death is transcendent. Death is an ending and a new beginning. Although it can be a disappointment to our friends and family and sometimes a shocking surprise to the deathee, the moment of everyone’s death is perfect. There is conscious being after death and, by all reports that I know of, is way, way nicer and easier than being incarnate.

Second, I (us humans) am a finite and personal expression of the infinite consciousness. I am exactly who and what I am supposed to be. I am a being of light. I am, in my core nature, lovable, worthy and good.

When I REALLY, TRULY trust this to be true, I am free. I can breathe. I can live my true self, motivated not from fear, but from inspiration, aspiration and love.

Try it on. Take a few deep breaths, exhaling gently.  Now imagine that there is genuinely, absolutely nothing to fear – there is only the truth that death is perfect – a sweet passage that cannot be premature –  and that I am OK and totally lovable exactly as I am.  Trust that it is true.

Okay, easier said than done. Being able to do this has been the culmination of my life’s work and, although I believe it in my intellect, I still only experience glimpses of that exalted state. It is also the underpinnings of my practice as a psychotherapist.

It is also one of the most treasured of the beliefs that make up Riley’s Bubble.


To my Friends:

Like so many of us, I’ve been struggling lately. I’m upset. I’m scared and mystified and depressed and angry. I’ve been unable to find my beloved place of equanimity. Knowing that I will be gathering with friends tonight who are part of my cohort of like-minded has given me the focus I need to sort myself out. So here goes.




There are mystical traditions that speak of this time as the Kaliyuga, a chaotic period of drastic change in the community of humans. Astrologists describe it as the transition from the Piscean age, a two thousand yearkaliyuga epoch of authoritarian patriarchy, to the new Aquarian age, a two thousand year time of balance between feminine and masculine energy, a period of collaboration and consensus.

It may be true. I choose to believe it is. It is my way of making sense of what’s going on. I find solace in that.

From that point of view, I posit that Trump energy is the (hopefully) last gasp of the Piscean age, Hilary is a transition energy, 2 feet in the Piscean and one foot in the Aquarian age, and Bernie is a harbinger of the Aquarian era.

Here are some random ideas that emerge out of this point of view.

The established world religions are Piscean. The emerging, contemporary spiritual experience and experiments are Aquarian. Pope Francis is Aquarian.

Compassion and wisdom in the realm of law, commerce and government is Aquarian.

Feminism is an expression of Aquarian energy as we move into gender equality.

All civil rights and minority rights are an expression of Aquarian energy.

THE PATRIARCHY WILL NOT GO GENTLY OR WILLINGLY, i.e., evangelical Christianity and radical Islam, NSA, CIA, KKK, etc. Neither will it go immediately.

The chaos that we are experiencing is inevitable.   The human race is evolving. The change is very frightening, tragic, apocalyptic and very positive. It is challenging and exciting to Be Here Now. I will do my part, and as much as I can, handle my upset and enjoy the view.



How does it serve my Soul Self to inhabit this time of Kaliyuga? To be an activist? A resource? A witness? To evolve as a Human Being?

BYE THE WAY, the historian in me knows that there have been many, more cataclysmic upheavals in the past than we’re experiencing now. Authority vs compassion, separation of church and state, institutionalized prejudice, greed vs patriotism are old struggles in human history. Strong federal government vs “state’s rights” (to hold slaves) almost doomed the old US of A in the 1790’s and then again in the 1860’s. Perhaps my Kaliyuga theory is only a comforting fantasy. WE SHALL SEE.


A little over a year ago I posted some thoughts on Prejudice on Facebook. A discussion I’d had with Victor Lee Lewis inspired me to go deeper into my personal experience of prejudice. I want to acknowledge Victor who got me started thinking about this. He’s a remarkable thinker and teacher. Google him. It’s worth it.this-is-a-person-2

Also check out the documentary “The Color of Fear” on Youtube.



Premise: I am (we are?) programmed to be prejudiced. Prejudice resides in the preverbal brain and CNS. It is in the DNA. It is generational.

My prejudice shows up when I meet someone who is black or brown and someone who is gay. If I tune in to myself, I notice it as an automatic voice that says, “this is an other” along with a sensation of being closed to the possibility of intimacy. Immediately this experience is superseded by the voice of my values, “That’s wrong. This is a person. Another finite expression of the Infinite.” Meanwhile, the sense of being closed to the possibility of intimacy remains. I ignore that feeling and proceed as if it were not there. Even though the impulse fades as I get to know the person, it still lurks. I have never acted on it because I know it’s wrong. I am on guard against my prejudice. I often overcompensate in friendliness. In some situations I might feel fear. As I write this, I feel shame.

I am also curious.

I want to know more about this:

Is my premise true? Is prejudice preverbal? Is it in the DNA?

Is this true of others? Is it universal?

What is the influence of having had an African American nanny in my first years?

What is the influence of being born in the 1930’s to southern parents in a racist and homophobic culture?

Is this issue at play in the middle east between various tribes, races and religions?

Can it be changed? How can it be changed?

Could the therapies, such as EMDR, IBP and others, which are designed to reprogram preverbal attachment wounds apply to this issue?



I also have an aversive, visceral reaction when I hear or read prejudicial comments. I suspect that that reaction is a product of my values about prejudice. I seem to be both hypersensitive and judgmental toward racial and homophobic prejudice. I seem to be seriously prejudiced against prejudiced people. Go figure.




While agonizing over the presidential election, I just remembered that, in the long-term, you and I have no idea what the outcome of a Trump or a Clinton presidency would be. A so-called negative event can lead to a positive outcome and then the positive outcome can lead to a negative.

Actually, sooner or later it always does.

Not only that, but one person’s negative is another person’s positive.

Not only that, but in THE BIG PICTURE we see that everything in existence is being born, ascending, descending and dying. That includes mountain ranges, species, nations, bugs and you and me. Consciousness is an eternal changing, a sequence of interconnected beginnings and endings.

Not only that, but when my internal wellbeing is dependent on outside events (like this election), I am doomed to the stress of trying to control those outcomes according to my versions of good and bad. I am also doomed to combat about those outcomes with those whose versions of good and bad differ from mine.

Meanwhile, I am human. I agonize. I care. I have opinions. I send money. I vote.

And, when I remember THE BIG PICTURE, I also relax.