White Oak Institute in the News

The White Oak Institute for Growth and Wellness was recently recognized in the Mokena Messenger and Orland Park Prairie Newspapers. I am honored to have the White Oak Institute for Growth and Wellness be selected for the cover story of these two prominent newspapers. It has been an incredible gained understanding from experiences in this field in addition to a leap of faith that has brought the White Oak Institute to this moment. However, the supporting communities of Mokena, Orland Park, and others have also been integral in the development of the White Oak Institute for Growth and Wellness. Although services have been provided to people who at times have traveled several hours to the site, a vast majority of people who seek the White Oak have been from Mokena and surrounding communities. I am looking forward to moving deeper into the vision of the White Oak and manifest this process to the fullest to continue to provide elite comprehensive counseling-based care that puts the individual person first. The relationship is paramount at the White Oak.

Nature is Nurturing

Being in nature can be a real positive to our health and wellness. As we return to our more natural and pure forms of living contexts, and get out of our structured living contexts, the health benefits are proven to be a wonderful work towards your diet of daily or weekly wellness. So go on and get out there in the woods or other natural habitat as part of your weekly, or daily habits. Even Five to ten minutes here and there may make a noticeable and wonderful difference in your life!

Recent Studies have indicated that exposure to forests and trees leads to the following health benefits:

  • boosts the immune system
  • lowers blood pressure
  • reduces stress
  • improves mood
  • increases ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
  • accelerates recovery from surgery or illness
  • increases energy level
  • improves sleep



Dialogue with your mind/self

One important tool for setting new standards of living in your life is to develop a relationship with your mind. Having an inner dialogue with your self is one way to assist you to stay motivated towards value-based goals and lifestyle change. Positive self talk can be that inner voice of strength in change needed to make actual change outside the mind more likely to stick.

Sometimes, more than not, our minds will battle with thoughts that counter the changes we want to make in life. Our mind is trying to keep homeostatic levels which are in tune with your daily routines and sequential behaviors over time wether they are observed by you as good or bad when analyzed. So the mind is doing its part to keep you safe by making your world predictable in the face of change. So when the mind starts to battle with good and bad thoughts like “I am fat and I do not want to be seen in these clothes vs I miss my friends and need to get out of the house, e might best benefit by observing our thoughts for simply what they are. The are just thoughts that are being played in our mind like a game of chess. Let’s think of the pieces of white vs black as good vs bad thoughts. The pieces are the weighted thoughts and they move around the board setting up the opposing thoughts and positioning themselves for the win. The trick then is to observe our thoughts and notice they are just thoughts while also incorporating positive self-talk from a strength based perspective to best work through the presenting dilemma. In this way we are more likely to move in our world with value-based behaviors that are congruent to what we care about. In our example aforementioned, we may then elect to hang out with our friends despite being a little uncomfortable about our perceived appearance since our friendship value is most important to us.

The inner dialogue with the mind of providing positive self-talk when noticing our internal thoughts creates a positive vibe with in yourself and motivates you best for changes to come. This is not only in your mind but also the vibe may buzz in your body if you have sufficient mind-body relations. This one tool of noticing thoughts and having an inner dialogue with positive self-talk is just one of many tools to utilize in your journey to greater wellness and balance in your life. Without such tools to calm the mind down we are giving too much power to our mind to; keep readjusting our living to make our world more about utilizing the past to be fearful of the future and protect ourselves from social events that are not yet known. This is against the idea of being in the moment and presently attuned to living in accordance to what we care about and value against any negativity outside or inside of our mind. This is why inner dialogue and positive self-talk may be a tool to develop in your mental tool box to committed and moving in line with what you want to do now and to better your future.


You are not your Mind

At times our mind may help us move quickly and safely to the next task we have in mind. Or the mind may set up proximal behaviors to the self to continue to gain energy from resources that we desire or need to maintain our standards for living. Our minds are very important and all powerful. However remember, you are not your mind. You are more than that! The mind is a part of the whole you, as a person on your journey of living your most optimal life.

You are not your Mind

We all exist within a social setting or context and our mind makes every effort to assist us to maintain safety and keep our world predictable. “Watch out and be careful”, says the mind. Our mind is set to remain focused on resource acquisition with the “stuff” that fuels our soul and on a schedule of how we are accustomed to. As it does this over time, certain experiencing is embedded deeply in the caverns of our mind and gets layered over time. These fusions of private events from our past may be, for example, the symphony of our life that may drown out novel and new sounds as they come to us. In such then that a underlying negative feeling state may readjust our experiencing, in any novel moment, to make it fit with what our mind knows instead of having the mind learn anew based on the purity of mental processing in the moment.

A negative feeling state from past hurts may create emotional and perceptual difficulty in the aspect of sensory-perceptual experiences, leading to poor or damaged apperception formation. This may aid in the process of keeping us in a state of feeling or thinking like a victim or keeping us in mind to understand our world we live in as less than. In any significant event of the past we may also create verbal rules that are created on how to live and make choice in the world we are embedded within. These verbal rules are now a set guideline and can greatly limit our choice-making in the moment. The mind would rather you do what it says! It is trying to make your behaviors predictable so as to keep you safe. Thank your mind for that, even if sarcastically or in a joking way.

Often these verbal rules are learned from early childhood experiencing. I often joke with my clients and tell them not to worry since any faults that they may perceive to have are all not their own but rather their parents. In part this may be true, however I will also say that we have a choice to not be a victim and to rather be a survivor of our past and how our mind perceives it. Or at least understand that our parents problems were actually not theirs either but rather a production of their own parents. Transgenerational processes are dynamic to understand and perhaps you may be the first to make the family transgenerational change needed to help your family lineage over the course of its’ existence be most righteous.

Remember you are not your mind. We are more what we do and value and the energies that we have as a functioning whole person. The mind is just a part of who we are in totality as we operate in our World. One helpful tactic to not let your mind get the best of you, is to create a dialogue with your mind and develop a relationship of change with it. Often one of the first imagery exercises I use is to have the person hold their mind in their hands and describe it, shape color etc. and begin to perceive the mind as something to hold and care for in our hands and not something to be afraid of or obey or any other negative relationship we may have with our mind. Once we are able to imagine this then we build the dialogue with our minds and begin the process of acceptance of private events and opening up to experiencing from a en-heightened sensory capability with various techniques to ground us and hone in on our focus.

Understanding our past, our private events, and moving into acceptance & opening up to the new experience may lead to much gains in living well.

In our minds there are private events. These are intrinsic thoughts, feeling states, urges, and images that our minds have. Often good therapy work involves aspects of acceptance of private events even when we meta-cognitively perceive them to be a negative force to daily living and wellness. Meaning that we learn to accept our private events and not let them determine our teleology or choice-making dependent of our negative private events such as for example a low-feeling state from past social events that become mentally infused into negative energies within our mind. In this respect we might, for example, become more reactive to our emotional state (not feeling state as they are different concepts) which may lead to choice-making that is not sufficiently in line with what we desire in a potential outcome or simply not making the best, most informed choices. Which is again why acceptance in coordination with opening up to experiencing is essential to optimal human functionality over time. Being accepting allows us to focus energy and mental dynamics on not pushing out unwanted thoughts or other private events. This is exhausting and most often only works temporarily! We are expending our “selves” when we avoid or push out unwanted private events! Acceptance allows us to make mental room for present tensing and being in the here, right now to make the choice we make with more salient information gained from our context that contains value concurrent elements about what we care about.

Acceptance takes great practice and time to achieve at a level where you can fully work it well. Assuming you have that ability you may then open up to your World and gain the new and novel within it or grab elements in line with your values that are most value congruent. Your percept formations may now be assimilated and accommodated into your working mind as you act in line with what you care about most in this moment. Humans perceive and what comes before perception in the act of opening up is sensory experience. The more open we are to sensory experience the better potential for proper percept formations which become perceptions.

We sense elements from our social context to form percepts in our sensory experiencing. For example, At one time, a long time ago, we did not understand that an upside down smile was a frown and that the frown we perceived on another person may limit the social interactions held together or change our interactions dynamically from the moment. The frown was then learned newly, just as the fast moving four wheeled thing moving down the street in front of your house and making a vvvvvrrrmmmmm noise was told to you that it was a car by your parent. As we open up we must be willing to learn anew and not be readily dependent on our mind to make reactionary decisions. As we open up in coordination with acceptance we then are perceiving from a more pure sensory experiencing and less from verbal rules and other private events embedded in our minds from past experiencing. In this way we auto-correct our new normative nominal experience and new homeostasis of being mindful and mentally dynamic in accordance with how we truly want to live our lives with values that we hold dear. We may now with proper supports from our self and others gain a new way of living in our world we choose to make our way in. Our mind can learn to perceive in a new light even when set and coming from the darkest crevasse of our mind. Having the power to make a choice become an action and not to be reactive to our minds is a key in becoming who we want to be and living how we want to live.


The Big Three Values of a Successful Relationship

Russ Harris MD author of the Happiness Trap and Act with Love tells that there are three core values often found in a successful loving relationship; connection, caring, and contribution. Values are things that you can and want to do in the present moment. Values are part of your lifestyle and how you define yourself. They are not goals which may or may not be met. I like to call the three relationship values of connection, caring, and contribution the big three which are core to a healthy functional relationship. What helps your relation ship stay afloat in the vast sea of your time together is a high commitment to the big three. Commitment is not a feeling or thought. We can all say we are going to do something and then not do it. We can all say we feel a certain way and then not act on that feeling state. Commitment is actually doing the work and actions! Often a lack of clarity or poor commitment to the big three increases the likelihood that your relationship is in jeopardy of getting sunk in the storms ahead.

Connection is about being present, open, and intimate. It is deepest when you are putting away the social mask and allowing your self, with compassion, to be truly who you are. Can you act in your relationship the way you want to act without being reactive to the other person? Often moving from a state of reactivity to activity is one of the greatest change agents in relating to others in a significantly loving way. Connection is also about being grounded in the moment and poignantly present which lends itself to allowing your relationship to accept influence of the self and other and experience the dynamics of growth and wellness in the present.

Caring is the value of giving to the other and helping the other. It is about acting lovingly and kindly towards the other person. Simply seeing your actions and making the choice to act in a kind and loving way may be the zeitgeist for creating a more positive vibration in your daily interactions as a couple. Caring is an essential element of your family or relationship atmosphere. Caring well and wholeheartedly most likely will change the weather of your time together. Calm weather lends to more clear sailing in your relation ship as you relate to each other with enlightened compassion.

Contribution is about investing time and resources to influence the other person’s self growth so that your relationship stays novel as you each grow as unique authenticated individuals and as a couple. It is about giving your partner whatever you can, within reason of course, to help them in the moment and for their future. Contribution is a two-way street and it is acted upon in coordination with true compassion. It is in no means an exchange of quid pro quo which may be a big detriment to the quality of the relationship as it becomes more about what you get then what you do because you want to help.

I can not begin to tell you the numerous couples I have worked with who began their story with “we just simply grew apart” or we “fight all the time”. These couples may have moved more into an aspect of trying to change the other person instead of joining the person more deeply in their values of connecting, caring, and contributing. Often value clarity, congruence, and commitment work in the big three is necessary to begin to move the struggling couple in the right direction. The big three can be a compass for the relationship! The couples with a compass who join each other and engage each other in their present moment most often describe a much greater detail of satisfaction and joy in their lives. Their ship sails clearly out at sea and onward in a direction to develop moments and memories together with much greater joy potential. They are less reactive to the atmosphere their relationship is in and they have a compass to guide them despite the weather that they face.


Parenting: Joining and Listening to our Child when a Problem Arise

Many parents and people listen with the intent of waiting to reply. For a variety of reasons including being overworked and tired parents often do not listen for the underlying meaning, purpose, and emotionality of the message they are receiving from their child. Engaging the child is the first key to joining and listening. When engaging our child it is important to be kind and firm in our approach minding our body language and tone of voice. Many parents may often be in a suspended state, waiting to give a reply so that we may help the child and then move on. After all, we already know how to solve the problem from our adult mind frame. The problem is that there are two minds at work here! Each one has their own perception forming in the moment the problem is presented. It is most important for the adult to first understand their child’s feeling state and developing mental processes in this important moment of learning when the problem is presenting itself to the child. When first understanding the child we need to have a soft and reflective approach and get to their level of understanding. Often parents may seem ominous to their child be their mere gait, approach, or nature of being in a rush. The child may then learn to ignore their parent as not to “poke the bear” or be a bother to a parent. It is good practice to physically get down on one knee or sit down when working with your child. This structural change helps parents connect with their child and join in their state of distress or figuring out something. Also in this simple structural change moment of joining, the child may begin their mental mechanics of moving dynamically from a point of distress to a point of eustress. The later which is the healthy kind of stress used for learning and positive change. The parent’s influence here is exceptional.Children are attuned to their parents emotional state often more than parents are attuned to their child’s emotional state. Children, especially at an early stage of development and or age, often utilize their emotional connectivity with their parents to stay tuned in as opposed to the verbal relational framing and activity that parents may rely much more on. In general, children are more sensitive like this for a reason. They need to be reactive through being more sensitive to elicit a parental response to generate proper parental support and assistance with an issue or problem that is challenging their developing minds. This dependency has a security and survival purpose that is innate in the person.As a parent we need to appreciate our child’s developmental age and frame of perception. Step into your child’s mind at their stage of development or preferably go slightly beyond it as a way to bridge the gap of learning and help the child build into the next lexicon of knowledge needed to complete the current task or solve the problem (Scaffolding). Join them in this process of learning without doing it for them (Enabling)! In this way the connection with our child is most essential than quickly solving the task so we may return to our day. Sure this may be more time consuming, but not that much more. And it will save you countless time and stress in the future as your child internalizes what they learn from you and becomes more self-sufficient and higher functioning. Take the time. Connecting with our children is a most important value!In this process of connecting to help our child learn and develop, active and emotional listening is key. Active listening requires engagement, patience, and true listening which is a skill. Be patient and take the time to listen and not simply “hear” your child. Emotional listening requires understanding what feeling state is first being processed into the emotional representative it becomes when the feeling state attaches to social elements being perceived in the child’s social context. Engage the child calmly and ready to discuss the presenting problem or task to be solved. This will foremost develop a working relationship so future problems are not as much anxiety provoking for both the child and parent especially as the child learns or has learned from the past that the parent is there for the child. This trust goes a long way. In time your child will internalize the collaborative learning process in this moment and eventually will be able to do it on their own. Also your child will then become more likely to come to you or trusted others with the next higher order of problem solving sets, feeling confident and more relaxed about the learning process as it unfolds. Our children are worth our most exceptional support and with it our children may become more than and exceptional people that we as parents may be proud of. ADDITIONAL

RESOURCES: How to not Screw Up your Kids; a 10 minute video with Dr. Gabor Mate at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gX4EFwv76Vg

The Journey to Better Begins

Your growth and wellness journey begins here and now in this moment!

Many of us always try to fix our own problems and most often that is over complicated since our own problems are often in just our head. That is unless we are victim-thinking in which case everyone else is the problem! Sometimes that may be the case but often it is not that simple and joining a professional to help you better manage your life is the best option since now there are two minds to solve the problem/manage your life towards optimal living, and one of those minds is a trained mental health and wellness professional. Two heads are better than one indeed. Your journey begins by choosing to click on that contact button or pick up the phone to make that call you have maybe be debating in your mind to make. Its okay if your not ready to make the changes needed in your life, as long as you can endure your suffering and continue to get what you want in life.