Author Archives: vlm

Grief as a Journey

By Patricia Obst, MSW, LCSW

There are some journeys that we get excited about going on.  The journey of a cross country vacation, so invigorating and full of adventure; the journey through college toward the goal of a career; or the journey of a new relationship with a significant other filled with all of its discoveries of one another.  But grief – grief is a journey that all of us wish we could avoid and certainly a journey we never look forward to.  Yet, life insists that we go on this journey at one time or another.

The loss of a loved one is not something that anyone ever “gets over.”  We may get “used to” our loved one not being in our lives, but we never get over the fact that a piece of our heart will be missing forever.

So, what to do if “getting over” our loss is not a realistic option.  We “journey through it,” eventually recovering from our wounds.  But just like other journeys in our lives, we will need directions, supplies, plans, and most of all, support from others.  Unfortunately, most of us go into grief ill equipped for the journey.  This is not because we’re poor planners, but because whether loss comes suddenly or following a long illness, we are never fully prepared for the “goneness” of the one we love so much or who has affected our lives in such a deep and profound way.

When we’re in the throes of grief, we need to remember that we’re not lost in the deepest depths of a dark cave with no way out.  We are surely in the dark, but more like a dark tunnel.  If we begin to move forward, we will work our way through the tunnel to the other side – to where we can begin to learn to live again.

So often, what perpetuates the oppression of loss in our lives is the belief that we must say goodbye to our loved one.  Others around us tell us it’s time to “move on,” to “let go.”  But how can we move on with the thought of our loved one being left behind?  How can we come to terms with the fact that we didn’t get to have closure or say everything we wanted to our loved one?  How do we reconcile the unfinished business?  How can we let go of someone who has become a permanent part of our very soul?  So, we end up stuck.  Stuck between acting on the outside as if we’ve “moved on” in order to please everyone else.  Yet struggling on the inside with a mix of emotions that we’re not able to sort through.  We’re not able to let go of our loved one because we simply don’t want to and because it’s simply impossible to do so.  Over time this conflict of emotions manages to strangle any joy that comes our way.

Faced with this dilemma, one of the most important things we can learn about traveling this grief journey is that we DON’T have to “move on” from or “let go” of the person we’ve lost.  If we think about it, when something of sentimental value to us is lost – it still exists, it’s just in a place where we are not.  Its value remains in our hearts although it’s no longer where we can see it or touch it.  We don’t have to “let go” or sever our relationship with the one we have lost.  Instead we can learn how to create a new relationship with our loved one.  A relationship that keeps us connected to the purpose and inspiration of the bond between us.  Whether the relationship was a positive one or one filled with animosity, we can still gain something from getting the most out of that relationship that it had to offer in experience and in lessons learned.  We can rebuild a relationship that is alive, one that actually breathes new life into us, and enables us to experience a new and different appreciation for our lives and our relationships.  In time, our grief journey blends into our life journey.  This blending incorporates all that our relationship with our lost loved one has given us and has taught us.  It allows our newly created relationship with them to continue to teach us and to enhance our life journey.

As authors John W. James and Russell Friedman state in the book The Grief Recovery Handbook, it is possible to recover from significant loss:

“Recovery means feeling better.  Recovery means claiming your circumstances instead of your circumstances claiming you and your happiness.  Recovery is finding new meaning for living without the fear of being hurt again.  Recovery is being able to enjoy fond memories without having them precipitate painful feelings of regret or remorse. Recovery is acknowledging that it is perfectly all right to feel sad from
time to time and to talk about those feelings no matter how those around you react.  Recovery is being able to forgive others when they say or do things that you know are based on their lack of knowledge about grief. Recovery is one day realizing that your ability to talk about the loss you’ve experienced is indeed normal and healthy.”

As a counselor, I have gathered professional knowledge about the kind of directions, supplies, plans and support needed to guide clients through their grief journey.  As a layperson, I have gained personal experience with grief through my own losses and tragedies.  Both come together in an offering of practical guidance to clients along with genuine empathy and compassion.

Take Time to Enjoy Your Achievements

Many of us may spend considerable time to strive, accomplish, and achieve. This may be especially true for those of us who have come from some type of dysfunctional system. The desire—maybe even need—for us to be recognized and valued by someone for something usually provides ample fuel to propel us to even more and greater accomplishments. Of course, working towards attaining goals, in and over itself, is not bad, but after reaching a goal I think it is healthy for us to take some time to enjoy what it is that we have attained.

This thought came to mind this last Sunday while I was at The Starting Point’s 40th Anniversary Dance. There have been considerable effort, energy, and sacrifice over the years by many people who have contributed to the success of The Starting Point these past 40 years, its founder, Vincent DiPasquale, of course, being chief among them. But before we here at The Starting Point begin planning for the next fiscal year and possibly worrying about potential budget shortfalls, it was time this past Sunday to enjoy what The Starting Point had already become. There was dancing, laughter, eating, and conversation. We had fun!

I recommend that before you move on to the next item on your “to do” list, take some time to appreciate where you have already traveled. Doesn’t it seem appropriate for the mountain climber to stop periodically to just enjoy the view?

Allie F. Miller, M.A., L.M.F.T.

Executive Director

Thought For the Month – November 2017

“Willingness, Humility & Gratitude”

By: Vince DiPasquale

Each morning begins a new day.  Let us kneel before God, our creator and look at the earth and begin each day with a spirit of humility, knowing that we are a part of God’s new day.  As we enter the month of November and the earth goes through a new cycle preparing for winter, we begin our journey with an attitude of gratitude for the gift of life.  When we are given this wonderful gift, take time to be quiet & listen to God speaking to us through all the situations of this new day.

Let’s begin each day with prayer, asking that we have the willingness to be open to God’s will, not ours.  Look around at all we have been given.  Allow the experiences of our past, both with our mistakes, and our accomplishments, to be our strength to live just this day with humility and acceptance.  Listen to the prayer from one of my meditation books:  “Great Spirit, I humbly stand before you along with the new sun, the Mother Earth, and the smells of the morning. I ask you to direct my thinking today.  Let me live in silence.  Teach me your Wisdom.  Teach me to love my brothers and sisters.  Let me respect the things you have made”.

We are all spiritual creatures, in a human body.  We are limited by our humanness so we can’t walk the journey of this world alone. We need guidance and direction that only comes by asking God for help in prayer.  Your Holy Spirit is our guide and strength.  We all need spirit guides. Sometimes God speaks to us through situations in the seen world.  Our angels are messengers, and they are all around us. We need to be open and listen to them.

We refer to the month of November as a time to renew our spirit of gratitude and acceptance of all that we’ve been given by God.  It’s a time that families come together and start the season of traditional holidays that mark the ending of another year.

To be thankful for so many gifts especially the gift of life is something we cannot take for granted.  Our recovery program teaches us to have a spirit of openness and willingness to change and grow.  The true spirit of humility is the total acceptance of self and both our struggles and talents, knowing that God will be our guide and strength.  All of our struggles are battle scars of growth.  Thanksgiving is celebrated one day, but the real Thanksgiving Day is every day that we walk the earth.  Take time this month to reflect on all of our past experiences, and embrace them.  Always remember our history is our most powerful teacher.  Plan life but always be open to its changes.  Be grateful for each day, treat it like it’s your last.

When we stop and look at life, the world and all of creation, we are humbled to know that we are just one part of God’s mosaic.  Our creator has the master plan.  All we can do is live each day, do our part, treat ourselves and all we meet with love and respect.  Gratitude teaches us that there is a balance in life.  For every negative there is a positive.

Just for today, let us think in willingness, walk in humility and pray in gratitude.  For all that we’ve been given, teach us love, respect and care for ourselves so that we can pass this same energy on to all those we meet.

Thank you God for all you have given us, thank you for all that has been taken from us, and thank you for all that will be.

May God Bless us each day on our Journey!

Thought For the Month – October 2017

“The Many Faces of Life”

By:  Vincent DiPasquale

When October rolls around we think of how the trees start to show their other faces.  Mother Nature once again reminds us that on life’s journey we will experience many different face-changes.  Each one will bring us to a place of struggle and growth.  During this month we also experience Halloween. Originally, Halloween was a time of sacredness, dressing up as the patron saint which we were named after.  This would encourage us to look up to that saint for examples. Today we see many costumes and different faces which also remind us of life.  Let’s look at some of the faces which have touched our lives. I will try to recall these different faces of my life’s experiences.

The child.  As a little boy raised in the forties, my vision and face were different.  I came into the world during World War II,  into a world of uncertainly and fear, living in the city of Camden.  The face of Camden was different then.  The streets were safe and neighborhoods were divided.  There was no air-conditioning or television.  All ears were glued to the radio.  Even baseball was always played in the daytime and some games were called because of darkness.  The face of religion was based on fear and guilt.  Yet there was a sense of community and caring.

The teenager.  The face of my teen years was a journey that took me away to a new community; the seminary.  There was fear and confusion and time to adjust to a new face of life for three years. Change came again when the next three years were spent in Blackwood at the seminary (which is now Camden County College.)  Life was always adjusting to new people and new experiences.  I experienced the world of stage and drama, a time to grow up in a controlled world.

The 20’s.  As I entered into my 20’s the journey took me to a new school, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland.  This was a chance to finish college and receive my graduate seminary training which led to my Ordination in 1966.  Once again years of change, confusion, adjustment and growth ensued.  It was a time when I thought I had it all together.  My years of journey into the ego was a time when I thought it was my job to save the world.  My final years of my 20’s were spent in much fear, guilt and craziness.  My journey into my codependency and the world of addiction began.  It was a time when I was introduced to the 12 Steps and the world of AL-ANON.  I still didn’t understand why they kept telling me to work on myself when my ego told me I didn’t need to work on me.

The 30’s.  Then came the 30’s, years of much confusion and craziness.  I truly understand today that these years were the dark night of my journey.  My life was out of control.  I was running from life playing the savior and martyr on a journey into a deep hole of emptiness.  During the seven years, 1969 to 1976, I was a runaway train.  My workaholic instincts and addictions were fully alive.  During these years I taught high school, ran a parish, was involved in the Civil Rights movement, prison chaplain and ran a halfway house drug program.  I never took time to vacation, was too busy to go to the beach or boardwalk.  I founded The Starting Point in Philadelphia in 1977.  I was just running away from facing life and decisions.  I played the game of avoidance and isolation.  I was truly a rebel – against everything.  Talk about codependency and control issues! Inside I was empty, lonely and scared.

The 40’s.  The 40’s were a time of awakenings; time to face many decisions, fears; a time to awaken and move to a new era of life.  My God was very patient with me and sent some very special people into my life to help lead me slowly out of the empty hole and into the light.  God sent a new family which forced me to look at another new face, a wife and three beautiful step-daughters who at once helped me look to a new direction.  I finally had to begin the journey of growing up.  I was led by so many spiritual teachers who taught me to finally do my own work and journey one day at a time while discovering who I was.  This journey continues to this day.  God has blessed me in so many ways and has sent many people to touch me along the way.  He has given me an opportunity to be a member of many communities with many different faces – who have all helped me on my spiritual journey.

Today.  I have seven beautiful faces, my grandchildren, who have helped me to meet my child within in a special way.  God has blessed me with so many gifts and given me the opportunity to share them.

As we look at the changing faces of the fall season, let’s be grateful for all we have been given.  Remember an old and beautiful slogan, “Be grateful for what was, be open to what is and be grateful for whatever will be.”  Look around at all the wonderful faces of all of God’s children.  We are all connected in the circle of life.  May we all be blessed on our life’s journey.

A Prayer for Self-Respect

“Oh God, teach me that self-respect cannot be hunted, it cannot be purchased ~ it is never for sale.  Teach me that self-respect comes when I am alone, in quiet moments, in quiet places, when suddenly I realize that knowing the good, I have done it; knowing the beautiful, I have served it; and knowing the truth, I have spoken it.”

Parents, It’s Back To School Time!

This is a busy time of year as kids head back to school and once again become involved in all of their school-related activities. Most parents with school-age children will soon begin filling their calendars with this event and that activity, often coordinating between each other “who is doing what when.” It is wonderful that parents express interest in and support their children this way, but by becoming completely absorbed in their children’s activities, it can become easy for parents to lose themselves and not take care of themselves properly. For your sake—and that of your children!—please remember to invest some time and energy into Self.

By taking care of Self, you are taking pressure off your child to do that for you. A parent who becomes singularly focused on their child sends a subtle message to that child that s/he is responsible for the parent’s well-being. Supporting and encouraging a child, while well intended, can become detrimental if the child begins to see that s/he is the center of Mom’s or Dad’s universe. It can be a fine line: Letting the child know that they are valued and important, yes; conveying the message that parents’ well-being is dependent on how well the child is doing, no.

Remember, also, that you are the most powerful and influential model for your child. One of the gifts that you can pass on to your child is showing them how to take care of themselves. You hope that your child will grow up to be an emotionally and psychologically well-adjusted adult. Let them see that their parents know how to do that.

Allie Miller, Executive Director

Thought For The Month – Sept 2017

“Live, Laugh, Love” By: Vince DiPasquale

As summer comes to an end and we once again go back to reality, I always feel like the world changes gears.  We are reminded that we live in a world that truly makes life complicated.  We have a choice: we can get bogged down in the rules of the world or we can learn to listen to our spirit. The world operates around the ego. Power, control, money, prestige and image create stress, anxiety and loss of self.

Let’s take time to reflect on the special words that will take us on the journey to the world of our spirit.  We are spiritual beings in a human body.  Our journey on this earth is short.  Our body is only a home for our spirit.  There will come a time when our human home will get leaky and our spirit will have to move on to the unseen world.  As we walk the journey of earth, let’s take time to live, laugh and love.

Live ~ Life is a journey if we choose to live in the spirit of the willingness to change and grow.  We need to live in harmony, balance and integrity.  We are interconnected to everything in life.  One of the greatest discoveries in my life is that there are no absolutes.  Everything in life is in constant process of changing.  This to me is the adventure of life.  Enjoy each moment, stop trying to figure life out, just live!  One of the greatest readings I do each day is a little pamphlet that is entitled, “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”  Yesterday is over, learn lessons from it.  Tomorrow doesn’t exist, so just live this day today as though it is your last day on the earth.  To live one day at a time is the spirit of acceptance, gratitude and humility.  Each day is an adventure, trying to teach us that you can’t control life.  Try to let go and know that God has lessons for us to learn each day.  One of life’s greatest secrets is to go with the flow.  Each day as I pray the 11th step prayer I am reminded, “constantly remind us that we are no longer running the show.” Father, help us humbly say many times each day, “Thy will be done.”

Laugh ~ One of God’s greatest gifts that we have within us is the gift to laugh at life even when it’s not funny.  Take time to look back on life’s journey and be able to say, “Did I do that?”  We have been on so many journeys and done so many things that we need to see our history with the gift of laughter.  We live in a world that by nature is dysfunctional and because of our humanity do we ever learn lessons!  I love telling stories of my Italian heritage with pride and laughter.  I am reminded daily to try not to take anything for granted.  I’m convinced that when you look at the world through the eyes of laughter, you are able to have a greater sense of harmony, humility, honesty and healing.  Years ago the old timers in AA taught me some great lessons by inviting me to join the Higher Power Club.  They called it the 4H Club.  When you have the courage to get honest, you will experience humility.  If you have a sense of humor and can laugh at life, you will be able to heal and learn positive lessons.  My Dad would always say the manure you put in the ground will become fertilizer for plants to grow.  Our history with its’ manure becomes our fertilizer for personal growth.  Don’t be afraid to laugh, it cleanses the soul!!

Love ~ is the energy of life.  The gift that God gave us at birth.  When we live this gift and share it with others, it is increased a hundred fold.  We are all lovers.  As children we were spontaneous and filled with the spirit.  Life has a way of hurting us and the world around tries to use this energy in a negative way.  We all have to go through our own struggles until the light of love rekindles in each of us.  Slowly, we learn to stop being so hard on ourselves and learn how to love ourselves again.  The Bible teaches us that a little child will guide us.  As we learn to love ourselves the energy in us will flow out to others.  Inside of us all is a spontaneous free spirit.  When we let go and let God run the show, we will experience so much in life.  Always remember love must be shared, so it can grow stronger.  We have the Holy Spirit in us.  Face each day with gratitude, love and humility.  Be open to the journey filled with the spirit and energy of God’s love.

As we begin the fall season, enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.  Live, laugh and love each moment on this earth!

May God bless and guide us, sending prayers and love to all,


Thought For the Month – August 2017

The month of August is frequently referred to as “the dog days of summer”. It’s almost like the world tries to stop rotating for a while. Many of us use it as a time to relax and celebrate life. Let’s make sure that we don’t take a vacation from growing as people. It’s a time to sit back and look at our vision of life. We are our attitude. We create our own journey by the vision we have of ourselves. If we look at life in the vision of negativity or defeat our lives will reflect this image. There is a beautiful saying: “dare to dream”. We are given so many negative messages. Let’s all think positively. We are the architects of our lives. We are very powerful human beings. I would like to share with you 10 simple, beautiful principles that will help you to look at life in a positive way.

1. Be real and accept the reality of who you are. Be proud to be you. Look at each experience in life as a teacher. We are a people in progress. Acceptance is the key to all growth.

2. Be open to life’s journey. Each day we are being led by a higher source that many of us call God. We are being guided. Look at life with positive eyes. Try to be open to rediscover the positive power we have already. At the moment of our birth we were given by God all we need for life. We are in the process of discovering the power we already have, if we are open to grow. Openness to the journey of life will free us as people.

3. Let go and let God. One of the great obstacles of life is the disease of control. The more you try to control the journey of life, the more frustrated you will become. Let’s try to get in touch with the energy and spirit of life, get into the flow, and go where we are led. We all need to listen and learn. Stop thinking so much and just be open to where life will lead you today. When you let go of control the vision of life will unfold. Please let yourself be teachable.

4. Self-knowledge. Take the time to reflect on your own personal history. Your story is the greatest story on the face of the earth. Honor your story; look at it with positive eyes. Remember your history is your teacher. If you look at each experience in a positive way, it will become your teacher.

5. Share your story with others. When you share your experience you help others to share things. The greatest way to learn about ourselves is in sharing with others. Each one of us needs each other. We are both teachers and pupils every day of our lives.

6. Accept your handicaps, as they are gifts from God to teach us so much about life. All of us have certain defects. Remember for every defect there is an asset. My father always said you don’t know what it is to get up until you fall down. This teaches us the gift of humility. Take time to ask God to help us deal with every aspect of life. We need guidance and direction. Our spiritual growth depends on our willingness to ask for help. Many situations in life can be overcome if we are open to ask for direction. Some things we can deal with and some defects we have to accept and learn to live with.

7. Learn how to make amends to those people we have injured or harmed – including ourselves! Take time to make peace with all of these situations whenever humanly possible. The purpose of these principles is to settle and make peace with ourselves and, if possible, with others.

8. Take time each day to reflect and do a daily inventory. Once of the most positive ways to grow as a person is to look at each experience each day as our higher power’s way of teaching us the great lessons of life. If you have an open mind you can learn so much.

9. Stay centered and pray each day to be open to God’s will. Plan each day but realize that change is part of life. Don’t be rigid; circumstances lead us in different directions. Our plan and God’s plan aren’t always the same. Our prayer is that we listen and learn where we are being led.

10. Always live in the spirit of gratitude and sharing. We have so much for which to be thankful. God has given each of us the gift of life and helps us to discover our potential. Live your life openly and honestly and by your example you will be an inspiration to others. The secret is being open to share your gifts with others and you will receive gifts back a hundredfold. Be generous and live your life the best you can. If you are positive in your vision of life your energy will be passed on to others.

These ten principles are the secrets of life. If you live by them you will experience the gift of peace and serenity within, thus attracting positive results in all that you do. Be good to yourself and let’s all thank God for the gifts we’ve been given. Take time to share your gifts with others. Enjoy the rest of the summer. God bless!

Trapped Emotions: The Invisible Epidemic

Much of the suffering in our lives is due to negative emotional energies that have become “trapped” within us. The Emotion Code by Dr. Bradley Nelson is a simple and powerful method of finding and releasing these trapped energies. A single trapped emotion can create both physical and emotional problems that can sometimes feel overwhelming. Finding and releasing those trapped negative energies can literally make changes in how you feel and behave in the choices that you make and in the results that you get.

Trapped emotions lower your immune function and make the body vulnerable to disease. They can distort body tissues, block the flow of energy and prevent normal functions of organ and glands. This process can be used for any condition or disease that could be a contributing factor to wellness.

Most people give little thought to their subconscious minds, but like a computer, your subconscious mind is capable of storing vast amounts of information. Dr. Nelson believes that everything you have ever done in your entire life has been logged in your subconscious mind. Your subconscious is also aware of any trapped emotions that your body may be harboring, and it also knows exactly what effect these trapped emotions are having on your physical, emotional and mental well-being. We can actually retrieve information from the subconscious using a form of kinesiology or muscle testing. An important point to know is that all organisms, no matter how primitive will respond to positive or negative stimuli e.g. plants grow towards sunlight and away from darkness. The human body is no different. Your body will normally be drawn toward positive things and repelled by negative things or ideas. If you will allow yourself to quiet your conscious mind and tune into your body, you will learn that your subconscious is quite able to communicate with you.  A simple way to do this is called the “Sway Test.” Assume a comfortable standing position with no distraction. You will notice that it is actually impossible to stand perfectly still. When you make a positive, true or congruent statement, your body should begin to sway forward. If it is an incongruent or untrue statement, your body should sway backward.

Everything in the universe is made of energy, whether that energy manifests in physical form or remains invisible. We can feel energy when it is in the form of emotions, and if negative emotional energies become trapped within us, they may adversely affect us. Eventually, a correlation was made between the emotions we experience and the various organs of the body. Anger is emanating from your gall bladder or liver. Betrayal emanates from your heart or small intestine, grief by your lungs or colon, etc. Everything that exists radiates with vibrational energy that has an ultimate effect on our own energy field whether good or bad. This applies to animals too. When emotionally upsetting events occur, animals can suffer just as people do.


The Emotion Code should not be used by itself in attempting to address any major disease or medical condition, but rather it should be looked upon as an adjunctive therapy. More information on the Body/Emotion Code can be found on the internet.


Marie Olwell, Counselor


Featured Counselor – Marie Olwell, M.Ed., D.Min.

Marie Olwell, M.Ed., D.Min.

I am a Sister of St. Joseph and have maintained a practice at The Starting Point for six years as a Certified Marriage and Family Counselor as well as other modalities. My studies began with a Degree in Music, a Master’s Degree in Education and a Doctorate in Ministry from Lancaster Theological Seminary. These studies prepared me to teach in elementary school, high school and college settings.

I continued my studies and became a Reiki Master and Body/Emotion Code Practitioner as well as being certified to administer the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator.  Although I use all of these modalities to some degree in a holistic way, my current work as a  Body/Emotion Code Practitioner has been the most rewarding.

Before working at Starting Point, I served as a Pastoral Associate and Music director for six years in a Philadelphia Catholic Church. During that time I studied at the University of Pennsylvania’s Marriage Council to prepare me to become a marriage counselor in two churches in New Jersey. Following these assignments, I later became the co-founder of Mary’s Vineyard, a Spiritual, Wellness ,and Education Center in Cherry Hill, and served there as the Executive Director for three years. After ten years, I opened a private practice in Barclay Farm prior to coming to Starting Point. My great interest in all these assignments was the advancement of women in the world and attended the International Women’s Conference in Beijing, China in 1995. Upon returning I gave 25 lectures to various groups. For several years I was  a Committee member of the Women’s Wellness Weekends sponsored  at Cape May Retreat House by the Sisters of St. Joseph where I had previously given presentations on various topics . I have also filled in for Vince as guest lecturer on Wednesdays at The Starting Point on several occasions.

I very much enjoy my work here at Starting Point with the opportunity of being of service in helping others reach their potential. I do not accept insurance but work on a sliding scale. I am deeply grateful to Vince DiPasquale who initially invited me to come to The Starting Point and have found it to have a very welcoming atmosphere on the part of both the other counselors and the administrative staff.



Shifting Our Identity from One of Pain to One of Glory

By Annie Fisher, MSW, LCSW

Through focusing we discover a spaciousness inside that can hold difficult experiences and with continued practice, even an imperfect practice of staying with what wants our inner attention, we discover within the spaciousness, a sea full of long forgotten qualities ones such as the fluid energy of compassion and the tenderness of stillness. These aspects of ourselves, which are innumerable, are what makes our connections within and with others, intimate and healing. For most of us, qualities, ones such as deep love and natural courage, don’t register as familiar or could possibly have anything to do with us but focusing finds a way to awaken us back to our authentic nature. These disembodied qualities collectively begin to form our true identity. We then make the seismic shift from knowing and judging ourselves as someone who is hateful or jealous to identifying with this capacious field of awareness that includes feelings of hate or jealousy. Making the identity shift is a tall order for most of us but focusing is a practice and a process. Once we’ve experienced the possibility, we become hooked because freedom is attractive and feels like home.

And of course because we’ve developed a skill for being able to listen to difficult things within us from this larger place, we become able to listen to difficult things from people in our lives. We grow our awareness about who we are as someone who can hold so much more and not become fully identified with the reaction inside of us about what’s being said or happening to us. Eventually we may not even have the reaction at all when someone says or does something that has the potential to sting but until then it’s experienced more like a deep hurt that is being held by a generous ocean.  And the space within, that was previously taken up with a big reaction, is now available for relating and responding to ourselves and the people we’re listening to.

In focusing we don’t have to start out with a big open heart, thank God. We don’t even have to see ourselves as someone who is compassionate. We can just show up with a little curiosity, be as present as is available to us in the moment and focusing will take us in the direction we need to go.

Annie Fisher, MSW, LCSW





By:  Vince DiPasquale


Let’s take some time to reflect this month on the most special word in the English language – spirituality. Each one of us, from the moment of our birth, was sent on our personal spiritual journey. In my early years this word was taught to me in a negative way. Most of us connect this word to some form of religion yet if you look at the real meaning the word has nothing to do with religion. Many times we consider someone spiritual if they belong to a church and attend services. Yet what does it mean to be spiritual? The definition of the word means to awaken to who we are. A spiritual awakening means to rediscover a little bit at a time the energy and spirit that our Creator gave us at birth.

My own spiritual journey began with the family and parents God gave me so I could begin my journey on this earth. They were dysfunctional of course, like every family, because of their humanness.

Think about it, my parents came through two World Wars, a depression and settling into a new country. Yet through all of their struggles, God sent me to learn lessons from them. The religious system they gave to me in the early years was one set around fear and guilt, a God to be afraid of. Today I realize that they gave me the strength to learn how to deal with fear and guilt, and I’m still learning. I also learned from them the spirit of family and community while living in the Italian section of Camden. They also put me in touch with my identification and history. From my Dad I learned how to be the ultimate caretaker to a fault. Today I am learning how to say no and how to set boundaries. The fear and guilt are still there but a little at a time I’m learning to be stronger. Mom taught me to be in charge and control. Slowly I’m learning to delegate and release control. These are all great spiritual lessons that I hope to continue to learn. Like any other lesson we all have to learn through the school of hard knocks, the no pain no gain message. Through the years I’ve been blessed with many great teachers. Like anyone else it took me a long time to start to open my mind to these life lessons. In 1969 I was exposed to a very beautiful and powerful spiritual program that taught me so much. As I continue my spiritual journey I’m learning there is no one way. The secret for me is to keep an open mind and always be willing to change and grow. Even though I have a degree next to my name in Theology, I didn’t learn anything about spirituality until I was exposed to the wonderful spiritual principles of AA, the Big Book of Alcohol Anonymous and the 12 beautiful steps of life.

Just think, in 1935 two men, Dr. Bob and Bill W, were two drunks who met each other and taught the great spiritual principle. They supported each other and began their journey on the spiritual path of recovery. In the early years with the help of other recovering drunks they gave us the steps, the principles of life and the wonderful suggestions from the Big Book. Today as I pray and try to live these principles they are helping me to become a better person. Below are some simple spiritual principles we can all live by.

  1. The only requirement for personal growth is to have the desire. Do the best you can one step at a
  2. Have an open mind. I pray every day that I can learn something new from each person I
  3. Progress not perfection. We are never done. Each day brings a new
  4. Have an attitude of gratitude. We have so much to be grateful Each day is a gift, even our struggles.
  5. Learn the four principles to live by, Honesty, Humility, Humor, Healing, the 4H Club of personal
  6. Let go, Let God. Let go of control and get into the flow of life. Have faith and you will be led by the Higher Power. So nice to know we are not in charge, we are equal and simply servants to each other. We have to

learn to let go of our egos.

  1. Everything happens in God’s time, not ours.
  2. Don’t worry about exteriors, things continue to grow within. The simpler we make life the more peaceful it becomes.

These are just a few basic spiritual principles. Life is precious. Make time for the most wonderful experience, if only one day at a time, learn to love ourselves. The energy of love within us will spread to others . The real definition of the spiritual journey is basic ~ love of God, love of self, love of neighbor. We can only share with others what is going on within us. Enjoy life, it’s worth living. May God bless us on our spiritual journeys.

How Focusing Can Help Us Deal With Action Blocks – Part 1

By Annie Fisher, MSW, LCSW


Focusing can help us we deal with something called action blocks; there’s something you want to be doing or think you should be doing, but you’re just not doing it like going to the gym or getting to work on time. An example of an action block in my life is though I rarely have a shortage of great ideas about creative activities I enjoy, I feel immobilized in regards to taking action. If I really want to complete an activity, like writing, I then have to push myself past a kind of frozeness that shows up in my body. Our genius bodies have a way of stopping us from doing or feeling something sometimes by way of creating an overall heaviness or a tightness in the throat. Although it’s seen differently in focusing, we know this feeling of “no,” as resistance.

If we find ourselves thinking we should to go to the gym to obtain better health which might boost our confidence to start dating again but are being met with a stopped feeling inside and end up sitting on the couch watching television instead, we might be likely to think of this resistance as the enemy. We may even add in criticism and call ourselves lazy and then head to the kitchen to eat something we aren’t hungry for to sooth ourselves. These are the long and twisted roads these processes can take us on.

Instead of continuing on a fruitless path of self-denigration or try and push past our resistance to finish the home project that we started 9 months ago, though that may be useful at times, in focusing we peer more deeply into the “no” that doesn’t want us to do the wonderful task. We bring our attention right to that stopped place in our bodies with interested curiosity and if it’s a good day, kindness. In doing this we quickly discover that there are good reasons for everything that’s happening and it’s not happening for the reasons we think. This for me, is the heartbreaking tragedy of humanity with so many lives spent in misunderstanding and judgment only because we haven’t been taught to and are afraid to look inside. So we want to develop curiosity and the capacity for the skill to stay with ourselves as well as compassion for our fear as we are learning to trust.

In next month’s e-newsletter, I will continue to describe how focusing can help us see the deeper truths of a situation that can then enable us to free ourselves from action blocks.

Annie Fisher, MSW, LCSW



By:  Vince DiPasquale


The month of February is called the love month. We celebrate Valentine’s Day and experience the last month of winter. Let’s spend some time exploring the word “love”. Like everything else in our society we have taken the deeply spiritual nature of the word and commercialized it so that it exploits people. Unfortunately, the word “love” has been mixed up with the word “lust”. Our soap operas and our society have forgotten how special this word is. Love is a powerful, positive energy that we were all given at the moment of our birth. We look at newborns as little angels, pure in spirit, just beginning their spiritual journey through life.  As they grow older they are faced with all types of dysfunctional situations which test their energy levels to possible breaking points. Following these episodes, we sometimes lose our connection to our love energy for a period of time. Depression, loneliness, sadness, and trauma are situations we all go through. Occasionally we need a transfusion of love from others. The energy of love needs to be awakened once again by the love of others. In our life’s journey we meet all kinds of teachers or mentors. Every person we meet on our journey is our teacher, even those who are negative.  They come into our lives to teach us how to deal with negativity.

I know from experience that no matter how tough life can be, angels are sent into our lives to touch us and slowly activate the energy of love inside of us. Relationships are the ways in which we share the energy of love. We can’t be lovers alone. We need each other. Over the course of our lifetimes we experience many different relationships, people, jobs, family members, and experiences. Thank God for all of them. Each relationship touched our energy of love in one way or another.  At times our love was tested but it will never fail.  See, you can’t destroy love.  Love is patient, kind, does not put on airs, and love sees the good in all.  Love is the bond that heals, and builds us to become better and stronger people.

We are all on the journey of love. The greatest gift that we can give to another is our gift of love. Don’t be afraid to share it. Love must be shared so that it can grow. It’s a power so great that it can heal all wounds. It’s the energy that is the foundation of life.  Real love is an energy that covers all areas of life.

The greatest compliment we can be given is to be called a lover. A real lover is someone who is at peace with themselves. They are living in serenity. A real lover has an open mind, is willing to learn and grow, and is always on the journey to celebrate in faith where the journey of life will take them. A real lover is someone who loves unconditionally. A real lover is someone who reaches out to do service to others.  A real lover is someone who treats themselves and others with respect. A real lover is someone whose energy speaks in a positive way to others.  A real lover is someone who enjoys life.

As we grow in the spirit of love we will learn the secret of life. Love is a gift that was given to us by God. We have an obligation to learn how to love ourselves so that we can share the gift with others. As you share and are touched by the love of others your love will grow. Real lovers celebrate life, enjoy the moment, and look at life in a similar way. As you grow in love your life will become much simpler, calmer, and your expectations will diminish. When you celebrate Valentine’s Day remember it is named after St. Valentine who is the Patron of Love. He gave his life for his beliefs in the ultimate sign of love. Remember as you celebrate the month of love, live by the principle, “Love is a gift to be shared”.  Treat others as you would want to be treated.  A happy and blessed Valentine’s Day to each of you!


Getting Stuck on the Cause of Death or the Final Images of Death

By Andi Meltzer, M.A., Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®
Have the events surrounding or leading up to a death left you feeling like a figurative knife is sticking out of your heart? Many people often focus on the cause, whether by suicide, cancer, murder, sudden heart attack, the result of not taking care of himself/ herself, etc., which is only part of the grief. The events at the end are important, but the key to recovery is to fully acknowledge the pain of the cause of death and then to shift to the unfinished business throughout the relationship.

That shift begins by reviewing the relationship from the very beginning in order to discover and complete whatever is left emotionally unfinished as a result of the end of the relationship and complicated by the cause of that end. The unresolved issues include the unmet hopes, dreams, and expectations for the future as well as the events of the past that you wish were better, different, or more.

Similarly, some people become stuck on a devastating, horrific image of the final moments of life. Some examples are someone’s illness transformed their loved one’s body to an unrecognizable state in the final weeks of life or a family member who walks into a room only to discover a murder or suicide scene. That final image doesn’t need to be a permanent condition that haunts you; rather, it can be one memory out of thousands of memories and images that you can recall. How?  Start with the first memories you have of that person. What did you notice about that person the first time you ever laid eyes on him or her? Be specific. Walk through a few events of the beginning of the relationship. You will then naturally move on to the many images and memories that span the totality of the relationship, however long that was. As a result, you will begin to remember your loved one the way you knew him or her in life not only in death. In addition, the fond memories will not turn painful when you complete the unfinished business of the relationship.

Carefully consider the partner you choose for revealing your broken heart. Many well-meaning friends will listen to you loop your story and don’t know how to help you, so they end up suggesting that you try not to think about it. It’s often helpful to ask your friend to be a soundboard as you share your feelings and stories without criticism, judgement, or analysis. Let your friend know he or she doesn’t need to say or do anything to make you feel better. Explain that he or she has the remarkable power to support you listening like a heart with ears and giving you an opportunity to express your pain without questioning anything you say so that you can release that pain and move on with a more complete picture of the relationship.

Andi Meltzer, M.A., Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®
This program is endorsed by and affiliated with The Grief Recovery Institute®
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Thought Of The Month


January 2017



By: Vince DiPasquale


We are spiritual people living in a human body.  Our program teaches through the steps that each day we will be engaged in the struggle of life.  What a journey!  Let’s take a few moments to reflect on these principles that will teach us how to work on the ultimate question of life, “WHO AM I”.  Close your eyes for a moment and reflect on this meditation.  Our creator holds us in his arms as we are getting ready to enter this human world and says, I’m going to give you some special gifts that you will carry with you on your journey ~ the gift and energy of love and the spirit of growth and understanding.  These gifts will always be with you.  God will give you also the gift of free will and allow you to make decisions.

As you walk the maze of life, you will experience your humanness.  Our human world will teach us with greed, power, confusion, frustration, and fear, especially of the unknown.  At first we will try to control and manipulate life.  We will make mistakes and experience hurt and pain.  We will search for human answers.  At times we will become judgmental of others and think that we have life under control.  At times we will look for answers in all the false gods, money, power and image.  None of these will bring us peace ~ they create fear, anxiety and worry.

Let’s take a few moments and reflect on the word spiritual and some simple principles connected to this word.  In the year 1935, God sent two teachers, to us who were broken.  They had it all and yet had nothing, they were lonely sad and hurting.  God brought them together in their brokenness to help each other deal with the disease of addiction.  Because of the gift God gave them, they shared it with other alcoholics and a group of broken hurting people came together and with faith in each other and God, put together 12 simple principles to allow us to find our way through the maze of life.

These simple principles are gifts that allow us to embrace our humanness and realize that we are not alone.

Step 1:  we are powerless over life.  Our ego doesn’t work, we need to admit and accept all the situations of life as teachable moments.

Step 2:  The gift of faith.  We come to believe that we are not in charge, there is a spirit guiding us on the journey.  Faith and trust allows us to be open to the lessons of life.

Step 3:  Make a decision to release our will and turn our life over to a God of our understanding.  Let go and let God.  Pray for the gift and the willingness to change and grow.

These first three steps are steps of humility.  They teach to try each day to be open to life’s lessons.

Step 4:  Tells us to do an inventory of our life.  Getting in touch with our history allows us to release all of our secrets and to become honest with ourselves.  It’s a great feeling just to clean out our past ~ truly a step of honesty and humility.

Step 5:  Share your story with God, self and another person.  Get honest and release the past ~ truly a step of honesty and healing.  No more secrets.

Steps 6 & 7:  Allow us to embrace and face our defects of character.  These simple steps teach us forgiveness and acceptance of our humanness.  We all have our shortcomings.  These steps teach us to embrace our life with healing, forgiveness and to humbly ask God to help learn and embrace our imperfections.  We learn the principle progress, not perfection.

Steps 8 & 9:  The healing steps.  How to make amends both to ourselves and others.  We have all done things that have hurt ourselves and others.  To make amends to others is to forgive and love ourselves.  These steps also teach us patience realizing that just because we are ready to make amends, others may not be.  All we can do is pray, ask God’s forgiveness and give them to God.  Always remember everything happens in Gods time, not ours.

Steps 10, 11, 12:  are the gratitude steps, the daily, everyday living steps.  We are taught to make time every day to reflect on ourselves, to take a little inventory to help us in life.  The 11th step reminds us to pray and meditate, to fill our soul and spirit with spiritual food.  Reminds us to keep life simple and try to face each day with God as our guide.  The 12th step is a step of service, to share with others our experience, strength and hope.

Thank you God for my humanness, allow me to try to be open each day to God’s spiritual lessons.  May we all face each day with an attitude of gratitude.


Prayers and Love!