Elana's Space

listen within

March 16, 2014
by Elana

What’s On Your Not To Do List?

Some of us have To Do lists that we love and live by. I happen to be one of those people. There’s a lot that I want to accomplish during my day and a list supports me in keeping focused – usually. (I do allow myself some flexibility.)

But I recently considered what might be on my Not To Do List.

Here’s what I came up with for today:

Not To Do:
1. Judge myself for making mistakes.
2. Replay conversations in my head thinking I should’ve said something different.
3. Speak harshly to myself and others.
4. Believe negative thoughts about myself or others.
5. Let fear hold me back.

NOTE: This is NOT an opportunity to add more self-judgment and shame onto the day. This is an opportunity to identify what energy-draining patterns I can shift in my consciousness. I won’t add things onto this list that I can’t possibly live up to and then feel even worse about later. Get the idea?

I made a downloadable version that can be printed to keep handy. You can get it by clicking here: Not To Do List.

I wonder, what will you not do today?


February 26, 2014
by Elana

The JOY!

I was talking to one of my friends recently and she asked me how I was doing. I shared with her that I was feeling extraordinarily well and have been for weeks. I also shared that I was starting to feel guilty about telling people how great I was doing.

This is what’s been fun and sometimes challenging to share with people: Since the end of December, I’ve been feeling amazingly great – and I mean super-duper fantastic. I’m experiencing deep peace inside. More internal and external freedom, copious amounts of joy, contentment that I’ve not felt before, courage to dream and try new things.

(There are several reasons for what I’m feeling and they can basically be summed up by saying that I’ve started doing things I enjoy rather than things that I feel obligated to do.)

This feeling was further deepened when I was driving home from an appointment a few weeks ago and remembered a Byron Katie quote and had a powerful awareness that struck me in every cell in my body. The thought was, “I have everything I need. I have every single, little thing that I need – and I always have.

“When you realize that whatever you need is what you get, life becomes paradise.” -Byron Katie

Writing about it now, I’m not sure that I can truly convey the profoundness of this experience for me. Not only do I have everything I need financially, but emotionally and spiritually. And I always have.

Driving on the freeway that morning, I laughed for a long time in my car and experienced such a deep sense of gratitude.

And the only time I step out of that peace is when I think I don’t have enough or I need more than I have.

So when people ask me how I’m doing, I want to say that I’m feeling so freaking fantastic that sometimes I just want to scream at the top of my lungs!

Not to say that I don’t have challenges – I do, because I’m human. I sometimes feel hurt and sad and angry. But I feel different when those challenges come up. I’m different, and I approach those situations differently.

And I’ve felt guilty saying that up until now. I’ve been feeling guilty sharing with people how amazing my life is – how amazing life is.

My silly irrational thoughts? They were:

  • Maybe the person I’m talking to will feel bad because they’re not feeling as good as I am.
  • Maybe the person I’m talking to is going through a hard time and doesn’t really want to hear some loony talking about inner peace.
  • Maybe someone will think I’m full of shit.

Ha! What BS!

So here I am sharing my JOY!

I won’t hide my light because of or for others because of some false sense of loyalty or protection. In fact, Joy is contagious, so spread it around!

In what subtle ways are you dimming your light? Be still and let this question sit for awhile. What comes forward?


Jeff Foster

February 24, 2014
by Elana

A Thought on Depression

Depression can be a stepping stone to the next higher version of ourselves, and, as someone who has experienced depression in the past, this was the case for me. You can click here for a quick post about reframing depression and the opportunity it affords someone if the message it has can be heard.

“The word ‘depressed’ is spoken phonetically as ‘deep rest.’ We can view depression not as a mental illness, but on a deeper level, as a profound (and very misunderstood) state of deep rest, entered into when we are completely exhausted by the weight of our own identity.
Jeff Foster

Not that depression is restful – it’s not. It can be deeply painful.

But have you ever felt exhausted by who you thought you had to be – by the weight of your own identity? By the false self that has been a heavy facade to carry?

It’s unnecessary, and it’s time to put it down.


February 10, 2014
by Elana

You Have No Reason To Be Depressed

Have you ever heard anyone say, “You have no reason to be depressed”? Unbelievably, some people do.

You have no reason to be depressed because you have:

good looks
a job
a place to live
[fill in the blank and I’ve heard it]

The thing is, depression doesn’t have anything to with the items listed above. And saying this to someone who is experiencing true pain in the form of depression is shaming and can make things worse.

I wonder if people who say, “You have nothing to be depressed about,” are people who cannot tolerate their own painful emotions and therefore try to push away someone else’s painful emotions because they are intolerable.

My husband and I have been crisis counseling in one form or another for many years and have seen a lot of pain.

If you’ve never experienced the deep pain of mental, emotional, spiritual suffering know that it does exist and is very real to those whom it exists for.

Believe others when they say they are hurting. Believe them and support them as best you can when they reach out for help.

We recently lost a beloved friend and our love goes out to his family.

January 27, 2014
by Elana

In Honor of Marcie

Marcie is my daughter’s step-mom, or as we say in our family, her second mom. We’ve never really referred to her as step-mother unless we were trying to describe the nature of her relationship in our family.

When my ex shared that he was going to get married, I knew that I’d need to meet his soon-to-be wife. My ex and I were actively co-parenting our daughter and his wife would be an important part of that.

I had met one of his girlfriends before, and I could always tell that she was uncomfortable around me and didn’t want to speak to me no matter how nice I was trying to be to her. Seemed very strange!

I was determined to welcome Marcie into my life with open arms. She had just moved to LA from another state and didn’t really know anyone. The kiddo was about eight years old then, and I just could not stand the thought of having a high-drama, contentious relationship with my ex and his new wife.

I can’t remember what I said exactly when we met but it was along the lines of: Marcie, I want you to know that I’m so grateful you and my daughter get along, and I’d like us be friends so that we can support each other as she grows up.

I remember telling her that the more people in my daughter’s life that love her, the better. And that I’d be here for her if she needed me. She had similar nice things to say and we were both relieved.

So that began our relationship. Over the years, we’ve gotten to know each other and have been able to talk about a lot of issues that have come up. She’s been there to help me out several times. At birthday parties, some of the other parents often asked if she was my sister because we got along so well. They were shocked (I mean jaw-dropping shocked) when I told them that she was “the step-mom.” They couldn’t understand how I would be ok with “the step-mom” in the picture. I wanted to yell at them that were just people being nice to one another and it’s not THAT big of a deal!

Many years ago, I had a home assignment to complete for my Master’s Degree. For part of it I asked my family to write a letter to me about what it’s been like having me in their life. Here is some of what Marcie wrote (shared with Marcie’s permission and we’d only known each for about three years then):

“I have always wanted children and you have this wonderful and beautiful little girl. Knowing you has shown me a different way of thinking. You’ve shown me that step-moms don’t have to be ‘evil.’ That mother and step-mother can share responsibilities and understand our child’s needs and she’s a lucky girl by having two moms that are different…You could’ve made my relationship with your daughter difficult, but you didn’t. I also have a friend in you. You’ve touched my life in a way that’s special.”

Marcie divorced last year and is moving back to her home state in a couple of weeks. When it was clear that divorce was going to happen, I sat on my daughter’s bed and we both cried. Having Marcie as a regular part of our lives has been a blessing.

So this is my love letter to you, Marcie. I know you’re going to read this because I’m going to send it to you!

I am so grateful for the years that you and I have been partners in raising our amazing young woman. I think we’ve done pretty well. I’m so grateful that we have created a friendship that is meaningful. You have been someone that I have been able to rely on – a rock. I’ve always felt reassured that our daughter was leaving my house and going to yours because I knew you would take good care of her like she was your own. I couldn’t have asked for a better second mom for my sweet girl. I’m sad that you’re moving. We will miss you terribly. I know that we’ll see each other and talk, but LA is losing an angel.

Thank you for all the ways that you’ve touched my life. I love you.

January 18, 2014
by Elana

A Sweet Moment: Superman

On the plane home after New Year’s, I sat next to a young man with his son sitting on his lap. The boy couldn’t have been more than two or three years old, and he was just adorable with his big cheeks.

They were looking through the airline Skymall magazine together to pass the time while we were delayed on the tarmac for 45 minutes. Dad pointed to the pictures in the magazine asking, “What’s that?” and his son called out what the pictures were with such enthusiasm in his barely understandable toddler speak. It was so darn cute that I chuckled each time.

Dad pointed to dogs, cats, cars, and many other items and the boy named each one with gusto.

They eventually came to the last page of the magazine, and I felt a twinge of disappointment that this exercise was coming to an end. I was really enjoying observing this gentle and caring exchange between father and son.

On the last page there was a picture of Superman. Dad asked his son, “Who’s that?” while pointing to the red-caped super hero.

The boy said, “Dad!”

Me and Dad laughed and he said, “No, that’s not me. Who is that?”

The boy insisted in his best English, “Dat’s you, Dad!”

Dad said, “OK” with a smile and moved on.

I was deeply moved. Hearing this comment from the young boy brought tears to my eyes. The way this child held such a strong and safe image of his father. I found myself thinking obviously his dad was Superman, because aren’t all dads Superman to us when we’re young?

January 12, 2014
by Elana

A Question That Will Change Your Life

I was sitting with a teenage client of mine supporting him through a tough situation at home that will likely not change in the near future.

I find one of the most frustrating things about having teens and children for clients is that as much work we do in the therapy room, their life situation usually doesn’t change much without significant parental involvement. And that doesn’t happen often.

So, I see my job with my teen clients as teaching them skills that they can use to handle their situations now in a way that supports them in healing and growing into caring and self-reflective adults.

In most cases the teen wants his outer situation to change – it won’t. He wants to move out – he can’t right now. He wants things to be different than they are – not going to happen any time soon.

Knowing this, my only leverage is with him. The leverage always exists inside of my client.

I used to ask my clients, “What’s the lesson for you here.” This sometimes leads teens to say things like, “Not to trust anyone” or “That my parents suck.” Not really the direction I’m wanting to guide them in.

So instead, I recently asked one of my teen clients, “How can you use this situation to make you a better person?

(I use the phrase “better person” here intentionally. Some people reading this won’t like the word “better” because it may imply that this teen is not fine the way he is now. I believe we all seek to improve ourselves in some way, and I want him to see clearly that he has choices to lead a life full of positive possibilities if  he wants. He has a choice. I want him to know that he can take this really crappy situation and learn something useful from it.

He stared at me and didn’t know what to say. There was no room for him to be dismissive about what I’ve asked, and my question prevents us from going into a negative spiral that isn’t supportive to healing.

I know how I’d answer this question for him. I see all kinds of ways that he can use what he’s going through to learn, grow, and heal himself. But I stay quiet.

He responds after thinking about this for a long while, and we proceed to have a very rich and meaningful conversation about his responsibility for his life and his feelings.

How can you use this situation to make you a better person?

A variation on this question is “What can you learn from this situation to make you a better person?”

Going forward, whatever happens in my life, I’m going to ask this question of myself and move ahead with healing.

This is my challenge for you as well.

January 5, 2014
by Elana

My Highlights of 2013

I’ve been reflecting on the blessings of my life this past year and my cup runneth over. And I found myself pondering this quote:

“There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.”  -Zora Neale Hurston

Last year was a year that asked many questions – really great questions – of me. Questions such as: What kind of person do I want to be as I get older? How am I going to use all of the gifts that I have in a more impactful way? What risks can I take that I haven’t let myself take in the past? What do I want my life to mean to me and others? How can I live a more wholehearted life? How brave can I be?

The personal highlights I list below prompted me to ask these questions. I’m still steeping in them. I’ve decided to list only five highlights from the past year (in no particular order).

1. Becoming licensed – I’ve known that I wanted to be a therapist since I was six years old. It’s true. I’m not even sure that I really understood what a therapist was when I was six, but I knew that I was a good listener and that I’d be able to counsel. When I started this journey towards becoming a licensed therapist, I thought I would learn how to be a therapist and help others. I didn’t realize how much I would grow personally and how much I would heal while in school, and I most definitely didn’t realize how important and significant my personal healing would be for my career as a therapist. (More on this in a future post!) When I learned I passed my last test, well, that was a fantastic day.

2. Traveling to Italia – My husband and I spent a week in Florence and a week in Rome with another couple that are our dear friends. I can talk all day about how beautiful the country is and how much I miss being there. This was a significant trip for us for many reasons. It was one of the longer trips we’ve taken together, and we had a magical time. We both have parents who are immigrants to this country, in fact my husband’s not from the U.S., and we consider ourselves global citizens. I came back inspired to live life differently and more deliberately and listed some of my Italian photography for sale on Etsy. This delicious trip sparked a renewed commitment to travel with the realization that we had created more freedom in our lives to do this, and we’ve committed to visiting a new country every year. This takes planning, cooperating, and saving! Next on the list? The majestic land of New Zealand.

3. Moving to part-time – I’ve been working full-time since my daughter was born. When she turned 19 last year, I realized that I had been working full-time in order for us to survive: pay rent, buy food, pay bills, etc. Playing safe in order to take care of us both, which was necessary at the time for a young mother like me. I had been operating in survival mode for a long time. Now that she is an adult herself, working, driving and taking care of herself much more, I had the opportunity to expand into taking more risks if I wanted to with my career. In June, I quit my full-time job and starting working very part-time. This was a frightening transition, and I’m still in the process of learning to structure my time, but it’s been one of the best decisions of my life. Without the grind of a full-time commitment, I’ve been able to slow down and I actually have energy to enjoy going out and spending time with my friends. There’s more space in my life and in my head to sit in silence and wonder in amazement about what’s next for me. I love this. I love the space and have found that ideas and inspiration are coming forward that couldn’t before.

“Let go of promises you’ve outgrown.” -Danielle LaPorte

4. Volunteering for the Freedom to Choose Foundation – I’ve volunteered for the FTC workshops in the women’s prison in Chowchilla, CA, twice before 2013. But when I returned this past October, something was different – I was different. The work that’s being done with the workshop participants is nothing short of miraculous, but this time I allowed myself to open my heart much more. I allowed myself to be touched in an even deeper way by the courage of the women in prison to dive into their healing no matter how painful it was for them. In November, we brought the FTC workshop to a men’s prison for the first time. I expected the men to be harder to reach. I expected that the men would be too macho to cry or to be vulnerable and open up to strangers. I don’t think I could’ve been more off the mark. Their emotions were just under the surface and they were yearning for connection. A lot of healing crying happens during these workshops, and the men’s FTC was no different. I heard men say, “I’ve never been treated like a human being before you came here” with tears in their eyes. They were kind and respectful and desperately wanted to learn anything to help them be better people. They were making the best of their lot. The weekend was one of the most profound experiences of my life, and I’m eager to go back. It’s truly work of the heart. Mind = Blown!

5. Starting to write – I’ve never considered myself a writer before. I didn’t think I was good enough or that anyone would want to read what I had to write about. Starting to write this blog was a huge step in realizing more of who I am. Using my name for the URL and expressing myself to a wider audience was challenging at first. I tend to be more contemplative and quiet, and I’ve enjoyed stretching myself to communicate in a more public way. I’ve also had an idea for a novel rattling around in my head for several years. It’s about a topic that’s dear to my heart, and my husband (who’s a published author) finally sat me down and started coaching me through the process of starting to write my book. It’s slow work and sometimes painful, and I’m taking it quite literally word by word.

What will 2014 bring? I’m ready.

What were your top highlights from last year? I’m interested – share below.

Slow Down

October 6, 2013
by Elana

Slowing Down

On the radio the other day, I heard someone say, “Information in real-time is the future.”

Hmmm…Why I wonder? Our culture is speeding up obviously, but I’ve often contemplated about the need (or, more accurately, want) for information right now. The obsession in our culture for late-breaking news and being the first to know about – anything.

Do we, as a public, really want info right now all the time? Why? And what does that exactly mean? What are the consequences?

I’d like to say here that I’m a total tech nerd, and I love all that technology has allowed us to accomplish.

And like me, you may know people that constantly check their phones when at dinner with others and in the middle of active conversations are distracted by their push notifications. All because of a false idea that we need to know what’s happening instantly and as it’s happening.

Might we be losing our impulse control and patience? Why does this even matter?

What happens if we turn off the push notifications and let things wait?

There’s a palpable difference between being with someone distractedly and really being with that person fully.

I’ve thought about this for a long time and decided to write a little about this now because my husband and I recently returned from a trip where we were almost virtually unplugged. We had very spotty access to internet so checking email sporadically was the best we could manage. And that was a welcome change from our hectic LA lives.

We were able to slow down, take our time, and enjoy ourselves. Dinners lasted 3-4 hours with no one rushing us out of the restaurant. We walked miles each day with no where to really be other than the next site on our list. The quality of our time spent felt much more rich with no thought about what was happening online.

I don’t need information in real-time, which is often superficial. I actually don’t want information in real-time. I want connection, authenticity, thoughtfulness, depthful discussion and conversation, and most of all a conscious awareness of how I live my life and how I chose to spend my time.

August 30, 2013
by Elana
1 Comment


A dear friend gave this quote to me a while back. I wanted to share it today as lately I find myself contemplating it frequently:

The moment of liberation arrives when you realize your
approval is the only validation you need…the moment of
liberation arrives when you stop “trying” to change people
and change yourself…the moment of liberation arrives
when you stop asking for permission and give yourself
permission…the moment of liberation arrives when you
realize nobody can hurt you only your thoughts and
interpretations do…the moment of liberation arrives when
you realize nobody can give you love for love is what you
are…the moment of liberation arrives when you stop
seeking outside of yourself and look within yourself to
discover that is where the answers lie…the moment of
liberation arrives when you realize “people” are simply
yourself mirrored back, there is truly but ONE expressed
uniquely as many. The moment of liberation arrives when
you realize how you “see” the world is the only way you will
experience it. –Judah Isvaran

I’ve read this many times, and each time the words seem to sink in deeper. To me this quote means living from my authentic self and becoming aware of when I’m depending on another for my peace and happiness. For my peace and happiness is my responsibility and not someone else’s.

This quote means not living unconsciously as if my life is done to me rather than something I can co-create.

How am I choosing to see this amazing world that I live in? How am I choosing to experience it?