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Poems for my Father

Authentic Counseling blog image of stairs














It took me several years to fully realize and grieve the death of my father. During those years,
I wrote three poems about the process. This is the first one. Climbing the Stairs (Father #1)

Climbing the Stairs (Father #1)

“He’s up there, go see him”

Mom says from the couch

With a face that surprises me

With its strength and resolve.

I expected histrionics

An easy climb

Back onto her cross

A public display of her loss.

But quiet calm greets me instead.

This adds to my confusion

And fear

My father’s dead?

My father’s dead.

Go up and see him?

I don’t know what to do

Or feel, or say…

So I climb the stairs

Getting younger with each step

I’ve always been afraid to enter

The master bedroom

The lair where gods

And bears slept

Where punishment is meted

And secrets are kept.

Facing my father has always carried fear.

You can do better

You must be the best

Never lose, never quit

You’re nothing if you don’t pass the rest

Life is a war to be won

You’re a soldier, not a son

“Fill each minute with sixty seconds of distance run”

I am a good soldier


At the top of the stairs

Facing the room

I cannot go forward

I cannot run.

Daring to Hope

Authentic counseling image of hope

Is this feeling, this light, real?

Do I chase ghosts?

Or the unfulfillable wants of a still hurting child?

Shamans aplenty promise respite and even transcendence

And still, after holding the gift myself,

I fear to hope,

And even push away, sometimes, the King’s touch

For fear the wound will only be torn open wider

With disappointment and betrayal.

I smile now in my recent knowing

That from my center,

The core of me uncovered from

The Earthy work of growth,

I am unbroken

And much bigger than my father’s box.

Really, there’s no going back

Now that so much Light and Wholeness

Have creeped, seeped, leaped

Into my soul

Revealing the demons to be children

That need my love.

Growth necessarily means change and choice; even passive choice.

Courting her soul

Poems of love

An important step in relationship building is becoming attuned to the ways our partner wishes to be loved and how we wish to be loved.

Courting her Soul


How can I court the woman I love?

How do I see her soul

So that my gifts touch

The part of her Earth that needs my tending?


Do I decode all the ways she tells me her needs

Through the calculus of my wound

So that my gifts are best received by me?


Being honest, do I withhold the golden egg

To avoid the oft anticipated

Future wounding of loss…

Of letting her know how much I fear


That in the giving of the egg,

I somehow give too much of myself away

And there’s too little there already?


Coming to court the woman I love

Means I am willing to risk that there might be abundance.

With this woman I have walked so many joys and sorrows

My heart surely knows her soul

And she mine.


Can I settle into her meadow and be a loving gardener?

By Chris Mathe

Spiritual Teachings of Trees: Be Strong But Flexible

Blog Spiritual Teachings of Trees: Be Strong But Flexible“The tree is one of humankind’s most powerful symbols. It is the embodiment of life in all its realms: the point of union between heaven, earth, and water.” – Rev. Lisa Ward

In a benediction, Reverend Lisa Ward shared spiritual wisdom about trees saying,

“The presence of trees articulates that when one is well-grounded, centered in one’s roots, healthy growth and flexibility in change comes from the generosity of spirit, the giving of oneself. The willow giving over to wind, fruit, and nut trees giving of their produce, leaves giving over to winter, and decay for future growth. The way we can sustain ourselves is by giving of ourselves when we are centered. The secret to abundance, the key to stop seeking more and more is to focus on what we have to give. What Alice Walker calls the circular energy of generosity. By giving we stimulate regeneration of life and spirit and it stimulates our own growth, our own expanse. Trees tell us this. Just as each tree has its own particular gift to offer, so do each of us.”

I have been drawn to trees for many years.

One of the things I love most about living in the Sacramento area is the abundance of redwood trees. My current home has 4 majestic redwood trees just behind my property line that I look at every day, and I naturally feel myself breathe a little deeper, and experience a moment of grounding and gratitude every time I look out at them. The previous home I lived in (Palm Springs, CA) faced the San Jacinto mountains, and my condo was flanked with palm trees. I often sat in my backyard, looking up at the palm trees as they rustled in the winds and felt a calm, soothing sensation take over as I focused up at the palm fronds swaying. Thinking back many years, I started noticing that while taking my dog on a walk, I found myself leaning my back up against a tree and “connecting” with it. I couldn’t explain why I was engaging in this behavior, I only knew that I was drawn to do it.

I think I have always loved trees. They are protective, grounding, and giving. They give their fruit for us to eat. They provide us with wood to use and even to claim as a status symbol (Mahogany table anyone?). Trees give us paper to write on and provide shade in an otherwise sun-drenched yard, and let’s not forget those gorgeous New England trees that give us beautiful fall foliage that people travel from miles around to enjoy. What am I forgetting? Oh ya, They help clear our air! Trees are magical, sacred, majestic, and giving. So what can we learn from them?

Years ago I came across an analogy that has stuck with me for probably twenty years that I often use with clients about the benefits of being flexible in life.

Oak vs. Bamboo

The mighty oak tree, strong and proud. The strength of its solid branches and the grip of its roots are one of nature’s enduring displays of fortitude, stability, and power. Yet, wherever oak trees are after a decent storm one can almost always drive around and see oak tree branches snapped off, broken by the force of the

Beautiful, lush bamboo also rooted well into the earth (if you’ve ever tried to remove any you know what I mean) is also an incredibly durable, strong wood but it has a key difference from that of the oak, it is flexible. When the great storm comes, it bends with torrential winds, mimicking water as it surges down a river canyon and around the rocks. When the unyielding oak is challenged, it often breaks. When the softer bamboo is challenged, it bends and accepts the force of the wind, working with it, not against it and ultimately not breaking.

It’s Important To Be Flexible

Being sturdy is a good quality, it is often comforting to those around us, but there are probably more times in our lives when we would benefit from being flexible and soft, working with life, not against it. I am reminded of a reading from the works in “The Big Book” of AA that says “…acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation, some fact of my life unacceptable to me and can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.”. The bamboo accepts that life is rough at times and moves with it, the oak resists and breaks.

How can we apply this to everyday life?  Well, it is a rather unprecedented time in our country as we navigate handling Covid-19 and all the countless ways it has impacted our lives. Many of us are working from home now and sometimes (or most of the time) cramped and jockeying for a little extra space, or less noise so we can be heard on our Zoom conference while juggling our kids’ education plans, spouse, or whatever the case may be. Or maybe it’s something like having lost our job. No matter how difficult the situation, there is a lesson in the flexibility of the bamboo. You need to be strong, yes. Bamboo is strong, but it is not rigid. Where can you be more flexible in your life? Where can you be a little softer? Maybe it’s even about being softer on yourself. Stress levels are incredibly high right now and being flexible with your thoughts is more beneficial now than ever before as we traverse these unfamiliar waters of shelter-in-place life. Being rigid gets us nowhere except eventually broken.

About The Author

Jason Market Therapist at Authentic Counseling

Jason Markel is an Associate Marriage & Family Therapist with nearly 20-years’ experience in social services and the counseling field. Currently, he works at Authentic Counseling Associates in Gold River, CA, and Heartstrings Counseling in Loomis, CA. Jason brings a wide array of professional experience to his work, including 4-years’ service in the U.S.A.F at The Pentagon. Ever the humanistic man, Jason embraces a wide variety of therapeutic approaches, but most vitally he strives for a deep, authentic connection with his clients. In his free time, he and his husband enjoy quality time with their 6 god-kids and their goofy, lovable young dog.


Ward, L. (2000) Spirituality of Trees.

W., Bill. (1976). Alcoholics Anonymous : the story of how many thousands of men and women have recovered from alcoholism. New York :Alcoholics Anonymous World Services,

Post originally at

True Relaxation

It is hard to relax. Even now with everyone at home you find projects around the house this needs to be done, that needs to be done, the kids are schooling from home, we are working from home. Take a moment to truly relax and see what it can do for you. Here is a little exercise to help you get in that truly relaxed state.

The Relaxation Response

Adapted from

What is Relaxation?

The Relaxation Response is a state where you are physically relaxed and mentally alert. You can learn to achieve this state through the practice of the relaxation exercise described here.

 What the Relaxation Response is NOT –
  • Lazy on the couch
  • Sleeping
  • Being Lazy
What it IS –
  • A mentally active process that leaves the body relaxed
  • Best done in an awake state
  • You can learn it, and it becomes more profound with practice

You should practice the simple exercise described below to lower your stress levels. It is even better to incorporate this simple practice in your daily routine and practice it once or twice a day three to four days a week.

  • Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
  • Close your eyes
  • Deeply relax all your muscles, beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face. Keep them relaxed.
  • Breathe through your nose. Become aware of your breathing. As you breathe out, say the word, “one,” silently to yourself. For example, breathe in… out, “one,” – in… out, “one,” etc. Breathe easily and naturally.
  • When you notice your mind wandering (It will) just notice it and passively bring your attention back to your breathing.

Continue for 10 to 20 minutes. You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm. When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes, at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes opened. Do not stand up for a few minutes.
Do not worry about whether you are successful in achieving a deep level of relaxation. Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace. With practice, the response should come with little effort. Practice the technique once or twice daily, but not within two hours after any meal, since the digestive processes seem to interfere with the elicitation of the Relaxation Response.

Free Support Groups


California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on March 4, 2020, after the first person died of coronavirus or COVID-19.  Schools and businesses closed.  People are staying at home.  People are not able to work at their jobs.  Grocery shelves are empty.  This is a time of extraordinary stress.  People are feeling isolated, lonely, depressed, worried, anxious, fearful, angry, and panicked.

  • People are isolated in their homes, feeling lonely and depressed.
  • People are not able to earn a living. They are worried about their future.
  • People are not able to get household products and food that they like.
  • People who are struggling with addictions are cut off from the social supports they have developed.
  • Parents have to stay at home with their children. Many of these children have hyperactivity and other behavior disorders.
  • Teenage sons and daughters have to stay home and do not understand why they cannot go out and be with their friends.
  • Husbands and wives living together in confined spaces are getting irritable and taking it out on each other.
  • Seniors are isolated in their homes and are not allowed to have visitors.

If any of this has been a problem for you, you may benefit from FREE on-line support groups being led by experienced psychologists and counselors at Authentic Counseling Associates of Gold River, California.

Online sessions are conducted through ZOOM technology.  Each session lasts for 60 minutes and is led by a trained psychologist or counselor.  Dates and times are posted below.

Online support group sessions are a free service to the public during the coronavirus crisis.  Online support group sessions are  NOT  psychotherapy and should not be considered psychotherapy.  Users agree to hold harmless Authentic Counseling Associates and its on-line support group facilitators.

Loving Kindness Meditation

Fostering loving-kindness for oneself and others has many benefits. Some of these benefits include greater relaxation, enhanced peacefulness, increased acceptance of others, reduced stress, and increased tolerance to frustration. This meditation offers you another opportunity to have a say in your mood and in your interactions with others. I recommend repeating the meditation to yourself at any point when you are wanting more loving kindness in your life. Some people report a benefit by repeating the words daily and others find that useful when they are feeling disconnected from others is a perfect time. I encourage you to find your own best use.

May I be filled with loving kindness
May I be well
May I be peaceful and at ease
May I be happy
May you be filled with loving kindness
May you be well
May you be peaceful and at ease
May you be happy
May we be filled with loving kindness
May we be well
May we be peaceful and at ease
May we be happy
Oh I am filled with loving kindness
I am well
I am peaceful and at ease
I am happy
Oh you are filled with loving kindness
You are well
You are peaceful and at ease
You are happy
Oh we are filled with loving kindness
We are well
We are peaceful and at ease
We are happy

The Big Five-Christopher Mathe, PhD.

When discussing the possibility of medication with my clients, I emphasize that they have a great deal of control over the necessity of medications with what I call, “The Big Five.” The necessity for and the amount of medication required to treat just about any psychological challenge are greatly affected by: Diet, Exercise, Sleep, Mindfulness, and Connection. The first three most folks know that adjustments to them can have a big effect on their health. The fourth, Mindfulness, is a general term of the practice of being aware of thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and surroundings in the present moment. The fifth, Connection, refers to interacting with people and things that have meaning.

I want to address the biggest payoff activities in each of these areas that can have huge effects on mental, emotional, and physical health (and the necessity for medications). They do not have to be big shifts – small shifts in any of these areas still provide great benefits.

Let’s start with Mindfulness. This can be a challenging practice in our fast-paced, action-oriented lives. Any mindfulness activity actively reduces the level of stress hormones in our bodies. Two simple, high-payoff activities for mindfulness both have to do with breathing. First, breathe deeply two or three times, a few times per day. Many of my clients set one of their electronic devices to remind them to breathe during the day. “Deep breath” means to breathe deeply enough to move your stomach out. By moving your diaphragm, you release endorphins, our body’s natural “feel good” chemicals. Of course, you are also getting more oxygen. This activity alone could add 2 – 3 years to your life! The second activity or mindfulness I invite most of my clients to practice is a daily round or two of 10 x 10 breathing. I do this every night when I go to bed. I lay down on my back comfortably and in nice, easy deep breaths, I breathe into a count of 10 and then breathe out a count of 10. Vary the speed of your counting to match your easy breaths. Do ten of these breaths. If done regularly, this practice trains your body to relax when you breathe deeply – very helpful before that big meeting or while you are sitting in traffic. These two breathing practices together could add 5 – 8 years to your life!

Turning to the four other areas, let’s talk about sleep. Without enough sleep, most systems of the body are compromised. Everyone needs between 7 – 9 hours of sleep. The biggest payoff activity in this area is to make sure you do so. That might mean shutting off or silencing your various screens or heading to bed earlier.  When I received a Fitbit for Christmas and started tracking my sleep, I could not kid myself anymore: I was averaging less than 6 hours per night. I decided to start going to bed earlier very gradually. Over that span of several months, I added more than 2 hours of sleep to my average.

With regard to diet, there is a huge amount of data supporting a shift towards non-processed, whole fruits, vegetables, and seeds along with meats that come from “free-range” animals raised with no hormones or antibiotics. There are many, many apps that can help track food intake and exercise. I use LoseIt. Even if you don’t lose weight, changes towards the above suggestions can make a big difference. Of course, those of you who are overweight would benefit from losing some of that extra poundage. Another huge payoff activity is to make sure you get enough water – most of us do not drink enough and water is required for all of our body functions to work properly. Ask your doctor or do some research on what is the right amount for you.

Exercise: For typical adults, medium to rigorous activity for 30 – 45 minutes, 3 – 5 times per week would be considered very healthy. That kind of activity might seem daunting for some people. What I encourage my more sedentary clients to do is simply to do more exercise than they have in the past. This might mean beginning with walking around the block a few times per week, taking the stairs at work, or parking a distance from your destination. The point is to start with SOME exercise and gradually build up.

Connection: Many people tend to isolate themselves when they are feeling poorly about themselves. Humans are a social animal, meaning we actually need interaction with others for our wellbeing. In a larger sense, connection with anything that is meaningful to us has that effect: interacting with those we love, walking in nature, listening to music, creating or experiencing art, dancing – whatever has meaning to us. Purposely arranging our lives to regularly bring in more of this connection will reduce the production of stress hormones and help remind us of what is important.

Generally, none of these suggestions is a big surprise to most people. Sometimes I have to help my clients overcome negative beliefs about themselves before they can start making consistently healthier choices. I would hope that the prospect of minimizing or eliminating the need for psychotropic medicines might be an added incentive to choose a few of these high payoff activities for your health. Good luck!

The Stages of Change Model (Adapted from Changing for Good, Prochaska, et. al, 1995)

The Stages of Change Model

(Adapted from Changing for Good, Prochaska, et. al, 1995)

Precontemplation – Resisting Change

Unaware and in denial about issue
Resistant, defensive, angry, avoidant

Contemplation – Change is on the Horizon

Examining how issue affects self and others
Emotional, brittle, uninformed

Preparation – Getting Ready for Change

Examining how to change and what life will look after change
Hopeful, informed

Action – Time to Move

Implementing the plan and taking direct actions
Determined, confident, proactive

Maintenance – Staying There

Integrating the change into long-term behavior
Shifting short-term strategies into new beliefs
Determined, wary, connected to support

Termination – Exiting the Cycle of Change

The change is a part of the self
No desire to go back to old issue