Healing Our Relationships

Healing Our Relationships from Within

February 8, 2021

When we stop and think about the nature of our thoughts, we notice that most of our focus is outwards, towards the world outside of ourselves. What we fail to realize is that the much of what we perceive as “the outside world” is actually our inside world, projected outward. Therefore if our inner reality becomes our outer experience of life, it would behoove us to pay more attention to how we think. Our minds are very powerful, and are actually similar to movie projectors that project our thoughts onto a neutral world of matter and form which create a subjective reality--our own seemingly real experience. And based on the thoughts we’re having, we’re in large part shaping the reality that is derived from what’s going on inside of us.

This is the basis of the now-popular phrase, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” This means that if you’re doing and creating what you want to see in the world in your own personal life, the changes you want will begin to appear in the outside world. The same goes for our relationships. If our focus becomes more about how we can be our best self, this will transfer to how we are actually being the best partner we can be.

In my work as a couples therapist, people frequently come in so that I can help their partner change into something more like they would prefer them to be, or often back into how they used to be. This outward focus takes the ownership off of oneself-- where it needs to be for any real lasting change to occur. When we come to realize that we have brought our partner into our lives for a reason (e.g. self-reflection and integration), it becomes easier to see the bigger picture, one where our own healing can take center stage.

In our quest for self-help, growth and independence, we often forget that growth and healing cannot happen by ourselves, or in a vacuum. Without reflection, it’s impossible to see ourselves. As children we need for our parents to see, acknowledge and hopefully prize who we are in order to develop a healthy sense of self. As we mature, this is who we’ll take into our relationships and more poignantly, our intimate ones. If our upbringing wasn’t ideal, we don’t develop as fully and healthily as we might and it is this more distorted version of our self that we bring to others.

The problem with self-growth is that it’s very difficult to see ourselves from the inside. We simply think, and even say, This is who I am.” And as mentioned, since our thoughts create our world, it’s even harder to realize that the subjective reality that this distorted self creates isn’t absolute. That is, if we’re able to have that self reflected back to us we can then choose to work on changing that self from within while experiencing healthier ways of being. With this reflection from others we’re able to see our blind spots and own our dark shadows. And who better than our intimate partner to help shine that light of awareness for our own recognition?

This is actually a big task, and it takes a supreme amount of self-awareness and patience on the part of our intimates to reflect back with sensitivity, skillful speech and hopefully love so that we can take it in with openness and receptivity. Not everyone is up for this task, or at least not at first. Usually there’s a begrudging coming along as the infatuation stage of the relationship moves into the power struggle stage where reality enters in. Here we see that we’re in for something much bigger than we had imagined. It is here where the rubber meets the road, or our ego is met with resistance and we then have to decide whether we’re in for the ride (of a lifetime) or if it’s time to eject and start the whole process all over with someone else.

Actually either choice is fine, because if we’re going to end up staying in a relationship, no matter which partner we choose, this process will still be the same--it’s just a matter of when. This is usually determined by what’s happening in our lives at the time along with our level of emotional development, and will determine what kind of relationship we’re ready for; i.e. one of convenience, personal pursuit, or life purpose. Sometimes we know this at the outset and the road becomes well defined. At other times, determining this becomes clear as we enter in and stay awhile. No matter which it is, this process of becoming self-aware will no doubt begin to happen on its own simply by being present with and to the other. What can make it a healing relationship is that both partners know that is the goal, which will make the reflection of our difficult parts easier to take in, accept, and coalesce into a healthy, more considerate, patient and loving self.

 Michael Mongno, MFT, Ph.D., LP, counsels individuals and couples. His office is located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan near Lincoln Center, at 100 W. 67th St., Ste. #2NE. For more information, call 212-799-0001 or visit PresentCenteredTherapies.com.

Facing Our Challenges Consciously, Together

Facing Our Challenges Consciously, Together

September 29, 2020

As we find ourselves in a maelstrom unlike anything we’ve seen in recent history, we are being forced to sit up and take notice and begin a conscious awakening of mind and spirit. With the COVID pandemic vastly changing how we live, it’s more evident than ever that our planet’s survival depends on our awareness of this complex ecosystem and our willingness to be its responsible custodians.

It’s no longer a question of our choosing to become conscious of the problem; rather, consciousness is being painfully thrust upon us every day. And the longer global leaders wait to enact real, comprehensive change, the more difficult and even dire the problem becomes for everyone—especially those who are already disenfranchised.

A Level Playing Field

If we want to do our part, we need to take greater responsibility for ourselves, starting with our health. This is where we are being forced to make difficult choices that entail putting the health of others on par with our own. For the many rugged-individualist Americans, whose ego is wired to put self above others, this feels antithetical and extremely uncomfortable.

What the pandemic has made clear by leveling the playing field is that we are all vulnerable, that we all have the same needs, and that no one is different or special when it comes to nature. This virus and the ravages of climate change care nothing about our philosophical beliefs or political affiliations. This is what is decimating America right now, when government leaders are resistant to the stark realities of nature, and proven science plays second fiddle to politics as the West Coast burns out of control.

What is happening is causing unprecedented emotional trauma to so many Americans, and on so many different levels. We are all in this together, yet the current politics of divisiveness, based on who stays in power, is pitting us against one other, against our neighbors and fellow citizens. This is madness, and it’s taking its toll day after day as the deaths from the pandemic reach staggering highs. I say “madness” because so much suffering and so many deaths could have been prevented if simple precautions had been taken from the outset. The problem has been exacerbated by our inability to weed out misinformation and find the truth, so we can take care of ourselves in very basic ways.

Steps for Healing

A helpful first step would be to take a pause from our thoughts, our personal narratives to which we are so wed, and from the news, which keeps us on high alert and stressed out. We must slow down and manage what we allow in, so that we can breathe and find solid ground in the present moment. This can be an antidote to the daily anxiety that so many of us feel.

Another step is to reach out to others for support or consolation. The isolation we’re all enduring has torn away at the fabric of our social well-being, and we’re all feeling the traumatic effects. We need each other because we are each other. By being more aware of our sameness, by being more empathetic and compassionate, we can make a great difference to those around us. When we strive to be conscious and connected, we can tap into our collective potential and intuitive wisdom to create the multidimensional solutions we need to overcome the real obstacles we are all facing.

A Course in Miracles states that there is only one of us here. You might say that the whole of humanity is like a hologram. Every part reflects the sameness of every other part that makes up the whole. If we were to think of others, our brothers, as ourselves, we could more easily look beyond the surface differences of race, religion or culture and treat each other according to the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them to do onto you. This shift alone would go a long way in changing how we see each other and make it through the day—with less suffering, based on our sameness rather than difference. It recalls the Buddhist Loving Kindness prayer:

May all beings be free of suffering.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings be healthy.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be at peace.

We face some real challenges, but if we decide to face them together, for each other—not just to further our own agendas—we can create a transformed world, a place where we live in the peace of our sameness while still appreciating the differences that make up the face of humanity.

 Michael Mongno, MFT, Ph.D., LP, counsels individuals and couples. His office is located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan near Lincoln Center, at 100 W. 67th St., Ste. #2NE. For more information, call 212-799-0001 or visit PresentCenteredTherapies.com.


The Importance of Mindfulness

June 1, 2020

Simply put, mindfulness is the practice of calmly, patiently noticing what is happening in the present moment—singularly attending to the here and now. What limits our being in the present are the cursory thoughts that can become a constant backdrop, interfering with our ability to engage with anything.

Our minds are prone to distraction and diversion, especially if something in the present moment makes us uncomfortable. When we want something we’re not getting, or when we want to avoid something unpleasant, we create a narrative—a rational story we tell ourselves—that permits us to move out of the present and feel more comfortable.

Usually, however, that narrative actually undermines our peace of mind, because it doesn’t allow new information or insights that might make our life easier. So we don’t actually feel better, just continually lost in thought, psychically drained or even more emotionally triggered.

So how can we control those errant thoughts? That’s where mindfulness comes to the rescue.

Easing Suffering

Mindfulness dates back 2,500 years. It’s rooted in Buddhism, as a way to alleviate suffering. It is an antidote to being swept up in thoughts and feelings, as it forces the mind to focus on only one thing—what’s happening now, in the present, not the past or future.

Most suffering comes from constantly thinking about how we want reality to be different than it is, from evaluating or judging our current situation versus what we want (or think we want). And since reality is always changing, we’re constantly chasing after something that, even when we find it, can only exist temporarily—especially if we don’t stop long enough to really take it in and be nourished by it.

Although it’s hard to control the mind, which is why we meditate, we do have more control over our thoughts than we realize. For the most part our minds are our own, and it’s up to us to create our thoughts as we see fit. For instance, we can create productive thoughts that offer fulfillment, joy and peace, or create negative or fearful thoughts (typically focused on anxiety about the future), which cause us suffering in some way.

Clearing the Mind

Mindfulness meditation is a great tool for clearing, centering and stabilizing the mind. In the sitting aspect of this practice, the breath is often used as a means of focus. The moment-by-moment experience of breathing, with all its nuances, usually escapes our attention. Noticing our breathing means feeling the sensation of the breath passing right inside the nostrils, the flow through the sinuses, the gentle filling of the lungs and rising of the chest, the pausing for a moment and then the easy letting go, following the flow of the breath outward to pause and begin again.

Unfortunately it’s easy to drift from mindfulness to “more or less mindfulness”: the awareness of a parallel stream of thought happening right outside our range of awareness. When that happens, our mind is pulled in two directions and also down into the emotions that accompany most thinking. (The mind tends to go where there’s the most emotional weight.)

This creates an inner tension, a mental loop that must be constantly interrupted to bring our mind back to focus on the present moment. We do this by remembering our intention and redirecting our attention to the breath with a simple internal phrase, like Thinking. If we find ourselves continually lost in thought, the phrase might be more direct, like That can wait for later or Now that’s an interesting thought.

Living Mindfully

Another important use of mindfulness is in our everyday living. When we slow down to truly notice, moment to moment, our being and doing, it’s as though time slows down. We notice where we are, what’s around us and how we’re moving through the world. We might even notice how we’re breathing or what’s going on in our minds.

Most accidents happen from doing something mindlessly, because we get ahead of ourselves and lose our present-moment awareness. We lose our ground, our balance, our hold on the knife, our footing on the last step of the stool. We lose control of how we’re driving or the words we’re using. Simply put, we lose our focus on what we’re actually doing. And if we’re not here and now, it’s as though we’re somewhere else (there and then), which is really nowhere at all.

Ironically, it’s hard to feel true fulfillment or joy unless you’re totally present to take in what you’re doing, to let it register and nourish you or bring you pleasure. When your intention is to be mindful, you find yourself in the flow of life.

Even at this moment you might try it as you take your next breath, or bite, or whatever activity is next in your day. There is power in the present. When you’re free of the tyranny of the past and anxiety about the future, you’re truly open to life and what it’s always offering.

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit PresentCenteredTherapies.com.

Mending Relationships Begins Within

December 3, 2019

Left untreated, our own hurt can turn a healthy relationship into a toxic, dysfunctional one.

One of the most common things I see in my work as a couples’ therapist is the struggle many people go through in their relationships with others. And usually the focus is not on themselves, but on the other—what that person is doing wrong, or his or her inadequacies.

What they often fail to see is that they are actually creating the dynamic from hurt inside themselves, and then projecting that hurt outward, onto the other person. By temporarily displacing the pain, they feel better in the moment; however, this becomes a circular process in which both people end up hurting each other, often more than the initial misunderstanding or discomfort.

As this cycle gets repeated, it can harden into a constant, uncomfortable static or, worse, into a deepening resentment that can turn a healthy relationship into a toxic, dysfunctional one. This is when many couples enter my office in hopes of saving what they once had. But even then, what they really want is for me to help their partners change into something they’d like more.

This, of course, is something that I cannot—and should not—do. My job is to reflect both partners back onto themselves, so they can see the part they play in their co-created dynamic and then decide how they might want to change something in themselves.

A Healing Process

Often people don’t really want to look at themselves, as these realizations can be too painful, dredging up old feelings of worthlessness or shame. However, if they can sit with themselves long enough, and look with compassion at the things inside that prevent them from being truly loving, they can begin a healing process that will transform them from within and positively affect every relationship in their life.

This process can be challenging for many of us who didn’t grow up with parents or caretakers who knew how to give love, show empathy or express compassion. If we didn’t have good models for loving in our early years, it’s something we don’t know how to do very well. So we must learn the skills of loving ourselves, which can take time to put into practice and to master.

But if we choose to take the time to learn—practicing healthy self-dialogue and trying our best to treat ourselves with kindness and care—we can heal the parts of us that have been yearning for attention and love all our lives. Then we’ll project trust and positivity that will impact others and call forth the same from them.

By showing our vulnerability, we can allow others to glimpse our deeper emotional selves, where they too might be touched by the tenderness and humanity that connects us all. Then what becomes recursive is a sensitivity and open heart, which, when shared, can set a new tone for all our relationships—one of compassion and love that contributes to the world around us.

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit PresentCenteredTherapies.com.

Life is a Play, Love is the Answer

October 3, 2019

We have heard in various ways, from Shakespeare to A Course in Miracles to Buddhist teaching, that all of life is a play and we're merely characters acting and playing our various roles at each stage of our lives. Therefore, we create a consensus reality starting with our thoughts on the screens of our minds that we then project outward creating our world. Thus we collectively create the world as we know it. This can be difficult at first to recognize as true, as the world seems so real and distinctly outside of us and something that we could have no possible control over. However, everything comes from thought and then becomes the manifest world. And even though it may seem like we have no or little effect, one only has to look around to see the effect mankind has had over the years on our very planet. Especially today we can see how climate change, very much a product of human hubris, can even effect the planet in ways that we never would have imagined. Recently a funeral service was held for a large glacier that had disappeared in the Alps. This sort of rapid change could have never even been predicted much less comprehended even a decade ago.

So if life is an illusion or a play of consciousness, what is real, and what has purpose beyond our small, ego driven, materialistic agendas? And what can be deeply fulfilling as to give us a sense of being part of a larger experience of ourselves where we can find the peace that surpasses all understanding? The answer is love, which is truly the answer of every circumstance, problem, or emptiness we might face. It is the answer to everything really, and certainly the way out of the inherent struggle and suffering of our dualistic minds and the world. And it is our longing for love that can move us into a transcendent relationship with God or the Supreme or the Creator of the Universe. And it is in the heart where we can start to look and train our vision to see. It is here, in the home of love, that we can direct our minds that often rule out of fear, to seek the companionship of something greater and actually the only thing that will ever create the ultimate fulfillment which is the peace we all seek.

A Course in Miracles states that "The peace of God is everything I want, the peace of God is my one goal; the aim of all my living here, the end I seek, my purpose and function and my life while I abide where I am not at home." Everything else, though seemingly so fulfilling , is of this materialist world and can only offer temporary, transitory pleasure that only goes so deep. So it is our longing for God that is our true wealth. And it is by living out of our true nature that offers us and this world the only thing that is real, without compare, and that can be passed forward.

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit PresentCenteredTherapies.com.

The Healing Power of Unconditional Love

July 11, 2019

“Love, love, love,,,,all you need is,  love, love love” (the Beatles, 1967)

I grew up in a generation that was all about love. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, we see so drastically how much times have changed. As politics across the world become more divisive, the need to give and receive love becomes more and more necessary. This human need is ever present and can be made conscious if one is able to tune in. Yet this can seem overwhelming at times, so that it’s often easy to give up and begin feeling like a victim of the world and everything all around us. However, A Course in Miracles teaches “I am not a victim of the world I see” and that the only decision that we ever have to make is whether to give in to fear or to choose love.

Fear is always related to the ego, which thrives on judgment and the narcissistic need to perpetuate self-aggrandizement. Most of the drama we see is at its essence a deep need for power over others in order to maintain the illusion of our own specialness and separateness from others. We have become too good at dehumanizing others (those of different genders, cultures, religions, politics) and thus turning them into objects. We fail to see that in doing so we too become similar objects to them and feel the need to defend ourselves against their judgments, which perpetuates the cycle of violence.

The only way out of this constant dilemma is to start loving. This may seem a bit naïve at first, unless we’re able to pause and take the time to start with loving ourselves - totally and unconditionally no matter what we’ve been told or even tell ourselves. This can be difficult since it may go against much of what’s gotten wired in psychically at early stages of our development (from our families or cultures). It takes real searching and openness to reflection from others (most poignantly from those closest to us) to become aware of how we’re treating ourselves. Very often this disparaging, negative treatment is what gets projected outward to others, as an unconscious intention to ease our own pain.

Loving ourselves unconditionally means having compassion and empathy for all that we are including our deficits, defensiveness, low self esteem and other areas that could use  improvement. So we try, with real acceptance and loving kindness, to acknowledge that most often we’re actually doing the best we can. If we’re hurting we can learn to take care of ourselves in the moment, instead of projecting our hurt outward onto others; i.e. hurt people hurt other people. Here we have the opportunity to interrupt the cycle of pain by accepting responsibility for how we feel and then taking ownership for what negativity we may be unconsciously putting out into the world.

Loving unconditionally loves without judgment, even when feeling judged or criticized by others and takes discipline and developing the skills to manage our emotions in the moment. It can also be seen as a spiritual practice, where we can learn to practice what in Buddhism is called skillful speech and right action. By staying conscious, we’re called to transcend whatever uncomfortable drama is being created in the moment for the sake of experiencing something bigger and better. And this something bigger is called peace, a peace that indeed surpasses all understanding as it’s greater than what the mind can imagine. It has a feeling of contentment about it that can be felt in the center of our being. And with it, the attendant joy that naturally radiates outward to others that can change the whole energy of a situation. Like our mediation practice, it is something that as we practice, we begin to transform ourselves from the inside out and model what Thich Nhat Hahn calls peace in every step and love with every breath.

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit PresentCenteredTherapies.com.

Change your Lens, Change your Life

May 22, 2019

Perhaps you’ve read the Buddhist philosophy that all our suffering comes from disagreeing with our reality—from wanting things to be different than they are. It’s easy for the judging mind to get caught up in all the adjustments we’d like to make to life so it’ll be more to our liking. This applies to most things and circumstances, and very often to our partners. (If they could only be this way or do that, then we’d be happy.) And as we try fruitlessly to change our environments and the people therein, we’re actually increasing our own suffering.

Recently I had an experience that illustrated this philosophy beautifully, although initially it didn’t seem so beautiful. I went to a restaurant at a Caribbean resort and was escorted to a table right near the waiter’s stand, where they put used dishes. Of course that wasn’t where I wanted to sit. I wanted a table by the window with the lovely view.

I didn’t want to call the hostess back and ask for a different table, but I also wasn’t happy with where I was. So I decided that in order to enjoy my meal, I had to do something different. As I sat there pondering, I began to watch the waitresses going about their jobs, and after a few minutes I sort of entered their world. I noticed how hard they worked and how respectful, warm and friendly they were with each other, and it occurred to me that their sole job every evening was to serve me and my fellow guests—a job they all did with a smile.

Struck and a bit humbled by this realization, I felt immense appreciation for the part these servers were playing in my evening, and I began enjoying my meal with a much different and fuller sense of satisfaction. I also experienced real gratitude for the privilege of spending time in such a beautiful place, where all my needs were being met—the sort of privilege relatively few people in the world ever have.

What had I done that made the difference in my evening? I changed the lens through which I viewed my experience. As a result, I felt even more fulfilled by and appreciative of the reality I was in and the dinner I was about to have.

This is a strategy we can use on a daily basis when things aren’t quite to our liking. We can try to change how we see a situation and, more often than not, become more aligned with reality, so that we can be at peace in any given moment and enjoy more of our living.

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit PresentCenteredTherapies.com.

Permission to Love

April 25, 2019

What seems so easy to do, and often isn't, is one of the real truisms of life. Unfortunately, this can be applied to the ability to express love. We grow up with voices in our head that counter what is really the most natural thing in the world--loving ourselves and others. These voices can come from unloved parts of ourselves that exhibit as unworthiness and lack of self esteem. They can also arise from feeling inhibited to authentically express ourselves, from a lack of loving role models growing up or from being loved but only conditionally. This feeling of being locked out of our own hearts can put us in a place of needing permission to love.

So who is it who will give us the permission that we need. Firstly that would be ourselves, however, if any of the family of origin wiring described above is in place, it's often very hard to love our selves and we must take to time learn how. So as we learn self-compassion, nurturing and love, we can hopefully find a partner who will love us unconditionally as we learn to love ourselves. This is more important than it might seem. Because if we've been sold a negative bill of goods about ourselves, it becomes hard to believe that we're worth the time and maybe the trouble for someone to learn to love us, wounds, warts and all.

Having loving people around us, who can see us, even in our struggle to feel (and act) worthy of love, is one of the most important things to cultivate as we move into adulthood and mature throughout our lives. And in finding a partner, one of things to look for is that person’s ability to love, which will allow us to be vulnerable with our wounded parts as we allow ourselves to grower closer and more intimately connected to our partner. This time, we’re hoping and trusting that rather be judged or shamed and told in so many words that we’re not good enough, we’ll be acknowledged, accepted and loved for our woundedness, which will begin the process of healing. As I’ve said so often in therapy, “We were wounded in relationship, and so it is in relationship where we must heal.”

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit PresentCenteredTherapies.com.

Our Words Create Our Worlds

October 25, 2018

Staying conscious in a world such as ours can be very difficult at times. So much of what’s around us can easily drive us back to sleep, or back to living unconsciously. Below is the sleep that the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi speaks of:

For years, copying other people, I tried to know myself.
From within, I couldn’t decide what to do.
Unable to see, I heard my name being called.
Then I walked outside.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

We have a choice at any given moment to stay awake to a bigger world—the one around us as well as a transcendent one. The primary way to accomplish this is through the words we use, since they carry great energy and weight. They can create either health and accomplishment or quite the opposite: depression and divisiveness, both within and without. Our words are the conduits of energy, meaning and emotional resonance.

A Course in Miracles states that there is no world except the one we project. Our inner world of thoughts and feelings is the one we project, like a movie projector projects images on a screen. When we truly see that our inner world creates our outer one, we can become much more conscious of the words we’re using to create our reality every minute of every day. Is it a world that is uplifting, that touches others or makes a contribution to those less fortunate?

We know how good it feels to be in the flow, where everything is just clicking and moving in alignment with what we need or desire. Our positive thoughts help create this flow and come from reflecting on ourselves with the kind of inquiry that Rumi speaks of. Who I am in any given moment is determined not only by how I feel emotionally, but also by the words or labels I use to define myself. We can all try to be more aware of the words we use toward ourselves and others so they bespeak our positivity, love and wholeness, and perhaps even our holiness.

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit PresentCenteredTherapies.com.

How to Truly Be in the Present Moment

July 25, 2018

Meditation and mindfulness are now in the current zeitgeist, and for good reason. We have heard of all their benefits, from relieving stress and promoting relaxation to more focused concentration and greater self-awareness. It’s so easy to get caught up in daily activities that propel us into the future that it’s hard to pause and savor this present moment. So what does being in the present moment feel like?

I had an experience recently that brought the idea home.

I was sitting outside and happened to see a small rabbit hopping along. It stopped not too far from me, and so I kept still to see what might happen. The bunny, too, remained motionless, and we sat together for a good many minutes. I wondered what he was doing, and where he might be going, and what his goals for the day might be. Then I remembered that animals don’t actually have any concept of time, and that they don’t have actual goals (other than survival), and that there is no place they’d rather be than where they are. And where they are is right smack-dab in the present moment.

As I sat with the bunny in stillness, simply being with myself and him or her, time seemed to slow down, and I was content in this “being with.” I really got that being in the present moment means that any concept of future doesn’t exist at all, that there is nothing more than this moment, and then this moment, and then the next.

It felt so freeing, not having to know what’s next, because “what’s next” doesn’t really exist—only “what’s now.”

After what seemed like quite a while, but was probably not more than half a dozen minutes (time seems so spacious when it disappears!), the rabbit slowly ambled away after communing with me (my projection, of course) and went about doing what rabbits do from moment to moment.

As for me, I appreciated being with another creature whose mere presence stopped my monkey mind from lurching from one thought to the next in whirly-burly fashion, with no real aim and no real way to stop itself.

This, to me, is the purpose of meditation, which is to slow down our thoughts (it’s impossible to get rid of them completely) so that we can experience the space between them long enough to feel the peace and contentment that this transcendence allows. From this place, we have a better chance at creating our next moments with greater consciousness and awareness.

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit .

Authentic Dialogue

May 17, 2018

The key to effective communication is for both parties to feel heard and understood for whatever they might be expressing and feeling. To accomplish this there is a three-step process that if done correctly, will ensure the intended result_ feeling more connected around difficult issues.

The first part is called mirroring and is simply to reflect back what the speaker is saying in as close to their own words as possible. This alone accomplishes much: it assures the speaker of being heard exactly for what they are saying, it eliminates any interpretation by the listener, and it curtails most any emotional reactivity, since mirrors do not react they only reflect. The simple act of mirroring before reflexively responding slows down the process so staying connected is more likely to occur throughout the dialogue.

Equally important is the act of validating what the speaker is saying no matter what one’s personal opinion or perspective might be. It is an attempt to make some logical sense of what’s being said by entering into the speaker’s world as non-judgmentally as possible. This says to the speaker they are being taken seriously for what they are saying and creates the experience of feeling “gotten”, something that is so important for all of us.

The third step in true communication may actually be the most important, as it has the potential to really create change. It’s the act of empathizing, which is to try to feel into and convey to the speaker that you can truly imagine what they must be going through or experiencing. This, “I can imagine that you must be feeling (whatever emotions)…” is in itself connecting and goes a long way to ease emotional hurt or pain and can be a balm to heal old wounds that often keep getting triggered.

This style of communication is powerful because it doesn’t allow for emotionally reflexive responses, interrupting, misinterpreting, drawn out nonproductive looping cycles or never ending explosive fights and dramas to occur. It also keeps a discussion on track by responding only to what is being said specifically in the ‘here and now’ without bringing in the past or getting side tracked by non relevant issues.

One might practice this with a partner or friend around some small issue or even just in sharing what’s going on in one’s life. After all, who wouldn’t want to really feel heard, validated and empathized with?

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit .

Obstacles in Couples’ Communication

March 25, 2018

We communicate to fulfill seven basic needs:  to impart information, to solve a problem,  to express a need or a desire, to relay an opinion or a judgment, to express one's feelings,  to show or request empathy and to connect through humor or a shared experience.

In order for any of this to happen effectively, the speaker must be clear of the actual need(s) and the listener must actively listen, i.e. really take in and register what's being said and heard. This is actually a tall order since often the speaker isn't totally clear about what the need or the listener is not authentically listening.

For instance in a relationship if someone is feeling hurt, rather than tune in to that feeling and express just that, what gets expressed can be a judgment (usually hurtful in itself), or a past unresolved historical reference, or some kind of indirect feeling, which is often passive aggressive. So the listener is on his/her own to figure out what the partner needs, and it would never occur to someone to simply ask. To make matters worse, the listener often gets caught up in a defensive mode of emotional reactivity or alternatively tunes the speaker out completely and begins preparing a rebuttal. What unfolds is a drama of someone being triggered and then lashing out to which the other responds in kind.  This dynamic can actually grow in intensity or the exchange can flatten when one party shuts down and withdraws. This is naturally infuriating of course and results in the speaker feeling even more dismissed or angry because not only is the partner not really listening but they are no longer present or even engaged.

So how can one prevent such psychodramas and escalating tiresome tirades that can continue for hours in never ending loops of hurtful interaction?  The answer is a particular manner of communication called “authentic dialogue” that helps ensure that  both parties engage in effective communication and strategic problem solving.

My next blog post will explore this solution more fully, but in the meantime, you might tune into how this issue resonates with you personally, i.e. how you communicate with a partner or people in your life or if it reminds you of others, your parents, perhaps.

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit .

Make Love Your Priority

February 12, 2018

We all want to experience more love and happiness, yet sometimes we fail to connect the role we ourselves play in its creation and maintenance.  We know it’s best to engage with love in our hearts, but often that’s easy to forget when we’re caught in emotionally challenging situations. Yet at any moment, we can choose once again to love. Begin by first forgiving yourself (for forgetting), then forgiving your partner (for everything) and then start to practice loving actions even in the midst of the tension filled drama.

When we try our best to be considerate of others’ feelings and can extend the benefit of the doubt, we prioritize people differently with our thoughts and actions. By leading with unconditional positive regard it’s natural to follow through with loving actions of kindness.  These actions can include showing physical and emotional affection as well as   demonstrating engaged presence.  This means truly being present in your listening to another as well as consistently responding with empathy and compassion, thus building greater trust. Try being the partner you’d like to meet in the world and watch miracles happen in all of your relationships.

Michael Mongno, PhD, offers present-centered therapies to help individuals and couples communicate better, heal more quickly and achieve a better quality of life. He is available for appointments in person or by phone or Skype. For more information, contact him at 212-799-0101 or visit .

Please visit us for any counseling needs that may arise.

Michael Mongno is known as one of the leading and most accomplished life coaches in New York City. For over 21 years he's been working closely with individuals seeking personal development, and life and career changes. With degrees in business and psychology, and many years experience guiding others into success and fulfillment in a wide range of life expressions, Michael is the ideal coach for your aspirations, goals and transformations.

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