2016 marked the passage of many great celebrities. Instead of grieving the loss of life and potential, think how these global figures may have influenced you. Choose an example you would like to keep alive and promote in your daily interactions. Here are three of my favorite teachers who will forever bring strength, laughter and authenticity to my spirit.

“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. Once belief becomes deep conviction things begin to happen.

— Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

At a young age, Ali adopted a fearless attitude. Living outside of the status quo, he built an incredible life story full of trials, courage and success. His spiritual practices included social activism and fundraising for charities around the world. 

“I don’t want my life to imitate art, I want my life to be art.

— Carrie Fisher

 Carrie Fisher

Heroine of the classic movie series Star Wars, Fisher created a colorful life as an actress, writer, humorist and mental health advocate. She bravely and openly shared her personal struggles with addiction and bipolar disorder. Fisher spoke boldly about living with mental illness. She used her celebrity status to address cultural stigmas around mental illness and encourage people to get outside help.

“I’m going to tell you what my religion is. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Period. Terminato. Finito.

— Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder

On screen Wilder played the iconic role of Willy Wonka.  He inspired audiences to join him in the place of imagination where “You’ll be free if you truly wish to be.” Wilder used his incredible imagination and humor on and off stage as a comedian, actor, director, writer, advocate and philanthropist. Gilda’s Club, a non-profit Wilder started in honor of his late wife, offers emotional and social support for those touched by cancer. He felt that Gilda’s Club helps people believe that love will triumph over setbacks.

“Every day I feel is a blessing from God. I consider it a new beginning. Yeah, everything is beautiful.

— Prince


Who could deny the gifts of music, passion and style expressed by this talented artist? Prince led a regal life led by creativity and social causes to benefit humanity. I was moved by Prince’s knack for bringing people together. Van Jones, a friend of the artist, shares this story about the hidden agenda behind Prince’s pop-up concerts – to get opposing parties to talk: “A lot of times, he would do these tricky things, where powerful people come [around] because they assume they’re going to meet him. Then they get stuck in a room for an hour with their once worst enemy, yet wind up being friends. They had never met Prince in their lives. He would do stuff like that to people all the time.” 

Looking for more ways to celebrate life? I am available for wellness coaching.


When patients enter the cancer center doors for the first time, they see a tall, spiraling staircase. The mystery unfolds as they unwillingly take their first step onto the staircase. With the help of a medical team and loved ones, patients slowly take on this long and challenging climb. Some days, the way up looks clear and easy; other days the staircase seems dusty and difficult.

Swimming has been a lifelong passion for Cathy, a middle-aged woman with breast cancer. Cathy’s treatment plan included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. At her initial oncology visit, Cathy and her doctor openly discussed when she could return to the pool. At first, Cathy adjusted her swimming routine to shorter distances. She updated the oncologist on her progress and/or setbacks. Cathy listened carefully to her oncologist for guidance. In time, she went back to swimming at her own pace. Cathy was so happy to reconnect with her body and find her old self again.

Patients soon realize that cancer is a series of steps involving physical, emotional, mental and spiritual effort. Regardless of how fast or how hard the stairs are climbed, patients desire options that minimize suffering and maximize quality of life. Outside of conventional medicine, they may discover less invasive ways of caring for themselves. Complementary Alternative Medicine, or CAM, offers cancer patients chances to feel better and reclaim some of their health choices. When it comes to using CAM and complementary approaches to cancer care, patients need to talk to their healthcare providers, ask questions and carefully evaluate the risks and benefits of each therapy.

What is CAM?

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, CAM is defined as:

If a non-mainstream practice is used together with conventional medicine, it’s considered “complementary.”

If a non-mainstream practice is used in place of conventional medicine, it’s considered “alternative.”

Other useful terms are “Integrative Medicine” which coordinates conventional and complementary approaches within care settings. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health officially uses “Complementary Health Approaches” to cover categories ranging from natural products to mind and body practices.

Talking to your healthcare team about CAM

When it comes to talking to healthcare providers about complementary health approaches, patients are hesitant to take that first step. AARP and The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine asked 1,559 people age 50 and older about their use of CAM and why they don’t talk about it at the clinic. Respondents reported that doctors don’t ask about their CAM approaches and patients don’t know they should disclose this information. Some patients believe doctors don’t have time to talk, lack knowledge about CAM and/or discourage patients from using it.

In the cancer setting, it is crucial for patients and the healthcare team to talk about complementary approaches. When chemotherapy, immunotherapy, surgery, transplants and radiation may be a part of the treatment plan, the healthcare team appreciates a full picture of all healthcare choices made by patients. Open and ongoing communication is essential for reducing and avoiding contraindications, undue harm or unknown reactions.  An excellent resource, full of tips, worksheets and resources is a downloadable workbook published by the National Cancer Institute called “Talking about Complementary and Alternative Medicine.” It also includes a great list of questions for patients to take with them to their medical appointment. If patients don’t have the energy or want help with this conversation, they should bring a trusted family member or friend for support.

Risks and benefits of CAM

Doctors and patients share similar challenges with it comes to determine which complementary approaches are proven, safe and effective. Some therapies are not regulated while others are not standardized. The body of knowledge is fast growing but limited depending on use of complementary therapies for specific cancer stages and disease types. Studies may involve animal subjects but not human testing because of unfamiliar side effects. The American Cancer Society has more detailed information on this subject.

Climbing the CAM stairs

Once patients get closer to selecting a doctor-approved complementary therapy, they begin the search of a professional to get help. Use these tips to ensure the experience is a positive and favorable one.

Check out the latest research on a specific CAM approach

Ask your health insurance provider if coverage available

Get referrals from friends/family/healthcare provider

Find out the practitioner’s education, training, licensing and certifications

Call local cancer organization

Carefully search online and check sources

Try your chosen CAM approach a few times. If it isn’t working out, try something else or take a break. Don’t buy pricy packages or invest lots of time until this option meets your wellness objectives.

Are you looking for more ways to talk about CAM and cancer? Rita is available for workshops.


Inspired by the sweet bird songs wafting through my early morning window, I ask myself, “What exactly is my song?” 

Springtime presents a Master Class in awakening to the music inside us. Nature’s fresh growth and renewal insistently whisper: “Awaken to the sound of the music within. Dance to the music of your soul.” And so, “What’s my song?” is the refrain our souls urge us to answer so we may live our life attuned to our unique inner calling.

Songs are comprised of a series of notes. Combining notes makes melody which has the power to fuel thoughts and emotions. When songs enter conscious awareness, they activate our imaginations and memories. Within mere seconds, music can profoundly bridge us to times, places and people. Recall your favorite song. Why do you love it? What makes the song’s title, beat or story deeply resonate?

Grab your journal. Close your eyes. Relax your mind and body. B-r-e-a-t-h-e. Picture yourself swaying to a beautiful beat you are hearing for the first time. Allow yourself to compose new words and a fresh melody. What kind of mood are you in? Enjoy the feeling! When you’re ready, open your eyes. With this song implanted in your mind, follow these steps:

Title your Music.

Does it represent a life theme, relationship or special moment? A song’s title is key and sets the stage for the words which follow.  Place the title within the song’s lyrics.

Imagine your Sound.

When you put notes together magic happens. Based on your current state of mind, is your song relaxing, upbeat or melancholy? Would you describe the style as Rock ’n Roll, Classical, Country, Chanting or something else?

Compose your Words.

Lyrics come from life events like romance, dreams, celebrations or even everyday life. They offer insight into the song’s main message. If your song is one of struggle, what type of ending will you choose? Do you find strength? Success? Peace? If it’s a chant, what words draw you inward to invigorate your spirit?

Rhythm Signals Movement.

“Rhythm is the way music moves through time,” say musicologists.  What type of flow is in your song? Is it regular, strong, simple or off beat?

Write your song exercise today knowing that tomorrow’s number will represent another snapshot in time. When you’re done composing, Sing! Dance! Shake your booty! Spring’s birdsong reminds us to live our music each day and every season of our lives.

Looking for more ways to sing your song? I am available for wellness coaching! 


On the airplane I sat by a beautiful and accomplished psychologist “Ann.” Newly retired, Ann was on a journey of discovering herself beyond her professional identity. During the flight Ann shared her new hobbies and stronger commitment to existing passions.

“If the story is worth keeping, the heart makes room for it.

Ann’s stories grew deeper during our brief time together. She met her first husband at work. On their first date he proposed. They dated for one year and got married. They enjoyed a happy relationship. He was calm and peaceful and never raised his voice to her or the children. It was clear Ann continued to admire him in many ways.

Ann’s husband passed away from illness. She confirmed it was the hardest day of her life. For six years following his death, Ann couldn’t talk about him for more than a minute without tears streaming down her sweet face. She even cried as she told me about his passing. The heartache was etched into her spirit. She couldn’t completely eradicate the brokenness of losing this man who so lovingly touched her life.

Ann and I spoke of how the passing of time softens difficult life stories whichserve as growth opportunities. In the beginning a story unfolds, and we assign intense emotions and thoughts to it. Over time the story doesn’t feel as heavy or dramatic as when it first took place. We then reach for another perspective, and possibly choose to accept and learn rather than to suffer. 

Sometimes a story’s memory becomes an invaluable part of who we are. So what are we supposed to do with it? Ann’s explanations sparked this idea: if the story is worth keeping, the heart makes room for it.

Years later, Ann remarried another brilliant and tender-hearted man. She is content and enjoys her time with him. And yet Ann looked at me softly while placing her hand on her heart. She says she is keeping her broken heart because Husband #1 lives there.  This is Ann’s way of finding acceptance of the situation and feeling love. Her heart has made room for this enduring story.

What about you dear Reader? Think about the stories still living in your heart. Hopefully they generate positive feelings, and enable you to thrive and learn how to love and be loved better.

Looking for more ways to cherish your love stories? I am available for wellness coaching! 


When I worked at the cancer center, taking time off work was more pain than joy. Days before leaving, I spent extra hours clearing my calendar and wrapping up loose ends. I finally realized it didn’t matter if the pile was there or not. When I returned from break, a pile of work awaited. With a big sigh and a goodbye to rest and relaxation, I settled back into crazy.

“Vacations restore our passion for life. We get to define what adventure means to us and collect another story for our hearts and minds to remember for years to come.

Does this sound familiar? We are not alone. According to a recent government study, Americans on average give up 206 million vacation days. Whoa! This is a BIG number. What’s going on?

Is it possible to prioritize fun instead of prioritizing stressful projects? Try these five tips for making vacations memorable and worth the effort:

Put it on the calendar. I cannot overstate this action. If it’s on the books, it will happen. You have something wonderful to look forward to. You save money and get excited. You can go to sleep with a mental picture of white sandy beaches instead of what Mr. Know-It-All did at the meeting. 

Make every step self-care. If you are anxious around job security, appearances of non-productivity and fear of missing out then a vacation may be the escape you need to reset your happy buttons. From planning to shopping and packing, build excitement to fuel your work-filled days leading to vacation time. Include calm-inducing activities like walks in nature and swinging in a hammock with a book. 

Focus on play. The call for easy is what our mental and emotional self needs on a regular basis. We need to shift from overbooked calendars to a simple schedule focused on playtime. What do you dream about doing when you’re on vacation? 

Unplug, literally. Digital devices and posting awesome vacation photos can wait until we get home. If necessary designate a few minutes a day to check messages. Don’t worry about posting photos and stories in the moment. Family and friends will enjoy your photos after vacation. 

Create a re-entry plan. If possible work a half day after vacation before resuming your regular schedule. Start off easy and light. Bring a souvenir or printed photo of your time out for your space. Address priority issues or organize your pile for your first full day back. Check in with a few co-workers. 

Looking for more ways to move from stressed to strong? Rita is available for workshops at your workplace! 


According to a Gallup 2016 survey on the American workforce, only one of three employees feels engaged at work. The remaining two thirds lack skills for advancement, look for better jobs, or simply give up and leave the workforce. Is it any wonder an industry of stress management and wellness programs flourish to help us focus and engage? 

“Acknowledging the humanity in another builds trust, loyalty and respect.

Numbers like this come at a high cost. Disengaged employees lose literally billions of dollars (up to $600 billion a year !!!) How can employers better capture and encourage full participation of many of their staff who have lost the desire to succeed?

1. Get personal. Satisfied employees know their manager believes in them and encourages their contributions. Too many people report to work without the necessary guidance and support to help them to excel and maximize their talents. 

Managers have an obligation to set the stage for excellence and creativity. Connect to your team from a position of caring rather than authority. Recognize that acknowledging the humanity in another builds trust, loyalty and respect. These basic ideals set the foundation for getting the personal best from others. 

2. Offer rewards and incentives. Acknowledge and celebrate excellence. When people feel valued they desire to contribute to their community.

Incentives offer job-security and peace of mind. Practically speaking, this means a flexible work schedule, paid leave, health insurance and retirement. Some extremely flexible companies offer an open policyto job shifting. If an employee gets bored with his job, he has the opportunity to fine-tune, change it around, or create a new one. 

After studying this topic, I am reminded that kindness, gratitude and presence remain cornerstones of all relationships, including those in the workplace. Productivity, inclusiveness and profits proceed from mankind’s highest virtues. Yes it is time to return to the basics and reap the rewards of being part of this beautiful world.

Looking for more ways to engage and reward people? I am available for workshops at your workplace! 


Do you believe that attempting to reason with unreasonable people is an exercise in futility? Or is it an opportunity to create love?

Dr. Joseph Shannon, a seasoned psychologist, presented our symposium with an impressive set of methods for communicating with especially challenging individuals. Effective communications require a blend of reasoning (head) and compassion (heart). 

In heated discussions, are you able to clear your resistance to love and interact from a place of openness and non-judgment?

In heated discussions, are you able to clear your resistance to love and interact from a place of openness and non-judgment?
In heated discussions, are you able to clear your resistance to love and interact from a place of openness and non-judgment?

Use this idea as a measure of whether you are open and closed in your spirit: If you leave a conversation feeling more angry, lost and unheard, you may be blocking your senses and using your ego to preserve your power.

Here are Dr. Shannon’s 5 key strategies to help manage uncomfortable conversations with compassion and grace.

  1. Listen. Feeling heard promotes emotional healing more than anything else. It sends the message to others that you honor them. Use soft eyes and a relaxed posture to let the other person know you are present.
  2. Focus. By asking someone his or her feelings in a tough moment has a calming effect. It creates the opportunity for him/her to de-escalate and slow down their racing mind and confusing emotions. ”Can you tell me how you are feeling right now?”
  3. Identify. What core beliefs are being triggered? When listening carefully, you will notice that the person repeats certain words. These key words contain strong indicators of insecurities below the surface:  “I am not good enough.” “I am entitled.” “I feel abandoned.”
  4. Seek. Can you look for the strengths of the other? Take the opportunity to remind someone of his or her ability to cope/find humor/breathe in tough times. Strengths help them find their center and take an emotional break. Then link their strengths to how they can deal with the situation at hand. “You are a great listener. If your heart could tell you something, what is it saying?”
  5. Understand. Humans are essentially built to respond positively and reasonably when core emotional pieces are in place. We desire to:
    1. feel understood and appreciated
    2. be given the benefit of the doubt and treated equally
    3. have freedom to decide


How many times a day do you search for your keys, phone and wallet?

When you are out and about, how often do you see posted signs that remind you to hang on to your valuables?

For most of us, our valuables are kept in a special place. Our valuables could be anything at all – a gift, a photo of a happy time or a family recipe. Whenever we enjoy these valuables, we pause, smile and are reminded of the meaning we have attached to them. If we lose something valuable, we tend to express sadness and frustration because something important is missing from our lives.          


To the rest of the world, our valuables may seem weird, distorted or even crazy. How could anyone possibly understand why our unique collection is so important?  

And then, there are times when we sense the meaning behind our valuables has shifted or diminished. What happened? Maybe you are clearing a space for a new valuable. Maybe your valuable is no longer significant. Maybe you want to be free of valuables that keep you trapped or limited in some way. Practice this imagery exercise today and listen quietly for answers.

Take a deep breath in and breathe out. Move past your senses and into the TV screen of your mind.

  • What’s on your shelf?
  • Do your valuables need dusting or is it time to give them away?
  • How do you feel when you gaze upon each valuable – content or disgusted?
  • Are you ready to remove the big valuables that take up so much room in your life like worries, disappointments and resentments?
  • Are you ready to polish and care for the small and fragile valuables like love, understanding and patience?

Slowly return to your surroundings. Write or draw any messages that came through for you.

Moving forward…

Schedule a few minutes in your morning – ideally before you start running around – and search for your valuables. What are you hanging onto right now? If this valuable isn’t useful, send it to the recycle bin. Then, commit to only hanging onto your life-boosting valuables throughout the day. Share these valuables with love. No doubt, your efforts are invaluable to you and to the world.


When going through hard times we make promises to avoid future heartache.  We say next time “I’ll approach things with an open heart, not ready fists.” Next time “I’ll be kinder to myself.” 

“Humans have come to accept life as struggle. Instead, seek heroic landscapes of peace, love and joy. Write your script around these themes. 

Despite such promises, another story emerges and again we head straight into the boxing ring. Round after round of mental and emotional blows are exchanged. At the end of the match a referee announces no winner. Our thoughts and feelings are reeling from the stings of these blows. What happened to our vow of an open heart and kindness? 

Human beings have come to accept life as struggle. We can easily identify people  whose entire life story is to walk around as a victim of one terrible circumstance after another. They have trained themselves to feel put down, sick or lost. They have mastered tolerating both their unhealthy thoughts and unhealthy interactions. They accept this script – which they have written!!! – and they believe this is how life happens To Them versus For Them.

Client Marjorie has a long and rocky relationship with her past. A broken record of same old thoughts and feelings cycle through her mind. Marjorie invents new lyrics of similar chaos to keep listeners tuned in, but the stories are essentially a theme of loss and struggle.

Higher Truth: Change Your Thoughts/ Change Your Life.

Script yourself as the heroic protagonist rather than the downtrodden victim. Become your own hero. Seek heroic landscapes of peace, love and joy. Write your script around these themes. Ditch the depressing drum beats.

And when struggle and loss come knocking nonetheless, see them through the prism of how peace and love can unfold themselves in unexpected ways. Commit to seeing yourself and your circumstances with fresh eyes.

Inner growth happens in the mind. Imagination (IMAGE) resides in our mind’s inner sanctum. Picture yourself strengthening in spirit and your return to innocence and wholeness is that much more in view. To open yourself to strength try this clearing exercise.

Close your eyes. 
Image you and your struggle together in the boxing ring.
See yourself standing tall. Slowly expand and grow strong. Feel inside what you see.
A bright spotlight now shines down encircling only you. Feel its warmth.
Bit by bit image your opponent shrinking. At last they disappear.
Surrender to the scene you have created. Stay with it. Feel your feet firmly rooted.
You are now alone in the ring, standing tall and purposeful.
The light shines brighter and brighter. You are its only focus. Feel your True Self.
As you exit center right, watch yourself depart in full light and love. 
You are on a new path.  Stay with it. Don’t look back.

Is it time to feel strong again? Rita can show you how!


Don’t we love a good movie? When we watch films, we anticipate connecting to a memorable story and something larger than ourselves. A good storyline captures our imagination, requires attention, and captures deep emotions. Powerful stories contain multiple scenes which often ricochet from intrigue to action to despair – and finally resolution. 

“How we tell our stories is important. Our stories play out and are interpreted by each of us.

If we consider, each human being is living out his own movie.  “All the world’s a stage,” comes to mind. Even as we star in our own productions, we take various roles in others’ productions as well. Sometimes we are cast as villain. Others have us appear as heroine, or simply sideline us as reliable friend.  We engage as lovers, fighters, rescuers. There is probably no role we have not played, although victim is among our favorites. We likely conceal that we are ourselves victimizers, a role we vehemently deny.

How we tell our stories is important. Our stories play out and are interpreted by each of us. We interpret meaning to ourselves and then share them as well with others, often without being aware. Meaning is transmitted through our words, tone of voice, and gestures. They are key clues to how we and others find meaning, acceptance and resolution to each scene. Make the best use of your storytelling techniques in these two ways:

1. Decide why are you telling the story. Are you using it to inspire, entertain or teach? Are you looking for empathy and connection? Trying to prove yourself? Gain power you’ve lost? Are you searching for your story’s truth?

A typical question I get from clients who are in the process of divorce is, “How do I tell this story?” The underlying fear is that others will pass judgment or humiliate them for making this tough decision. Emotions run high during such a life-changing event.  How we tell our story – to others and ourselves – determines if we recover quickly or are confined to struggle and self-doubt.

2. Set the scene. Who or what is the story about? Are you casting your spouse as a lazy and angry person? It’s better to offer straight information without interpretation.  Being overly dramatic can be judged as manipulative and confusing. Listeners will draw their own conclusions anyway.

As a Wellness Coach I counsel clients to tell their story in a way that keeps them strong and empowered. We discuss how to communicate to others they are okay, but may need time. We select specific words to better match the language they are unconsciously communicating through their eyes, voice and body. 

Rehearsing lines helps clients find a script that is honest, easy to remember and authentic. It is also a means of intentionally building up energy to synchronize with their mindful direction. Others are then better able to see the leading actor taking charge of their destiny, and heading towards resolution. Isn’t that what heroes are made for?

How are you telling your story? Pay attention to your reasons for sharing it and set the stage. Be aware of the emotions you stir up in yourself and others. Know that emotions are the most telling barometer for testing whether or not your story is harmful or constructive. 

Your mission: Make sure your story promotes connection and enhances trusting relationships.