Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Can You Learn To Be Happy?


Can you learn to be Happy?


Are we born with an innate ability to be happy? Or is it something we mirror from those who influenced our early lives? With all the talk of chemical imbalances and genetic predispositions to mental disorders, many of us have begun to think that being happy is like being tall or blonde, you are born with it or you are not. While some people do have biologic conditions that make it difficult to control their feelings, I believe most of us suffer from ‘group think’; our environment, the people we associate with, and our self-talk that comes from it, have made us feel that stress, depression and unhappiness is the norm. That simply is not the case.


If you have been reading this blog or the newspaper column my partner and I wrote for the Independent Gay News years ago you are familiar with my background. I am a retired dentist, raised in an observant Jewish home of Holocaust survivor parents, came out of the closet later in life, and worked with non-profits in South Florida for about 8 years. The sum of me is that I have had therapy, suffered depression, survived cancer, raised a great son, and now am in a fantastic relationship with the man of my dreams, Dr. Grover Lawlis.  I add this to impress upon you that I have experienced the spectrum of life, death, separation, and joy.


Along the way I have picked up some nuggets, some from the therapist’s couch, some from the hard knocks of life, some from my friends, and of course my resident psychiatrist, Grove. Here are the three BIG ONES that guide my life:



Happiness - You have to find both meaning and pleasure


Creating my day-The day awaits


Breathing – Waiting to Inhale




            Why do we want to be happy? Aristotle believed that we pursue happiness because it is in our nature to do so. When the answer to any question is “because it will make me happy” nothing can challenge the validity and finality of the answer. Dr Tal Ben-Shahar defines happiness as “the overall experience of pleasure and meaning. A happy person enjoys positive emotions while perceiving his or her life as purposeful.” This definition does not pertain to one moment, but a generalized snapshot of a person’s whole.


When we find both Meaning and Pleasure we see happiness as something within us rather than something to attain. Pleasure is something we feel good or happy about now. Meaning is a future benefit that gives us happiness. When we find our lives with Meaning and Pleasure and practice it, we begin to live in happiness.


Creating My Day

            I’ve quoted Dr. Joe Dispenza's comments on creating his day from the movie, What the Bleep Do We Know? In response to the numerous requests, the following is the transcript of that part of the interview.

"I wake up in the morning and I consciously create my day the way I want it to happen. Now sometimes, because my mind is examining all the things that I need to get done, it takes me a little bit to settle down and get to the point of where I'm actually intentionally creating my day. But here's the thing: When I create my day and out of nowhere little things happen that are so unexplainable, I know that they are the process or the result of my creation. And the more I do that, the more I build a neural net in my brain that I accept that that's possible. (This) gives me the power and the incentive to do it the next day.

"So if we're consciously designing our destiny, and if we're consciously from a spiritual standpoint throwing in with the idea that our thoughts can affect our reality or affect our life -- because reality equals life -- then I have this little pact that I have when I create my day. I say, 'I'm taking this time to create my day and I'm infecting the quantum field. Now if (it) is in fact the observer's watching me the whole time that I'm doing this and there is a spiritual aspect to myself, then show me a sign today that you paid attention to any one of these things that I created, and bring them in a way that I won't expect, so I'm as surprised at my ability to be able to experience these things. And make it so that I have no doubt that it's come from you,'


Breathing – Waiting to Inhale

Alan Hymes, M.D., has said in Science of Breath that it is through our lower lungs that the most oxygen can be circulated into the bloodstream. By holding tension, we constrict the lower lungs and subsequently breathe mostly in our upper lungs, which aren't able to take in as much air. So, we have to work harder and faster with each breath. This rapid breathing puts the body on alert, firing up the nervous system to think that there is an emergency, moving the body into a state of stress. And this is happening all the time! This is the plight of living in our modern, urban world. The stress and stimulus of our lives affects the breath, which puts strain on the body, leading to burnout, depression, and even illness. 

So, let's practice a way of breathing that will create more flexibility in your diaphragm and belly. This will maximize your oxygen intake and allow the body to relax. Sit comfortably and take a few minutes to go within. Listen to your natural breath and let your belly relax with each breath. When you are ready, breathe out and exhale fully. You should notice that your belly goes inward towards your spine. Then let your diaphragm drop down towards your pelvis and feel the air pour in. You should notice that your belly expands and gets bigger. I suggest you breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. This is a great, general way to breathe, good for anything—working out, any cardio-vascular activity, as well as walking, cooking, hanging out. Take about fifteen minutes for this and try to do it at least three times a week. If you are having trouble feeling this in-and-out motion of the belly, then lie on your back or stomach and try it. Keep practicing this until it becomes a new habit, second nature. 


Finally, I have been asked many times what supplements or sleeping pills I take. I have moved away from the multi vitamin route and now just take a strong anti-oxidant and an Omega 3-6-9. The following links are the products that Grove and I now use, and I have to be honest, they do work.



Have a peaceful week


Nate Klarfeld







Sunday, May 10, 2009

Equal Means Equal-A Mother's Day Tribute

Equal Means Equal

A Mother’s Day Reflection

Frania Klarfeld 1923-2006


My mother, Frania Klarfeld was a Holocaust survivor. No matter what she did past the age of 14 when she was placed in the first of three concentration camps in Poland, she will forever be remembered by her family and community as one of the surviving victims of history’s most horrific case of discrimination and bigotry.

On this Mother’s Day it is customary to thank your mother whether in person or spiritually for all the lessons learned and promises made and kept. My mother, like many in suburban cities of the 1950’s raised a family, helped her husband in business and later was the matriarch of the Klarfeld family to her sons, daughters, and grandchildren.

We are all born into some story, with its particular background scenery, that affects our physical, emotional, social and spiritual growth. In the case of children of Holocaust survivors, the background story tends to be either a stifled mystery or overflowing with traumatic information. In the first case the child may feel drained and in the second case overwhelmed. 

I remember the first time I asked my mother about her life in the camps. I must have been seven or eight at the time. The first thing she mentioned and I don’t know if it was a premonition or just random fact, was that Hitler first came for the gays, the homosexuals, and then the Jews. At age 14, when girls were supposed to were supposed to have romance and budding youth on their minds, my mother was stamped a second-class citizen, or worse, and was no longer allowed to go to school, play in the park, or associate with her non-Jewish friends. She told me then that she always felt ‘different’ ‘out of place’ and that would remain with her the rest of her life. How amazing that this parallels my own life as a gay man growing up in the 1960’s. Another early remembrance was of her was shopping at Woolworths in downtown St. Louis in 1956 and her being aghast at separate drinking fountains for ‘colored’. “What color?” was her question. She knew the signs of “Juden Verboten” and “whites only” were only a few letters apart. 

We remember our parents not by sweeping generalizations but by moments; moments that are seared in our inner story that bubble up at important and spontaneous times in our everyday lives. The ‘moment’ I want to share with you on this Mother’s Day is one of “Equal Means Equal.” In 2003 I introduced my mother to my new partner, Grover Lawlis. She hugged him and said to him, “I see that Nathan loves you in his I love you too.” Later that year she sent him a birthday card, a simple one that said “Happy Birthday to my Son-In-Law” with a check (the same amount she gave me every birthday). A year later on a visit to Florida she taught him to make her famous strudel, a family tradition passed on to each daughter-in-law and now her first son-in-law. When she passed away in 2006 at her funeral, directed by an observant orthodox rabbi, a place was set for my gay partner in the front row with the other relatives. She would have wanted nothing else.


Happy Mother’s Day Mom, to promises made and kept.


Equal Means Equal


Have a peaceful week.

Nate Klarfeld




Sunday, May 3, 2009

Creating Your Life Purpose Statement

Creating your Life Purpose Statement



In this amazing but fast paced world our culture has become obsessed with accumulating  for the sake of accumulating; information, goods, knowledge, material objects, Facebook friends, etc.  His Holiness the Dali Lama summed it up well:


We have more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees, but less sense. ..More knowledge but less judgment. More experts, but more problems. More medicines, but less healthiness. It is a time when there is much in the window but nothing in the room.


Each of us looks for fulfillment and happiness in our own way. Sometimes that ‘look’ becomes a scream from within and we have no choice but to look deep within and find a new path. Sometimes we fall into a listless robotic state and feel helpless looking for a way out. The reason we know deep inside we can do better is that we already have a life purpose that has been with us since we were very young. At moments when we experienced a profound sense of being in the flow – being in the right place, at the right time using our gifts – we are likely to be living out our life purpose.


The easiest way to find your own life purpose is to look back at our past experiences. Take out pen and paper and jot down a few times and places in your life when you felt ‘in the flow’ ‘on target’ comfortable in your own skin’ ‘made a difference and felt proud about it’. Giving a presentation about something you were passionate about and seeing people respond. Organizing a picnic for a family reunion. Taking care of a relative or close friend when ill.  Next to each one, write a few words about what it was that made it so distinct. Your words should answer some of the following questions:


What was essential to my sense of being ‘on purpose’ or ‘in the flow’?


What about this experience was richly satisfying?


What was of value here for me?


How does a purpose statement sound? Here are some examples:


My purpose is to build and lead organizations that model the best practices for our industry, are profitable financially and viable long term, and offer dedicated workers meaningful work and sustained employment.


The purpose of my life is to proclaim the good news that same-sex married couples live very holy lives and that all of life is holy.


The purpose of my life is to create a world of love and empowerment, by loving and empowering myself to others.


I’ll close this week’s rant with a quote from Woodrow Wilson, “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”


Oh, and my own life purpose statement?  Since I share almost everything on my blog and on it is:


“My life purpose is to create connection between myself, my family, my clients, and all those I contact to the universal whole of life, through joyfully living and transforming our life challenges into sources of creativity and learning.”


Have a peaceful week.


Nate Klarfeld