Lessons on Letting Go from a Frog Trapped in a Sewer.

Free Yourself to Be Yourself

U2 Iris


Ahimsa means non -violence.

In relationship terms, it’s comparable to self compassion, but it’s actually an eastern term signifying more.

In Vedic and Buddhist philosophies, there’s a belief in the equality of all sentient beings. The practice of ahimsa which can also be thought of as compassion and self compassion, extends towards all of them all.

One summer, there was a frog that appeared to be trapped in a sewer on the street where I reside.  Night after night, for the entire month, I would hear it croak loudly from my home office window. As I would walk my dogs by it, the frog seemed to croak even louder, almost as if were pleading for help to escape.  I spoke to several neighbors to get their thoughts on the frog and they too worried that it might be stuck in their with no viable way out. I found myself wondering if there was anything I could do to set it free and it pained me to know that there wasn’t.

As a psychotherapist, I work with many people who, possibly like the frog, feel utterly trapped in their current life circumstances.  

They see no immediate way out and often begin to feel resigned to being stuck in their own personal sewer. Being stuck feels lousy. Getting unstuck feels scary, sometimes even terrifying.  More often than not, many prefer feeling the dysthymic sense of stuckness over the terrifying possibility of becoming free. They then  waffle between the two polarities, sometimes for a very long time. This waffling however, is a necessary part of the process should one truly desire the risk, reward and responsibility of becoming a free and individuated self.

One night, after a month of listening to the frog and my own agonizing feelings that I was projecting onto it (who knows, it may have been enjoying its’ time down there) I walked over to the sewer where it lived.  I spent some time sending compassionate energy towards it and waited until its’ croaks and my angst quieted. Then I walked back into the house, knowing there was nothing more I could do.

I let go.

The next night, I didn’t hear the frog.  I walked the dogs a couple of times by the sewer to check on it.  I feared it may have died.  Then, as I walked the dogs back home and entered my garage, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye.  Lo and behold it was a frog hopping it’s way through an obstacle course of randomly stored and  over stacked stuff.

Seeing it gave me such joy as I imagined the frog found the courage to free itself so that it could be itself.

Six weeks after I “terminated therapy with the frog” (kidding) but what a case study it was, I was struck by the power of possibility when we practice and surrender to ahimsa, compassion and self compassion with ourselves and others.

I was struck by what can happen when we just let go.

It also made me wonder to myself what would happen if we all dare ask the question: what if I just let this burden go?  


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What is Self-Energy? How can it heal? Events from the Women's March explain.

"They say God is in the details. Well, the goddess is in connections."

- Gloria Steinem



The Women’s March, which drew more than 3 million people world wide and close to one million in DC, celebrated our interconnectedness. Triggered by hateful rhetoric in a divisive presidential campaign, this article has little to do with the politics of the January 21st 2017 event.


Rather, it is about the little moments of respectful, calm and playful spiritedness that embodied the millions of women, men and children on every continent of the globe who marched in support of equal rights and respectful treatment of women. It was the largest march in history with no violence and no arrests. What made all this possible?  Perhaps a phenomena called Self Energy. 

 Self energy has become one of the latest catch phrases in modern psychology. Known to many practitioners and clients of Dick Schwartz’ model of psychotherapy called The Internal Family Systems (IFS) Model, self represents our inner resource of calm, creative, curious and compassionate energy that can heal and also help us create anything we truly desire. The word self and its concept first became known to humankind some 5,000 years ago, when it made its debut in the Rig Veda under the Sanskrit name Atman, which means self or soul. 

 As a pre-Christian culture, the Vedics, who occupied what today is known as India and Pakistan, held a polytheistic world view, where gods and goddesses of varying temperament, status, stature and agenda, worked in unison to help maintain the order of the universe. The Vedics believed that through the deities’ connection to each other and their human counterparts’ inner connection to them, our modern world slowly became what it is today – an amalgam of beauty, wonderment and awe contrasted with the darker forces of nature. 

Thus was the spirit of the Women’s March.

  While I could list many examples of the spirit of self energy manifesting itself throughout the event, two events in particular blew this humble activist’s mind. 

 The first involved the police.  Yes, the men in blue have been under fire lately in the news for wrongful shootings. When a dozen or so of them rumbled into the crowd on their motorcycles with riot gear, many of us froze.  They parked their bikes one by one on the sidewalk and looked towards the crowd as the crowd looked back.  After a long pregnant pause, one woman, with obvious trepidation, wiggled her fingers at them in a shy hello.  After some delay in response, a police officer nonchalantly waved back. With the ice somewhat broken, that same woman tentatively held up her smart phone gesturing a photo request which was met with a “why not” shrug of that police officer’s shoulders.  She took a selfie with him and the crowd began to chuckle. A few minutes later, countless women, men and children and the police laughed, smiled and posed for photos together with some creative posturing of their bikes and ominous gear.  The good vibe energy – self energy – dissipated the fear.  

 The second example involved the Metro.  With an estimate of roughly one million marchers in D.C., the Metro was the least anticipated pleasurable experience of the event. Knowing the inevitability of being packed in like sardines, my friends and I hoped that leaving the march a bit early would somehow mitigate that. Others had the same idea though – so no such luck.  When the first overcrowded train pulled up to the landing, a couple of people squeezed their way on board. However, the majority of our crowd of strangers seemed to believe that waiting, rather than forcing our way on, would be the better option. It was. So we waited, wondering how many trains would pass us by before we could comfortably enter. It had been a very long day that required a lot of energy.  Hunger and fatigue had begun to set in. Waiting, however, for what we thought would be a very long time just felt like the right thing to do.

 The wait was short.  Five minutes after the first train left, a completely empty train pulled up backwards on the rail seemingly out of nowhere, destined to move forward in the direction we were heading. Excited and bewildered, we all hopped on board AND most of us got to sit as we began the journey home! The relief felt nothing short of miraculous.

 The 2017 Women’s March delivered countless celebrity speakers, huge crowds, network news coverage, uber-creative signs and other Trumpian “best ever” factors. Much has been written about that. These two events I’ve mentioned probably pale in comparison to the sexier stuff of the day. But the simple ordinary self-led expression of creative and compassionate connection between one human being and another, which made up the majority of this day, in my view, stole the show.  

 Imagine what could happen if we all did our best to allow this self-expression every day.

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