This time of year people usually start to make plans for what they want to make of their time in the coming months and begin to muse on how to go about making that manifest. But for some reason the concept of endings has consistently been pushing its way into my awareness recently, so I feel the call to reflect upon it.

It has come to my attention more significantly, how our culture has a difficult time with endings. We seem to rush through them, if not bypassing them altogether, as if we are in a hurry to begin the next “item on our list.” However I believe that it is the thoughts and feelings, which accompany endings that we might be avoiding. With the ending of relationships we frequently experience grief, disappointment, heartache, and perhaps judgment that we failed. Yes, these thoughts and feelings can be unpleasant, but they are a part of the human experience. They make us who we are, as beings with minds, bodies and hearts.

All of these experiences are important to look at, for they show us more about who we are, where we are now and the direction we are heading. By consciously moving through an ending without avoiding any aspect of it, we can bring more resolution to the experience and our life as a whole.

In my practice I work with couples and individuals who struggle in their relationships, and come looking for help and support. It is important for me to let them know that I am not here to save their relationship, but to help them find their own way to resolution; and sometimes that resolution means ending the relationship. When that is the case, bringing more consciousness to the couple through the dissolution of their relationship can allow more healing for each of them. Many people end relationships in anger and pain, and dwell on that suffering for quite a while, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

It takes courage to truly look at oneself through the process of any kind of ending. Moving through these processes consciously can bring a greater understanding of yourself and help you bring clarity to what is on your horizon.

– Nick Venegoni, MFT

Although it’s been unseasonably dry here in Northern California, perhaps we can invoke some water with these soothing sounds of flute and rain stick. “Monsoon Rain” from Archibald Bismark.

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More immersive soundscapes this Friday. In his own words Steve Swartz makes “Ambient sound, noise, recording experiments, etc. from deep within Detroit”. Perfect to ease you out of the week, and in to the weekend. Enjoy today’s Soothing Sounds.

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And so ends another turning of the Wheel of the Year with Yule (meaning “wheel” in Norse). The sun is now at the farthest point south, making it the darkest night of the year in the north. With that dark comes contemplation of the inner mysteries. What resides in the darkest center of our hearts and minds? Will we return if we plunge deeper?

The rising of the sun after the longest night is a celebration, proving that all things return and cycle of life continues to maintain balance. Many people celebrate by lighting candles or a Yule Log to keep vigil through the night and eagerly await the rising sun, singing its praises upon first glimmer. A sign that the snow will melt and crops will grow, life returning again in the spring. What will you leave behind in the dark? What do you anxiously await for in the new year? Light a candle and contemplate this tonight.

Wishing you a blessed Yuletide!


As the lights dim I rest my tired body on the floor, laying flat on my back with my arms and legs gently spread. “Turn your awareness to your breath – noticing the inhalation, the retention, the exhalation, and the retention again. Focus on the retention of the breath, dwelling in that gap between the inhalation and exhalation. This is the Kumbhaka.”

I have been practicing Iyengar yoga with Tony Eason for close to six months now, and dwelling in the gap, the Kumbhaka, has become something I look forward to. Not just at the end of class, nor just during class, but all the time – whenever I am conscious of my breath. It is in this place that I find serenity and peace of mind, body and spirit.

Now hold that thought, and travel back with me a few weeks to a lecture I heard called, “A TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) Diagnosis of Earth: Correlations between the Microcosm of the Human Body and the Macrocosm of the Earth Body.” The lecturer (Max Salamander, student of TCM and Integral Ecology) mapped the TCM principles of dis-ease onto our planet and proposed a diagnosis. She also briefly mentioned the rise and fall of oxygen and carbon dioxide levels through out the year.

I was quite intrigued by the whole idea, but one concept that struck me most was considering the planet as a breathing being. I immediately thought of the Kumbhaka and wondered when the Earth’s “inhalation” peak and “exhalation” base were. I wondered if they corresponded to the Solstices, as these are peaks of the seasons and cycles of the sun.

I learned that there are two scientists (Tyler Volk, Ph.D. of NYU, and Stephan Harding of Schumacher College, UK) who have been studying this idea of the Earth as a breathing entity, and how it relates to life on Earth. According to Volk, they occur closer to  the Equinoxes, in May and September. This makes sense, as it relates to the growing and dying of oxygen producing plants during the year.

So even though this “Kumbhaka of the Earth” does not correlate to the Solstices, we humans still organize our seasons and harvest celebrations around the cycles of the sun. I like the idea of using the Solstices as a time to “dwell in the gap” between two cycles. The winter Solstice is an especially potent time to pause, as we sit in the empty darkness and contemplate our year. May we all find peace on this, the longest night of the year.

– Nick Venegoni, M.A.

This time of year can be difficult for some: the nights are long and our moods may darken, or the bustle of the holidays can be stressful on the mind and body. But the winter can be a wonderful time for reflection and introspection.

This is a drop-in class to learn skills for reducing stress, anxiety, depression and anger during challenging times in your life.

$5-10 suggested donation: no one turned away.

Thursday, December 15th @ 7PM – 8PM

The MCC – in the Castro
150 Eureka Street, between 18th & 19th Streets
San Francisco, California 94114

This Thanksgiving I am grateful for the wisdom of the Native Americans and all the rich culture they have sustained despite their suppression throughout the years. Here is one of my favorite Native musicians, R. Carlos Nakai.

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We are approaching the winter season, the quiet time of year. At least, the natural world is quieting down. Bears go into hibernation, birds fly south, people stay inside more, rivers and streams flow less vigorously. Walking outside on a crisp winter morning it’s easy to hear your breath and the crunch of your feet on the frosty ground. This quiet allows us to hear more of what we don’t normally pay much attention to.

As I mentioned in my seasonal reflection on Samhain, in this darkening time of year we reflect on our ancestors. Perhaps we may even remember what their voice sounded like, or perhaps a favorite song. One tradition at Samhain is to have a “Dumb” supper – a dinner in silence. Celebrants may make a dish which reminds them of an ancestor and sit in silence to honor and remember them. What do you hear as you taste and smell this food, remembering your loved ones? Can you hear them singing and whispering from the great beyond?

At a conference I attended last year, I went to workshop by Ivo Dominguez Jr., author and ritualist. He taught us how to listen with the ears behind our ears, our auric or psychic ears (much in the same way one may see with their “third eye”). He taught us a chant which we sang to build up the energy in the room, and then we stopped and just listened. And there was something there! It was palpable, this remnant and echo of our chant. It makes sense if we think about what the physiological act of hearing is. The mechanics of our ear and drum are being vibrated by sound waves and the brain interprets it as a sound. But do those waves ever really totally stop? (I do a mindfulness practice, where I ring a bell and try to hear when it stops.) And how does our brain translate or make sense of something we have not been taught? Was that a voice, or just the wind?

Pauline Oliveros is a composer and performer who has been studying music and sound for over four decades. She developed a practice and philosophy called Deep Listening. It “distinguishes the difference between the involuntary nature of hearing and the voluntary selective nature of listening. The result of the practice cultivates appreciation of sounds on a heightened level, expanding the potential for connection and interaction with one’s environment…”

So as the natural world begins to cool and quiet and slow down, I invite you to listen. To hear what you usually cannot – the softest breeze, the voice of an ancestor, the longing of your hearts desire, or the song of your soul.

– Nick Venegoni, M.A.