June 20, 2012

Another Year Older & What do I Get? Insights, Expansion, Greater Connectivity & Enhanced Self-Awareness. ~ Shielagh Shusta-Hochberg, Ph.D.

I just celebrated my 61st birthday. Back in the day that seemed so old to me, but thankfully it’s just another year now, for the most part.

Reflecting on this past year, summer to summer, I see interesting changes in myself. Forgetting the physical because that’s another topic for a longer essay.

Here are just some of the areas where I see positive change:


I am growing more in tune with the world around me and the other sentient beings with whom I share it. Although vegan for over three years now, this past year I found myself rejecting the familiar Judeo-Christian tenet from Genesis that humankind was given dominion over all the earth and over all the animals.

I see our human obligations clearly now as including a sacred responsibility toward our fellow animals and to this fragile planet. The drift in my spiritual orientation has moved toward the Jain, Hindu and Buddhist concepts of animal welfare and the moral code of ahimsa each of these spiritual groups accepts.

Ahimsa in general means to avoid injury, to do no harm, to abstain from violence. As a vegan, ahimsa informs my decision to abstain from consuming all animal-derived food products, for in so producing these commodities, animals suffer and die awful deaths. Ahimsa in the Hindu tradition speaks of the negative karma of causing harm to another. My cherished birthday gift from my husband this year is a gorgeous statue of the Buddha, in honor of my meditating daily for the past six months.

In my spiritual realignment I returned to sitting meditation and in it have found tremendous clarity, peace and rejuvenation. I wake earlier and have more energy even on my longest and most trying days. Meditating has led me back to yoga as well, and as my healing from a leg injury continues, I am using it more. 

Technologically savvy.

Yes, this past year has brought greater use of the internet for my good and for that of my clients.

I got very involved with Twitter and the vegan community there, learning so much from my fellows on this path. Naturally I also encounter people with whom I resonate with politically, socially and on numerous other levels, as well as those from whom I recoil.

From a sensitive soul tweeting and blogging about her struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I learned of an iPhone app she uses and benefits from, and I obtained it and learned enough about how it works to recommend it to clients with PTSD, several of whom say it helps them, too.

As a result of meditating, I found several internet radio sites that provide numerous sound streams conducive to my practice. I am thus able to mask intrusive television sounds while I sit with chanting, singing bowls, new age music or nature sounds.

On one such site it is possible to mix various sounds in a single stream that customizes the experience. I am now utilizing this in my practice with clients who find the sound comforting, grounding and healing.

Because I use internet radio so much at home now, I bought an internet radio receiver so we can listen to anything without using the computer, iPhone or Kindle Fire as was necessary before we got it. Had I not been listening to internet radio and heard a commercial break inviting listeners to subscribe to its commercial-free service, I would not have known about internet radio receivers.

It is fairly small, has good sound quality, and pulls in radio stations from all over the globe, as well as some only available online, such as the one I mentioned with the mix capability. I have also learned via Twitter of an integrative and contemplative internist whose podcasts address optimal vegan health which has already helped me immensely.

I don’t wish to turn this writing into a promotion for anything, so if any readers wish for more specifics about anything I am mentioning here, please comment at the end of this page and I will respond with the details.

Career expansion.

I have been practicing psychology in private practice for about 20 years now, and my work is usually fulfilling and frequently very demanding, and at 60 I had looked ahead toward that eventual day when I would hang up my shingle and follow my tribe to sunnier climes.

Rather than contracting my professional life, this year I now see it expanding. I have opened up to new opportunities for service under the umbrella of my profession, becoming more involved in writing and now co-developing with a highly respected colleague a comprehensive curriculum for teaching other professionals about treating trauma and related disorders.

In addition, I now am writing a book as a result of doing academic writing all these years and having the tools in hand to apply to a larger work that embraces ahimsa and our collective psychological well-being.

The internet has opened academic libraries worldwide to my use as I gather papers and contact other scholars in the areas this ambitious work involves. These various collaborative and collegial interactions are so invigorating and enhance my self-awareness and personal growth.

Bringing together my realms of interest as I bring my hands together at my heart chakra, in respect for enlightenment however it finds me, I say to you, Namaste:

“I bow to you; The God in me greets the God in you; The Spirit in me meets the same Spirit in you.”

Shielagh Shusta-Hochberg, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Manhattan, New York slogging through life as we all do. I am vegan, happily married, the proud mother of one and grandmother of four, owned by a fine black cat named Daisy. I began my professional life in my forties. I bring a lot of varied life experience to my current professional practice. I studied and practiced TM in my 20s, and in 2011 I returned to my practice. I garden, cook, write, collect antique marbles, paint and draw a little, and generally love life. I have augmented my practice with the use of Tibetan bowls, guided imagery, and other contemplative interventions.

Editor: Hayley Samuelson.
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