Cissy Brady-Rogers
Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers

Tag: listen

This morning I sat down with my word for the year seeking inspiration to share. To be honest, I am not in the most self-reflective or “deep” season of my life.  I look back at past blogs in wonder. I feel so distant from the wise, reflective writer that I’ve been in the past. And that is okay! It’s just the way it is.

undivided word map

undivided word map

Two writing tools I fall back on when “nothing” seems to want to be said are word mapping and acrostics. This morning I tried both. No prizing winning essay emerged, but that’s not the point of reflective writing. It’s more about the journey than the product. It’s more about listening to my life than “landing” somewhere.

With a word map, you place your main word or idea in the middle of the page and listen for other words or phrases that arise in connection with it. Sometimes great insights come and a poem or essay emerges. Other times, like today, interesting ideas or themes unfold, but nothing more materializes.

After my word map, I turned to the acrostic method.

United with myself and all living beings.

Near to the heart of God.

Devoted to serving Love.

Integrity of body, mind and spirit.

Viewing myself and all human beings through the eyes of Love.

Intentional as to where I invest my time, energy and resources.

Dedicated to alleviating suffering.

Enduring expected frustrations, disappointments and obstacles.

Delighting always in my status as Beloved Daughter of God.

I’m grateful that there’s no one “right” way to share my life with others. And that every blog I post doesn’t need to be polished and perfect. Sometimes it’s just showing up and sharing what comes. 

If you have a “word” for year, make time to listen for wants to be known and expressed, if only to yourself. I highly recommend these two methods and would love to hear what comes as you listen to your life.

For more reflections on “words for the year” from my blogging friends, check out our blogroll. I love the way each of us does it our own way. A great example of how there is no one “right” way to share our lives with others!


A recent blog post from the Breast Cancer Action (BCA is a nonprofit advocacy group for health justice for women at risk of or living with breast cancer) reminded me why I don’t buy pink.  All the hype about “Think Pink” during October’s breast cancer awareness push is as much to benefit companies using the slogan as it is to increase awareness. Some companies claim to care about breast breast cancer yet produce, manufacture or sell products with chemicals linked to the disease. And some department stores, clothing and accessory manufactures and other companies that sell pink products donate only a small percentage of the profits to the effort. That’s why I don’t buy pink anymore. Although I once did.

This Thanksgiving I’ll be 23 years out from that horrific holiday season I spent being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. The first few years I walked or ran in “Pink” fundraisers, only to find out later that the companies organizing  the events were pulling in huge profits. I wore pink ribbons or related products, only to discover that in some cases only a minor percentage of the profits went to anything breast cancer related.

I’m grateful for awareness that allowed me and other early diagnosis patients (AKA “Bosom Buddies”) to live full and long lives post-cancer, but I’m not buying any pink products. If I want to give money to raise awareness or research I’ll give it directly to the providers.

Katy’s story reveals the subtle way companies use breast cancer to promote the very products that contain chemicals linked to to cancer. They don’t do it maliciously…at least I hope not. But, as my wise spouse often points out, corporations don’t have a soul. They have no moral compass to guide their decisions. The bottom-line is…the bottom-line. Morals and ethics are a side-note at best and most often not even a part of the conversations about how to do business.

While companies that use the “Think Pink” slogan to sell pink hats, shoes, shirts and other products may give some or all of the profits to breast cancer research and advocacy, the companies do it for their own sake as much as for those of us impacted by the disease. Certainly the decision to give breast cancer patients products full of toxic chemicals linked to the disease wasn’t done with morality or justice as the bottom-line.

Celebrating Life Together with My Bosom Buddies

Celebrating Life Together with My Bosom Buddies

I’ll be celebrating life with my bosom buddies at our annual ThanksLiving party next month. And we’ll be serving as much organic, close to nature food and drink as available. After 23 years I am still careful to eat organic and use personal care products with as few human created chemicals as possible. I’m convinced that all the pesticides in the foods I ate during puberty played a role in activating cancer. That’s why I support Breast Cancer Action’s work in the world. They focus much of their effort toward awareness of the role environmental toxins play in the onset of breast cancer – something the tradition medical industry refuses to address.

As Katy’s story exemplifies, if companies really had her welfare in mind, they’d do something other than provide free products that contain chemicals that interrupt the effectiveness of the medication she’s taking to prevent reoccurrance. And, if they really had the interests of women at risk or living with breast cancer, they’d invest all the time, money and energy spent on developing pink promotional products toward direct services for those in need rather than pocket a portion for themselves.

To join me and Breast Cancer Action in telling the Personal Care Products Council and the American Cancer Society to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals in personal care products please sign send a letter.

Thanks for joining me in this effort to stop the abuse of all the good being doing through breast cancer awareness! Let’s “Think Pink” but do so in a conscious and ethical way!



Today I’m saying YES to continuing my Lenten practice of staying in my own lane–especially with social media.

Emerging research indicates that the sense of connection afforded by social media may not be worth the price: fear of missing out, depression and social media compulsions that cause reasonable, moral people to act in ways that go against their deepest values.

My recent 10 day fast from social media confirms the finding that happier people check social media less often. I also spent more time reading and engaged with my work and relationships. No wonder I was happier. I had more mental energy to give to the people, projects and passions that are important to me.

Every time I engage social media I invite hundreds of other people’s worlds into my consciousness. Every Facebook post I scroll past registers in my mind, whether I acknowledge it or not. My brain must process and decide to by-pass ads and ignore posts that I might stop and view if I had all the time in the world…but I don’t.

Mental energy is limited. The brain uses more energy than any other organ–up to 20% of total expenditure in a given day. The seemingly small task of scrolling through posts for a few minutes, deciding which to engage and which to pass, depletes mental resources needed for more important and meaningful engagements.

Yes is a mindset, an attitude, a way of being in my life that feels the fear of missing out if I don’t check out Facebook or Instagram, then chooses to keep focused on the here-and-now of my own life.

Yes to being faithful to the present moment.

Yes to being here now.

Yes to staying in my own lane.

The sacred space of my mind needs clear boundaries around engagement with social media. I’ve known this forever. I want to stay connected with loved ones, see their kids grow and watch their pets do stupid tricks. I want to use social media for good. I don’t want to be used by or used up by social media.

What about you? What do you notice about the impact of engagement with social media on your life?

Are you using it?

Or is it using up precious energy and time that you’d prefer to invest elsewhere?





I lead a workshop on working with same-sex attraction for counseling trainees and interns at Life Pacific College last weekend. The clinicians were hungry for information and tools to help their clients cope with not just same-sex attraction, but a long list of other sexual issues.

I presented the work of psychologist Mark Yarhouse on narrative sexual identity therapy, along with some provocative thoughts from anthropologist Jenell Paris’ new book The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex is Too Important to Define Who We Are. Both teach at conservative Christian colleges where they are seeking more compassionate and helpful ways to think about and work with issues of sexuality among this very confused, ill-equipped and all-too-often guilt and shame ridden group of young adults.

Pastor Steve Smith of Malibu Presbyterian church says that from puberty to marriage students from conservative backgrounds are in sort of exile from their own sexuality — he calls it “Sex-ile.” The church tells them to “wait” until marriage, but then offers minimal resources to integrate and develop a healthy sense of their own sexuality while they wait.

A former student from Azusa Pacific University where I taught human sexuality and sex therapy for 8 years sent me a link to a story that illustrates how well intended but limited efforts to prescribe chastity as the answer for sex-ile can end up doing more harm than good. Samantha Pugsley says that she waited until her wedding night to lose her virginity and wishes she hadn’t. It’s a tragic example of the kind of outcome that I suspect will become even more common among these young people if we don’t develop alternatives.

Meanwhile, five days ago ethicist David Gushee, who’s wise counsel helped me with my decision to discontinue teaching at Azusa Pacific this past summer, stirred the pot in a big way with his speech “Ending the Teaching of Contempt against the Church’s Sexual Minorities” at the Reformation Project Conference. As expected in the heated conversation taking place about same-sex attraction in the church world, he was soon on the chopping block of those who disagreed with his presentation.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

I remain in the conversation, committed to staying open and being part of the solution. One day at a time.


Normally I spend significant time on my blogs. I edit for brevity (thanks to Dave Rogers who tells me less is more). I eliminate needless details about my personal life that don’t really support the point I want to share with my readers. But today, I mainly want to vent.

Last week I decided that after 2 1/2 years of seeing her every 6-8 weeks I’d had my last appointment with my hairstylist. It’s not so much about her skills, but more about being true to myself.

Our values about beauty are completely different. I’ve known that since my first appointment. But I figured that being “stylish” and concerned about looking just right goes with her territory. I gave her a break and joked about needing to hire her as a style consultant.

Along the way I also learned that she’s a competitive bodybuilder–a world that celebrates many of the values and behaviors that reinforce disordered relationships with food and bodies. But I decided she isn’t my client and what she does in her personal life isn’t my business. And, in the beginning she was very pleasant, gave me great cuts and was conveniently located. Moreover, when I decided to go from long to short hair a few years ago, she’s the one who took me into my new look. For that, I’m very grateful.

But as my time with her progressed, I also began to notice that when preparing for a bodybuilding show, she got especially crabby and didn’t give as good a cut. (Sometimes being a clinician trained to observe patterns in people isn’t such a good thing after all.) I also noticed that she often spoke critically of other clients or even her husband and kids.  My growing sense was that I just didn’t like or enjoy her a person. I put up with her tough, slightly caustic and sometimes negative attitude, ignored my truth and kept going back for my next cut.  All the while complaining to my husband and friends about the bad cuts, values differences and my dislike for her.

She wasn’t the problem. I was. If I were true to myself I would have broken up a long time ago.

Last week when she casually mentioned her use of Botox during my appointment and gave me a dissatisfying cut, it was the third strike.

Bad cuts on occasion are one thing. Irritability at times is understandable. But when I heard her voice her preference for Botox over Frownies in the salon conversation about the best way to deal with wrinkles, I realized I’d been compromising my values by continuing to support her business.

She’s not the problem. I am. As is always the case when it comes to relationships that aren’t working for me, I need to look at my side of the street, be completely honest with myself and take responsibility for how I’ve contributed to the problem.

My error: not listening to myself. I need to be true to myself, my values and views about authenticity, beauty, and health, and invest my time and money being with a stylist I respect and enjoy.

Fortunately, I have a number of stylists already on my list.

Now I’m wondering: how do I break up with my stylist?

I googled it and found plenty of advice. The bottom line seems to be that I’m probably more concerned about “how” than she’ll be. Clients come and go. It’s all part of doing business.

The last time I broke up with anyone was 27 years ago when my husband and I were dating. We still playfully argue over who broke up with who when sharing our story. But I remember it being fraught with tears and strong emotions. Thankfully, this break up isn’t hard to do. I just need to listen a bit further and decide what is the most equitable way to say good-bye.

I love Mary Oliver’s poem “When I am Among the Trees” so much I committed it to memory. It reminds me of who I am and what I am called to be. Like the trees, I have come into the world “to go easy, to be filled with light and to shine.”

This week has been tough. Personal and professional challenges show up to dampen my days, weigh me down. I practice gratitude, pray for help, do all the things I know to do to be well. But the clouds have hung close anyway.

I found my quiet center and a lightening of my load as I sat at my kitchen island and took a mini-retreat with my colleague Joy Malek’s  Sacred Space Retreat Kit.

when i am among the trees

She introduced me to Wendell Berry’s “I go among the trees” – reminding me that like the trees that shed leaves in the fall, stand naked through winter, and bloom again in spring, my life unfolds one day at a time and nothing lasts forever.

Both the blessings and challenges of life must be worn lightly, not clinging too tightly to the goodness nor resisting the struggles. It’s all part of the cycle of life that enables me to be filled with light and shine, even when I’m naked in the midst of winter clouds.

Joy’s kit is a series of simple reflections to create a pause in your day, go within and find your quiet center. Or, as Joy puts it, a life centered in soul. A wonderful way to pause in your busy or burdened day and “go easy, be filled with light and shine.” Even if you can’t get away to the trees, a few minutes at your kitchen table or before you check your email might be just the thing you need to lighten your load today.

Two more remarkable women stories that illustrate what it looks like to honor your own experience, discover your dreams and support others in doing the same.

Leela Lee began cartooning  “Angry Asian Girls” during her days at UC Berkley as a way to cope with stress. She’s stayed with her creative inspiration all these years, produced a video back in the late 1990’s, developed a website, produced comic books, and now has a T.V. show scheduled to launch in June.

In spite of obstacles of all sorts, she followed her dreams. Fifteen years after graduating, she’s living her dream as she raises her kids and keeps speaking her truth, even when it displeases others, like her very traditional Korean mother!

Itzel Ortega is another young woman who is faithfully fulfilling her potential amidst numerous obstacles. She was six months old when her parents crossed the border illegally–and the “illegal” status has limited her opportunities ever since.  Leticia Arreola, her former English teacher turned mentor, says her Christian faith inspired her to pay for Itzel to attend college when other money wasn’t available.

Going against the odds these women are now paying it forward by inspiring others. Check out their stories and let them inspire you.

Long term change occurs gradually through patient practice and faithful failure. Whether you’re seeking more attuned ways of eating and exercising, better communication skills with family members, or trying to change the world, patience and faithfulness will be necessary.

In writing about the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, Desmond Tutu said that the “faithful failures” and years of “unsuccessful” efforts to restore right relationships among the people of his country “nurtured the soil of godly success.”

I’ve been experimenting with different ways of organizing my schedule and “to do” lists since I began my professional life as a youth ministry intern back in 1985. I’ve had varying levels of success and failure, and days when I just wanted to give up. But, I’ve stuck with it.

Recently I’ve experienced a “breakthrough” — coming into a rhythm of productivity I’d previously only dreamed about. Today I wondered aloud to myself, “Who is this I have become? Who is this woman who moves through her day with purpose, clarity, relative ease, getting things done that align with her goals, letting go of what is incomplete, knowing she’s done what she could?”

It’s tiny, miniscule, and relatively unimportant compared to what Tutu and his brothers and sisters in South Africa achieved. Yet, in the same way that their faithful efforts brought about increased justice and peace for a nation,  my faithfulness has brought greater peace within, which impacts my husband, friends, clients, students, and everyone in my world.

For both great and small scale changes, patience and faithfulness are essential qualities needed to bring about a new way of being in our bodies and our lives.

As we say in the recovery movement, “Don’t give up before the miracle.”

Self-awareness and understanding are essential life skills. Without them, and even with them, we are prone to repeat the same unhelpful choices over and over again. In the recovery field, one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Understanding ineffective or destructive habits and patterns through self-awareness is the beginning of making new choices.

A young woman with years of therapy, in-patient hospitalization and residential treatment for her eating disorder told me that what she’d really needed all along was someone to help her understand herself and “be happy being me!”

The biblical wisdom that anchored me during my own years of disordered living spoke to this core conflict: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Years of  therapy, self-reflection and spiritual practice, along with lots of loving community, have nurtured the self-understanding I needed to be happy being myself…at least most of the time!

Self-awareness is the foundation for self-understanding. Not knowing what you feel, think, sense, want, or need, makes for a reactive rather than a responsible life.

When you aren’t attuned to feelings, you’re prone to let hurts, stress, and frustration accumulate then blow up in anger, shut down in depression, get a tension headache, or eat and drink in attempts to self-soothe.

When you aren’t attuned to sensations in your body, you’re less able to discriminate between physical hunger in your stomach and emotional distress signals from the same region.

Listening to yourself–to the sensations, feelings and thoughts that are the raw material of mental processes–enables you to take responsibility for how you respond to your experience rather than just react to whatever arises.

One of my current goals is to increase my mindful awareness in every day life. Taking simple “mindfulness moments” throughout the day has helped me decrease reactive responses (answering a text immediately just because it calls my attention) and increase my responsible choices (paying attention to clock time and planning ahead for the contingencies that inevitably arise).

Awareness of sensations, feelings and thoughts enables me to more compassionately and effectively process the dissonance that arises when I realize that I’m running late, yet again, in spite of my valiant efforts to change. When I feel the tightening in my stomach and shoulders, I take a deep breath and release the tension. When self-critical thoughts and feelings arise, I acknowledge them as part of an old story that is no longer helpful, and choose to extend forgiveness and kindness to myself.

Regular practice of mindful awareness is relatively simple. You can practice it right now. After you read the rest of these instructions, stop and check in with yourself as described here:

1.) Close your eyes and take a few long deep breaths. Breath in fully, then slowly exhale through your mouth. This activates the calming system of your body, telling everything to slow down and relax, so you can listen more carefully to your experience.

2.) Take a moment to notice any sensations in your face, neck and shoulders. Just notice whatever is there. Don’t do anything to change it. Just acknowledge whatever arises and let it be.

3.) Take a moment to notice any feelings or thoughts you’re having, either in response to this blog, or otherwise. Again, just notice and acknowledge what is.

That’s it. You don’t practice mindful awareness in order to “get a result”. You practice so that over time you can build your mindfulness muscles so they are available when you need when being on time to your appointment is important so you finish your blog and get on with your day!

Recently a young woman spoke about her vision of how she’d be in her life if she were really listening to and trusting herself. She said she’d feel more clear headed, confident, and decisive. She said she wouldn’t be afraid to speak her mind even when she anticipated significant others would disagree. She said that she’d be able to listen to others compassionately without feeling compelled to compromise her own values for the sake of pleasing them.

As she spoke she drew her hand to her heart and said, “I’d be making decisions from here and not getting lost in all the noise constantly playing different scenarios over and over again in my head.”

Amen! She’s invested a huge amount of time and energy learning to listen herself and live from her heart. At the end of our conversation she said “It’s a lot of work because it’s new. But I feel so much lighter and calmer that it’s worth the effort.”

Unbeknownst to many of us, even positive change is stressful. The necessary stress of change can be a major obstacle in moving forward in our lives. Just because you choose it and know it is in your best interest doesn’t mean you won’t feel stressed as you find more life-giving ways of living your life.

Conscious breathing is an excellent way to self-soothe when facing the stress of positive change. My friend and mentor Joan Borysenko offers a wonderful little two-minute video on how to use your breath to cope with the positive stress that comes when you’re making changes in alignment with your vision of a more abundant life.