Baruch Zeichner: “Being thankful, grateful, is a vulnerable state, like being sorry, apologizing”

Being thankful, grateful, is a vulnerable state, like being sorry, apologizing. It’s not necessarily comfortable, especially when it’s a new practice. The more, however, one practices gratitude, the more accessible it can become. As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the Pandemic, in our post […]

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Being thankful, grateful, is a vulnerable state, like being sorry, apologizing. It’s not necessarily comfortable, especially when it’s a new practice. The more, however, one practices gratitude, the more accessible it can become.

As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the Pandemic, in our post COVID world, we are also experiencing what some have called a “mental health pandemic”.

What can each of us do to get out of this “Pandemic Induced Mental and Emotional Funk”?

One tool that each of us has access to is the simple power of daily gratitude. As a part of our series about the “How Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Baruch Zeichner.

Baruch Zeichner has been a practicing licensed therapist since the 80s. He is trained in a variety of therapy modalities including talk therapy, creative therapy, body-centered therapy, cognitive therapy, and hypnosis. Zeichner currently has a very busy teletherapy practice. The counselor holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Education from Goddard College and a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Antioch New England. He has practiced Psychotherapy, Massage Therapy, and Body Oriented Psychotherapy for over 30 years and has taught at various colleges; psychology, massage, human sexuality. In 2013, Zeichner moved to San Francisco to help start a group home for people with Traumatic Brain Injury, PTSD, and addiction. He then settled in Central Oregon in 2015. In 2019, he resumed practicing psychotherapy remotely.

Zeichner created Talk with the Counselor in 2021 to provide an open source for people listen to others dealing with issues, similar to theirs or not so similar, in an effort to bring mental health to the forefront of our daily practice, wellness and lifestyles. In addition to being available for listeners on WBKM and on the show’s website, Talk with the Counselor will be posted on other digital platforms.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about you and about what brought you to your specific career path?

My family was very intellectual and psychologically minded. My father was a psychologist, so that kind of mental focus was present, but what really put me on this path is that when I was 17 I broke my neck body surfing on the north shore of Kauai. It was a compression fracture and I was very fortunate that my spinal cord was not involved, but it left me in a lot of pain for many years. Not long after that happened I started college and I was hurting so I went to a chiropractor because I heard they fix painful necks. That treatment was not successful but it did lead me to pursue bodywork as a practitioner. I went to Massage School so I could learn how to help bodies feel better, including my own. I soon realized, however, that working only with the body was not enough, so I sought out training in psychology. Long story short, that led to me becoming a psychotherapist and bodyworker, and to combining those modalities. This back in the 1980’s when it was uncommon for those modes to be combined. Fast forward to 1999 I was looking for something fun and ended up DJing on a local radio station as a once a week side gig. These paths are now converging with Talk with the Counselor.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

This is not directly connected with my career, because it actually happened while I was on sabbatical, traveling across Canada in a pickup truck with a pop-up camper accompanied by a dog and a cat. But, it’s a good story! I had been camping in BC in the Slocan Valley, and it was time to move on and I had no idea where to go next so I got out a map of British Columbia and closed my eyes and pointed. My finger landed in Chilko Lake. I’d never heard of it, but it came to my mind immediately that there was a gathering of elders happening there. I didn’t think I was going to attend or anything it was just a little piece of information that entered my brain. I decided to go to Chalk Lake! We headed north, through the Chilcotin, up towards Williams Lake (which is a town) then headed west towards Chilko. Along the way I picked up a hitchhiker, a native guy, probably in his 30’s. He told me he was headed to a place to pick morels, that there was an area abundant with the fungi, and that one could make good money, and did I want to go? I said no thanks, that I was headed to Chilko Lake, did he know it? He told me yes, and I asked if there was a gathering of elders happening and he said “Yes but you can’t go.” I explained the map story, and he was like “Ok, that’s interesting.” Anyway I took him to where he was going and dropped him off. I stopped to get gas and there were these 2 kids, 8 and 10 maybe, sister and brother, who saw Chloe the siamese cat in my truck and I told them her name they got very excited. When their mother came out of the store the told her excitedly how her name was Chloe. Apparently they had a siamese cat, same slight build, named Chloe.

I share these elements of the story because this was all so affirming about my choice to go to Chilko Lake, and how that choice was made. I did spend a few weeks camping by the lake and it changed me profoundly, but that is another story.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why do you think that resonates with you? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

I don’t have a favorite life lesson quote.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?

One of my favorite books is “’Til We Have Faces” by C.S. Lewis. It’s the story of a life’s journey, from childhood to death. It’s the retelling of an ancient myth, told in the first person, which allows the reader to witness and feel the life, and to learn along with the protagonist.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

My newest project is the call-in radio show Talk with the Counselor. This is a radio program/podcast that invites people to call and talk with me for 10–15 minutes about a concern. During the call they share and I respond with questions and ideas that may help. This is helpful to the callers, and also to listeners who might identify with something a caller is dealing with, or who might be inspired to call in themselves and work on an issue. My hope is that these calls serve as jumping-off points for callers who can take our conversation and go further with it to the benefit of themselves and those around them.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There have been many people in my life who have significantly contributed to my learning, and to my life. It’s odd to try to pick one out so instead I am going to name just two. The first that comes to mind is Dr. Elisabeth Forsberg. Elisabeth was a mentor of mine in the first half of the 1980s. She died in the middle of that decade but I had 5 years of her quirky, brilliant, sometimes harsh, guidance. She was a Psychiatrist and a Neurologist, originally from Bavaria, a member of the Resistance during WWII, she met both Freud and Jung, her mother was a Countess and she had a great grand ancestor who was Jew, so her family was not favored by the Nazis. Elisabeth taught me about movement and working with movement in therapy.

Another significant person in my life was my friend Madelin. We were friends from 1969 to 2001 when she died. Madelin was smart and quick, and she was exceptionally kind. Our friendship ran through a lot of changes in both of our lives. Sometimes we were closer, sometimes we lived far apart, but the connection was strong and she was inspiring in her absolute dedication to help. Madelin ran a group home for teenagers, was a Nurses Aid in a retirement home, loved animals, and I still learn from her.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now that we are on the topic of gratitude, let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. We would like to explore together how every one of us can use gratitude to improve our mental wellness. Let’s start with a basic definition of terms. How do you define the concept of Gratitude? Can you explain what you mean?

Gratitude and appreciation are close kin, in my mind. Appreciation is how I love, enjoy, be curious, feel, about a person, place, or experience, even an object. Gratitude is the feeling and act of being thankful for that which I appreciate. Appreciation is more of a “being ness” state while gratitude is an action, thanking, acknowledging, expressing.

Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?

Being thankful, grateful, is a vulnerable state, like being sorry, apologizing. It’s not necessarily comfortable, especially when it’s a new practice. The more, however, one practices gratitude, the more accessible it can become.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be constructive to help spell it out. Can you share with us a few ways that increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our life?

Gratitude, gratefulness, as a choice, can be both humbling and enriching. Humbling because, as I said, it’s a vulnerable position to be in, to be thankful. Enriching because the more we embrace our ordinariness, the more we see ourselves as part of the whole, interconnected, not in some groupthink but as a contributing member to the common good, the more fulfilling life can be.

Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?

We are each the center of our own story, and because of that it can seem that what’s happening in our lives is bigger than it actually is to the rest of the world. Having perspective about oneself as a part of a larger thing, humanity, seeing oneself as a cell in the body, and yet as an individual, helps me to appreciate the whole and my being part of it, while also charting my own path, at least somewhat. That awareness contributes to my wellness, including my mental health.

Now here is the main question of our discussion. From your experience or research, what are “Five Ways That Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”. Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Take time to look at your life, to witness your own path and to acknowledge the gifts and teachers along the way, even the painful ones.
  2. Listen to other people tell stories about their lives.
  3. Witness natural beauty, the Earth, life.
  4. Create something, whether it’s art or music or food or an idea, create.
  5. Remember that consciousness is a mystery, and that means you are part of a great mystery.

Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?

Remembering that all things pass, including painful feelings, is very useful. Remembering that this moment is just one of many, that your life is unfolding, that this moment does not have to define everything that comes after.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?

Shameless self promotion; my radio show/podcast Paradigms is all about inspiration and creativity. Creative people tend to be pretty grateful, in my experience. The interviews on Paradigms can attest to that.

I find inspiration in fiction. Here are two book titles: Ingathering by Zenna Henderson, and The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk. Both of these books take the reader through some changes in terms of how we think about each other, and possibilities for making things better.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would encourage everyone who has more than they need to make a regular practice of sharing with those who have less than they need.

I’d also like to make it an absolute taboo for anyone to sexually assault anyone. It should be so beyond the pale that no one ever does it.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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