Let’s Choose Love

By Pierre Zimmerman, M.S.

February usually reminds us of cold days and nights, school vacations to warm far away places for some, stuffy noses and red cheeks for those who stay here, and Valentine’s Day celebrations with roses and delicious chocolate. This winter season so far has missed the mark for whiteouts in our area bringing joy to some and disappointment to others. This heart image-2might change by the end of February, as the weather is just as unpredictable as everything else: the economy, gas prices, job security, health narratives and romantic love. Beacons of certainty are hard to come by.

No matter what change affects us in the short run or long run, how we relate to it always gives us the option to look at things with an open mind and heart. So I say let’s choose love, reigniting the embers of the smoldering fire within us, being kind to ourselves, loving others with all their differences and diversity.

We are hard wired to be kind, and we long for connection and intimate affection. We are born with a strong biological predisposition for caring. Positive emotions like love, joy and playfulness are beneficial to our health and strengthen our immune system because our well being depends on our inner happiness, not just on external things. Our usual menu of worries, frustrations, hopes and fears keep us focused on petty concerns. Selflessness, kind wishes and altruistic acts, large or small are antidotes to loneliness. When we offer non-biased compassion and realize our shared humanity, we too benefit from feeling love and contentment.


Pierre Zimmerman is Director of One Big Roof, Center for Mindful Practices and teaches in our Saratoga Stress Reduction Program.

A Mindset for the New Year – by Janet & James Orzano

We have so much gratitude for having had the opportunity to share our spiritual path with you, and we hope that you begin this year with the intention to go deeper into your spiritual life and explore the possibilities that lie before you. That intention can be energized by developing a mindset that focuses on growth and change rather than avoidance and complacency.

We have been working with an amazing book, Mindset, by Carol S. Dweck, PhD, that we highly recommend. It provides a perspective and clarity that can help usher in accelerated growth, personal evolution and revolution.Mindset

The research presented in Mindset documents the effectiveness of a growth state of mind, among many other things. According to this theory, we all come from either a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. A growth mindset leads to exploration, creativity and change, while a fixed mindset keeps us where we are.

The theory presented in this book has illuminated the struggle we all face to make changes on a mind, body, or spiritual level. We hope that you choose a mindset that is grounded in spirit and allows you to share your beautiful gifts with a world that sorely needs them.

Janet Orzano & James Orzano are Reiki Master Practitioners at One Roof and Reiki Teachers. James also offers Intuitive Readings, which explore self-awareness and discovery.

Finding Peace Of Mind in Challenging Times


By Pierre Zimmerman, M.S.
In the face of hate, ignorance and cruelty we can build stronger communities of service and compassion with small acts of kindness toward each other, realizing how precious this rare Pierre Zimmerman Director One Big Rooflife of ours is. We can see the gifts and skills of people, rather than their shortcomings; experience more spaciousness in our views of others; let go of solid opinions and sense the inherent goodness that lies at the heart of our diverse circles of being. We can give fearlessness by eliminating our habitual, unwholesome thoughts and planting seeds of kindness, looking upon others with soft eyes and suspending hateful narratives and judgments.
A Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson about how he felt about the tragedy of September 11th. He said, “I feel as I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is vengeful, angry and violent. The other is loving, forgiving, compassionate.”
The grandson asked him, “Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?”
Grandfather responded: “The one I feed.”
Wishing you all a New Year filled with peace and loving kindness,  Pierre
A full article by Pierre appears in the January 2016 issue of Natural Awakenings magazine at this link

“On Gifting” by Pierre Zimmerman, M.S.

To privately delight in your own way during this month of gifting, try offering the free gifts of patience, presence (without multi-tasking), unconditional love (by dropping agendas) and spending time in the community of family and friends, as well as people in need.

My gift to you is this beautiful Buddhist story:

Indra, king of the gods, once asked his royal architect to create an appropriate monument to his greatness. The architect created an immense net that extended through space and time. At each point of the net that the threads crossed, a priceless jewel was placed. The jewels were infinite in number.

If we were to arbitrarily select one of the jewels for inspection and look at it closely, we would discover that it is polished. Every surface reflects all the other jewels, infinite in number, in the net. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that the process of reflection is infinite.

Indra’s Net is the infinitely repeated interrelationship among all the phenomena of the universe. As every jewel is intimately related with all other jewels, a change in one jewel means another change, however slight, in every other jewel. This is the story of interdependence.

Happy holidays to all!  Pierre



Dr. Selma Nemer’s New Adventure: Guardians of the Treasure!

Dr. Selma Nemer & Gabrielle Nemer co-author a new adventure titled, Guardians of the Treasure…

Clinical psychologist and owner/director of One Roof, Dr. Selma Nemer, and her granddaughter Gabrielle, a middle school student, are thrilled to share with you an exciting fantasy-mystery tale, Guardians of the Treasure, available now from Amazon or locally at Northshire Books.

Guardians-Nemer2015As dark forces are trying to take over the world, best friends Chrystal and Stephine stumble upon a mystery in a small historic town, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. They inadvertently discover a treasure, woven into their ancestry, and must learn to unlock its secrets, to be used against these dark forces before it’s too late. 

Dr. Selma will sign copies locally on Dec. 3rd during the Victorian Streetwalk at Northshire Books on Broadway in Saratoga Springs beginning at 5pm; a perfect chance to have Dr. Selma inscribe a special message to a special young person on your holiday list! A group of local authors will be available during the festivities in the Children’s Room.

We hope you’ll join in courageously unraveling the secrets of the treasure!

Dr. Nemer is also author of The Beheaded Goddess: Daughters of Narcissistic Fathers, available from Amazon.

How can we keep kids calm & resilient?

By Rachel Alderman, LCSW.

Most of us have been there: a young child is laughing gleefully, having the time of their life, and then a moment later, is sobbing after the utterance of a simple word (homework, bedtime, or the dreaded, no). Yes, there may be some dramatics involved, however, this is greatly a function of brain maturity.

cryingMost of us come equipped with parts of the brain that are necessary for survival. Of particular note is a small part called the amygdala, which is in charge of sensing and reacting to threats of danger. In contrast, the prefrontal cortex (PFC), the part of the brain that acts to regulate mood, emotions and motivation does not fully develop until our early twenties. Throughout the day, the amygdala and PFC communicate with one another. The amygdala senses something is up (an unexpected noise, an unfriendly look, a difficult problem) and checks in with the PFC to inform it of a potential threat, and then lets the PFC decide how to interpret and react to this information.

There are some occasions in which the threat is interpreted by the amygdala as too great to waste time on logic and planning and the amygdala reacts on its own (fight, flight or freeze reaction). There are occasions when this survival reaction is highly important. However, in young brains, the communication between these two structures can be very tentative, and the ability for the brain to use logic and perspective under stress is minimal. Events that the adult brain sees as no big deal cause a reaction of monumental proportions in the younger crowd. Many parents attribute meltdowns to defiance, being uncooperative, tired or “out of sorts”. However, to children, the dreaded words listed above can conjure up fear of failure, fear of the dark, or feeling overwhelmed. These are interpreted as real threats and are experienced at a visceral level.

In practicing mindfulness, we focus on not letting our thoughts interfere with what we want to pay attention to. The process of recognizing thoughts without reacting to them and then returning our attention back to what we want to be experiencing, actually exercises our brain’s ability to be more aware of what sets us off and allows time to avoid immediately engaging in illogical reactions. As mindfulness is practiced, neurons are actually added to the communication pathway between the amygdala and the PFC, leading to observable changes in these structures.

With this physical growth, conscious effort in practice leads to lasting changes in the brain’s ability to react to worries or adversity without becoming overwhelmed and engaging in behavior that usually makes the situation more difficult for everyone. Mindfulness is not only a great way to teach children self-calming skills and increase feelings of joy and compassion, it also gives kids a real boost in emotional maturity that will have benefits of resiliency for years to come.

Rachel Alderman is an LCSW who will be joining the staff at One Roof on July 1st. Welcome Rachel!


What is Trauma Sensitive Yoga?

Trauma Sensitive Yoga
By Patricia S. Farrell LCSW-R, RYT

Yoga means to yoke or union, union of the mind, body and spirit. Healing on a psychological and emotional level is often about union in the mind between past present and future. So there seems a natural connection between the two. When one survives a trauma they are often still struggling to live in the present and not in the past. Often the brain continues to interpret traumatic events as if they are still happening or might happen again at any moment and the systems in the body respond by holding on to tension.

Trauma sensitive yoga draws on theory from neuroscience, trauma theory and attachment theory. The goals of yoga are to assist trauma survivors to develop more comfort in their body, improve self-regulation skills and to find a sense of choice in their experience.

These goals are achieved byyoga icon

–       practicing making choices
–       emphasizing the present moment experience
–       offering opportunities to take effective action
–       creating rhythms (time, interpersonal and intrapersonal)
–       focusing on spatial orientation and sensing dynamics

Trauma Sensitive Yoga helps to improve interoceptive awareness (knowing what one feels), increase empowerment and decrease many physical responses to trauma.

Patricia S. Farrell, a licensed social worker and registered yoga instructor, will offer an 8-week Trauma Sensitive Yoga Group at One Big Roof beginning February 23rd.

What is Spiritual Courage?

Spiritual Courage, by Dr. Lisa Dungate & Jennifer Armstrong,
an excerpt from their blog Lion’s Whiskers

“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”— His Holiness the Dalai Lama

“Here is a test to find whether your purpose in life is finished: if you are alive, it isn’t.”— Richard Bach

Spiritual courage fortifies us as we ask questions about purpose and meaning. Of course many people find the foundations of this courage in an organized religion, but there are also other ways to develop spiritual courage. Spiritual courage means being available to the deepest questions about why we are here, what is my life for, do I have a purpose?  These are profound existential questions and can be quite frightening, which suggests why fundamentalism of all kinds can gain mastery over us; thus we yearn for definite answers to these questions and are attracted to ideologies that offer resolution to our uncertainty.  Spiritual courage means accepting that you are unlikely to find the answers, but asking them anyway. We all must call upon our spiritual courage when we consider our own mortality. Spiritual courage means opening ourselves up to our own vulnerability and the mysteries of life.Spiritual courage allows us to encounter people of different religious faiths and spiritual traditions without judgment. Remember the photos from the Egyptian revolution earlier this year, when Christians made a protective cordon around Muslims during prayer? That looks like spiritual courage to us.
This video from TED.com is Matthieu Ricard, sometimes called “The Happiest Man in the World.”  It is about 20 minutes long and we encourage you to take the time to view it!

Spiritual courage looks like:
  • attending religious festivals and listening to stories from faith traditions other than your own
  • talking with children openly and honestly about death
  • having friendships with people from faith traditions other than your own
  • for parents, making sure you have written a will, arranged legal guardianship for your children in the event of your death, as well as writing advance directives for medical emergencies
  • giving your children the option to pursue a religious practice or attend a youth group, even if you don’t attend or practice regularly
  • making time to pray, meditate, or do charitable work
  • holding a funeral for a pet
  • letting go of the need to control everything in life
  • reaching out in times of need and asking for help—discovering that there are, in fact, lots of resources in your community
  • building meaningful rituals into your daily life, such as quiet contemplation with a cup of tea, or a walk in the woods with your kids

LACK of spiritual courage looks like:

  • making judgments based on the religious identification of others
  • refusing to try attending a religious service even when your child invites you or expresses interest in religion
  • refusing to attend someone’s wedding, funeral or other rite of passage because of religious intolerance
  • unwilling to question your strongly-held beliefs
  • unwilling to plan for your own death
  • not respecting the wishes of a loved one who is faced with a life-threatening diagnosis
  • unwilling to accept that spirituality can exist outside the walls of a religious institution
  • unwilling to make a values inventory
  • not walking the talk
  • lack of respect for others, their beliefs, their culture, and the environment

Spiritual courage sounds like:

  • “May I go to your church/temple/mosque with you some time?”
  • “What do you believe?”
  • “That’s not a belief I’m familiar with.  Can you tell me more about that?”
  • “I have questions.”
  • “I want to make a difference with my life.”
  • “What happens to us after we die, Mommy?”
  • “Can I say grace tonight, Dad?”
  • “I’m grateful for ___________.”
  • “Before I die, I want to __________.”
  • “Let’s talk about who we’d like to raise our kids if we die whilst they are still young.”

LACK of spiritual courage sounds like:

  • “What difference does it make anyway?”
  • “They are evil.”
  • “Don’t think about such morbid things!”
  • “All religions breed fanatics!!”
  • “Religion in the opiate of the masses.”
  • “You really believe that stuff?”
  • “Sounds like some kind of a cult!”
  • “I can’t talk to you about that because you’re not a member of my church/mosque/synagogue.”
  • “I did it in the name of ___________”
  • “I give up.”

Grab Some Lion’s Whiskers!
Here are some tips for developing spiritual courage for you and your kids:

  • read stories from all world religions and encourage your children to ask questions and find similarities from one culture to another
  • read at least a bit of the Koran, the Bible, Talmudic teachings, Buddhist teachings, etc.
  • if you’ve never been to a Passover seder, ask a Jewish friend to include you next time; if you’ve never been to a baptism, ask a Christian friend to include you; by connecting respectfully with friends from faiths other than your own, you encourage them and yourself
  • ask the important questions before it’s too late!
  • surround yourself and your children with beauty
  • take a walk in nature; wake up early enough to catch a sunrise; on a night walk, stop and simply stare at the stars; take a deep breath in the open air
  • hang famous and not so famous artwork—especially your children’s, and not just on the fridge
  • play Classical as well as Top 40 music
  • stop and smell the flowers
  • try a yoga class—even see if there is one for kids in your community
  • investigate “alternative” spiritual practices such as meditation or sweat lodge with an open mind
  • work in the garden together, it’s a wonderful way to experience the circle of life

How Do I Develop Resilience?

Developing & Practicing Resilience by Pierre Zimmerman, MS

Resilience is the ability to face life’s challenges, small or seemingly overwhelming, surprising or habitual. With it we can experience what we might label victories, an
d when we lack resilience, we might end up having meltdowns or setbacks. Some people recover quickly from adversity; others become crippled by it, and some spiral into deep depression. As we approach the end of another year, it is the perfect time to reflect on this subject.

The capacities to bounce back, resurface, and integrate our experiences and then move on are innate and possible, yet difficult. To be resilient requires of us several qualities such as awareness, pausing to reflect, flexibility, stability, and adaptability. We can use the five elements that are part of our bodies and the larger universe to illustrate these important themes:

The earth element of stability and firmness,
The water element of fluidity,
The fire element of adjustable temperatures,
The air element of mobility, and
The space element of boundlessness.

Impermanence is real and not just a thought, everything is changing in our internal and external life constantly. Once we come to terms with it, our responses to change give us numerous probabilities of what can occur and unlimited opportunities to respond to them. We have neuroplasticity in the brain, which has the capacity to rewire itself and grow numerous connections, new pathways and circuits. Activating resilience means choosing experiences that will cause neurons to fire and wire together, creating new patterns in the brain and new attitudes in our mental and emotional world.

We need to face whatever creates suffering and discomfort; it is necessary and it’s called coping. Thoughts and feelings cannot destroy us; they may weaken our outlook slightly, and that is, only if we let them. We need to pause and stay calm, letting what needs to emerge surface, which in turn will bring clarity as to the beneficial choices we can make.

This doesn’t indicate that we are unfeeling or emotionally walled off, but neither are we getting drawn into an abyss. Mindfulness of the breath and cognitive reappraising of any distressing event helps us to reframe adversity in such a way that it is not perceived as extreme. Rather than viewing an event as a mistake, experiencing shame, guilt, or inadequacy, we can look at it as an anomaly that could happen to anyone and thereby challenging the accuracy of our thoughts. The most important thing to realize is that a thought, feeling or sensation is not the totality of who we are in any given moment.

We can use the following three-part contemplation to resource ourselves and retrain the wiring of our brain. (From Rick Hanson, PhD)
1 )  I am safe
2 ) I am well resourced, I have what I need or I can ask for what I need
3 ) I am connected, I am not alone

This three-part exercise helps us become more resilient. By repeating this contemplation a few times each day, it enhances our capabilities to retrain our nervous system and go back to a homeostatic and more balanced baseline. Cultivating empathy for oneself and others is a great antidote for recovery from distress or emotional dis-regulation. These new choices will bring us healthier connections and new resourcefulness which will support us in feeling more competent and give us renewed courage to face what is, rather than avoid it.

NOTE: This article was recently published by jessie riley in the January 2015 issue of Clifton Park Living Magazine, pg. 11, please View the attached


What is Embodyoga?

What is Embodyoga ® by Anna Witt

Practicing Embodyoga is to enter the body-mind fully with clarity of awareness, self-acceptance, compassion, and awe. It enables you to rediscover yourself and align yourAnna Witt Embodyoga consciousness with a much higher, wiser, and peaceful expression of self. Embodyoga is an evolving tapestry, woven from the deeply healing, therapeutic, and spiritual essence of yoga and cutting edge studies in the field of body-mind and consciousness.

Embodyoga classes and private sessions are appropriate for beginners to advanced practitioners. Each student is gently empowered and supported to move in accordance with his or her own abilities, creating space for personal observation and learning.

Each session is developed around your personal needs and focus, such as:
– Movement re-education following injury or surgery
– Healing trauma
– Maintaining health with specific focus
– Restoration for balancing stress
– Regaining strength, balance, coordination
– The joy of movement, breath, and meditation in movement
– Increase in gaining self-awareness, compassion and peace of mind

Anna Witt, E-RYT-500, is a passionate Embodyoga® teacher and certified Body Mind Centering® practitioner, RMT. Known for her inspirational teaching style and her innovative method for bridging the gap between ancient yoga wisdom and the cutting edge of body-mind and consciousness, she has been working with individual clients for over 15 years. For a complete schedule of Embodyoga classes and Anna’s contact info see the One Big Roof yoga schedule.