Joy Ignites Success

Getting Your Head on Straight

By  - Wednesday, March 08, 2017

This morning, during my dance party (yup, dance party for one in my living room),  I was throwing my body and arms and head around, and found myself thinking that I was in the process of getting my head on straight so I could continue my writing. The importance of getting one’s head on straight (also known as getting your shit together), cannot be over emphasized. Our experience of the world is a direct result of how we see and interpret the circumstances of life. Think about it, when you are in a lousy mood, the world pretty much sucks. The reverse is also true, when feeling good about yourself, it’s easier to see the world from a kinder, gentler place, which results in more joy for you.
If we examine this expression from a body perspective, we can get very literal. Your head could be tilted to one side or another, or could be jutting forward (in yoga, known as forward head posture (fhp)) or even pulling back (pretty rare in our society). FHP is particularly common, thanks to computers, cell phones and devices that we tend to lean into when using.
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My Thoughts are Enough Thanks

By  - Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Do you ever find yourself questioning how you should think or act based on what others might think? If you’re like the rest of us, the answer is likely yes. But is this wise? Is it effective?
There are multiple problems inherent in this behavior. The first glaring issue is that no matter how well you know someone, you are still just guessing what they will think. The deeper complication is that you are attempting to access the wisdom (or lack thereof) of another, rather than tuning in to what you know to be true for yourself.
This behavior eats away at confidence and self-esteem. Read More

Washing the Dishes as an Act of Self-Care

By  - Thursday, February 09, 2017

At the time of this writing, I am on a mini retreat of my own. I find that taking myself out of my normal routine and environment is most conducive to a productive writing experience. The act itself is a monumental act of self-care. Being willing to leave the day-to-day running of the clinic and household to my husband is no small task. The ego self likes to believe things will fall apart without my presence for a day. The wiser part of me knows this is a lie and that taking care of self is indeed the most important act for well-being. And individual well-being is the foundation for relationship, community and world well-being. We build outwards from where we stand. If standing on shaking ground (which results from a lack of self-care), we cannot build the world we wish to live in.
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2017-The Year of the Pause

By  - Tuesday, January 24, 2017

I recently completed reading the entire text of A Course in Miracles. This was a huge task and one I had set a goal of completing by the end of 2016. A bit out of character, but I completed it. The next task was to read the Manual for Teachers. On January 1, when I opened the book, I immediately felt some resistance. And a deeper voice, saying “not yet”. On exploring this, I starting pondering how quickly we jump from one thing to the next and specifically, from one year to another. I realized that as much as I was ready to be done with 2016, I was not yet ready for 2017. Like the pause between the exhalation of breath that comes before the next inhalation, I needed a pause between years. Read More

OH NO. I am becoming just like my mom.

By  - Thursday, September 08, 2016

Are you afraid of becoming your mother?


I have heard that the fear of public speaking trumps the fear of death (not true for me, but still…). In my experience, for women, what trumps both is the fear of becoming our mother.
I know I had this fear for the first thirty years of my life. It still pops up when I look in the mirror and see her face looking back at me. For the most part, the fear left in one miraculous moment when my mother was yelling at the neighbor kids for playing in the alley. In that one moment, I got it. I was not my mother. And would probably never be her. The freedom I felt in that recognition was monumental.
At a retreat with Hale Dwoskin, in Sedona, some years ago, he made this comment: Your parents are the building blocks for all your suffering- you are either tying to be just like them, or nothing like them, and neither way is free.
When we consciously or unconsciously living in fear of becoming mom (or dad), we are living in resistance. You’ve probably heard the expression “what you resist, persist”, which means in all the trying not to become mom, you become more like mom.
So, what do you do if the fear is real?
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What would happen without an opinion?

By  - Tuesday, August 02, 2016


If you stop to notice, you might realize that most of your feelings of upset are related to having an opinion about what is right and wrong or good and bad. But what if you didn’t have an opinion? (The verse “I wonder if you can” from John Lennon’s Imagine comes to mind.) What would not having an opinion be like? And do you believe not having an opinion is wrong? In other words, do you have an opinion about not having an opinion?

We have layers of beliefs about our beliefs. But, what if, even for just a moment, you could rest beyond beliefs? What if you could recognize that all your beliefs are based on the past and on limited information? What then?   
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Break the habit of looking for happiness

By  - Wednesday, July 06, 2016

What do I really want? (and how can I get it?)


“I need, I want” are mantras for most living in this century. Almost nobody would say they don’t want more of something and less of something else. But most of our wants are at the surface level. It’s rare that we stop and ask questions such as, “If I had more money, what would that give me?”  “If my boss were nicer, how would that affect me?”
Most of the time, when we drill down far enough, the answer to all the questions is the same. If I had more money, I would be happier. If my boss were kind, I’d feel safe and have more peace. If my husband would bring me a present, I would feel joyful.  We all ultimately want peace, joy, love, happiness.
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I Could Choose Peace Instead of This

By  - Thursday, March 24, 2016



Many, many years ago, while I was still single and living in NYC, I read Gerald Jampolsky’s book, Say Good-Bye to Guilt. Of the many brilliant things he wrote about, one piece I chose to work with at that time was the 34th lesson from A Course in Miracles “I could see peace instead of this”. Somehow in my mind, I had translated the word see to choose, but I don’t think it had an effect on how I worked with the lesson. Over 30 years later, I still find this to be one of my most useful lessons.
What the lesson tells us is that peace is always an option because it is an inside job. The ability to find peace even in the most tumultuous situations lies within. This is poignantly demonstrated in the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor who writes about psychologically overcoming even the most unbearable of situations.
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Drop the Anxiety Label

By  - Wednesday, February 24, 2016

When I am working with a client it is not uncommon for me to ask what is happening in the body (probably because I am a body-oriented psychotherapist!). All too frequently, my client responds by saying “anxiety” or “stress”.
Anxiety is a label based on a past experience.  And most of the time, not a very useful label. Sure, it’s expedient (much like the word stress), but the ability to move through a feeling or sensation is not supported by calling it something. Quite the opposite. When you say you feel anxious (or stressed) there is immediate resistance to it and a desire to have a different experience. By resisting what’s happening, you are giving it energy (what we resist, persists).
Instead, when you are experiencing what you have historically identified as anxiety, try dropping the label and see what you are aware of in this moment. What sensations are occurring? Read More

Handling Stress During the Holidays

By  - Tuesday, December 22, 2015

5 Tips for Handling Stress During the Holidays

When people see the title of my book (Stress Free in 30 Seconds) for the first time, they make jokes about alcohol and fiction or fantasy. But when people read my book, they start to recognize the multitude of ways they can quickly, easily and effortlessly let go of stress.

When you recognize that most stress is created by the internal response to outside circumstances, you can shift your focus to what you are thinking and feeling. Bringing awareness to your current experience, you will find that you do have choices. By asking yourself probing questions you can uncover what may be driving the reaction. For example, let’s say I am worrying and stressing about not finishing an article in a timely manner. If I check in with myself, I might find that I am really worried that someone might disapprove of me. Recognizing that what I really want is love and approval, I can take a breath, give myself some approval, and let go of needing it from someone else. That’s one quick way to let go. Another very easy and often over-looked tool we have is our body. When the mind is feeling anxious or stressed, the body contracts in response. If you stop what you are doing, for even 30 seconds, get up and shake or stretch your body, messages get sent to the brain that it’s okay to relax and let go.

So, your first tip is stop looking to another to give you what you are perfectly capable of giving yourself. That includes approval, gratitude, security, affection and so much more. If you know that you can meet your own needs, what comes from outside of you can just be icing on your cake. Stop waiting for Uncle Nick to appreciate the fabulous gift you gave him.

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About MSI

Melanie Smithson Institute is dedicated to enriching lives through embodied education and training; using movement, play and releasing to connect with innate wisdom and joy.  

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