Sometimes a Great Insight….

Was it the cumulative effect of over two years of extensively studying ADHD, or was it the clarity of his explanation? I can’t be sure. I only know that after Dr. Bill Dodson, one of our pre-eminent ADHD psychiatrists here in Denver, allowed me to read the manuscript of his soon-to-be-published book, my understanding of ADHD deepened.

The impact was like the moment when you’re learning a foreign language where you cease translating and begin thinking in the new language. Similarly, instead of seeing ADHD as an object of study, I shifted to understanding it from the inside. Since that moment, I’ve so better understood my own ADHD that my ADHD coaching has taken a great leap forward.

This shift was all the more remarkable since I had been so impressed with the clarity of instruction I was receiving from the ADD Coach Academy (ADDCA). During my training with them, no other book outside of their text added much of anything new to my growing understanding of ADHD.  I felt like I was garnering such a complete understanding of ADD that I could truly count on it providing me with professional expertise. I had no idea there could be a shift like the one tripped by reading Dr. Dodson’s book.

I would attribute much of the shift to the agreements shared between the school’s curriculum and Dr. Dodson’s view. Certainly there was simply further confidence-building in seeing the match. But I also suspect Dr.Dodson extensively explained one feature of ADD that touched me so personally that it made the difference.

He writes on page 15, “ADHD is a brain-based condition.  It is not a failure of character or will.” Epiphany! I’m not a slouch after all! Well, we certainly covered this at ADDCA, but later on Dr. Dodson went on to give this absolution from character flaw a name. Clinically it is known as Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria; basically a big word for defensiveness. He went on to elaborate at length about how this condition develops very early on as a child recognizes that he/she is not learning or responding to the world as “neurotypicals” do. On page 5 he writes:

People from the ADHD World have a hard time with self-appraisal and self-awareness.  While they can often read other people well, it is very hard for the average ADDer to know from moment to moment how they themselves are doing, what effect they are having on others, or how they feel.  Neurotypicals can misinterpret this as being callous, narcissistic, uncaring, or socially inept.  Taken together, this extreme vulnerability to the negative feedback of others and the lack of the ability to observe oneself in the moment create a witch’s brew that makes the development of a firm sense of Self even harder.  If a person cannot see what is going on in the moment, the feedback loop by which we learn is broken.  A person does not know what is wrong or in what particular way it is wrong, so they have no basis for knowing how to fix it.  Perversely, they also don‘t know what they are doing right so they can do more of it.  This is why people with ADHD nervous systems appear not to be able to learn from experience. (Emphasis mine.)

The first emphasized trait combines not just defensiveness but also a chronic sense of insecurity. The self-doubt that haunts many ADDers puts a great stress on their lives and and their defensiveness profoundly impacts their closest relationships. The second attribute, the inability to learn from experience, really illuminated for me why and how I have difficulty with administrative tasks like budgeting, and especially remembering how to do taxes every year!

These were revelatory and profoundly facilitative insights. It is surely one thing to learn of such ADHD traits and struggles by reading about them, but a whole other to have someone enable an integration of understanding the condition as Dr. Dodson did for me.

These are just a few of the gifts of insight Dr. Dodson’s book provided me and what you could look for when it is published. But you don’t have to wait to learn from this ADHD Treatment Master. Come see him at Denver-Metro CHADD’s monthly meeting this coming Monday evening. See the details on my ADHD Support link. And you can sign up for automatic notifications of Denver-Metro CHADD’s meetings and events at



ADD, Interest, Attention, Intention and… Holiday Inspirations!

Fresh and novel inspiration for my “spiritual” practices and the celebration of the Holidays comes from, of all places, my ADHD coach-training program. Truth be told, there’s no small embarrassment accompanying this gift. Tell you why:

As you can see, much of my service involves teaching T’ai Chi, a discipline and body of knowledge that includes awareness of the subtle anatomy of our bodies (think Acupuncture) as outlined by the Taoist Masters who created the practice. Even previous to my T’ai Chi training, however, I spent a lot of time learning the subtle anatomy involved in spiritual awakening from other Eastern traditions and a goodly amount of time trying to activate it and realize the Divine experiences available there.

The turn of my attention from even earlier spiritual and psychological studies and practices that emphasized only Mind and Spirit was a truly integral move; one that brought me back into the fullness of my Being by including the body as an expression of the Divine and not something separate or “lower” to it. As great as this move was, the embarrassing irony was how I attended to the body as outlined by the Eastern teachings, but I hardly gave equivalent attention to what our Western scientists and medical experts charted about our bodies. I was particularly neglectful of appreciating the impact of brain anatomy and the neurotransmitters so instrumental in its operations.

Well, I’m caught up now both in study and treatment! The ADD Coach Academy teaches a model called MACHINE-MIND-MISSION to help understand and work with ADHD, which illuminates so well for me the significance of the brain on our minds and our sense of place and purpose in life. I’ve had the connection between body, mind and spirit for a long time, but just never gave due consideration to the machine side of the equation for the brain’s significance to mind and spirit.

As we all generally know, ADHD is a challenge of the executive functions of the brain, located in the frontal lobes. The neurotransmitters in ADHDrs trend to deficiency there (for reasons not yet known, except that this condition is inherited, as my daughter has brought to my attention, lo! so late in life!) and need the special stirrings of exercise and interest to get them going.

Yup, that word interest makes a big difference. As David Giwerc and Barbara Butler have so succinctly put it in their ADD training: “The greater the person’s interest, the greater the intention of acting on what one is paying attention to.” Neuroscience clearly demonstrates that the ADHD neurology is wired for interest and not for importance like “neurotypical” individuals. This means that to get the neurotransmitters flowing, the synapses and neurons firing, and the executive functions up and running, ADDers would do well to begin each day starting with what inspires them the most and get an exercise practice going. Dr. John Ratey’s book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain will not only convince you but inspire you to start your day moving!

Now I believe these are truths for all of us, ADDrs and non-ADDrs alike! Without taking time to engage practices that take us to our source of inspiration, meaning and purpose, where our neurotransmitters get stirred up and turn on our brains, how can we become our best, or get that there is a far more positive, natural functionality than our more mundane world and its requisite functions can provide?

Against all my aversion to western science’s reductionism to the physical to explain any and all things, I’ve had to return to the more holistic/integral wisdom I’ve otherwise known so well and appreciate what it takes to generate better brain chemistry to get me and keep me connected not only to my attention and the intentions to actualize what I’m attracted to, but to God as well! Employing all the means listed here to get my attention going like never before, my intentions to live a life fully connected from body to mind to spirit are moving me to experience the Spirit of Christmas and the Holidays more than ever before.

From studying scriptures East and West to meditation/prayer to physical exercise to medication, my personal practices now cover them all. The effect has been to make them inherently motivated and a welcomed necessity rather than an imposed discipline, more grace-fully moving me to go to bed earlier, get up earlier and engage in those very activities that feed me so Divinely.

Frank Sinatra, Taoist Philosopher?

Hardly, but then there’s that great old graffiti that put him in great company with Nietzsche and Sartre (two of our greatest western philosophers) when the anonymous author scrawled on a bathroom wall:

To do is to be ~ Nietzsche
To be is to do ~ Sartre
Dobedobedo ~ Sinatra

OK, I’m stretching a point to be sure, yet such humor can bring delight to otherwise ponderous thinking. In your t’ai chi practice, however, the play between doing and being lies at the heart of the practice. Let’s see how this applies as we review two of Master Ben Lo’s Five Principles that he relentlessly drills into our practice as we hold postures endlessly, or when he’s not moving us through the form at glacial speeds:

       1.  Relax

       2.  Turn w/o Twisting

       3.  Body Upright

       4.  Separate Yin & Yang

       5.  Beautiful Lady’s Hands

Relax and Separate Yin & Yang bring the play of doing and being into exquisite focus when we practice with appropriate attention. Look for it as you stand in Opening Posture, seemingly still as a tree on a windless landscape. If the tree is alive, you know the sap, like the blood and breath (or chi!) in our bodies, is constantly moving through the tree. But even as you take the time to stand as still as possible, you can feel your muscles and sinew steadily releasing ever deeper. How deep? As Ben likes to say, “No limit!” Such relaxing is the pervasive practice throughout the other four principles.

As we practice Separate Yin & Yang, the more outer practice may be separating weight, but the inner is emptying the unweighted leg. Here emptying and unweighting become the same “activity,” with emptying directing us to the far subtler releasing of the weight. Take a posture and feel it. You’ll find a near incessant oscillation between tension and release, a kind of closing and opening in your muscles, as you let go (relax).

This dedicated attention of reaching for simply being (openness) in the posture and constantly finding yet newer levels of tension needing release into the ever-expanding openness yet again and again, is a paradox of progressive stillness. Slowly, slowly our eyes get used to the darkness of density and tension and come to see the ever- progressive and endless deepening into fuller and fuller Being.

I invite you to leave your computer where you’re reading this, take a posture and notice what I’ve shared with you here. Like your efforts in practice, we’ll return and look for even deeper features of doing and being experiences in my next blog.