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Diane Dreher's Tao of Inner Peace Blog

The Tao of Teamwork

Do you enjoy teamwork? When I was growing up I used to love playing touch football with my friends. My neighbor Jim was the quarterback, preparing our plays by drawing strategies in the dirt as we huddled around him. Then we took our positions. Everyone had different skills. Some could block, some could throw, and some could run like the wind. Together, we could make a touchdown. And we had fun.


I enjoyed teamwork in my projects at the university. When I was department chair, I became the quarterback, recognizing my colleagues' different strengths and skills. Some of us were creative idea people, some good at details, some had strong interpersonal skills, and others could think strategically. Working together, we were a great team. It was energizing and it was fun.


Today, I enjoy being part of a team in my volunteer work. Instead of complaining about the way things are, it's more energizing to work together to  make a positive difference.


The humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers brought out the best in his clients by listening to them and helping them recognize their strengths. Then he used his strategies in the Carl Rogers Peace Project. Affirming the Tao leadership of empowerment, he carried in his wallet this quote from the Tao Te Ching:


With the best of leaders

When the work is done,

The project completed,

The people all say,

"We did it ourselves."

                                 (Tao Te Ching, Chapter 17)


You can cultivate teamwork in your career, in your family, or in your neighborhood by first recognizing your own strengths. What are you especially good at and what do you love to do? Then look for the strengths in the people around you.  Encourage everyone to use their strengths to reach a common goal. Feel the exhilarating energy of teamwork.


Now take a moment of meditation to visualize yourself as a Tao leader

Close your eyes,

Take a long, deep mindful breath and release it.

Think of a goal that you care about.

Now see yourself using your personal strengths

Combining them with those of the people around you,

Bringing out the best in them.

Achieving the goal you care about

Making a positive difference.

Feel the energy of teamwork


Now open your eyes

And take the next step

To make it happen.


Enjoy the process




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The Lesson of Trust

The Tao Te Ching says, "The wisest person trusts the process"

                                                                 (Tao chapter 2).



that's been a difficult lesson for me.


When I was growing up, The world was constantly shifting beneath my feet.

My father was in the Air Force and we moved all the time, leaving familiar places and all my friends behind.

My mother was beautiful, charming--and unreliable, making promises, then changing her mind. I was never sure of her affection and approval.


So I learned to be defensively independent.

I learned to care and help others but afraid to ask for help and then be disappointed.


Today I am learning to trust the process

One small step at a time.


Asking for what I need has become a spiritual exercise

In a process of giving and receiving, a cycle of yin and yang.


If you've been struggling with trust in your own life, then join me in this brief meditation.


Take a long, deep mindful breath and release it.

Continuing to breathe slowly and deeply

Ask yourself, "Is there an area of my life where I've been stuck?" "Where I've been afraid to trust?"

Then ask, "What would it look like to trust the process?"


What is one small step you can take--just one?


Taking another slow deep breath, and slowly releasing it

See yourself taking that step.


If that step is successful, how does it feel? Smile and embrace that feeling

If that step doesn't work out, how do you feel and what can you learn from it?


What can you do next?  How can you take the next step?


It's a process

Moving forward

Just one small step at a time.


For as the Tao Te Ching tells us,

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

                                                                (Tao, chapter 64)


I wish you courage, trust, and joy on the path.

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Frustration and Inspiration

Steps on the path

When I begin a new project, I'm filled with excitement, energized by new visions of possibility. But then somewhere in the midst of the process, inspiration gives way to frustration. I find myself in unknown territory. I'm confused. I've never been here before or done this before and I don't know where I'm going.


Part of me wants a map to this new territory or a step-by-step set of instructions. I want certainty for this project when what I feel is uncertainty wandering in uncharted territory all alone.


And yet, when I muster the courage to take even one small step, I discover a new flash of inspiration, new insight to light my way. As frustration turns to inspiration, the path ahead seems possible once more.


Frustration and inspiration are part of moving forward in any creative process that takes us into the great unknown. We don't know where we're going because we've never been there before. In any creative endeavor, we're explorers like Lewis and Clark, like Nobel laureate Linus Pauling, like Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci, on a journey to discover something new.


The message for all of us is to trust the process, to be present with each step, to listen for the lessons and look for the light to lead us forward.


For as the ancient wisdom of the Tao Te Ching tells us: "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."


What is your next step on the creative journey of your life?


I wish you joy as you follow the light.


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From Drama to Dharma

It's easy to get caught up in the daily drama of our lives. As the Buddhists say, attachment causes suffering. When we're attached to a sense of stability, we can experience unpleasant changes and challenges with intense emotional reactions. As Shakespeare said, we "strut and fret our hour upon the stage," the suffering hero of our own dramatic universe. Feeling sorry for ourselves, we ask "Why is this happening to me? Reacting in fear, isolated in our egos, we can fall into misery, blaming and shaming ourselves and others.


This is drama.


Then there is the Buddhist concept of dharma. With Dharma, we transcend our egos to see more clearly, realizing that we are connected to an infinite and meaningful universe. We can see beyond the current dilemma to learn vital spiritual lessons, discovering a greater sense of purpose.


To connect with dharma, we need to be present with what is happening, stay centered, and listen for guidance. As we deal with the challenges one small step at a time, unexpected blessings can blossom in our lives.


Last week, I discovered this process for myself. When I was pulling into the parking lot to meet two friends for lunch, a warning light came on in my car—"emission system problem/ cooling system problem." Before lunch, I called my local car repair service and left a voice mail for them to call me back. This led to a series of steps.  When I finished my meal, my friends encouraged me to take my car in and said they'd pay the bill when it came. The local service manager helped me make an appointment with the dealer since this was a complex repair. I got a ride the next morning with a friendly AAA driver who towed my car in to the dealer, where I got a free loaner car to use.  Two days later, my car was repaired at no charge because the state pays for emissions systems repairs. I drove my car home, grateful for supportive friends, pleasant surprises, and kind professionals, realizing how my problem was solved with a series of gifts, one small step at a time.


Have you experienced a shift from drama to dharma in your life?

If so, what did you learn?

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Do You Have the Worry Sickness?

How we begin our days can make a major difference in our lives. Lately, I've been waking up thinking of all the things I need to do that day. With thoughts racing through my head, incessant planning, and worrying about all the things that could go wrong.


This is not inner peace.


Do you find yourself incessantly planning, with thoughts racing through your head? Being prepared is one thing. Obsessive planning is something else. It not only makes us feel bad but it's counterproductive, putting us in a stressed-out fight or flight mode, narrowing our perspective, keeping us from thinking clearly and making wise decisions.


If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. Research reports escalating levels of anxiety and depression in the United States and around the world.[1]


But we can shift out of this state and begin reclaiming our peace of mind with this simple practice.


When you feel your mind racing, STOP


  • Focusing on your heart, slowly breathe in
  • Then slowly breathe out in a longer exhale, feeling the stress leave your body flowing out through your toes.
  • Take another slow deep breath, breathing into your heart
  • Then exhale slowly, releasing any tension.
  • Take a third slow deep breath, breathing into your heart
  • Then exhale slowly, releasing any more tension.
  • Now ask yourself, "What am I feeling?"
  • Pause and focus on what you've been feeling, offering yourself care and compassion.
  • Then ask, "What do I need?" (physically, emotionally, or spiritually)
  • And finally, ask, "What can I do?" (This can be anything from taking a break to step outside, have a meal, exercise, check in with a wise friend or counselor, or something else).


Remember that you have the power to shift from stress to greater peace of mind.


I wish you joy in the process.




[1] World Health Organization. (2022, March 2). COVID-19 pandemic triggers 25% increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide https://www.who.int/news/item/02-03-2022-covid-19-pandemic-triggers-25-increase-in-prevalence-of-anxiety-and-depression-worldwide


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Are You Feeling Disconnected?

Little Free Library

This week on Next Door a man in the next town posted a message about not feeling a sense of neighborhood. He had lived in the same town for decades but over the years the neighborhood had changed. People moved away. New people had moved in and he now felt surrounded by strangers.


Dozens of people replied, saying they felt the same way—disconnected from community. Some blamed TV, social media, back yards instead of front porches, long commutes. But whatever the cause, many of us are feeling a sense of loneliness and isolation.[1]


We need community. Psychologists have found that even brief moments of connecting ---"micromoments of connectivity," can dramatically raise our mood, relieve stress, reduce inflammation, relieve loneliness, and build physical and emotional well-being.These connections can be shared not only with close friends and family members but the grocery store clerk or anyone else you encounter in daily life. A simple smile, eye contact, presence, perhaps a kind word—that's all it takes.[2]


To renew our neighborhoods and our lives, we need to cultivate community.  We all need a circle of support and "nourishing network" is one of the five key steps to rebuilding our capacity to hope [3].


We can cultivate community in many ways. One of my neighbors has set up a "Little Free Library" in front of her house. This little library has become a regular part of my daily walks with my little dog Ginny. I often leave some of my books in there, then check to see if anyone has taken them, and sometimes take out an intriguing book to read myself. This simple act of giving and receiving is building community, one book at a time.


There are other small steps we can take— Sharing a friendly greeting with people you see, waving at a neighbor driving by, stopping to admire a neighbor's garden and introducing yourself. Sending a thoughtful card. Calling up a friend to meet at a local coffee shop.


By cultivating community, you not only build your own circle of support, but help to create a more cooperative, connected world.



What is one way you can cultivate community today?




[1]  Winerman, L. (2022, May 9). COVID-19 pandemic led to increase in loneliness around the world. American Psychological Association.https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2022/05/covid-19-increase-loneliness; Ernst, M. et al. (2022). Loneliness before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A systematic review with meta-analysis. American Psychologist, 77(5), 660-677. 

[2] Fredrickson, B. (2013). Love 2.0: How our supreme emotion affects everything we feel, think, do, and become. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press

[3] Goetzke, K. (2022). The biggest little book about hope. (2nd edition). New York, NY: Morgan James Publishing. For more about her work, see https://kathryngoetzke.com/




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One Person Who Cares

Growing up, children are often confused about who they are and what they can become. They don't need more information. Information comes at us from all directions—from parents, peers, teachers, and ever present social media. But recent research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has shown that  young people are suffering from record levels of depression and hopelessness and one in three teenage girls has considered suicide.[1]  


What young people need today is not more information but inspiration. They need hope. Research has revealed that it takes only one caring adult to make a difference in how young people see themselves and their future. Researchers Emmy Werner and Ruth Smith's classic longitudinal study has shown that knowing one supportive adult enables at-risk youth to overcome negative circumstances and lead successful, meaningful lives.


For over three decades, these researchers studied the lives of over five hundred young people on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Many came from dysfunctional families, compromised by chronic poverty and unstable home environments with divorce, discord, abuse, alcoholism, and mental illness. Yet some managed to flourish, overcoming their obstacles because of one person in their lives—an aunt, uncle, or grandparent, teacher, minister, coach, or neighbor who saw them, encouraged them, and helped them see beyond their current circumstances to believe in themselves and their future.[2]  


As research has shown, it only takes one caring adult to help a young person develop resilience. To experience this, please join me in this brief meditation.


  • Close your eyes and take a deep mindful breath and release it.
  • As you slowly breathe in and breathe out, can you recall the first adult who really saw you, who brought new hope to your life?
  • Who was this person--a teacher, coach, aunt or uncle, a helpful neighbor, scout leader, or someone else?
  • What did they do or say—a kind word, a meaningful conversation, a gesture of respect and understanding? Something else?


Pause and experience this for a moment. How do you feel?


Now ask yourself, "How can I be that one caring adult for a young person in my life today?"


I wish you joy on the path.



[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, February13). U.S. teen girls experiencing increased sadness and violence. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Newsroom. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2023/p0213-yrbs.html

[2] Werner, E. E. & Smith, R. S. (1992). Overcoming the odds; High risk children from birth to adulthood. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.


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Moving from Reactive to Creative

Early blossoms of flowering quince

According to psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihaly, "our future is now closely tied to human creativity"[1]  I'd like to share the vital difference between being creative and being reactive.


Being Reactive

We react a perceived threat with fight, flight or freeze.

In emergencies this reaction serves us well. We jump out of the way of a speeding car.

But when stress becomes chronic, we get stuck in being reactive. Our attention narrows, our immune systems and digestive systems shut down, cortisol flows through our bodies, leading to increased inflammation and the risk of serious disease. Chronic stress shuts down our higher brain centers—blocking our ability to create, to see new possibilities.[2] We become anxious and defensive. We worry, we ruminate, but we do not create.


Being Creative—means moving from surviving to thriving.

Research in positive psychology shows us that positive emotions such as love, joy, and awe can broaden and build our personal resources, helping us live more creatively.


University of North Carolina researcher Barbara Fredrickson has found that positive emotions and personal connections strengthen our immune systems, broaden our perspective, and build our personal resources.[3] New York University researcher Jonathan Haidt has found that experiencing a sense of elevation in response to someone we admire connects us to our deepest values and inspires us to moral action.[4]

University of California researcher Dacher Keltner has found that experiencing the sense of awe—amazement and wonder at the beauty and grandeur of nature or a work of art—fills us with inspiration, widening our perspective, building our hope.[5]


We can experience positive emotions in nature, with the people around us, in great works of art, and reflecting on them with gratitude. The point is to have these experiences regularly. Like spiritual vitamins, positive emotions can help us become healthier, happier, and more creative.


So please join me in this brief meditation.


  • Close your eyes. Take a deep breath and slowly release it.
  • Again breathing in, and slowly breathing out.
  • Once more breathing in, and slowly breathing out.
  • Now take a moment to think of one thing you do that fills you with joy, that moves you from surviving to thriving.
  • Just one experience that comes to mind.
  • Is it connecting with someone you love? Feeling inspired by someone you admire? Feeling a sense of awe experiencing the beauty of nature?
  • Take a long deep breath as you recall that experience now.

Then gently open your eyes.


I invite you to focus on that experience often

Whether actually enjoying it or reflecting on it with gratitude, this experience can inspire you to be even more creative in the days to come.


I wish you joy on the path.


[1] Csikszentmihaly, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. New York, NY: Harper & Row, p. 6.

[2] LeDoux, J. (1996). The Emotional Brain. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

[3]Fredrickson, B. (2013). Love 2.0: How our supreme emotion affects everything we feel, think, do, and become. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press; Fredrickson, B. & Joiner, T. (2002). Positive emotions trigger upward spirals toward emotional well-being. Psychological Science, 13, 172-175. 


[4] Haidt, J. (2003). Elevation and the positive psychology of morality. In C. L. M Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds.). Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived (pp. 275-289). Washington, D. C.: American Psychological Association; Keltner, D. & Haidt, J. (2003). Approaching awe, a moral, spiritual, and aesthetic emotion. Cognition and Emotion, 17, 297-314.

[5] Keltner, D. (2023). Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life. NewYork, NY: Penguin Press.


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The Transforming Power of Beauty

Cutting through today's chronic stress, moments of beauty can bring us into the present moment, healing our minds and bodies, restoring our hope.


Among the many studies of beauty and healing, University of Michigan psychologist Christopher Peterson found that a high appreciation of beauty helps people recover from anxiety and depression.[1] University of California, Berkeley, psychologist Dacher Keltner found that people who experience awe in response to nature's beauty have significantly lower levels of inflammation, reducing the risk of depression, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other illnesses. In fact, he found that the more often we experience awe, the lower our inflammation levels.[2]


Psychologist Rhett Diessner's research has shown that engaging with beauty can increase our hope. Diessner and his colleagues at Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho asked students to keep weekly beauty logs, writing brief descriptions of the beauty they observed in nature, art, and moral action. At the end of the semester, these students had gained significantly higher hope. [3]


Now it's your turn. Please join me for a brief meditation on these three forms of beauty.

  • Close your eyes and take a deep mindful breath
  • Feel your body gently relax as you slowly breathe in and breathe out.
  • Now think of something beautiful you've experienced in nature—a radiant sunset, a walk in the woods, the scent of pines, a view of the ocean, a playful moment with your dog or cat, new life emerging in your garden, or another beautiful encounter with the natural world. Pause to re-experience that moment of beauty as you slowly breathe in and breathe out.
  • Next think of something beautiful you've experienced in the arts—your favorite music, an inspiring choral concert, a live theater performance, a memorable film, a visit to an art gallery, gazing at classic sculptures or architecture, or another beautiful encounter with the arts. Pause to re-experience that moment of beauty as you slowly breathe in and breathe out.
  • Now think of something beautiful you've experienced in the moral action of kindness—seeing one person reach out to help another, doing a favor, holding the door open for someone carrying packages, helping a child learn to read, rescuing a lost dog, calling a friend, a time you gave, received, or witnessed  a caring action. Pause to re-experience that moment of beauty as you slowly breathe in and breathe out.


Pause for a moment to breathe in as you experience the feelings these memories bring up. Then gently open your eyes.


As you go through your days, make it a point to notice the natural, artistic, and moral beauty around you, for as research reveals, gaining greater hope is possible by simply observing and appreciating such beauty.Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that "Each moment of the year has its own beauty."[4]


Each season, each day of our lives, has its own beauty as well. It is up to us to find it.


I wish you joy on the path.




[1] Peterson,C. Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). Great strengths of character and recovery from illness. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1, 17-26.

[2] Stellar, J. E., John-Henderson, N., Anderson, C. L., Gordon, A. M., McNeil, G. D., & Keltner, D. (2015).Positive affect and markers of inflammation: Discrete positive emotions predict lower levels of inflammatory cytokines. Emotion, 15, 129-133.

[3] Diessner, T., Rust, T., Solom, R. C., Frost, N., & Parsons, L. (2006). Beauty and hope: A moral beauty intervention. Journal of Moral Education, 35, 301-317.

[4] Emerson, R. W. (1903).Nature. In Nature: Addresses, and lectures, (pp. 3-77). Boston, MA: Houghton, Mifflin and Company. Originally published 1876. Quote from p. 18.


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The Tao of Oneness

We become one with Tao when we study nature and look within. These two practices are intrinsically linked, for our inner world reflects the world around us. We are one with nature. Its laws are our laws.


The Chinese character for nature or heaven adds two parallel lines to the character for person. In Chinese thought, we are part of nature, intimately connected to the sky over our heads and the earth beneath our feet. To ignore this bond or defile nature is to injure ourselves.


The basic building blocks of existence are not infinitesimal bits of matter as once was thought, but probabilities, dynamic patterns of energy, neither particles nor waves but something in between. By focusing on interdependent energy patterns, quantum physics offers a lesson for human interactions. Each of us is more than our ego-bound limits. We know this the moment we enter a room and sense its subtle vibrations. We breathe the same air, share the same energy with others around us. Their energy and attitudes inevitably touch our own. Life does not occur in isolation. We are all one in Tao.


Please join me in a brief meditation on oneness


  • Take a deep breath and as you release it, close your eyes.
  • Breathing in and Breathing out slowly and mindfully
  • Breathing in
  • Breathing out
  • Realizing that as you breathe out carbon dioxide, this is what the trees breathe in
  • As they breathe out oxygen, this is what you breathe in.
  • Breathing in and Breathing out
  • In dynamic oneness
  • In harmony
  • With nature
  • Feel that sense of oneness

Then when you are ready, gently open your eyes.


I wish you the joy of oneness and connection with all that is.





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