Shallow Living: An Occasional Visit on the Way to a Deeper Purpose


Here in the States, we’ve become a culture that looks more and more outside of ourselves to “know” who we are. Social media hasn’t really helped us work through this skewed value system. In fact, in 2017 research by First Choice revealed that more than three-quarters of today’s youth would like a career in online videos as YouTubers/bloggers/vloggers, according to a survey of 1,000 children aged 6 to 17. The top reasons being: creativity, fame, self-expression, money, connecting cool people, recognition, travel. While it’s good to access one’s own creative nature and self-expression, it seems to be at the expense of altruism, service to others and a greater, deeper purpose.

The problem with such superficial goals is that they don’t really hold up over time. No matter how hard we may work to seem successful, to show how “perfect” everything seems from the outside, something will still be missing. That’s because approaching life from the “outside-in”, one can never really fill-up. You will constantly be chasing that next new thing, thinking it’s going to be the thing that makes you more happy, more successful, more wealthy, etc.

Approaching life from the position of “inside-out”, though, is quite different. This is the place where you slow down and take a moment to reflect about yourself and the world. It’s the time when you look outside of the box to see the truth of what is, not some prescribed script of a societal norm. But how do you get to that higher place within Self? How do you begin to transform from being focused on the external world to your authentic inner Self?

Transformational practices will bring you closer in to a deeper existence. They can take many forms. These include consistent contemplative practices like meditation and yoga, somatic therapies, time in nature, creative arts, healing ceremonies and ritual, devotional prayer, and non-violent martial arts, like tai chi and aikido. These practices embody the virtues of compassion, loving-kindness, gratitude, forgiveness, altruism, honesty, and joy, seeing the bigger picture and being connected to a higher divine force.

As we begin to take on these practices, we begin to challenge the long-held belief systems. This new way of seeing outside of the status-quo and stagnation, can bring up some challenging feelings. It may feel like a big risk, but then anything that is worth moving us out of the safe zone and transforming our lives in the highest good, always is.

Mostly, whenever we step outside the familiar, and the comfortable, we take a healthy step forward. Letting go of the old self as the new one emerges, is truly part of the cycle of life. We weren’t meant to play it safe and constantly be distracted in an artificial world. That’s not why we are here. We are meant to grow bigger and grander within the divine Light through the deeper exploration of and healing of Self. This is a risk worth taking, don’t you think?

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.

Simply Being

It can be challenging to allow ourselves to slow down and find quiet time. If you haven’t noticed, there tends to be a cultural acceptance of “busyness” here in the States. It is a paradigm based on doing rather than being. And if we are not accomplishing or acquiring, then something must be wrong. We often feel guilty when we’re not making something happen and can easily be drawn into feelings of unworthiness in comparison to our peers’ accomplishments.

When we are not in the company of others, we often find ourselves distracted by technology in one form or another – phones, computers, TVs. Subconsciously, we are aware that we are afraid of what we may find beneath the myriad of layers of busyness, external stimulation and achievement. Yet, without solitude and quiet time, we miss the opportunity for inner growth and renewal.

It is in the quiet moments that we can see things more clearly. We can leave behind the demands of work, people, family, media, and life. In the West, there is nothing that teaches and fosters us to go inward, thus we must claim that part of ourselves on our own. It is within those moments that we devout to our soul, our spirit through meditation, prayer, and time in nature, where stillness is noticed and appreciated.

At anytime still, we can capture moments in between meetings and phone calls to just “be.” Close the door to your office or go for a neighborhood walk around the block and breath in that alone time. Daily we can practice doing nothing. Let it come organically, in the moment with little forethought or striving. Allow it to come from a deeper place from within. And mostly just enjoy.

-Tanya Vallianos

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.

A Valentine’s Message: Eagle and The Reminder of The Awakened Heart

Eagles, a symbol of enduring strength, freedom and love. Photo: Anne Whitehurst

Eagles, a symbol of enduring strength, freedom and love. Photo: Anne Whitehurst

Here, in Colorado, we are blessed every year with the appearance of Bald Eagle couples nesting. They can be found commonly amongst the many lakes and reservoirs that dot the high plains. There are volunteers that spend time tracking and counting individuals; there are photography clubs that gather to capture their beauty at rest and in flight; and there is an Eagle Festival to honor Bald Eagles’ magnificence in the nature of all creatures.

Yet, there was a time, not so long ago, that seeing a Bald Eagle in Colorado may have been a rare occurrence. In the early 1970’s there were fewer than 450 nesting pairs of Bald Eagles in the lower 48 United States, and fewer than 10 in the entire state of Colorado. But with conservation efforts, the banning of harmful pesticides such as DDT and an Endangered Species designation, the Bald Eagle has made a brilliant recovery at around 143,000 nationwide today. It’s odd that our country’s honored mascot has had such a struggle to survive. Hence, Eagle as guide, can be seen as a reflection of our own struggles and our ability to survive through the cycles of life.

What a gift to be able to connect yearly with this beautiful being who has so much to teach us. When looking for Bald Eagle, it can be found in the environs of old growth cottonwoods, along creeks, lakes and stream ways, and along borders or buffers around those zones. Eagle lays its eggs in February, after a courting session that usually revolves, synchronistically enough, around the week of Valentines’ Day. Both male and female eagles incubate the eggs and share the duties of raising their young.

Bald Eagle traits can be viewed symbolically to assist humans toward being more successful and wise within their own lives. For instance, in Native American lore, Eagle (Thunderbird) Totem is viewed as the chief over all the winged creatures. Eagle conveys the powers and messages of the Spirit; it is human's connection to Spirit as it has the power and strength to fly higher than any other bird. Eagle is also grounded to Earth, connecting to the land, building nests, hunting, and forming and raising families year after year. Eagle shows us how to live in balance between the realms of Spirit and Earth. Bald Eagle brings the message of life renewed since it is associated with the east winds - the direction of spring, dawn and rebirth.

If you have been going through some challenges, Eagle medicine not only signals a new beginning, it also creates the stamina and resilience to endure any difficulties along the way. If Eagle has appeared, it bestows freedom and courage to look ahead, to give up a limited perspective, to release self from comfortable, familiar thought patterns, and fly into a larger world of unknown realms, and to do all of this with love. Summon Eagle when you are about to embark on a challenge, a life change or transition, or a creative endeavor. Ask Eagle to give you the gift of clear vision and the strength with which you can see the truth, and to be patient with yourself and the outcome.

Eagle shows you how to look above so you are able to touch Grandfather Sun with your heart, to accept the Shadow as much as the Light, and to be grounded and in harmony with Grandmother Earth. Eagle Wise Guide gives you the permission to be free to reach the heights of joy that your heart sings for. Eagle shows you that you not only can survive – you can thrive. And you can rise above, to love.

And so with Valentine’s Day upon us, I give you Eagle’s message and it’s connection to one's loving nature, the rebirthing of Self, taking flight to higher consciousness and the magic of the Divine Awakened Heart.

-Tanya Vallianos

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.


Imagination and Creativity Is Not Just For The Few

Indulge me and join in for a minute. Imagine that you are sitting on a beach chair soaking up the Caribbean sunshine. You notice how your hair gently moves with the warm tropical breezes. You take a full deep breath; the sweet aromas of pineapple drinks and suntan lotion permeates your olfactory system and you realize how much you love the combination of these fragrances. You barely hear seagulls in the distance as the sound of crashing waves drowns out their caw. You become lulled into a Zen-like presence and with a satisfied smile on your face you have the thought, “this is a most perfect moment.”

What we just experienced here was an imaginative process. We were able to use our imagination to create images, formulate ideas, and be connected to our sensations in our minds without having any direct input from the senses. In his book Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, Sir Ken Robinson writes: “Imagination is the primary gift of human consciousness. In imagination, we can step out of the here and now. We can revisit and review the past. We can take a different view of the present by putting ourselves in the minds of others: we can try to see with their eyes and feel with their hearts. And in imagination we can anticipate many possible futures.”

Imagination is the source of our creativity, but imagination and creativity are not the same. Imagination is the ability to bring to mind things that are not present to our senses. We can imagine things that exist or things that do not exist at all. Creativity is a process of having original ideas that have value. It's a process, and not an event, and it can be taught.

Robinson continues, “To call someone creative suggests they are actively producing something in a deliberate way. People are not creative in the abstract; they are creative in something: in mathematics, in engineering, in writing, in music or art, in business, in whatever.”

Creativity involves putting your imagination to work. In a sense, creativity is applied imagination.

Creativity is a powerful shaping force in human life. It is an intangible human capacity of a transcendent nature – it moves us beyond ourselves in a similar way to spirituality. The psychologist, Rollo May, in The Courage to Create, describes creativity as “the process of bringing something new into being. It brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life. The experience is one of heightened consciousness: ecstasy.”

Anthropologist, Ellen Dissanayake, suggests that the act of creating is actually a biological need that is basic to human nature. Writer, Julia Cameron believes that, “Creativity is the natural order of life.” And the historian Paul Johnson writes: “Creativity, I believe, is inherent in all of us.”

In my career as an Art Therapist, I’ve come to understand that most people do not believe that they are very imaginative, let alone creative. The fact is, we are all imaginative and creative all the time. It is innate. Whether it’s arranging flowers for a table or cooking a meal or rearranging a closet, these are all creative acts. Not everyone can sing like Adele, but everyone can enjoy singing. Most people aren’t skillful at carpentry, but most people can use a hammer and drill to put up curtains or pictures in their homes. As small as they are, these are creative acts.

Western culture and our limited educational system are largely to blame for this discrepancy, where left-brained skills that involve verbal and analytical processing, are more valued. Creativity has been systematically dismantled from daily experiences. Creativity and creative thinking is not encouraged for the masses, and we have come to believe that creativity is a special gift that is only available to the very few.

Yet how can that be, when you look around at a world and nature that is constantly transforming and re-creating itself? It shows us every day that we are connected to something bigger. It’s a beautifully complex universe that reflects the unfathomable imagination of an omniscient Creator who brought it all into being. Who brought us into being. We are just a reflection of that loving and powerful force. Therefore, we all have the ability to create and be creative. To create our lives in just the way that we choose to through imagination and action. It is within that potential that we are able to do the most minor of tasks, like hanging an art piece, to the greatest of achievements, like writing a symphony.

It’s time to take back your innate given gift. Claim it as your own. You may be surprised what you can do when you acknowledge this forgotten part of you.

-Tanya Vallianos

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.





When Life Keeps Throwing Curve Balls

Surrendering to Impermanence

Surrendering to Impermanence

All of us have been here at some point in our lives (maybe more than we'd like to admit) – a stretch of time when it feels like the universe is out to get you. It feels like a dark cloud looms over you and you alone. There’s a series of unfortunate events that make life very challenging and nothing that you do seems to line-up with the good stuff. You constantly feel like you’re waiting for the next shoe to drop. And, worse off, everyone else seems to be doing just fine.

I’m often reminded of this phenomenon when I’m listening to clients’ stories. They express feelings of being overwhelmed, distressed and depressed. “Why does this keep happening to me?” “When will it all end?” are often the questions asked behind a stream of tears.

Usually our emotional reactions are accompanied with thoughts of, “How can I make it stop?” This would be a natural reaction since humans tend to want and need a sense of control in their lives to feel safe, secure and comfortable. Abraham Maslow presented this idea as a basic human need. It is at this second level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the needs for security and safety become primary. It is no wonder when life feels over-the-top that we resort back to these primal, instinctual levels of thinking/feeling.

Surrendering to the process of life

Suffering is an integral part of being human. The Buddha recognized this over 2000 years ago. He explained this through the principal teachings of “dukkha,” which refer to the physical and psychological experience of suffering, change, discontentedness, and emptiness. This is the idea that we tend to hold onto and have expectations as to how our lives need to be.

We suffer because we project the myth of permanence upon a situation that is actually innately and constantly changing – ungraspable and mysterious.  This is the true nature of life, yet we consistently believe that we can control our reality. We think that we can know and possess our lives, our loves, our identities, and even our possessions. Samsara, “the cycle of suffering,” is a direct result of our desire for permanence. It is the tight grip of our grasping of self or ego.

Buddha taught that we can find a way to accept those things that we are unable to control and at the same time change our thoughts, beliefs and emotions about the things that we are able to have an affect on. It is this ability to understand life as a dream, a fleeting moment in time, that can lead to more experiences of happiness and well-being. And even happiness is seen to be temporaryIt is this dance of being in the present moment that frees us from the need to control our very existence. It is the realization that we are interconnected to the whole of life within the universe, shifting, morphing, transforming with it. And that it’s all okay.

Just as you pick a flower, you are aware that the flower will wilt and die in time. And still you are able to appreciate its beauty and smell it’s sweet aroma in the moment. This is a metaphor for how you can live life - savoring every moment – whether good, bad or neutral. Surrendering to what is. Staying in the flow. It is this knowing that everything ultimately changes that leads to less suffering.

An aware mind

This is not about denying the pain or sweeping it under the rug. We can look at it truthfully, feeling our feelings, knowing that we are connected to all beings that suffer. We can touch into our hearts and feel loving-kindness towards ourselves, and all that is. And because we are able to see it from a point of clarity, we are more able to know what needs to be done to ease the suffering.

A consistent mindfulness practice allows us to observe ourselves silently and with eyes wide open – present and aware and watchful of what unfolds and arises from within. This can take time and can be challenging, but the process itself is very rewarding.

To look deeply at these things in our everyday lives, especially within us, is to realize not only the interconnected nature of all things but also the impermanence of it all. It is because of these realizations that we can begin to be less ruled by our distorted and distressing thoughts - leading to less attachment to outcomes and finding ways to be grateful for “what is”. Ultimately, this gives us a way to experience more feelings of calm, peace of mind and true compassion.

-Tanya Vallianos

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.


Getting Out of Your Own Way on The Path to Self-Love

Shine the light on you. you're worth it!

Shine the light on you. you're worth it!

Yesterday, I was working with a fairly new client that struggles with low self-esteem and self-worth. We spent the session “tapping-in” resources of her team of nurturing, protective and wise helpers. She was able to do this with ease, but what became obvious in the end, was that she was quite aware of how much she felt that she was unworthy of anyone’s love, care and support. She found this thought to be distressing.

Often we need that reality check in the face of a caring, unconditional witness to know that we need real change. It’s the declaration that something is out of balance and has been a destructive force in one’s life. It’s the ability to say out loud, “I’ve been getting in my own way,” so that a new path can be carved out. How does one get past a long history of self-deprecation and feelings of emptiness, negativity and fear?

You discover that you can press pause in any moment and step back from the momentum of old, habitual thought patterns. From this vantage point, you’re able to consistently see where you get hung up and how the thought/feeling complex creates the distress that you say that you don’t want in your life.

With conscious awareness, you are more committed to living in ways that are wise, affirming, and aligned with your deepest desires and your highest good. With committed thought checking, a reframing of the old story, clarity and truth finally arrives. In those moments, asking Self: Do I believe I’m inadequate? Do I believe that I’m a victim? Do I believe I’m unlovable?

It is in those moments of suffering that you can befriend yourself, taking notice of the feelings present and ever so gently, kindly holding them, like you would a baby. Knowing that these feelings are just fueled by thoughts - they are not YOU. They are not in control of you.

There is no need to rid you of anything. Just be aware of your inner experience.

Now you can experience the spaciousness when you’re not hooked-in to the old story, even if it’s for a millisecond in time. Notice what is like to choose something different, to be more curious, than critical, to learn new ways of experiencing you - to get out of your own way.

This is a process. It won’t change overnight. It takes diligence, patience and self-determination. But that is what is involved in choosing to live a life more consciously – a life of authenticity, self-love and more joy.

-Tanya Vallianos

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.

Journaling As a Mindfulness Practice

Journaling tangibly Helps us to connect to our inner world

Journaling tangibly Helps us to connect to our inner world

Journal writing can be compared to practicing mindfulness. A journal records the movement of one’s inner experience - reflections of the mental, emotional, and image-laden events within the writer in that moment in time. When we write, we are conscious of what is being written and stay focused on the writing process without judgment or criticism. Both involve being present in the now. By being fully conscious and present of our actions and our breath, we become present in what we do. Writing and other creative endeavors are similar.

I write to gain more insight of an experience, to remember an event that occurred and to feel emotion and have deeper understanding of what’s going on inside. Journaling is about making connections to my higher knowing. It is a moment in time where I am fully present in the process – aware of my thoughts, my body, the kinesthetic quality of writing, and the environment I’m in. I’m taking it all in as a moment-to-moment process. In the end, I’m finished and can tuck it away safely, until the next time.

There is something about the ability to face the difficulties of life, when emotions are painful or when our inner critic is loudly speaking in our ear, to take pause and utilize this safe container. Here, we are give permission to release. We can more easily and mindfully breathe with compassion for ourselves, staying centered and grounded through the process. And because of this we can find healing.

Dr. James Pennebaker, author of Writing to Heal has seen improved immune functioning in journaling participants. Stress and feelings of overwhelm often come from emotional blockages and neurotic over-thinking. The ability to free ones thoughts and emotions through writing is shown to lower anxiety, stress and induce sound sleep.

Journaling doesn’t always involve writing about challenges. Writing about our positive experiences can be quite helpful as well. It becomes life reaffirming. And our physiology responds by releasing endorphins and dopamine, thus boosting our mood and our outlook of the world.

As is true with meditation practice, mindful journaling, through the act of presenting, allows us to cultivate appreciation for Self in each moment. It brings us to live more harmoniously with all things, because it allows us the time to know ourselves, what triggers us, and what we are curious about - all without distraction. And the more we write, the more connected we are to all that is.

A Mindful Journaling Prompt:

  • Choose a quiet space in your home or in nature where you will not be distracted.
  • Begin by letting go of the day’s events and any tension that you’re aware of in your body, and focusing on your breath for a few minutes. One inhalation and one exhalation at a time.
  • When feeling more centered, write down a question. Write a few lines on anything you would like higher-self guidance on. Focusing on one question allows for deeper clarity and insight. For example, “How can I communicate more effectively with my boss?”; “Why do I have difficulty staying committed to exercising?”; or “How can I have deeper connection to my partner/spouse?”
  • Start to write. Let go of the thinking, judging mind, and write without thinking through stream of consciousness. If you get stuck, you can write, “I feel stuck.” Whatever is happening, stay with the organic flow and just keep writing. There are no mistakes here. Write for 5, 10 or 15 minutes. You’ll know when you’re done.
  • When finished, read through what you have written out loud to yourself.
  • Notice what comes up for you somatically, emotionally and mentally, with a curious but detached awareness.
  • Continuing to practice this technique will allow you to be more and more present with yourself!

-Tanya Vallianos

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She can be reached at or 970-420-9504.

Beginner Meditation Practice Made Easier


If you haven’t noticed lately, there are a huge amount of resources available for learning various mindfulness practices, including meditation. The upside to that is that there is a variety of methods offered and people can pick and choose what works best for themselves. The downside is just that, the different techniques and variations on the theme can feel overwhelming, especially to the beginning practitioner.

Less is more

Starting something new can be challenging. And meditation is no exception. While quite a simplistic process, meditation can easily turn into a self-bashing session within seconds. Why? Because we humans think a lot! And meditation makes it quite obvious how distracted and occupied we are with our thoughts all the time. While meditation is meant to help us with quieting the mind, for beginners the volume gets turned on high and it can feel hugely defeating.

When I’m introducing a client to meditation for the first time, my number one goal is to make everything as simple and as comfortable as possible, so that it doesn’t feel too overwhelming. I'm hoping that she will be inspired enough to give it a good try and establish a regular practice. This means that I don’t ask for too much of a commitment of time early on.

Often longtime meditators will suggest 10 minutes as a starting point. In my opinion, that can be the kiss of death for a budding meditator.  For a newbie, this can feel like 10 hours! It’s worse that meditation seems so simple from the outside. It can be a set-up for frustration, self-shaming and wanting to give up, concluding, "It's not for me" or “I’m just not good at this” when that couldn't be further from the truth.

Instead, I offer a 5-minute or less commitment daily. This way the expectations are low to start with and the client is not bound to a specific time that feels unattainable. This allows more for the possibility of having an enjoyable experience that leads to successes, rather than perceived failures.

A few other helpful tips that will help you with your "less is more" approach:

1.    If you start small, make that small meditation into a daily habit. While a short and small meditation session starting point makes it easier to grow your sessions longer and longer, doing it every day makes you more likely to stick with it. Even if it feels hard at first, meditating daily makes it more likely to become a habit that sticks. This is because you are changing neural pathways, which takes time and commitment.

2.    Use a timer to track your sessions, especially if you feel that you will be distracted by keeping track of time with a clock or watch.

3.    When beginning your practice, meditate in the same setting and at the same time every day. Meditating in the same context each and every day will make it more likely to be a good habit that takes hold. Choose a time of day when you’re not tired.

4.    When you decide to increase your meditation time, make those increases small – up to 5 minutes per increment. Small increases operate on the same principle of small starts: not overwhelming yourself. If you find that you’re struggling with the increase after a few sessions, feel free to reduce the time.

5.    Lastly, make your meditating space comfortable and desirable. Have cozy blankets that you can wrap around you. Candles, soft lighting and sacred objects can help bring a special ambiance to your space that will allow you to come back again and again.

So, if you've never done it before, try it with me now. Find a quiet place to sit comfortably, with your back upright, and using either a timer or a guided meditation, focus on your breath. Try it. You just might get hooked.

-Tanya Vallianos

Tanya Vallianos, MA, LPC, ATR, NCC, EMDR III, EAP II is a psychotherapist in private practice in Fort Collins, CO. She offers free guided meditations on her website,