New Podcast: Psychospiritual Reflections w/ John P. Rettger, PhD

Mindfulness, The Two Arrows, and Working with Adversities

NOVEMBER 01, 2022




Mindfulness, The Two Arrows and Working with Adversities


In this episode, Dr. John draws from the wisdom of the Buddha and concepts of Cognitive Behavior Therapy to share how to work with life’s challenges from a stance of Mindfulness. This podcast is more conceptual in nature and Dr. John will follow up with experiential practices to bring these concepts to life. Stay tuned!

Latest Online Article: Responding to Life’s Challenges with Mindfulness

Dear Friends,

I recently wrote an article about how to respond to life’s challenges with Mindfulness. Read it on the Good Therapy San Diego website where I currently practice as a clinical psychologist. Read it here!

John’s Closing thoughts on 2018

John’s Closing thoughts on 2018
“For real hope, as distinguished from wishful thinking, we ought not look first to our technological cleverness or abstractions about progress of one kind or another, but rather to the extent and depth of our affections, which set boundaries on what we do and direct our intelligence to better or worse possibilities. The possibility of affection for our children, place, posterity, and life is in all of us. It is part of our evolutionary heritage. It is embedded in our best religious teachings” (David Orr).

The transformation from one year to the next brings both a letting go and a visioning forward. The visioning process for 2019 for me is a hopefulness for our positive growth as a community. I have to admit; there are times when optimism is a challenging endeavor for me. It is hard not to look around and not get caught in what can feel like an ocean of disconnection. I think in those moments it’s that everything and everyone is moving so fast. We all get immersed in technology that is supposed to lead us to connection, yet loneliness is on the rise. Wow, it takes a great deal of mindfulness and old fashioned human skill to be able to slow everything down and remember to connect with each other.

Every day I have to come back to the connection and intention I have in my own heart for the affection that David W. Orr calls our attention to (see epigraph). As yogis and yoginis, life tasks us with the challenge of healthfully embracing the present moment and practicing to keep open the necessary space to live heart forward. Life calls out for us to courageously step into the unfolding and unknown evolution of the moment.

As I sit and reflect on closing out 2018 so much comes to mind. It has been a fantastic year in many ways and for this I am thankful. However, I must heed the words of Orr and remember it is not about what I think about the various ways in which I have progressed. Instead, it is more about living the intention of deepening and exploring the true infinite depth of my own heart and becoming a more courageous lover. I believe that love and compassion truly are boundless and immeasurable. Holding open the heart, staying affectionate, and practicing love is the most challenging “asana” we are asked to express every day. Love challenges us because we are all confronted with so much uncertainty, unrest, and tragedy. In the face of these powerful forces, love is the way, and love as a path is not necessarily the one with least resistance. Rather, it is more like how Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, describes it. Mr. Rogers wrote that “Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” I think that teaching, to love and accept each other as we are, is both a good intention and good medicine for us all as we step into the new year.

I invite you to live this intention. To love yourself unconditionally, and to love others as they are already, right here, right now. Yoga is a place and a practice to begin to strengthen these innate energies of the heart. I am so excited to journey into the new year. I look forward to seeing you in the 2019 on the mat and on retreat.

Many blessings,


1. David W. Orr. Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect (Kindle Locations 77-80). Kindle Edition.
2. Rogers, Fred. The World According to Mister Rogers. Hachette Books. Kindle Edition.

Reflections: Feb/March

This month I am reflecting on how yoga has at its core a very simple, yet hard to practice teaching of being fully present and awake at this moment. The poet Mark Nepo writes:

“The further I wake into this life, the more I realize that God is everywhere and the extraordinary is waiting quietly beneath the skin of all that is ordinary. Light is in both the broken bottle and the diamond, and music is in both the flowing violin and the water dripping from the drainage pipe. Yes, God is under the porch as well as on top of the mountain, and joy is in both the front row and the bleachers if we are willing to be where we are.” 

The call is for us to ask ourselves: “How often am I willing to be where I am?” It’s too common that we live under the influence of what the Buddhist teacher and psychologist, Tara Brach, calls the “trance of not enough.” We enter into this trance in many ways, one of which is how we all, from time to time, get caught in the “if only’s.” For example, you may catch yourself in an internal dialogue that sounds something like- “things will be better if only I got that promotion…” or “if only I could get into that yoga pose…”, or “I would be happy if only I got that project done…”

The outcome is that we continually put our genuine happiness on hold in our search for things that may provide us with some short-term satisfaction, but may ultimately be existentially empty. Additionally, we may soon discover that we have been postponing our happiness in vain because often as soon as we complete one project, we are already off to the races in pursuit of the next one.

I want to be clear that my message is not that you “should” stop achieving or giving your all toward your goals, it is more about being able to recognize when the striving takes you away from the moment and away from those you love. The message is to notice when you are missing the beauty that is right in front of you because you’re already in tomorrow’s meetings.

So this brings me back to my intention as I celebrate and do my best to move through March more consciously. I intend to practice contentment. The primary way in which I will offer myself to this practice is to notice when I get ahead of myself, and to take a breath, and to provide myself with a few kind words such as “this moment is perfect, I am perfect, and this is the joy.” From this place of joy, contentment, and acceptance, I know I will then see each step forward.

In closing, Fr Gregory Boyle writes that “we keep moving, walking forward on the Good Journey, finding moments of joy along the way until those moments join together and usher in a life of happiness. So what we focus on and hope for, in the meantime, is a commitment to abide fully in our complete humanity. We bring as much compassion and wakefulness to our own lived experience and know that nothing human is ever abhorrent to God.”

As we move forward through March, let us all take one step forward at a time and remember that joy is the journey and the only time we can taste it is now.

If you enjoyed last month’s reflection, be sure to sign-up to get this month’s: Sign-up for John’s E-newsletter

Many blessings,

a helpful reminder for a winter day…

The Practice Of The Wild
by Gary Snyder

All of us are apprenticed to the same teacher that the religious institutions originally worked with: reality. Reality-insight says … master the twenty-four hours. Do it well, without self-pity. It is as hard to get the children herded into the car pool and down the road to the bus as it is to chant sutras in the Buddha-hall on a cold morning. One move is not better than the other, each can be quite boring, and they both have the virtuous quality of repetition. Repetition and ritual and their good results come in many forms. Changing the filter, wiping noses, going to meetings, picking up around the house, washing dishes, checking the dipstick – don’t let yourself think these are distracting you from your more serious pursuits. Such a round of chores is not a set of difficulties we hope to escape from so that we may do our “practice” which will put us on a “path” – it is our path.

New Years Update 2018!

Monday and Weds
1. Vinyasa – 6:15 pm – 90m – YogaSource Palo Alto
2. Restorative – 8:15pm – 75m – YogaSource Palo Alto

Check out my newsletter! 

I’m teaching all of my public classes this weekend!

the touch of self-compassion

john2014Do you sometimes get down on yourself for not being perfect? Do you notice yourself being unkind to yourself when you make mistakes? Or maybe you get caught up in frustration when something does not turn out as you had hoped? Can you be self-critical or overly demanding of yourself? Or maybe you are struggling right now with incredibly difficult life challenges. If any of this resonates with you, or if you would like to simply be a bit happier, then this article is for you.

I think we all can relate to questions like the above and I most certainly have had such moments of self-berating and struggle. Recently in my work as a research psychologist, I became interested in exploring how self-compassion may be related to mental health (mh) outcomes. There is a fascinating, growing body of psychology literature that suggests a relationship between being self-compassionate and positive mh outcomes. I boiled the field down into just a few morsels of wisdom that I think may be useful for others. Therefore, in this article I have three aims: 1) describe the psychology of self-compassion; 2) briefly describe the research; and 3) offer a few tips on how to bring more of it into your own life.

The Psychology of Self-compassion

Self-compassion, as defined by a leading scholar in the field, Kristin Neff, PhD, is one’s willingness to be contacted by and receptive to one’s own suffering, rather than turning away from it (Neff, 2003). Being self-compassionate involves a desire and willingness to be with this suffering and committed to healing it with a soft kindness. Self-compassion is a practice of approaching one’s challenges, limitations, and shortcomings with a loving acceptance and recognizing them as a universal part of our basic human condition. It is a remembrance and honoring of one’s innate, human worthiness and an invitation to forgive ourselves for our imperfections and slippages of virtue.

Neff (2003) suggests that self-compassion has three facets: (a) self-kindness- the application of kindness and understanding to oneself instead of harsh judgment and self-criticism; (b) common humanity- remembering and feeling that one is a member of a larger human tribe, rather than a isolated and separate being; and (c) mindfulness- to embrace fully the painful aspects of one’s experience with equanimity, rather than becoming enmeshed in them.

Practices to Cultivate Self-compassion

In this last section, I discuss how to utilize Neff’s (2003) three facets of self-compassion to practice and inspire self-compassion in your own heart. Next time you have a difficult experience or are struggling with challenging emotions, consider trying out these practices:

1. Practice self-kindness: Soften into your own pain, and move deeper within to connect to yourself in a way that acknowledges and honors something really good about you. Know that it is common, when experiencing intense emotions, to not be able to think of something good, so in that case, do something that brings you happiness and joy. One of my practices is to take myself out for a cup of coffee at my favorite cafe with a really good book or a caring friend. In meditation, you can offer yourself supportive phrases of encouragement that honor the suffering and hold intention for its resolution.

For example, you can offer to yourself Thich Nhat Hanh’s 4 Love Mantra’s: 1) Darling, I am here for you; 2) Darling, I know you are there for me…and I’m so happy you are truly there; 3) Darling, I know you suffer… that is why I am here for you; and 4) Darling, I suffer. I am trying my best to practice. Please help me.

By turning this practice towards oneself, one is able to empower more self-reliance and confidence in being able to skillfully manage challenging emotions without turning toward external (or in some cases, unhealthy) coping mechanisms. We establish our own heart as our place of true refuge.

2. Connect to a common humanity: When in strife, remember your sacred membership to an abundant planet of fellow human-beings, animals, plants, natural resources, and a larger universe of stars, planets and all things cosmic. It is common when something traumatic or really difficult happens to us, that we may feel as if we are alone in the experience. Finding safe ways to get more connected to a positive community builds self-compassion by fostering feelings of warmth and affiliation. Broadening one’s perspective outward beyond the self puts one in contact with others who have walked a similar path and this may relieve feelings of isolation. In meditation, one can imagine being fully and beautifully interwoven into this inseparable web of life and sending well-wishes of healing, love, and kindness toward the self and outward to all beings, plants, animals and the universe.

3. Practice mindfulness: Perhaps an oversimplified way of describing mindfulness is that it is present-moment awareness, held with intention, in a way that is discerning, yet non-judgmental, and compassionate. Mindfulness can be practiced in a myriad of ways including yoga, meditation, art, and all of the variety of mind-body practices. Even many of our everyday activities can be practiced with mindfulness, such as washing the dishes or taking a shower. Mindfulness builds self-compassion by providing a lens to notice self-judgments, and it offers us a framework to intentionally let go of the desire for things to be other than what they are. As we develop a radical acceptance of all things, including ourselves, exactly as we are, we are essentially laying down fertile soil for a flowering of the seeds the practices sow for positive self-transformation. It may sound paradoxical that change comes through acceptance, but imagine how much easier it would be to move through the world without the ten thousand pounds of self-judgment that you may have been carrying around all of these years.

Here I have described several ways in which practicing self-compassion can be a powerful way to bring more happiness, freedom, and grace into your life. The tools of self-compassion are simple, yet they hold the potential to make profound, meaningful, and positive contributions to your well-being. Now is the perfect time to begin to practice. As you finish reading, I invite you to take a few moments to honor yourself for your commitment to your well-being and reflect on how you may deepen this commitment by offering self-compassion and kindness to yourself every day. You can write your thoughts down and create a self-compassion action plan.


Neff, K. (2003). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and identity, 2(2), 85-101.

Friday: Fall Equinox Restorative – Sep 23



Today, I see your face,
the stones start spinning.
Out of the empty, vast landscape
You suddenly appear.
All my studying wanders.
I lose my place.
This river water turns pearly.
This Fire dies down
and does not consume.
In your presence
I do not want
what I thought I wanted,
those three little hanging lamps.
Inside your eyes
all the ancient manuscripts
seem like rusty, old mirrors.
I feel your breath soft
warm against my bearded cheek
    in my mind
unseen new shapes appear.
Your music in my ear
is all I desire and
this song’s wings
are as widespread
as spring
You take my hand
You move me
like an old great wheeled wagon
rolling along this old war torn trail.
I turn to you
and I can’t help
to ask you
to please
Drive slowly.
Original by Rumi
rewrite by John