A Special Application

You may have heard a song which says, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” It’s a wonderful songbut it’s a very difficult thing to do. It’s extremely difficult to stop worrying about something just because you tell yourself to do so. And it’s also difficult to make yourself feel happy through the sheer force of your will. Morita Therapy was originally developed for people with a type of anxiety neurosis called shinkeishitsu. Such people were characterized by their tendencies towards perfectionism, shyness, hypochondria and a general preoccupation with their feelings and thoughts. Many traditional approaches to anxiety advocate “working on” your thoughts - trying to change or even stop them. But Morita’s approach was based on the strategy of accepting them and shifting one’s attention to something more constructive. Rather than fixing our mental ruminations, we work on doing the things that help us live a fulfilled and meaningful life. We simply take our anxiety with us as we strive to live well and do what’s important. How empowering this is! Our anxiety no longer prevents us from taking action.

A Natural Approach to Mental Wellness
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y is to not resist or rebel against the symptoms or to try to get around them by devising all sorts of tricks, that is, to accept them directly as they are without shunning them.” --Takahisa Kora, M.D.

“Your thoughts and feelings are a kind of secretion. It is important for us to see that clearly. I’ve always got things coming up in my head, but if I tried to act on everything that came up, it would just wear me out.” -- Kosho Uchiyama Roshi


Barry Schwartz speaks on the paradox of choice.



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J.K. Rowling speaks on the fringe benefits of failure.


Articles From the ToDo Institute’s Resource Library

Japanese Psychology and Purposeful Living


So what is a sensible strategy concerning stagefright and its corollaries? I suggest that the real problem is not these feelings in and of themselves; it is that we are letting this particular group of feelings "push us around." I mean by that: that we misplace our attention. We focus our energies on developing confidence as a speaker rather than on the effortful work of preparing the speech or rehearsing the presentation. I tell performers/speakers to pay attention to the audience. Notice if they appear to be hearing and understanding what you are saying. Handling performance anxiety is really about redirecting ones attention. It's about noticing that I feel anxious and then turning my mind and body to the act of doing the performance with full attention. It is about remembering my purpose and acting accordingly.
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Perfectionism and the Fear of Making Mistakes

Making a mistake implies humiliation; it lowers one's social status, as being right increases it and this is at the root of our concern with goodness and righteousness. We are interested in it primarily because we are interested in our own prestige and status. Once we free ourselves from our fear of being inferior and recognize our worth and dignity, we no longer fear making mistakes-and, therefore make fewer. Our educational institutions are not yet prepared to teach this new social value of the courage to be imperfect. The ability to make mistakes graciously and to accept the ensuing predicament in the same spirit as if it had occurred without our fault is essential for functioning as a free person, as an equal amongst equals.
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Anxiety as Misdirected Attention: A Case Study

...I learned two very important lessons. First, never make assumptions that because something is long-standing it is therefore complex and intractable. Secondly, working simply is the best way to start (and in this case finish).
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When it Comes to Attention, “I” am the Enemy

But it is the tragedy of psychology that it is still preoccupied with self-preoccupation. Too often it teaches us to do what we already do too well -- pay attention to ourselves. In the course of exploring our pain, our worries, our feelings and our dreams we forego the development of our more needed skill -- to notice and engage the world around us. Without practice, our muscles atrophy. So the next time you find yourself self-absorbed, take a walk. Look around you. The world is an interesting place. It might even give you something to do. If the stars are out, close your eyes. Listen. You might just hear them twinkle. That is how they get your attention.
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Wake Up and Smell the Rosemary

Before long, the hour was over. My client’s anxiety had vanished. There was nothing more to say. No grand message or moral to send him off with that night. Our actions had spoken louder than all the words I had uttered previously.
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When Plans and Reality Collide: The Tale of Victoria's Garden

Although the garden that Victoria tends today holds great meaning for her and others, the process of creating it was far different from what she had envisioned. At a critical point, despite her transcendent vision and with the aid of a highly synchronistic and rather humorous outer event (the hummingbird!), she stopped long enough to see clearly what could be accomplished with the reality directly in front of her: to surrender the details of her vision, to acknowledge her gratitude for what others were trying to do for her, and to allow a bridge to form from her original idea to a more relevant one. For those to whom images speak louder than words, her garden is a treasure for Naikan reflection and Morita-style goal tending.
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An Ordinary Day at the Beach

The moment to dive was here. Accepting the feelings of fear and dread, I dove. The cold water engulfed my body as I disappeared from view. When I came to the surface, I was cold; but moment by moment, my body and mind adjusted. I did not fight the cold, there was no point. It was an uncontrollable part of life that needed to be accepted. Instead I began working with what I could control, my behavior, and just kept moving. Hannah and I splashed and dove. We were having so much fun I wasn't focused on the feelings of cold anymore. After about half an hour I realized I wasn't cold anymore; but it didn't really matter. Far more important to me was the smile on my daughter's face and the fact that I was doing what needed to be done.
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Tips for Dealing with Anxiety

I asked “V” if she could think of any successful college friend who remained totally unaffected by exams. She could not. After sharing my own similar experience with tests I pointed out to V that anxiety is a normal and acceptable experience in this context. I explained her anxiety in terms of the desire for living fully:

“Where there is a desire, there is anxiety about being unable to fulfill it. The intensity of your anxiety is an indication of the strength of your desire for meaningful academic accomplishment. Which would you choose, exhausting your energy trying to conquer anxiety or getting your studying done in spite of it?”
F. Isshu Ishiyama, Ph.D. (counseling a woman with severe test anxiety)

Recommended Books

A Natural Approach to Mental Wellness
by Gregg Krech
If you are looking for wise and practical guidance about living well, you won’t find a finer resource than A Natural Approach to Mental Wellness. Read more about the book, A Natural Aprroach to Mental Wellness here.

A Natural Approach to Mental Wellness by Gregg Krech

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How to Live Well: The Secret of Using Neurosis
by Takahisa Kora, M.D.
Showing the charm, wisdom, and delicacy of a mature Japanese healer, this book presents useful and very practical techniques for relieving the suffering of neurosis. It explains the fundamental principles of Morita therapy in unadorned language.

How to Live Well book by Takahisa Kora

Buy How to Live Well book now


The Habit of Living: A Way to Calm Your Symptoms and to Feel Happy
by Ernest Mastria, Psy.D.
A practical guide to reduce anxiety and depression, or to simply enjoy life

The Habit of Living book by Ernest Mastria


BuyThe Habit of Living book now




“The wheezing comes and goes, and I get dizzy more and more frequently. I have taken to violent choking and fainting. My room is damp and I have perpetual chills and palpitations of the heart. I noticed too, I am running out of napkins. Will it ever stop?”
Woody Allen (from Without Feathers)

“I think these difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way and that so many things that one goes around worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.”
Isak Dinesen (1885-1962), [Baroness Karen Blixen] Danish writer

Working With Attention

A long-distance learning program.

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Much of our psychological and emotional distress is associated with an exaggerated degree of self-focused attention. Strengthening your attention skills can help to improve your mental health and to enhance your enjoyment of life.

Through daily exercises, based on Japanese methods of psychology this program provides practical benefits while blending the spiritual and psychological with the tasks of daily life.

Learn about our long-distance learning program, Working With Attention.


Thirty Thousand Days

Thirty Thousand Days: A Journal for Purposeful Living

Thirty Thousand Days arrived and after spending some time reading the articles, I must say that you have outdone yourselves. The journal looks great, the articles are terrific and the paper even feels good. Congratulations!”
Dan Lucas, Arlington, VA

“What an OUTSTANDING issue! I devoured it cover to cover and found each and every article inspiring, humbling and informative. It is a real pleasure to continue receiving this fabulous publication.”
Jane Skiba, New Paltz, NY


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