mt. on hike
Living Tree Counseling Services



April 2011
In This Issue
Mission statement
Welcome to Living Tree
Be Mindful
The Mind of Absolute Trust
Services Available

dress up

Healing, Hope and Wholeness


"Combining the disciplines of spirituality and psychology in a ministry that promotes wholeness and healing."

Located in Vancouver, Washington at the Vancouver National Historical Reserve, Living Tree conveniently serve the Portland and

Vancouver community.  

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Spirituality and Practice

 Welcome to Living Tree
Living Tree Counseling Services focuses on a
denise twapproach to health and well being.  I provide services varying from individual therapy to retreats and spiritual direction.  My goal is to combine the best that the disciplines of psychology and spirituality have to offer in order to facilitate my clients' journeys towards wholeness.

I hope this newsletter will be of interest to you.  Feel free to forward this newsletter to anyone you think might appreciate it. 

Be Mindful

"Through our senses the world appears.  Through our reactions we create delusions.  Without reactions the world becomes clear."



    Last month I was taking a hike along a river in Redmond, OR on a very cold day.  It had been below zero the night before but this day was full of sunshine and the promise of warmer weather.  I noticed how high and fast the water was rushing alongIn many places it had overflowed its bank and come to rest in the marshland that surrounded it.  I had been pondering the mountains in the distance but as I stopped to look more fully at my surroundings I noticed ice crystals that lay in perfect chunks near the shore.  Picking one up, I became awaice crystalre of the pattern that looked liked lace that had been tatted by a great lace maker.  The ice glittered and reflected some of the glory of the day as my companion held it in his hand. I became aware that if I had continued to look only outward to the distance view, I would have missed this beauty that was close at hand.

    Our lives are filled with many moments when we are so busy with thoughts about the future or the past  that we missed what is happening in the present moment.  When this develops into an unhealthy preoccupation, we can get lost in anxiety or fear about the future or depressing ruminations about past mistakes or missed opportunities.  It is ironic that these types of rumination are what caused the problem in the first place.  We can only respond to the present moment and no amount of worry about the future or the past will change it.  

   Eastern religions have long practiced mindfulness.  It is a type of meditation where the mind is trained to see reality exactly as it is.  In recent times, psychology has borrow from this ancient tradition and begun to use mindfulness to treat stress and anxiety, as well as to help people become aware of their emotions.  Bishop et al (2004) define mindfulness as incorporating two components:   

"The first component [of mindfulness] involves the self-regulation of attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience, thereby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment. The second component involves adopting a particular orientation toward one's experiences in the present moment, an orientation that is characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance."


     Both attention to and acceptance of the present moment is important for us to see things as they truly are.  It is from this type of "seeing" that true wisdom is found.  When we greet the moment with openness we take on a different way of seeing, hearing and experiencing than if we approach it in with a preoccupation, anxiety or preconceived notion of what we will find.   Without both attention and acceptance, we will either miss important details or we will see only what we want to see.  This new awareness that is cultivated by mindfulness can be applied to the outer world that surrounds us or to our own inner world, where our emotions, thoughts and core essence resides.    

     Psychological therapies that use mindfulness tend to use it to help with assessing the inner world.  In most of these therapies, one is encouraged to develop connection with an inner observer who is separate from the emotions, thoughts and personality patterns that have led to the stress and turmoil.  The practice is one of noticing and letting go of the judgment, all the while remembering that the inner essence of each of us is good and whole.   

     Jack Kornfield, a psychologist and practicing Buddhist who has written extensively on this subject, states: "We do not have to improve ourselves: we just have to let go of what blocks our heart."   If each of us took that wisdom to heart and began to be gentle with ourselves, releasing those things that keep us prisoner, imagine what a more graceful and peaceful world we would create.  Start today, start where you are, and embrace the moment.  Wonders are waiting to be revealed. 


plum flowers

The Mind of Absolute Trust*
by Seng-Ts'an (excerpt)


The Great Way isn't difficult
for those who are unattached to their preference.
Let go of longing and aversion,
and everything will be perfectly clear.
When you cling to a hairbreadth of distinction,
heaven and earth are set apart.
If you want to realize the truth,
don't be for or against.
The struggle between good and evil
is the primal disease of the mind.
Not grasping the deeper meaning,
you just trouble your mind's serenity.
As vast as infinite space,
it is perfect and lacks nothing.
But because you select and reject,
you can't perceive its true nature.
Don't get entangled in the world;
don't lose yourself in emptiness.
Be at peace in the oneness of things,
and all errors will disappear by themselves.

If you don't live in the Tao,
you fall into assertion or denial.
Asserting that the world is real,
you are blind to its deeper reality;
denying the world is real,
you are blind to the selflessness of all things.
The more you think about these matters,
the farther you are from the truth.
Step aside from all thinking,
and there is nowhere you can't go.
Returning to the root, you find the meaning;
chasing appearance, you lose their source.
At the moment of profound insight,
you transcend both appearance and emptiness.
Don't keep searching for the truth;
just let go of your opinions.

* Translated by Stephen Mitchell. From Ten Poems to Last a Life Time, by Roger Housden. 

  • A Path with Heart, Jack Kornfield
  • The Naked Now, Richard Rohr 
  • Mindfulness in Plain English, Bhante Henepola Gunaratana
  • This One Moment: Skills for Everyday Mindfulness, Marsha Linehan
Batman and  Zorro Counseling & Spiritual Direction Available
Services are available from Denise McGuiness, PhD, MDiv. She is a pastoral psychologist, licensed in both Oregon (#482) and Washington (#1184).  She has been in practice since 1981. In 2004, she completed her master of divinity degree and added a focus on spiritual issues to her practice. She is also a certified spiritual director. Please visit Living Tree's website at to learn more about her philosophy of treatment. To schedule an appointment, call Dr. McGuiness at (360) 750-6868.
Contact Living Tree Counseling Services at:
Office phone: 360.750.6868
Denise McGuiness, Ph.D. M.Div., Pastoral Psychologist
Contact us to arrange for your first Spiritual Direction session, which is FREE. Further sessions are based on a mutually arranged fee scale.
Offer Expires: June 30, 2011