Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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You Know You Have A Rainforest Mind When…

There are seventeen unread or partially read books piled next to your bed. And you are browsing on the powells.com website just in case.

(photo courtesy of Gaelle Marcel, Unsplash)

You have been told that what is obvious to you is not apparent to everyone. Really? But it is so simple, you declare with dismay.

Your thinking and your style of communication is like a fire hose to everyone else’s garden hose.

You are hearing sounds and smelling smells that no one else hears or smells.

You start writing the paper for school the night before and still get the highest grade in the class. Contrary to the myth that you must be arrogant, you are actually uncomfortable so you hide your grades and start failing classes on purpose.

People much older than you are running the nonprofit where you volunteer and are asking your opinions and putting you in charge. You are appalled at how disorganized they are so you take over.

You are fascinated by, oh, everything, and never want to stop learning.

People who have been on the job much longer than you, resent the fact that you learned the ropes faster and mastered the job in a few weeks. And now you are bored.

Your empathy runs amok.

You have spent more time waiting for others to catch up than you have spent sleeping.

You had eight (or more) different careers before you were thirty.

People tell you that you care too much, you are too idealistic, too sensitive, and you can’t change the world. Sometimes you believe them but deep in your heart, you know they are wrong.

You took seven years to get through college because you changed your major 4 times. And you added two minors. You would have stayed longer if it wasn’t so darned expensive.

You have painted your living room 12 times in 4 years, and it is still not right.

People tell you how smart you are but you feel like a failure most of the time.

You slept with (and loved) the dictionary when you were a child and you are secretly annoyed that Google, Alexa, Siri, and Whoever are answering your kids’ questions.

People keep telling you to lower your extremely high expectations and you wonder why they are not raising theirs.

You learned to dance and lead the Argentine tango because it was challenging, creative, and intimate, and for the first time in your life others figured out how to follow you.

You see ecru, beige, ivory, and eggshell when everyone else sees white.

You not only know a lot because you research pretty constantly, even in your sleep, but you also have an intuitive capacity that is so particularly accurate at times, it is a little unnerving.

People tell you that you talk too fast, even when you are speaking your third language.

When you read this list you think, isn’t everyone like this?

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To my bloggEEs: Can you add to this list in the comments? How do you know you have a rainforest mind? Thank you for being here and for your love. Loving you back, as always. Knowing you are reading my blog has totally saved me during this pandemic. Welcome to my happy place. Stay safe everyone.


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Do Not Stop Caring — Fifteen Reminders For Tender-Hearted Smart People

Do not stop caring. No matter if your co-workers scoff at you for your idealistic enthusiasm.

(photo courtesy of Kevin Quezada, Unsplash)

Do not stop caring. Ignore the cynics and pessimists who say all is lost.

Do not stop caring. Remind yourself that the truly intelligent ones are the optimists-with-ideas

Do not stop caring. Even when your colleagues and family members suggest that smart people do not love so indiscriminately.

Do not stop caring. When your empathy has you exhausted, take breaks and fill yourself back up.

Do not stop caring. If you have been told that the masculine thing to do is to toughen up. (Are we still saying that in 2021?) Give that little child in you a big hug and tell them tenderness is the real strength.

Do not stop caring. If you have been told that the feminine thing to do is to be quiet and look pretty. (Are we still saying that in 2021?) Give that little child in you a big hug and tell them to start singing their songs, loudly and with abandon.

Do not stop caring. Even if you are the only one you know who sees deeply into the complexity of the situation. Even if humans are always disappointing you.

Do not stop caring. You are an art-work-in-progress. You do not need to be perfect. You can not please everyone; you are not supposed to.

Do not stop caring. Remember that song? Measure your life in love.

Do not stop caring. Even when you are ready to quit because everyone is depending on you and you are so tired of it. Remember that setting boundaries and having limits are both very healthy and necessary behaviors. Even if you are able to do the thing, that does not mean you have to do the thing.

Do not stop caring. Remember to let your spiritual practice, Nature, your Aunt Gretchen, and your trusty puppy Fido nourish you.

Do not stop caring. Even if you still haven’t found the right therapist and you are having a bad hair day.

Do not stop caring. You may be on the leading edge of exploring higher consciousness with your awareness, intuition, perception, and longing for justice for all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, cultures, and ethnicities. Keep seeking other rainforest minds to join you in your vision.

Do not stop caring. Even if ordinary reality looks kinda bleak at times. Remember that non-ordinary reality also exists and it is quite amazing.

Do not stop caring. When you are not sure what actions to take to create a better world, ask your Heart what it wants to say and do. Trust your Heart.

And, if you need to get a boost for your overwhelmed, aching, languishing, tender heart, watch this powerful short video from the international kids video troupe, the World Hope Project. It will lift you up. (And for you Spanish speakers, here is Dear Mother Earth in Spanish!)

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To my dearest bloggEEs: Are you tired? Overwhelmed? Wondering what to do next? Let us know how you are doing. What are you thinking, feeling, and doing that helps you care when others don’t? Sending much love to you.


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Tango Therapy

(To my bloggEEs: This is my second personal musing. It is a piece I wrote a while ago about how my tango adventure began. Let me know what you think in the comments. It is longer than my usual blog entry and it also includes a video of an actual tango lesson I had some years ago. Enjoy! The video is not with Andrei, the man I write about here. Oh, and the music we used is not traditional tango, in case you were wondering.)

(Andrei and me practicing)

“Would you like to go salsa dancing with me on Friday?”

“Excuse me”? I said.

“Would you like to go salsa dancing?”

“Are you talking to me?” 

He was gorgeous. He had that JFK Jr. handsomeness. And he was young. I thought this was a joke. We were in a swing dance class. I did not know him. I was 47. He was, um, young.

Then we switched partners and I was dancing with Farmer John, who smelled a little like the farm. The handsome young guy had moved to the next girl. Maybe he was asking her to go salsa dancing with him, too.

But he came back around to me, with that make-you-wanna-melt smile. 

“Salsa? Friday?”

How did he even know I had been taking salsa lessons? 

When the class ended, we talked. He was 29 and a graduate student at the University of Oregon, having emigrated from Russia with his engineer parents when he was 10. He was getting business and psychology degrees. The mythologist Joseph Campbell was one of his heroes. I learned a lot about him quickly. I am a psychotherapist. I ask questions. 

“Shall I pick you up on Friday or do you want to pick me up?” he asked.

When I determined he was serious, I suggested we meet at the dance venue. I was not quite ready to get into a car with this man, with Andrei, the young charming drop-dead-gorgeous Russian-American. 

Just so you know, I am a feminist. I do not put much emphasis on looks. I do not care about such things. I am evolved, after all. Middle-aged for heaven’s sake. But, his young tall-dark-handsomeness was impossible to ignore. Maybe because I was never the popular girl, not the one that people noticed. I was the one with an ethnic look, curly haired, introverted, the anti-cheerleader. The beautiful boys never sought me out for salsa dancing.

He told me he had seen me dancing salsa a month ago. He had wanted to ask me to dance then but I was talking with another young man, his roommate it turns out, so he did not want to intrude. Maybe I wanted to date his roommate, he thought. 

Was I dreaming him up? Maybe I was living in an alternate universe. Where had this guy come from? 

I had been divorced for about ten years and looking for a new hobby that would get me out into the world, meeting people. So I tried ballroom dance classes: Swing, salsa, Argentine tango. I loved dancing and was pretty good at it. I was particularly fond of salsa and tango. The tango was not easy to learn but there were a couple of excellent teachers in my town and the tango seemed to attract fascinating people: Smart, sensitive, creative folks who were also looking for a way to express themselves artistically while connecting with others in a safe, yet intimate, way. 

I danced with Andrei that Friday night at the restaurant/bar. It was thrilling. My heart was pounding. I left early because I did not want to faint from the excitement of it all. That would have been embarrassing.

Turns out, Andrei was also taking tango lessons. Sunday afternoons, tango classes were held downtown in a large, mirrored space with a shiny wood floor. We would have a lesson for an hour and then practice for the next hour. To dance well, I had to become more tuned in to my own body. I had to feel my feet caressing the floor and move my energy down my legs versus up in my head, where it usually lived. It was challenging. But the community was welcoming and the dance was so satisfying. I ended up dancing about 3-4 times a week. It was intoxicating. And the Argentine tango became my therapy. 

Andrei and I built a friendship. We had a regular breakfast meeting Saturday mornings. He would come to my home at 9am sharp for coffee and eggs. Then he would stretch out on my too-small sofa to talk about Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and the roots of happiness. We would practice tango outside on my deck. He had been dancing longer than I had so he would make suggestions on how I might improve. He was an impatient teacher but I didn’t care. 

As my dancing progressed, I noticed that men would be watching me; like the 30-something blonde Marine. He wasn’t a dancer but he would occasionally be at the café where we danced on Tuesday nights. It seemed I had discovered an answer to aging well—feeling attractive as you head into your later-middle-ages. No matter if you are the ethnic, curly-haired, anti-cheerleader. Dance well and you will be popular. 

I remember dancing with a man closer to my age. He was a talented leader, playful, creative, and sensitive. The faster tangos were particularly fun. Being in sync with his musicality and his grounded body was exhilarating. And then one day, he stopped asking me to dance.

“Robert, I’ve noticed that you don’t ask me to dance anymore and you avoid my gaze when I try to ask you. Have I offended you?” I asked.

“Um, uh, well, um, uh, no. I, well, um, I might have mentioned to my girlfriend that I thought you were a passionate dancer,” he replied.

“Oh. Oh. OK. Good to know. Thanks for telling me.”

Turns out his girlfriend thought I was just a little too passionate. I missed Robert but I was relieved I had not offended him and I was grateful for the odd compliment. 

Robert was a better tango dancer than Andrei. But, with Andrei there was a special electricity. We talked about it; the sexual attraction. But neither of us wanted to ruin what we had. Andrei was dating women closer to his age, which made sense to me. I was wondering, though, if he stayed more superficial with the women he dated.  Perhaps, he and I were closer because we were not dating. 

He would say: “Let’s put that sexual energy into the dance.”

And we did. Tango, it turns out, was better than sex.

There were times when Andrei would disappear and not respond to calls. It was becoming clear that he struggled with depression. He could be temperamental and distant. His father had died when he was 16, which the therapist in me suspected was a loss he had not processed. And there was so much I did not know about his past. He started to miss some Saturday morning breakfasts. But later he would show back up at a dance class or a milonga with his mesmerizing smile. And when we danced, it was still magic, except for the times he felt like I was pulling on his neck or not following him perfectly, which happened when he was in a mood or when I was wanting more. 

I will admit it. I was not totally content with the arrangement. I was getting attached. I started writing bad poetry about our unusual pairing. Journaling about my ambivalence and my desire. And then he moved to Portland. He had graduated and felt too stifled in our town. Portland, two hours north, would provide more opportunities for work contacts and dancing. We stayed in touch and I went to Portland to dance a few times. He would drive back to Eugene on occasion. But it wasn’t the same. With the distance, though, it was easier for me to be rational about the knowledge that he was not really boyfriend material. 

And then he moved again. To Paris. Andrei needed the stimulation of a big city, a new language and culture, and French women. I realized he had always been restless in Oregon. He sent me postcards from France. He seemed happier there. Periodically, he would ask me to visit him in Paris. I was considering it. Then he invited me to his wedding.

Camille was French, beautiful, and smart. She was his age. Her hair was not curly. If they had cheerleaders in France, she probably was one in high school. Of course, he was marrying her. 

I didn’t go to the wedding. If I was going to take my introverted travel-phobic self to Paris, it wasn’t going to be when Andrei would be ignoring me because he had better things to do, like get married. So, I waited until his son Gabriel was born and he asked me again. 

“Come to Paris, Paulina.” 

“I don’t know, Andrei. Travel makes me nervous. If I go, can I count on you to pay attention and not leave me stranded somewhere?” 

“I will not leave you stranded. We can dance tango along the Seine in the evening. It will be fun.” 

Tango? With Andrei? In Paris? Along the Seine? 

I went to Paris. 

The 11 hours in the plane I ruminated. I only spoke high school French. What if he wasn’t at the airport when I arrived? He was not the most reliable guy, I mean, I really hardly knew him. What if Camille didn’t like me? What if he was depressed the whole week? What if I forgot how to dance? What if I twisted my ankle, had an allergic reaction to escargots, did something culturally insensitive, and lost my hair gel? 

And then. My fears were unfounded. He was at the airport when I arrived. Camille was sweet and welcoming. They were kind hosts and I managed to communicate while seeing the sites by smiling and saying merci a lot. I had never seen anything like Paris. 

And we went tango dancing along the Seine at night. I was intimidated and incredulous. I tried to keep my ethnic, curly-haired, introverted self calm but it was difficult when the French men spoke to me, holding me close. It took my breath away. They didn’t seem to care I wasn’t popular or that I had no idea what they were saying.

Surely, this was an alternate universe. 

It seemed I had discovered an answer to aging well—feeling attractive as I headed into my later-middle-ages. No matter if you are the ethnic curly-haired anti-cheerleader. Dance well and you will be popular. 

You may even get to dance the tango in Paris.


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Awareness, Awe, and Your Wild Rainforest Mind

(This post was inspired by the writer, visionary, and extraordinarily rainforest-minded Geneen Marie Haugen*)

…I grieve and wonder why so many of our human kin don’t seem to recognize the astonishing miracle of our mutual existence on this precious, exquisite, watery planet that we share not only with fantastically diverse cultures, but also with our companion communities of humpback whales, hummingbirds, giraffes. Is such experiential awareness and awe not available to all of us?…” Geneen Marie Haugen

(photo courtesy of Dev Asangbam, Unsplash)

Maybe not. Awareness and awe seem to exist at different levels and intensities for each of us. Our capacity for awareness and awe might be related to how curious, sensitive, intuitive, empathetic, and perceptive we are.

When you have a rainforest mind, though, you are guaranteed to be living with high levels of both.

Let me explain.

~ Awareness ~

There are many things you see, feel, know, and intuit that others don’t. You may not even realize this. You are normal to you. But when you run into a conflict with someone, it might be because something is obvious to you but not apparent to them. You may think they are lazy or just not paying attention. But it could be they are not seeing what you see. My example from the RFM quiz applies here: Do you see ecru, beige, sand, and eggshell when others see only white? You experience multiple layers and several subtleties. Complexities. Maybe you hear the buzzing florescent lights no one else hears. Or the chewing person in the theatre drives you crazy. Perhaps you grok the solution to the architectural design flaw before anyone else realizes there is a flaw. Or maybe you can tell by the way someone smells that they need a root canal.

These types of awarenesses may seem odd to the non-rainforest-minded among us. They may seem odd to you, too. But they actually come naturally with your larger capacity for being. For knowing.

~ Awe ~

Because of your deeper perceptions and your capacity to appreciate beauty and wonder, chances are you do not take life’s opportunities for granted. Of course, you get irritable, frustrated, despairing, fearful, and angry. You are not always grateful or spiritually in tune. But there may be a sense of awe that always lives in your heart. Geneen Marie Haugen‘s connection with Nature is such a prime example. Here she is describing water.

“…am still in a mad love trance with water, still dripping, still sensing the body of that muscular river: clear, deep, sinuous, insisting on a mutual embrace. A wild adoration of water…” GMH

See what I mean?

This is the intense experience of the rainforest-minded life.

Can you relate?

And yet. You may be exhausted by all of the intensity. You may feel terribly lonely if you are the only one you know who is in a “mad love trance with water.”

But your awareness, your capacity for awe, can also bring you visions of possibilities:

“…I can see a possible world where human ventures are created in accordance with living systems, where (bio)diversity is cherished, where all voices and pretenses are honored, where individual human beings are nourished and encouraged by their communities and by elders to bring forth their unique expressions and offerings. This world is so near that I can even smell and taste it. Millions–maybe even billions–of others have seen and felt the shimmers of a possible world, too…” GMH

Not only that:

“…The circumstances or places in which we find ourselves most radiantly alive almost certainly nourish the wild soul who inhabits the depths far below the surface of our ordinary, everyday consciousness. Tending and cultivating the emergences of the wild soul may be a primary way toward revitalizing human existence on this great planet.” GMH

So, dear rainforesters, keep noticing those shimmers.

And do not forget to carefully tend and cultivate your deeply radiant rainforest-y wild soul.

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To my bloggEEs: Can you relate to being aware and in awe? Let us know how this fits or does not fit in your life. What are the shimmers you are noticing? What are your thoughts? Feelings? Experiences? Questions? And, thank you so much to Geneen for sharing your wild soul with us!

*Geneen Marie Haugen, PhD, grew up as a free-range wildish kid with a run amok imagination.  She is a guide to the experiential, intertwined mysteries of nature and psyche with the Animas Valley Institute (www.animas.org) and has been on the faculty of the Esalen Institute, Schumacher College, and the Fox Institute for Creation Spirituality.  Her writing has appeared many publications including Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth; Thomas Berry: Dreamer of the Earth; Parabola; Kosmos Journal; Ecopsychology; The Artist’s Field Guide to Yellowstone, and others.  


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Single, Childfree, And Petless In A Pandemic — Then And Now

(Dear BloggEEs. This is the first of a new addition to my blog. I am going to occasionally add personal essays and journal entries for your reading pleasure. I am a little nervous about this. Please continue to like, comment, and share, as usual. Let me know what you think. Enjoy! And thank you. They will be compiled on my new Musings page.)

Single, Childfree, and Petless in a Pandemic – Part One

(Wearing my emotional support sweater)

March 2020 – The Beginning

            This forced isolation has me rattled. And a little faklempt. Maybe a lot faklempt. 

            I think it is because of all of the unknowns. How long will this last? Is this the beginning of a series of traumatic climate change events? Will I get sick? Will the internet go down and I’ll no longer be able to see my clients online and my income will dry up?  Will I run out of hair gel? Will my computer die so I will have to stop blogging?  Will human beings never become enlightened? Will I fall and break some important bone, not be able to reach the phone, die and not be found for weeks? Will my acupuncturist move to Portland? Will I lose the opportunity to finally find the love of my life because dating sites are forced to shut down and tango dancing is banned forever? 

            Did I mention that I have ruminating tendencies?

            I am single, childfree, and petless. In my 60’s. I have lived pretty contentedly alone for much of my adult life with two breaks for short-ish but significant relationships. I am an introvert through and through. Solitude is my friend. I have always been driven to build a meaningful career path and to create a better world. I am less in need of a traditional family. And so, I have created a fulfilling work life, loving friendships, and a sweet, comfortable nest for myself. 

            But still. I was not prepared for lockdown.

            I am coping by using a combination of approaches. (I am a psychotherapist so I know a lot of them.) I am ramping up my spiritual practice. Reading trusted news sources. Zooming with family members and friends. But, actually, I am mostly using one tactic. 

            Denial. Denial is not something psychotherapists usually recommend to clients but pandemic disorder is not found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual either. So, I use denial and try not to think about all of those ruminated possibilities. (Denial, as in, not thinking about it. Not denial, as in, touching and breathing on people.)

            But, lately, denial is not working so well.  I am worried about the future. Even though solitude is still my friend, and I have acquired an emotional support animal in the form of a cozy chenille sweater that I wear almost every day, I am wondering if it is time to invite someone, a male partner, to join me in my nest. Virtually, of course, for now.     

            Truth is, back in the day when nuclear war was the threat we all prepared for, I would think, “I want a person who thinks of me first, who finds me first, when the bomb drops.”

            I still want that person. And now would be a great time for you to show up. I want a person who thinks of me first, when the pandemic hits. 

            Oh, wait. The pandemic has hit. 

            Text me. 

            I will be at home.

Single, Childfree, and Petless in a Pandemic – Part Two

March 2021 – A Year Later

            It has been a year. I am no longer so rattled, or faklempt. At least no more than I was during the years before the pandemic. Turns out if you are a psychotherapist during a pandemic, you have job security and human (online) contact.  In fact, if you are a highly sensitive introverted therapist like me, working online is kinda fine. I can still reach my clients through the screen. (My empathy, it turns out, is teleportable.) Some of my clients even prefer staying home in their own cozy chairs with their blankets and tea. It seems that, for some, the safety of their own nest allows them to be more vulnerable than they might be sitting across from me, in real life, face to face, bodies in the room, together. So, when it comes to work, income, and continuing to feel connected to a larger purpose, Covid-19 did not get the best of me.

(still wearing my emotional support sweater)

            And because I had even more time than usual, because I was not going to the gym, socializing at the café, traveling to visit relatives, or tango dancing into the night, my blog was more of a priority and I was more open to expanding my practice into international consulting. In fact, the switch to online conferencing made it possible for me to accept offers to speak I would have otherwise declined. To audiences in the Netherlands and France. To clients in Cyprus and Belgium and beyond. 

            Of course, I would not have survived so well if this had happened in, say, 1985. No Internet. No cell phone. No Instagram. No Skype. No Zoom. No Voxer. No Venmo. I would have been a wreck in a 1985 pandemic. If there had to be a pandemic, well, 2020 was a good year. 

            So, I am grateful. 

            And so far, even my 2020 ruminations have not come to pass. I did not get sick. No one I know died. I did not break any bones and die a slow death until I was found three weeks later. My internet kept working so I could see clients and keep blogging. My acupuncturist did not move to Portland. I did not run out of hair gel. 

            It is kind of a miracle. 

            I do understand that a couple of my ruminations are still alive and well. The ones about climate change and humanity never becoming enlightened. There is still that. When I look beyond my smallish comfortable world, I could easily start rattling or faklempting again. But, instead, I take a breath, and remember my assignment. I am here on planet Earth to help smart, sensitive souls self-actualize and create a better world.

            Oh, and there is one more rumination: Will I lose the opportunity to finally find the love of my life because dating sites are forced to shut down and tango dancing is banned forever? 

            Well. Dating sites are going strong. Tango is just on hold for now. So. The opportunity is not lost. I will be vaccinated next week. The invitation stands. Join me now, love of my life. My hair gel won’t last forever.


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“The Problem, Officer, Is That My Sister Is An Intellectual…”* –A Quick Guide To Your Rainforest Mind

(*quote adapted from the inspiring talk Surviving as an Organizational Heretic ; by Carmen Medina TEDx talk)

(photo courtesy of Fabio Fistarol, Unsplash)

Have you been identified as the problem in your family? Is your finely tuned sensitivity, unending research, probing curiosity, exquisite empathy, passionate creativity, accurate intuition, in-depth analysis, sweet optimism, and driven social conscience, misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and mystifying?

Do your parents, siblings, teachers, therapists, friends, neighbors, and pets, look at you with wonder, or confusion, or anger, or fear, or jealousy, or awe? (OK. Maybe your pets look at you with, well, unconditional love. Unless they are cats. Cats may look at you with disdain. Not because you are gifted, though. But just because.) Do you reject the notion you are gifted because you know how much you don’t know or because you were not a straight-A student or because it feels arrogant, elitist, and unfair?

I thought so.

Then, of course, there is the pressure. Oh, the pressure. If you are so smart, then, well, you better reach your potential. Wasted potential is not an option. You ought to be great at everything you try at all times. Maybe even “insanely great.” Mistakes, then, become failures and failures are unbearable.  

No wonder you would like to hide out rather than shine too brightly. No wonder. But honestly? You can not really hide. Not really. You can try. But at some point, your rainforest mind will sneak out from under your cloak. The truth of who you are will be revealed. How? Well, for starters, it could be that any one or more of the following occur:

The foundation of your house finally cracks under the weight of all of those darn books. You can’t stop crying over nature’s fecundity.  It takes you 11 years to get through college because you keep changing your major, start two businesses, learn the Argentine tango, join the board of an arts organzation, travel to Nepal to lead treks, teach yourself watercolor painting, and write a screenplay. You still reread Jane Austen, Ursula LeGuin, and Toni Morrison, again and again. You raise a gifted child. You start a nonprofit, or three. You become an overworked, underpaid, and adored-by-your-students middle school teacher. You swoon over your fascination with fungi. You dive deeply into psychotherapy to heal from your traumatic childhood. (Yeah, I know. You thought I’d say, you win a Nobel prize. And, perhaps, you do that, too. But prizes are not required for rainforest mind membership.)

In other words, because you have a rainforest mind, you have an extra large, perhaps enormous, capacity to think, feel, know, perceive, analyze, evaluate, discern, observe, empathize, intuit, create, imagine, and love. All humans have these abilities to greater and lesser degrees, of course. Your capacities are just much deeper, wider, and multi-faceted. You experience layers and levels and complexities and controversies and visions and worries and energies and influences that others may not. 

This is not arrogant, elitist, or unfair.

It is just you.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you need to find more self-acceptance and understanding? If you experience conflict in your family or in other relationships, it could be, at least in part, because of these differences. Let us hear from you. Thank you for sharing your comments, feelings, thoughts, and questions. They add so much. Love to you! (Note: If you get a chance, watch Carmen Medina‘s TED talk. She explains how to create change in an organization and you can hear the whole story from her about what her brother said!)


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What My Twice-Exceptional Client Taught Me

I totally missed it. In my enthusiastic desire to avoid at all costs the all-too-often misdiagnoses of gifted kids and adults, I did not see what was right in front of me. 

(photo courtesy of David Clode, Unsplash)

I had worked with Jenny off and on, every other week, for about two years. She came to me after a difficult first year in college away from home, returning to a university in her hometown. She openly shared her struggles with anxiety, depression, and relationships. Her need for structure and routines, and trouble with transitions. Her extroversion and difficulty with friendships. The early years of bullying; her love of learning and desire to achieve in school. 

I had written about her on my blog. This one on anxiety and perfectionism. And I quoted her in this one. I saw it all as the typical challenges gifted young people face. And it was.

Until it wasn’t. 

Jenny had a boyfriend, Glen, who lived with her. He had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and, with him, it was easy to see the signs. He had severe executive functioning problems and anxiety. He was not doing well in school or keeping up with chores at home; he had strong opinions that could not be changed. Jenny would remind him about homework and his responsibilities, but he would often procrastinate or say he would get to it but not follow through. He was particularly socially awkward. Compared to Glen, Jenny appeared to be a regular gifted kid with the typical rainforest-y struggles. She was conscientious about her schoolwork, kept her house clean, and was quite personable. She was insightful, sensitive, and kind. Yes, Jenny talked nonstop in our sessions but so did many of my clients. 

But, in our session last week, Jenny told me she had recently realized she was an “aspie girl.” She said she had been masking her ASD traits like many girls do, and that she was exhausted. The isolation and stress of the pandemic had finally overwhelmed her so she had gone on a search for answers and had come up with her own ASD diagnosis. Jenny explained she had severe anxiety with transitions and a strong need for plans and routines. When she was living with her parents, they provided the structure she needed. On her own, it was extremely challenging. She identified this as the executive functioning issues that can come with ASD.  She said she was quite anxious in new situations until she knew the rules and that she had learned over the years to imitate others so she would look appropriate. She described sensory issues and some self-stimulation that helped calm her; also physical clumsiness and fine motor difficulties. She told me about “obsessions” she had as a young child with Wizard of Oz, Dr. Who, and Lord of the Rings

The tricky thing is, I know many regular gifted kids in love with Dr. Who and J.R.R. Tolkien. Many who are sensually sensitive to textures, smells, tastes, and sounds. Who suffer from anxiety and depression. Who deal with loneliness, bullying, and communication issues.

But this was different. And Jenny’s research confirmed it. She was an aspie girl. She was twice exceptional (2e). She disclosed that as a young child, she developed scripts or rules for interactions with others and would get very upset if they did not follow them. Which they usually didn’t. Jenny said she learned by observation and from her mother to let other people talk and to ask them questions, to talk less about her own interests, and to manage her emotions when plans suddenly changed. Jenny was educating me, and herself, about ASD. It became clear she needed to find a different practitioner. And, in true form, she already had. She had already met with a psychologist for an initial assessment. 

Jenny told me she had benefitted from our time together. I had shared techniques she continued to use to calm her anxiety and manage her depression. My descriptions of rainforest minds reassured her that some of her difficulties in school and with other kids were based in her fast, divergent, and deep thinking, her sensitivities, and her greater capacity for learning. Her rainforest mind.

But I was quite aware of the irony. Many clients over the years have told me their practitioners had misdiagnosed them because there are similarities between the gifted traits and ADHD, OCD, ASD, and even bipolar disorder. Or they told me stories of how their doctors were mystified by their symptoms and they had to diagnose themselves without the help of the so-called experts.

Ouch. Eek. It was humbling to experience being one of those practitioners.

And so, yes, you can be rainforest-minded and ASD or ADHD or anything else, really. You can be twice exceptional. Maybe even 3e? 4e?

And, thus, just when you thought having a rainforest mind was complicated enough, well, there are even more tangled vines, insects, and monkeys than you can imagine.

And to Jenny: Thank you for your patience with me and your determination to make sense of your world. And for helping me make more sense of mine.

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To my bloggEEs: Have you been misdiagnosed? Do you identify with being twice-exceptional? Have you had experiences like Jenny? Let us know in the comments. Your thoughts, feelings, resources, and questions, add so much. Thank you, as always, for being here.

Resources for twice-exceptionality include: http://www.brightandquirky.com; http://www.withunderstandingcomescalm.com; http://www.summitcenter.us; These are mostly for parents of gifted 2e children but the information is still helpful for adults.


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Your Rainforest Mind — The January 2021 Interview (with French subtitles!)

I was interviewed for this online conference in France on neurodiversity, January 2021. I shared some of my background as a middle school teacher of gifted children, what therapists need to know about gifted clients, typical issues clients bring to consultations such as multipotentiality and perfectionism, and more. It is about an hour long. Interviewers were the French writer Alban Bourdy and Swiss executive coach Christine Leclerc-Sherling. (Merci!) I am introduced in French but the rest of the interview is in English, with subtitles.

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To my bloggEEs: What are your thoughts, feelings, and questions? You know your comments add so much to my blog. Thank you, as always, for being here. Much love to you. And, again, thank you Alban and Christine, for inviting me to this conference and for your thoughtful questions.


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A Gifted Woman From India

photo courtesy of Viktor Forgacs, Unsplash

Anu did not think she was smart. She did not excel in mathematics. In India, where she grew up, the gifted ones were the math stars. If you loved music, art, theatre, and literature, like Anu did, you were not considered particularly intelligent, much less gifted. If you were restless, highly imaginative, sensitive, and curious, like Anu, you were told to quiet down and calm down. Anu was punished and insulted by educators. She said, “School was a nightmare.” Even though Anu loved classical dance, singing, reading, and poetry, even though she was a curious, avid reader, this was not enough for her teachers.

Anu wrote: “I have observed in India intelligence is always acknowledged with accomplishments. Anything less than an engineer or doctor is considered low. Comparing your kids’ grades with your neighbor’s kids is a common practice and shaming you if your grades are lower. Nobody tries to understand there are kids who may not be able to thrive in the rote education method, but want it presented in a more interactive, fun, interesting way, as they have a more beautiful and passionate inner world…a beautiful bird or a sunset can evoke a thousand emotions and colors in our brain. We can get excited over things that don’t even make sense to others, but we are not overdramatic. We love life and this world more than anyone can imagine…” 

Anu came to N. America from India when she was 26. She is now 39, in an arranged marriage with two children and a Masters degree in microbiology. She found my blog and books five years ago and said she “found solace in that there are people who think and feel like me. I can live my life without shame and guilt…” It has been a long journey for her to find self-acceptance and to understand that she does, indeed, have a rainforest mind. 

“It took me so many years to realize that I do like to study. In my 30’s, I have been spending time learning anthropology, neurobiology, and studying Egyptian and Indian history…If I could have had this interest sparked in me many years back, my life would not have turned out like this and I could have had a career that is lined with passion…In spite of my passions being subdued by the society, I have lived life happily and spread my compassion and passion into my family. I have pursued reading, studying, dancing, and singing at an age where it may not make me a career, but at least keeps your inner world happy and engaged.”

I told Anu she has many years left to create a career that is fulfilling, if that is a goal of hers. I told her that the rainforest-minded often explore many lifestyles, including parenting, partnering, and multiple jobs/careers, hobbies, and interests over their lifespans. Just in case she felt too old, I reminded her that my blogging career began when I was, oh, 62.

You are not alone, Anu. Keep appreciating your imaginative, passionate, colorful inner world. Your rainforest mind clan is here, dancing and singing with you.

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To my bloggEEs: Let us know if you have had experiences similar to Anu. Tell us where you live and what the school system was like in your country. How did you find out about your rainforest mind? Did you find your path(s) later in life? Thank you, as always, for your sensitive comments and for your open hearts. And many thanks to Anu for sharing your story with us.


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Why Do You Need To Know You Have A Rainforest Mind?

You are a big thinker. A deep thinker. A constant thinker. An analytical and creative thinker. Some might call you an overthinker.

photo courtesy of Kazi Mizan, Unsplash

You are a big feeler. A deep feeler. A constant feeler. (Unless you have learned your emotions are a sign of weakness. Or you have learned to repress them because of disturbing childhood events) An analytical and creative feeler. Some might call you an overfeeler.

You are a big perceiver/intuiter. A deep perceiver/intuiter. A constant perceiver/intuiter. An analytical and creative perceiver/intuiter. Some might call you an overperceiver/intuiter.

You have probably tried to be less of an *over* person. You may have seen it as a flaw or something you had to control or hide. Certainly not a strength or a sign of giftedness. You may have been bullied in school because of all of your questions and all of your answers. You may have lost friends because they thought you were bossy when you told them the correct way to play chess or conceited when you won the spelling bee for the third year in a row or weird when you swooned over The Lord of the Rings trilogy. As an adult, you may have been seen as irresponsible when you changed careers five times before you were 35 or too picky because you painted your living room twelve times in four years. Or judgmental when you grew impatient waiting for your coworkers to catch up.

But the truth is, your rainforest mind is enormous in its capacity to think, feel, perceive, and intuit. It is not a better mind than a meadow mind or a desert mind. It is just more vast or more complex or more hooked up or more connected. Or all of those things. It means you are managing a personhood that has a heck of a lot going on in its brain-mind-heart-body-spirit. A heck of a lot. That is why it is called a rainforest, doncha know.

And this enormous capacity is tricky. Not only does it mean you have difficulty finding others who understand you and want to geek out with you about the spiritual meaning of fractals and Foucault, it puts pressure on you to be a super high achiever in, oh, all areas, oh, all of the time. Not to mention, save the world.

That is a lot of pressure.

But rainforest-mindedness is not about achievement. At least not in the traditional sense. It is not about a 4.0 GPA or a six-figure salary at a Fortune 500 company. It is not about an Olympic gold medal or a viral video. It is not about being capable in all areas all of the time. Face it. Your garage is a disaster and you still can not find your keys. You are a wreck when your child scrapes their knee and you never can remember your sister-in-law’s third husband’s name. You read romance novels and binge watch The Bachelor. You have not solved the climate crisis.

You are not perfect.

But you need to acknowledge you have a rainforest mind. You might even use the word gifted, if you can manage it. Because that is who you are. You are the rainforest-minded variety of gifted. This is because you not only have advanced intelligence, but you also have a great deal of empathy, intuition, creativity, and multipotentiality. And you need to contribute in some way to create a better world.

By the way, not all who are gifted, have these other traits. In my experience, many do. But not all.

And if you accept your place in the rainforest mind clan, then, you can rethink your critical assessment of your thinking, feeling, perceiving, and intuiting. You will stop trying to be less of an *over* person.

When you accept that your *over* is your normal and it is quite fine just as it is, then who knows what might happen. Imagine thinking, feeling, perceiving, and intuiting to your heart’s content. Letting your creativity run amok. Analyzing. Inventing. Geeking out over fractals and Foucault. Creating a better world.

You are not *over.* You are not *under.* You are just right.

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To my bloggEEs: So, my darlings, I hope you are staying safe and healthy. Do you deal with the conundrum that if you acknowledge you are gifted, then you have to do something phenomenal? Do you see all of your faults and so that means you are not so smart? Are you struggling to find someone who can keep up with you? Do you have painful memories of being misunderstood and bullied? Let us know your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Thank you so much for being here.