Welcome to the archived web site of
Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Psychologist (1950-2013)
California License No. PSY 10092
Specializing in Presence-Centered Therapy
balancing mind and heart, body and spirit
Now in memoriam - This website is no longer being updated
Articles by Dr. Friedman (except where noted otherwise)
Awakening Stories For Life 5
Where in the World is My Home?
Adapted by Jungian therapist Helen Luke in The Way of Woman based on a story by Sufi mystic Jelaluddin Rumi, Spiritual Literacy, Frederic & Mary Ann Brussat, Eds., 1996.
A caravan of men and camels crossed a desert and reached a place where they expected to find water. Instead they found only a hole going deep into the earth. They lowered bucket after bucket into the hole, but the rope each time came back empty-no bucket and no water. They then began to lower men into the hole, but the men, too, disappeared off the end of the rope. Finally a wise man among the party volunteered to go down into the hole in search of water.
When the wise man reached the bottom of the hole, he found himself face to face with a horrible monster. The wise man thought to himself, "I can't hope to escape from this place, but I can at least remain aware of everything I am experiencing." The monster said to him, "I will let you go only if you answer my question." He answered, "Ask your question."
The monster said, "Where is the best place to be?"
The wise man thought to himself, "I don't want to hurt his feelings. If I name some beautiful city, he may think I'm disparaging his hometown. Or maybe this hole is the place he thinks is best." So to the monster he said, "The best place to be is wherever you feel at home-even it it's a hole in the ground."
The monster said, "You are so wise that I will not only let you go, but I will also free the foolish men who came down before you. And I will release the water in this well."
Rice Monkey of South China
An ancient story tells of the Rice Monkey of South China. Monarchs, the rich and powerful as well as animal capturers working for zoos in more modern times have all been perplexed with exactly how to catch the Rice Monkey because he was so agile and fleet of foot.
Coming to the unsuccessful end of a fourth trip to South China to capture several rice monkeys, one zoo animal procurer out of a mixture of frustration and humility finally asked one of the natives who said he would be happy to gather several friends together to help.
You see, the Rice Monkey didn't come by its name by chance-it loved rice! So the native simply hollowed out a gourd and put rice in it. There was a hole just big enough for the hand of the Rice Monkey. When his hand was full of rice, he couldn't remove it and certainly wouldn't release the precious rice it so coveted. With all prepared, they waited a short time. A rice monkey came exploring soon enough, placed its hand in the trap grabbing the rice and wouldn't let go. He was stuck. The zoo procurer and staff started to run, but the natives motioned to slow down and walk casually. The Rice Monkey was jumping up and down, making all manner of whooping and excited sounds, all for naught. The natives simply threw a fairly fine-mesh net over the animal. He was caught, like a fly in a spider's web. Once secured, a native took a hammer and broke the gourd. Indeed, the animal did get his rice, at the supreme cost of his freedom.
Ram Dass tells the story of the village tailor, Zumbak, the most famous tailor in the land. A man wanted a new suit. He had himself measured and later went for the final fitting. The right sleeve was two inches longer than the left, but Zumbak never admitted a mistake and didn't like back talk. "There's nothing wrong with the suit, my good man. Clearly it's the way you're standing." So the tailor pushed on the man's shoulder until the sleeves appeared even. Then the man saw that the fabric at the back was hunched up around the neck. "There's nothing wrong with your suit. It's the way you're standing." The tailor thrust the man's head forward until the suit appeared to fit properly.
So later at the bus stop, the man, with his shoulders lopsided and head straining forward, met a friend who exclaimed, "What a beautiful suit! I'll bet Zumbak the tailor made that suit for you."
"How do you know?"
"Because only a tailor as brilliant as Zumbak could fit a body as crippled as yours."
In the early 1960's, an interviewer was trying to get Ernest Hemingway to identify the characteristics required for a person to be a "great writer." As the interviewer offered a list of various possibilities, Hemingway disparaged each in sequence. Finally, frustrated, the interviewer asked, "Isn't there any one essential ingredient that you can identify?" Hemingway replied, "Yes, there is. In order to be a great writer a person must have a built-in, shockproof crap detector."
-Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner,
Teaching as a Subversive Activity (1969)
Just Smile and say "Fantastic"
Ann Landers, September 14, 1991
I'm reminded of the story about two women who saw each other at their 25th college reunion for the first time since they left school. P.B., Prairie village, Kansas. . .
First woman: Marjorie! It's wonderful to see you again. You look terrific. How has life been treating you?
Marjorie: Things couldn't be better. My husband, Tom, has made a huge success of his father's small business. He has opened five branch offices-one in Tokyo. Tom was named "Man of the Year" by the Chamber of Commerce. He's going to be president of the Chamber in the spring.
First woman: That's fantastic.
Marjorie: I'm very active in volunteer work, which I love. I've been president of the Junior League three years in a row. No one will run against me. It seems they won't let me go. This may turn out to be a lifetime job!
First woman: That's fantastic.
Marjorie: Our son, Jim, made Phi Beta Kappa. He is captain of the football team and was named "fraternity man of the year."
First woman: That's fantastic.
Marjorie: Our daughter, Julie, was named most likely to succeed in the senior class at the university. She was also elected president of her sorority.
Fist woman: Fantastic.
Marjorie: But what about you, dear? What have you been up to lately?
First woman: My life is not as exciting as yours but I just finished an interesting course in charm school.
Marjorie: Charm school? That's fascinating! What did you learn there?
First woman: They taught us to say "fantastic" instead of "Bull----"
You Cannot Make Me Do What You Say!
A Zen story
A priest from a rival Buddhist sect attended one of Master Bankei's (1622-1693) lectures. When the large audience welcomed Bankei with enthusiastic applause, the priest could not contain his jealousy: "You are a fraud," he cried out. "You may be able to fool these peasants and make them do whatever you say, but I have no respect for you. Can you make me do what you say?"
"Come here and I will show you," Bankei replied. As the priest approached the lectern Bankei said, "Come over to the left." The priest went to the left. "On second thought, come to the right." The priest went to the right. "Good," said Bankei, "you have obeyed me well. Now sit down and shut up."
"I Don't Wanna Go"
Adapted from Author Unknown
A story is told of a son awakening one Sunday morning by his mother reminding him that he needs to get ready to go to church.
The son replies, "I don't wanna go to church this morning."
"Oh, nonsense," the mother answered, "you have to go."
He responded, "But mother, everybody dislikes me, the sermons are awfully boring, and none of my friends ever show up."
"Oh come now son," the mother began, "first of all everybody doesn't dislike you, only a few of the hard-nosed bullies, and you can just stand up to them. Second of all, the sermons mean a great deal to so many and if you really listened to them you might find them more interesting and helpful than you thought. Third, you have lots of friends at the church. For heaven's sake, they're always inviting you over to their houses! Besides all of this, you really do have to go. You're the minister, remember."
See What I Mean?
Nasrudin was throwing handfuls of crumbs around
A fable by author E. M. Forster, The Hills of Devi
She had been so wicked that in all her life she had done only one good deedgiven an onion to a beggar. So she went to hell. As she lay in torment she saw the onion, lowered down from heaven by an angel. She caught hold of it. He began to pull her up. The other damned saw what was happening and caught hold of it too. She was indignant and cried, "Let go-it's my onion," and as soon as she said, "My onion," the stalk broke and she fell back into the flames.
Author Unknown, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, Transcribed by Nyogen Senzaki & Paul Reps (1968)
Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling. Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.
"Come on, girl," said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.
Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. "We monks don't go near females," he told Tanzan, "especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?"
"I left the girl there," said Tanzan. "Are you still carrying her?"
The Search for Wisdom
Adapted from psychologist Allan J. Comeau
Once upon a time, long long ago, there was a kind who benevolently ruled over a great empire. Being gifted with great intelligence, the king was always eager and enthusiastic to learn all he could about everything. At the same time, the duties of his office took a great deal of time, energy and discernment, leaving precious little for reading and studying the intrinsic nature of reality.
Determined to continue honing, developing and improving his mind, the king decided to summon his learned advisors and give them an all-important task. He requested they amass all the knowledge and wisdom of the world and bring it to court.
His trusted, astute advisors did precisely what they were commanded to do by obtaining and organizing many thousands of books and papers. Once informed of the completion of their project, the king visited his royal library.
Upon arrival and perusing the vast array of materials, the king was overwhelmed with the sheer quantity amassed and despairing over not having the time to go through it all. He decided to again give his advisors still another mission: to summarize the distilled essence of all these materials into one comprehensive volume.
After some months of dedicated work, the king's learned advisors presented him with an exquisite leather-bound edition that summarized all the best wisdom available to them up to this point in history.
The king, being extremely
busy with affairs of state, took one glance at the volume, deeply sighed and once
again put his advisors to work to further reduce all excess verbiage, redundancies
and non-essential matter as well as encapsulate all the wisdom that still remained
into what would fill one chapter so the king could enjoy and appreciate all the
wisdom gleaned from the hard-won fruits of their labor.
The kind, almost besides himself from all his duties, obligations and chores, turned to confide in his most trusted advisor and asked, "Couldn't you get this down to just one sentence?"
The advisor simply looked at the king in some amazement, slowly smiled and replied, "Your majesty, this too will pass."
You Don't Know How Good You Have It-It Could Always Be Worse!
A farmer seeks out his rabbi's counsel because his life is in mayhem. His wife unrelentingly nags him, his children unstoppably fight, and everything around him is in utter disorder, chaos and uproar. The rabbi tells him, "Go home and immediately move the chickens into the house."
"Into the house!" bellows the farmer. "But what good will come out of doing this?"
The rabbi quietly and calmly reassures him that this is the only right and fitting action and sends him home.
Only two days later the farmer is again in front of the rabbi, even more frazzled and frantic than before. "Now my wife nags me even more, the children have broadened their fighting to include the chickens, and the chickens are all over the house. They upset the furniture, drop feathers, lay eggs and peck at our food! What an incredible mess, rabbi! You've got to help me. What am I to do?"
The rabbi tells him in no uncertain terms to go back to his farm and bring the cow into the house.
"THE COW!!" cries the overwhelmed farmer. "You must be kidding. That would only make things worse yet!!"
"Do as I say and come back in a few days to see me again," the rabbi responded.
A few days later, the farmer shows up in front of the rabbi literally pulling his hair out. "My plight is a desperate one! You've got to help me! The chickens are everywhere and getting into everything, the cow has knocked over the furniture and broken several pieces of fine china, the children are fighting worse than ever and my wife is at her wit's end. Your advice has only made things unbearable and nothing is helping a bit."
The rabbi, showing great compassion for the farmer's dilemma, replied, "Now, bring the horse into your house as well," and sent the farmer home.
The frantic man returns home, follows the suggestion of the rabbi, but returns early the next day in utter and complete despair. "Rabbi, we are out of room! There is no place for my family to live with the horse and the cow smashing into all our possessions and the chickens running every which way. Our lives are in total shambles. What are we to do?"
The rabbi, with a sly hint of a smile on
his lips, says, "Go home and promptly take
The farmer does as he is told and comes back the very next day smiling broadly and appearing quite happy. "Rabbi, our lives are nearly perfect! My family is again calm and peaceful. With the horse and the cow and the chickens gone, we are a loving family again. How can I thank you?"
The rabbi smiled broadly, and knowingly.
One Person's Retreat is Another Person's Advance
forces overwhelmed the troops of a Civil War general, but the general refused
to demoralize his troops with an order to retreat. At the same time the general
was unwilling to continue to lose his troops and he knew he needed to act quickly.
Instead he sent the following message to the ranks: "We are not retreating,
we are advancing in a different direction!" His men were saved to engage
in battle another day.
What To Do When You're Down and Out
Once upon a time, a young donkey asked his grandpa, "How do I grow up to be just like you?"
that's simple," the elder donkey said. "All you have to do is remember
"What does that mean?" asked the youngster.
"The grandfather replied, "Let me tell you a story
"Once, when I was your age, I was out walking. I wasn't paying attention and fell down into an old abandoning well. I started braying and braying. Finally an old farmer came by and saw me. I was scared to death. But then he left I stayed in that well all night.
The next morning he came back with a whole group of people and they looked down at me. Some of them laughed. Then the old farmer said, 'The well's abandoned and that donkey isn't worth saving, so let's get to work.' And believe it or not, they started to shovel dirt into the well.
"Well, I panicked. I was going to be buried alive!
"After the first shovelfuls of dirt came down on me. I realized something. Every time dirt landed on my back, I could shake it off and step up! They kept shoveling, and I kept shaking it off and stepping up. This went on for some time.
"'Shake it off and step up shake it off and step up ' I kept repeating to myself for encouragement. I fought the panic by shaking it off and stepping up. And it wasn't long before I stepped out of the well, exhausted but triumphant.
"So no matter how difficult the situation, no matter how bad things get, no matter how much dirt gets dumped on you, just remember-shake it off and step up."
These four friends were so confident that the weekend before finals, they decided to go up to Dallas and party with some friends up there. They had a great time. However, after all the partying, they slept all day Sunday and didn't make it back to Austin until early Monday morning.
Rather than taking the final then, they decided to find their professor after the final and explain to him why they missed it. They explained that they had gone to Dallas for the weekend with the plan to come back and study but, unfortunately, they had a flat tire on the way back, didn't have a spare, and couldn't get help for a long time. As a result, they missed the final.
The professor thought it over and then
agreed they could make up the final the following day. The guys were elated and
relieved. They studied that night and went in the next day at the same time the
professor had told them. He placed them in separate rooms and handed each of them
a test booklet, and told them to begin.
Each finished the problem and then turned the page. On the second page was written: (For 95 points): WHICH TIRE?
This is a Real Blessing!
Author Unknown, retold by Alan Cohen, I Had It All the Time (1995)
Once upon a time in a tropical land there lived a king who had an optimistic advisor. This lieutenant was so positive, in fact, that the king was often annoyed by his practice of constantly finding good in everything.
One day while the king and the lieutenant were on a journey through the jungle, the king was chopping a fresh coconut for breakfast, and his machete slipped, cutting off his toe. The aching monarch limped to show his misfortune to the lieutenant, who exclaimed, "That's wonderful!"
"What did you say?" asked the king, astonished.
"This is a real blessing!"
Hearing this response, the king became very angry; this man was obviously poking fun at his mishap.
"Take it from me," the lieutenant exhorted, "behind this apparent accident there is some good we do not see."
That was the last straw! Furious, the king picked up the lieutenant and hurled him into a dry well. Then he set out to find his way back to his castle.
En route, the potentate was apprehended by a band of headhunters who decided that he would make an excellent sacrifice for this month's offering to the volcano. The warriors took him to the tribal priest, who prepared him for the dubious honor.
As the holy man was anointing the reluctant sacrifice, he noticed that the king was missing a toe. "I'm sorry," the priest informed the king, "we can't use youthe volcano goddess accepts only full-bodied sacrifices; you are fee to go."
Overjoyed, the king hobbled out of the tribal camp. Suddenly it dawned on him that the lieutenant had been correctthere was indeed a hidden blessing behind this seeming misfortune!
As quickly as he could, the kind found his way back to the well where he had left the lieutenant. To the ruler's delight, his companion was still sitting in the well, whistling happily. The kind offered the lieutenant a hand, pulled him out of the well, and apologized profusely.
"I am terribly sorry I threw you in there!" the king confessed, as he dusted his advisor's shoulders. "I was taken prisoner by some wild natives who were about to cast me into the volcano. But when they saw my toe was missing, they let me go. It was actually a miracle, which you foretold - and I so thoughtlessly cast you into this pit! Can you ever forgive me?"
"No apologies necessary," replied the lieutenant. "It was also a blessing that you left me in the well."
"Now how are you going to make something positive out of that?" queried the king.
the lieutenant explained, "if I was with you, they would have taken me
I Believe You Are Right!"
A Sufi story collected by Indries Shah
The Mullah was made a magistrate. During his first case the plaintiff argued so persuasively that he exclaimed, "I believe you are right!"
The Clerk of the court begged him to restrain himself, for the defendant had not been heard yet. Nasrudin was so carried away by the eloquence of the defendant that he cried out as soon as the man had finished his evidence, "I believe you are right!"
The Clerk of the court could not allow this: "Your honor, they cannot both be right."
"I believe you are right!" said Nasrudin."
On Having The Last Word
One night at sea, the ship's captain saw what looked like the lights of another ship heading toward him. He had his signalman blink to the other ship: "Change your course 10 degrees south."
The reply came back: "Change your course 10 degrees north."
The ship's captain answered: "I am a captain. Change your course south."
To which the reply was: "Well, I am a seaman first class. Change your course north."
This infuriated the captain, so he signaled back: "Dammit, I say change your course south. I'm on a battleship!"
To which the reply came back: "And I say change your course north. I'm in a lighthouse."
(Humpty Dumpty speaking) " and that shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents."
"Certainly," said Alice.
"And only one for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you!"
"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,' Alice said.
"Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously, "Of course you don'ttill I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!' "
"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument,' " Alice objected.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean-neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpy,
"which is to be masterthat's all."
Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass
Saying It's So
A number of wealthy businessmen not only had weaseled a "pork belly" bill into Congress that would nicely line their own pockets, they had the bravado and nerve to ask for a meeting with the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, to help secure the deal. Upon reflection and deciding how he wished to handle this situation, Lincoln agreed to a brief meeting. Bearing the introductions, social niceties and presenting a very brief overview of the bill these businessmen wanted the President's support with, Lincoln said he had only one question.
When cordially requested to voice his question, Lincoln pointedly asked, "How many legs would a sheep have if you counted its tail as a leg?"
After just moments of contemplation, the men agreed the sheep would have five legs. Lincoln gave them a wry smile saying, "No it wouldn't! It would still have four. Saying it's so doesn't make it so!" With that, Lincoln quickly shooed these greedy businessmen out of his office and let them know in no uncertain terms that he had no intention of supporting a bill that would greatly aid the wealthy few at the cost of the greater good of the untold many.
Laughing at Insults
Author Unknown, The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama & Howard C. Cutler
Once there was a disciple of a Greek philosopher who was commanded by his Master for three years to give money to everyone who insulted him. When this period of trial was over the Master said to him, "Now you can go to Athens and learn Wisdom."
When the disciple was entering Athens, he met a certain wise man who sat at the gate insulting everybody who came and went. He also insulted the disciple, who burst out laughing.
"Why do you laugh when I insult you?" said the wise man.
"Because," said the disciple, "for three years I have been paying for this kind of thing and now you give it to me for nothing."
"Enter the city," said
the wise man, "it is all yours
A Map of the World
An Anonymous Story Retold by William Cunningham
There was this young boy who so badly wanted to play with his mother. On this day, his mother had worked particularly hard and was quite tired by the time she had arrived home. The boy's demands for the mother's attention were more than she could bear that evening and in frustration she took a map of the world and tore it into pieces and threw it on the living-room floor.
She told the boy, who had never
had a geography lesson in his life and did not
Lo and behold, the child came back in about four minutes and told the mother the world was back together. She walked back into the living room with her son and to her amazement the world was in perfect order. Thinking she had a genius in the family, she asked, "How did you get the world back together so quickly?"
little boy explained, "Well you see on the back side there was a picture
What Return Can I Make?
A Hasidic Story
There were once two brothers who farmed together. They shared equally in all of the work and split the profits exactly. Each had his own granary. One of the brothers was married and had a large family; the other brother was single.
One day the single brother thought to himself, "It is not fair that we divide the grain evenly. My brother has many mouths to feed, while I have but one. I know what I'll do, I will take a sack of grain from my granary each evening and put it in my brother's granary." So, each night when it was dark, he carefully carried a sack of grain, placing it in his brother's barn.
Now the married brother thought to himself, "It is not fair that we divide the grain evenly. I have many children who will care for me in my old age and my brother has none. I know what I'll do, I will take a sack of grain from my granary each evening and put it in my brother's granary. And he did.
Each morning the two brothers were amazed to discover that though they had removed a sack of grain the night before, they had just as many.
One night the two brothers met each other halfway between their barns, each carrying a sack of grain. Then they understood the mystery. And they embraced, and loved each other deeply. That place has ever since been hallowed ground.
It's All In Knowing How
A small factory had to stop operations when an essential
piece of machinery broke down. No one could get the machine operating. An outside
expert was finally called in. The expert looked over the situation for a moment,
then took a hammer and gently tapped the machine at a certain spot. It began running
again immediately and continued to run as if nothing had ever been wrong. When
the expert submitted her bill for $1000, the plant supervisor hit the ceiling
and demanded an itemized bill.
tapping the machine: $1.00
A Trickster Story by Bob Phillips
For years, a man complained of a ringing in his ears and popping in his eyes. One doctor recommended implanting a drainage tube in the man's ear. But the tube made no difference.
physician suggested reconstructive surgery on the man's nose.
A third specialist gave
him the most grim outlook of all: "You've got about a year
With this latest prognosis weighing on his spirit, the man decided to make the last year of his life the best one. He booked passage on a world cruise, then visited the best tailor in town. He ordered 15 custom suits and twice as many hand-tailored shirts.
The tailor took the man's measurements. "Sleeve 35, collar-"
"I wear a 16," said the man.
"Your measurement is 17 1/4," replied the tailor.
"There must be some mistake," said the man. "I've always worn a 16 collar."
can't imagine that," said the tailor. "A collar that small would cut
the oxygen off
A Flat, No Lug Wrench
© 2011 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.
Author UnknownRetold and Adapted by Will Joel Friedman
A salesman, driving on a lonely country road one dark and rainy night, had a flat. He opened the trunk--no lug wrench. The light from a farmhouse could be seen dimly up the road.
He set out on foot through the driving rain. Surely the farmer would have a lug wrench he could borrow, he thought. Of course, it was late at nightthe farmer would be asleep in his warm, dry bed. Maybe he wouldn't answer the door. And even if he did, he'd be angry at being awakened in the middle of the night.
The salesman, picking his way blindly in the dark, stumbled on. By now his shoes and clothing were soaked. Even if the farmer did answer his knock, he would probably shout something like, "What's the big idea waking me up at this hour!"
This thought made the salesman angry. What right did that farmer have to refuse him the loan of a lug wrench? After all, here he was stranded in the middle of nowhere, soaked to the skin. The farmer was a selfish clod-no doubt about that!
The salesman finally reached the house, and banged loudly on the door. A light went on inside, and a window opened above. "Who is it?" a voice called out.
"You know darn well who it is," yelled the salesman, his face white with anger. "It's me! You can keep your blasted lug wrench. I wouldn't borrow it now if you had the last one on earth!"
While this story abruptly
ends here, curiosity grabs the best of us. I wonder about
"Now, just quiet down, ya young whippersnapper! I don't need a pile of your horsepucky at this hour. Now come on in, sit a spell and let's get you dry and something warm in ya. I've got lug wrenches a-plenty, no worry there." With this, the farmer opened the screen door and handed the salesman a large towel to dry himself.
The salesman grumbled something about being sorry, but the farmer just heated up the kettle and made him something hot like soup or coffee. As the salesman caught his breath, became dryer and got the hot drink down, his emotional tempest passed. The farmer drove him back and even helped hold an umbrella while he changed the flat tire.
In shaking hands and thanking the farmer, the salesman smiled and said, "You know, you're a right fine fellow. I guess my fears got the better of me. Well, now it's time for me to tame my mind! Being a salesman, I won't sell me; I know better than that. I'll just help me buy that in rotten situations all will work out fine, until shown otherwise."
farmer, barely showing a grin, answered, "I'll buy that!"
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