Gail Brenner. For many years, I searched for an end to suffering. I put together a functional life, but it was continually plagued by anxiety, confusion, and relationship troubles. I tried the conventional route of psychotherapy—fifteen years of it—but trying to find a new perspective on stories from the past failed to bring me the peace I was looking for. Same with my training as a clinical psychologist.
I didn’t want to just feel better. When I read in Buddhist teachings that enduring peace was possible, somehow I believed it at the core of my being. I didn’t know how to find this peace, but something in me said, “Yes!” I wanted to consciously know what I somehow already knew to be true.
The search took me to meditation retreats, many spiritual books, and the most lovely and helpful teachers. I began to understand that I was in resistance to life. I realized I was living a mind-created, mind-directed construction of reality, consumed in beliefs about how things should be. There was a constant level of discontent because everything—people, situations, myself—was judged to be not good enough. And I took my feelings to be real and important. No wonder I wasn’t happy.
As the confusion subsided, I made the most wonderful discovery: I am not defined by these limiting thoughts and unsatisfying feelings. The happiness I had been searching for was here all along. I had simply overlooked it! It’s the aware presence at the heart of every thought and feeling. Pure being that just is—everywhere, endlessly. It’s always at peace, no matter what happens. And resting here, I am home.
I absolutely know that suffering is optional, and I’m delighted to pass this possibility along to you.
By training, I’m a licensed Ph.D. psychologist with over 20 years of experience offering psychotherapy. My work as a therapist invites people to return to their essential wholeness, to shed false identities and realize the truth of who they are. Problems are seen as opportunities; the illusion of the separate self as a doorway to enduring happiness. Stories are seen through and emotions met with the deepest acceptance. I work with people individually and hold monthly group meetings.
I received my B.A. from Carnegie-Mellon University and my Ph.D. from Temple University. I completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Florida and a clinical internship at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Palo Alto, CA. I have special expertise working with older adults and their families, bringing clear seeing and compassion to the transitions of aging, death, and dying. As a member of the clinical faculty at University of California, San Francisco, I helped physicians develop communication skills and learn to address psychosocial issues with their patients. I’ve authored numerous published articles on coping with stress and chronic medical illness. And I have consulted with staff of assisted living and skilled nursing facilities about aging, dementia, and caregiving and given presentations to the community at large on these topics.