Challenging Times – Calm Amid The Chaos

A message from Bears & Samahria Kaufman (Co-Founders/Co-Directors, The Option Institute) bearssamIn a time of uncertainty, when we are challenged by events that appear beyond our control – when the global economy is unsteady, when daily international crises continue to be dominated by conflict, when even our own individual financial stability is in question – then add this to relationship difficulties, personal traumas, children at risk, illness, loss – what do we do? First, we don’t give up. Second, we can search for programs, counselors and even dear friends and people of faith to support us. We can learn a way to glide through adversity instead of being overwhelmed or anxious about the upcoming weeks and months and years ahead. Please take a moment to read through our featured programs as well as the letter below.

Calm Amid Chaos

From losing your job, to a family member or friend diagnosed with cancer, to the collapse of the economy, to devastating wild fires in California, to earthquakes in Asia, to terrorists threats and attacks – the world can seem chaotic … overwhelming … unfair. Do you wonder what it all means? What is going to happen?

Do you wonder what it all means? What is going to happen?

In Calm Amid Chaos you’ll learn to maintain inner quiet and strength in the face of challenging and seemingly incomprehensible events. Not by hiding from them or ignoring them, but by facing them unflinchingly and with ease. You will develop a foundational system of interlocking beliefs (the “Intelligrid”) that enable you to stand strong in the face of whatever the world throws at you.

Inner Strength

No matter how many books we’ve read, no matter how many motivational speeches we’ve heard, no mater how much well-meaning advice we’ve received and no matter how many push ups we do, often we don’t feel prepared for the heavy lifting that comes with the everyday tribulations of money, relationships, health and the general uncertainties of life.

challenge1_2Our quest to change how we feel inside often begins with attempts to change the outside. We diet. We exercise. We change our wardrobes, hairstyles, houses, jobs and even our partners. We even try plastic surgery.

Inner Strength is an intensive two-week fitness program for your mind and soul that will help you to develop a solid foundation on which to stand when facing whatever challenges come your way.


Is fear (in one of its many forms) affecting you or someone you love? Do you find yourself hesitating over major decisions, concerned about your financial situation or insecure about acts of violence taking place across the globe? Do you catch yourself considering worst-case scenarios, rather than positive potential? Do you wake up in the middle of the night concerned about money… the kids… your job? Big or small, fear can impact every facet of your life from your career, to your health, to your relationships

In Fearless, you’ll acquire tools and techniques that will give you the ability to not only withstand the nature of your fears but eliminate them.

challenge_3Optimal Self-Trust

You turn on the television or go to your computer and see news that is often so problematic and scary that it’s hard to hear yourself think anymore. You go to the bank to deposit or withdraw money and you keep wondering about whether the bank will be there tomorrow. You think about your family and friends and realize you’re concerned about their welfare and safety. The challenges and threats around you seem to drown out what to think or even how to think about what is happening.

In Optimal Self-Trust you’ll have the opportunity to do something you’ve probably never been trained to do –listen to your own inner voice and your own inner wisdom and not have it drowned out by anxiety, self doubt and fear. By liberating your inner voice and listening to its guidance, you can make better choices and live the life you want to live.

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Abigail Adams wrote to her son, John Quincy Adams (when he was about to become president in a time of great turmoil and challenge)“These are the times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of pacific situations, that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and statesman.”
A story of Love and Peace in a time of war
“I’m going to Afghanistan”
Hi BearsIt is Ethan. I just spent 2 months volunteering at The Option Institute and I’m back in Denmark and I’m going on a mission to Afghanistan with the Danish Army. When I came back I waited about two weeks thinking of what to do if I didn’t want to work in the army. Then this mission comes along with a special want for a Sergeant 1st Class to a CIMIC-unit. The work of CIMIC (CIvil and MIlitary Cooperation) is about talking to the civil people of Afghanistan, finding out where to build new schools, wells, bridges and so on. That means for me that I will help out without   attacking anybody and I feel that I am the perfect person for the job, because I don’t need to be attached to the outcome of what happens and I have a wonderful tool of options to help my friends if they want it. It also is a job of spreading love and acceptance – a wonderful opportunity to love a lot of people who might never have seen that kind of love before.When I come back I will have money to come back to The Option Institute and then I will see you again :-).I have meant to write a long letter to you about everything, but for now I just want to tell you this:”If the universe should one day stop to exist there would still be my gratitude for everything I have learned from you, Bears”Love and acceptance- Ethan


Dear Awesome Ethan,I was so deeply touched by your email. Of all the folks that I could imagine going to this hotbed of discontent and violence and precipitating outcomes of understanding and love not yet imagined, it would be you. On the ground. In the streets. Person-to-person. I had the honor of having you attend many Monday morning opening sessions – to watch you jump in, to watch you consider and play with new ideas, to watch you transform and grow, to experience your deep level of integrity and authenticity. As I read your words, I realized how much you will bring to the people of Afghanistan…with your attitude of open-heartedness and with your mission to understand, to love and be of service. I am very touched and optimistic by who you are and how you have chosen to be in the world. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers…and I will, indeed, be most excited and pleased to welcome you back when you return.With much love and gratitude, Bears

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The Option Institute and its teachers have had the honor to present programs (during the last four decades) that explore the attitudes and beliefs we have (and may want to change) and to help program participants find their own answers to questions about relationships, careers, family challenges and health issues. Our new program, Health & Healing: Navigating Life’s Health Challenges (formerly '5 Days to Live') , focuses on navigating significant health challenges and decision-making with greater ease, clarity, and clear purpose.

We are not a medical facility and we do not dispense any medical advice. We have and would always guide our program participants, to consult with their doctors, healthcare providers, and family members in making medical decisions for themselves and those they love. Neither Mass General Hospital nor any member of its medical staff endorses any program being offered by the Option Institute and its teachers.

NOTE: Attendance of live sessions via Zoom are required to complete this course.

Please note, this is a per-person registration



PRE-REQUISITES for attending Advanced Power Dialogues are:

  • Completion of The Option Institute’s PowerDialogues program.
  • If it’s been more than 5 years since you attended PowerDialogues, please call 413-229-2100 to discuss options.

NOTE: Attendance of live sessions via Zoom are required to complete this course.

Please note, this is a per-person registration


Dear Donor,

Jeannie Reid was searching for answers to the challenges she and her family were facing. Jeannie and her husband Stuart’s son, Carson, had been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a condition on the Autism spectrum. For Carson that meant being completely involved in obsessive behaviors and only using minimal words to identify objects, as well as frequently and completely melting down.

Soon after, Jeannie found the book, “Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues” and when she read it, she KNEW she had found what she was looking for. She began using some of the Son-Rise techniques described in the book on her own until she was able to come to The Autism Treatment Center of America for the Son-Rise Program Start-Up. As she put into practice what she learned there, Carson’s world was opening up. Today Carson is attending a Montessori school as a 'typical' student and functioning at or above typical grade level, being fully verbal and conversational, and very interested in learning about the world and interacting as much as possible with other people. He is even taking swim lessons at the local YMCA and doing great!

“It has been wonderful to get, and stay connected with other people and Son-Rise parents from all over the world. My son’s progress had already come very far, but now I truly believe we can go all the way!”

Jeannie wrote.

Stuart Reid then attended the Empower Yourself course and brought home a new sense of clarity, balance and personal power. He shared his new empowerment with Jeannie and she in turn gained in confidence, strength and enthusiasm. Their own relationship began to flourish anew, as well. Life-altering changes were happening for Jeannie and her family.

Jeannie journeyed again to Sheffield, this time for the Fearless course at The Option Institute to help her recognize and overcome her personal obstacles. Jeannie wanted to continue her amazing journey as she had found using the techniques she learned in The Son-Rise Program and in Fearless had absolutely changed the lives of everyone in her family.

But, because the Reids’ finances had been seriously stretched by then, their next steps were put on hold. Then an amazing event changed everything. Jeannie’s college roommate and lifelong friend decided to start a Son-Rise Program scholarship fund for people from the Cleveland area. Since then Jeannie has been able to move ahead with her courses, taking Radical Authenticity, Son-Rise Maximum Impact and Son-Rise Wide Awake ... and eventually she became a Certified Group Facilitator.

Jeannie Reid’s story is about wanting BIG and making it happen. She is about to embark on her renewed private practice as an art therapist, and plans to be a super advocate for The Son-Rise Program in her area. Her wonderful new life is a product of her persistence and belief, and of the wheels she helped set in motion for others when her friends learned of how she and her family had been impacted by The Son-Rise Program.

“I know I will be able to give back by helping others, and that will be the top of my personal mountain! Thank you to everyone who donates! You are making a big difference in the world!

Jeannie Reid


Dear Donor

Two years ago, Antonio's kindergarten teacher told us something was not quite right with our little boy. He was not socializing, he somersaulted all the time and hardly spoke at all. At the time I was working for a municipality close to Florence, Italy and basically I had nothing left after seeing to basic necessities.

In the meantime, I looked up Autism with Google and as I was also looking for happiness and personal growth, I was guided to The Option Institute, thence the Autism Treatment Center of America. I read up as much as I could and started trying to apply the “Happiness is a Choice” suggestions. I'm not quite good at it but it has helped me with attitude, and everything else that seemed trying is really different after all this.

When I decided to come for The Son-Rise Program Start-Up, I really had little or no money to pay for it. I spoke to my friends, old and new. My mother helped me, friends I thought couldn't [help] tried their very best and the scholarship did the rest.

What the scholarship did was give a HUGE boost to my fundraising. About six friends contributed the rest, at the travel agency a very kind lady who I may now call a friend helped me some more. I am overwhelmed with gratefulness. Here I am, happy to have attended the Start-Up program and looking forward to learning more and praying to God for guidance.

So the gist of the matter is, I am a happy mum who hopes to implement a wonderful relationship with her child and is riding a not so easy moment with lots of hope in her heart and THANK YOU is not enough for what I feel. I still remember William's words, “If you do what you've always done, you will get what you've always got.” Now I'm trying to do different, bit by bit, day by day. I feel the difference already.

About Antonio ... we are going on with the Italian program and I play with Antonio after school in a quiet room in the house. Knowing what the little guy is exposed to (he's always putting his fingers in his ears and he seems to have problems with too much light in his eyes), I find him very brave as he bears it tolerably. Drums a lot to digest it all.

When we went to the doctor, just weeks after starting the program at home, she told me that she found him more attentive. His attention span has increased. He is also tagging or pulling at one's arm when looking for attention. The child psychologist last Saturday reported the same thing and what's more, my son has always required that I enter the room, hence assisting in every session. Well, this time he went in along with the doctor and told me, “See you later.”

At school, his teacher who speaks English as well, read up and watched my DVD (Kyle’s Journey, Jade and “I want my little boy back”). Now she's changing, bit by bit and I do appreciate that very much. He seems to be OK with her and actually sent me away from class this morning, again telling me, “See you later.”

He is now ONE HUGE GREENLIGHT and I'm hoping to be able to really have volunteers (still looking), raise funds and settle down to business.

God bless,



Dear Donor,

I am the mother of three children, all on the Autism Spectrum. Before I heard of the Son-Rise Program and the Option Institute, I was a desperate, angry and depressed person…. I was on Anti-depressants, sleeping multiple hours of the day, and for a period of time, using alcohol to run away from my pain.

Then I heard of the Son-Rise Program. I called to find out more about it and thought “this if for me!” But I could not afford it. You see raising one child with Autism is very expensive but raising three is just outrageously expensive with all the therapies and dietary interventions that we were doing.

But I was offered a full scholarship to the SRSU program. I have since attended all of the Son-Rise Programs and many of the Personal Growth programs offered by the Option Institute.  Each time I have been given a scholarship and each time I go I learn more about who I am and I change for the better each and every time.  Because of your most generous support, my children are recovering from Autism, I have found happiness in my life!  I am no longer on anti-depressants and I have so much more energy.

YOU are the reason that my family is in recovery. It is because of YOU that my oldest son now is enjoying school.  YOU are the reason my second son is speaking. YOU are the reason my daughter is no longer as rigid and controlling as she once was.  Thank you does not even begin to cover how much gratitude I have for you.  I thank God every day for you and I do not even know you.

Please know that you are changing lives with your donation to ATCA and the OI.  It is because of you that every day people are getting the help that they need. Thank you, thank you and thank you!

With so much love,

Kerry Rihtar