The Way We Look at Life Determines Our Experience

A simple insight presents each of us with an opportunity to make momentous changes in our lives. The only limits are the ones we create!

We can ask a new kind of question: not simply inquiring into “what is” but inquiring into what we want and what grasp of the universe would nurture and support a choice to be happier, more loving, more peaceful and more secure. Can we move away from the contemporary cauldron of pessimism to find a more useful and inspiring point of view? Rather than wait for a pie-in-the-sky apocalyptic event, we can take charge of our own evolution by changing our world view now.

The current cultural paradigm – the frame of reference from which we view the events unfolding locally and in our global village – suggests a scourge upon the land, with brother fighting brother, new diseases sweeping like plagues through generations of people, poverty and famine snarling at the doorsteps of human dignity, and a general ecological malaise hanging like a frightening veil over the planet’s future.

Current events, as depicted by the news media, bombard our consciousness with one catastrophe after another, reinforcing a “victim” mentality. Reporters and newscasters endlessly parade, for our literary or visual consumption, the bodies of those killed, maimed or noticeably diminished by war, disease, violent crime, economic recession, poor parenting, drug or alcohol addiction, sexual abuse, food poisoning, train wrecks, air crashes, automobile collisions, tornadoes, hurricanes., floods and the like. Although we remain attentive, we numb ourselves, trying to put some distance between us and the brutality of those onslaughts. In the evening, we wonder how we made it through the day in one piece or, worse yet, how we will survive the unseen catastrophes of tomorrow.

We could decide, flat out, to stop watching and listening to the news … and to stop reading it, too. We have made an addiction out of being “informed,” as if knowledge of disasters could somehow contribute to our sense of well-being and serenity. Our lives will never be enriched by the gloomy pronouncements of unhappy people, fearing and judging all that they see. They follow fire engines racing toward billowing black clouds of smoke and ignore the smiling youngster helping an elderly woman carry her grocery bags. One dramatic traffic accident on a major highway sends reporters scurrying, while the stories of four hundred thousand other vehicles that made it home safely go unnoticed. Newscasters replay over and over again a fatal plane crash captured on videotape but rarely depict the tenderness of a mother nurturing her newborn infant.

Simple acts of love, safe arrivals, peaceful exchanges between neighboring countries and people helping each other, are noteworthy events. The media bias toward sensationalism and violence presents a selective, distorted and, in the final analysis, inaccurate portrait of the state of affairs on this planet. No balance here. We feed our minds such bleak imagery, then feel lost, depressed and impotent without ever acknowledging fully the devastating impact these presentations have on our world view and our state of mind.

Why not inspire ourselves rather than scare ourselves? We choose our focuses of attention from the vast menu of life’s experiences. Wanting to be happy and more loving on a sustained basis directs us to seek peaceful roads less traveled. Though we might not determine all the events around us, we are omnipotent in determining our reaction to them. Some of us will live on the earth’s crust searching for horror; others will lift the stones and see beauty beneath. Our embrace of life will be determined not by what is “out there,” but by how we ingest what is “out there.” Our view becomes almighty.

What we have been taught about ourselves and the universe around us conspires to have us believe that living requires awesome energy and great struggle. “No pain, no gain,” we are told. “Life is a constant struggle.” “You have to take the bad with the good.” “You never really get what you want.” “You’re unlovable.” “Something is wrong with you ” (although it’s never quite identified, you know it’s there). “There is no justice.” “No one cares.” “Look over your shoulder and beware!”

These become communal mantras, shared with others and elevated to the status of treasured folklore. They color our vision and send us searching for the experience (rejection, attack, indifference) that we anticipate. Usually we find it! Our vision blossoms into a self-fulfilling prophesy, which each new experience tends to verify and reinforce. I never met a man who lived forever. I also never met a man who believed he could live forever. We become our beliefs. We get stuck in our heads.

Suppose we set aside the rigid concepts we might have learned about how the universe works. If we can now begin to entertain the possibility of many world pictures, then we might want to experiment by putting aside a logical, linear view of existence with fixed points and “hard facts” and consider a metaphor which reveals the ever-changing nature of the known universe.

We swim in a river of life. We can never put our foot into the river in the same place twice. In every second, in every millisecond, the water beneath us changes. Likewise, in every second, in every millisecond, the foot that we place into the river fills with new blood. Instead of celebrating the motion, we try to hold on to the roots and stumps at the bottom of the river, as if letting go and flowing with it would be dangerous. In effect, we try to freeze-frame life in still photographs. But the river is not fixed like the photograph and neither are we.

Ninety-eight percent of the atoms of our bodies are replaced in the course of a year. Our skeleton, which appears so fundamentally stable and solid, undergoes an almost complete transition every three months. Our skin regenerates within four weeks, our stomach lining within four days and the portion of our stomach lining which interfaces with food reconstructs itself every four or five minutes. Thousands, even millions, of neurons in our brain can fire in a second; each firing creates original and distinct chemistry as well as the possibility for new and different configurations of interconnecting signals. As billions of cells in our bodies keep changing, billions of stars and galaxies keep shifting in an ever-expanding space. Even the mountains and rocks under our feet shift in a never-ending dance through time. Life celebrates itself through motion and change.

Although we can certainly see continuity – seasons come and go, trees grow taller and people get older – we can acknowledge that each unfolding moment, nevertheless, presents a world different from that of the last moment. We could say that we and the world are born anew in every second and our description would be accurate scientifically. Therein lies an amazing opportunity for change. We can stop acting as if our opinions and perspectives have been carved in granite and begin to become more fluid, more open and more changeable, even inconsistent. We are in the river. We are the river!

Every stroke we make, every thought or action we produce, helps create the experience of this moment and the next. And the beliefs we fabricate along the way shape our thoughts and actions. Sounds rather arbitrary, some might say. It is! Quite simply, we try to move toward what we believe will be good for us and away from what we believe will be bad for us – operating always within the context of our beliefs. Even our hierarchies of greater “goods” and greater “bads” consist only of more beliefs. We hold our beliefs sincerely and defend our positions with standards of ethics or “cold, hard facts.” We treat much of what we know and believe as irrefutable. We talk in absolutes. Once our beliefs are in place, we use all kinds of evidence to support them, quite unaware that we have created the evidence for the sole purpose of supporting whatever position we favor. In essence, we have become very skilled at “making it up.”

Many years ago, my mother had surgery for breast cancer, followed by radiation treatments. Several years later the cancer reappeared in other parts of her body. Operations and additional radiation therapy disfigured and disabled her. Her dying process overwhelmed her and the rest of our family for years.

Not long after her death, we received a phone call from a researcher at the famed hospital where she had been treated, inquiring as to her current health. When informed of her passing, the researcher asked for the date of her death. I realized, on reflection, as he did, that she had died only a little more than five years after her initial surgery, although the cancer had continued to spread and more invasive treatment ensued. Since she had survived five years past the initial surgery and the study did not inquire into the quality of life during those years or the possibility of recurrences, the hospital representative indicated that my mother would become a favorable statistic for the hospital’s cancer clinic.

Months later, major journals carried the news of this hospital’s success in treating and effecting breast cancer cures based on a five-year survival rate. The agony of my mother’s final journey had been filtered through the statistician’s hand and transformed into data supporting the hospital’s claims. The evidence had been gathered to support the beliefs of the gatherer and to further enhance the reputation of his facility and its methods. And so often we, the consumers of beliefs and evidence, buy just such “facts” as gospel.

Exploration of the belief-making game becomes even more beguiling as we pursue it further. Many years ago, after trying unsuccessfully to deal with a minor medical problem I sought the input of an elderly Chinese physician and acupuncturist who had been educated in Beijing and Shanghai. In accordance with his beliefs, he began his examination by checking the twelve energy meridians in my body. He placed his fingers gently on my wrist and then, to my surprise, continued to stare at his watch. Finally, he shook his head.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Weak heart,” he declared with great conviction.

My mouth dropped open. “Impossible,” I countered.

“Weak heart,” he repeated pointedly.

Surprised and concerned by his comment, I asked for further explanation. He noted that my heart beat only fifty-two times per minute, rather than the “normal” seventy-two to seventy-six times per minute.

“Oh,” I sighed with relief, “I’m a runner. I jog six miles every day and have done so for over twelve years. My cardiovascular system has been well exercised,” I added. “That’s why, at rest, my heart beats so slowly.” I had had a complete physical exam recently, including a stress test with an electrocardiogram, which determined that I had a well-toned and strong heart. I repeated what I had read, sprinkling my summary with additional information from my regular physician and the latest cardiovascular statistics.

“Now understand why weak heart,” he said authoritatively. This eastern physician then explained that because of my continuous running, my heart had been fatigued; thus, it was no longer capable of putting out seventy-six beats per minute.

“Ever watch dog?” he said. “Breathe very fast. Heart beats fast. Twelve years, maybe fifteen years, dead. Big whales. Hmm, breathe slowly. Heart slow. Easy. Can live one hundred years. More, maybe.” Then he explained that, in accordance with his “vision,” the heart can beat only a finite number of times in a lifetime. By running, breathing fast and making my heart beat fast, be maintained, I had been using up those beats unnecessarily and had exhausted my heart muscle as well.

The exact same evidence in the hands of two different doctors led to profoundly opposing conclusions. I did note that the Chinese physician was a lively man in his late eighties (perhaps he had been saving up his heartbeats). What did I want to believe? In this case, my intention was to be healthy. Although keenly aware that two cultures held different “truths” about the same data, I still wanted to find a meaningful way for me to select beliefs and behavior which would support my health. I resolved the dilemma by choosing to consult what I call my “nonverbal/nonconceptual resource within.” I would make a decision about running based on what felt good to me physiologically. I had pushed myself for years to make a certain quota of miles each week, sometimes ignoring fatigue and an internal inclination to ease my standard. I decided now I would run only as long as I felt energized to do so. I would gather new evidence to support my new criteria or new belief. Within weeks, I trimmed my mileage by almost fifty percent.

Our conclusions follow from our chosen biases (our chosen beliefs).

Back To Library

Contact Us

Call Me

Or send us a message or question and we will get back to you as soon as we can.



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