The Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft & Spending

         December 2008 e-Newsletter

spacer (1K)


"So Much to Share... So Much to Learn"


Terrence Daryl Shulman

"A tree grown in a cave does not bear fruit." --Kahlil Gibran
"Perplexity is the beginning of knowledge." --Kahlil Gibran

November: What a month it's been. We had an historic presidential election in the U.S; the economy has been like a roller coaster; "Black Friday"--the bellwether for retailers the day after Thanksgiving--is just around the corner; and I just came back from a 10-day silent meditation retreat.

First, the election. Whatever your political persuasion, I like to believe there's some great life lessons to learn from politics and, particularly, political campaigns. There are lessons to learn from the defeated as well as from the victorious. Here are ten lessons I'm taking away from Barack Obama's campaign:

1. Anything is possible. Truly. Of course hard work was involved but it all started with a belief that something new is possible. A long shot can be a winner. Taking risks can bring rewards. An underdog can have his day. Truly inspiring.

2. Stay true to who you are. I was impressed with how steady Obama seemed to be and how comfortable in his own skin he appeared. He stated from the get-go that he wanted to run a positive campaign rather than a negative one and stick to the issues. My judgment is that he did that.

3. Be a uniter not a divider. While we can influence and be influenced by appealing to fear and by attacking others, this crucial time of crises calls for unity. It is a reminder to me in my own life to appeal to hope and not fear.

4.  No drama Obama! How did Obama stay so steady? He had a guiding principle in his campaign: no drama. Early in the primaries, one of his campaign advisors gave an interview in which she called Hillary Clinton "a monster." This campaign aide was fired the next day. The campaign worked phenomenally well as a team. I aspire to run my life as smoothly as Obama ran his campaign.

5. Respond to attacks swiftly, don't attack back, and move on. Obama learned from previous campaigns not to underestimate how attacks and untruths can fester so he addressed lies, misinformation, and legitimate criticisms directly and promptly and largely chose not to attack back in a tit-for-tat; then, he'd move on and get back to his message. Obama projected an image of maturity and dignity.

6. Have a vision and a message and stick to it! Yes, at times it may have seemed that Obama was running more against George Bush and his policies that for something else but he managed to articulate a vision and message of "change we can believe in" around all the most important issues: the war, health care, jobs, taxes, the environment, repairing our frayed alliances, and regaining our moral standing in the world. As I'd been taught about giving a speech or selling something: tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em, tell 'em, and then tell 'em what you told 'em.

7. It's not about the politician, it's about the people. Yes, Obama inspired so many and had his novel aspects but he did a great job of explicitly repeating to the American people: "this campaign isn't about me, it's about you." No doubt, Obama has a healthy ego--as would anyone running for president--but he did a good job of at least appearing humble. What an awesome reminder to us all. We're each important, for sure, but there's such a bigger picture: "we" not just "me."

8. Sometimes you outgrow your mentors. I found Obama's relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright fascinating. It seemed clear he was trying to distance himself from the preacher initially without totally severing all ties. But, as time went on, it became clear that Obama had to go further as his mentor's message--and behavior--no longer resonated with where Obama saw himself or the country. More than shrewd politics or blind ambition, I have had experiences where I've outgrown friends, mentors and others who had played major roles in shaping my life. It was painful but necessary to grow.

9. Money talks! Obama was not so naive to rely on just his good looks and his good message alone. When he turned down public financing, he may have broken his earlier promise not to do so but he was shrewd enough to know that politics--at least in its current state--is usually won or lost based on financial advantage. But the way Obama raised his money was organized, expansive and smart--tapping into Internet donations and contributions from all segments of society. The way he spent his money was equally important. Money may not be everything but for most of us we can appreciate the importance of its role.

10. Don't knock community organizers! Obama's background as a community organizer--while ridiculed by some--turned out to be a key asset and skill. When you need to accomplish something--especially a huge project or endeavor--knowing how to enlist and manage help is crucial. This is one of my greatest challenges as I still have a tendency to try to do everything by myself.

So, regardless of how you voted or what you think of Obama, see if there are some keys to his successful campaign that you can embrace in your own life. After all, life feels like a campaign at times, doesn't it?

Meditation, Anyone?

Do you value silence? Stillness? Nothingness? Being vs. doing? Experiencing your internal life rather than your external life? I didn't.

I recently returned from a 10-day silent meditation retreat at the Illinois Vipassana Meditation Center. Vipassana meditation is a meditation technique taught by the Buddha 2,500 years ago. The word "vipassana" means "awareness," "insight" or, more accurately, "seeing things as they really are." 

I am no stranger to meditation but had become one lately. I learned TM (Transcendental Meditation) in 1994 and practiced daily for 3 years. In 1999 I learned another meditation technique called "Ascension" which I practiced regularly for 2 years. Somehow, though, I'd gradually found my way back to being the busy bee that more naturally fit my Type A personality. 

The end of this year marked five years since the publication of my first book "Something for Nothing: Shoplifting Addiction and Recovery" and, for all intents and purposes, the birth of The Shulman Center, my private practice. It's been an amazing 5 years--full of growth, adventure, accomplishments, and challenges. But it's also been exhausting and I had begun to realize even last year that I was heading toward burnout if something didn't change.

I had begun exercising more and eating better and this helped a little bit. But when I tried to sit still or meditate, I was shocked to find I just couldn't! I'd become a workaholic, a TV-aholic, and a "human doing" instead of a human being. I'd become so distractible and irritable that my relationships and serenity were deteriorating fast. I'd become the king of the multi-tasking but was unable to be truly present to any one person or any one experience. 

I realized I needed to take radical action--the equivalent of an addict going to detox to "dry out" in a safe, secure, structured environment. I needed to find my way back to myself--no work, no TV, no news, no trying to impress anyone, no taking care of anyone, just finding my way back to me. 

I'd heard about Vipassana meditation over the years and, recently, two friends and my younger brother who knew my dilemma all recommended it to me. They'd experienced the silent retreat and urged me to go. I made my reservation and then had one month to emotionally prepare for it, to get my things in order, and to clear my schedule. I timed my retreat to begin the day after the presidential election--November 5th. After following the presidential campaigns intently over the last year or so, I needed a break!

The six hour drive from Detroit to Pecatonica, Illinois was a good way to begin the transition from doing to being. I blasted my favorite CDs knowing I'd soon be confined to essential silence. I sipped my dark caffeine-loaded coffee and gazed out my window at the world passing me by. What was I leaving behind? What would I encounter ahead? I felt trepidation about coming to intimately know my own mind in the container of silence and structure awaiting me. I wondered, at times, would I be able to last the whole 10 days? But I couldn't beat the price: free... or, more accurately, by donation.

When I arrived in the mid-afternoon at this modest farmland property with barren trees, there were 10 other men and 15 women joining me on this voyage within. We got our room assignments--small, private rooms about 10 feet by 15 feet by my estimation--and got to talk with each other over a light meal of soup and bread. I walked the grounds, noticing the absence of traffic noise and a chill in the air that inched as the sun slowly descended behind the horizon line.

We met in the meditation hall--a converted carpeted living room in one of the houses on the property. The women sat on one side of the room, the men on the other. The silence had begun. We were oriented on the many rules for the next 10 days--the same essential schedule each day: a bells rings at 4am; meditation in one's room or in the meditation hall from 4:30-6:30; breakfast at 6:30; group meditation from 8-11am; lunch at 11; free time till 1pm; meditation in one's room from 1-2:30pm; group meditation from 2:30-5; light dinner of fruit and tea at 5; group meditation from 6-7; dharma talk/video lecture from 7-8; final meditation from 8-9; lights out by 9:30.

The structure and rules were a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, they kept me pretty busy; on the other hand, I tend to hate rules and the schedule was intense. Not talking turned out to be the easiest part of the retreat for me. What was hardest was the boredom at first--especially at night: we weren't permitted to bring books to read or paper to write on. I'd lay awake those first few nights, even though exhausted, and feel restless in the darkness and silence. Did you know silence actually has a sound? It is like ringing in the ears. It was actually deafening at times. No kidding. 

To stay "sane" I walked a lot outside every chance I got. I stretched several times a day to help avoid aches and pains from sitting in meditation for long hours. I counted the days at times and also began to overcome my worries about losing money or work or a call from The Oprah Winfrey Show! I missed my TV programs, my newspapers, and my freedom in a sense but that, too, soon faded. I remember telling myself: relax, you don't have to do anything except follow this schedule; how often do you have a chance to do nothing and just rest and go within?

The meditation techniques themselves included three full days of just focusing on following one's breath in and out of one's nostrils, coached occasionally by an Indian man's voice on audiotape. This same man was on videotape in the evenings for the dharma (or natural law) talks each night. He spoke about Buddhist precepts and also about the roots of human suffering--which come from craving, aversion, attachment, immorality and ignorance. He spoke about the universal law of change and impermanence.

I began to realize even more clearly how my mind bounced back and forth with cravings: TV, more money, more work, more recognition, food, news, busyness; and aversions: certain people, disappointments, criticisms (real and perceived), obligations, etc. I had lost my center. I did anything to keep busy, filling up the silence and emptiness. Now, facing myself, I fidget and notice my mind race and bounce from this thought to that thought. I could hardly stay focused on something as simple and essential as my breath. 

By day 4, we were introduced to a more global meditation technique where we'd scan our entire body slowly from the top of our heads to the tips of our toes, being coached to bring awareness to any bodily sensations as we scanned: itches, aches, tingling, numbness, pain, stiffness, or "blind" spots where nothing notable could be felt. Eventually, we began to practice sitting in meditation for periods up to an hour without moving at all to scratch an itch or move our posture to a more comfortable position. It was mental training to just witness what is without reacting to the experience--whether the experience was uncomfortable or pleasant.

The idea is that, like life, we become programmed to react, to prefer, to crave one kind of experience over another and push away any hint of unpleasantness. Thus, we're constantly avoiding the truth of the moment, becoming ever more attached to some feeling or sensation we want rather than noticing pain or unpleasantness and knowing that it will not last forever; the same is true for the more pleasant experiences... we can appreciate them in the moment but they, too, will pass despite our attempts to hold on tightly. Easier said than done. But, I actually was able to sit a couple of times for a whole hour without flinching or moving. Every itch, every pain, eventually subsided. Wow!

With two days left, it was hard not to start thinking about the future: leaving and going home. But we had one last meditation technique to learn. After focusing on our breath, after learning to do a body scan for sensations and then not reacting to any bodily sensations, we were instructed to relax our bodies and minds at the end of an hour meditation and see if we could project any peace, harmony, love, or compassion out to the world or even to any individuals by quietly repeating some phrases such as "may all beings be happy," "may all beings find peace," "may all beings be liberated," etc. Curiously, this seemed to be the hardest technique for me.

Somehow, I lasted the whole 10 days. I felt victorious but not in any egoistic way. I knew, and continue to know, that the real work is ahead of me. As a side note, I ended up giving twice as much of a donation as I originally intended. I felt that abundant and appreciative.

It's been a difficult transition over the last two weeks. I've managed to meditate for about a half hour in the mornings but not yet in the evening. It was recommended to meditate an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. I've been watching less TV but still working pretty hard. I do have moments where I miss the silence and the stillness, the simplicity of life. I have felt a little calmer and less reactive to things that normally had bothered me. I am looking forward to some down-time with the holidays and winter ahead: the perfect time to hunker down and go within. 

The journey continues. If you have been having trouble sitting still, being, appreciating the moment and all the little things in life, perhaps a mini-retreat is a good start. Don't wait till the New Year!




spacer (1K)

Fall 2008 Conference on Compulsive Theft & Spending took place Saturday September 27, 2008 in Detroit! If you missed it, it's available on 6 hours of DVD for $100 (includes S/H)!  To order, click on our website to order or contact us directly at 248-358-8508.

NOTE: Mr. Shulman is now providing expert counseling service via Skype telephone &  videoconferencing!


November 2nd: Mr. Shulman was featured in an article on compulsive shopping in U.S. News and World Report.

November 3rd: Mr. Shulman was quoted in an article in the Chicago Tribune about shoplifting addiction.

November 21st: Mr. Shulman was interviewed by Pittsburgh, PA radio station on shoplifting.

November 24th: Mr. Shulman was interviewed by phone by MTV for a follow-up segment on compulsive shopping/spending in young women--tentatively to air December 31, 2008.

Mr. Shulman was interviewed by the Associated Press for an article on compulsive shopping.

November 19th: The Dr. Phil Show highlighted the topic of shoplifting and shoplifting addiction.

Mr. Shulman assisted RDF/USA Films on a documentary about hoarding and compulsive shopping.

Mr. Shulman continued to assist Pangolin Pictures on a documentary about compulsive shopping.

Mr. Shulman continued to assist with CNN on a story about how the faltering economy has led to more people shoplifting out of basic need and necessity.

Mr. Shulman continued to assist with a German-based television segment on addictions--including compulsive theft and spending.

Mr. Shulman continued to assist with an Australia-based television segment on addictions--including compulsive theft and spending. 


Mr. Shulman has been chosen to present on compulsive shopping & spending at the April 22-24, 2009 Foundations in Recovery Process Addictions conference in Las Vegas, NV.

Mr. Shulman is being considered to present on compulsive shopping & spending at the National Association of Social Workers--Michigan chapter annual conference April 15-6, 2009 in Lansing, MI.

February 2009: The major motion picture "Confessions of a Shopaholic" is scheduled for release.

Mr. Shulman is assisted to U.K. projects on shoplifting addiction--one with the BBC and another with Channel 4.

Mr. Shulman to be featured in an article on compulsive shopping and spending in Elle--Canada magazine--article to be published at a later date.

Mr. Shulman was interviewed for an article on compulsive shopping and spending in Glamour magazine--article to be published at a later date.

Mr. Shulman will be featured on the MSNBC series "Theft in America" in early 2009.

Mr. Shulman will be submitting a chapter on employee theft in a 2009 compilation book entitled "Risky Business."

Mr. Shulman is working with Women's Entertainment TV's "Secret Lives of Women" series on a compulsive shopping and spending segment.

Mr. Shulman contributed to a 2009 book on recovery in the USA called "America Anonymous" by Benoit-Denizen Lewis.

Mr. Shulman is working with A & E TV's "Intervention" show on a shoplifting addiction segment.


spacer (1K)
spacer (1K)
Contact The Shulman Center

Terrence Shulman
P.O. Box 250008
Franklin, Michigan 48025


Call (248) 358-8508 for free consulation!

spacer (1K)
spacer (1K)

Products for Purchase--SALE!

Mr. Shulman's 75 Minute DVD Power Point Presentation on Employee Theft at Livonia, Michigan Financial Manager's Conference 10/19/06. $75.00

Mr. Shulman's 75 Minute DVD Power Point Presentation on Employee Theft at Louisville, Kentucky Business in Industry Conference 9/19/07. $75.00

Mr. Shulman's two books "Something for Nothing: Shoplifting Addiction & Recovery" and "Biting The Hand That Feeds: The Employee Theft Epidemic... New Perspectives, New Solutions" are availabe for $25.00 each (includes shipping/handling) or both for $45.00 (includes shipping/handling).

Mr. Shulman's 90 minute DVD Power Point presentation for young people: "Theft and Dishonesty Awareness Program." $75.00

Mr. Shulman's 33 minute psycho-educational DVD: "The Disease of Something for Nothing: Shoplifting and Employee Theft." $50.00

First International Conference on Theft Addictions & Disorders 4 DVD set (13 Hours). Recorded 10/05. $125.00


spacer (1K)
spacer (1K)
© 2007 The Shulman Center