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By Renée Tillotson

The world can be a pretty fierce place. In its face, Lani Kwon, with her Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology, calmly asserts , “All of us, if we live long enough, will experience a mental health challenge.” One of the toughest problems, Lani goes on to explain, is overcoming the stigma associated with mental health issues.

Thank goodness for people like Lani Kwon and also David Sanders, each of whom has taken their own life challenges and insights as a calling to become a therapist. Both of these dear and remarkable members of the Still & Moving Center ‘ohana are serendipitously each graduating this month, May 2024 – in two different states – with Master’s Degrees in counseling psychology. Woohoo!

“To care for others is our basic nature,” David explains. “That makes us happy as individuals. And self-care is requisite to care for others.” Lani and David each embody compassion for others supported by compassion for themselves. They each meditate regularly and maintain healthy movement practices.

As a long time yoga teacher at the Still & Moving Center and elsewhere, David is always encouraging his students to get curious and in particular to find out who we really are. He says the most important tenet of psychology is the ancient mandate “Know thyself.” One of the traits that David shares in common with Lani is being a lifelong learner.

Both Lani and David brought a great deal of life experience to their degrees,Lani graduating at age 55 and David at age 69. Isn’t that a testament to lifelong learning in itself?!?

Lani came to Still & Moving Center as one of our students with a profession in life coaching. Her hunger for learning and self improvement led her to take her yoga teacher training as well as her Nia white belt intensive training at Still & Moving Center. She also trained in the MELT technique, which she taught for us while she still lived on island.

As a devoted yoga student of David’s, Lani honors him in a full chapter devoted to him in her soon-to-be-published book called Creating YOUR Calling. Her Creating CoPOWERMENT Workbook is available at Walmart, Amazon, etc. Lani’s Credo is “the power of we”. From her own life’s journey, Lani has made this simple, profound discovery:

“When we approach things with Authenticity and Anger, bad things happen.
When we approach things with Authenticity and Love, good things happen.”

Gaining Her MA in Sonora, California was no easy feat for Lani, originally an island girl. Her 15-year-old son lives with autism, ADHD, and epilepsy, and needs to be schooled at home or at times in the hospital. During the course of Lani’s master’s training, she almost lost him to a reaction to one of his medications. Lani and he had already lost Noa’s father in 2021, so Noa’s brush with death was a particularly terrifying experience, from which Lani emerged with her signature gratitude and resilience.

Lani claims that all of her life’s learning and events have led to her present achievement of earning her Masters of Arts in Clinical Counseling (APCC) and passing her National Counseling Exam. She has already been hired by Sacred Bonds Counseling & Wellness – sounds like our kind of place just from the name, doesn’t it? There she will especially help clients struggling with depression, anxiety, and substance addictions.

Lani explains, “Most people encounter depression, anxiety and/or substance use issues in their lifetime…very few have more serious mental health problems.” Lani provides the extra support they need to help them get through.

Majoring in Marriage & Family Therapy at Chaminade University here in Honolulu, David was able to stay local for his Masters of Science in Counseling Psychology.

David takes heed to a “wee voice” within himself that often tips him off to his next step. David always knew that he wanted to become a therapist… He just needed to become a software engineer, yoga instructor, and massage therapist first!

He became convinced of the power of the mind to bring about self healing early in his life by attending his grandmother’s Church of Religious Science healing. He also watched his dad after a work accident, as his father visualized all the severed muscles and nerves in his sewn-together forearm re-integrating and healing back to functionality in a year’s time .

“How do people work?” and “Why do we do what we do?’ David always wondered. David’s own curiosity is boundless. He considers curiosity to be a “free blast of learning power”.

David invites his clients to get to know things about themselves that were either buried or passed on to them without question, such that they are repeating unhealthy behaviors on auto-pilot until something comes along and shows the person how they might better themselves. Marriage and Family Therapy is based within a ‘systems view’ of the world and relationships. Regaining openness is the key for those looking for answers.

One of his favorite books is “What Happened to You?” by Oprah Winfrey, whose tough childhood shows how “diamonds are formed under pressure”, according to David. Broken families lead to kids who act out and don’t know how to be in relationship. These are the kinds of situations in which David hopes to be of service, as he continues his work – now paid! – as a therapist at Pono Roots on King Street.

Both David and Lani know and live the healing power of a good laugh, especially at themselves! As Lani summarizes: “Some of the worst ‘stuff’ I’ve been through acts as fertilizer, helping me to sit with someone who is now going through something similar, giving them the confidence that they, too, can come out of it.”

If you are interested in seeking therapy from either of these exceptional human beings, you can reach them at:

David Sanders: yogawaikiki@gmail.com or at Pono Roots Counseling Center (808) 589-2367

Lani Kwon: heavenlybalance@yahoo.com or Sacred Bonds Counseling & Wellness (209) 457-7407


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This post is also available in: English (英語)