Column: the Season of Gratitude

The changing seasons are filled with symbolism, meaning, and traditions. It is a time that many people inside of western secular society are preparing for a variety of celebrations, gatherings, and feastings. Many within our intersecting religious communities of Paganism and Polytheism are transitioning away from ceremonies focused on death, harvest, and the new year.

The wheel, as it turns from fall to winter, can also harness reflection on those who have passed through the veil, and various opportunities of working through the shadow self. To put it lightly, this time of year is complex for a multitude of reasons.

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One aspect of this time of year — one that is also a staple of the changing fall season — is the concept and acknowledgement of gratitude. Whether these ideas show up in our personal lives or whether we are influenced within society by the Hallmark messaging of the Thanksgiving season, gratitude is a thing in November.

We see many people participating in various related activities, such as the 30 Days of Gratitude challenge on social media, and there is also a lot of “gratefulness talk” throughout families, workplaces, and even within spiritual communities.

The unwinding rabbit hole that is the definition of what gratitude is and what it means to be grateful differs depending on the medium being discussed. Disciplines like psychology use definitions of gratitude that vary from those definitions found religious frameworks such as Christianity. We have all heard of catch phrases like having an “attitude of gratitude” or the New Age idealism of the laws of attracting more things to be grateful for.

Despite differences, there are some intertwining concepts in the practices of embracing gratefulness in connection with spirituality.

There has been an increase in studies around the impact of gratitude on physical, emotional, and mental well being. Psychologists and others within the social sciences have shown a marked interest on how this very concept can create significant shifts in how people experience their lives on a emotional and physiological level. We often talk about the connection between how our “thoughts become things,” as a very cognitive behavioral therapy concept, and how our beliefs by acknowledging the ways that thoughts, feelings, emotions, experiences and behavior are interconnected.

Studies of the influence of practicing gratitude have shown improvements in areas of the immune system, blood pressure, increased joy, more sleep, and decrease in feelings of isolation. Dr. Robert Emmons, a psychologist and researcher on gratitude, explores all of these correlations and the integration of positive psychology modalities in the idea of wellness.

Here are several interesting definitions of what gratitude is from different understandings:

Gratitude, along with love, compassion, empathy, joy, forgiveness, and self-knowledge, is a vital attribute of our wellbeing. While there are many definitions of gratitude, at its foundation, gratitude is a healing, life-affirming, and uplifting human experience that shifts us from focusing on the negative to appreciating what is positive in our lives. Gratitude provides us with a more intimate connection to ourselves and the world around us. In the feeling of gratitude, the spiritual is experienced. – Deepak Chopra

Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has—as opposed to, for example, a consumer-driven emphasis on what one wants. Gratitude is getting a great deal of attention as a facet of positive psychology: Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, and can increase our well-being and happiness by doing so. In addition, gratefulness—and especially expression of it to others—is associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy. – from Psychology Today

Indeed, this cuts to very heart of my definition of gratitude, which has two components. First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good thing in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. This doesn’t mean that life is perfect; it doesn’t ignore complaints, burdens, and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life.

The second part of gratitude is figuring out where that goodness comes from. We recognize the sources of this goodness as being outside of ourselves. It didn’t stem from anything we necessarily did ourselves in which we might take pride. We can appreciate positive traits in ourselves, but I think true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others: We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives. – Robert Emmons

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Much like the role spirituality plays for individuals, gratitude also has the effect of holding a space for hope and understanding within our lives as we are enmeshed daily with both good and bad experiences. Gratitude can be an antecedent for hope and a method of cognitive restructuring of the many ways we relate to our experiences.

There continues to be a focus in research on the correlation between how these tools -spirituality, beliefs, and gratitude – are utilized and how our ability to connect to our world with purpose and direction supports self efficacy. Gratitude has the ability to be a bridge our pasts, present, and future, acting as a mindfulness activity that brings us perspective.  It is also important to note that gratitude can have an element of challenge for many people, and has been used in some settings as a demand, tool of manipulation, or as a way to measure one’s humility.

While potentially harmful uses of gratitude within interpersonal relationships and within society imply that having gratitude is a measurement of integrity, it is important to note that this is not the truth for many people. Celebrations of our lives and the many aspects of gratefulness can connect people to a broader understanding of themselves. But, at the same time, but there are also very individual and layered interpretations of what it means in one’s life.

What types of things are our Pagan and polytheistic community members grateful for this season? How does gratitude resonate for them? Here are some of the various quotes that came from others about what they are grateful for today.

Grateful for the harvest and knowing how to preserve and share it. – Mari Powers

Grateful for all the support and love I receive from friends and family, including the fur-children. And for dark chocolate with salted caramel. And for Earl Grey tea. – Kimberly Kirner

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow…- Jonathan Blanton

I’m grateful to be able to work for justice while rooted in a spiritual community. It makes all the difference. – Cat Chapin-Bishop

Gratitude for me is a means to apply balance on an emotional scale. When I’m depressed, overwhelmed by the world news, or just having a pity party then practicing gratitude can shift my perspective. Maintaining that emotional balance enables me to continue to “fight the good fight.” Gratitude is also a gentle way to explore privilege. We all have some places where we have privilege and many of us have places where we don’t. Gratitude for what we have opens us to sharing that privilege with others. Gratitude practice provides a platform, we still have to do the work. – LisaSpiral Besnett

I‘m grateful for my life’s hardships because understanding and learning from experience brings an inner peace only found through suffering. – Tamara Szewczyk

I think of gratitude as a lens to help us refocus how to perceive the world. If life circumstances feel they couldn’t be more bleak, just reminding myself that there are good things in my life and that I can name at least three blessings on any given day…helps me get out of bed in the morning. – Ravensong

I am grateful for my hard past, without which, I would not be able to appreciate and love my beautiful present. It has also taught my to be hopeful for my future, which I know will be stepped in love and abundance.– Lotus Raven Song-Ames

Gratitude is the simplest prayer. – Miskwaa Waagoshnini

As a person with terminal illness, I’ve been asked about gratitude by folks convinced it is connected to freedom from suffering. I get it. I’ve had gratitude focus times in my life, but gratitude feels like a way of comforting and maintaining complacency. I’m not grateful for the annihilation of our planet, for the oppression of humans in so many ways that it’s nearly impossible to breathe in what liberation should be for all of us. I’m not grateful that (overwhelmingly white/privileged) folks focus on gratitude soothes some out of feeling the urgency to act. It’s been urgent for hundreds of years. I am a spiritually grounded and positive person. I’m not flailing without a foundation of gratitude. What makes my life meaningful is not gratitude. It is connection. Beauty and joy despite the rest of it. Sorry, as a person who feels poisoned by the poor choices of humans I’m a party-pooper about gratitude.– Colleen Cook

I am grateful for friends who are still friends and send hugs even if they don’t know what’s wrong. That’s perfect love and perfect trust. – Ashleen O’Gaea

Almost all of my gratitude “quotes” have tunes.

“I thank the earth for feeding my body.
I thank the sun for warming my bones.
I thank the trees for the air I breathe and
I thank the water for nourishing my soul.” (by Ana K.W. Moffett)  – Vicki Solomon

Like with many complex topics, exploring various aspects of gratitude can be illuminating and insightful even though they may not touch the surface of the depth of the subject. Exploring concepts, meanings, and connections to gratitude within various contexts falls into the category of being a big subject in a small space. The variety of ways by which individuals connect to concepts of gratitude, and celebration, and through which they connect to experiences will be as diverse as our communities.

There are no rights and wrongs in our various feelings of gratitude, only correlations, themes, and the significance of meaning.

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Science continues to explore the vastness of positive correlations between active practices of gratitude and physical, emotional, mental well-being. And we know that our beliefs and spirituality float in and out of each of those areas of a person’s lives experience.

What does gratitude mean to you? How does it show up in your life or your spiritual practice? How does concepts of feeling grateful resonate with the way you mediate the world?

How about that for some new Thanksgiving dinner table conversations?

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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its

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Living a Life of Purpose: Breaking Away From the Mental Shackles

You’re reading Living a Life of Purpose: Breaking Away From the Mental Shackles, originally posted on Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement. If you’re enjoying this, please visit our site for more inspirational articles.

If you ask a child of 12 or 13 what she wants to do with her life, it’s a futile exercise. At that age, most children don’t quite know what they want. It’s all about the shiny object of the moment. But we ask them nevertheless. I’ve seen this happen often where I come from in Asia. In many Asian households the child grows up wanting to be a doctor, engineer, or a lawyer simply because of the ingrained belief that by becoming one of these you will be successful. Many talented children give up things they are good at, things they are passionate about—and the world loses a brilliant musician, artist, or marine biologist.
When a person is able to marry their occupation with their vocation or calling in life, often it is because a door opened in their mind, and walking through it filled their soul and excited their spirit. Hence, their purpose was born.
Bear in mind, this door doesn’t open by itself. More often than not, we stumble onto something big through movement, not stagnation. It is cardinally important that you never stop seeking. There is no getting around this rule. If an explorer goes to a forest and stumbles upon a gold mine, it is because he got there by starting the exploration. Not just dreaming about it.
Possibly the biggest impediment to finding and living our purpose, is the mental shackles many of us are tied down to. This is usually a result of being programmed to follow and believe a certain set of norms set forth by family, culture, or society. In many ways, these norms are like blinders we put on horses, to cut out the peripheral vision.
Nature, in her innate wisdom, has designed the human body in such a way that if we pay attention, we can learn some important life lessons from it. Here are two important aspects of the human body from which I personally derive my life’s philosophies.

Forward Movement

The human body is designed to propel us forward, never backward. Walking backward doesn’t allow you to see where you are going, which can be dangerous. The body loses its balance as you try to walk backwards. This also applies to life in general.
If you want to find your purpose and discover who you are meant to be, you cannot regress. You have to focus on the future and keep seeking. The future may seem uncertain, but you cannot keep running back to the past because it’s familiar. It is our life’s purpose that propels us to keep moving forward, even when life gives us no reason to.

Peripheral Vision

Just because you are looking forward, doesn’t mean you lose sight of what is around you. Our eyes, though focused directly ahead on what we are looking at, are bolstered by a 180-degree view that fills in the background with what we are not focused on.
The areas we are not focused on are sometimes far more important than we realize. It gives us a depth of perception and an awareness of things approaching from the side. We are able to successfully steer forward only when we are also aware of the opportunities and threats around us. Otherwise, we are left only with tunnel vision.
I don’t deny that tunnel vision has its purpose, but it needs to be used selectively. When one needs to focus on an activity such as sharp shooting, then your mind objectively shuts out all peripheral vision. This is an important skill to develop so you can build concentration. But when tunnel vision is enforced by virtue of the metaphorical blinders put on by society, by the school system, or by other aspects of the environment we grow up in, then the peripheral vision that helps us balance what we need to see in life, is lost.
What if you could remove those blinders so you could see the world as it is? When we rely on the enforced tunnel vision, they become our shackles. These shackles inhibit us from recognizing our purpose in life.
Someone once told me a story about elephants in a circus. A man passing by saw these huge creatures being held in place only by a small rope tied to their front leg. It was obvious the elephants could at anytime break away from their bonds, but for some reason they did not.
He asked a trainer nearby why the elephants just stood there and made no attempt to get away.
“Well,” the trainer said, “when they were very young and much smaller, we used the same rope to tie them and at that age it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”
Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging on to a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we have been led to believe that we would fail?
To learn more about living a life of purpose and overcoming limiting beliefs, please get a copy of my new book Two Minutes from the Abyss, available as an e-book on Amazon.
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Vijay Eswaran is a successful entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and philanthropist and the author of the best-selling book In the Sphere of Silence. His new book Two Minutes from the Abyss published by Networking Times Press is now available as an eBook on Amazon

You’ve read Living a Life of Purpose: Breaking Away From the Mental Shackles, originally posted on Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement. If you’ve enjoyed this, please visit our site for more inspirational articles.

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4 Strategies for Mindful Parenting

Every parent knows that having children is a field ripe with emotions. Frustration, anger, boredom, joy, love, or fear—name an emotion, and it’s probably there on the wild ride of parenting. But this can also feel like the tipping point into insanity. When parenting becomes difficult, it is important to see that these challenges can be turned into opportunities for working with your inner reactivity. As your child (or you) begin to slip into the fifth meltdown of the day, or as you watch your mind check-out from reading the same book for the millionth time, mindfulness can help bring you back to a more spacious and vital sense of the present. In this interview from 10% Happier, mindfulness teacher Alexis Santos offers four tips to cultivate a practice of mindful parenting.

Breathe Interest into Your Routine

Our attention is habitually attracted to “peak moments,” moments that seem pleasant, fun, or exciting. You’ll certainty be in the moment when your kid falls and scuffs her knee, but what about the times things are less attention-grabbing and more routine? In instances where you want to zone out, bring mindfulness to the breath. The breath is a reliable companion, and it’s also always fresh. When you use attention to experience each breath as a unique and interesting event, you can ripen seemingly repetitive moments of parenting into ones that bring your attention fully back to the present-moment interactions you’re having with your kids.

You’ll certainty be in the moment when your kid falls and scuffs her knee, but what about the times things are less attention-grabbing and more routine?

Be Bored

When breath practice is not riveting and you find yourself 100% bored, simply commit to the experience of being bored.  Boredom can be a fascinating exploration when you are willing to feel it. How does the texture of your boredom feel? Where does it arise in your body? Using boredom as an exploration of present experience can add more zest to those moments, while simultaneously strengthening your mindfulness practice. Mundane moments can be useful times to step back and find a sense of ease, regardless of the monotonous circumstances.

Feel When You’ve Lost Your Cool

If you find yourself at the brink of unproductive anger, you are not a bad parent for losing your patience. This is a perfect time to check back with your internal experience and not act out. Don’t get lost in the drama in front of you—instead, pause and feel into your body’s reactions. Even if the pause is only a millisecond long, giving yourself space is a chance to see the emotion bubbling up and work with it with more awareness. Seeing and feeling the emotion helps avoid the situation from escalating, and it will support you to stay composed in challenging times.

Relax into the Imperfection

Most people feel that their sphere of responsibility has grown exponentially upon becoming a parent. You are the lifeline for the health and well-being of your child. While making sure they are safe, secure, and loved is absolutely paramount, it is also important to know your limits. Ultimately, there are many things that you won’t be able to control, no matter how hard you try. It is important to remember that life is not always predictable. Plates will break, tears will be shed, and difficulties will inevitably occur—this is the reality of being a parent and being alive. In these situations, don’t overextend your responsibility. When appropriate, practice letting go, and relax into the imperfection. You can find satisfaction and even gratitude in those moments if you give yourself a break to embrace life as it unfolds.

 

For more from Alexis Santos  and Dan Harris, check out some free guided meditations from 10% Happier.

 

Let Go of Being the Ideal Role Model

Raising the Mindful Family

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Five Tips to Beat Holiday Stress

The holidays can be a difficult time of year. Whether it’s depression, family drama, anxiety, or the fear of missing out, the holiday blues can be difficult to beat. Listed below are five constructive ways to help make the holidays happier — or at least more bearable.

1. Take Time for Yourself

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can quickly become overwhelming, creating the ideal environment for anxiety to flourish. While our minds are preoccupied by plans with friends and family, we often forget about ourselves. Taking a moment to breathe and relax can help reduce anxiety, allowing for a happier holiday.

The holidays can’t be enjoyable if your stress meter is maxed out the entire time. In this time of giving, don’t forget to give to yourself. Allow time to breathe, relax, and care for your well-being. Even if this means you might miss some opportunities, you’ll enjoy the ones you don’t miss more.

2. Have Reasonable Holiday Expectations

When the holidays come around, we are often filled with the idea that everything must be perfect, which is literally impossible.

Of course, we want an all-inclusive, no-drama, picture-perfect holiday with family and friends, but sometimes folks can’t make it. The turkey is in the oven too long, your Uncle Fred has an argument with Aunt Janice over politics, and that picture-perfect holiday begins to crack and hang crookedly on your wall of memories.

In an ideal world, these unfortunate events would have no place at the holiday dinner table, but life happens and does not always go the way it was originally planned. Keep in mind that life is unpredictable, even if you have an itinerary prepared.

Remember, we can all enjoy the holidays more if we keep our expectations reasonable.

3. Keep It Affordable

During the holidays, many people find themselves in emotional turmoil as the cost of presents, decorations, food, and parties add up. Let’s face it — the holidays can be expensive.

But they don’t have to be. It’s important to remember the reason you’re celebrating and to keep things in perspective. You shouldn’t need to take a loan and spend an arm and a leg just to enjoy yourself and feel merry.

Remember, the holidays aren’t happier just because you spent more money.

4. Avoid Toxic People This Holiday Season

The holidays are typically spent with friends and family — but that’s not a requirement. Let’s be honest. Sometimes our friends and family can be triggering and detrimental to our mental health. Not everyone is jolly around the holidays.

The holidays can bring up our own feelings of anxiety, depression, and general stress, so it may be a good idea to avoid those who are constantly spreading negativity. You are not required to see anyone during the holidays, and it’s okay to ignore people if their negativity has a harmful effect on you.

5. Be Grateful for the People Around You

Unfortunately, the ones we love are not always around. Often, we dwell on the missing person so much that we forget about the people who are there.

Although others will not fill the void left by your loved ones’ absence, it is important to remember that you have other people who love and care about you. The holidays are a time of joy. Be thankful for the friends and family who were able to share the holidays with you.

Along those same lines, be thankful for what you have, rather than worrying about what you don’t have.

In Conclusion. . . 

The five tips listed above won’t work for everyone, but they may give you some ideas on how to make the holidays more enjoyable. Remember, there is no right way to celebrate, just remember to enjoy yourself.

Talkback: Using the comments sections below, share your tips and tricks for surviving the holidays and avoiding the blues.

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Making the Hurt Visible: How I Healed from Abuse and Learned to Listen to Myself

“Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.” ~Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

We’ve just passed the year anniversary of an event that has greatly changed our country. The shock of the election results last year sent waves of powerful emotions rippling through our nation.

Personally, I felt the effects as intense and immediate grief. It was as though I had just lost my dearest companion.

I had days of shock, despair, feelings of intense cold with physical shaking and episodes of vomiting and nausea, followed by weeks of sleepless nights, spontaneous sweating, nightmares and feelings of imminent danger. Everything felt like a threat. Everything felt like an unbearable reminder. It was all so devastating… and so embarrassing.

I was ashamed of how deeply I registered the experience and found it difficult to talk about even with those I loved. I was confused as to why it felt so intense, why I felt choked when I tried to speak of how I was feeling, and assumed it was something wrong with me. I was the living example of the liberal snowflake.

As I began talking to others I realized that I was not alone in this experience, and I began to be curious as to why it registered so deeply with myself and some others, and yet did not in some of my friends who had similar political ideologies. They were still disappointed and disgusted with what had happened, but it did not register in such a visceral way.

Personal and systematic abuse shaped us all in invisible ways. The answers I found to why I related so physically to the event go back very far into my personal history, and if you believe in such things, my ancestral history also.

As a small child family gatherings held a sense of dread for my sister and me. While we enjoyed the food and presents usually involved, there was also the regular ritual of uncle Joe.

Uncle Joe would call us floozies and comment that our legs were too skinny, our knees looked like washerwoman knees, and no one would find us attractive.

There were also the sneak attacks of him grabbing us and holding us down and tickling us while we screamed for him to stop. It was always in the middle of the room with everyone watching, and him narrating the scene, saying how much we really loved it, how silly we sounded screaming stop because we were laughing, and everyone could see we enjoyed it.

At the beginning and end of gatherings he would demand a hug and kiss; didn’t we love our uncle?

I remember feeling helpless, humiliated, and ashamed for my tears. It was expected for us to swallow our feelings and put on a happy face. We needed to be polite.

If any adult came to our aid or defense I do not recall it, and I’m sure if anyone did they would have also been told that they were being too sensitive. He was showing his love for us, and why didn’t they appreciate it? We should feel lucky to have an uncle who loved us so much.

This kind of story is so commonplace, so ubiquitous, that many may read it and still question what was wrong with that situation. But this is how the very damaging abuse called gas lighting works.

The perpetrator takes advantage of someone weak or vulnerable. They deny the victim from having a voice in the story, then re-center the story to be about themselves, about how great and wonderful they are or, conversely, how they themselves are being abused in the situation. And they mostly are not even aware that they are doing it.

Even in writing this down I feel the tension in my body rise. I feel the tremors involuntarily start in my limbs, my breath gets shallow, and I have trouble even wrapping my head around the words to adequately explain the experience.

In Psychological Harm is Physical Harm Nora Samaran writes of how this kind of abuse shapes the brain and how someone can react to this behavior for the rest of their life. The systematic silencing of one’s voice and denial of one’s reality can cause someone to become incapable of talking about it.

Uncle Joe was not the only person in my life who behaved in this way. It was everywhere, from the doctor who told me that it didn’t hurt when he burned off my warts with dry ice, to my father who told me to quit crying or he would give me something to cry about, to the teachers who seemed to always ignore my correct answers, but hear the boy behind me who repeated what I just said as if it was his own idea. It was on television, in movies, in the music I heard on the radio.

I internalized the patterns and found myself over and over in the same frustrations, the same endless arguments, the same feelings of invisibility.

I sought out the dynamic in my relationships, sometimes in more obviously abusive partnerships, but often in the subtle and almost invisible forms of minimization. I felt like I was talking, but the people I was talking to didn’t seem to register what I was saying.

It was like being caught in a nightmare, where you are trying to speak but what comes out of your mouth is unintelligible. You know what you are trying to say, but what my partners heard was something altogether different. It was crazy making.

Because of the systemic normalization of minimizing and denying the feminine perspective, I came to deeply distrust my own mind.

I did not have to even be told my perceptions were not important; it was done in the subtle shrugging off of my suggestions, the deep sigh that made me feel my words were ridiculous, the automatic response of the males in my life to say “yes, but…,” “ I don’t think you get what’s going on,” “you are misunderstanding,” even when I was describing my own feelings or experience.

And the many years of work I did getting a handle on my own anger issues and automatic reactions made me super sensitive to the claims that I was the one being too aggressive, making too big a deal out of something, or just being mean.

I automatically took on the blame and responsibility of any argument. I was being irrational, I was not being clear enough, the words I used were hurtful; therefore, they were invalid.

Mathew Remski discusses this quite eloquently from the male perspective. He talks of the behavior of minimizing being so embedded in his make up that it takes continuous concentrated effort to even notice when it is happening. And that it also takes the help of his partner continuously pointing out when it happens.

It is a lot of work to be constantly vigilant monitoring our behavior, and it can feel almost impossible to overcome. I know because I, and most other people who have had the experience of personal or systematic marginalization do this every day with our own behavior. The constant rewriting of our own experiences to fit within a system that cannot accept our true feelings, which center the collective narrative on a cis, white male perspective.

When the campaign happened, the behaviors I had deep visceral reactions to became public. Instead of being hidden away in the most intimate relationships or invisible private conversations, they were being played out on a very public stage.

I felt myself reacting to them all as if they had happened to me personally (because they had, just not by this particular person).

When one of the most powerful positions in the world was given to a person who was so blatantly abusive and disrespectful, who openly mocked his victims, who rewrote every story so the blame was scattershot anywhere but his direction, who played out the usually hidden abuses so many of us feel intimately on a scale so huge it permeated the globe, it felt to me that the years of hard work I had done to reclaim my identity had been wiped out in a single night.

It validated the claim of every person who had told me I didn’t know what I was talking about; if I was uncomfortable it was because my expectations were not reasonable; if I felt abused, hurt, ignored it was hurtful and unfair to the person I was accusing; that pointing out my pain or the pain of others was downright impolite and my behavior. The mere fact that I had a perspective of my own, was intolerable.

I found relief through somatic therapy. Somatic therapy works directly with sensations of the body and translating them into the emotions that we may be storing there. It requires one to become present in the now, opening to the deeply buried layers that bubble up from the subconscious when we have knee-jerk reactions and strong emotions.

Translating the subconscious reactions we have into conscious and conscientious actions creates the space to make our hurt, and the hurt of others visible. To do this I had to dive into the depth of the grief to see where it stemmed from, not just place it was most recently triggered. This was a place that made every fiber of my being long to run away, numb out, cease to exist.

But the leaning into the pain instead of running away allowed me to recognize and accept my own feelings and reactions as tools of learning. I had to relearn to trust my instincts and see myself as a reliable source of information. I learned that I am valid, my feelings are important, and I have a right to be heard and to take up space.

I saw the ways I was complicit in my own harm. I had given up the right to my own perspective, internalized the doubt that my experiences are real, automatically responded to my strong emotions as unreasonable, and I had agreed that the feelings and needs of others were more important than my own.

When I saw that I had agreed to these things subconsciously, I was finally able to decide for myself that I did not want to do these things and could make the choice to stop.

It was and continues to be hard work. But now I listen when strong reactions come up, and instead of automatically silencing them I ask, what they are here to tell me? My anger, fear, guilt, depression, despair, all have a message they are desperately trying to get me to hear.

With deep listening my reactions can be transformed into conscious actions. Actions that let my voice be heard, centering my own story and needs, and allowing others to express what they need to express as well. It also gives me a very low BS tolerance threshold.

In claiming my own story I suddenly found it intolerable having it minimized in any way and could no longer be silent when it was.

This is a deeply inconvenient perspective to have. Going against the grain of society and allowing myself to be impolite while remaining as compassionate as I can muster leads to many awkward and uncomfortable conversations. It leads to conversations where I have to put my personal safety on the line in order to stand up for my personal integrity.

There is also the need for great delicacy and diplomacy. You cannot hope for others behavior to change when you make them the enemy.

We all have the capacity to hurt; we all have the capacity to heal. I am the victim of abuse in cases related to my gender, and at times, my age, but have also been the perpetrator in cases where my privilege, be it from my white skin, my middle class upbringing, my citizenship etc. have blinded me to the ways I have contributed to the minimization and abuse of others.

Learning to have compassion for myself and my own tender emotions also requires me to have compassion for those who have harmed me. In the cases of my intimate circle, these are people I love and respect, and I want to be able to still love myself and need to allow for others to love themselves. I see the great hurt many of the people who have treated me this way carry around, you do not abuse without having first been abused yourself.

Unfortunately the abuse of toxic masculinity (the culture of oppression, patriarchal values, or the many names this behavior is known by) has become so embedded in our culture that we do not even recognize it as abuse. It is the norm; it’s just the way it is.

It is invisible to the unconscious eye, until we make it visible. We are all damaged by it, but some are made to pay a dearer price, and some are allowed to gain privilege.

Those that gain privilege may have less of a motivation to change the patterns and a harder time seeing the ways they do harm and the ways it benefits them. It takes a lot of self-awareness and the ability to make yourself vulnerable. Accepting the responsibility of having harmed others and making amends is a very painful truth to accept, and so many will avoid this at all costs.

And this responsibility is passed down through the generations. If one generation cannot make amends for the harm they caused, the pain, guilt, and responsibility are handed down to the next; only the further it goes from its origins, the more subconscious it becomes, and the more difficult it is to bring the surface and recognize it.

But this is also the way it is healed, once and for all. It is not appealing work to dig deep into the ugliest depth of our suffering, to name the ways we have suffered, the ways we have caused suffering, the ways we have allowed both things to happen. But not doing it makes those parts of ourselves most in need of tender care the least visible.

So in this year when all I really wanted was for this guy, who made all my alarm bells go off, to shut the hell up, I was moved to look at all the ways I had let this weak and damaged person, and so many others like him, convince me I had to shut the hell up. I lovingly listened to my own story and convinced myself to speak up instead.

About Dr. Lisa Klieger

Lisa Klieger is a Five Element Acupuncturist (MAc) and a Doctor of Medical QiGong (DMQ China). She uses decades of clinical and personal experience to bridge ancient wisdom with modern sensibilities in order to guide sensitive souls to trust their innate wisdom and embody resilient self love. You can visit her on Facebook and at lisakliegeracupuncture.com.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post Making the Hurt Visible: How I Healed from Abuse and Learned to Listen to Myself appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

Source: https://tinybuddha.com

Best of Our Blogs: November 17, 2017

I hope you read this before the holiday craziness.

There’s one thing I keep forgetting and I want you to get it before you get lost in the loop too.

I find myself falling into a pitt of resentment. It happens when I start doing for everyone else, when I cook multiple meals, shop for the perfect outfits for my kids, and stay up late just to make sure I’ve got rainy day activities and holiday ideas planned.

Suddenly, I’m angry. I feel alone. I think no one cares how tired I am, or sick I feel. Somewhere in that loop, I stop and realize it’s me. I need to take care of myself. I need to set time to bathe in Epsom salts, to do yoga and sleep. These are imperative to my emotional health so I need to make it a priority.

This weekend is the beginning of holiday shopping, parties and other must do activities. I hope you’ll read our posts and remember your ability to take care of yourself whether through exercise, being calm or being less kind, is directly related to how well you’re able to take care of everyone else.

Top Tips To Stay Calm With Toxic People
(Unshakeable Calm) – As we’re headed toward holiday gathering season, you might want to keep this on hand.

Are You Too Kind?
(Liberation After Narcissistic Abuse) – When is kindness a bad thing? When it blinds you from manipulation.

But How Do I Exercise if I’m Depressed?
(Healing Together for Couples) – It’s a catch-22. You want to reduce your depression with exercise, but you’re too depressed to move. This will help.

6 Questions Daughters of Unloving Mothers Ask
(Knotted) – If you felt unloved by your mother growing up, you’ve probably asked yourself these questions.

8 Steps to Motivate Yourself…
(Relationships in Balance) – If you find yourself unmotivated, procrastinating or avoiding something you know you need to do, this is the post for you.

Source: http://ift.tt/2jgn2Ba

How to Meditate for Concentration

Let me ask you an important question.

Do you ever find yourself getting distracted?

Maybe you’re in a conversation and you can’t help but give in to the urge to check your phone. Or maybe you’ve got an important piece of work to do and every fifteen minutes you’ve somehow managed to take a break to check your Facebook feed.

Whatever it is, you know that you’d enjoy things more, and have a lot more free time, if only you could find it in you to truly concentrate…read the full post here

The post How to Meditate for Concentration appeared first on Goodlife Zen.

Source: https://goodlifezen.com

Train Your Mind: Overcoming Negative Thoughts Is Half the Battle

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

I could not find the bottom of the pool.

The task seemed simple enough: Wearing no more than twenty pounds worth of gear, swim to the bottom of an eight-foot pool, remove your gear, and swim back up.

My feet combed for something—anything—solid beneath me, to no avail. A shock of fear struck through my veins, clouding my head. Panic. I reached a point of sheer, utter, uncontrollable panic.

Panic is an interesting beast. It is designed to trigger the flight-or-fight mechanism in the human body; it is for survival at all costs. Yet, it tends to override any form of rationality. So, with twenty pounds dragging me down into the depths, I attempted desperately to swim back up to the surface.

In swimming, there are three places you can be and only one of which is dangerous. The first is above water, where you can breathe. The second is on the bottom, where you can use momentum to push yourself up. The dangerous one is in between. In purgatory. This is where I found myself.

I had not struggled with any aspect of training while at the U.S. Military Academy. I was not the smartest of the bunch, but I was a hard worker and I was willing to sacrifice sleep; this earned me decent grades. I was not the strongest, but I was willing to put in work every day at the gym; this earned me good physical stamina.

I had always heard about how everyone experiences a crucible event at the academy, during which they were stopped dead in their tracks and given two choices: give in, or do everything you can to claw and scratch your way to success. I, however, was complacent.

Time slowed down as I fought tooth and nail to reach the surface. When people are drowning and in a state of panic, they do what is called “shelfing.” It is a fruitless attempt to push the water below them with their arms to get their head to air.

I felt a moment of cold as my hand punched above the surface one last time, clawing for air, before my lungs began burning so badly that my body went limp. I watched the world around me begin to close to black. Pictures of my family and my life flipped across my thoughts like a film reel.

Just as I began to lose consciousness, a shepherd’s hook was thrust in my direction, pulling me to the surface, where I quickly clutched the side of the pool, panting, my heart pounding in my throat. I looked up at my combat survival swimming instructor, my eyes swirling with fear.

“Go in and do it again,” he said.

From that point on, this course became the bane of my existence. I writhed with anxiety before each session. I continued not to pass the swim tests. The dark cloud of failure lingered over my head. This was a mandatory class. If I failed, it put my graduation in jeopardy.

Here I stood, in the second semester of my junior year at West Point, with an enormous, unexpected mountain in front of me. This was my crucible. This was where I would rise or fall, and it would change the course of my existence.

It is important to mention that at this point, I had failed every single “survival gate.” I started going to every extra help session I could, continuously attempting to retest. It all seemed futile because the moment I began to sink in any capacity, my mind went into overdrive and the panic would set in. Once the panic set in, I was finished.

Buddha once said, “Rule your mind or it will rule you.” I was in good physical shape. I knew how to swim. This was not a question of capability; it was a question of mindset. And I had to fix it.

Up until this time in my life, I always used a brute force approach to challenges or adversities. I did not consider the mind as a muscle requiring growth and exercise, like the body. My mind had never acted against what my body and heart wanted to do. For the first time, I experienced uncontrolled thoughts that were influencing my actions.

Every time I attempted to swim, as soon as my hips would begin to drop under, or my head plunged beneath unexpectedly, my inner voice wailed, “It’s over. You are drowning.” Like clockwork, I would let my body become vertical, and I would sink beneath the surface, splashing desperately for the center ropes or the edge.

Something had to change. The water absorbed brute force like it was nothing, and it was more than willing to swallow me into its depths, no matter how much I flailed. I had to find a different way to stop myself from panicking.

I started small. I looked in the mirror before class, and told myself, “You can do this. You are strong.” I played motivational songs before class. I made a deliberate attempt to get myself excited, while inside, my stomach was squirming with dread.

Then one morning, while I was wearing my full kit and attempting to breaststroke across a twenty-five-meter lane, I felt my hips begin to sink. The flush of fear stung my cheeks, and my breathing became staggered.

“You are drowning! You cannot do it!” the voice of panic screamed in my head. I felt my shoulders go under. Then I could no longer breathe.

My eyes squeezed shut as my arms began to wave wildly. But, at that moment, my mind training seemed to kick in. “You are alright.” The small, timid words of reason attempted to push away the panic. “You can save yourself.”

I stopped flailing. I brought my arms to my sides and allowed myself to sink all the way to the bottom of the pool.

“You are okay.” I felt the bottom of the pool with my boots, and pushed as hard as I could against it, sending myself shooting upwards. With a gasp of relief, my head burst out of the water, and I swam to the end. I met the lifeguard’s eye; he had been waiting by the edge of the pool, ready to act.

“Hey, good job!” he told me with a smile. “You saved yourself!”

This was the beginning of a change. I could learn to challenge the negative thoughts.

From then on, when I swam with my gear, I repeated the mantra, “You are okay. You are okay.” When I jumped off the 6-meter diving board and plunged into the depths of the pool, I told myself, “You will make it.” When I slid down into the wave pool, head first, in my gear, clutching my rubber rifle to my chest, I said, “You will finish.”

The swell of panic that consistently grew in me could be quelled by this quiet, steady focus that simply refused to give up. In the end, I retested every single survival gate multiple times and finally scored the minimum requirements to pass the class—on the very last day.

This experience changed my outlook on life and myself. The mind is an incredible tool that you can train to accomplish amazing feats. It can be your worst enemy, or, with practice and understanding, your best weapon.

It is vital to realize that everyone—you included—will go through a crucible in life. It will be a defining moment during which you teeter on the bridge between triumph and defeat, and you will have the choice. That choice and the choices you make every time you are faced with a hurdle will build the habits that ultimately will come to define how you will live your entire life.

You cannot fully prepare for a crucible in life, no matter how much you try. It will sneak up on you, and it will grab you by the neck and pull you under if you let it.

The key lies in your way of thinking. Every single time I got in the water, I was filled with a sensation of impending doom. My internal monologue told me of certain failure. However, you can change your inner voice. Make a deliberate effort to tell yourself a different story than the one that has been drowning you. Change the way you speak to yourself. When your mind is right, your actions can follow.

This is not a story of becoming the most successful swimmer ever. I scraped by with a single mark above failing.

This is a story of training your mind, and making the deliberate decision to fight the negative monologue that has overpowered you. Whether it be a crucible of health, school, physical activity, sports, money –the first step toward overcoming is to convince yourself it is not only possible, but you will.

The negative thoughts are next to impossible to fully stop. Instead, you must train your mind to answer them with stronger positive thoughts. Learn to trust yourself through positive self-talk. This is not a skill to learn in a single day, but you can train yourself before your crucible strikes.

The best step you can possibly take for yourself at this very moment is to practice the subtle art of training your mind and thoughts. Meditate on it. When you hear yourself complaining, counter your negative thought with a positive one. Smile more often, even when you do not feel like it. Swallow fears and doubts, and go for it anyways. Compliment yourself daily. Practice gratitude and mindfulness.

Ask yourself the question, “Who do you want to be?” and use the answer to thwart any thoughts that keep you from becoming that person.

You do not have to let yourself drown to find your mental strength.

About Sarah Goodman

Sarah Goodman is an Armor Officer in the United States Military. She is a graduate of the United States Military Academy and a lover of dogs, fitness, the outdoors, and things that seem impossible. She is believer in meditation through fishing. Her fishing adventures can be found on her website, Gone Fishing Korea. Pictures can also be viewed on Instagram.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post Train Your Mind: Overcoming Negative Thoughts Is Half the Battle appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

Source: https://tinybuddha.com

Knives, Fire, and Running with Scissors: On Letting Our Kids Take Risks

Before we begin I feel the need to point out that the title of this piece is facetious. Of course your children shouldn’t be allowed to run around with knives, scissors and fire. That being said… let them ride a bike!

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine recently about the way kids are coddled these days. Normally I am not a “Back in my day” kind of guy. But when I see how little children are allowed to spread their wings in the modern age, I can’t help but feel a bit of that curmudgeon surface.

Overparenting can have grave consequences for children as they grow. But what you might not realize is just how much you are holding them back.

Skinned Knees and Bruises

A fascinating article published in the UK newspaper The Guardian pointed out the paradox in modern parenting. We see it as our role to keep our kids safe and so we limit their exposure to risk. Along with that elimination of danger has come a 90% decrease in the distance that kids wander from home on their own since the 1970’s.

Why does this matter? It could actually be stunting their growth and development as a whole. That stunting could have a severe impact on society as those kids take over. We may already be seeing that effect now.

Much of this is due to what we see in the news. Facebook trending stories tell of missing children being found dead within miles of their home. Crime sprees and natural disasters happen across the world. Yet, studies have proven time and again that we are living in a safer time than ever before. Could our exposure to 24-hour news be feeding our fear frenzy and causing us to hold our children back from the time they need alone to develop?

For most of our children the primary risk they will face is that of skinned knees, bruises and occasionally broken bones. While none of these things are pleasant, they are a normal part of growing up. Each of us can remember such events and what was happening when they occurred. We were climbing trees, racing on bikes, with our friends blocks away from home until the streetlights were coming on.

As adults we are able to look back on each scar and remember the event that coincided with it. The pain is a distant part of that memory, hardly present at all. It is the moment that shines bright in our mind and the lesson that we learned from it, which we took into our later years, that helped form who we later became.

We are not keeping our kids safe. We are robbing them of experiences they should be having.

Finding the Balance

That isn’t to say that certain precautions aren’t wise and necessary. I can think of more than one example where I was in more danger than my adolescent brain could grasp. There is a line between overparenting and underparenting. Walking it can be very difficult.

Starting out slow is probably the best course. Begin to let your kids go out and play on their own. Give them the ability to walk around the block, or to the park nearby without you. Let them ride their bikes around the neighborhood.

From there you can begin to widen the scope. An 8-year-old should be supervised, but if they have a 12-year-old sibling why not allow them to be the one to do it? Go out for a walk on your own or with your partner and let them stay home alone. Go to the store and don’t bring them with you.

Most importantly, give them the ability to make decisions on their own. These don’t have to be big decision, just everyday choices related to their lives. Sometimes these decisions may be bad but that is a part of building resilience and learning to take responsibility.

After all, everyone makes mistakes, sometimes big ones. Let them make their own, even if it means a bit of discomfort from time to time.

 

Resources

10 Tips For Raising Resilient Kids. (2016, July 17). Retrieved October 23, 2017, from http://ift.tt/2yOTD91

Child’s body found in Richardson is ‘most likely’ missing 3-year-old Sherin Mathews. (2017, October 23). Retrieved October 23, 2017, from http://ift.tt/2zusMiC

Henley, J. (2010, August 16). Why our children need to get outside and engage with nature. Retrieved October 23, 2017, from http://ift.tt/25FKA8t

Park, M., & Valencia, N. (2017, July 27). Police recommend charges for teens who taunted drowning man. Retrieved October 23, 2017, from http://ift.tt/2uXUK7l

The Effects of Overparenting on Children. (2015, December 28). Retrieved October 23, 2017, from http://ift.tt/2yRdpkh

The world is actually safer than ever. And here’s the data to prove that. (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2017, from http://ift.tt/2mQQR0p

A Clean Slate: Helping Your Teen Start Over After Misconduct On Their Permanent Record. (2017, September 21). Retrieved October 23, 2017 from http://ift.tt/2AVyFH9

Source: http://ift.tt/2jgn2Ba

How Labels Help: Tame Reactive Emotions by Naming Them

It was a particularly difficult day. My then nine-month-old daughter had a terrible night and left my wife and I with only a handful hours’ sleep. Needless to say, we were slow getting up and out the door that morning.  Before we left, my wife and I “discussed” who should’ve gotten up with Celia during the night (we’d been down this road before—these back-and-forths never help solve this issue, and somehow, we yet again veered this way). We barely spoke in the car the rest of the way to work after we dropped our daughter off at daycare.

And then I was hit by one issue after another once I walked into my office. An upset parent who’d left a voicemail who urgently needed to talk to me.  A clinician who needed help dealing with a student in crisis.  An important meeting I needed to chair that I’d forgotten to put in my calendar. And worst of all, I must have used a ladle to scoop my sugar into my coffee travel mug that morning.

I sat with my face in my hands at my desk for a moment.  I was seething with what life had deposited on top of me. My temples were pulsing, and my clock said it was only 9:30. Somehow, I remembered what I’d recommended to clients many times, but usually forgot to do myself.  It was a nice therapeutic “nugget” that made sense, but seemed like it should be innate to me, an experienced therapist: “Name it”—or as I’ve heard psychiatrist and mindfulness expert Dan Siegel say—“Name it to tame it.” In other words, say to yourself, out loud, what negative emotion you’re experiencing, as you’re experiencing it, in order to get some distance from it. As the clinical wisdom goes, simply labeling a difficult emotional experience allows you to take the reins back, if only briefly.

I was a therapist—this simple labeling practice was for my child clients to use. I was far beyond such “basic” strategies. I was wrong. I needed to return to the basics.

I’d recommended this emotional labeling to clients for years, but I’m fairly certain I’d never tried it myself.  Again, I was a therapist—this simple labeling practice was for my child clients to use. It was “Self-Management 101.” I was far beyond such “basic” strategies. I was wrong, because I sat at my desk with distress rippling through me. My mind was electric with ranting, and I was on track for a less than effective, connected, and creative day. I needed to return to the “basics.”

Labels Help Us Move On

The recommendation comes from a solid foundation. Research has shown that mere verbal labeling of negative emotions can help people recover control.[i] UCLA’s Matthew Lieberman refers to this as “affect labeling” and his fMRI brain scan research shows that this labeling of emotion appears to decrease activity in the brain’s emotional centers, including the amygdala. This dampening of the emotional brain allows its frontal lobe (reasoning and thinking center) to have greater sway over solving the problem du jour.

And this is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness gives us that moment of space as reactive emotions (like anger) are rising up. If we can see the anger, then we don’t have to be it—we can mindfully notice the body and mind crackling with reactivity, and acknowledge (or “name”) our emotions as we’re having them. Doing so seems to help us disengage from them. We can see them, and then we can begin to choose how to react instead of reacting under the sway of intoxicatingly strong emotions. We can choose to act to open ourselves and connect with others, rather than be carried away in a flood of emotional neurochemicals that wash us over the cliff.

If we can see the anger, then we don’t have to be it—we can mindfully notice the body and mind crackling with reactivity, and acknowledge (or “name”) our emotions as we’re having them.

Mindfulness Practice: Managing Strong Emotions in the Moment

In the coming days, when you find your body and mind getting tense with upset (and the more you’re aware of exactly how this manifests in you, the better), encourage yourself to attach words to your experience.

Often, thinking in terms of the metaphor of your hand in front of your face can be helpful.  When you start, you ARE your anger, sadness, fear, etc. It is your hand over your face. Can’t see anything, can you?  The emotion is attached to you—it IS you.

As you progressively label your emotion, creating more and more “distance” between the raw emotion and “you,” the observer (sparking awake in your frontal lobe), begins to see things more clearly: the emotional “hand” moves farther away from your thinking and reasoning mind’s eye.

Here’s a possible domino effect of reactive thoughts that might show up for you:

*  Event occurs . . .

*  Body stiffens, clenches . . .

*  “I can’t believe this!” / “They are so wrong!” / “This shouldn’t be!” . . .

*  “I am angry / sad / frustrated / humiliated / etc.”

*  Body stiffens, clenches more

* “I’m going to let them have it!”

 

And now, naming the emotion right AFTER the body first stiffens, surges, or in some way alerts you that upset is here:

 

*  “My body is telling me I’m angry, sad, etc.” (deep, slow breath in)

* “I’m having thoughts that this is upsetting.” (slow exhale out)

* “Anger . . . anger . . . anger . . .” (deep, slow breath in)

* Body slows down (slow exhale out)

* “Sad . . . sad . . . sad . . .” (deep, slow breath in)

What do you notice?

You may notice a “distance” that develops as you label your thoughts and emotions after the initial event. Instead of reacting and either lashing out or shutting down, you (in a matter of seconds) can ignite your frontal lobe, slow your body and mind, and choose your response. You can connect with your experience, as well as the possibilities around you. Instead of digging a deeper hole, you can climb out of the episode.

Practice this labeling whenever you can. Don’t be discouraged when you find yourself swept away in emotional currents. Our emotional reflexes run deep (inside the brain), and change comes only with significant practice and patience.  The practice is awareness: to get better at catching yourself.  Labeling an emotion helps you create distance from it. From there, we can choose how to respond instead of being led by our triggers.

I still argue with my wife about who should go pick up my crying kids. I catch my rigid, “she’s so out of line” thinking more than before, and I put it out at arm’s length.  More than ever before, I can choose to do something that binds us together instead of blasting us apart.

And if mindful labeling doesn’t work, as a husband, I’ve learned to simply stop talking and go clean something.

References

[i] 1. Putting Feelings Into Words: Affect Labeling Disrupts Amygdala Activity in Response to Affective Stimuli. Matthew D. Lieberman, Naomi I. Eisenberger, Molly J. Crockett, Sabrina M. Tom, Jennifer H. Pfeifer, and Baldwin M. Way. Psychological Science 2007;18(5):421-428.

 

  1. Subjective Responses to Emotional Stimuli During Labeling, Reappraisal, and Distraction. Matthew D. Lieberman, Tristen K. Inagaki, Golnaz Tabibnia, and Molly J. Crockett. Emotion 2011;11(3):468-480.

 

  1. Neural Correlates of Dispositional Mindfulness During Affect Labeling. J. David Creswell, Baldwin M. Way, Naomi I. Eisenberger, and Matthew D. Lieberman. Psychosomatic Medicine 2007;69(6):560-565.

 

A Meditation for Moving On

Meditators Under the Microscope

The post How Labels Help: Tame Reactive Emotions by Naming Them appeared first on Mindful.

Source: https://www.mindful.org