Column: Psychogeography

Psychogeography is the effect of place upon the psyche and the importance of the psyche within the landscape. The term was first discussed in the early 1950s by Guy Debord of the Situationist International, who attributed its coining to “an illiterate Kabyle.” The concept itself is simple, ancient, and foundational to an animist view of the world.

In his essay “Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography,” Debord defines the term rather dryly and pseudo-scientifically as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” The occultist and writer Alan Moore (who explores psychogeography in his graphic novel From Hell and in his novels Voice of the Fire and Jerusalem) adds another layer of nuance to Debord’s definition by emphasizing that consciousness also embeds itself into the landscape in turn: “in our experience of any place, it is the associations, the dreams, the imaginings, the history—it is all the information that is relevant to that place which is what we experience when we talk about a place.”

In adding Moore’s definition to Debord’s, we see that psychogeographical influence is not a one-way street in either direction. It is not just the effect of the material environment upon the individual, nor is it simply a figment of the human imagination (nor is that what Moore suggests). Rather, it is a reciprocal process, a relationship—or rather, an entire web of relationships.

Source of Discord

In a culture that has overwhelmingly lost its embodied sense of relationship to place, however, the landscape is choked and blighted by the demands of power and wealth. A recent article entitled “Why You Hate Contemporary Architecture” notes that since World War II, a dominant trend within architecture has been to produce monolithic buildings that are “intentionally chaotic and grating,” shunning all ornament, symmetry, and beauty—features of traditional architectures across the world. Traditional Chinese architecture, for example, incorporates features such as curved roofs, guardian statues, and “ghost walls” specifically to prevent the entry of unwanted spirits into the building. Modern architecture does the opposite.

[Public domain.]

In China, the Boxer Rebellion of 1898-1900 targeted churches and factories for their disruption of feng shui with intrusive steeples and smokestacks (and telegraph poles for the same reason), as well as railroads and mines for offending the ancestors and land spirits. For the polytheist Boxer rebels and most other Chinese people at the time, an understanding of “psychogeography” or feng shui was incorporated into everyday life. Therefore, the destructive transformation of public space by missionaries and modernization was fiercely contested.

The Boxers were defeated through Western intervention. In the West, the psychogeographical terrain has also largely been lost to the ruling class, who have not hesitated to consolidate their control. On a material level, Debord notes that during the second French empire (1852-1870), Paris was redesigned to include “open spaces allowing for the rapid circulation of troops and the use of artillery against insurrections” but inimical to use by ordinary people.

However, Debord argues, psychogeography cannot simply be reduced to the assumption that “elegant streets cause a feeling of satisfaction and that poor streets are depressing.” Indeed, the opposite is often the case, as is horrifyingly apparent when gentrifiers attempt to pave over neighborhood soccer fields and community gardens with parking lots, or to replace murals of gods, saints, and ancestors with cookie-cutter condos. Anyone who is paying attention knows that there is more to the world than the material.

Therefore, “the revolutionary transformation of the world, of all aspects of the world, will confirm all the dreams of abundance,” Debord writes. Similarly, Moore argues that a mythical understanding of one’s surroundings has the potential to change everything:

If they understood the richness under the paving stones that they walk every day, if they understood the astonishing mythologies that were connected to these places, the histories, then they might feel more that they were walking through the eternal, golden city. If they were to internalize that, they might start to feel like the empowered and mythical creatures that inside they want to be.

Comfort to the Restless

The situationists developed the practice of the dérive or “drift” as a way to both break out of prescribed social activity and to explore the psychogeographical landscape. In his article “Theory of the Dérive,” Debord quotes a study of a student’s movements over the course of a year, which depressingly found that “her itinerary forms a small triangle with no significant deviations, the three apexes of which are the school of political sciences, her residence and that of her piano teacher.”

Breaking out of psychically impoverished loops such as the political science student’s, however, does not mean abandoning oneself to complete chance. Rather, it entails a complex engagement with the existing landscape:

In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.

Sarah Kate Istra Winter, in her book The City is a Labyrinth: A Walking Guide for Urban Animists, suggests that an “animist dérive” would “use similar methods but with a more overtly metaphysical approach” (7). Such an approach might include (but not be limited to) making offerings to local spirits and gods, incorporating divination and omen interpretation into one’s dérive, or praying to gods (such as Hermes, Mercury, or Odin) who are themselves known for being wanderers. Truly, “chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think.”

[Arthur Rackham, public domain.]

Toil of the Steed

In “Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography,” Debord wonders about the religious implications of psychogeography:

It has long been said that the desert is monotheistic. Is it illogical or devoid of interest to observe that the district in Paris between Place de la Contrescarpe and Rue de l’Arbal? conduces rather to atheism, to oblivion and to the disorientation of habitual reflexes?

While the thought that certain modern architecture is atheistic in its tendency towards oblivion is certainly interesting, from an animist perspective, both the desert and the city are filled with spirits. However, Winter observes that “many polytheists and animists still think of the spiritual world as something only, or primarily, accessible in nature” (2). Her book is explicitly intended to broaden that perspective, especially for those of us who find ourselves spending time in cities (whether we wish to be there or not).

In Chinese polytheism, not only does each city have a tutelary deity who fills the office of Cheng Huang Sheng (“god of the moat and walls”), but local land deities who fill the role of Tu Di Gong (“lord of soil and ground”). In certain cities in Taiwan, the specific spirit filling the role of Tu Di Gong may vary from city block to city block. The town of Jinze outside Shanghai, famed for its canals and bridges, formerly had some sort of deity shrine at every single bridge. Though at least one of the shrines no longer exists in physical form, people still remember its location and worship there during festivals. This is psychogeography in practice.

[Heathen Chinese.]

Animism cannot be learned from a book or the internet. An animist relationship to the world can only be cultivated through direct engagement and experience. As the Anglo-Saxon rune poem reminds us:

Riding seems easy to every warrior while he is indoors
and very courageous to him who traverses the high-roads
on the back of a stout horse.

* * *

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 management.

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4 Steps to Making Any Change You Desire

Lucy was drawing to a close in her counseling work with me when she said “You know, this isn’t how I thought I would feel.”

“What do you mean?” I asked her.

“When I started counseling,” she said, “I thought I’d have to become a completely different person in order to be happier. That I had to fix a deficiency in some way that seemed impossible and overwhelming. But it turns out that this feeling I have now — of lightness, of possibility, of more confidence and trust in myself — I just needed to lean into that more. Asking myself ‘in the moment’ if something is right for me is not selfish, but is actually kinder to others as well as me. I’m pleasantly surprised and so relieved that I didn’t need to transform into someone else to be more content.”

It’s a common misconception: That in order to be happier and love ourselves more we need to change to become someone more lovable. We need to transform.

The problem with that thinking is this:

When does it stop?

When will you ever be “enough”?

The truth is, it actually works more the other way around.

Whenever we try and make a big change — in how we behave or in a significant part of our life that is unsatisfactory (a job, a relationship) — we often wait for that magical moment when it will all ‘fall into place’. We’re looking for a catalyst, a sign that ‘this is the right time’.

What you really need is to decide that THIS is the right time to dig out of a personal hole, and then practice.

Here are 4 steps to help you get there:

  1. Really spend some time thinking about what it is you would like to be different. Go deeper than “I don’t like my job” or “I wish I was more confident.” Ask yourself WHY you don’t like your job, or what it is you believe more confidence would bring you. Check in with your deeper feelings: perhaps it’s not more confidence, but actually it’s that people seem to ignore you and you would like to be seen more. What would ‘being seen’ actually be and feel like to you? Keep going until you really have a good, solid understanding of what you would like to change.
  2. Give a name to this thing you would like to change, and then take a position on it. This may sound obvious, but saying out loud “I definitely 100% want to be seen and validated in the workplace by my colleagues and seniors” can make a huge difference in your attitude. If you feel hesitant, then you may need to go back to step one. Reaching a firm position in which you will no longer will tolerate this situation will help you be more committed. If you find the questions aren’t helping, get in touch with your values. Often when our lives are at odds with our values we experience discontent and unhappiness. Writing down what it is you value in life (and then how you are hoping to live by those values and pass them onwards) can be an enormous wake up call.
  3. Start noticing yourself in situations that trigger feelings of pain or frustration that made you want to change something in the first place. Watching yourself from the outside doing the ‘same old thing’ can be incredibly irritating and this is when most people give up. Don’t give up! We are creatures of habit and changing anything is extremely hard. Simply noticing yourself and using a little compassionate self-talk is key here: “Hey, I’m glad I mentally caught myself going down that rabbit hole again, I’m really starting to understand this problem more and more.”
  4. Eventually if you are paying attention you will begin to notice some small changes. Perhaps you actioned something you wouldn’t have 6 months ago, or are simply feeling a little lighter, or less overwhelmed by the problems getting in the way of your life. It is crucial at this time that you can begin to acknowledge when you are feeling a little different and being more like your preferred self. Ask someone close to you to help you do this, because we are notoriously terrible at giving ourselves credit for the good stuff (and notoriously great at beating ourselves up when we think we’ve “got it wrong”). Reflect back over the time since you really committed to making a change in your life and allow yourself to feel good about any differences, even if they’re seemingly unrelated to the specific change you set out to make. There is often a domino effect when we commit to a process of caring about ourselves more, positively affecting all areas of our life.

That’s the secret really, to making changes we desire. They don’t come from a place of self-hate or a need to change for someone else, or to be better (be quiet that relentless voice saying you must always be better!).

Changes settle in much more frequently when they come from a place of self-compassion, when we can take some form of pleasure and maybe even a little pride in the ways we are living more like our preferred selves, and when we can experience time that is passing as a necessary part of the journey.

*Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

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Should You Let Your Doctor Monitor Your Medication Intake?

A new pill has been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) that, when swallowed, notifies a monitoring device you wear that you actually took the medication. Sounds invasive and a gross violation of your privacy?

Well, it would be. Except for the small problem that every year, millions of people say or agree to take a medication, and then stop taking it when they start to feel better. It’s a long-standing problem for people diagnosed with certain types of mental illness, and leads to serious and significant problems — for the patient, their family, and society as a whole.

The new medication is called Abilify MyCite, and is the result of an innovative collaboration between Abilify’s manufacturer, Otsuka, and Proteus Digital Health, a California company that created the sensor. People who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and some people with clinical depression, are sometimes prescribed Abilify, an antipsychotic medication. This medication helps treat some of the symptoms associated with these disorders.

The Seattle Times has the scoop:

The sensor, containing copper, magnesium and silicon (safe ingredients found in foods), generates an electrical signal when splashed by stomach fluid, like a potato battery, said Andrew Thompson, Proteus’ president and chief executive. After several minutes, the signal is detected by a Band-Aid-like patch that must be worn on the left rib cage and replaced after seven days, said Andrew Wright, Otsuka America’s vice president for digital medicine.

The patch sends the date and time of pill ingestion and the patient’s activity level via Bluetooth to a cellphone app. The app allows patients to add their mood and the hours they have rested, then transmits the information to a database that physicians and others who have patients’ permission can access.

Sounds creepy, right? And it would be too if people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder — usually chronic, long-term conditions — weren’t grappling with the fact that when they start to feel better, they start to question the need for continuing their medication. And in that questioning, some people decide they would be better off discontinuing the medication. Sadly, this is often done on their own, without ever talking to or further consulting the doctor who prescribed the medication.

Medication Adherence or Forced Treatment?

I hate the term “medication adherence” (and the equally horrible “medication compliance”), because it is so paternalistic sounding — patients doing as they’re told to do by the all-knowing physician. But in truth, most patients with a mental illness work as partners in developing a treatment plan with their treatment team. Treatment plans are usually not forced on a patient, and if a person wants to do something different in their treatment plan, I’ve rarely found a mental health professional who objected (although I’m sure there are still some old-school professionals who come from the, “Do exactly as I say” school of doctor training).

So taking medication that you agreed to take isn’t exactly forced treatment. (If you didn’t agree to take the medication in the first place, that’s a different story.)

People stop taking their medication for a myriad of sometimes very good reasons. The side effects are horrible. The medication doesn’t seem to work as well as it did in the past. The medication is causing me problems with balance or concentration. I can’t drink alcohol while on the medication. And some of us just get lazy and stop following the plan we agreed to for no good reason at all other than it seems like it’s too much work.

Sticking to Your Treatment Partnership

But if treatment is a partnership between you and your therapist or doctor, then you owe it to that relationship to let your professional partner know you want to change things up with your treatment. Unfortunately, most people simply don’t do this. Instead, they decide to stop taking medication on their own.1

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean it’s something you should do, or that it’s a particularly good idea. Many people diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder simply cannot function well without medication.2

Some people just repeat the pattern of taking their medications for a time, and then stop taking them without any notice to anyone. Which may become a serious problem when the possible ramifications of being off of your treatment start to rear their head. For instance, when your family (or the police) has to try and talk you down from self-harm or some other type of situation where you become a danger to yourself or others. Or your behavior gets you into criminal or other kinds of trouble (e.g., like a person experiencing a full-blown manic episode in bipolar disorder).

Technology to the Rescue

That’s why the Abilify MyCite pill was invented. While I’m not at all comfortable with its reporting aspects, I understand the problem it’s trying to solve. Long-acting injectables and other long-acting forms of medications are another way of trying to address these same kinds of concerns.

Questions to ask Otsuka about this new medication would be:

  • Are the chemicals that dissolve in my stomach to produce the electrical chemical reaction safe for long-term use (e.g., has it been studied in humans for 5 years or longer)?
  • Is the patch sensor safe for long-term sue (e.g., has it been studied in humans for 5 years or longer)?
  • Does Otsuka receive data transmitted from the smartphone app (even if anonymized)?
  • What else does Otsuka do with this data?
  • Does Otsuka make this data available to the government or police? Insurance companies? Payers? Other third-parties? And under what conditions?
  • If the police request my data, is a subpoena or search warrant needed?
  • Where does the data actually reside, on my phone or in the cloud somewhere?
  • What kind of security is attached to the data transmission and storage?
  • Can I completely delete or purge all of my data whenever I want to?
  • Can I get a copy of my complete data records whenever I want to?
  • Who specifically in the doctor’s office is doing the actual monitoring of the medication intake?
  • What is the response by the doctor’s office when I miss 1 or more doses?
  • Do I have any say in the type or frequency of the response of the doctor’s office?

And that’s just where I would start… I wouldn’t even dream of taking this medication without adequate answers to these questions.

One Possible Solution… But Let’s Not Stop There

As you can see, despite the need for solutions, not a whole lot is available to address this problem. It’s a challenge when the disease itself may cause a person to second-guess their treatment plan and discontinue medications without first talking to someone about their concerns and desire to get off of their medication.

This is an interesting idea, combining sensors, an app, and always-connected technology to produce a solution that may or may not work, depending upon a person’s specific situation.

But it also seems like it has multiple potential points of failure, leading to unreliable readings once rolled out to potentially tens of thousands of patients. These potential problems might include:

  • The chemical reaction of the pill in a person’s stomach (what if something a person eats negates the reaction, delivering a false positive of medication non-adherence?);
  • The potential failure of the sensor to reliably read the data correctly on all skin types, in all conditions of heat, cold, goosebumps, and sweating;
  • The potential failure of the app to read the senor’s data correctly or connect to the sensor, especially if the sensor’s battery is low or someone simply forgot to swap it out;
  • What if you break or lose your phone that the app resides on?
  • Etc. etc.

Perhaps this isn’t quite ready for prime time. I’d surely not be the first person to give it a try. But I appreciate the attempt at innovation. So let’s not stop here, let’s find a way to do this in a less invasive and somewhat less-creepy manner that doesn’t seem so Big Brotherish.

 

For further information

Read the full article: FDA approves first digital pill to monitor if patient is taking medicine

Footnotes:

  1. Which, while I support 100% that it is your right to do so, doesn’t mean that such a decision is always a good idea, or in the best interests of you or the treatment of your condition. Ultimately, I believe it is the patient who has the final say in what kind of treatment they want or do not want to receive.
  2. Don’t know if you’re one of those people? You can work with your treatment team to taper off a medication slowly and under supervision to determine whether or not it would work for you.

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Psychology Around the Net: November 18, 2017

This week’s Psychology Around the Net brings you the latest on the Army’s “mental health waiver” plan, FDA-approved medication with a digital ingestion sensor (yum), why you have recurring dreams and how you can control them, and more.

Have fun!

John McCain Is Threatening Trump’s Defense Nominees Over the Army’s Plan to Offer Mental-Health Waivers: While the Army says its plan to offer waivers for some mental health conditions is just a minor administrative change, Senator John McCain is threatening to slow down the confirmation process if the Pentagon doesn’t provide more thorough information — and more quickly. (UPDATE: Army Drops Plans to Give Waivers to Recruits With History of Mental Illness)

The Psychology Behind Eating Adventurously: Do you like trying new and exotic foods, or do you prefer to stick to your tried-and-true meals? Your reactions to food are part of your personality and could be connected with other behavior.

FDA Approves Schizophrenia Medication With Digital Ingestion Sensor: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Abilify MyCite (aripiprazole tablets) which contain sensors that can be ingested and track whether or not a patient has taken the medication. The information transmits to a wearable patch, which sends the information to an app on the patients’ smartphones. Additionally, patients, caregivers, and clinicians can access the information through a web-based portal.

Pacifica Launches a New Online Therapy Service That Integrates With Its Self-Help App: Pacifica created its self-help app so more people could have access to more cognitive behavioral therapy services. Now the company is launching a Therapist Directory which will allow users to find a treatment provider, attend online consultation’s using Pacifica’s platform, and complete treatment exercises.

Preventing Adult Mental Disorders With Intervention at Kindergarten: New research from the UNSW Sydney School of Psychiatry suggests teachers might be able to detect children at risk of developing mental health disorders as early as kindergarten. The study, which involved children assessments and administrative records found that abuse or neglect before the age of five was the strongest predictor of whether a child would be at risk for mental illness in the future.

How to Stop Having That Awful Recurring Dream: Leigh Anderson spoke with several sleep experts about why recurring dreams happen and how to use image-rehearsal therapy to deal with them.

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How Exercise Can Boost your Mental Health

You’re reading How Exercise Can Boost your Mental Health, originally posted on Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement. If you’re enjoying this, please visit our site for more inspirational articles.


In an age where pharmaceutical drugs dominate television advertisements (the average US television viewer sees nine pharmaceutical ads per day (C. Lee Ventola, 2011)), it’s not surprising that the overwhelming majority of the population are looking for quick fixes to often complex problems. After all, there’s a pill for almost anything these days. But one of the most time-tested and effective mental health boosters is completely under-utilized and under-prescribed – exercise.

The Connection Between Exercise and Mental Health

Do a simple Pubmed search on the link between exercise and mental health, and you’ll find more relevant articles than you can count. Coincidence? No way. Researchers as far back as the 1930’s identified strong relationships between amounts and types of physical exercise used in treatments, and the positive mental effects they had on those patients (Davis, 1930). Since then, countless studies have been performed, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. A comprehensive study from 1985 found that “physical activity and exercise probably alleviate some symptoms associated with mild to moderate depression. The evidence also suggests that physical activity and exercise might provide a beneficial adjunct for alcoholism and substance abuse programs; improve self-image, social skills, and cognitive functioning; reduce the symptoms of anxiety…” (Taylor, 1985). These benefits are known worldwide as well, with groups such as Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA) stating that “Exercise appears most effective for depressive disorders and may also improve mental well-being and physical health in individuals with serious mental disorders” (Morgan, 2013); while a Chinese study from 1997 on college and middle-school students found that “physical exercises were helpful to reduce students’ tension, anger, fatigue, depression and confusion, and improve their vigor and self-esteem” (Biyan, 1997) . These are just a few of what are thousands of reports of the positive effects of physical exercise on mental health. The relationship is not limited by nationality, age or time-period – it’s abundantly clear that physical exercise boosts mental health.

The Disconnect

So why, with all the knowledge we have on this physical-mental link, do we still first reach for the anti-depressant pills, and not our running shoes?  The answers are beyond the scope of this article, but most certainly include the billions of dollars of annual advertising spent by Big Pharma; our ever-increasing need for instant gratification; and (perhaps most unfortunately), our ever-increasing lethargy underpinned by our growing worldwide obesity rates. So, where to from here?

Re-Connecting

The first step towards using exercise as an adjunct to an overall healthy mental state is to acknowledge that there is a clear link between exercise and mental health, and that you are responsible for self-medicating with the powerful drug of movement. At its’ most basic level – getting up and moving around will give you a more positive outlook on life, and moderate some symptoms of depression, anxiety, addiction and cognitive impairment. So, just get up and move.
Taking this to another level, if you want to make a significant and lasting change by using exercise to improve your mental health, there are countless websites dedicated to helping individuals improve their physical health. Many of these are free, and provide detailed workouts, meal plans, tracking tools and guidance to help you stay on track.
Here are some quick and easy recommendations to get you started:
Walk More
No matter how busy you are, there are quick and easy ways you can get more movement in to your daily routine. Set a timer every hour to get out of your chair and walk around the office or your home. Try parking another hundred yards from your workplace or the store. Walk your children to school if time and distance permits. Get a pedometer or activity tracker and try to reach a goal of 10,000 steps per day. If your fitness level is low, don’t get hung up on numbers – just try to move around more!
Lift More
Resistance training is one of the most beneficial physical exercises a human being can do – particularly one that utilizes multiple muscle groups and body parts. When most people think of weight training, they picture powerlifters or bodybuilders moving huge weights around a gym, but in reality, any resistance to your body can make a positive impact on not only your mental health, but your physical health as well. For beginners, air squats, push-ups against a wall and lying leg lifts might be enough to get excellent results. For the more physically-experienced, a weight-training regimen of three to five days per week alternating muscle groups will be more effective.
Join a Class
One of the best ways to continue with physical exercise is to be accountable to a group – whether at a gym, social club or even with work or family members. A great way to achieve this is to join an organized fitness class – it could be aerobics, swim, senior fitness, CrossFit or anything in between. The important thing here is that you get some level of physical exertion.

What to Expect

In the world of instant gratification that we seem to be a part of, it’s unrealistic to expect that walking a few minutes a day will alleviate all your mental health concerns. In that same vain, please don’t take this article as a prescription to drop your medication, counseling, dieting or other treatments and just do some form of physical exercise. What we’re encouraging here, is adding some level of physical exertion to your daily routine as a supplement to your treatments. The goal is most certainly to be symptom and treatment-free, but don’t expect exercise to be your cure-all. Here are some things you can expect, and in a fairly short period of time:
– Improved mental clarity
– Higher self-esteem levels
– Improved cardiovascular capacity
– More restful sleep at night
– Lower anxiety levels
– A better sense of purpose
These should be the goals of anyone looking to improve their mental health, and with decades of published research on the topic, it seems to be a no-brainer that you should incorporate some physical exercise in your daily routine.
 


James Anthony is the manager of Protein King – an online fitness, health, supplement and apparel store dedicated to improving the lives of everyday people. Based in Australia, James writes extensively on the topics of diet, nutrition, sports supplements and fitness, and in his time working with Protein King, has been rewarded with many inspiring stories of change and empowerment.
References
Biyan et al. (1997). The Mental Health of College and Middle-School Students in Shanghai And Its Relationship With Physical Exercises. Psychological Science, 1.

  1. Lee Ventola, M. (2011, Oct). Direct-to-Consumer Pharmaceutical Advertising: Therapeutic or Toxic? Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 36(10), 669-674; 681-684.

Davis, J. E. (1930, August). Mental Health Objectives in Physical Education. Occupational Therapy & Rehabilitation, 9(4), 231-238.
Morgan et al. (2013, August). Exercise and Mental Health: An Exercise and Sports Science Australia Commissioned Review. Journal of Exercise Physiology Online, 16(4), 64-73.
Taylor et al. (1985, March-April). The Relation of Physical Activity and Exercise to Mental Health. Public Health Reports, 195-202.

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New Moon in Scorpio: November 2017

Collage by Chani

To understand how the new moon will impact your sign and for rituals and meditations to guide you, join me for New Moon Manifestations: A Workshop for the New Moon in Scorpio and the Astrology of the Lunar Cycle from November 18th – December 16th.

We all hold onto lifetimes of pain. Memories. Resentments. Reactions to events that caused us suffering. Emotional patterns that become ruts, developed over decades. 

We all hold within us every capacity to heal. Recover. Renew. Transform our sorrows into wells of sweetness to draw upon. Give from. Live from. Build a life of love from.

We are all here to learn the difference between the two.

An old wound reawakened will taunt us into believing that our worst fears are true. Telling us that nothing will ever change. Gathering evidence against our progress. It says, “See. I told you so.”

In these moments we can forget to witness our lives from a broader perspective. We can forget that being triggered by something in the present can easily have us hurdling back through time, landing in an emotional pattern from the past. We can forget that being temporarily swallowed by old feelings is an incredibly important and necessary aspect of our growth.

An old wound reawakened is an opportunity to consciously help ourselves through a difficult passage. To help ourselves learn a new strategy. A new response. A new way of working through this reality.

We are not as powerless as we once were.

The new moon in Scorpio arrives on November 18th at 3:42 AM PT.

Scorpio is unwaveringly connected to its own sources of power. It asks for nothing but every ounce of emotional honesty that we’ve got. It does not sugar coat the truth. It does not shy away from the intensity of the moment. It does not cower in the face of a challenge.

It bears down.

It has the stamina to get to the heart of the matter. What some might call an obsession with the truth. No matter the consequences, Scorpio will dig through and into what most would spend their life avoiding.  Scorpio holds the horror, the shadow, the refused, forgotten and the feelings of betrayal. Scorpio is a repository for all things that the collective shuns from consciousness. Scorpio reminds us of what we have tried to leave behind. Divorce ourselves from. Wash ourselves clean of.

But what we reject within ourselves holds a piece of our humanity. Everything in us is connected. From the praiseworthy to our greatest disgrace. We have to leave room for all of it.

We reclaim our power overtime if we refuse to deny the truth.

Sitting with Venus and Jupiter, this new moon wants to help us transmute poisons into potions for our transformation. Venus is the planet of love. The bringer of bonding. When in Scorpio, Venus knows that love requires us to be tough and tender. Love demands the entirety of us. It requires that we go through underworlds if we want to experience the highs of healing that love’s transformations can bring.

Sitting with Jupiter this new moon will expand, magnify and multiply whatever it is we are focused on healing. Whatever heartbreak we have held onto. Whatever response to pain that we are consciously trying to unlearn.   

The ruler of this new moon, Mars, is in a tense square to Pluto, asking us to purge the power dynamics that we play into.  The ones that prevent us from our own healing. That distract us from our agency. That keep us playing in the small fields of pettiness instead of the wide open spaces of providence.

May this new moon imbue us with the psychic, emotional and spiritual strength needed to step into our power. Name what is true for us. Reclaim what we have rejected within us. So that we might integrate a little more of ourselves into our lives, this moment and this world.

New moon blessings,

Chani

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Invaluable Lessons Loss Can Teach

“Sometimes the best gain is to lose.” – Herbert

your three brainsNobody really likes to lose. It’s often painful, a kind of self-rebuke, nothing that you want to tell others about and certainly nothing you want to revisit. But everybody loses at one time or another. Sometimes loss is more prevalent than a win. Still, there are invaluable lessons to be learned in every loss — if you take the time to reflect on what has happened, what you did and what you could have done differently. The only thing that makes a loss permanent and permanently does damage is if you fail to see and understand the lesson that loss teaches.

Think of a man (or a woman) who always seems to come out on top. They never appear to experience anything bad, no outright failures or missteps, only one victory or success after another. Furthermore, they seem to glide through life without any disappointments, nothing that calls upon them to demonstrate courage in the face of adversity. While you may think that they are admirable and seek to emulate their example, there is a lie in their projected image that’s worth paying attention to. The lie is the belief that only continued and uninterrupted success is of value. It’s not and for a very good reason: it’s not indicative of humanity.

Man didn’t learn how to survive the Ice Age without trial and error. Figuring out how to use fire to cook meat took many painful lessons. Scratching out symbols and images on cave walls and hoping with each attempt to communicate didn’t happen overnight. Was that three-toed stick figure supposed to warn of danger, indicate a cache of food, or let fellow cave residents or clan members know he or she won’t be home for dinner? Surely a few miscalculations went into the overall learning process.

And so, it continues to this day. What if you didn’t get that promotion at work or make the Dean’s list at school or, worse yet, lost your job? Yes, it hurts a lot and you’d much rather you achieved the success than what happened, but does that loss mean you give up altogether? Or do you take note of how you could have done better and revise your plan so that you make use of the lessons for the next time you make the attempt?

Another crucial point about losing and how it can teach so much is that if something is too easy and effortless, there’s a tendency to devalue it. How could it be important or so valuable if you exerted hardly any effort at all? Granted, some actions that you do all the time can become seemingly effortless, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have value. The key is to be present in the moment of everything you do, striving to be fully aware and in tune with your actions always. So, even if you don’t achieve instant success, when you live in the moment you are more fully aware of the time, place and action you were involved in when you went awry. It’s much easier to pinpoint the lesson and adjust going forward. That’s called planning ahead and requires formulating some sort of plan.

It’s also wise to remember that teaching yourself that there’s much to gain from a loss takes time. Despite how easy it sounds, it doesn’t come easy. Yet the ultimate satisfaction you’ll feel when you do succeed is worth the small price you pay for getting there.

The next time you incur a loss, your self-esteem takes a hit, you make an incredible blunder due to carelessness, rushing through a project, not double-checking your work, or the marketplace or competitors snatch the win away from you at the last moment, take heart. Maybe this is the universe snapping you awake, saying, “Pay attention here.” Learn the lessons inherent in loss, for they are not only there for you to witness, they are some of the most valuable you’ll ever encounter.

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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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