Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘anxiety’

Yadda Yadda Yadda

Just Sit: A meditation guide for people who know they should but don’t. By Sukey Novogratz and Elizabeth Novogratz. Illustrations by Niege Borges. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

412a0ezS86L._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_If the writers of Just Sit could do so, they would reach out from the page (or screen) grab you by the throat, wrestle you to the ground, and hold you there until you started meditating – metaphorically speaking. That is what it seems to take for us to stop with all of our excuses (real and imagined) and actually do it. The Novogratz’s do everything in their power to convince us – joke, explain the benefits, teach us the fundamentals, and answer every possible question. “10 million Americans meditate, 6 million of them because their doctor told them to.” Let’s just pretend our doctor told us to and start doing it.

Whether you are just beginning, or are the oldest living meditator on the planet, the insights and instructions within make a lot of sense. It includes steps for how to meditate, questions that arise once we’ve started, and why we are reluctant to begin in the first place. “Meditation is a way of training your mind to slow down, to be responsive, not reactive, to bring you into your life and out of the constant chatter that’s going on in your head.” It is often this chatter, and mind-fuck, that keeps us from paying attention to our selves, or side-tracts us once we’ve begun. One of the most practical, and enlightening aspects of this book, is how to work with such thoughts, feelings, and actions. How to “observe” our experiences without believing we “are” our momentary experience.

Here are some of the questions people ask. If some of these sound familiar, join the crowd.  “I feel like a fool. How do I get past it?” “How does just sitting there help me train my mind?” “My mind is sharp already. So why would it need training?” “Can anyone meditate?” “What can I or should I expect?” “I understand prayer, but meditation seems a little out there for me.” “Can I do meditating wrong?” Here’s the crazy part. The answer to most of these questions is, “For meditation to work, you actually have to do it.” Go figure. What a wild idea. “The biggest secret to meditation is all you need to do is show up.” Like exercising the rest of the body, the mind needs attention. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes practice.

The introduction says, “Meditation Is Not for Sissies”, which reminds me of another book “Growing Old Is Not For Sissies”. In other words, it’s not always a bed of roses (though that could be quite thorny). One of the reasons people avoid meditation is because we begin to see what’s going on, and what we are telling ourselves about what’s going on (with our body, emotions, and thoughts). It isn’t always pleasant, but it is what it is. Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz invite readers to watch whatever arises. “In order to deal with your shit and have a way better life, you’ve got to be willing to show up and sit in the much.”

So, there you have it. Grab yourself by the scruff of the neck (gently), get a copy of this book and Just Sit. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s hard. It’s difficult. I don’t have time. It doesn’t work for me. I don’t know what to do.” Yadda yadda yadda. Stop believing you are what you think (or feel), and take a chance. What have you got to lose? As the author’s state so simply, and brilliantly, with one of the headings, “WARNING: Conditioning impairs freedom.”

P.S. The illustrations, and layout, match the words, and greatly enrich Just Sit with clarity, wit, and wisdom.

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A Series of Events

51ABoAle4SLHope & Possibility Through Trauma by Don Shetterly. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This is an insightful collection of essays, combined with a workbook and discussion guide, of how to live with hope and possibility after experiencing trauma. The trauma that Mr. Shetterly experienced was sexual, physical, and verbal abuse from his father and brother as a child. This trauma is spoken of briefly at the beginning of the book, but is not the focus of this work. It is primarily, and gratefully so, concerned with how we can heal, understand, and care for ourselves after having experienced such events.

“It is not a book with scientific facts and research,” states the author. “This book is about life and the struggles we face. It is also about the healing, hope, and possibilities that exist within us.” Some of the chapters included in this recipe for insight, and growth, are: “Self Acceptance”, “Rewiring the Brain”, “Personal Growth”, “Our body Connections”, “In the Moment’, and “Listening”. There are clear explanations of different issues that arise when we decide to stop running, or numbing, the pain of abuse, and a clear path on how to make it out of the valley of darkness and despair.

“Life is a series of events, choices, reactions, and growth. While one event can impact our future, it does not mean that it will control our future.” To take the step of acknowledging what has happened, can be terrifying, and the reality of not acknowledging what has happened, can fill one’s life with constant fear, anxiety, anger, and confusion. The author also speaks about healing the body, emotions and mind, by including body work, music, and affirmations. Some of the sections I found especially helpful were those that involved a guided relaxation exercise (body scan), how to calm one’s self, be mindful, and focus on the breath.

There is a lot of personal resonance with this book, and the author’s words. I have nine foster sisters that were all sexually abused in their biological families. Our adopted daughter experienced a variety of traumatic events with her birth family. I have written extensively about grief, loss, and trauma, and worked as a bereavement and trauma counselor with hospice, in hospitals, mental health facilities, prisons, and overseas with survivor’s of multiple traumas. Hope & Possibility Through Trauma, by Don Shetterly, is a welcome addition to the resources now available for those most in need of such sustenance, insight, and inspiration. Do not hesitate to get a copy for yourself or another.

Breathe Through the Story

51Zxe5MHNvL._SX385_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgAnxiety & Panic Workbook: Stop Stressing, Start Living by Jodi Aman. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

It’s one thing for friends, books, family, TV, counselors, or others, to tell us what we should do or not do about a problem, and something entirely different when they show us “how” to do it. Changing our habits, conditioning and fears, isn’t easy. If it was, we would have done so on our own a long time ago. Enter Jodi Aman and her Anxiety & Panic Workbook, which not only clearly defines anxiety, but shows us how to overcome it.

Ms. Aman has lived with anxiety herself for many decades, thus she is speaking from experience, and not some theoretical therapeutic idea about what it is like, or how to live with it. The National Institute of Mental Health has shown anxiety to be the number one mental health problem in the U.S. Thus, there is a large audience of people who can readily relate to how difficult anxiety/fear can be and how often it stops us from living a complete fulfilling life.

There is lots of space in the workbook for readers to answer the thoughtful, and important questions that are asked, and help clarify and identify how anxiety effects us personally, and to what extent. Ms. Aman talks about the importance of motivation, and having a vision of what life can be, as opposed to simply wishing to be free of what is. She says, “‘Want’ and ‘can’t’ are ideas, not truths.'” The book helps us get to know anxiety, as opposed to trying to avoid it or get away from it.

The Anxiety & Panic Workbook is laid out in an easily accessible manner, is clearly well thought out, and can help many. Her five rules for a happy life are: 1) Make people important. 2) Step back. 3) Have fun. 4) Be Creative. 5) Practice doing hard things. It is, of course, easy to come up with five “rules”, and another to learn how to practice them. That is the gift of this book – it shows us how, and not just why. The following was especially poignant, in referring to anxiety, and what we tell ourselves about it. “It is all just stories. The story is not over. It continues to change. Breathe through the story.

It’s In Your Hands

515gry9akYL._AC_US218_Tapping Success Scripts: EFT SECRETS to Create Wealth, Work, Weight Loss, Physical & Emotional Well Being For You, Your Loved Ones & Pets. By Colleen M. Flanagan. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

So, yeah, the title is a mouthful, but the book covers every one of the aforementioned subjects, and beyond. If you’ve tried one thing after another to deal with fear, anxiety, and other emotional difficulties, without any relief, consider Tapping Success Scripts, and EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques).

“Stanford engineer Gary Craig founded EFT after learning Dr. Roger Callahan’s taping acupressure algorithms to relieve emotional distress (called TFT – Thought Field Therapy). Mr. Craig simplified the Callahan method by creating one simple acupressure procedure for relief of all conditions.”

I was interested in Tapping Success Scripts to see how it differed from TFT, which I’d learned from Dr. Callahan years ago, and have been using and teaching others for many years, especially those experiencing trauma and grief. Like TFT, many practitioners of EFT claim that it works for everything from fear of loss, to curing cancer, or becoming wealthy. In my experience, TFT has been helpful for anxiety and trauma, but not as much for depression and other issues.

Ms. Flanagan describes the EFT process; what to say to yourself for an issue (such as fear); and where to tap on the body for each specific ailment, be it emotional or physical. I especially appreciated her top 10 tips to make EFT more successful, and her awareness of what we tell ourselves, and getting to the core of our concern, such as the thought that we often think we need to be perfect to be loved, accepted, or obtain something we desire.

The advantage of EFT (and TFT) is that it does no harm, you can do it yourself, and though there are a variety of steps to take for each specific ailment, or issue, they are well explained and described throughout, and repeat many of the same actions for each. You do not have to “believe” these techniques work, or have some magic explanation for why they do. Simply give them a try and if you notice any difference, then you (and others) will be better off in every aspect of your life.

There Is No Normal

GoodGrief_180WAn excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

Sometimes people ask right away. “Is this normal?” Others take their time, until they feel safe enough, and then ask essentially the same question. “Am I going crazy?” “Do other people ever feel like this?” “Will I be OK?”

What they’re referring too is the intense, overwhelming, and often bewildering experience of separation and loss. The physical and mental reactions of shock, numbness, shortness of breath, racing heart, stomach upset, difficulty sleeping or eating, lethargy, exhaustion, forgetfulness, inability to focus, clumsiness and confusion, can all be part of the journey of loss. The emotional swings in mood, from intense anticipation of what will happen next (anxiety), to extreme pain, non-stop tears and sadness; are the bodies’ natural response to a death, or separation, from a loved one.

For many, whether you have had previous deaths in your life or not, it can be a frightening, bewildering and alienating experience. It feels like everything is hitting you at once, and you aren’t sure what to do next. Overnight, your entire world has changed. Life seems to be out of control.

Though grief and mourning are our bodies’ natural reaction to separation, they can also resemble and/or mask symptoms of anxiety and depression. If, after a period of time, you are unable to function in daily life or are in doubt, do not hesitate to seek help, information and support.

More than likely, whatever you are experiencing is to be expected, and there would be far more concern if you were not reacting at all. Having someone we love torn out of our physical presence, or the thought of such a thing happening, can bring the strongest person in the world to their knees.

Find ways to externalize your emotion and thoughts. Use safe ways to “get it out”, such as talking, crying, screaming, walking, creating something, and/or sharing with a friend or someone you trust. Stay hydrated. Grieving can release a lot of water. Stop and take three slow deep breaths throughout the day. Stay connected to the person who has died (or left) in whatever healthy manner is right for you.

Feeling the full impact of loss, in some respects, seems to be the initiation fee we pay to be part of the human race.

Further support at: Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter.

Man Up

An excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

“Be strong.” “Bear up to pain.” “Be dominant and decisive.” “Provide for others.” “Endure.” “Don’t give in.” “Compete and win at all costs.” “Don’t cry like a baby or a girl.” “Remain rational, unemotional and logical.” “Accomplish, achieve, perform.” “Be assertive, in control and one step ahead of the next guy.”

man-crying-crop

These are some of the messages given to young boys and men for thousands of years. We’ve heard it from lovers, parents, families, friends, religions, governments, the media and other men since birth. Some of the messages of expected behavior are blatant and others more subtle. Some are proclaimed orally or in print, and others are non-verbal and observed by actions and deeds. “Don’t cry.” “Never, ever, express or convey fear, dependence, loneliness, emotion, weakness, passivity or insecurity.”

It’s only been in the last forty to fifty years, since the modern women’s movement (in some areas of the world), that these cultural, familial and religious norms and expectations have been questioned, debated, challenged and/or changed. Within this short span of freedom from such rigid conditioning, some men have chosen (consciously or unconsciously) to embrace these norms and continue the cycle. Others have revolted against them altogether and thrown out the positive attributes of such expectations, along with the negative. And others swagger back and forth between the past and the present, in a state of confusion, bewilderment and loss.

Regardless of how one lives, when a man loses a loved one, by death or separation, they can be thrown into an unknown world of pain that casts their beliefs, personal expectations and accepted ways of being, into an ocean of doubt, turmoil and isolation. Loss causes an eruption of feelings, fears and thoughts that fly in the face of what it has meant to “be a man”. Feelings of fear, anxiety, depression, emptiness, doubt, confusion, helplessness and indescribable pain can assail our very concept and perception of who we are.

Efforts at avoiding, “toughing it out”, controlling or “getting rid” of the pain of loss, only result in temporary relief, often at the expense of long-term health, and rarely change the reality of our condition. The pain of grief is one of the few kinds of pain in life that are best dealt with head on, by doing something men are often taught to avoid. The pain of grief and mourning tend to change and heal with time and attention, when we can honestly acknowledge what we are feeling, thinking and believing and externalize such reactions in a positive, healthy environment and/or manner.

Men and women all experience the pain of grief and loss, and both genders feel its impact in many of the same ways. What tends to be different about the sexes is the way in which we talk about and verbalize such feelings and experiences. We may filter them differently. Men often talk about the things we did for our loved one, how we took care of them, what we’re “doing” now and what we “plan” to do in the future. We blame others or ourselves for something that did or didn’t happen, or something that could have been different; something that would have spared us the pain we are now experiencing. Our anger, guilt and reasoning; are ways we try to control and make sense out of our grief and the situation it has put us in.

Though it is a generality and never true at all times, with all men or all women, men tend to speak “about”, instead of “of” or “with”. If I asked a gentleman how he’s been “feeling” or what had been the “most difficult” about the loss of his wife, partner or parent, he might look at me as if I was speaking Russian (unless he speaks Russian). If, on the other hand, I questioned his “reactions” or asked him to tell me a story “about” the deceased, he would begin to take the road to the same valley of pain that a woman experiences, but get there from a different route.

Ironically, men often seem to be more emotionally dependent on women for their sense of self, than the other way around. Remember that I am speaking in generalities. There are thousands of exceptions. The women in a man’s life are who he tends to share his most intimate needs, desires and fears with, as it is seldom safe or accepted to talk about such things with other men. Thus, when a woman mate, friend or mother dies or leaves, men have nobody to whom they feel they can acceptably turn to, and their need for intimate human contact and emotional well being is left in a desert of thirst for companionship, friendship, validation and/or physical contact.

Many men, though not all, also connect physical touch with sex, because it is one of the few occasions in their lives when they are permitted, or expected, to touch or be touched. To hug, kiss or embrace another man or woman, aside from sex, is frowned upon and charged with a variety of expectations, judgments and fears. Thus, after the death of a loved one, men often do not know how, where or when it is acceptable, or possible, to have any human contact that is not sexual.

Luckily, there are people, men and women, who are willing and able to listen to men’s lives and experiences surrounding grief and loss. There are places where a man can be held, without any sexual involvement or expectation of such. There are people within families, churches and communities that honor and respect our gender’s differences without putting limits or expectations on what those differences can or should be.

If you, or a man you care about, has experienced the loss of a loved one, give yourself, or him, the comfort, permission and love that all humans need, regardless of gender and provide the personal or community resources that can help the hurt change to healing and positive action.

Further reading at: Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter.

Crazy With Grief

Sometimes people ask right away. “Is this normal?” Others take their time, until they feel safe enough and then ask essentially the same question. “Am I going crazy?” “Do other people ever feel like this?” “Will I be OK?”

What they’re referring too is the intense, overwhelming and often bewildering experience of separation and loss. The physical and mental reactions of shock, numbness, shortness of breath, racing heart, stomach upset, difficulty sleeping or eating, lethargy, exhaustion, forgetfulness, inability to focus, clumsiness and confusion, can all be part of the journey of loss. The emotional swings in mood from intense anticipation of what will happen next (anxiety) to extreme pain, non-stop tears and sadness; are the bodies’ natural response to the death or separation from a loved one.

For many, whether you have had previous deaths in your life or not, it can be a frightening, bewildering and alienating experience. It feels like everything is hitting you at once and you aren’t sure what to do next. Overnight, your entire world has changed. Life seems to be out of control.

Though grief and mourning are our bodies’ natural reaction to separation, they can also resemble and/or mask symptoms of anxiety and depression. If, after a period of time, you are unable to function in daily life or are in doubt, do not hesitate to seek help, information and support.

More than likely, whatever you are experiencing is to be expected and there would be far more concern if you were not reacting at all. Having someone we love torn out of our physical presence or the thought of such a thing happening; can bring the strongest person in the world to their knees.

Find ways to externalize your emotion and thoughts. Use safe ways to “get it out”, such as talking, crying, screaming, walking, creating something and/or sharing with a friend or someone you trust.

Feeling the full impact of loss, in some respects, seems to be the initiation fee we pay to be part of the human race.

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