Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘mindful’

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.

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Breathing Saved My Life

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the art of breathing
The secret to living mindfully.
Just don’t breathe a word of it..
by Dr. Danny Penman
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

I haven’t seen any book quite like this since the classic Be Here Now, by Ram Dass, back in 1971. Those pages about consciousness, meditation and oneness, opened my eyes to seeing life in new ways, and discovering that I was not a victim of circumstances, or destined to live with pre-conceived conditions. In many ways that book saved my life. The art of breathing can save yours. 

Though half the size of Be Here Nowthe art of breathing is also similar in the way it is designed, using different fonts, layouts, and illustrations, throughout. Dr. Penman includes sections on breathing, happiness, curiosity and awareness, that are straight (or circular) to the point(s), easy to understand, and even easier to practice. There is also a link included to an online site that has all of the meditations available.

Here is a brief excerpt.

“You are not your thoughts. You are the observer of your thoughts. It’s a subtle distinction that’s only perceived with practice.

Your thoughts are a running commentary on the world; a ‘best guess’ of what’s truly happening. Often, your thoughts will reflect the powerful emotional currents swirling through your mind, body and breath. Sometimes they are true, sometimes they are a frantic work in progress, sometimes they are wrong.

Mindfulness teaches you to take the long view, to put your thoughts, feelings and emotions into a broader context. And when you do so, your most frantic and distressing thoughts simply melt away of their own accord, leaving behind a calm, clear, insightful mind.”

There you have it. The means to not get caught in drama after drama, but learn to pause, take a breath, and observe the dance. Our experiences are shaped by stimulus and response. It is the space in between, the breath, that provides the opportunity to see what is there and make conscious choices. The art of breathing is an international best-seller, and when you get your copy you will see why. Become conscious – one breath at a time.

 

Dying and Living Zen

41CcmYmNunLJewel in the Mud: Zen Musings by Harmony Kent
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Jewel in the Mud is a laywoman’s guide to living life like a nun, as a householder living in the world. It is laid out beautifully, in fifty-two week increments, for anyone who chooses to practice being more aware of what is taking place with their inner and outer world. The author speaks from experience, having lived in both worlds. Ms. Kent resided in a Zen Temple for 13 years, and in mid-life decided to leave that environment, and began a new vocation, meeting a loving partner, and getting her own home.

Many of the weeks thoughts and words were previously conveyed on Ms. Kent’s blog. Luckily, for all who read Jewel in the Mud, she expanded her “Monday Musings” into book form. The weeks include titles such as, Nobility of Silence”, “No Strings”, “First, Breathe”, “Dying to Live”, and “It’s Okay. Have a Meltdown”. The illustration of the lotus flower for each week is lovely, and the caption summing up that section always fits perfectly. For example, in a talk about appreciation, she concludes with, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”

Here is a brief excerpt from Week Eighteen, called “Life Before Death”.

“Mindfulness is simply about seeing what we have right here, right now, in this moment. It’s about noticing the myriad of small things that make our lives whole. And about catching the stories we tell ourselves. Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way right in the present moment. The easiest way to notice as much as possible is to live each moment of your life as though it were the last moment of your life. Or, the first.”

In many ways, Jewel in the Mud, reminds me of the classes Stephen Gaskin held each week in San Francisco, California, in 1969 and 1970, which were later turned into a book called Monday Night Class. He spoke about life, death, community, love, and awareness, in a way that was easily relatable and personable. Ms. Kent’s work has the same vibe. Like Stephen, she does not come off as preachy, egotistical, or superior. Jewel in the Mud has gifts of compassionate and experienced insight for one and all.

S.E.E.I.T.

Everything happens so fast. In the blink of an eye, sensations, emotions and thoughts come and go. We usually remain unaware of these reactions to internal and external experiences, and remain as slaves to our conditioning from culture, family, and ourselves. To break these unconscious chains, we can learn to pause, look closely at what is happening and make choices. Psychologist (and holocaust survivor) Victor Frankl summed up our situation, and opportunity, when he said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lie our growth and our freedom.”

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Mindfulness meditation can be one of the ways to take that pause, that moment or breath, to stop and look at what is happening. But, what if what we witness, or observe, is overwhelming and/or jumping from one thing to another? What do we do when the sensations, emotions and/or thoughts are arising and passing, seemingly all at once, or in rapid secession?

One of the means that can be used to decipher, and simplify our experience is by naming or labeling what we see moment to moment. There are a number of aphorisms and techniques that are available for such practice. Here is one called S.E.E.I.T., which can define and refine our observation and understanding of what we are aware of.

S.E.E.I.T. encompasses everything and anything that may come into our consciousness or awareness. S stands for Senses. E is for Emotion. The second E denotes Emptiness. I is the letter for Intention. And T is our Thoughts.

Senses include all that can be felt, heard, tasted, smelled, spoken or seen.
Emotions are a spectrum including sadness, joy, grief, pain, laughter, anger.
Emptiness is when there are no emotions, thoughts, senses or intentions.
Intention arises as desire and/or wishes and motivations.
Thoughts can be seen as P.U.F.F. (Past, Unfolding, Fantasy or Future).

Each of these aspects of our mind, and our experience of living, can be separated further into more distinct categories, and labels for objects of our awareness, but S.E.E.I.T. more than suffices for beginning and experienced practice. It is a way to remember, a means to slow down, pause and see what is happening in our body moment by moment. It can assist our understanding that what is going on internally and externally is not who we are, but what we are experiencing in the present. It is a step towards not only creating “space” between stimulus and response, but also identifying what happens in that space and giving us insight and freedom to choose.

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