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Posts tagged ‘therapy’

Not Very Zen

From Everyone Needs Therapy
by Therapy Doc
21 October 2014

Warning: Do not read if you have issues with insect deaths at the hands of bullying humans. Also, apologies in advance if this post offends any religion, be it mine or yours, I’m really sorry. It is all intended in good fun.

The story goes* that I graduated high school a semester early, but the University of Illinois didn’t accept early admissions. My parents made higher education sound more appealing than a K-Mart job, so taking six introductory liberal arts classes at Roosevelt University managed to kill the time.

I took public transportation downtown.

One day a young man with frizzy sideburns and bluejeans sat down next to me on the train. Within seconds he started to mumble, or maybe chant. He did this for awhile, then seemingly satisfied, stopped. As he fished inside his backpack for a book, I asked what that was about. He told me that he learned a mantra from a Zen master, and chanting the mantra made him calm and happy.

“Would you like to have my mantra, too?” he asked.

“Sure!”

It isn’t every day that someone gives you a mantra, so I wrote it down. We didn’t have Google to translate in those days, so the experience had an element of danger and excitement. Now, whenever I pass the mantra on as a cognitive behavioral self-relaxation tool, I sense this excitement with others, too, but add a warning: Before taking on this mantra, check out the meaning. Humming most things is relaxing, too.

But here you go. It is freeware.

nam-myoho-renge-kyo

I repeated those words until they burned their way into my memory, but found the process, and the mantra, boring. So that was the end of that. Suggesting mindfulness training, on well-scrutinized occasions, is as close as it gets to Buddhism in my life.

Zen+MasterExcept that once in awhile I get a random book in the mail from someone like Gabriel Constans who loves it. Gabriel requested a blog review in the most charming fashion, a promise that my karma will improve, certainly, if I open the book, and who doesn’t need good karma?

The title, Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: the Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire, indicates that Mr. Constans is associating with too many people of the tribe. That, or I don’t know much about Buddhist names. But he is a psychologist and sincere, so there you go.

Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba is an abbess and an ageless satirist, so it is likely the book is entirely satire, but because I didn’t finish it, I can’t say quite yet. But many a true word is said in jest, and not understanding much about Buddhism, the pages, to me, are a mystery wrapped in an enigma, which is a part of the book’s charm. The other part is that any book with short chapters, some as short as only a paragraph or a single page, at most two or three, is very appealing to those of us who are asleep before the head hits the pillow.

To broaden our perspective on Buddhism, here is a snippet about Master Tova (Mistress Toshiba) and her reaction to fishermen using worms for bait.

Let the Worms Go

There was no difference between one life and another to Mistress Toshiba. She respected all with equanimity, love, and tender care. . . . her compassion for worms . . . legendary.

The nuns were were walking with their Mistress, on their way to market to sell their organic vegetables, when they passed some fishermen who were taking worms out of a bucket, putting them on their hooks, and casting them into the river.

To make a short story shorter, the Mistress knocks over the bucket, setting the worms free, and proceeds to convince the angry fishermen that they are on the wrong track, killing worms. She offers up her organic vegetables as a substitute for fish. We’re not sure how this will effect her spiritual ecosystem, but are lead to believe that the cosmos is much better if worms can just be worms.

The story makes me feel guilty. Because here I am, powerless when insects cross my path. I smash them.

Note the astronomical difference between my reaction to a turtle a few weeks ago, and yesterday’s response, now old news, to the Asian Lady Beetle.

Riding my bike along the river, I happened to look down to where the sidewalk meets the grass. There lurked a huge turtle determining whether or not to cross. Huge turtles are not something we see in Chicago, not unless we visit the zoo. We see raccoons and skunks, deer, coyotes and the cursed geese, but not turtles. It made me happy, seeing something new, but I didn’t stop to take a picture, couldn’t risk being late for work.

Fast forward to yesterday afternoon, after I attempted genocide on Asian Lady Beetles, FD, vacuum hose in hand, gently chastising me: “For someone who professes to like nature, you had no trouble attempting to eliminate an entire species. The beetles would have died on their own in a day or two.”

And what if they had not?

Read complete post and much more at Everyone Needs Therapy.

Afraid of Fear

Even though anxiety, fear and apprehension are a reality most Americans live with, in varying degrees, we do not have to let these feelings control, manipulate or ruin our lives.

Pain and loss or the thought of future pain and loss, can at times feel like an unbearable burden. Waiting for the next shoe to drop or wondering when the shoe that already dropped will ever go away, is a normal human reaction to the discomfort and weight of anxiety. Questioning whether such intense apprehension and fear will subside can keep our bodies and minds on ever-vigilant overload and cause numerous physical, emotional and mental difficulties.

There are numerous factors that can contribute too or create anxiety. Some are obvious – the sudden or expected death of a loved one, friend or colleague; the loss of a relationship; an act or threat of terrorism; divorce or separation; sexual and/or physical abuse; combat; changing, losing or starting a new job; and moving to a different part of town, the nation or another country. Less blatant, but potentially as nerve-racking are – the pace of our society, constantly moving faster, faster and faster; our diet and the foods we eat and how quickly we eat them; and the sadness and helplessness that can arise when we acknowledge the inequality and suffering in the world and the possibility that all life on earth is in jeopardy.

I remember jumping at loud noises for several months after my friend died in a car wreck. I also found myself excessively worrying about something happening to members of my family and thinking that I could be next every time I got behind the wheel. I had difficulty sleeping, which decreased the amount of energy and awareness I had the rest of the day and made me irritable and bossy with others in order to have some sense of control and stability.

What a relief when I recognized what was happening and that I wasn’t alone. According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, “anxiety is now the most commonly diagnosed mental illness in the country” and one of the least treated. It is estimated that only about 25% of adults experiencing mild to severe forms of anxiety seek or receive any treatment for it. Luckily, there are means and ways to decrease, relieve or transform anxiety, panic and fear.

The first step and perhaps most important, is to acknowledge, admit or identify when or if you are anxious, scared or fearful, though this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Sometimes we have been anxious for so long we can’t see it for what it is and point the finger at someone or something outside ourselves. It can also be clumped together with depression, anger, sadness, guilt, etc. Once we can see it for what it is, we can then choose to take some constructive action.

One of the first actions we can make is to consciously “take a deep breath”. Yes, it’s an old cliche, but it turns out to have some merit, especially in relation to anxiety. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that slow diaphragmatic breathing (similar to Yoga breathing practices) was just as effective in reducing anxiety as an antidepressant drug.

Some people find that medication, carefully monitored for side effects with their doctor, is a valuable and efficient tool to eliminate panic attacks and chronic anxiety. They can be helpful for months or years, depending on each individual’s tolerance and reactions.

Cognitive or Talk Therapy (in which triggers that create anxiety are identified, reduced or re-directed) has helped some people reduce, if not eliminate, many of their fears and phobias.

There is also a techniques such as TFT (Thought Field Therapy) that involves identifying what it is that one is fearful or anxious about, either remembering the feeling from a previous event or at the time it is happening and tapping five times, in succession, on specific points. These points correspond with meridians used in Acupressure. Like deep breathing this seems very simple, yet research and clinical practice have consistently found it to be effective in eliminating anxiety and nightmares.

A number of studies, including one in The American Journal of Psychiatry, have concluded that mindfulness meditation effectively reduces panic and anxiety symptoms. Mindfulness meditation combines breath and awareness to notice what we are experiencing moment to moment and learning how to neither push our thoughts, feelings and sensations away or hold on to them.

The famous presidential quote from the 1930’s that, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”, doesn’t adequately portray all of life’s realities. There are countless things to fear besides fear itself, but when anxiety, apprehension and fear control our lives it can seem like it is all that exists.

I urge you not to run away from your fear and anxiety, but to see it eye to eye and find what works best to put it in context with the rest of your life and experience some peace, serenity, joy and hope.

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