Monday, January 10, 2011
Friday, January 7, 2011
Sunday, February 28, 2010
When we believe a situation requires some sort of defensive reaction, our nervous system's "fight/flight/freeze/faint" impulse is triggered. This appraisal that there is a potential danger leads to an impulse to a defensive action. Although this may seem like an instantaneous reaction, we can consciously and significantly impact this process. But first, we have to be aware it is happening!
There are two places in our defensive reactions where we can train ourselves to use breathing and compassionate observation techniques. The first place is at the beginning: we can question and/or re-evaluate our appraisal of the situation and this will mitigate/minimize the defensive impulse. The second place (and the easiest of the two to identify at first) is to use the breathing and compassionate observation to create a pause between the impulse and the action. This pause allows us to choose a response instead of defaulting to our conditioned response.
These techniques are not difficult to do, but they are not easy to remember to use because they take practice and a returning of our attention again and again to our inner workings. It is a major re-training. It changes focus from what we stand against to what we stand for - empowering instead of enabling, facilitating instead of obstructing and expanding instead of contracting our energy in the face of unwanted/unexpected stimuli.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Yes it has been some time since I have blogged and the hiatus has been good. I was blogging carefully and semi-regularly, but it was because I should. Because I was told that it was smart to have a blog, to get and keep my name out there in cyberspace, to market, to network, to make a splash. All those reasons are good, but they aren't what motivates me to write. When I was putting myself on a schedule, it was just another thing I "should" do and felt obligated to do. Really, I like writing when I feel I have something of value to communicate - either a realization that might help others, an interesting something I have learned, a common thread that weaves through our lives...stuff like that. Tonight I'm focused on "how" I write, not just what I write about. I am observing myself and consciously infusing the act of writing with appreciation, enthusiasm and good posture :) Probably good advice for most daily actions!
Monday, September 28, 2009
Should everyone visiting the US be able to receive urgent or emergent care? Should children or the elderly have special consideration and coverage? No matter our opinion on these issues, we are freaked out about how we are paying for care now and how we might pay for it in the future. Right now costs are high. We are already paying for our unhealthy citizens in so many ways - just look around you at the decreasing quality of so many of our lives.
We are becoming more overweight, diabetic, and depressed. We wait until we absolutely have to, and then visit our emergency rooms for care. This is a lot more expensive than a primary care physician or clinic. However, when there is no insurance and emergency rooms have to take you, it is clearly the easiest option. Lack of insurance coverage also discourages regular check-ups and deprives people of developing a relationship with a provider that can be key in in injury/illness prevention and health maintenance.
I would like to see a system crafted that provided incentive for getting healthier and staying healthier. I hear from people daily who would like to learn self-care and health improvement skills but can't afford it. I want people to be able to gain skills and be empowered to improve their quality of life. Don't you?
Friday, May 29, 2009
Hurt feelings, physical pain, suffering, anxiety, fear. These experiences are pervasive and compelling. Ignoring them is foolish, as is indulging them. Pretending there is no pain and suffering is willful ignorance, while focusing only on the power of pain and suffering places you in slavery to it. How does your ignoring or indulging the pain of the world help it be a better place? It doesn’t. So what does?
Life wants to live! Every organism, down to the smallest component is programmed to try to live and make more life like itself. We are designed so anything that might threaten our safety is a trigger for our defenses to engage and anything that might help us survive is valued and grabbed onto. To immediately stop taking what you see and experience quite so personally, remember that every living thing is busy figuring out how not only to survive, but to thrive. Transcending and integrating that survival programming with our desire for creative expression, spiritual and social growth and harmony with the environment is what having consciousness is all about!
Our nervous system provides signals we interpret as pain, anxiety, worry and fear which are designed to stimulate our defenses when we need to focus on survival. There are other signals, experienced as positive sensations, that tell us it is ok to relax. Some responses are automatic and happen without involving our brain, such as reflexes, but the majority of patterned responses our brain develops through making meaning of experiences, and lots of practice.
When we are young our brain is very elastic and we are excellent and quick learners. Our developing brains translate signals and stimuli from our nervous system, observing and creating response patterns to help with our survival. Later, these patterns become more rigid, and it is harder to integrate new information to strengthen and adapt old patterns and to create new patterns. But it can be done, if we really want to. And we should want to, because when we don’t our fear and conditioning get to run the show.
Why do we usually wait until things are really difficult to break out of our patterns? Can we train ourselves to be aware and more pro-active in our lives? Yes we can. We can do it through simple mindfulness of our breathing, by pausing and choosing an action consciously, by really listening and building solutions, rather than just defending our opinions.
The first step is to pay attention and notice our conditioning. When it tells us to withdraw, strike out, or submit/placate is the time to pause, take a breath and make a conscious decision whether to follow its advice, or not.
We always have the power to override conditioning, but we usually wait until extreme circumstances occur to do so. Suicide and self-sacrifice are two obvious extreme examples of consciously overriding our survival instinct. We override survival signals when we decide death is better than what is happening now. We also override survival signals when we perceive a problem, value or goal larger and more important than our individual survival.
Sometimes we do not consciously override our conditioned survival patterns; instead, due to an overloaded/disengaged nervous system, we default to a “nothing left to lose” mode. An overloaded/disengaged nervous system no longer provides consistent self-defense triggers or signals. Circumstances that typically overload/disengage nervous systems are prolonged life-threatening situations such as imprisonment/torture, war, and deprivation of basic needs. Such extreme conditions generally lead to depression, numbness, and withdrawal from life. Occasionally they lead to transcendent states or acts of uncommon bravery, but this depends on the individual's interpretation of their circumstances.
Most of us have systems that are hypersensitive/reactive, overloaded, numbed, or stuck in unhealthy patterns. But just because you can’t undo the hurt, redress all the wrongs, and alleviate the suffering you witness and feel doesn’t mean you can’t help yourself and others. As tempting as it is to try to run away or hide, life is so much more full when you stay aware and engaged. Pick a focus: a cause or problem you are passionate about, or the pain and suffering encountered in your daily life and address that. The meaning you attach to your experience and observation of pain and suffering is key to allow you to override and integrate your survival instincts to help yourself and others. You can consciously choose to affirm positive aspects of life rather than just surviving. You can align yourself with a larger sense of purpose that helps break through the conditioning. The conditioning isn’t bad and has its place, but it also isn’t complete. You include it, but are so much more than it. You can start right now. And you can start again anytime.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
I have found the best way to stay stressed on a family vacation or outing - treat it like a job or duty and think it is all up to you to make it good for everyone. Take all complaints to heart and try to fix them immediately.
Remember in order to make it nice and stressful, have an inflexible check list of things to do. Hurry to see all the sights (or relatives) that you can, and get through as many as possible each day with a big fake smile on your face and wonder why no one is appreciating all the work you did to make it happen. Constantly take pictures and video. Buy memorabilia you have to carry around with the camera, snacks, jackets, hats, sunglasses and credit cards. Buy and eat a lot of overpriced junk food while exhausted and grouchy from long lines and crowds just so you can get everyone to stop complaining for a minute.
How has this become our idea of vacation time? Why are we doing it? Where happened to cultivating your passion, learning new things, exploring new places and trying new activities?
When a long family vacation comes around, we set ourselves up for stress and disappointment. If you feel desperate and in a hurry to squeeze the vacation for every last drop of fun, and expect the vacation to make up for all the hard days you've had, you are bound to find ways it isn't doing that. You will start to focus on what isn't working, rather than what is.
You can break this pattern. Go do something you enjoy with your loved ones, and also do something they enjoy. Spend time with each other, walk, talk, play, sit around and take in the sights, and have spontaneous adventures. The way that you do things is just as important as what you do. Ask everyone to pitch in when packing, cleaning up and doing chores on vacation. Play music, dance and be silly while you do the chores together.
Vacation Stress Prevention Tip: Don't wait until vacation and try to cram in doing things you enjoy. Every day take a vacation or outing from your daily routine for at least 15 minutes. Do something you love. Be with someone you love. Sit in your hammock, soak your feet, get creative, feed your soul. Simplify. Create the vacation you want to have, at least a little bit, each day.