Raised on the Radio!

Thanks for the opportunity!

 

Namaste!

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Downward-facing Dog, Y’all!

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I had the wonderful experience of attending and participating as a lecturer at the 2nd Annual NEPA Yoga Fest 2016 on Montage Mountain on June 4th. The opportunity to provide guidance and information about a topic near and dear to me was, in a word, joyful. Mindfulness and meditation are excellent tools to pick up along the path of moving through and past anxiety and trauma in life. The present can be a great place to be, a safe place to be…the place to be. Mindfulness shifts us from our fears and helps us focus on what can be good and great right now. June 4th, I was present and focused on being with like-minded people to share and connect. The goal being health, happiness, peace, and community. Such a wonderful place to be therefor, in that moment, why would I want to be anywhere else. Of course, the sight of the multitude of yogis and yoginis practicing on the brightly colored ocean of yoga mats was awe-inspiring in itself. And, as I discovered, a very special place to practice mindful meditation that involves the senses. “Five things you can see, four things you can hear…” Simply beautiful.

Thank you to Garry Melville for asking me along on this journey. Let’s make this only our first step together. Also, Chelsea Manganaro and the rest of the hard working who created a wonderful event.

Namaste!

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Flashback Halting Protocol

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Flashbacks can be a terrifying and debilitating symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Controlling them can be difficult and those who experience them can feel helpless and out of control.

Essentially, flashbacks are the superimposing of the past traumatic experience on the present. You are attacked in a parking garage on July 12, 2004 in Tampa. Why are you experiencing the same terror, anger, shame, and helplessness in a parking garage on February 23, 2010 in Scranton? The sensory input from the current situation is just similar enough to ‘trigger’ emotional memories from the past. These memories are drawn from the Amygdala region of the brain. It is here where the darkest of emotions lie that are linked to memory: shame, fear, pain, despair, terror, helplessness…”

This protocol helps to ‘reground’ the individual to the present. This is where we are safer and in control.

At the beginning of a flashback, start here:

  • Right now I am feeling
(describe your current emotion, e.g. ‘terrified’)
  • And I am sensing in my body
(describe your current bodily sensations, e.g. ‘pounding heart, tight chest, shaky legs’)
  • Because I am remembering-name the trauma by title only (e.g. ‘being hurt by my mother’). Do not go into detail.
  • At the same time, I am looking around where I am now in
(the actual current day/month.year), here (name the place where you are), event (what you are doing/experiencing)
  • And I can see
(describe some of the things that you see right now in this place),
  • And so I know
(name the trauma by title only again, e.g. ‘being hurt by my mother’) is not happening now or anymore.
  • Therefore, I do not have to feel (terrified, guilt, shame). Instead, I give myself permission to feel (content, safe, happy) emotions that match what I am experiencing at this moment.

Tip: The final step should be true to the event/experience you are having in the present. Don’t reach to replace ‘terror’ with ‘happy’ if the current situation doesn’t warrant it. Instead, if you are watching the presidential debates and this makes you feel…bored…state that. If you are waiting in line behind a slowpoke at the bank, don’t replace ‘helplessness’ with ‘peaceful’. If you are feeling ‘annoyed’ at your present experience, state that as well. The purpose behind this protocol is not to reach for the unrealistic. Rather, it is to ground you to the present reality. As boring and annoying as that reality might be.

Namaste!

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“You’re Grounded!”

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(Like an overfed, well-fattened bear, this site is finally emerging from its dormancy. Well, don’t we all look for a little rest after the fall harvest?)

Now that the spring has finally arrived, hopefully to stay for a while, this can be a great time to get yourself grounded. Unlike the well-known punishment loved by parents and loathed by teens, being grounded is a peace-bringing and liberating event.

Being grounded means being present, in the here and now, and in touch with what is around-and inside-of you. In turn, being present means being in a place of increased control. From there, anxiety is decreased while happiness in the moment is increased. Makes a lot of sense when you consider there is no power over the past and future…only over the present.

What are some springtime things you can do to ‘get grounded’:

  • Barefoot as much as (safely) possible. The less there is between you and the earth, the closer you feel to this amazing, spinning ball we call home. Performing creative activities while barefoot can work to connect you to your craft. Examples of this might be painting, writing, music, cooking, gardening, sewing, crafting, on and on.
  • Go to green. Being a part of the growing cycle that starts this time of year is very connecting and grounding. Plant that garden of which you’ve been dreaming and, for the love of deity, don’t sweat the outcome. It’s the journey here that is the end goal. ‘Adopt’ a plant or flower that might be meaningful. If you’ve experienced negativity during your tour in the deserts of Iraq, nurture a cactus (We are working in symbolism here, folks.  Cactus may not have been present in Iraq but it’s the first thing many people think of when they hear ‘desert’). And don’t be afraid to get dirty. Children are intuitively aware of the magic that comes from getting up to their elbows (and knees) in the earth.
  • Notice daily, or several times daily, the changes in the natural world around you. Keep a photo log of the unfurling of the leaves on the tree outside your house. Take time to notice how much that tomato plant grows day-to-day. It’s amazing how much change happens right before our eyes that we never notice. When we don’t, nature can appear like two lone snapshots in time…before and after. But it is what happens in between that is the real journey.
  • Animals.  Check ‘em out! They are the gurus of present mindedness. Therefore, they are in tune with the changes in the weather, growth of vegetation, migration patterns, food sources, etc. And never mind baby animals! Is there a more enchanting means of watching growth day-to-day?

So, exit your winter hibernation to a world you watch and know.

Namaste!

 

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Remembering One…Supporting Many

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Domestic violence is a crime that takes a devastating toll on so much and so many. The victims, families, friends, and society are all wounded by such cowardly and vicious acts. This is why it is so important to proactively support, educate, and protect those affected by DV in the present while always remembering those whose faces remind us of why it IS so important to treat DV like the horror that it is.

Kathleen Cavanaugh, taken from the world by domestic violence in January 2014, will be remembered by family, friends and her larger community on Sunday September 20th. Kathleen’s Crusade “Taking it to the Streets” will be held at Pat McMullen’s in Scranton from 3pm to 7pm. All proceeds go the The Women’s Resource Center to help in their support of those affected by domestic violence.

This event will be a wonderful opportunity to stand with your community in the face of such senseless violence as well as providing support to such an important cause.

To read more on Kathleen’s Crusade, visit https://www.facebook.com/kathleenscrusade

Come stand together so that no one will have to stand alone.

Namaste!

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“Symbolism…It’s Not Just for the Jung Anymore!” Part Two.

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As a continuation of the first part of this article, the role of symbolism and symbolic acts in the healing of past trauma is long standing and can be quite effective. Past events affect us traumatically through the recognition of symbols. Parking garages, fireworks, men with dark hair…these images take us back to the incident that is now burned into our right brain. Yet, if the sound of fireworks triggers flashbacks in an Iraqi Vet, this same individual can be “guided” to recognize something symbolic from Iraq with a strong positive, peaceful meaning. Perhaps this veteran’s primary image of Iraq is the desert and his symbol of the desert is the cactus. He engages in the act of planting a cactus, one he will care for and nurture. He does so in his therapist’s office, a safe place, while invoking peaceful images and positive memories.   He now has a piece of his past memories to his time in the Middle East linked to this positive event.

One of the most widely known uses of symbolic action in therapy is Fritz Perl’s The Empty Chair. Born of Gestalt therapy, this technique encourages the client to become more present-minded by bringing a traumatic event to the here-and-now…where the client can now feel safe to address it. The client is presently granted the opportunity to speak to those that have victimized them in the past. While the event may have been months or years ago, the resolution the client so deeply seeks occurs in their present.  And the present is all we can change.

In my own practice, it is so important that traumatized client recognize that I am going to walk this path with them toward healing. We sometimes symbolize our alliance in overcoming the trauma quite simply. The client provides a symbol of the traumatic event. The dress worn during a violent rape, for example. A snippet of the tag from the dress is removed from the garment and placed in a “possibles bag” (similar to a medicine pouch), which is worn to the sessions. The client recognizes that this is a joint venture towards healing as well as reducing the feelings of “alone-ness” in their trauma.

From Shamans to Carl Jung to Fritz Perls, symbolism and the symbolic act has been a powerful tool in healing emotional pain and moving towards a more peaceful present.

Namaste!

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Managing Anxiety…It’s Not All in your Head.

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These are some techniques that can help with the management of anxiety.

  1. Breathing:   In through the nose, out through the mouth. Find the count that works for you (i.e. Inhale for 4 seconds/exhale for 5 seconds).   Always exhale longer than you inhale. This helps empty the lungs of carbon dioxide of which a build-up can contribute to anxiety type symptoms.
  2. Systematic relaxation:    Work on each body part in a systematic manner. i.e. clench hands tightly for 5 seconds, then completely relax all at once. Then, tighten lower arms for 5 seconds, then completely relax all at once. Do this for each part of your body.
  3. Visualization:   Chose a positive, relaxing place/event that is very vivid to you. Engage all your senses in the visualization (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch).   The more sensory involvement you have in the visualization, the more effective.
  4. Grounding:   This is used to bring you back to the present and out of thinking/memories that may be triggering the anxiety. This is usually done though physical sensations. Snapping a rubber band on your wrist, using something intense (but pleasant) smelling, using something intense (but pleasant) tasting. A particularly effective grounding technique is to tightly squeeze an ice cube in the palm of your hand. Not too hard as you do not want to injure yourself but squeeze it hard enough to be mildly uncomfortable.
  5. Relaxing the vagus nerve:   One technique that is a good place to start learning how to relax this nerve is to squat. When anxiety creates racing/abnormal heart rhythm and/or breathing issues, it is often due to the vagus nerve being interfered with as the abdomen tightens. When you squat and bear down (as though trying to “push out”) the muscles can not physically remain tightened and will relax around the vagus nerve, allowing the nerve to resume normal function.   As you become more in tune to the sensation of relaxing this nerve, it can be accomplished though visualization and relaxation while in a sitting position.

Namaste!

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