Simply breathing properly can help you during an anxiety attack or depressive episodeRead more ›
Simply breathing properly can help you during an anxiety attack or depressive episodeRead more ›
I spent a fair bit of time writing a blog a few weeks ago, which I was quite proud of, it had interesting links and was generally witty. It is gone now. I’m not sure how it happened (most likely because I am an absolute wizz with technology). I felt frustrated for a day and then remembered that nothing is worth holding an attachment to, because everything is temporary. The moment I saw it as a lesson in non-attachment I instantly felt better.
Everything is temporary, which is why I feel perplexed at humanity’s constant battle to hold onto everything. We try to build structures that can’t be destroyed, which is pure craziness because everything is temporary. Obviously, it is an attempt to avoid our own mortality, like all of the the other costly endeavours undertaken by humans.
Whenever I take my car out onto the road (daily) I find myself considering how preposterous it is that we have built roads out of asphalt in an attempt to defy nature with smooth surfaces on which to travel to our various appointments. Having grown up with this being the norm, possibly it is strange that I think about this every time I drive out of my driveway. The thought is often followed by a sense of entrapment, as I can’t seem to find a viable alternative considering where I live and the fact that I have two small children that I must transport. I could easily digress into a conversation about how I yearn for a time where we were content to be surrounded by our loved ones in family communities and didn’t feel the need to travel around the world on jet planes to be fulfilled… but I won’t.
I look at the buildings on every curb now and wonder how long they are expected to remain. Are they someone’s legacy? Is that what it’s all about? Somebody seeking immortality through their creation of a thing? Gaining control over the population is easier with globalisation, however at the bottom of it all is people’s desire to not die – to be immortal through legacy. Well, even the strongest material will eventually degrade into something unrecognisable; another piece of garbage to clog up the waterways.
Everything in this world must eventually end so there is no point trying to hold onto anything. Nothing. You could seriously list any item that is special to me and I would understand that if it were to be taken away from me that I would have to accept it. I have annoyed people close to me throughout my life because of my lack of attachment to things. I lose a lot of stuff, or accidentally break it, or just give it away – because things don’t mean anything to me. I have some items that represent something I care deeply about but I am not attached to those things, because… they are simply things. It makes no sense to me that a person would put value on a material item that can be broken, lost or stolen. Whatever that item represents is what is important to them, not the lump of seemingly solid particles of mass.
By trying to build structures and other items that are supposed to be in existence for eternity, we are somehow fulfilling this notion that we can become immortal; which is obviously total nonsense, but it seems to be the way humans are choosing to deal with their mortal coil. Other species don’t contemplate their own death, which is why there was no plastic until modern humans developed. People’s narcissism created the perfect environment for the invention of a material that will never be totally distinguished from the Earth; their legacy, although ultimately negative, lives on and they are known forever.
I wonder if it’s possible to de-globalise a little, to teach ourselves to be content within our local communities again, and to band together to help one another with raising our families. We must consider the way the Okinawan people live because they are the longest living people on Earth. They hold a deep respect for their elders and include them as an integral part of the community, which is much more conducive to longevity than drugs and botox. Communities like this understand that death is a part of life, which only contributes positively to the people appreciating their lives!
Understanding that everything is temporary is the underlying value of any truly happy person. They practice non-attachment in every aspect of their lives, which allows them to move with fluidity both physically and emotionally; making them available to experience all that life has without ever getting caught up in drama.
Most people cling to their past in some way, which only hinders their ability to enjoy the present. This is expressed nicely in a book called, The Journeys of Socrates by Dan Millman, “Your past does not have to determine your future – yet you carry your history like a bag of stones slung over your shoulders.” And it’s true, most of us do. We become slouched over with the weight of our perceived failures and a desire to have our youth back. If we could only grasp the reality that everything is temporary, then we would have the capacity to give our full attention to the moment that is happening right now! So, this explains why humankind has spent so much time, effort and money on trying to construct structures that will last for eternity (whatever that means); it is an attempt to avoid their own human transience.
During my meditation training, my teacher repeated the word anicca many times in a lesson because it is the underlying force that allows a person to remain seated in silence for long enough to gain an understanding of the benefits of presence. My favourite saying and one that has helped me through all my challenges is, “this too shall pass”, and there is cute story about a king’s search for happiness that is told by many Buddhist teachers to help highlight its importance. All matter, in its essence, is impermanent so there is no point in striving to defy that law at the expense of your peace now.
We need to practice mindfulness so that we may acquire a deep understanding of why non-attachment is necessary in every situation in our lives. As we sit without reacting to any sensation that arises, we begin to see that even the pleasant sensations do not last, leaving us open to experience the next sensation and so on. This principle is valid in every aspect of our lives; the bad times end and so do the good times, so there is no point in being attached to either.
Now, this doesn’t mean that we don’t feel emotions during those times. In fact, it is important to allow all emotions to arise, but we feel them without identifying with them, which is difficult. It is especially challenging to allow awareness during a time of strong emotional sensation. However with regular practice, being able to recognise the state your mind during a situation such as this, your body can learn habits so that it can take over when your mind is freaking out.
It really can happen, with practice!
For more information about discovering the techniques that have helped us overcome mental health related suffering, please contact Jasmine on 0481 149 104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are like me and live with mental illness, you will know that it never disappears completely, that it’s something that needs to be managed. I actually edited the last sentence to say ‘live with’ instead of ‘suffer from’ because identifying one’s self with being a victim is just another way of perpetuating the positive loop mechanism for a negative feeling. We are entering an age where mental illness is becoming more understood and treatments options are broadening; the way in which you choose to manage it is the most important decision you will make on your journey to living a functioning life.
Yesterday and today have been difficult days for me with respect to my mind state, a lot of which is due to my undulating hormones levels. I have been experiencing both anxiety and depression simultaneously – it’s been a riot. The reason people living with mental illness might seem ‘crazy’ is because there is a genuine struggle to connect the logical mind to the reality of the moment, which is never as catastrophic as we might feel it is in the moment. The ability to process this is impaired and no amount of telling us to calm down will change how we feel during an attack, which is why it is IMPERATIVE that we do the work when we are able to so that we allow our body to step in while our brain is is having it’s melt-down.
During these episodes it is not uncommon to say things or behave in ways that don’t align with our values. I have learned from many years of making these same mistakes that it is necessary to follow this up with an apology. We need to let people know that we are trying our best and need forgiveness and compassion. By no means is this a green light for making excuses, nor is it okay to continue the same behaviours every time we find ourselves in the midst of an episode. We need to let people know that we are doing what we can to keep ourselves on the middle road, yet this needs to backed up with actual work; popping a pill each day and not doing anything else to access the root cause isn’t doing the work. Personally I have chosen not to take medication for several years now because that’s what is best for me. If you are taking medication, you still need to practice self-care to manage your symptoms sufficiently – no excuses!
Asking people to choose compassion and empathy when trying to help us during an attack is important, as it can be incredibly difficult for a person to understand what’s going on if they do not have experiential knowledge. For those of you reading this with a loved one that experiences mental illness, please understand that trying to explain that the way they are acting is ridiculous will only make the situation worse. It is not the time for that kind of intervention. Simply let them know you are there, you are not judging them, and you love them just as they are. If they are open to physical contact then a hug or a back rub can be the most helpful thing you can do; however, never force it upon someone that says no. Personally I love a tight hug when I have a freak out, but many do not!
I mentioned earlier that we can train our bodies to step in when our brains stop functioning properly and I have developed a method that works well for me, but it takes a little while practicing it regularly before it becomes an automatic reflex. When ever I am practicing yoga or seated meditation I always take a deep inhalation when I become aware that my focus has wandered (many times in a session!), which encourages my mind to associate an inhalation with present moment awareness. I have noticed over the last year that when I am off in lala land, my body will autonomously take a deep inhale, my mind then returns, and I realise that I wasn’t paying attention to the moment at hand. This even happens when I am in a state where I need to cry as a release; my inhalation becomes deeper and I am aware of what I am doing. This is a huge deal for me because it allows me then listen to someone if they are trying to help me and also to calm myself down rather than hyperventilating. It even occurs when I am not in a panic but have allowed my focus to be somewhere other than on what I am doing – like driving a car – so, you can see how important it can be.
I highly recommend taking as little as five minutes twice a day to practice this method, longer if you can; before you get out of bed and before you fall asleep is perfect. I guarantee you will see improvements in your life with this simply practice.
I have been feeling a little irritable this week, which is normal as a woman with the cyclical changes and I have gotten used to it. I reach a point each month where I begin to cry and need to lay in my bed for a couple of hours with some cathartic music (tonight it’s the ever talented Laura Marling). I don’t need to be fixed, I just need to know that it’s okay. I used to try to escape this build up of tension and emotional release because it makes life difficult for those around me, it’s confusing for someone that doesn’t experience it. I had planned on doing the primary series of Ashtanga, but knew I needed rest. I would have avoided this opportunity to sit in discomfort and loss of control if I had practiced, simply because with this mind frame I would have pushed myself into a state of no-feeling, instead of honouring the practice; my intuition told me not to practice and for once I listened. I am pleased with myself for that.
It’s so strange what this change in hormones can do to me. Once upon a time I simply morphed into a fire-breathing dragon and let loose on anyone that got in my way, now I am aware that I am starting to grow scales and try to ride the wave with compassion for myself. It’s okay to be weak for a moment or two, to cry for seemingly no reason and to need to lie down in the foetus position with your son’s teddy.
I must say I attribute some of my growing awareness to the treatments I have received from some very gifted practitioners. They have helped open myself up to trusting my own gut feeling and internal visions so that I can now choose ahimsa every time. Shout out to Kylie and David for your wonderful work.
I am not entirely sure where this blog post is heading but it feels good to write.
I noticed during my asana practice yesterday that I could feel a ball of fear in my solar plexus, yet I couldn’t figure out what it’s cause was. I find it difficult to breathe into my middle lung, which is exactly where the solar plexus resides; my centre of power. My breath naturally goes straight from my lower belly into my upper lung, as if a tight band were secured around my lower ribs and as much as I try to surrender to it’s journey, my mind can’t help but to try and analyse it. Why is the fear here? What am I afraid of? I find myself adding a new tab to the screen and typing the words, ‘restriction in….’ but I stop myself because I know in my heart that Google can’t see inside me. Only I can peer that deep inside to find out the answers to my questions. So there is really only one thing left to do; put the key pad away and sink down into the sensation and let it speak to me, and somehow I already know what the answer is going to be – more love.
All too often we are trying to fix the world’s injustices and find kindness for others that we forget to be kind ourselves, but the truth is: We can’t be genuinely kind to others until we fill up the kindness in ourselves. There will be cracks in the kindness because we can’t give out something we don’t have. I need to fill up my kindness cup so I can be a better person tomorrow; without the fear holding me back from giving non-judgementally and unconditionally.
Have a beautiful weekend ❤
One of my favourite teachers once said, “pain is weakness leaving the body”. For a chronic pain sufferer this could feel like a kick in the guts, considering having chronic pain means you are experiencing pain constantly, so it might be difficult to swallow that you are just a big pile of weakness – unless you think of it in another way…
If pain is weakness leaving the body and we persistently try to change the pain into something else (pleasure) by taking pain killers then we are interrupting it’s journey through and ultimately out of the body. The same goes for our mind frame surrounding the pain; if we, for example, allow the talk in our minds to be always wishing for the pain to not be painful then we interrupt it’s journey out of the body.
Consider what the Bhagavad Gita says; yoga is the journey through the self, by the self, to the self, as it gives some insight into how we might be able to approach chronic pain. Obviously chronic pain suffers have generally tried everything to rid themselves of the pain, because, well it is painful! I would hazard a guess however that anybody who are still experiencing chronic pain, probably have not taken the giant leap of faith into mindful meditation, at least not whole heartedly. In no way is this a criticism (I seem to type these words regularly, however because of the way we have been programmed, often any observation can be seen as a personal attack) but a simple observation taken from personal experience and comparison. As a chronic pain sufferer myself, I understand the trauma that accompanies the pain itself, and subsequent mental health issues.
We are taught by modern medicine that allopathy is the most effective way of treating illness, however I have experienced something to the contrary when it comes to chronic pain (amongst other things). We need to start viewing our pain in a different way. We need to give our pain a chance to do what it is there to do and worth with it to find a solution. How many of you, with chronic pain, who are reading this want to kick me in the head right now? I know, I probably sound like a jerk, because our ego doesn’t like having to detach from the identities we have built up over our lives and our pain is part of that identity. Therefore, the less power we give to our ego the more likely we will succeed at learning to live with chronic pain. So for those of you that are not particularly keen on hallucinogenics, I have found mindful meditation to be effective. In one of my other blog posts I go talk about the process I used to make this discovery and although I definitely haven’t been the perfect poster child for the practice, I can never unlearn what I learned that day.
The process is painful because we are dealing with pain and it is a process because it isn’t going to cure you immediately. The real here issue is, in fact, the impurities of the mind; “but wait, the pain is real!”, I hear you muttering through your teeth at me, and I know it is but that doesn’t mean that we can’t try to approach it via the mind. Our big old human brains are capable of much more than we give them credit for and this is the perfect situation to start exploring what your grey matter can do to help you.
Here is an example of the process of seated mindful meditation:
Sit as comfortably as you can (but don’t become so attached to this comfort), keeping your spine straight. If you need a wall or chair with a back for support that is perfectly fine. It is best to sit rather than recline because the mind will try to fall asleep as a way out of this drill, but we don’t want to fall asleep.
Now, take a few deep breaths through the nostrils and allow that breath to go directly into the lower abdomen, feel it expand. Exhale fully also. Now start to pay attention to your ability to focus on your breath. Most likely there are many thoughts buzzing around your head, which is fine, just observe this. In fact, the whole exercise is simply making observations. Continue to observe your breath entering and leaving the body, and also just observing the thoughts. When you notice that your mind is becoming involved with those thoughts, gently but firmly ask your focus to return to your breath. Continue this, no matter how many times your mind wanders from the task at hand.
Try this, without moving the body (not even to scratch an itch) for five minutes. Increase the time by a minute each tume you sit until you may eventually reach a whole hour! It will enevitably hurt, possibly a lot but you have the power to control your reactions and in doing so rewire your own brain. By resisting the urge to move, you are asking your brain to develop new pathways, which will help you become more resilient and able to cope with more discomfort.
As I saw in the BBC program, The Doctor Who Gave Up On Drugs, certain physical activities are immeasureably helpful. Martial arts, yoga, qi gong, functional movement sessions, are all fantastic options. Connecting mindfulness and movement is a powerful tool in helping to relieve pain – even if doctors have given up on you!
You are powerful, strong and worthy.
P E A C E
This is a challenging blog post for me to write because I know that I will publish it and will need to respond to the comments gracefully… and I will.
I believe that the reason a lot of people struggle on their journey from being self-destructive to becoming a self actualised adult, able to achieve health and well-being for themselves, is the reluctance to admit when they are wrong. If a person is genuinely in search of the truth and has a desire to be the best person they can be, to be able help others, then it is necessary to be able to admit when a prior belief is no longer correct. I am sure that we all know somebody who will argue something until they’re blue in the face even when the reality is clearly something different. They are ‘stuck in their ways’ and admitting defeat tends to make them feel inadequate and sets of a defensive mode. I was like this for a long time (thanks mum), but not anymore. I can admit when I am wrong, if I can see that I am, which is humbling and beneficial or everyone involved. Some topics are obviously subjective, so there isn’t necessarily a cut and dry way to resolve the issue – that is a whole other blog post!
I have learned, particularly over the last four years since becoming pregnant with my first son, if we are not open minded and flexible that we will become miserable. I was so programmed to be stubborn, with the need to always be right that four years on I am still working on this every day. Had I not developed a life, which included both yoga and having children, my situation might be very different right now. Someone I love dearly is living in misery due to their unreasonable expectations and it is awful to watch; I don’t want to lived like that, nor do I want to subject others to it.
During a recent discussion I had with a loved one, I was told that I had been acting a certain way that made them feel stressed about a simple task. It was mentioned that I care about so many things that it seemed impossible to choose the ‘correct’ way to do anything for fear of being chastised. Boy, did I feel low. I could definitely see how my passionate nature could turn into this type of behaviour. I do care about a lot of things; the environment, the animals, yoga, nutrition, health and well-being, helping people, ect, ect… For most of my life I have put so much pressure on myself to do everything within a certain set of boundaries and in doing so I have projected those expectations onto the people around me. To be fare, I don’t have any expectations of the vast majority of my friends and family anymore, but I suppose the ones closest still cop the brunt of what I expect of myself. SO, when I was told this I immediately felt a deep sense of empathy and apologised for contributing to them feeling this way and vowed to try even harder to improve my behaviour.
I am always trying to undo years of imprinted behavioural patterns and even epi-genetics so that I can be truly happy and be of service to others; I also want to be the best possible role model for my children, all of which are dependant on my ability to out grow all of my immaturities. The need to be right is immature.
It’s no secret that I am a little obsessed with nutrition as a form on healing; therefore, I am constantly searching for the latest evidence about diet and exercise combinations for optimal health. I am well and truly sold on yoga asana, fasting and mindfulness being proven methods for improving and maintaining health; HOWEVER, I have spent the last ten years experimenting on myself with many different ways of eating and the science keeps on making new discoveries from long-term randomised controlled studies that impact my diet habits. As a child I grew up on your average Aussie diet: cereal, toast or bacon and eggs for brekky, and ham/ chicken and salad sandwhich for lunch, and meat and three veg for dinner. Obviously this is a very basic overview, but hopefully you get the idea.
I was roughly thirteen years old when I decided that my love for animals was more important than my love for the taste of them. I was animal obsessed and could no longer bare the idea of being responsible for their deaths, and to be perfectly honest, I still can’t; well, not them dying so much as their lives being spent in the appalling living and slaughter conditions they are generally exposed to in our current farming system. So I announced to my mortified parents that I would be turning vegan! The world pretty much stopped turning when the words came out of my teenage mouth. They thought it would be a phase, but what my parents just didn’t seem to get was that my convictions were much stronger than their pleas for me to not be such a pain in the arse… in fact it only made them stronger. I didn’t let a single ounce of animal flesh or secretion touch my lips for many years after that decision was made, until my early twenties when I had a pretty serious mental break down and began consuming animal products again (same time I got my implants and started taking copious amounts of recreational drugs… oh and becoming a stripper). That lasted for a few years until I just realised one day that I wasn’t living in line with my belief system and so I stopped consuming animals again. I also stopped other behaviours that weren’t serving me well at that time.
At around twenty-six years old I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome after ceasing to take birth control pills and still not menstruating nine months on, so I began researching the ways in which I could reverse it, as I was not overweight, which at the time was rare and there wasn’t much understanding in the medical world about my situation. I discovered that nutrition had a major role to play and so I became obsessed with trying every weird diet I could. Eventually (five years later) a week long fast seemed to do the trick, but there were many different trials leading up to that. Immediately after my longest fast I moved to Melbourne and met the father of my children… seven moths after we got together I was pregnant. It was a big deal. We were told at nineteen weeks that the foetus wasn’t growing at the correct rate and of course, this news scared me half to death. I was also not putting on any weight, which isn’t healthy, so I asked for advice and we eventually decided that I would start eating fatty fish a few times per week, and to be honest, for the last few years I have struggled to know without doubt what is truly healthy… until now.
There is so much evidence that has come out within the last year about nutrition and it is impossible to deny the facts. I can no longer say with such conviction that animal food is not healthy. For decades we have been told that low fat diets are the best option but it’s all rubbish, funded by cereal companies. It has been proven in a thirty year study carried out by the Swedes, that cow’s milk is not healthy, which was always obvious to me (I have always hated milk!) and obviously processed food (including processed meat) is no good for us. Eggs, fish and meat however… this was hard for me to come to terms with. I have accepted that a certain amount of animal product can be healthy; although, no where near what the general meat eater consumes today. Anyway, my point is – I was wrong. It doesn’t eliminate my ethical dilemma surrounding it all but I will never see that fully rectified in my life time.
I was wrong about some of my views. Views that I believed whole heartedly to be right and was vocal about, which I have no problem admitting. We constantly have new information and it’s pointless holding onto old opinions. If you know something isn’t correct anymore, just say so and own it. It’s perfectly okay to be wrong! In fact it is liberating in some respects because it allows the person to break free of the bonds of ego and breaking down the ego feels gooood. It truly does.
In my yoga training I have experienced the breakdown of ego many times and it’s one of, if not the main reasons I return to my mat regularly. I love uncovering that contentment that is always there below the facade of needing to be right all the time to protect our perceived integrity. The pure bliss of being free from the bonds of the attention seeking personality that is always trying to make me feel the need to be better than what I am right now. Just to accept what is at any given moment, take a deep inhalation, know that I don’t have to be right all the time to be worthy of love, exhale slowly aaaaand relax. Let it go.
This is much easier to do on the mat than in ‘real life’ but that is why we do the training; so we can take those lessons into our lives and enrich those of the people around us. By no means am I suggesting that you become a door mat and let go of anything you believe to be true, I am just saying that if there is a black and white answer and you happen to become aware that you are wrong then admit it! The wor
Mental health is never black and white and even when you hit your lowest of lows, know that there is a way out. You CAN find happy again ❤Read more ›