Tag Archives: mind and body

Deepak Chopra: Thinking Outside the (Skull) Box (Part 10)

Skeleton InvertedClick here to read Part 9!

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Neil Theise, MD

So your genome – the sum total of your genetic inheritance – is not sufficient to code for the entire structure of your digestive tract. You are alive because of your connection to the outside world; indeed, there is no boundary between you and the outside world’s abundance of life.

This realization changes the picture of genes, too. They code for your cells, tissues, and organs; moreover, genes code for the interactions between your cells and the neighboring bacteria, with biomolecules being passed back and forth. The biochemistry of digestion is a shared project between your body and bacteria, a basic fact acknowledged for decades, but by implication, without bacteria there can be no you.

This observation can be extended in every direction. Without trees breathing in carbon dioxide and exhaling oxygen, you couldn’t breathe – the forests are part of your lungs. Without viruses constantly mutating, you would have many fewer antibodies – every virus is part of your immune system. The rivers that circulate fresh water are part of your bloodstream. These connections aren’t incidental. Your body is the world, and by extension, so is your brain, since you share with the world every molecule, chemical reaction, and electrical impulse that constitutes the brain.

It makes people woozy to accept that there is no boundary between “me” and the whole world. What about the skin? It is portrayed in high school biology class as an impermeable barrier protecting you from invaders assaulting the body from “out there.” But the metaphor of the skin as living armor isn’t viable. Pause and move your hand, observing how the wrist and finger joints move under the skin. Why doesn’t the skin break down with all this motion, the push and pull of your fingers closing and extending, your arm bending and stretching? Because the bacteria lining the creases in your skin digest the cell membranes of dying skin cells and produce lanolin, which lubricates the skin. How long would “you” and your genome last if your skin were cracking, open to infection just from typing on a laptop or waving goodbye to someone?

What is your body now? It’s no longer just a human body. It’s a community of single cell organisms that function harmoniously together (in times of good health) organizing themselves into tissues and organs. Such astonishingly complex cooperation implies a host of surprising things:

  • Your genes are siblings of bacterial genes.
  • The evolution of bacteria is actually human evolution at the same time.
  • One intelligence binds micro-organisms and “higher” life forms.
  • There is no sharp dividing line between “smart” creatures and the “dumb” micro-organisms that evolved alongside them.

A skeptic may protest that we’ve used physical evidence to support a theory of mind. But science does the same thing all the time. By equating mind and brain, neuroscience has backed itself into a corner, forced to explain thoughts by looking at the interaction of molecules. In the final post of this series, we’ll get out of that corner by putting mind first and brain second. That way, we solve the problem of how molecules of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon – the majority of “stuff” in the brain – learned to think. The obvious answer is that they didn’t. We think because we are expressions of the mind, not robots being operated by the brain.

(To be continued…)

* * *

Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 75 books translated into over 35 languages with over twenty New York Times bestsellers. Chopra serves as Founder of The Chopra Foundation.

Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Director of the Center of Excellence at Chapman University, co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, Who Made God and Other Cosmic Riddles. (Harmony)

P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP, Professor of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina and a leading physician scientist in the area of mental health, cognitive neuroscience and mind-body medicine.

Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), co-author with Deepak Chopra of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being. (Harmony)

Neil Theise, MD, Professor, Pathology and Medicine, (Division of Digestive Diseases) and Director of the Liver and Stem Cell Research Laboratory, Beth Israel Medical Center – Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York. www.neiltheise.com

A More Generous Way: Yoga as Opening

Wendy Bramlett, December 2011. Photo by Russell Bramlett.

I walk into Wendy Bramlett’s Saturday morning class in Boulder, Colorado, and choose a spot at the far corner, in the shadows. Here I can turn my face to the wall and let the tears come, if they do.

I am new in town, and I am grieving. Just days ago, during my cross-country move, I learned that my older brother is dying of colon cancer. He has smoked for years, lived hard, eaten junk. When I’m not tearful, I am furious. How could he be so heedless of his body?

Class begins. We stretch out on our backs on the floor.

“Offering your weight generously to the earth, the earth generously supporting your weight.”

Her voice is still and steady, a lilt of cheer rippling just below the calm.

“There is a fine intimacy between your body and the earth.”

Intimacy. Now there’s a word you rarely hear in a yoga class. Funny thing, too, when yoga is all about bringing body and mind into harmony. Yoga—yolk.

Oh, no, thinking. I catch myself and return to the room.

“Be very deliberate in how your body meets the earth. Be aware of each point of contact.” My attention slides to my back. “If the vertebrae contact the earth beneath them with consciousness and care, they will be more receptive to gravity.”

My breath responds, slowing and deepening.

“Between the earth and your body, an exchange of breath, a flow of recognition. The breath and gravity are old friends.”

Of course, how simple—body and earth. Flowing between them, the breath.

“Let the earth breathe you, soften you.”

A small release between my ribs, and the tears begin. I turn my face to the wall and reach for the tissue stowed next to my mat.

* * *

For most of a year it is like this—through my brother’s death, through the months after, showing up in Wendy’s class, tissue in hand. Always she leads me back to the body, back to earth. In almost every class, I turn my face to the wall for a few moments. Is it the flow of words, fresh as springwater? Or how the words soften me, releasing inner streams?

* * *

In class we are working on a twisty pose, parivrtta trikonasana, revolving triangle. Though I’ve been practicing for years, this pose is still precarious.

Feet apart, we bend forward and slowly turn, hand on hip. “Listen to the callings of the spine. The body doesn’t seek discomfort. The body seeks ease and balance. Move in harmony with your body, not in argument.”

I’ve been arguing with my body about this one for a long time.

“Watch how the breath moves your body, how generously it creates space within your body.” I breathe again, and my shoulder opens, lifting another fraction. Within my heart a new feeling of ease, more room.

“The breath is enormously generous, as generous as the body allows.”

Invitation, not effort. A laying down of arms against the body.

* * *

For five years I attend Wendy’s class until, in January 2012, Wendy stops teaching. She has a mass on her liver, late Stage IV. Her students are stunned. When we last saw her, in December, she was the picture of radiant health.

Undergoing chemo does not arrest the disease. By June Wendy is moving toward death.

One day in mid-June I spend time meditating, my attention focused on her great journey. It is like attending a birth—watching, breathing. In the waiting, time shifts—away from minutes and hours and toward simple presence. Threshold time. The air is charged with coming and going.

Wendy dies the following day.

* * *

At a grief ritual in the yoga studio some days later, each face is shell-shocked. How can we absorb such a loss? We talk and weep together.

At the end of the ritual I have one last question. “What kind of cancer did Wendy die from?” I am expecting “liver” or “pancreatic,” the kinds that take people quickly.

“Colon cancer,” I hear. “Metastasized before there were symptoms.”

For a moment the room disappears. I blink hard to get it back. The same cancer my brother had five years ago when I arrived in town. How can this be—colon cancer in Wendy, whose life was defined by listening to the whispers of her own body? In my brother it made sense, but in Wendy?

Instantly I see: I have been wielding a sword of judgment—as if blaming my brother for getting sick would help me stave off the thing that took his life.

My weapon is made of cardboard. My tidy conclusions will have to go. Even in death, Wendy teaches a more generous way: it is time to lay down arms against my brother.

* * *

We are on our backs in savasana, the pose of the corpse.

“Listening in the silence to how your body wants to release.” Wendy’s voice flows through the quiet. “Let the earth move into the body, the body expand into the earth, so that each can replenish the other. Savasana is a reunion with the earth.”

Beneath us, a sure embrace. Within us, not solidity but something more generous: spaciousness. More room, a little more trusting of the breath. More listening to our bodies, to earth.

At the end of savasana we come slowly to sitting. In a few moments we will again encounter the knots of living, but right now we breathe, palms together, open to what may be.

“Namaste,” Wendy whispers.

 

Wendy’s open and generous approach to the body was shaped by Pattabhi Jois, Iyengar, Angela Farmer, and the Continuum work of somatic pioneer Emilie Conrad. Wendy wrote about her view of yoga here. Thanks to Russell Bramlett for the photo and to Avril Bright for keeping a journal of Wendy’s sayings in class. And of course we are grateful to Wendy, and to the earth.

Is it Possible to Trust?

Do you remember a time when you really trusted?

It seems contemporary life is fraught with reasons not to trust.

Politicians who were elected believing they could be trusted, follow other political agendas or are caught flying to foreign lands with their mistresses. Banks that were entrusted with money and homes have acted without scruples, leaving our economy in ruins.  Couples professing tearful wedding vows, “Till death do us part,” are suing one another for money to “part to the death.” Nuclear families that formed the seat of our lives, providing the security we needed to go out into the world, seem more insecure than secure.

Who and what can we trust when educational communities, religious institutions, and police forces all over the world are awash in scandals and controversy?

 Thinking about it could get you really depressed.

Or, you could find hope in trust by shifting your focus from not WHO or What you trust, but HOW you trust.

Truth is, you can never fully trust anyone or anything completely, just like you cannot trust nature completely.  As Nature’s actions are often unpredictable and never personal, so too are people’s action when they stem from fear, anger or negativity.

You can expect and trust that bad things will happen in life, by nature and by people.

You can also expect and trust that good things will come to pass.

It’s the good that helps you deal with the bad.  It’s your cushion, if you will, that supports you during uncertain and difficult times.

You can trust that as long as you inhale, you will exhale.; that what goes up, must come down; that flowers will bloom and then be reabsorbed back into the earth as they die. 

In turn, you can trust that you will inhale again; go up again; and another flower will bloom.

You can trust that if your “gut” feeling is telling you something is wrong, you are probably right and you may want to uncover what that “wrong” is, because if you do, you could find the resources to handle it.

To question or distrust is good. It’s what allows you to obtain information that you need before taking a necessary action. It allows you to be realistic about the ups and downs of life so that you can create and innovate new ways of being and living. It makes you do more research so that invariably you have more options and tools. 

Too much distrust can be problematic however.

Too much distrust can breed fear, like fear of failing, of being alone, of not being loved, of never trusting another human being ever again, of going hungry, of falling, of ultimately, not being enough or having enough.   The fear clouds clarity.  In fact, when in fear, the amygdala, the primitive part of the brain, fires signals to the higher functioning parts of the brain and shuts them down.  You literally cannot think.

It is also this fear that can lead you to trust blindly, in your search for salvation and security. 

When you know that inherently you are enough or have enough, you can have the inner trust that, come what may, you will have the resources to handle uncertainty.  With this trust, your fear response can be more quiet, your body more calm and your mind clearer. You just might be better able to see truth in front of you and make better decisions.

So yes, it may be possible to build trust.  You may just have to look at trust in a different way though.  You may have to perceive trust as an inner knowing, that utilizes your intuition, your knowledge, and the knowledge of others, and that you have access to this knowing when you let go of your fear of not being enough or having enough. 

Try repeating these words to yourself next time you are not sure whether or not to trust: “I am enough, I have enough.  I have all that I need.  Come what may, I have all that I need.” 

It may not solve the problem or question for you, but you may find yourself feeling a bit better, perhaps more calm, and more capable of doing the research you need to do to find the resources and answers that will help you.

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / Brittany G

 

Are You A Prisoner Of Your Own Self-Image?

Who are you? Are you the person everyone wants you to be, or the person you want to be? Do you feel trapped in the image that you thought you had to create to be loved or valued?

Are you the serious one? The funny one? The smart one? What behavior would be “out of character” for you?

You have probably worked hard– to make sure others see you in a certain way, or perhaps, that they don’t see you at all.

Maybe have sought to acquire recognition or fame. Or maybe, you have decided to stay un-noticed so as not to draw harmful attention.

What image are you stuck with now? Do you feel free to “act out of character” or do you worry that doing so would lead to harm or loss of what you have acquired, or worse, loss of your identity, sense of value or validation?

Fame and fortune, though nice to have, are external validations that you are able to accomplish your goals. But, fame and fortune do not determine your value or your identity. In fact, it seems, as one does become more famous or rich, their friends or associations become more questionable. They might often find themselves asking, “Does this person like me because of me, or because of my money? Who am I in the end?”

And the person who is shy or quiet….What would happen if you were to scream or to laugh with abandon? Would you be made fun of, ridiculed or harmed? Would you feel badly about yourself?

Without knowing that you are inherently loved, just because you are alive, you cannot know fully who your true Self is and that you can be whomever or whatever you want to be at any given moment. When you know who your are, you are less likely to seek approval from external means. You are affected less by other’s opinions of you or your decisions in life. You wont take what others say or do personally.

So ask yourself, am I am prisoner of an image? Is this image really me….ALL of me?

You see, all of us can be anything at any given moment. We can be happy, sad, mean, nice, funny, boring, smart or stupid. You can be anything or nothing all throughout the same day. Watch a child—he or she can go through multiple personalities in 10 minutes!

If you feel like a prisoner and want to change this feeling, your first step is to start accepting yourself and everything about you.

Here is an exercise to practice:

Close your eyes

Inhale deeply

Exhale completely

Observe your breath.

Observe your nose.

Observe your lips.

Observe your body.

Observe your mind.

Observe your heart.

Observe how you feel.

Observe how your body feels.

Observe how your heart feels.

Acknowledge the feelings and thank them for being there.

Repeat these words: “I love and accept myself always”.

Imagine you are falling backwards into a pool of light Just like if you were falling or plunging backwards into a body of water, but now it is a body of light, love and acceptance.

You are falling into love.

Repeat these words: “I love and accept myself always”.

Observe your breath, repeat these words: I love my breath

Observe your nose, repeat these words: I love my nose

Observe your eyes, repeat these words: I love my eyes

Do this with any part of your body, with your feelings, with your memories—any part of you that you wish.

Repeat these words: “I love and accept myself always”.Perhaps now the walls of your prison will start fading.

PHOTO: Flickr / southpaw2305

Look at Me! Look at Me! Why Do We Want To Be Noticed By Others So Much?

Remember being a child? Remember running home or playing in the playground and discovering that you could do something new? “Look at me!” You shouted. “Look at me!”

If you look closely at yourself, you may discover you are still doing it. You still want to be seen– to be seen for what you can do and for how special you can be.

Perhaps in your childhood you were not seen, or at least, not enough. Your parents were too stressed and busy. There were too many other children and needs to compete with. Or worse, when you were seen, you were hurt.

No one had the perfect childhood. It is rare to have “the perfect life,” whatever that may be. Even in nurturing families, parents get stressed and often are too busy to see with their ears or hear with their eyes. It is rare to get any one’s undivided attention as they likely have other things going on in their mind. It is simply reality.

The problem is that as we are developing, we are learning about who we are in the larger context of this world. We become visible when we are seen. We become recognized when we are heard. We are learning about the validation of our existence.

As adults, we are therefore still seeking this validation. “Look at me!” We say, but this time it may be silently, as we have been told not to brag or show off. “Validate me!” we whisper under our breath. We seek this validation in a variety of ways—a pat on the back; a raise; a betrothal of love; applause from a crowd; the person at the reception desk to be pleasant or some other driver to slow down to let you pass. We feel validated by the kindness and attention of others or when life seems to be going our way.

We are also very quick to feel invalidated—by someone who is rude; criticism from a stranger or friend; by the management who laid you off; by the other person who got the award instead of you; by your heart being broken by the one you love.

“Look at me!” You may want to scream. “Can’t you see me? Can’t you see that I am good at what I do and that I am good person who deserves love and prosperity?”

And when you feel invalidated, you feel invisible. And so, you either shut down or try harder to be seen.

If inherently or unconsciously you believe you are invisible, how do you expect the world or universe to see you?

Your job is to ask yourself why it is so important to prove yourself while at the same time destroying yourself. Why is it so important to be seen for what you know or can prove when you do not see yourself as a living being that must thrive in your existence? Perhaps if you did believe and love yourself more, nurture yourself more, the quality of your work would be even that much more magnificent. Your life would be that much more extraordinary.

When you know in your heart that you are visible, seen, heard, valued and loved, you may find that you meet the most extraordinary people and have the most magnificent experiences.

Try this exercise and see what happens:

Imagine that you are surrounded by golden rays of light, perhaps from the sun itself. These rays of light are shining directly on you, because you are special. These rays of light are also tickling your heart so that it starts laughing and opening like a flower. As this happens, say these words at least ten times: “I am here. Seen. Heard. Valued. And Loved. And I shine my light like the sun itself.”

As you repeat these words, you may notice the light that enters your heart begins to shine out, as if you have a sun shining in your heart center.

Even if your life doesn’t change, this exercise will help you feel better and help you body’s biochemistry shift more into balance.

The Mark of Success is the Mark of Resilience

What marks success?

Is it a six-figure plus income? All your valuable objects?

Perhaps that you have a boyfriend, girlfriend or partner? Children? A big home? A fancy car? A booming career? A great body?

 What if any or all of these things were to be taken away? Gone. Your income, home, family, career, health. Then what? Are you no longer a success, or rather, are you now a failure, when all that is left now is YOU?

 Without these assets, how do you see you?  Are you now broken?

 Take a really good look in the mirror.  In what ways do you see yourself as successful? 

 Are you enough? Do you have enough? 

Are you strong enough, beautiful enough, courageous enough, resourceful enough, supported enough, loved enough?

Are all that you have acquired and accomplished enough?

 How you perceive yourself—whether you are or have enough—determines how you handle uncertainty and stress.  It determines how efficiently your stress response and the neurobiological mechanisms involved function.  If, internally, you maintain a belief that upholds you to be or have “enough”, you are more likely to:

·     Face your fears.

·      Keep your head clear so that you can problem solve and fully appraise your situation.

·      Keep up positive emotions and a positive outlook.

·      Stay open to support

·      Feel competent in your actions

·      Maintain a sense of life purpose and ability to make meaning of your situation.

 You are more likely to be resilient. Studies show that being resilient means being able to successfully adapt to adversity, stress or trauma. 

 And when you are resilient, it means adversity doesn’t get you down physically, emotionally or psychologically—at least not for too long.   It means you do not use your accomplishments or acquisitions to mark your sense of success, because internally you have a deep knowing that you are successful, just because you are alive.

Your genes, early life experiences, and every day life stressors like toxins in the environment, the processed foods you might eat, the lack of exercise, economic downfall, or traffic jam add to how efficiently your stress response works.  These factors also determine your internal compass and framework of beliefs of how you see yourself within the larger context of this world—enough or not.

So look in the mirror and see what is true for you.  Look beyond your accomplishments and acquisitions and ask yourself:

·      How much do I love ME?

·      Do I know that I am loved?

·      Do I know that I am supported?

·      Do I really support ME?

·      Do I really appreciate ME?

·      Do I really respect ME?

·      Do I really love ME?

·      Do I know that I am successful just because I am alive? 

At the end of the day, you are always left with YOU.  If you do not support, love or respect YOU, why should anyone else? If you are unconsciously not supporting YOU all day, than any unkind action or word from someone else will send you over the top, especially when the stressors add up.  Successes will soon turn into failures, positive emotions into negative, health into disease.  That’s what happens when the stress response runs amok.

So choose to be successful and resilient by taking some time to be gentle and kind towards YOU.  Look in the mirror and answer “YES” to all of the questions above and mean it.

Do this enough times, and your internal compass and framework of beliefs will likely change to “yes, I am enough!.”   You may find that you are able to handle stress that much more easily.  You might also discover that you are successful beyond your dreams.

 

A Mediation For Releasing Your Expecations

How often do you get upset when someone doesn’t comply with your expectations?

 How often do you get upset with yourself for not doing something better?

Look closely at your expectations of yourself and others.  Think about the last time or the last person that caused you disappointment because you felt let down, hurt, angry or resentful.

 Of course, we all have expectations of one another to some degree.

You expect that the waiter at a restaurant will serve you; that a dentist will work on your teeth; that your mother will love you; and that your friend will want to go to a movie with you.

 But what if they don’t—what if the waiter ignores you, the dentist makes you wait an hour, your mother doesn’t make time for you one day and your friend has made other plans? Do you shrug it off, or do you get very upset?

 Different situations will trigger a variety of reactions.  The stronger your reaction, the more likely you are expecting too much.

 Expectations, like negative emotions, are hardwired into you. They exist to signal you that you are unhappy or that something is out of balance within you or around you. Your expectations reflect a distorted representation of your deeper needs—-Your deeper needs of needing to be enough or have enough.

 When you hold the fear that you are not enough or do not have enough, you will develop expectations or deep needs for others or for circumstances to help you feel better.  That is why the expectations are false.

 False expectations—not seeing a person or situation for who (or what) he or she really is apart from the role he or she plays—have the unwelcome side effect of putting you into your Fear Response. You are not seeing this person’s or the situation’s true qualities. Rather, you are hoping he or she (or it) will fulfill the qualities you lack in yourself. This is a setup for disillusionment and dissatisfaction and an invitation to the Fear Response to come right in. 

I am not telling you that it is bad to have expectations, just to be aware of them.  Your expectations and how attached you are to them is your signal of being out of balance or that your Fear Response is in active mode.  Your expectations are clues that can guide you to healing your deeper needs.

 Here is something you can do:

Let’s say, you find yourself getting upset over someone or something not meeting your expectations.  Good.  Now,

1. Slow down that active brain thinking and imagine your SHIELD or golden rays of light shining down upon you, surrounding you in unconditional love and grace, so that you can Inhale deeply and Exhale completely.

2.     Listen to your needs. Ask yourself, “What is it that I really need from this situation? Is it love? Respect? Validations? Acceptance? Approval? Money?”

3.     Decided to meet your own needs:  Imagine the golden light is filling your body, especially your heart with whatever it is you need—love, abundance, respect, etc.

4.     As you do so, repeat these words:  “The support I need is here.  I have all that I need.”

5.     When you feel that the light has filled your heart and it is overflowing, practice The Love Circle with your breath:


Focus on the inhalation.

Breathe in deeply.

Focus on the exhalation.

Exhale completely.

Notice how much air you can take in before you feel as if

you are going to explode.

Notice how easily you let it go.

Notice how you cannot hold on to your breath even if you try.

Notice how when you exhale completely, your inhalation

begins immediately.

Notice that there is no way to stop the cycle.

Notice how every time you let go of your breath, a new

breath of life comes in.

Focus on your chest as the breath moves in and out.

Breathe in life.

Let go, sharing it with the world.

Breathe in love.

Let go, sharing it with the world.

 

 

What to Do When You’re Addicted to Your Laptop

One would think that I could manage to stay away from my computer for at least 24 hours in gay Paris, but no….Like millions of others in the world, I could not travel without my laptop this recent trip to Paris, France and Essen, Germany.  As life would have it, two days into the trip my hard-drive crashed beyond repair and I discovered I had an addiction. 

Initially, I managed to handle being untied to my computer without too much distress.  Having access to my friends’ computers, I experienced only intermittent anxiety when I longingly gazed at them surfing the net and playing youtube videos, or when it was my time to go to sleep and I did not have my spider solitaire came to numb out my brain. I otherwise occupied my time socializing and exploring, spending five glorious days in Paris with wonderful friends, delicious food, and mouth-watering wine.

The next stop for me was going to prove to be more difficult.  After Paris, I traveled toEssen, Germany where I was scheduled to lecture at a conference for several days. As I had traveled by myself, for the first 4 days, I was essentially alone.

When I wasn’t lecturing, I found I had little to do.  I had no access to cyberspace. I could not work or write, as I am so used to typing.  When I tried to write with a pen, in fact, my hand hurt, so I stopped.  I had no spider solitaire to numb out my brain.

I meditated, several time, which lieterally got tiring after a while, as I managed I fall asleep. I read, two books in two days. I played sudoku, with a pen. 

In between, I walked around a bit, ate by meslf and otherwise, twiddled my thumbs and stared out the window, contemplating my loneliness.

I sat for long periods, allowing myself to be flooded with overwhelming feelings of anxiety and aloneness or disconnectedness. Outside my window, I could hear laughter and conversations in a language I could not understand. It only made me feel more alone.

My anxiety reared its ugly head—something I hadn’t experienced in quite some time as I had become so adept at using my self care skills like meditation or exericse to counteract it.  This time, these particular self care skills weren’t enough to relieve my anxiety.  I started craving my computer—craving the chance to pour out the overwhelming feelings within me into work, typing, instant messaging, or playing my spider game.  I wanted to numb the loneliness and I wanted my computer to do it.

‘Wow,” I realized, I am addicted. “I must be going through withdrawal.  When did this start?” I wondered.

Looking back at my life, I saw that my addiction to the computer and my card game started back in 1996, when I had experienced the devasating event of being stuck with an HIV+ needle during my residency training at a Boston Hospital.  For six weeks I had to take a cocktail of 14 medications to prevent myself from converting to HIV.  For 6 weeks, I thought the end of my life was near. I was a physical and emotional mess—from the medications and from my distressing and ongoing thoughts.  The only thing that got me through this was the love I received from friends and family. When they were with me, I felt better.  When I alone, I threw myself into my solitaire game so that I could numb, not think.

Six weeks passed and my blood work turned out negative for HIV.  Perhaps if I had stopped playing my game then, the addiction would not have started, but the next 4 months of my life turned out to be just as stressful, with deaths in the family, my father’s heart attack, (which he survived) and the absolute destruction of all my worldly posessions in a house fire.

My spider game was all I had for coping at that time. I didn’t meditate yet, exercise, eat healthy, pray, or sleep much for that matter.  The only outlets for my anxiety were being with friends or family, and being on the computer—involving playing my card game or working/writing.

As my life evolved and I developed better coping skills, I found my anxiety was much better controlled.  In fact, if I did ever experience it, it was short-lived and I used it as an opportunity to work on myself, reach out for help and work on developing The Love ResponseÒ.

But all the while, I still had my trusted computer.

So now, alone in a foregin country, I felt abandoned without it.

And this, this belief that I was alone, unsupported and abandoned, was one that I was familiar with.  I thought I had ‘fixed’ it, but here it was again.  It appeared that funnelling my anxiety into work or numbing it with card games, allowed me not to deal with this distorted belief completely. 

Well, I had to deal with it now, in Essen Germany, or my misery would get the better of me.  I called on my Love Pyramid—social love, self love and spiritual love-to help.

  1. I called my family in the states and told them how lonely I felt: Talking to them and admitting I was not okay was a big deal. 
    1. Advice: ask for help and connect with others.
  2. I went for a walk around the lake and appreciated the incredible beauty of nature around me.
    1. Advice:  Get out of your head and connect with nature.  When you appreciate, you get out of the stress response, which will pull you out of negative beliefs and attitudes.
  3. I prepared myself colorful, delicious and healthy meals.
    1. Advice:  Love and nurture yourself by eating with appreciation, foods that nurture you and make you feel good (thus comfort food).
  4. I meditated with The Love ResponseÒ by using my imagination to create the experience that I was surrounded by those who love me, like divine parents and friends.  I imagined, for instance, that I was being rocked, cradled, nurtured and held by my divine mommy until I could feel my entire body and mind relax into her love.
    1. Advice:  Use your imagination to create a connection to something larger than yourself, that you may not necessarily be able to see with your physical eyes.  This is spiritual love.
  5. I paid attention to the negative thoughts and beliefs that were causing me to feel more stressed, namely the belief that I was not loved and supported, and all alone.
    1. Advice:  When you feel more quiet, pay attention to the ongoing negative thoughts and beliefs that make you feel that you are not enough of or have enough of something –loved enough, smart enough, good enough or have enough money, support, friends, etc.
  6. I began to repeat my positive verbal command over and over again—even though I didn’t believe in it—“I trust that I am loved and supported enough.”
    1. Advice:  Repeat a positive verbal command to reset the thinking and unconscious beliefs in your unconscious mind, even if you consciously do not believe the words are true.

I thnk all or the majority of us, in todays high-tech age, have some sort of addiction to the computer or phones, that keep us constantly connected to something or someone.  The problem is that this virutal connection has managed to replace the real connections we need to live a happy, fulfilled and loving life with.  The connections that help our hearts and minds feel truly alive cannot be found on a computer or iphone.  These connections involve actual experiences—real people, real trees, real food, real sensations of touch, smell, taste, sound and sight.

So my last words of advice are these:  Take some time away from cyberspace and connect.  Appreciate.  See life and yourself as small miracles and allow yourself to experience awe.  You will feel more alive and you will be reminded that indeed, you are not alone. 

After a while, the computer can become something you do and work on, not something you need.

What To Do When The Body Screams: Help! I Am In Stress!

 

You either feel good, or you don’t. Life is either moving smoothly, or it isn’t. You either have what you need, or you don’t. You either think you are enough or have enough, or you don’t
            When you don’t, you are in stress.
            When you are in stress, your body will let you know by causing you some kind of discomfort—physical, emotional, mental or psychological. 
This is how your body speaks to you. Experiencing hunger? The body is letting you know it needs food. Feeling tired? The body is letting you know it needs rest. Feeling frustrated? The body is telling you to reassess your situation because you are not getting your needs met and perhaps you may need to turn elsewhere.
The body first communicates subtly, in whispers – a pang in the neck, a tingle in the stomach, feeling run down or out-of-sorts. It speaks to you through emotional symptoms—like overwhelming sadness or experiences of annoyance. It communicates through your own thoughts, be they judgmental notions toward yourself or worries regarding your future. 
Through discomfort of one kind or another—physical, mental, emotional or psychological—the body lets you know that there is an underlying problem it would like you to address. It has to do it this way, otherwise you would not know that it was time to eat, sleep, or change positions. For instance, if you sat in the same position for 10 hours and your body did not register some sort of discomfort consciously for you, you would not move and your muscles would atrophy,
Now imagine that your body did register discomfort, but you could not move because you were trapped. The mild discomfort would become outright pain. Your mild irritation might turn into outright panic. Your body is no longer whispering and you are now screaming! Help!!
This is what happens with stress accumulates and is not taken care of: The stress response which uses every system of your body goes into over-drive so that your body WILL break down.
Your goal is therefore to find as many ways as possible which release endorphins, other hormones and neurotransmitters like oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin, which can turn this stress response off.
 
Here are 8 things you can do:
  1. Exercise: Releases endorphins, other hormones and neurotransmitters, like serotonin. Find an activity that you will do—the more fun, the more likely you will do it. Find a buddy!
  2. Nutrition: Avoid too much of foods that increase inflammation in the body like processed foods, simple sugars, trans-fats and baked good made with white flour for example (small amounts are okay). Instead, choose foods that lower inflammation like dark leafy greens, whole grains, omega-3 rich oils, turmeric, and proteins that are not too fatty.
  3. Meditate: Research is very strong on how effective any type of meditation practice is on turning off the stress response. Choose from a variety of methods including, tai chi, yoga, transcendental meditation, vipassina, mindfulness, visual imagery, listening to meditative music, etc. You can pick up a CD and just let it guide you into relaxation.
  4. Sleep: If you are getting adequate sleep, you will feel rested upon awakening. On average, you need around 8 hours asleep, which may very from individual to individual. It also doesn’t have to be all at once. So take a nap if you are tired.
  5. Laugh: Studies show that a simple smile with send messages to your brain to involve neurons and other brain centers to help you reduce activity of the stress response. Laughter is even better as a good belly laugh will help you use up calories too!
  6. Support: Humans are social animals. Connecting to others and having their support has been found to help many medical conditions and help people live longer, as well as turn off the stress response. Turn to your community—be it the folks in your religious or spiritual group, or social club (book, golf, sewing, etc.)
  7. Love: The research is getting stronger, showing that love in its many forms—romantic, platonic, maternal, spiritual, and altruistic—is good for you. In the state of love, oxytocin, morphine-like products, dopamine and the like are released in higher amounts into your brain and body, turning off the stress response and helping you feel better. So go hug and get hugged or perform a random act of kindness. In this way, not only will you feel better, but you will help someone else feel better too.
  8. Engage: Engage in an activity you love. When you are engaged and happy, your mind is no longer experiencing fear and stress, but rather enjoyment and flow. Take a class in something you have always wanted to learn just for fun or simply make the time, even if it is only 10 minutes a day, to do something creative that you enjoy.
 

Why Diets Don’t Work and Love Does

This is the deal. Food is good for you. Food has been demonized to a point where you cannot look at something without wondering if you will gain weight and without asking yourself whether you ‘should’ or you ‘shouldn’t.”

The problem is that every time you deny yourself of something, the brain will start going into scarcity mode, or that you will not be or have enough resources in the future to live. This is as opposed to sufficiency mode, where your brain assumes you will be okay in the future—you will be enough and have enough.

In scarcity mode, your fear response is triggered. This means adrenalin, cortisol and other chemicals and substances fly through your mind and body, signaling that you are in stress. The result is negative physiological changes that eat up your serotonin and dopamine, so that now you are craving comfort and stress relief.

Now, if you were aware of this, and maintained healthy behaviors, you could choose from a variety of methods to increase your serotonin and dopamine levels. These include exercise, meditation, adequate sleep, connecting with those you love and who can support you, connecting to nature or your spiritual beliefs, laughing as loud as you can, or simply appreciating rather than finding fault or negativity with all that is around you (especially yourself).

But, since you live in a world where you…

  • Drive or sit at your desk
  • Have no time to take a break let alone meditate
  • Work rather than sleep
  • Are socially isolated because everyone is in the same boat
  • Rarely experience nature
  • Are caught up in the stress and fears of your life that you feel victimized
  • Have forgotten how to appreciate or connect with a God or spirit that you feel isn’t helping you
  • So you rarely laugh

 Geez…I am getting depressed just writing about it!

So, you turn to guess what? Yes, comfort food. Those carbs and fats help you feel better because serotonin is temporarily released. The key word here is “temporarily,” because these same foods also turn on the stress or fear response. Of course, the shame or guilt you feel by eating these foods doubles the negative effect. So you eat more. As this cycle continues, the normal mechanisms that signal you to stop eating because you are full, no longer work. 

The more you can’t stick to your diet, the worse you feel about yourself. All those self care behaviors go right out the window. The more you dislike yourself, the more you turn to the self destructive behaviors. And the cycle goes on. 

If at your core, you do not truly love yourself, self-destructive behaviors will always take over.

So recognize that you are in a stressful world and that you are in need of stress reduction and comfort. Do the following:

  • Get 8 hours of sleep (you will know that you have had enough sleep if you feel rested upon awakening). Lack of sleep leads to a voracious appetite!
  • Ask yourself: “If I loved myself, would I eat this food?”
  • Take time to exercise, especially outdoors and connect with nature.
  • Practicing honoring every part of your body—look in the mirror and say, “I love you face. I love you arms. I love you hair. Etc.”
  • When in need, call on a friend for support.
  • Laugh as often as possible.
  • Find a meditation practice that works for you—start with 10 minutes a day. Audio CD’s are a great way to go!
  • Practice mindful eating—simply appreciate the smells, the colors, the tastes. Chew slowly and with gratitude.
  • Say to yourself, “I am a miracle and as such, I will treat my body with honor and love.”


Once you do this, your unconscious beliefs can begin to be reprogrammed, and the behaviors will change accordingly.

 

 

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