Elizabeth Hearn is a leading experienced Mindfulness meditation teacher, psychotherapist and addiction counsellor with 29 plus years of personal and professional experience of the benefits of personal recovery from chaos (addiction) to calm (awareness) and regarded within the global recovery community.
Thriving is the ability to directly experience the truth of our lives with a minimum of agitation, distraction and doubt. Potent simplicity.
Stillness is a breath away whenever a stressful situation arises. The most essential pillar of mindfulness meditation is conscious awareness —equilibrium is stability of mind.
Our essential being/energy no longer is scattered. The mind-state we cultivate is tranquil, relaxed, open. We are comfortable with uncertainty, we can live and let live. In the flow of experience. Engaged in “what is” no longer needing to “fix” the past or “control” the future. We are the sum total of our experiences. Mindfulness is love in action.
Former Magazine Editor (Mode, Australia) Film/Video Producer and Author. Elizabeth’s introduction into insight meditation practice includes an initiation with Lama Yeshe, Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Buddhist Centre, Scotland. She currently practices Vipassana Theravada Meditation.
My initiation in learning how to meditate took place in a Vedanta residential retreat – Upstate New York the winter of 1988. Newly sober, I needed and wanted to learn how de-stress my mind/body connection. How to renew my mind/body/soul connection. Bring balance into all aspects of my essential being.
“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs” Living life in recovery anchored in reality, emotional balance: a continuum of awareness in all aspects of life. Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.
A calm me and or a less-stressed me is howI like to be. A feeling of inner peace helps me ease into the day, outside the peace and quiet of my home is floating anxiety, stress, stimulation saturation, noise and air pollution and I am conscious of a need to be grounded and not get caught up in the madness of urban life’s intensity, and stress.
Life is beautiful when we choose health and happiness. Awareness is an evolving process, a blend of Psychology, Mythology, Eastern & Western Philosophy and Meditation disciplines, tool and techniques.
Surviving to thriving:
Attachment Disorder and Developmental trauma:Many therapists see adult attachment disorder as one of the key symptoms of trauma. In the psycho-educational phase of working with traumatised clients, I describe attachment disorder as the result of growing up with primary caretakers who were regularly experienced as abandoning, inconsistent, and emotionally, and physically abusive.
Developmental Trauma is the continuum of traumatic events, at home, and later at school of childhood abandonment, and abuse. An abused child has no one safe to talk to, be comforted by, nurtured, esteemed and valued. An integral aspect of trauma therapy is in the psycho-educational exploration of healthy family systems.
Trauma can have also been determined to be positively correlated to long-term exposure to extreme poverty emotional, and verbal abuse.Trauma can be grouped into four key components based upon the individual’s response to the traumatic event. The four components include:
- Hyper-arousal. Individuals experience increased heartbeat and breathing, agitation, interruptions in sleeping or eating patterns, tension, etc.
- Constriction. Often when we experience and react to a life-threatening situation, hyper-arousal is likely to occur which is usually accompanied by constriction in our body and distorting our perceptions.
- Dissociation. Dissociation is one of the most common and subtle symptoms of trauma as it allows the sufferer to separate themselves mentally from the painful and traumatic experience.
- Freezing. When fight and flight responses are thwarted, we instinctively move towards a fixed or immobility response as a last ditch effort to avoid further pain or distress.
Following a traumatic experience, we all respond and react in different ways, at different times. After experiencing trauma, people may go through a wide range of normal responses.
Reactions to trauma can extend beyond the person directly experiencing the event to those who have witnessed or heard about the trauma, or been involved with those immediately affected.
Many reactions to trauma can be triggered by memories of the event, persons, places, or things associated with the trauma. However, some reactions to trauma may appear completely unrelated to the traumatic event or experience.
- Body aches and pains
- Extreme feelings of panic or anxiety
- Interruptions in sleeping and eating patterns
- Increased drug or alcohol consumption
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Feelings of nausea
- Chronic fear
- Bursts of anger or rage
- Flashes and or recurrent visual images of the event that feel real
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in activities and life itself
- Minimisation or denial of feelings or significance of event
- Avoidance of people or places that may trigger a memory of the traumatic event
- Emotional numbing
- Suicidal thoughts or ideations
- Cognition issues
Unfortunately, some people will experience a trauma event at some point in their lives, and as a result, some will experience debilitating symptoms that interfere with daily functioning.
Many people who have suffered a traumatic event or suffered from long-term exposure may repeatedly re-experience the ordeal in the form of flashback episodes, memories, nightmares, or frightening thoughts, especially when they are exposed to events or objects that remind them of the trauma.
Untreated trauma can cause psychological distress the sufferer is living in a hyper-aroused state.
People suffering from the latent effects of trauma may have a co-occurring mental health issue such as one or more of the following:
- Anxiety Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
- Substance Abuse
- Co-occurring Disorders
When considering traumatic events and individual responses to those events, it is important to not only recognise the importance of immediate intervention to mitigate symptoms but also help those suffering from trauma develop strategies to manage symptoms, limiting the possibility of symptom re-emergence.
The absence of recovery strategies that restores the tone and strength of the poly vagal –autonomic nervous system, the system takes over when we’re stressed.
Behind the wide range of both physical and mental reactions to stress are a number of hormones that override homeostasis – instead raising anxiety into a combative, reactive stance of self defence.
Many of us are familiar with the fight, freeze, flee response. Stephen Porges’ (1995, 1997, 1998, 2001) ‘Polyvagal theory’ and the impact of trauma, stress, anxiety, addiction and disease. Porges states that ,each branch of the vagus nerve (ventral and dorsal) is linked with a different behavioural and physiological response when there is a threat to one’s survival.
Social Engagement:We are social beings, hardwired to connect: compassionately curious, communicating, and available Biologically driven to respond to distress, using a predictable framework: connection. This is our most natural state of nurturing, comfort and safety.
Accepting conflict, and or challenges to personal permission, potency and protection. “Gut” response. When we perceive we are in danger it is a normal human response to attempt to use our social nervous system and turn to this environment for reassurance, connection and safety.
However if we are unsuccessful, if the other person is unresponsive: our partner, spouse, care giver, peer or friend our newer vagus shuts down.
If in addition to our attempts to defend ourselves through mobilised fight, flight or freeze responses are unsuccessful the dorsal vagus – parasympathetic nervous system initiates immobilised defence responses: dissociation, collapse, passive avoidance.
Porges went back to the evolution of anatomy, and saw that in fact there are two different vagus circuits — a total of three ANS circuits, not just a pair. The two circuits “come from two different areas of the brain stem, and they evolved sequentially,” one far earlier.
“This motivated me to develop the polyvagal theory, which uncovered the anatomy and function of two vagal systems, one potentially lethal, and the other protective,” he says.
“Immobilization, bradycardia, and apnea are components of a very old, reptilian defense system, ” Porges says. “If you look at reptiles, you don’t see much behavior — because immobilization is the primary defense system for reptiles… it’s an ancient vagus nerve.” This pre-historic nerve has no myelin, a nerve coating of protective protein and fat.
Porges found mammals have this unmyelinated vagus, on the dorsal (top) side of the nerve, which immobilizes us, too — “and that immobilization reaction, adaptive for reptiles, is potentially lethal for mammals.”
Porges also saw that among the “firsts” which began with mammals, a new vagus with myelin develops on the ventral underside of the nerve. “So mammals have two vagal circuits,” he found. ” The myelinated circuits provide more rapid and tightly organized responses. The new mammalian vagus is linked to brain stem areas that regulates the muscles of the face and head.
Every intuitive clinician knows that if they look at people’s faces and listen to voices, controlled by muscles of the face and head, they know the physiological state of their client.”
Neuroception: It’s Just Not Cognitive
Porges adds that our more primitive neural circuits operate by “neuroception” — totally involuntarily. “Neuroception is not perception,” he says. “Neuroception does not require an awareness of things going on. It is detection without awareness. It is a neural circuit that evaluates risk in the environment.
When confronted in certain situations, some people experience autonomic responses such as an increase in heart rate and sweating hands. These responses are involuntary. It is not like they want to do this.
The polyvagal theory emphasizes that our nervous system has more than one defense strategy – and whether we use mobilized flight/flight or immobilization shutdown, is not a voluntary decision.
Outside the realm of our conscious awareness, our nervous system is continuously evaluating risk in the environment, making judgments, and prioritizing behaviors that are not cognitive.
And he says, “humans and other mammals, as fight/flight machines, only work if they can move and do things. But if we are confined, if we are placed into isolation, or if we are strapped down, our nervous system reads those cues and functionally wants to immobilize.
The body is constantly changing as it mirrors and exchanges its atoms and molecules with the rest of the universe. Trillion cells in the mind/ body are constantly “talking to each other” as they keep your heart beating, food digesting, toxins eliminating to protect the body from infection and or disease, and carry out the countless other functions that keep you thriving. Neuro-scientific studies show that nothing holds more power over the body than the mind.
Isolation is reinforced by early childhood abandonment. The absence of love, safety and protection by emotionally unavailable parents continues to influences and impact well into adulthood.
Deep suffering can be a catalyst for transformation – an invitation to change our worldview, in particular our projections i.e. critical thinking of ourselves and others. It makes such a when we think about a person through the eyes of compassion, empathy and love.
The inner world is the world of our requirements and our energies, structure and possibilities that connects with the outer world. And the outer world is the field of infinite possibilities.
The seat of the soul is there where the inner and outer worlds meet. The energetic connection that arises as result of seeking ways in which to self-actualise gain momentum when the goal is authentic autonomy.
The amygdala is important in the assignment of emotional significance and learned associations between motivationally relevant and otherwise neutral stimuli; the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) encodes outcome expectancies and, via its strong anatomical connections with the basolateral amygdala (BLA), may facilitate associative learning in the amygdala; and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is implicated in discriminative learning and cognitive control.
Additional structures that are important in this process include the hippocampus, which provides contextual memory relevant to motivational stimuli, and the hypothalamic and septal nuclei, which provide information relevant to primitive motivational behaviours such as sexual drives and nutrient ingestion. As motivated behaviours become increasingly subordinated to the addictive behaviours as addiction progresses, changes in the structure and function of these brain regions contribute to the excessive engagement in behaviours.
There are many chemical messengers in the brain, and of these Dopamine is the one most associated with addiction. All drugs of abuse increase dopamine in the brain systems associated with addiction. Dopamine is the key to reward, acting as a precursor to the actual stimulus provided by the substance itself.
The connection between stress and illness is gaining momentum and attention of the plethora of interventions, protocols, treatments, and therapies, in how to reduce stress, rumination (overthinking) and sleep disorders.
Mindfulness meditation can engage the mind and body connection in order to increase the strength and thickness of the corpus callosum: a thick band of nerve fibres, between the cerebral cortex lobes into left and right hemispheres that connects the left and right sides of the brain hemispheres engendering connection, communication and collaboration between both hemispheres.
The corpus callosum stimulates motor, sensory, and cognitive information is based between the right and left hemisphere of the brain. The Left brain loves the past, and is the executive mind-state (self mastery/emotional intelligence) continuously informing our past in the present. Language, critical thinking, analytical, numerical. The right (now) brain is intuitive and instinctive in the present moment: inspirational, creative,connected-ness, optima problem solving/solution focussed.
Over time meditation increases consciousness. Meditation equates a 90 minute power nap. You become more awake and aware. Consequently are able to hold more things in your awareness because there is less need to be “constantly on” as you are aware that you now switch off, detach and let go.
Meditation will naturally create awareness, how to consciously create a meaningful life experience, inspired and motivated.
Equanimity is experienced whenever we realign the mind and body in the right now, if you are doing too much, over thinking etc…you are not present. And you are running on adrenaline, which is false sense of feeling/being in control.
You can heal your life!