Courage is easing into resilience. Forgiveness can be letting go of the need to be right.
You have the power to transcend past pain and present suffering. Awareness of your personal power is in being in control of your thoughts, feelings and actions.
It comes after enough of the past pain, and grief have been holistically processed, and healed.
Training the mind to go within is a meditation discipline that has longterm benefits: accessing “the meditative spot” in the brain that reduces stress/reactivity/anger for example helps promote optimal good mental health.
When I hold anger in my mind, my unconscious does not know for whom that feeling is meant—it only knows that it is a container for resentment. To forgive is to let go and to release my own mind from being caught in.
What you eat, how much chemical and toxic exposure you’ve had, what stresses you tolerate, what you believe, how you are supported, and how you move are all critical to ensuring a long and healthy life.
Holistic Therapy: Psychological and physiological states are critical to how I approach challenges in the immediacy of daily life.
It is a privilege to witness clients transcend pain, and suffering, emerge from a therapeutic process happier and hopeful.
I am an Addiction Counsellor, Clinical Hypnotherapist @ Harley Street Hypnotherapy (CHP/NC) my approach is a continuum of compassionate self-care.
My approach is compassionates. Client’s can trust in the unfolding process: how to safely and effectively transcend pain and suffering triggered by emotional trauma, anxiety, depression, stress, and addictive disorders.
Prevention and interventions interfaced with mindfulness hypno-psychotherapy for healing, motivation and transformation changes lives, is personally empowering and productive.
45 years ago when I learned about meditation there was no other alternative way of managing stress other than medication. Today, there is SENSATE.
I recommend the use of Sensate: https://www.getsensate.com perfectly designed to reduce adrenalised stress. Suitable for people who have been told “it’s all in your mind” and struggle with switching off negative thinking.
Fight Or Flight
A fear of flying creates something of a problem when your job requires frequent international travel. Here, Vogue jewellery editor Carol Woolton attempts to overcome her misgivings once and for all.
By Carol Woolton
Photo: Helmut Newton
Is it my paranoia or have there been more plane crashes than usual recently? For someone terrified of turbulence this was playing on my mind as I planned my flight to the Basel watch and jewellery fair this week. You see, I’ve had some scary flights to Basel over the years.
Once a pilot threatened that we were flying straight into the “eye of a storm”, another time a stewardess shouted over the tannoy system: “Sit down, this is a very dangerous flight” and with a thumping heart I imagined the entire British jewellery industry plummeting into the snow-capped Alps where we’d freeze to death before anyone could find us.
Mindful that I could be in for another nerve-racking flight I investigated a new stress-busting tool, which works in tandem with your smartphone.
The smooth pebble shaped device called Sensate vibrates on the vagus nerve lying underneath your breast bone, which holds the key to keeping calm as it wends its way from the brain to the gut, controlling the rapid breath, increased heart rate and blood pressure of flight or flight responses.
The weather report at 5am was promising gale force winds over Western waters – I’ve no idea where those are exactly but I wasn’t taking any chances and grabbed the Sensate before heading to Heathrow.
We all know fear of flying is unscientific and illogical, but the conscious mind doesn’t communicate this to the body to prevent it releasing stress hormones. On a flight to New York recently I eavesdropped as the pilot, who’d emerged from the cockpit, was reassuring the terrified woman seated behind me taking her first flight over 30 years. It was going to be choppy for the next couple of hours.
“Don’t be frightened it’s just the weather,” his calm voice said, “think of it as a boat bobbing up and down on the water in the wind”. I stopped listening; he’d pinpointed the reason for my nervousness. There are thousands of boats littering the seabed due to adverse weather conditions.
On board the Basel flight I take my aisle seat, having paid extra to move in case I needed a quick getaway, and they start the safety video, which the comedian Ricky Gervais described as “a bit of a downer” during his recent Humanity tour.
“If you do go into the side of a mountain at 500 miles an hour,” he quipped, “the brace position does f*** all.”
I plug the Sensate into my phone, and the low-frequency sound waves begin to pulse gently through my chest, with the Forest music that I’d chosen from the app to channel through my earphones, and soon the combination distracts my mind.
When the vagus nerve is activated apparently it puts the brakes on the stress response and I do begin to notice that I am feeling calmer than usual. When the seat belts sign pings on, the plane shakes and rattles, and my exit is blocked by the drinks trolley (always a panicky moment), so I turn up the volume of the music and the vibration intensity on my phone.
This small decision makes me imagine that I have some control over my anxiety and immediately I start to relax again.
“Our cross cultural instinct level is so intense,” explains integrated healthcare physician Stefan Chmelik, whose company Bioself Technology have developed Sensate, “But it’s primitive, like that of a 500 million-year-old lizard which goes into flight, fright or freeze mode.
The problem is that the brain stem is powerful, but not smart, and can’t differentiate between real and imagined threats.” Which means the same life or death response is applied for anything – even too many e-mails in your inbox is classed as a physical danger.
I arrive in Basel with a clearer mind and feeling more at ease than I have before, grateful that I didn’t succumb to gin and tonics like the nervous couple sitting in front of me as I glance in my diary at the daunting schedule of back-to-back meetings. My vagal toning may not be over quite yet.
According to Peter A. Levine, trauma expert in the field of psychotherapy, trauma occurs when this biological process is overwhelmed and a person is unable to release and process the stressful event. It is possible to avoid a traumatic response by discharging the energy generated.
The Nine-Step Method for Transforming Trauma
The first thing is to create a sense of relative safety. You have to help the person feel just safe enough to begin to go into their bodies.
Then, from that sense of relative safety created by the therapist and the environment, we help the person to support initial exploration and acceptance of sensations. And we do it, again, only a little bit at a time, so they “touch into their sensations” then come back into the room, into themselves.
“From that sense of relative safety created by the therapist and the environment, we help the person to support initial exploration and acceptance of sensations.”
The third step is a process I call “pendulation.” That’s a word I made up – what it means is that when people first begin to experience their body sensations, they actually feel worse for a moment. It is probably largely because they have avoided their sensations. So when they feel them, they feel worse.
This is like a contraction. But what I have discovered is when you help support people, they discover that with every contraction there is an expansion.
So if they learn to stay with these sensations just momentarily long enough, it will contract but then it will expand. And the rhythm between contraction and expansion, that gives people the sense of, “Oh my God, I’m going to be able to master this!” you know?
“Pendulation is the rhythm between contraction and expansion . . . titration is about carefully touching into the smallest drop of survival-based arousal.”
So, again, when they get the sense or rhythm of contraction/expansion, it needn’t then become threatening. It just becomes, “Oh, okay, I’m contracting, and now I’m expanding.”
The fourth step, which is really the first, and the second, and the third, and the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth, is what I call “titration.” And by titrating, by just dosing one small amount of experience at a time, this creates an increase in stability, resilience, and reorganization of the nervous system. So titration is about carefully touching into the smallest drop of survival-based arousal.
Dr. Buczynski: So sort of like a homeopathic approach to trauma? A homeopathic dose level of approaching body experiences?
Dr. Levine: Yes! Yes, that’s it! Yes, that is a really good analogy – and it may be more than just an analogy. You know, we have a number of homeopaths, particularly in the European and South American trainings – and, you know, they get it, they really get it; you know, the idea of the smallest amount of stimulus that get the body engaged in its own self-defense mechanisms.
Then the fifth step is to provide corrective experiences by helping them have active experience that supplants or contradicts the passive response of collapse and helplessness. So as they recover active responses, they can feel empowered – they develop active defensive responses.
“As they recover active responses, they can feel empowered – they develop active defensive responses.”
When animals are in the immobility response, when they are in the shut-down state, it’s normally time-limited.
I was out on the beach the other day and some of the kids on the beach do this for fun – they will take one of the pigeons and hold it. They will come up very quietly behind the pigeon, hold around its wings so it can’t move, and then turn it over and it goes into this complete immobility response. It doesn’t move. It looks like it is dead – it is so-called “playing possum.”
But then, if they [the kids] leave it for a moment upside-down there on the sand, after a few seconds, it pops out of this immobility state and flies off as though nothing had happened.
But if you frighten the animal when it is coming up or if you frighten it when it is coming in, it stays in that immobility a longer amount of time, a much longer amount of time – particularly if you re-frighten it.
So the thing is that we frighten ourselves. Normally the exiting out of immobility is time-limited. You go in and you go out. When people are coming out of immobility, if they are frightened of those sensations, fear then puts them back into immobility.
So I call it “fear-potentiated immobility.”
In this step, we uncouple the fear from the immobility and the person comes out of the immobility, back into life. And, again, when they come out there is usually a lot of activation, a lot of arousal. When the person comes out, we have to be prepared to help them contain that sensation of arousal and then move through that, back into homeostasis, balance and social engagement. So that is the sixth step.
“We uncouple the fear from the immobility and the person comes out of the immobility, back into life.”
And the seventh step is to help them discharge and regulate the high arousal states, and redistribute the mass of the vital energy mobilized for life-preserving action, while freeing that energy to support higher-level brain functions.
Step eight is engaging self-regulation to restore dynamic equilibrium and relaxed alertness. I like that word better than “homeostasis” because homeostasis implies a static state, and this dynamic equilibrium is always shifting. So we go into a high level of arousal, but dynamically we turn to a balanced equilibrium.
And then the ninth step is to help the person reorient in the here and now – help them to make contact with the environment, the room, wherever they are – the emergency room if it is the emergency room, the recovery room if it is the recovery room. We help them to reestablish the capacity for social engagement.
Now that Peter has walked us through how to reset the nervous system following trauma, we’d like to hear from you.
What are some ways you can use these 9 steps in your work with patients?
For example, shaking, crying, and screaming can allow the individual to physically process the stress.
However, if the stress response is not processed, it remains in the tissues of the body. When a subsequent stressful event that does not pose a serious threat occurs, the traumatic memory is recalled. A large amount of stress hormones are released.
Blood rushes to extremities, pupils dilate, muscle tone increases presenting as tension, breathing rate increases, the heartbeats faster, and sweating occurs. Hence, the nervous system responds as if this small incident is life threatening.
This biological response is clearly beyond the ability to rationally control. You can’t think your way out of it. Chronic stress leads to dissociation or immobility, a state of sympathetic charge and hormonal release, which is health damaging.
The brainstem (the primitive part of the brain) governs emotional experience and biological response. When the brainstem is activated by the fight or flight response, it trumps the more developed front of the brain, the prefrontal cortex. It is therefore not possible to be in the primitive state of fight or flight and also to think rationally and critically (as the prefrontal cortex would have us do).
Levine elaborates, “the question is: how can humans become unstuck from immobility? Moving out of this frozen state can be a fiercely energetic experience. Without a rational brain animals don’t give it a second thought, they just do it.
When humans begin to move out of the immobility response, however, we are often frightened by the intensity of our own energy and latent aggression, and we brace ourselves against the power of the sensations. This bracing prevents complete discharge of energy necessary to restore normal functioning.”
Unprocessed stress becomes traumatic memory that lies dormant in the body. A present day trigger can cause the stored memory to resurface. Understanding what is happening inside our body and brain, gives us compassion. Learning why our body responds the way it does, leads to awareness and empowerment.
It moves us out of being isolated, fearful, victims. By caring for our bodies and understanding their self-protective responses, we can release shame. When we comprehend the physiologic process that is trying to keep us safe, from an old memory or trauma, we can replace inner judgement with kindness. Self-love becomes possible. It may not be serving us in the present but in the past it did. In fact, this same response helped us survive.
The work is then to re-train the body. This can be done by invoking practices such as felt sense oriented meditation, deep breathing, vocal toning wearable device (see below). Or simply receiving a hug from a loved one, which releases oxytocin, a natural hormone produced by the pituitary gland that promotes bonding and connection.
These are tools to deactivate the sympathetic response and activate the opposing parasympathetic response, called the rest and digest mechanism. The goal is self-regulate breathing, slow the heartbeat, and circulate blood back to the vital organs.
Why a plastic pebble will be 2018’s biggest stress buster: One healthcare physician, Stefan Chmelik, Sensate CEO,founder and creator of the device believes daily ‘Vagal toning’ could make a dramatic difference.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5119235/plastic-pebble-2018s-biggest-stress-buster
Before my own visit to rehab in 1988, I had worked as a model, columnist, magazine editor, video and film producer in Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo, New York, LA, London and Paris.
I spent the first two years of my personal addiction recovery in weekly 1-1 and group therapy, monthly immersive retreats, volunteering at the Manhattan Centre for Living, founded by Louise Hay and Marianne Williamson.
When it was time to go deeper into my meditation I travelled to sacred sites across India, Egypt, Italy, Turkey, and Scotland, spending time in silent meditation, and met remarkable enlightened , happy people, who know how to live this life divine.
My training in psychology, mythology and philosophy continues today motivated by curiosity in how best to be balanced, healthy and happy.
All change begins within: If you want to reduce stress, anxiety and depression then think about learning how to meditate.
Meditation is my happy/peace of mind preferred state of mind.
My tribe: people who inspire me to thrive are likened souls primary purpose is to end the silence and stigma of addiction and mental health issues.
We are not silent. We are not alone. We are courageous, compassionate human beings.
Self -discovery sounds so much inviting than self-seeking, being of service is about connection, communication and collaboration: being available, present, and purposefully in the moment.
My lived experience with addiction awareness is an amalgam of a continuing compassionate inquiry into understanding how our greatest challenges transform us by becoming valuable sources of wisdom and expressed compassion for the benefit of others.
I welcome challenges with grace, compassion and love. I take clients through the archetypal journey of the soul: from abandonment – the orphan archetype, hero, awakening warrior and altruistic energy: the gift of self awareness.
I incarnated with an unstoppable curiosity about life, who am I, what is my purpose and how do I live by truth as my navigator.
It was not easy being me.
Hence my Mother’s doctor prescribed valium for me at 17 – he said “to take the edge of going aorund corners!”
Instead of popping pills/valium, that comes later in my narrative, I found an astrologer to ground me, he was very wise, and I felt calmer knowing what the planets had in alignment for me…
While I became more and more dependent upon alcohol, and drugs to mask chronic insecurity, and have sufficient albeit fake confidence to socially engage, study, and cope with peer pressure.
I began thinking about meditating after a Ravi Shankar concert, when something prompted me to ask what inspired him to perform with the sitar with such devotional love?
Ravi Shankar smiled the most beautiful of smiles and suggested I make it a lifelong task to learn how to find peacewithin, still my mind and be happy.
I was not alone in experiencing pure joy when listening to his performance…my heart was on fire, and I longed to feel less anxious, and insecure.
I intuitively knew as child, there was a God, Buddha, higher power, spirit, a life force greater than mine, and was forever asking my mother if I could change religions, primarily because of the elaborate adornment, celebration, symbolism and ritual of world religions.
I am one fortunate soul whose life has been blessed by meeting with remarkable people, who inspire me, mentor and support me when I doubt myself, I pass this generosly onto to people I care about: my family, friends and peers – loving kindness, generosity of spirit and compassion.
What a privilege to have been “in the room” meditating with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Ama, Dadi Janki, Meher Baba’s mandali, -Eruch, Katie, Bal Natu and countless other mystic without monasteries.
In a conversation about meditation, including lineage integrity of my then meditation teacher Lama Yeshe, always told me to never stop learning and training in how to live this life divine.
I find myself now leaning into the conversations around Transcendental Meditation, which is profoundly simple – many people avoid meditation because of how it makes them feel.
Without realising that this is their negative critic setting them up to fail by thinking they are “not getting/doing it right” ergo maintaining the loop of negativity.
Meditation is a powerful tool that micro-manages stress and prevents it from taking a toll on wellbeing and overall feelings of happiness.
Issues such as depression, anxiety, stress, bad moods – all significantly decrease when a person meditates. Positive, constructive thinking, emotional coping and resilience increase in potency, permission and protection.
You can begin by making the time to slow down throughout the day, consciously pausing,breathing, opening up your diaphragm, stretching your spine into full height and bring your mind back to the present moment.
When I began to use my meditation practice to transcend existential angst, pain and suffering my life began to slowly transform. I was less anxious, less depressed and experienced being happy most of the time.
Born in Britain, raised in Sydney, I loved the freedom of creative expression in my 20’s and 30’s as a magazine editor, stylist, art director and film producer.
That I survived the 80’s in NYC where I lived for 11 years is a continuum of micro- miracles: supportive mentors, a banker boyfriend and fabulous friends.
Chances are, you or someone you know has been affected by addiction.
My backstory is v. similar to many recovering addicts, feelings of isolation, disconnection and alienation from self, family, peers and community became the norm..
…existential angst compounded by emotional trauma, and shame eventually took me to edge…
That no-one who loved me gave up on me, is something I remain truly grateful for…particularly my family, (ex) partner and friends whose courage in organising an intervention that saved my life and sanity.
Albeit briefly. I relapsed into using with a vengence when I left rehab.
Six months later, suicidal, hopeless and helpless I broke the treaty of denial and sought help.
The daily grind of isolation, anxiety, and depression became overwhelming. Without help I would not have been able to recover.
I remain humbled by gratitude, I have not needed or wanted to relapse since October 12th, 1988.
My insight mindfulness meditation practice has sustained me in times of grief and loss, the death of both my parents, close friends and countless disappointments…because whatever happens, suffering passes when I let go…
I was inspired to be of service in my community so I volunteered at the Manhattan Centre for Living -founded by Louise Hay and Marianne Williamson – a fabulous open plan downtown loft where people who were living but dying from AIDS could have lunch, or a holistic therapy treatment, and most of just be with their tribe.
I learned a million and one lessons from the people I befriended about living in the moment, gratitude, grace, conscious connections and love.
I am a great believer that you can heal your soul by transcending existential angst, conditioned thinking, learned behaviours, and maladaptive coping mechanisms.
Dark nights of the Soul were intense times in which I was able to go as deep as possible into my unresolved psycho-dramas – very solitary times of great self reflection upon how to accept what is happening and then move on.
Pain is an indicator that something is out of sync but needing to pretend to myself and others that everything is fine, and I am happy with circumstances..
when underneath this facade was a hollow shell of person…pretending to be perfect by overcompensating- everything.
In 1991 I returned to live permanetly in London to train for the next 10 years in addiction counselling, Reiki, EFT and hypno-psychotherapy.
I have worked as clinician, out-patient programme director for UK’s leading treament centres.
I continue to raise awareness and inspire changes in policy, therapeutic protocols and continuing care within the global addiction recovery communities.
Stress is the #1 cause of anxiety, depression and addiction, relationship/intimacy issues, and under performing at work.
Within the 21st century philosophy of wellbeing -to inspire, empower and raise personal awareness – is the ancient practice of stilling the mind as the focal point in developing a deeper understanding of the relationship among the emotional, cognitive, social and biological forces that shape human development.
On a scientific level, meditation and mindfulness literally change the brain. Almost likened to working out a muscle at the gym, which stretches and increases in size and functionality.
Studies have shown that after meditating twiice a day – upon awakening and easing into the evening, preparing the mindand body connection to access inner stillness.
Researchers found an increase in participants’ grey matter in the prefrontal cortex of their brain, as well as the posterior cingulate, left hippocampus, temporo parietal junction and part of the brain stem called the pons.
These areas all regulate learning, cognition, memory, empathy and emotional regulation as well as self relevance.
The part of the brain associated with the fight or flight response, stress and overall fear, the amygdala, actually got smaller, decreasing stress and anxiety.
Starting with developmental attachment and trauma and expanding into developmental trauma has elucidated how certain experiences can hardwire psychological expectations and biological selectivity.
Addictive behaviours – progression from being a problem drinker to an alcohol dependent can be traced back to genetic predispositions.
When addressing the problems of trauma and treating the addictive personality there is a need for insight and understanding of therapeutic methods that do not depend exclusively on drugs or cognition.
Trauma that is not healed remains in the body and creates blockages which impact the sustainability of lifelong recovery from addiction.
Human connection brings complex values to our lives: relationships give us a sense of belonging in the group, a sense of identity in contrast to others in that group, an almost therapeutic-support system, and reason not to feel lonely.
We learn from others’ experiences and insight, and we learn together by pursuing new experiences alongside those we befriend.
And on a very basic level, holistic therapies involves this principle as well. It’s the interactive exchange that makes all the difference.
How to heal the soul was a question I took to my first ever meditation retreat 30 years ago – I was on a quest to heal from pain, angst and suffering that kept me awake at night and anxious upon awakening .
I knew of the benefits of living well, eating organic, yoga and daily meditation but I had yet to surrender from the stronghold of vodka, valium, cocaine and nicotine.
The answer to the question is complex. Engaging in a therapeutic process began a lifelong journey into “healing my soul” unpacking years of emotional trauma.
The path into addiction is predictable & sequential, and unconscious. The path out of addiction is conscious connections, the end of isolation and the beginning of being in community with likeminded souls. predictable & sequential but very conscious.
- Addiction is unconsciously moving away from human connection towards isolation.
- Personal Recovery is consciously moving away from isolation towards human connection.
- The opposite of addiction is connection.
Technique, expertise, and knowledge are wonderful tools for self discovery, and transformative healing – the key is in trusting a lengthy therapeutic process. Rewiring the brain:
Psychotherapy is an opportunity for the less well developed prefrontal cortex (PFC) to gain conversational skills: autonomy, boundaries and authenticity.
Neutralising stress caused by sleep deprivation, self medicating, fast-food versus healthy nutrition results in feeling depressed, anxious, not motivated, and isolated.
Healthier ways of connecting with others is to hit pause, don’t judge, be critical, envious of others or feel like you are missing are behaviours that lack self love, empathy or compassion. If your self care tool-kit is empty – it is time to change your negative ways of coping with love and life.
My addiction counselling/voluntary work has included living for a while, in rural Meherabad, Pune and Delhi to facilitate a continuum of compassionate self-care in recovery/wellbeing programmes for indiviuals and their families.
In my addiction madness I pitched an idea for a book about striving and surviving in NYC – even though I struggled to sit still long enough to write more than a few pages at a time because of low self esteem, unbearable self doubt and free-floating anxiety and fear .
..my shadow/saboteur won and I lost the publishing deal…but I kept the lesson of discipline – which is if that if you want to write, then you write, everyday.
I began writing everyday as part of the “Artist Way” daily commitment to creative expression.
I put this into practice in my 12th year of recovery I co-write the “Babes Bible”
A lighthearted look at meeting, dating and mating male archetypes – Quadrille, 2000.
Of course writing a book with another person is akin to being married without a honeymoon, creative differences and loads of conflicting creative expressions..
I was thrust into a turbulent time of self expression that we both emerged deeply enriched from …
I am committed to ending the stigma, silence and shame attached to accessing therapy for mental and addiction health care issues.
My personal recovery is a continuum of abstinence based strategies, 100% supported by 12step programmes, holistic therapies, and the potency, passion and empowerment of a daily meditation practice.
My commitment to recovery manifests in raising awareness, inspiring change, transforming the way people view and understand addiction through my work as a therapist, combined with the methodologies of holistic compassionate therapies and cutting-edge neuro-bio-science.
My recovery tribe is global. We are anonymous. We are sober. We subscribe to abstinence based strategies that work if you work them. If you do anything today that is about changing how you live your life – approach this with love as the anchor and you will sail into the winds of change with courage.
Here are some of my favorite affirmations for releasing fears. Give them a try:
I am willing to release my fears.
I live and move in a safe and secure world.
I free myself from all destructive fears and doubts.
I accept myself and create peace in my mind and heart.
I rise above thoughts that attempt to make me angry or afraid. I release the past with ease and trust the process of life.
I am willing to release the need for this protection.
I am now willing to see only my magnificence.
I have the power to make changes.
I am always divinely protected.
Life in longterm recovery from addiction is enriched by a conscious connection to the realm of the senses, life at its best is being anchored in the present moment. I
adore the spiritual elegance of healing sounds to soothe my soul all the while stimulating the vagal nerve, throat chakra, solar, heart, root and crown plexus.
You can boost your serotonin, dopamine, and endorphin release with binaural beats and isochronic tones to give a relaxing stress reliever which you can bring into your morning and evening meditation practice.
I recommend listening with headphones, when you are in safe and comfortable position. Healing sounds will evolve as your healing journey continues…
The Healing Power of Silent Meditation:
I have never questioned a lifelong belief in a higher self, be it God, Buddha or Baba. And have meditated with His Holiness the Hon Dalai Lama, Dadi Janki, Amma, Meher Baba’s mandali – mystics without monasteries and do my best to remember their collective teachings to help me transform from reactive dismissive behaviour to being receptive open minded and compassionate.
My introduction into the potency of healing sounds occurred via a chance conversation with Ravi Shankar – backstage after a concert, in the late 60’s when I was a young teen-age girl with a love of music, fashion, food, art, beauty, surfing and surfers. Listening to Ravi Shankar music altered my state of consciousness. I experienced feeling energetically uplifted, happy, vibrantly alive.
I asked Ravi Shankar how his musicians knew how to harmonise – he smiled and said “we tune-in to one another by a learned sense of knowing…” he went to to suggest I read the Bhagavad Gita, and one day, travel to India. I have done both many times and probably will continue to… until it’s my time to leave this life divine.
My initiation in learning how to deepen my meditation practice 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. A magical time of learning unfolded in my early years of personal recovery from active addiction. The veils were lifting one by one. Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.
Life is beautiful when we choose health and happiness. Self-awareness is an evolving process, a blend of psychology, mythology, eastern & western philosophy and meditation disciplines, and practices.
What is self-awareness?
Self-awareness is fundamental to holistic therapy disciplines, each of which uses slightly different definitions. Within the framework of trauma informed therapy, self-awareness is defined as self compassion. Self-awareness is consciously living consciously.
Neurologically, self-awareness is one’s ability to recognize what’s happening physiologically within oneself. At the most nuanced levels, self-awareness is the capacity to be self-regulating, congruent, authentic and autonomous.
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.
The mind-state I cultivate in the immediacy of daily life is one of compassionate inquiry, comfortable with uncertainty, continuously returning to the present.
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:
Co-occurring addictive 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 difference in outcomes 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.
“The mind records, the heart remembers” is an ancient Sufi saying. Virtually everything that happens has nothing to do with your conscious intent.
“Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going on inside ourselves.”
Bessel van der Kolk MD has spent his career studying how children and adults adapt to traumatic experiences, and has translated emerging findings from neuroscience and attachment research to develop and study a range of potentially effective treatments for traumatic stress in children and adults.
The single most important step in your wellbeing journey is to learn to dis-identify from conditioned thinking, addicted to “being right” driven by intensity seeking gratification. Constantly over- thinking (everything) is reactive, behaviours and actions.
The over-thinking mind without an “off switch” causes sleep deprivation, poor nutrition and stress, by constantly making commentary on every little detail of our experience, robbing us of a still and receptive state of being that experiences life with an open curiosity that makes the world a living reality that is miraculous and magnificent.
When we are identified with our thinking mind, our experience of life is constricted and limited to an opaque screen of words, images, concepts and labels – second-hand representations of life that might as well be a movie on a screen.
When you create even a momentary gap in the incessant thinking and chatter taking place in your mind, the light of your consciousness grows stronger.
The world around you becomes more vibrant and real. Your experience of life is direct and alive, you are present in your experience, and thus you are able to touch life directly. This is called direct experience. Experience without the cynicism, judgement and disregard.
Stress is experienced on a molecular/cellular level. Carried through the generations by our DNA, inherited emotional trauma -related stress has the potency to influence, impact and determine how babies will cope with eternal stressors.
Stress is symbiotic with surviving. Treating it only on the level of the mind is merely treating it on the level of symptom.People are stressed because the planet is stressed.
Everything is connected. We are isolated from each other. We have lost faith in ourselves, our families and friends.
Until we address this, we will continue to spiral into anxiety, depression and addiction.
If I am to trust the universe has my back – I must have faith in the process if I am to respond to suffering, live life to the fullest, all the while remaining open to the full spectrum of our human experience.
Trust In Self
If we don’t trust ourselves, it is impossible to trust others, and when called, take a leap of faith into the unknown.
I respect and value what is a continuing privilege to guide people whose individual suffering as result of addiction within themselves, their loved ones and or friends is overwhelming.
You can heal your life!