Confessions of an Imperfect Meditator: Or, From Zafu to Snafu!

Meditator

 

I am seated comfortably in a slightly darkened and quiet space – spine easily erect, eyes peacefully closed, perhaps my palms are facing up.  I am using my breath as an anchor for awareness, gently returning there after each pesky wayward thought. Aah… meditation. Aah… mindfulness. I am accepting each moment as it is with no judgment, no attachment, and no aversion. Focusing on the breath. Inhale … Exhale … Aah… I love mindfulness. Time seems to have vanished. I feel relaxed and composed; all is right with the world. I surrender to this peaceful moment, and accept what is. All body tension is released. What a lovely and pleasant practice. Aah … meditation. Aah … mindfulness. Life is good.

 

“Mindfulness is the awareness that arises through

paying attention,

on purpose,

in the present moment,

non-judgmentally,”

                                            Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

Spirituality for the Other Six Days of the Week

And then, there is the real world. What about Mindfulness while Life is happening?  What about mindfulness when you are not sitting on that fancy $80. round pillow (Zafu) and instead, you are sitting in the dentist chair, exposed by that bright light, those sterile sights and sounds, the too cold AC, and the promise of physical pain any minute? And after a loud CRACK! the dentist reluctantly stares down at the floor and stammers the clearly bad news, “I’m so sorry, we broke off your front tooth while trying to remove the temporary crown.” Teeth - Missing Front Tooth


“WHAT!?!?!” The ballistic racing thoughts are propelled in all directions simultaneously. “What do I do now? How much is this going to cost? How did this happen? What do we do now? How am I going to pay for this? You better be planning to pay for this. I can’t afford this. What will I look like without a front tooth? I can’t go out in the world without a front tooth! Thank God I don’t have to stand in front of a classroom tomorrow. Now what!? Shit!” “Uh oh, do people who meditate say shit?”

 

And then, “Oh, yeah, mindfulness. OK, wait, how do I do this mindfully? What am I feeling? What is happening in this present moment? What are my thoughts? Don’t think of your thoughts, just focus on your breath. What am I feeling? I’m feeling scared and angry. Where am I feeling this in my body? “How am I going to pay for this?” Woops…  Accept this situation for what it is. No judgments. Wait. How can a broken off front tooth NOT be a bad thing? No aversion. Seriously? Yes, seriously. OK, I’m in this moment, blessing this moment for what it is. Yeah, right. This moment sucks. Do I get credit for being in this moment even though I am judging it as being a sucky moment?  Clearly, I am not that evolved yet. OK, breathe… “- The dentist says she will pay all the costs for the new implant. She will send me to the best Oral Surgeon in town and pick up the entire tab. “OK, whew…”   

 

Exhale… And then, “What’s an implant? What does that involve? Bone graft!? Three months!? Screw in my gums and then another four months!? And then the final implant after about a total eight-month process!?  What!?!?”

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“OK, back to mindfulness. What am I feeling? Get back in this moment. Focus on the inhale, then focus on the --- hey, wait, I haven’t exhaled at all in the last 10 minutes! Quick, exhale! Oh, and focus on it! This moment sucks. Stop judging this moment. That last moment is already gone, so get back into this one. Well, this one sucks, too. It’s all ok; in the great cosmic scheme of things, this is just another thing, another life experience. Accept what is. No aversion. OK, but now I am averse to being in aversion. I can’t win.”

 

“What about Mindful Self-Compassion?” – “Oh, yeah. OK, What was that four step process that Kristin Neff talks about? Oh, yeah –

                                                                “1) This is a moment of "freaking out".

                                                                 2) "Freaking out" is part of life.

                                                                 3) May I be kind to myself.

                                                                 4) May I give myself the compassion I need.  

 

Whew… breathe… and remember to exhale this time.  And focus on it, damnit!  Uh oh, do people who meditate say damnit?  Oh, geez, back to my $80. round pillow.

 

A Golf Analogy

I wish I could say that this scenario description is an exaggeration. Well, maybe a little. But mostly, I lived this exact situation. I was just pleased that I had the presence of mind to at least try to be mindful in the middle of this mini-crisis. After more experience with meditation, I have no doubt that I won’t have to “try” to be mindful. It will become my default way of being. It already has become part of my daily comings and goings – at least the ones that don’t involve sudden and major hardship!                                          

                                                                                              Golfer Driving Range
 

I think that meditation is to mindfulness as the driving range is to playing a game of golf. On the driving range, I pay attention to every little detail: how I address the ball, my grip, my back swing, my upper body, keeping my left arm straight, my hips leading, contact with the ball, my follow through. Every ball in that bucket is about focused concentration on the micro movements of my golf swing. Then, when I am all done, I can go about the joy and the challenge of simply playing a game of golf. I pay rudimentary attention to my club selection, grip, and stance. But beyond that, I trust that all that focused attention on the driving range will come to the fore (no pun intended) and reveal itself naturally with little conscious effort.

 

I trust that, in time, I will reap the benefits of my meditation practice. I will more naturally and mindfully take things in stride without having to consciously direct my responses. When experienced meditators are asked how they have benefited from their meditation practice, the most common response is this: “I feel like there is a bigger space of time between stimulus and response. I have just that much more opportunity to choose my response instead of just reacting.”

 

In the meantime, my meditation practice will continue with a lighthearted nod to good intentions and generous self-forgiveness for when I don't get it just right. Mindfulness is a quality that I have invited into my life, a daily intention to live my life with awareness - even when what I am aware of is the shock of a missing front tooth!

 

Be sure to join us at the 4th Annual New Mexico Leaders in Mindfulness Conference on Saturday, April 21.

The Conference will be held at the First Unitarian Church in Albuquerque at 3701 Carlisle, NE 87110

9:00 am - 5:00 pm, Registration is only $75.

www.MindfulNewMexico.com

 

 

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Mindful Self-Compassion: A Guided Meditation Script

Rocks with Leaf 2

I Am My Own Beloved

Pause to take several conscious breaths, bringing yourself into this moment. Read the following slowly, quietly, gently, allowing for several pauses to stop and take the words in.

Now find yourself in this moment and gently rest your hand on your heart.

"My beloved, I adore you. Yes, I love you just as you are. Sometimes, you lose your way and forget the Truth of who you are. And that is why we are meeting here today. Yes. Do you think this is a mere chance meeting that we are connecting here today – today at this very moment? I have whispered in your ear and conspired with the Universe that you would make clear the path to arrive here now, at this very moment. Consider the thousands of other choices placed in your path and yet, here you are by divine appointment. You are here to be reminded.

 

You are loved. You are lovable. You are loved. Yes, you. Say it silently with me now. “I am loved. I am lovable. I am loved. I am my own beloved, I am my own beloved. I am my own beloved.”

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Yes, breathe this in . . .  and breathe this out . . .  I love me. The “I” that IS love, loves the “I” that is loved. The “I” that IS love, loves the “I” that is loved. I am love. Where I move, love moves. Where I sit, love sits. Where I walk, love walks. Where I am, there love is, because there I am.

 

Alright, let me speak – briefly – lovingly, to the One Who Forgets. Let me quiet your protestations. You say you don’t deserve, that you are flawed, you act with hate towards others and even yourself. So, therefore, you are not lovable. Well, of course, you act with hate. We all do. We all act with hate when we are fearful. And we are fearful when we forget – when we forget the Truth of who we are. The Truth is we are love and we are connected with all the Universe. So, if you want to stop hating, stop forgetting who you are. It is indeed, that simple. How do you remember the Truth of who you are? Meditate. Pray. Meditate. Pray. Meditate with a smile. Simple.

 

Now, let us remember once more. Yes, breathe this in . . .  and breathe this out . . .  I love me. The “I” that IS love, loves the “I” that is loved. The “I” that IS love, loves the “I” that is loved. I am love. Where I move, love moves. Where I sit, love sits. Where I walk, love walks. Where I am, there love is, because there I am. I am my own beloved.

Yes, breathe this in . . . and breathe this out . . .

Love . . . Love . . . Love . . .

 

This is the Mindful Self-Compassion Guided Meditation script written for the Third Annual New Mexico Leaders in Mindfulness Conference, April 22, 2017 in Albuquerque, NM. Please share freely while giving credit to the author.

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A Woman President is Now Taken for Granted?

Flag 4th of July
A Woman President? Of Course! ...
Not So Fast!

Michele Obama's historic and riveting speech at the Democratic National Convention described her experience as a black woman in the role of First Lady - and First Mother - of the United States. We were enthralled with her eloquence, her fervent honesty and her very personal story about realizing the enormity of what she and her daughters would experience in the coming years. She described the weight of the responsibility to raise her daughters as "normally" as possible. 

 

With Hillary Clinton's nomination, Mrs. Obama went on to celebrate that her daughters could now "take it for granted" that a woman could be President. The fact that young women take this in stride as a given is both a victory and a caution. How wonderful that the women's movement has reached this stage of success that young women - and men - can assume that of course, a woman can hold the highest political office in the land. It is now taken for granted.

 

When I heard this proclamation of success, I nodded my head in agreement while also wanting to scream, "No, don't you dare take this for granted!" I flashed to all the women who came before, who marched, who were imprisoned, were abused and humiliated and pummeled into submission at the audacity of asserting women's rights.

 

I want to educate these young women, these millennials, to share with them the history of pain and sacrifice, and indeed, lives lost in the quest to achieve the right to vote, let alone the possibility of a woman becoming President of the United States. Never, ever take it for granted in a shrug of the shoulders or a roll of the eyes. In fact, stand and lower your gaze in respectful memory of the courageous women who sacrificed so much so that you today have the privilege of taking for granted what they could only dream of.

 

Mary Roush in Rocking Chair

 I find myself now at the age where I can occasionally turn from the knee of my own women elders to speak to the younger women who now - incredulously - sit at my knee seeking the same experience and wisdom. And when they look to me, I often see myself. I was you, once, I want to say. I remember who you are. I see me in you. And now, I have the advantage of my subsequent years that brought me to today. 

 

 I can now speak from some sense of balance. I quipped to a friend recently, "The older I get, the more I want to apologize for who I was when I was younger." And during this time, I long for my mother, to seek her guidance as I try to reconcile this new adolescence I now navigate in my 6th decade. I understand what I mean when I say, yes, take it for granted, and in the same breath, but don't you dare take it for granted. That exhortation only makes sense to someone with the perspective of many years.

 

I am one of the millions of women, Democrats and Republicans both, who last night wept tears of joy and somber gratitude, our chests heaving with the exhales of our exhausted ancestors who fought for - and finally won - our legitimate place in American history. May we never forget.

 

Rainbow

 

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Self-Esteem: What it Is, What it Isn't, and Where to Go to Get Some

Self Concept- Valentine Candy I'm Me
I recently had the pleasure of presenting three workshops at the National Conference on Student Leadership in Washington, DC. The title of one of those talks was The Psychology of Leadership Qualities. As I prepared for this talk, I realized that a good, healthy, solid self-esteem was an essential component to most of the qualities typically associated with successful leadership. I then adapted this talk and presented it during the faculty training week for Southwestern Illinois Community College in Belleville, Illinois.  

For today's post, I am sharing a simple bullet list of some of the major points that I made during those presentations. They aren't in any particular order. I look forward to hearing what you think.

  • Low self-esteem is at the core of the proverbial peeled onion. Regardless of the stated presenting problem of all the clients who ever came through my therapy office door, when you peeled the onion and said, “and what would that mean? and what would that mean?” fears and insecurities related to low self-esteem were the true core issues 99% of the time.

 

  • The fear, self-doubt, insecurities, negative beliefs, need for social approval and fear of conflict that stem from low self-esteem will result in self-sabotage. You will manage to push good people away and delay decision making. You will become risk averse to the point of paralysis and stagnation. It will blunt your imagination, creativity, and therefore, your innovation. The good news is that you won’t have the challenges of managing change in your organization because your paralysis will cause you to fear and avoid making changes.

Challenge Hikers Up Hill Expansive Backdrop

  • You will give away your power.  You will compromise your standards in order to ensure approval from others (this is the very definition of codependency). Weeks and months and years of doing this will stockpile your anger, which, when left unrecognized and un-addressed, will morph into resentment which will turn into bitterness, which will become cynicism. Then you will become the mean old man on the block who yells at the kids and throws rocks at the birds. “Beware the wrath of the patient man.” Eventually, you will become physically ill. Self-esteem. Get some. Now.

 

 Self-Esteem: What it Isn't

Before we go any further, let’s stop and define our terms. What is self-esteem? It is not your self-concept. Self-concept is your concept of yourself, who you believe you are, how you would describe yourself to someone – your values, your attitudes and beliefs, and your personality traits. That’s your self-concept. You wouldn’t have a “high self-concept” or a “low self-concept.” You might have an accurate or inaccurate self-concept. Your self-esteem is how you feel about who you are. Self-esteem could be high or low.

 

Self-Esteem: What it Is

  • For our purposes, self-esteem refers to a healthy and balanced positive regard toward yourself. It is a belief that you are a good person with a good heart. You have gifts to share with the world, with a unique purpose and contribution to share. You are not perfect. There are things about you that you still want to improve on. You deserve to be here on the planet and you are special in the same way that everyone is special.

Children Best Girlfriends

  • Where does our self-esteem come from? As children, we are very dependent upon our parents for information about our worth. Parents, primary caregivers, teachers and other adult authority figures have a tremendous amount of power in programming our self-esteem. We innocently download messages from them about who we are and about our worth as human beings. Pretty soon, during our grade school years, we take in messages from our culture (TV is a big influence) and our peers. You compare yourself to your culture’s norms for physical attractiveness, success, intelligence, financial prowess, and approval from others.

 

Self-Esteem: Where to Go to Get Some

  • Ideally, in your late teens and early twenties, you will shift the source of your self-esteem from external sources to internal sources. You will reject all those external superficial measures of self-worth and you will make a choice – a deep, thoughtful, philosophical, even psycho-spiritual choice. It will be a decision to have a healthy sense of self-esteem - not because you deserve it, or because you have earned  it. It will be based on a philosophically derived personal belief that you deserve innate self-esteem simply because you are a human being. And you will extend that generosity of spirit to others. It won’t be Pollyanna, pie-in-the-sky. You will still recognize hate and evil in the world, perhaps even in yourself. But you will put them within the perspective of a larger understanding about life and why people are the way they are. And your over-arching attitude about life and about people in general will tilt toward the positive. This is called maturity and it is the first step toward adulthood and eventual wisdom. Better yet, just start menopause now.

“You do not have to be a victim of your autobiography.”

 

  • A great way to teach children to have low self-esteem is to not give them any consequences for bad behavior. This accomplishes four things: it teaches them to lose respect for you, to feel insecure in a world where their grown-up is weak, to have to escalate their behavior in order to find a safe boundary from you, and to feel guilty and bad about themselves. They know the difference between right and wrong. When you don’t insist on right behavior from them, this sends the message that you don’t care and that they are not worth the effort. If you are this permissive parent, start the trust fund now for your child's therapy when they hit their teens.

 

Joy Word in Stone

There is a big difference between “feeling good about yourself” and believing in your core self-worth. Feelings are transient. They come and go hundreds of times in a day. Feelings are a dime a dozen. If you want to change your feeling, change your thought. Here’s a thought: “You just won a million dollars.” How do you feel? Elated, thrilled, relieved, happy. OK. Here’s another thought, “Hey, man, they’re towing your car outside.” How do you feel now? Angry, scared, confused. Here’s another thought. You are at the grocery store and you have the memory, “Oh, I need to buy some milk.” How do you feel? Nothing in particular. Here’s another thought. “Your evaluations are back and all your coworkers and supervisors love you!” How does that make you feel? Happy. I feel good about myself. So you feel good about yourself; you feel high self-esteem right now. Do you now have high self-esteem? “Sure, people love me, so I must deserve to like myself.” No. You don’t have high self-esteem just because you are feelin’ the love right now. By the way, feelings never ever get to be judged. You don't get to judge others' feelings and you don't get to judge your own. You can judge behavior if you like, but feelings are off-limits.

 

  • True self-esteem is actually more than a belief. It is a Knowing. It is a deep, unshakable Knowing that is not affected by transient moods or feelings of self-doubt or even transient feelings of self-satisfaction. It is one of your most valued possessions. You must protect it as fiercely as the mother bear would rear up and protect her little cubs. Animals Polar BearJohn Bradshaw used to lead his audiences in this group recitation, “You mess with my self-worth, and you answer to me!” I will not hand over my self-esteem on a velvet pillow to anyone. You cannot have it. You cannot take it away from me. You cannot cause me to doubt my core value as a human being. I will not give you that power.

 

  • Self-esteem is not the same as narcissism. In fact, it is the opposite. The person with the “superiority complex” is actually masking an “inferiority complex.” True deep, solid and healthy self-esteem does not require self-promotion. The self-promoter is telegraphing his low self-worth. Now, self-promotion is not the same thing as the person who is comfortable with their healthy self-worth. They can graciously receive a compliment with a warm “thank you” while maintaining eye contact and saying, “Thank you. That is very kind of you to say.” Can you do that? People are afraid to like themselves or they are afraid to let others know that they like themselves. They are afraid that they will be conceited or “have a big head” or that others will at least think that they do. I give you permission to like yourself today.

 

  • You can have wonderful self-esteem and still have humility. Humility is not about being a door mat or about being totally self-critical. Humility, for the high self-esteem person expresses itself as gratitude – gratitude for one’s blessings while also compassionately co-existing with areas that still need improvement. This whole discussion requires an ability to find and be comfortable somewhere between the extremes of self-hate on one end and conceitedness on the other end. Our American majority culture is so dualistic in how we perceive the world. We think in either/ors and all or nothings, black or white. This way of thinking is stunted at the cognitive development stage of about a six year-old. Navigating the numbers 2 – 9 is the challenge of adulthood and a sign of maturity.

Handshake

  • How about your handshake? What does it say about your self-esteem? Is it a wimpy wet rag handshake that says, “Hi, I don’t deserve to be on the planet … and you probably shouldn’t hire me.” Or is it an overly tight grip that attempts to be a power play to intimidate others? This handshake says, “Hi, I am actually very insecure, but I am trying to over-compensate for that by being overbearing … and you probably shouldn’t hire me.” Or, do you use a full handed clasp that is simply firm and solid? This handshake says, “I am comfortable and confident; you can trust me with your company and … it would be wise for you to hire me.” News Alert: The current standard in American business culture is for both men and women to shake hands with both men and women using a firm, strong handshake.

 

  • “When you try to make an impression, that is the impression you make.” Be a person of attraction, not promotion. (One of the AA Twelve Traditions). Tell the story of Aesop’s Fables’ Mr. Wind and Mr. Sun and their competition to remove the cloak from the man walking along the road below. When Mr. Wind blew and blew, the man just held his cloak tighter. When Mr. Sun simply shone brightly, the warmth caused the man to willingly take off his cloak.

Driver Cheauffer

  • Are you “driven” to succeed? Or, do you “have drive?” There is a big difference. They look like the same behaviors, but the underlying motivation is very different. If you are “driven” to succeed, perhaps this is a compulsion, an addiction - to succeed; you are pushed from behind by a fear of inadequacy. The person who simply “has drive” is making the choice to achieve and accomplish because it is satisfying and fun. Think about it. If you are “driven,” who is in the driver’s seat?

 

  • The middle path between low self-worth and narcissism. Passivity on one end and aggression on the other end. Ex. El Paso Times reporter’s interest about my Assertiveness Workshop for women at the minimum security prison in Las Cruces. The reporter thought it was so strange that these women would need to learn assertiveness. He was confusing assertiveness with aggression – a common mis-understanding.

 

Man Tearing Hair Out

  • Anger and fear are two sides of the same coin. Explain. How many of you grew up in a home where the grown-ups modeled the healthy expression and resolution of anger? Anyone? Most of us have a very warped relationship with anger. We tend to over-express it or under-express it. “Anger is our protest over that which cannot be changed.” From The Courage to Heal . Most of the time, when you are feeling angry, this is just a defense mechanism against feeling either fear or emotional pain. The next time you get angry, ask yourself, “Hmm, what might be the fear or emotional pain about this situation that is under my anger?”

Ocean Evening

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Do You Suffer from pTSD? "pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder"

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 Do You Suffer from pTSD? There is a new diagnostic category called pre Traumatic Stress Disorder. It refers to the experience of anxiety caused by events that are imagined and have not yet happened. This disorder is characterized by intrusive catastrophic thoughts of the world coming to an end and the persistent belief that your entire self-worth depends on your stellar performance in everything that you do. Most notable are the Inner Critic voices running amok in your head, screaming negative thoughts of failure, doom, and disaster.

Physical symptoms include increased heart rate, sweaty palms, tightness in the chest, stiff neck and shoulders, and shallow breathing. Because it is true that thoughts are chemicals, these thoughts produce a gush of cortisol inside your body which contributes to inflammation (read that premature aging) and depressed immune function. Physical sickness, accident proneness, irritability, depression, and strained relationships are not far behind.

Get a grip on your thoughts. Get back into today, where you belong. Mindfulness is about being in the present moment, whatever the present moment is. – good, bad or indifferent.

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Note: Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a spoof diagnosis. It is intended to bring awareness to the futility and stress caused by worrying about what we don't have control over in the future. It in no way is meant to minimize the very real challenges of living with the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

 

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The EMS Provider's Open Letter to Future Patients

Ems-3-logo-poster
"I don’t know you today. But then again, in a way, I do.  For many of you, our encounter will be on the worst day of your life. For some of you, it will be on the last day of your life. For others of you, I will function as a glorified taxi driver as I merely transport you from here to there. And most of you will fall somewhere in between. You will challenge me. You will scare me. You will inspire me. You will crack me up.

 

As I anticipate my EMS career stretched out before me, I imagine all the people who will cross my path and profoundly affect me - the victims of violent crimes, the innocent children living in squalor, the brave patients living with chronic illness and chronic pain, the already dead, and the family members left behind in shock and sorrow. I have considered this carefully and I have made a few decisions about how I will conduct myself while on the job. I want to share those decisions with you.

Howcanyoudothat

Some of you will yell at me and even threaten me. Some of you will be stone cold sober, but scared to death and you will lash out at me in anger. That’s OK. Your anger is just your fear, expressed. I understand that. Some of you will be all but lost under layers of intoxication or the delusions of mental illness. I will try to remember that you are still in there somewhere. I will try to remember that this angry presentation is not the Truth of who you are, but just the behavioral manifestation of a broken brain. Most people are not evil; they are just flawed.

 

I will meet many of you in your homes, without the benefit of a quick straightening up, as is customary before the arrival of expected company. You will not have had a chance to bathe or change your clothes. You might feel 94474457
embarrassed about your home, your body, or your predicament. Don’t worry. I will not judge you. And if I do judge you, I will at least hide my judgments behind compassionate eyes and a reassuring smile…and an inner resolve to judge less the next time.

 

I eagerly give you all of my medical knowledge. Indeed, the reason I got it in the first place was to give it to you. I give you my best judgment and my highest standard of ethics and professionalism.

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I will let you touch me. What I mean is that I will allow my heart to be open to experiencing my feelings. I will not close off my heart to you; I have decided not to be a calculated technician. I will gladly lend you some of my heart as I tend to you and treat you with compassion. I bring to you all of me. And, when I leave you, I will take all of me.

 

Respectfully, I want to let you know that I won’t let you take away my life spirit. You can’t have my joy. I won’t give you my peace of mind, and I won’t hand over my self-esteem.

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I will let you cause me to self-reflect and consider my beliefs and my world view. I will allow you to make me a person with more depth and perspective, and eventually, more wisdom.

 

EMS Young Firefighter
I will evaluate my performance and learn from my mistakes. I will regret my mistakes and take responsibility for them. However, I will not torture myself with incessant “if onlys.”

 

I will give you my attention, energy, and effort. However, you need to know that I will not give you my physical health, my relationships, or my optimism. These are precious to me.

 

While I treasure my career and feel honored to be able to serve you, I just can’t let my self – my life – get lost in yours. I answer to a higher calling that puts my career into its proper perspective within the context of my whole Life. My Life is about all of the many roles I choose, – spouse, parent, child, friend, believer, co-worker, etc… and yes, EMS Provider."

Wonder

I wrote this Letter a couple years ago while I was putting together a very innovative Stress Inoculation Training for EMS Providers. This training proposes a Balanced Belief System that will inoculate the EMS provider and thus minimize the accumulation of Sub-Acute Chronic Stress as well as decrease the severity of Critical Incident Stress. Unlike the current model of Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM), my approach is individualized, portable, accessible, self-administered and cost effective.This training was given to the entire staff (350+) of Albuquerque Ambulance Services.

My interest was inspired by the very kind paramedics who so patiently, lovingly, and repeatedly responded to my sister, Karen Roush in Green Valley, AZ before she passed away. It was also prompted by a veteran Albuquerque firefighter, Karla Puaria, a student in my Psychology class who urged me to help EMS personnel with traumatic stress. Please let me know if you know any police, fire, or EMS departments who might be interested in this leading edge training. It is my passion.

For a description of the training, just click on the link above to the blog page, Walk Away Changed Workshops. See the "2015 Workshop Descriptions."

 

 

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If You Are Grateful, You Are Not Fearful


Spirituality Blessings Rock
My best friend, Mary and I have decided that the feeling of gratitude is our favorite feeling. When I feel grateful, I am aware that I feel humble, which makes me think of Grace. And Grace is beyond words. So I won't even try.

 

I appreciated the quote from the TED Talk speaker, David Steindl-Rast, "If you are grateful, you are not fearful." I totally get that. In fact, I realize that random acts of kindness are gratitude... expressed. Expressing gratitude is usually thought to be expressed with a verbal, "thank you," or some expression using words - which is a fine and good thing.  I think acts of kindness are my behavioral expressions of gratitude.

 

When I was writing my workshop presentation about how to use Mindful Self-Compassion to Reduce Test Anxiety, Worried Male Test Taker it seemed intuitively wise to suggest that the test anxious student plan to perform a random act of kindness on the day of the test, preferably before the test. I was aware that the state of anxiety is a very self centered space to be in, that energy is contracted, assuming a posture of self-protection and defensiveness.

 

It seemed to me that that is probably not the best energetic space for peak mental performance - fear based self-protection. So, I wanted the student to behave in a way that tells the brain that the heart chakra is open, that we feel safe enough to come out of ourselves and give to another.

 

Now, what is coming into focus for me is that this act of kindness is really an expression of gratitude - even unconsciously - and "if you are grateful, you are not fearful." Hence, your test anxiety might just get the memo that the body/mind - the "self" is in a state of gratitude, and therefore, cannot possibly be anxious. Remember, "love is letting go of fear." We are in a state of either love - or fear - at any given moment.

QiGongMeditation900-850x638

Metta

May I accept things as they are.

May I be free from suffering and the cause of suffering.

May I have ease of well-being.

May I be protected and safe.

May I be happy.

 

Mindful Self-Compassion

This is why I think Self-Compassion is the perfect antidote for fear or any kind of performance anxiety. Love yourself through your fear. You can't be in both states at the same time. Pick love. And then take the test. Take the test with an attitude of love for yourself, and even love for the test. Say Metta for the test. "May the test accept things as they are. May the test be free of suffering and the cause of suffering..." Re-frame the adversarial attitude toward the test. Befriend the enemy and lo, there are only friends in your midst.

 

BandAidThe same principle applies when I say, "What is learned at an emotional level cannot be unlearned at a cognitive level." You can't just throw flowery affirmations at a deeply wounded soul and expect it to just bounce back as if it was all just an unfortunate misunderstanding. Only love, ie, Self-Compassion can soften, in time, the hard crusted scars of the wounded child in each of us. You only insult the pain further by presuming to "positively affirm" it away.

 

Don't try to not feel your emotional pain. Don't deny it. Don't minimize it. Don't try to rationalize it away. Don't effort it away. Tether yourself to the promise of the healing power of love. Accept your memories and your pain. Bring mindfulness to the experience of your pain. Then extend the loving-kindness of our vast universe toward yourself. Bring love on a velvet pillow and offer it to your pain. Inhale that love and then exhale the breath that has been trapped in your pain body for so many years. Stay with that visualization. Inhale ... Exhale ...  Repeat. Then take a nap, because you might be a bit exhausted.

Ocean Evening

I think I just invented MBSCT - Mindfulness Based Self-Compassion Therapy. Move over, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Move over, even Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. It's not about cognitions. It's about love - self-love, self-compassion. And then it's about having the courage to accept that healing, to give yourself permission to let go of the old pain, the old identity of being a broken person. And turn toward your future, casting off the trappings of the former victim and claiming the freedoms of the new self. Cool, huh?

Let me know what you think. Are we on to something here?

 

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