Categories
Mindfulness Recovery

Benefits of Practicing Wise Speech Toward Others and Ourselves

Wise speech is a foundational piece in our recovery, particularly as we work to mend our LiveGrowrelationships with others and ourselves. It requires that we make a conscious effort to shift our perceptions about what we want to say versus what we need to say. As we begin to shift toward healthier, and more mindful communication, we create opportunities for healthier and more productive relationships with others and with ourselves.

 

 

We may find ourselves in direct contact with a difficult person–perhaps someone who has been known to trigger your anxiety or propel you into a state of dysregulation. But you’re tired of that rollercoaster ride of emotional uncertainty. You want change.

 

 

I once heard someone say, “Words are bullets.” It made me pause. I remember being stunned by the deep truth in that statement and it has stuck with me ever since. In a way, it was the tipping point for my own work around wise speech. The practice of being wise with my words started with me recognizing the need to pause before saying anything and the reality that just because someone else is using harsh language doesn’t mean I have to as well.  I use the following phrases now when I find myself in a difficult situation, perhaps one that is heated or potentially triggering. Try asking yourself the following as well:

 

Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

 

  • Is it true?Be honest. Is what you want to say true and honest?
  • Is it necessary? While something may be true, do you really need to say it? Out loud? Will it positively impact someone’s life? Or will it ultimately create harm?
  • Is it kind? This is the icing on the cake. If something is true, and perhaps necessary, but its underpinnings are mean, omit it. Seriously, just don’t say it.

 

In the 12-step model, particularly in step 10, we are asked to continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admit it. This step asks us to investigate our actions and remedy them appropriately and immediately to ensure that we haven’t caused harm, or increased someone’s suffering based on our negative and often selfish actions. This inventory process encourages our accountability: when we are honest in our inventories, we stay honest within our communities. In the Refuge Recovery model, the practice of wise speech asks that we abstain from lying, divisive or malicious speech, gossiping, and abusive or hateful speech–period. In other words, practitioners are encouraged to work on this behavior as a daily part of their recovery practice. It takes the practice of inventory further, and raises our consciousness around our own behavior.

 

Simply put: If it’s not nice, don’t say it.

 

Practicing wise speech also applies to the way we speak to ourselves. You know, the idle internal chatter that tells us we aren’t good enough. Think of it this way, if we spoke to others the way we speak to ourselves, we wouldn’t have any friends. Some examples of negative self-talk include telling yourself:

 

  • I’m not good enough.
  • Why bother, I’ll fail anyway.
  • No one cares.
  • I’m fat.
  • I’m a waste of space.
  • I’m not pretty enough.
  • I’m not smart enough.
  • I am not good enough.
  • No one likes me.

 

The list goes on and the damage this commentary elicits is great. The reality is, these thoughts aren’t truth; they are a manifestation of a skewed perception of one’s self. The work here is to begin to shift those negative perceptions toward a more positive refrain. We have to have the courage to begin to unravel the root causes that created this commentary in the first place. The “old tapes” of abuse arise when we are under duress, stress, or lack of sleep. We can then look at this as an opportunity to care for ourselves in a way that may feel foreign so we can shift the paradigm of negative self-talk toward positive and supportive self-care.  The phrases, “Is it True, Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?” are relevant here too. I also like to encourage the simpler version of these questions,: is it helpful or harmful. I find that this is a phrase easy to access for adolescents and kids.

 

The practice of wise speech is two-fold: we have to speak kindly to ourselves and treat ourselves the way we want to be treated; we have to be mindful of the way in which we speak to others. If we strive for perfection, we will fail. The goal here is to do your best. This is really about creating a heightened awareness, giving life to that 10th step and engaging in a tangible mindfulness practice. The more you are aware and conscious of your actions, the more likely you are to change. And remember, no one is perfect. We are all a work in progress. The goal is “progress, not perfection.”

Categories
Mindfulness Recovery Spirituality

Noah Levine’s Refuge Recovery: A Buddhist Path to Recovering from Addiction

Refuge Recovery is a non-profit, Buddhist oriented, non-theistic recovery program and Noah Levine’s latest book.

Noah Levine Reading from Refuge Recovery at the Book Release at BLVD Treatment

Refuge Recovery: A Buddhist Path to Recovering from Addiction was released on June 10, coincidentally the 79th anniversary of Alcoholics Anonymous. Noah Levine, M.A., whose story is already familiar to many in the recovery community, is also the author of the autobiographical Dharma Punx, the revolutionary meditation manual Against the Stream, and the reflections on the practice of loving-kindness Heart of the Revolution. He founded Against the Stream Meditation Society, which opened its doors in Los Angeles in 2008, and Santa Monica in 2009.

 

Refuge Recovery was birthed in direct response to the clear need for a viable, non-theistic approach to recovery. Noah, feeling disconnected from the 12 steps’ theistic philosophy, found deeper relief within the 4 Noble Truths and the 8-Fold Path of Buddhism. Many members of Against the Stream who were talking about similar difficulties pursued similar conversations. There was a need to shift the paradigm of 12-step recovery and open the door to an alternative path.  Refuge Recovery doesn’t ask anyone to shift a belief system, nor does it require anyone to believe in something. It simply asks that you “trust the process and do the hard work of recovery.” You also don’t have to be Buddhist to participate.

 

The Four Truths of Recovery are:

1: We suffer due to our addictions and the general difficulties of being human in this world of constant change and loss.

2: Craving is a natural phenomenon; it is not our fault, but we are fully responsible for our healing and recovery.

3: We can fully recover and enjoy a life of sanity and well-being.

4: This is the path to recovery: the Eight-fold Path.

 

Refuge Recovery begins with the First Truth: addiction creates suffering. Understanding that addiction always creates suffering is crucial. Suffering is craving the next drink or drug. Suffering is the idea that you can’t get enough; Suffering is the loneliness and shame and isolation. Suffering is the desire for more pleasure and less pain, which we persistently seek in our addiction. Suffering shows its face in a multitude of maladaptive behaviors.  Understanding this first truth and then accepting it as reality also means accepting that drink and drug aren’t an option any longer.  Recognizing the multiple layers of suffering is encouraged through inventory work: “Without full acceptance and disclosure, recovery is not possible. We cannot skip this step; we must be thorough in our inventory process.” (page 6, RR)

 

The Second Truth asks you to do another inventory, this time seeking clarity and acceptance around the causative factors behind your craving. “The addict is not at fault for the root causes and conditions that lead to addiction, only for the habitual reactive patterns that perpetuate it.” (page 11, RR)  More often than not, someone suffering from addiction is suffering from deep pain and dissatisfaction in their lives. Perhaps there is abuse, and drugs and alcohol help numb the pain; perhaps there is neglect, and drugs and alcohol make you forget. The reasons and root causes are many and they are varied, but they all lead to the same place: suffering.

 

The 8-Fold Path of Recovery directs us toward maintaining safety and creating a refuge from addiction. The Eight-Fold Path of Refuge Recovery is:

1: Understanding: We come to know that everything is ruled by cause and effect.

2: Intention: We renounce greed, hatred, and delusion. We train our minds to meet all pain with compassion and all pleasure with non-attached appreciation.

3: Communication/Commmunity: We take refuge in the community as a place to practice wise communication and to support others on their paths. We practice being careful, honest, and wise in our communications.

4: Action/Engagement: We let go of the behaviors that cause harm. We ask that one renounces violence, dishonesty, sexual misconduct, and intoxication. Compassion, honesty, integrity, and service are guiding principles.

5: Livelihood/Service: We are of service whenever and wherever possible. And we try and ensure that our means of livelihood are such that they don’t cause harm.

6: Effort/Energy: We commit to daily contemplative practices like meditation and yoga, exercise, and the practices of wise actions, kindness, forgiveness, compassion which lead to self-regulatory behaviors in difficult circumstances.

7: Mindfulness/Meditations: We develop wisdom by means of practicing formal mindfulness meditation. We practice present-time awareness in our lives.

8: Concentration/Meditations: We develop the capacity to focus the mind on one thing, such as the breath, or a phrase, training the mind through the practices of lovingkindness, compassion, and forgiveness to cultivate that which we want to uncover. (pages 24-26 RR)

 

What Refuge Recovery does is encourage practitioners to lean into their discomfort, investigate it, notice its impermanence, and begin to let it go. It encourages a deep shift in one’s relationship to suffering, creating an element of space around it, and it provides a unique ability to begin to care for your own suffering with compassion. Ultimately, we learn that we are not our suffering.

 

Refuge Recovery asks practitioners to know and understand that everything has a cause and effect and to take action to shift toward making better, wiser choice. Our actions are never without a reaction, good, bad or indifferent.

 

Refuge Recovery has been a deep, grounding cornerstone of my own recovery for the last 6 years. It has profoundly shifted how I view my own difficulties and allowed me to come to a deep understanding of how to hold my pain with compassion and approach my difficulties with kindness. It’s exciting to see this work come to fruition and to have been involved in the Refuge Recovery movement since its inception. I have been fortunate to witness the efficacy of Refuge Recovery for those who are just getting sober and for those with long-term sobriety, proving to me that this method works. It’s also been a wonderful alternative for clients struggling with the 12-step model; these same clients have embraced the Refuge Recovery process, finding relief from their suffering and formed a solid foundation of recovery and service.

 

There are regular Refuge Recovery meetings in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Oklahoma City, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and Nashville. See HERE for a complete list with times and locations. If one isn’t in your area, you are encouraged to start your own. You can download meeting formats and Refuge Recovery inventories and meditations at RefugeRecovery.org. In addition, BLVD Treatment Centers is offering the first Refuge Recovery track for adults in treatment. There is also a Refuge Recovery sober living that has recently launched, that is has created a sober living environment in coordination with the Refuge Recovery Model.

 

Categories
Adolescence Holidays Mental Health Mindfulness Recovery Self-Care Service Spirituality Teen Activism Wellness

Resolution, Schmesolution: Create a New Year Theme

© 2013 sarit z. rogers — all rights reserved

It’s that time: New Year’s Eve celebrations are upon us! For many, it’s the time of year often met with party plans and resolutions. Parties and resolutions together sound like a juxtaposition and affect some legitimate irony, but nevertheless, they go together for most people every 31st of December. However, if you are in recovery, have clearer eyes and hopefully a wiser mind, things might look a bit different during this time of year.

 

There are several articles offering tips and guidelines for setting up the “perfect” New Year resolutions, 0r embarking on a New Year cleanse, or signing up for a New Year workout plan. The one thing all of these have in common is the idea that you can and will actually commit to changing a bevy of major things just because it’s the New Year. Sadly, many fail or abandon those impassioned resolutions after a few weeks. One article in particular stuck out to me. This article suggests creating a theme for the New Year rather than a resolution. A New Year’s Theme! That is right in line with the New Year Intentions I have suggested in the past. Both of these, a theme or an intention, are something that can easily be created, worked with and maintained throughout the year. Rather than seeking perfection, or a grand, finite accomplishment, a theme or intention allows one to slowly change behaviors and invite the possibility of more long-term, sustainable changes.

 

What might your New Year’s Theme or Intention be for 2014?

 

Kindness: The wonderful quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. You can choose to practice random and not so random acts of kindness throughout the year. Make it a year of being kind when you might otherwise be gruff. Invite some personal curiosity and investigation about what it might be like to respond to difficulty with kindness instead of anger or fear. It’s an interesting one to work with, but everyone can be kind and deserves kindness in return.

 

Mindfulness: Also looked at as keen “awareness,” mindfulness is an astute awareness of reality and the present moment.  It is an acknowledgement that things are just as they are in that moment. If you make mindfulness your New Year theme, perhaps you will begin by investigating the contemplative practices of meditation and yoga. Or perhaps it might mean choosing not to use your cell phone when you are walking around and instead bringing your awareness to your surroundings and becoming more present. It might mean driving without the radio on, or not always having your cell phone nearby. It might mean eating dinner without the television on so you can be more present with your family. Remember, it is not about perfection; this is a practice.

 

Wellness: If you are desirous of changing your health or the way you eat or the amount of activity you engage in, this is a wonderful theme. You might do this by ruling out meat for one day a week, or by eating more greens. You may choose to limit your caffeine, or cut down on your cigarettes or vape pens: eventually you may even quit! You can increase your wellness, that healthy balance of mind, body and spirit, even if you start small. In fact, small changes over a long period of time have a longer lasting effect.

 

Movement: Increase your physicality in 2014. You can start with walking more or riding your bike. If you usually drive to the corner store or to a meeting that’s only a mile away, try riding a bike once a week! The more you do ride your bike or walk, the more it might become a habit. Honestly, there’s no concrete rule about how long habits take to form or break. Instead, look at this as small opportunities for personal change.

 

Service: Make 2014 your year of being of service! Take a commitment at a meeting and keep it for a year. Volunteer to feed the homeless. Volunteer at an animal shelter once a week. Find a cause you believe in and get involved in raising awareness about it. Being of service is the fulcrum of recovery; “We can’t keep it unless we give it away” is one of the most-often repeated sayings relating to being of service. Write it on something you can always see to remind you to get out of yourself and into action.

 

No matter your theme or plan, the New Year is a time of reflection and growth. It is an opportunity to reflect on the past year so we can grow into the new one. May you ring this New Year in with self-care, compassion, kindness, and great joy. We wish you a wonderful New Year celebration and look forward to celebrating and growing with you in 2014.

Categories
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Mental Health Recovery Therapy Trauma

Redefining Your Emotional Landscape With DBT

mindfulness 1.0 (Photo credit: Mrs Janet R)

The ideology behind therapeutic tools like DBT is to facilitate and encourage an emotional and psychological paradigm shift towards a more sustainable relationship to one’s mental health challenges. The foundational tenant of DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) is mindfulness training. By using core mindfulness skills, one becomes personally active in redefining their relationship to their suffering.  Using these tools, one can learn to be non-reactive to their discomfort while staying emotionally present.  In a nutshell, they are taking what is a learned response to stress and dismantling it. DBT teaches you how to put it back together in a healthier, more sustainable and manageable way.

 

Are we programmed to fix things? Is being present with “what is” simply too much? For many, the answer to these questions is a wholehearted “Yes!” We come to recovery in deep suffering, and often times, this suffering is precluded by failed attempts at “fixing” what was “wrong” with us. Substance abuse, sex, shopping, self-harming, video games, the Internet, and gambling are used as ways to mollify our pain; these things are temporary and eventually, they cease to work. What we are left with are the frayed shadows of unaddressed traumas, hurt, loss, shame, sadness, depression, anxiety, et cetera.

 

Redefining the way we approach our difficulties takes patience. It takes effort. It takes acceptance. It requires us to sit with our discomfort without trying to fix it or change it in any way. Imagine someone clutching something with all of their might, because letting go would be unfathomable. But their grip is so tight, what they are holding onto is crushed, creating sheer devastation and heartbreak. What if we look at our difficulties the same way: if we hold onto them so tightly, we create heartbreak and devastation. Instead, we can hold them gently, giving those same difficulties room to breathe and change.

 

There is no magic bullet. There is work to be done, and it takes effort and patience and support. With tremendous tools like DBT elicited by skilled clinicians, it’s clear the temperature of mental health recovery is changing; it’s more inclusive and collaborative.

Categories
Mental Health Recovery Trauma

Trauma and Getting Triggered: Keeping Ourselves Safe

(Dark into Light via saritphoto)

I’m concerned for the survivors of sexual trauma and abuse, and the potentiality of getting triggered

simply by watching the news, or scrolling through Facebook or Twitter feeds. I’m wary of the media and the backlash from the recent Steubenville rape trial. It’s easy for that trauma to rise, presenting itself as fury and heightened emotions. It’s easy to slip back into the story of your own trauma, reliving moment-by-moment that which haunts you.

Signs of being triggered can include:

  • Angry outbursts
  • Flashbacks
  • Feeling emotionally numb or closed off
  • Avoiding certain areas, or subjects
  • Anxiety: tightness in the chest or throat, feelings of panic, et cetera.

Sometimes, we can feel tempted to continue to watch the news or read the feeds despite feeling triggered, believing we “should” be able to watch these things and be ok. It’s in the past, after all. Right? Wrong. The trouble with trauma is this: our bodies can’t always tell the difference between time and space. When we get triggered, we are often thrust back into that moment of trauma, sometimes too fast to stop ourselves. Over time, and with deep work, we can learn to recognize our bodies’ signals and responses to a trigger and take steps to stop it in its tracks or at least hold a safe space for it to just “be.” EMDR, DBT, CBT and TF-CBT are all useful therapeutic modalities for treating trauma. Additionally, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices are helpful in getting the “issues out of our tissues” as Tommy Rosen likes to say.

If you find that you are getting triggered from newsfeeds and current events, please:

  • Unplug
  • Step away from technology
  • Talk to someone and ask for help.
  • Surround yourself with safe people.
  • Take a lot of deep breaths.
  • If you practice yoga, this is a good time to get on your mat. A gentle practice of breath and movement can guide you back to the present moment.
  • Be of service. Helping others gets us out of ourselves and into action.

Yes, it can be tremendously debilitating when a trigger occurs, but you are not alone. There are people around you who will help you without judgment. You are safe now.

Categories
Mental Health

Mindfulness in Schools

There’s so much talk about the current education model and increased stress being placed on kids, even at the kindergarten level. In our current system, we teach to the test, we encourage good grades, we chase after high API ratings in order to use them as a gauge for determining school quality, but what we are often forgetting is how this added pressure is affecting our kids. I find it hard to believe that there are so many children unable to focus and wonder if given a learning environment with less pressure, their focus would increase. Something to ponder, that’s for sure.

That pressure on our kids is still here and from the looks of it, it’s increasing. Since turning the clock back isn’t really an option, I suggest we begin giving our kids tools that allow them to manage the inevitable pressure of school and adolescence more skillfully. Teaching mindfulness to kids is something many professionals are talking about, both from a mental health standpoint, and from an educational one. It’s an invaluable skill that teaches one to stop and be in the present moment, sans deadlines, sans pressure, yet learning to focus on nothing but the intake and outtake of our breath. This act, in and of itself, can reteach and retrain the mind to focus more acutely.

As parents, we may be familiar with the practices of mindfulness and meditation, but at yet we so often engage in this practice without our kids. I see no real value in this, in fact, I feel it denies a child the ability to utilize one of their most valuable tools: their breath. As Sharon Salzberg says, “Our breath is portable.” It’s not a tool you have to carry in a backpack, or shoulder bag; it’s not something friends can see or make fun of; it’s a natural part of who we are as human beings and something we can engage at will. The adage “Take 10 deep breaths” can begin to mean something much deeper.

Susan Kaiser Greenland, author of “The Mindful Child: How to Help Your Kid Manage Stress, and Become Happier, Kinder, and More Compassionate” has embraced this ideology with great passion. One of the things she reminds parents is this is a “process-oriented practice as opposed to a goal-oriented practice.” Greenland says, “It is not at all uncommon for kids to have a hard time when they begin to look at their inner and outer experiences clearly without an emotional charge (or with less of one).” This can be true for adults as well! This is a call to parent from a different perspective, using patience and tolerance when faced with difficulties, less reactivity, all with the knowledge that this is all part of an emotional and worldview transformation. Susan Kaiser Greenland teaches kids skills like:

  • Approaching new experiences with an open mind;
  • Developing strong and stable attention;
  • Seeing life experience clearly without an emotional charge;
  • Developing compassionate action and relationships;
  • Building communities with kindness and compassion;
  • Working together to make a difference in the world;
  • Expression gratitude; and
  • Planting seeds of peace by nurturing common ground.

Learning to meditate and sit still is a tough task for a lot of kids–with and without issues of ADHD! I am always a little shocked when my 10-year-old sits for a full half-hour in meditation with little to no squirming, but he does it and reaps the myriad benefits.  I really like this technique for getting kids ready to meditate, which Susan Kaiser Greenland calls the Pendulum Swing. (Read here for an interview with Susan and a details on the Pendulum Swing!)
The truth is, beginning to bring mindfulness to our children will provide kids with the opportunity to hone their focus, feel less stressed out by the having to multi-task at every turn, and have healthier peer and familial relationships. As parents, it helps if we remember the joys of childhood and the innate value of sand between our toes and dirt under our nails. Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves as well as our kids that great joy can be found in doing nothing. In fact, accepting what is rather than obsessing on what should be is actually liberating. Crazy, right? I don’t think so!

For more resources on Mindfulness and Meditation check out:
UCLA: Mindfulness Awareness Research Center
Insight LA – Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MDSR)
Against the Stream

Categories
Mental Health Mindfulness

Mindfulness: Looking at Addiction In a New Way

The benefits of a mindfulness practice can be felt by anyone willing to be present and prepared to stop running from their feelings and fears. The practice of mindfulness allows us to come into direct contact with the here and now, bringing with it a sense of awareness and healing. In doing so, we are able to directly see how our addictions, actions, and behaviors are causing us suffering.  Similar to the 12-step model, mindfulness provides us with the opportunity to take contrary action. As a result, we begin to notice and work with our uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and reactions to the physical and emotional cravings closely associated with addiction.

Image via Wikipedia

Confronted with anxiety or fear or panic, our basic, human instinct is to run in the opposite direction as quickly as possible, hoping to get out of harm’s way. These feelings are uninvited guests, after all, right?  In this case, our bodies’ “fight or flight” response is immediately triggered. So, what happens if we go the other way? What happens if we turn into our fear, into our anxiety, or into our trauma? What if, through conscious breath and direct attention, we learn to give those feelings space? The interesting thing about doing this is the intensity of those feelings will eventually begin to lesson and our unwanted guests start to lose their footing. No, the trauma isn’t gone, but in that moment of stopping and facing our fears, we have done something incredibly powerful: shone light into the darkest corners of our hearts and minds.

Through my own experience in recovery, dealing with trauma and its corresponding anxiety, I have found the most peace and healing through my practice of meditation and yoga. I have learned to use my breath in a way that allows me to move with my emotions rather against them. I liken it to moving with the ebb and flow of the sea. In early sobriety, when a higher power was in question, I remember being told to “try and stop a wave” only to discover that I most certainly could not. Within that phrase also lies an inference that we cannot “stop” something from coming at us. Utilizing mindfulness, we then learn how to to ride the wave without causing additional harm and without getting lost in the energy driving the fear or addiction. In turn, we may discover that those blasted shadows we are accustomed to running from appear much larger than their reflecting counterpart. From this perspective, things look a heck of a lot more manageable.

As we are challenged to turn off the autopilot we’ve become accustomed to, we are given an opportunity to learn to respond to triggers and cravings in a non-harming way. As such, we are beginning to view our feelings, thoughts, cravings, and sensations with curiosity and non-judgment rather that the usual disdain. In those moments when the freedom of awareness and being present are there, the real healing has a chance to begin: one breath at a time.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. has a wonderful series, which I’ve linked to below:

Mindfulness and Addiction, Part 1

Mindfulness and Addiction, Part 2

Mindfulness and Addiction, Part 3

Further reading:
Meditation for Addiction Recovery

Kevin Griffin

Mindfulness and Addiction meetings:
Against the Stream

Categories
Addiction Feelings Mental Health Mindfulness Recovery Self-Care Spirituality

Resiliance

Resilience: That’s something an addict/alcoholic discovers in their back pocket when they overcome a difficult situation. It’s the ability to bounce back after the multitude of knocks we’re sure to get just by being alive.

In the using days, problems often seemed unsurmountable, so the only way to “deal with it” was to drink or use. In sobriety, that’s no longer an option. Instead, we sometimes try to “deal with it” by shopping, gambling, sex, video games, food, exercise, you name it. In the end, those behaviors don’t really correct the problem.

Sobriety presents us with an opportunity to learn how to live without the crutches of drugs and alcohol. Instead of infusing ineffective “solutions” to mounting troubles, we now have a toolbox equipped with the 12 steps. One by one, step by step, viable solutions will unfold. Before we know it, the hard work pays off, and our proverbial tool box gets filled with a variety of options. Mine has, anyway.

When I come across an aversive situation, I now have choices. I start with the foundation: the 12 steps, remembering I can approach difficulty one breath at time if need be. Or I might  engage the tools of a meditation practice, asking myself, “Am I breathing?”  Try it. You might even discover that you’ve been holding your breath!  Other times, I might engage the tools garnered from my yoga practice, asking myself,  “Am I present?” The majority of the time, however, it’s a combination of all three, allowing me to season my responses/reactions accordingly.

Recovery teaches us to face adversity with an open heart and a present state of mind. It teaches us that our previous acts of avoidance merely created a diversion to feeling better. The wreckage of our past proves when we walk around the issue, the solution feels and often is unattainable.  Here, in sobriety, we learn to “uncover, discover, and discard,” rather than to “run, hide, and duck for cover.”  So, if/when you find yourself faced with adversity, ask yourself this: “Is my reaction helpful or harmful?” If nothing else, you’ve provided yourself with a break and an opportunity to do the right thing.

Related articles:

Kevin Griffin: A Buddhist Approach to Recovery: Step Four — Searching and Fearless (huffingtonpost.com)

Categories
Holidays

Surviving the Holidays

Wondering how you’re going to make it through a day of screwball family dynamics and holiday “cheer”?  You’re not alone. This time of year can bring up a flurry of emotions, some ecstatic and some reminiscent of Chernobyl.  Since the curve is broad, managing it all can be difficult. So, then how do we do this?

Taking an honest look at our expectations is a great start. We have them from our internal sources of desire as well as the implied expectations put upon us by the bottled cheer we see when we’re out in the world. It’s the holidays, we are supposed to be happy, right?  Perhaps, but it doesn’t always go that way. We may find ourselves stuck sitting next to our biggest button-pusher, or suddenly engaged in a conversation about “what it was like” with a well-meaning member of the family. What’s important, at least for me, is the way in which to respond. It’s a great opportunity to be gentle with yourself in the face of adversity and a wonderful reminder to hold up those boundaries you may have set.

Something else that can be helpful is staying in the present moment. It’s easy to get locked into the stories of our past and sometimes difficult not to react to those echos. For me, setting an intention for my day, either in a quiet moment of meditation or in my yoga practice, is key. Sometimes it can mean acknowledging there may be difficulty, but finding a way to approach it differently; it could mean setting an intention to be kind to yourself and to approach others with compassion; or it could mean setting the intention to be in gratitude.

This holiday season, we have a wonderful opportunity to take contrary action and meet our pain with compassion, and our frustration with gratitude. Remember to laugh, take breaks, and enjoy each moment–you are amazing!  As the Buddha said, “The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.”

Categories
Mental Health

Mindfulness Is Good for Teens, Too

Image via Wikipedia

          With so many distractions coming from various directions, teens are prime candidates for learning lessons in mindfulness. This generation and the one following close behind are prepped to multi-task from birth. As teens are expected to juggle and negotiate everything from school to social media to the latest technology, it’s not surprising they are also seeking a means of “escape” or a way to do more in less time, i.e., drugs and alcohol. So, why not provide them with the tools to manage the business of their lives mindfully? The fact is, doing too much at once has a higher probability of lowering one’s efficiency while also raising one’s stress level–and let’s not forget, it also portends one being less likely to pay attention to what’s important. How present can one actually be if they’re having a conversation with you while typing an email or texting someone else? Or better yet, how much academia is a teenager actually going to digest if texting, social media, and their iPhone take precedence?
          These days, with the buzz about “Eat, Pray, Love,” the accessibility of the Dalai Lama, and the edginess and cool factor of groups like Against the Stream or Insight LA, the path of mindfulness and meditation has become less of a stigmatized lifestyle choice and more of an accepted means of moving through one’s day. It is better to be present and engaged than disconnected and preoccupied with which one of the 14 tasks you should tackle first. It’s hard enough just being a teen–add the pressures of the current trends and haves and have nots, and we have the potential for someone seeking an “out” in one way or another.
         More and more academicians and psychiatrists are stating that mindfulness is a healthier means of meeting the world. Introducing teens in recovery to mindfulness and meditation provides and invaluable tool in their recovery process. Because it puts one in a space of quiet, one soon finds there’s nowhere to go but the present, and though sometimes that can be challenging, there’s really no other place to be.