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Archive for February, 2011

Fending Off Negative Stress Due to Physical Pain

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Experiencing pain in your body can be very stressful because you don’t know how long the pain will remain, which can lead to questions flooding through your mind.  “Will my body ever be like it was before?  Will I ever be pain free again?  Will this incident financially destroy me?  Will I have to pay a huge medical fee?  Will the stress from the pain get me so wound up that I can’t handle it?”  These, and many other unknowns are just sitting there in your future, and the future is one of those things that never “goes away” and, yet, never arrives. It just seems to sit there looming over us. So, what will happen in the future? We don’t know. We can make some guesses, but we truly do not know what is going to happen. We can plan and plan and plan, and yet, the future remains untouchable and unknowable.

Fear is another word that we could use to describe stress or anxiety. It contains an acronym that holds its definition. The “F” in fear stands for “false,” the “E” stands for “expectations,” the “A” stands for “appearing,” and the “R” stands for “real.” So, fear is “false expectations appearing real.” The feeling of fear or stress is real; the source of the fear or stress is what is false. The source always appears to be real: however, only in rare situations is the source deserving of the emotional reaction of fear or stress. One situation that could be considered appropriate would be when a saber-toothed tiger jumps off a cliff in front of you. Another situation would be when someone is threatening your life. Luckily for most of us, these things will never happen.

What most of us do is fantasize about what we think is going to happen in the future, and end up responding to our negative fantasy with stress. You could say that we are choosing to lose in our fantasies. We are creating false expectations that appear real. We are living in the future and not in “the moment.”  The way out of stress or anxiety is to be in ”the moment.”

In order to be in “the moment,” we need to contact our senses and identify exactly what is going on now and not what we think is going on, but what is actually really going on. This might sound simple; however, most of us erroneously think what we “think” is correct. Many times it is just our opinion or point of view of what is going on. When we contact our senses and identify what we really see, hear, feel, taste, touch, or smell, we move out of our subjective reality and into an objective reality.

We have a part of us that does not want to be in “the moment.” It wants to stay in its “created fantasy” because it’s convinced it is right. If this is the case, know that you are again out of “the moment” and into the future, pretending or fantasizing about what you think is going on.

You might be saying, “If I’m always in the moment, how can I get anything done?”  If you are truly in the moment, you will no longer be stressed, and that is movement. And it’s only in the moment that we can do anything. It’s truly the only place in which we can respond to our environment. It’s the position of action and strength.

Let’s explore another effective way of expressing our stress.

Stress seems to be stored in four places: the physical body, the emotions, the mind, and the unconscious. This exercise that I am about to share with you will clear all of the areas except the physical body. This exercise will lessen the tension in the body, and therefore effect how your body feels: however, it will not give you a physical release that you might receive from your chiropractor, a brisk walk or a yoga class.

I want you to do some writing. I want you to write from the point of view, of you being a victim. I want you to blame others for your troubles, your pain, your anger and your stress. I’m not suggesting that you run your life from this point of view. I would encourage you to be responsible and accountable for your life, but for this exercise I want you to write from the victim’s point of view. There’s a part of us I call the “basic self” or the “child within,” and that part feels it’s been victimized.  I am asking you to allow that part to speak its truth.

As I stated, I want you to write from the victim’s point of view. I also want you to use a lot of four letter words! Yes, use the swear words that we’re not supposed to use, but use all the time anyway.  Why?  Well, when we start using those swear words that we’re not supposed to use, it begins to allow us to express some of that stress that is just sitting there just below the surface. Also, as you are doing your writing, there might be a time when you are just scribbling words on the paper and you can’t even read what it is that you are writing. That’s just great because I don’t want you to read what you write.

The process of writing like this gets all the negative stuff out. The process of reading puts it all right back in. Many people are not aware of this and they write in their journals and they keep them on their shelf to be read later, to think about, to analyze their issues, and then they just seem to keep going around and around the same issues. They keep reclaiming the negative and they hold onto it.

Do not read what you write. Some people are real creative and say, “But sometimes I write real neat stuff and I want to keep it for a poem, or a song, or something.” That’s fine. If you are this type of person, then all you have to do is keep another sheet of paper next to you as you do your writing. If something comes up that you want to keep, just write it on this separate sheet of paper.

Once again, do not read what you write. Now, when you have finished writing, I want you to do one of two things: tear it up and throw it away or burn it. Some safe places to burn your writing are the kitchen sink, the toilet, an ashtray, or the fireplace. Be careful and don’t burn yourself or your house. Some smoke alarms are very sensitive so just be aware. I encourage you to be a scientist and try both. See which one you like best. Some people like to tear and some people like to burn. Some people like to tear and burn. Find out what works best for you.

There are two reasons why I want you to tear or burn your writing. The first is:  if you think someone just might read what you are writing, then you will start censoring what you write. There’s another concept that comes into play here. We’re not held responsible for what passes through our minds, we are however, held responsible for what we hold onto. So, you could be writing some pretty foul stuff and if you’re afraid someone might read what you are writing, including yourself, you’ll hold onto those thoughts. If, however, you’re certain no one will read your writing, then you’ll begin to feel free to write what ever comes to your mind, no matter how ugly the thought. You’ll know those ugly thoughts are just thoughts. We all think ugly thoughts from time to time and it’s just next. More stuff. Next.

The second reason I want you to tear or burn your writings is a little more subtle. You’ll have to watch for this one. After you’ve written out your stress and you’ve torn or burnt the writings, there’ll be a little feeling inside that will say “That’s gone.” However, that doesn’t mean that you’ll not have to write about the same subject more than once. Some subjects run so deep that you might have to write about them 100 times. Each time you write on it however, it’ll be complete and you’ll have peeled off another layer on the proverbial onion.

There’s another part to this writing exercise that’s very important. As we start letting go of our negativity it’ll feel like there’s a hole inside. For some people this hole feels like a void and a great sadness can be felt. Its like, “Wow, a lot has happened to me.” And with this void can come tears. If that happens, that’s great! Now the body is coming into the process, and it’s beginning to heal itself as well as your emotions, mind and unconscious.

Beyond feeling the void I want you to plant a seed. The seed is going to be in the form of an affirmation. In the big picture what you’re doing is getting rid of what you don’t want, and putting in what you do want. The affirmation that I want you to work with is very specific. I also want you to hold onto your abdomen with both hands as you say the affirmation. When we hold onto our abdomen, there is a feeling of protection and nurturing, and our little basic self or child within says, “Yeah, what do you want?”

Now that we have its attention, the affirmation is this:

(Your name), I am loving you. I am loving you (Your name).

The wording here is very important to note. You are not saying, “I love you” to yourself, because you just might not be in a loving place with yourself and that part that knows, would say, “You don’t love me, you hate me!” However, if you say, “I am loving you,” the very statement is a loving act and it can’t be denied. That little basic self or inner child will say, “Thank you. I needed that.”

For some people the idea of talking to our “self” is a very uncomfortable thing and again, I would ask you to be a scientist and just check it out. Hold onto your abdomen and either, out loud or to yourself, which ever is most appropriate for you, and say:

“(Your name) I am loving you. I am loving you (Your name).”

Say these affirmations about 20 to 25 times or until you feel full inside.

I would encourage you to write, tear or burn, and say your affirmations at least once every day for two weeks. When you do this process for this length of time, you’ll be able to release old stresses that you may have been holding onto for years.

If you find that you’re not stressed one day, just let yourself write about whatever comes up in a free form writing style. Look at issues of stress with your parents, past lovers, past or present bosses. Whatever comes up is just fine. This can become a very enjoyable process and a very healthy and effective way of dealing with your stress.

Discovering Compassion

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Sitting at the counter with my friend on a hot summer day, drinking my favorite chocolate milkshake, I didn’t speak up.  Life changed for me that afternoon.  I sat silently as George reached over and arrogantly took her tip and proudly slipped it into his pocket.  Right in front of me!  Maybe I was just stunned.  I don’t know, but I didn’t say anything.  I just looked.

George was the son of the guy who owned the bank in town.  He lived in the house with the pool.  He had maids and gardeners.  He got that red convertible on his 16th birthday.  He was that guy that everyone wanted to be close to but secretly resented, and he was my friend.  He liked me, so therefore I was cool and I got to ride in the front seat of that car.

He didn’t need the $1.23 tip that was left on the counter.  But he took it, and he gave me a smile that ruptured my belly and I stayed silent.  The waitress came by to pick up the dishes on the counter next to us.  She looked for her tip, and then without a pause or a winch, she went about her business.

She had to know, but she was silent too!

When she was out of ear shot, I asked George what made him take her tip.  He smirked and said, “It was there.  Finders Keepers.”  That was it.  Somewhere in there he jumped off his stool and said, “Gotta go.”  He left as I silently finishing my milkshake.

I often studied in the public library that was across the street from the restaurant and this day was like every other school day.  School was a challenge for me so I had to put in extra time at the library.  George was off driving his red convertible.  He had one of those photographic memories and rarely opened a book, yet, he was on the honor roll.

When I left the library that night, I saw our waitress waiting for a bus on a bench across the street, counting her change.  Out of her uniform she looked different.  I noticed her worn shoes and her tired eyes.  I could hardly swallow.  She saw me watching her and she shyly looked down.  I didn’t say anything.  I just walked.

I never rode in George’s convertible after that.  We rarely spoke.  I don’t know if that afternoon changed him, but it definitely changed me.  To this day, I always leave a little extra in my tip.  I have given myself permission to speak my truth.  I vowed never to be silent again.  And most importantly, I discovered compassion.

I am thankful to that waitress for helping me open my heart so I could feel the suffering of others and for helping me open my mouth so I can now speak out when I see injustice.  I also want to thank George.  He helped me discover how deeply I care for others, that there is more to life than riding in a red convertible, and there are many ways of going through this life.  I can create disturbance or I can create loving.  It’s a choice.  Thanks to George, I know what I’m choosing.

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