Posts Tagged ‘Gratitude’

Our relationship with PTSD changes over time

Pinterest: Jane Smith

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When my childhood trauma exploded in my mid 50’s, it was terrifying.

PTSD brought great fear and that intense jolt in my chest. My body would freeze, lock up, as my fight or flight mechanism exploded.

My nervous system felt like it flipped upside down. Life had totally changed, a monster was my daily companion.

I flailed about, suffering, avoiding life, consumed and terrified for a couple of years.

Then I found something that could make it stop for a while.

My meditation practice had developed my ability to focus, to stay present without fear.

This was not a quick process. Nothing has ever been easy since trauma exploded.

My first, enormous victory was calming my nervous system.

My fight or flight mechanism stopped firing.

Triggers lost their big threat, no need to avoid anymore.

Life improved, became more enjoyable.

Then a decade later, a repressed memory, a trauma memory exploded.

My fight or flight did not fire, but the rest of PTSD symptoms were alive and well.

For a couple of months, intrusive thoughts haunted me, PTSD had brought suffering again.

That has subsided, calmed down some.

I have learned not to resist or be afraid of what trauma can do to me.

Even if PTSD never leaves me, I do not fear anything about it.

It is not healing but it is not suffering either.

I do not avoid anymore, I accept, I exist in the middle of my trauma.

In time the thoughts will fade, I hope.

My wellbeing (our wellbeing) looks totally different from a normal person.

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Body and Mind: a partnership

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Let’s look at life in a different way. We are granted a body at birth, sometimes parents are part of the package. A mind comes with that body, the organ that will decide if we find wellbeing, suffering or something in between.

The body deteriorates at a much faster pace than the mind in normal times. Think of the needs of your body, then your mind.

The body is never satisfied for long, desires are never fulfilled for long. Constantly fulfilling desire leads to addiction not wellbeing.

The greatest meal on earth keeps hunger pains away for maybe 8 or 10 hours. One meal does not sustain us forever.

I mean look how often we need oxygen, four breathes a minute, every 15 seconds of so.

Then the body starts deteriorating if we reach maturity. We wither and die, no one has escaped.

What does the mind need. Well it uses 25% of the bodies oxygen and is dépendant on the body being healthy.

The mind has the option of grasping our desires, then judging success or failure on how we fulfill them.

The mind can also discount the Ego’s needs, making decisions in an unbiased observer mode.

Wellbeing happens when these two forces are balanced.

We have to fulfill certain desires but we need balance and perspective.

One banana split is wonderful, the second damn good, the third brings stomach pains.

Substitute drugs, alcohol, sex, power, status or approval for the banana split.

More desire does not quench desire, it promulgates more and more.

“Happiness does not come from having much, but from being attached to little.”

—Venerable Cheng Yen!!!

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Demystifying Meditation for Depression and PTSD

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Take the robes, lineage and all the rules out of your meditation practice. Our goal is not enlightenment, it is improving, healing or wellbeing.

I may meditate for 30 minutes but my goal is to focus on ten breaths with very specific intention. How, you may ask?

We use a combination of our senses. Thought is the enemy, thinking is the opposite of meditating. Actually these two actions happen in different hémisphères of the brain.

So let’s start: Visually; I use a model a continuum so getting lost in the pauses becomes much harder. There are visual models, the boxed breath and my breathing track. I also monitor what my eyes see with eyelids closed.

Auditory: A plethora of stimulus here. Pick out the quietest sound in the room, then go beneath it. Listen for the sound of your inhales and exhales. For me, I hear my inhales and exhales, as my focus stays inside my nostrils. For those experienced, a symphony plays inside our head, listen inside your ears.

Tactile: During the pauses, internal noise stops, it is a special opportunity to search for agitation, tightness, fear in the body. Focus on your inner world, intently. I , also focus on my third eye, or my upper lip close to my nostrils, feeling the cool inhales pass followed by the warmer exhale.

Smell: At the zen center form was important, incense and repeating phrases were staples. Incense can tell the brain it is time to meditate.

Mindset: No goals. We influence nothing, try to exert no energy, we observe and focus. We always set for others first.

Again, we are the ultimate observer, detached from thought and judgment, existing totally in this moment, unencumbered by the past.

We let thought clear, and hold an empty, focused space so our mind and body can repair as neuroscience tells us.

Know that ten focused breaths can deliver us to a no thought space, and active meditation. Once we are there time stops and the body repairs itself.

Question?

Inhale starts at bottom right corner traveling up and to the left.

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Fear causes many behaviors for us Humans

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We all know conscious fear.

Spotting a shark while swimming, losing an engine on a commercial flight, or being caught in a high rise fire, are obvious events producing intense fear.

My less obvious fears hide inside my past, especially my trauma

They manifest in my consciousness as anxiety, unworthiness, humiliation (shame).

So if an event is in the past, this fear is irrational, but it holds current power inside my being.

Perception becomes reality again. I feel the fear, but discount it’s reality.

I have been exploring the fear, humiliation has brought me.

Why does old shame have such power over us?

Why does an old event live on inside, just out of reach?

Yes, I know it is PTSD, stored implicit memory, but it has a conscious component to it.

What big fear has me grasping decades old humiliation?

Inside our minds, we know there is no real danger, no real fear.

Is some unknown need being met by carrying this anchor around like a medal.

What reward do we receive from honoring old fears?

Awareness of there existence is the first step towards ultimate release, in my opinion.

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Things I own, permanent things

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On my arduous journey with childhood trauma, I have found a few constants, things that are permanent, only a few.

Life is complex, things we thought vital in our youth, fade in importance as we age.

Things I coveted have changed in value, possessions get damaged, stolen or worn out. Status, beauty, and health all deteriorate with time. My trophies took enormous effort, grueling competitiveness to attain, now they collect dust out of sight.

What seemed to hold ultimate happiness, disappoints quickly, then fades to the next challenge.

How many times have we chased things, college, career, status, fame etc. searching for happiness, only to find nothing behind it.

The band that dreams of a miracle hit, expecting lasting happiness, finds intense pressure in a cutthroat business to write more hits quickly, instead.

The greatest, most expensive meal in the world, turns to hunger in six hours.

Fulfilling desire does not quench the beast, it feeds it.

What endures.

For me, two things off the top of my head, giving and gratitude are constants for me. My emotions peak and valley like a big rollercoaster, but I am a giver and appreciate what I have.

Giving without regard for reward is called loving kindness by the Buddhists, a tenet of wellbeing.

Giving has always been a part of my life, being able to run a blog that helps others improve, is precious in my life.

The bond I share with a few on this healing path endures and matures.

I always count my blessings and know others have it much tougher than me.

My meditation practice is permanent, a daily companion who asks no toll for soothing my being.

My permanent things have an abstract quality to them, unlike possesssions we protect from thieves.

You can not steal my kindness, gratitude, or meditation practice. They cost nothing but are more valuable than all my possesssions.

The few things that I will leave this earth with.

How about you, what is permanent in your life?

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Chronic Pain: action is needed to cope well

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A triple rollover in a company car changed a healthy productive man into a 100% disabled mess. After multiple fusions, nerve killings and years of physical therapy, I ended up in a 15 person chronic pain group.

My peers had damaged spines, chronic pain and not much of a life. It was depressing to listen to them describe their suffering. They had given up, this was foreign to a former pro jock.

Everyone in group used Benzodiazepines for anxiety and opioids for pain. Out of 15 of us, most were taking between 20 and 40 pills a day, plus an implanted stem or morphine pump.

You can not chase something chronic with a short term pill. Opioids or Benzodiazepines last a few hours at best and then lose strength with repeated use.

Opioids or Benzodiazepines will not solve our pain or anxiety issues, in fact it will complicate them and do damage in the long run.

Hell, I lost my willpower, they had me so sedated.

Something in me, would not let me sit back and be a victim. One day I flushed all my pills down the commode and started hiking. Chronic Pain would be my combative enemy.

I named my pain Mr. P., like Mr C. On Happy Days. Pain is like the wind, invisible but powerful, so I gave my pain physical qualities.

So mid morning, I would battle Mr. P., tell myself he was trying to stop my legs from moving. I would cuss and taunt my pain and laugh at his feeble attempt to stop me from hiking.

I had brought my pain to a platform where I could use my greatest strength, my willpower, the battle for control was engaged.

I wish I could do this with my complex PTSD.

My pain exploded, intensity spiked, I kept moving my legs.

I was not going to live like a zombie on all those meds. Each week I saw others suffering without the will to resist or take action.

I would rather die fighting chronic pain than live a victims existence. So motive was clear and I would give all out effort.

In three weeks of daily hiking, each day my pain became more familiar, less scary, less painful.

In my misguided way, I was going right at my pain, bringing him out to compete, the others showed fear and avoided their pain.

Which way do you think leads to relief?

It never leaves completely, it just takes a seat way in the back of the auditorium.

Overcoming chronic pain was training for the trauma that would explode a little later in life.

Rick, a group member followed me out, started exercising and got off 80% of his opioids.

The difference of those who improve and those who suffer greatly is the ability of some to take action.

Action heals.

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Life demands much more effort and courage from us

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From “Focused and Fearless”

Look into the stories, fantasies, fabrications, desires, aversions, reactions, and doubts that periodically occupy your thoughts.

Notice what your mind conjures up in the first moments after waking up in the morning—that period between waking and breakfast is a fascinating window into your habitual thought patterns.”

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My two cents: Where does your mind go in the shower, first thing in the morning.

It is a time when the mind scans the day ahead.

Do you visualize opportunity, boredom, an enjoyable time, dread, fear or ambivalence?

Do you have to plan, avoiding some things at all costs.

Do you look forward to the challenge of today, or want to avoid it all together.

I learned about my mind, what it habituated on, from my early morning showers.

Abused kids, as adults have many days, when we dread going out into the onslaught.

For me, I never felt things would work out.

I carried worry, an internal fear life would always be like childhood.

No success, trophy or promotion changed that fear of failing inside me.

How do we undo a complete childhood with a damaged self from the experience.

Not quickly or easily.

For me, it takes moment to moment vigilance, my mind can be overrun by trauma thoughts if left unattended.

Life demands much more effort and courage from us, just to carve out a peaceful space, others take for granted.

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I do not have to win: I do have to fight with every fiber

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Learning how to endure my chronic pain prepared me for my battle with PTSD.

I learned to use my strengths, adapt any solution around them.

Instead of sitting quietly in the middle of 14 other chronic pain patients, my path hit the fork in the road.

I was not going to be a victim and let chronic pain and 25 pills a day take my willpower.

I threw my opioids away and started hiking.

When my childhood trauma (PTSD) exploded, my second big challenge in life, entered my world with violence.

Sitting in the middle of ptsd firing, focused on my breath was a similar journey as chronic pain.

As with chronic pain, I did not avoid it, I brought it out to compete. I used hiking as the vehicle to crack my pain.

For trauma, meditation was my magical sword.

It takes daily action and repetition to heal. You can outwork trauma. You can recite an affirmation every time an intrusive thought gains consciousness.

Thinking did not heal my ptsd or calm my chronic pain.

Thinking is by far, not the power of our mind.

Our cognitive engine, our left hemisphere is a beach ball, in the Pacific Ocean, our creative, expansive right hemisphere.

Healing is far more doing and far less thinking.

I meditated five hours a day for five years.

Doubt and worry were met with increased effort.

I had determined to outwork ptsd.

I do not always win that battle.

But I fight

And the fight is more important than healing, or winning.

Not many understand that last sentence

You have to be there and lived it.

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Combining Neuroscience with Meditation (Mindfulness) Practice

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Rick Hanson from Neurodharma:

“So how can we warm the heart and develop compassion and kindness, for our own sake and for that if others.

Mindfulness is necessary, but not sufficient.

Studies of mindfulness and related meditations have found that these can alter neural networks for attention, self awareness, and self-control. This is really good, but it doesn’t directly strengthen key parts of the neural basis of compassion and kindness.

Related but distinct networks handle these things.

For example, pleasurable social experience activate brain regions that help produce experiences of physical pleasure.

Being generous, cooperative, and fair can stimulate neural reward centers. And social pain– such as rejection or loneliness—taps the same network that underlie physical pain.

It is when we focus on warmheartedness itself that it’s aspects are most experienced in the mind and developed in the nervous system.

Compassion-focused meditation stimulates specific parts of the brain involved with the with the sense of connection, positive emotions, and reward, including the middle orbitofrontal cortex, behind where your eyebrows meet.

Long term practitioners of lovingkindness meditation develop similar neurological reactions to seeing the faces of strangers and their own faces, with growing sense of “you’re like me.”

They also build neural tissue in key parts of the hippocampus that support feelings of empathy towards others.”

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Sustaining a steady mind

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“If awakening is like a mountain, in some moments you may find yourself far up the slopes– but can you stay there, on firm footing?

Or do you keep slipping back down again?”

Rick Hanson

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My two cents: My meditation practice has been deep and powerful at times, then at other times I get lost in endless thought, worry and doubt.

I reach that special place at times meditating, my issue is slipping back into the abyss an hour later.

My concentration steadies my mind and allows serene moments, fleeting contact without the bias of my ego.

Sustaining this space is my current goal.

How about you?

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