Daily Meditation – Fear Not

fear

Fear can dominate our lives. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the past. Fear of the future. Fear of all that is, of all that isn’t. It is an agonizing state in which to live. It is a state of mind, not a state of reality, in most cases.

If we can train ourselves to stay in the present moment, in the moment of what task is at hand, then fear cannot survive. What are you doing right this moment? Reading this meditation perhaps. What fear is there in this task? When you are making your bed, doing your dishes, taking your shower, what fear is there in that? None. It is the thoughts you have outside of those actions that cause you fear.

Keeping our minds focused on exactly what we are doing in the moment can eliminate much of the fear in our lives. It is not easy, but it is simple. It is worth striving for if only to gain a little peace in our day, minute by minute.

Daily Meditation – The Present Moment

fear

Life sometimes seems life a series of accidents, like things are spinning out of control. Scary, anxiety-producing, unknown. It can cause us to freeze in our tracks like a deer in headlights, just waiting for the impact take us out. Rarely does this ever happen. Our fears build up scenarios in our heads that make things more unbearable than they really need to be.

If only we could take a moment to stop our thoughts and concentrate on our breathing. Take a deep breath. Do the next right thing. Take it one step at a time. Have faith that if we only take care of what is in front of us – whether it be a daily task, a job responsibility, a self-care activity, a social commitment – the future will take care of itself.

For the future is never with us, only the present moment is. It is only in the present moment where we can take the actions that will make a difference in our quality of life. It is only in the present moment where we can find peace.

Daily Meditation – The Greatest Gift

winter

When the cold of depression surrounds my heart with ice, and I shiver under the blankets in my lonely bed, it feels as though I will suffer alone forever with the silent screams of the voices in my unquiet mind. If only for a moment to feel the healing touch of God, to feel the warmth of his hands melt the chill of despair that suffocates my soul – oh, how lovely this would be!

At times, it feels as if our despondent mood will last forever, but like the tides of the ocean, the ebb and flow of life and its accompanying emotions are never stagnant. What is today will not necessarily be tomorrow. With every breath is the promise of new and different possibilities.

Hanging onto the hope of a better tomorrow is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves. Taking the necessary steps to facilitate such an outcome is what we are called to do. We alone are responsible for taking care of ourselves, our health, our own well-being. We must not wait for someone else to take charge of our lives. We must take even the smallest of steps to begin to make the changes in our lives to become the person we were meant to be, to heal if only a little at a time; to try if only in some small way every day.

River of Emotions

river

When I am feeling sad or depressed, or anxious and afraid, my first instinct is to get rid of these emotions either by doing something unhealthy like smoking or overeating, or something productive like cleaning the house or exercising. The goal in both cases is to block out the emotion; to ignore it; to purge it from my system; to eradicate it.

What if rather than trying to kill the emotion, I sat with it; let it flow through and around me, believing all the while I am safe, because it is my actions, not my emotions, that have the potential to harm me.

I find that when I do this, the emotion tends to dissipate on its own. It’s as if giving it recognition somehow facilitates its disappearance.

Today, I will acknowledge the emotions within me. I will validate their existence, keeping in mind that feelings are not facts. They cannot harm me. Like a river they will flow towards me, through me and then out of me, and I will know peace.

How Positive Thinking Can Be a Crock

On a path to clearer views, I find myself looking up and realizing that life is nothing more than an illusion of what my mind (ego) tells me it is.

I am baffled by people who are always up-beat and positive; who love life even when things are tough; who see the good in even the most painful events.

I am writing this post and my husband, who is in the other room, just started taping up some boxes he needs to mail. Now, all I can pay attention to is the god-awful screeching sound of the tape being pulled from the tape-gun as he wraps it around the damn boxes! Like nails on a chalk board, I tell ya!

ok, I think he is finished. Like I was saying, my reality is nothing more than what my mind tells me it is. Let’s look at my outburst about the tape-gun just seconds ago. My thoughts went something like this: “Well, that made you lose your concentration which is extremely annoying! When is he going to stop doing that? I want to write and cannot with all of that racket going on!”

*uck – he’s at it again. I’ll be back…

ok, now I know he is finished because this time when the silence returned, instead of continuing to write this post I asked him nicely if he was done using the tape-gun and he said, yes. Now, I don’t have to worry about being interrupted and startled by that horribly loud sound.

One of the disadvantages of being a highly sensitive person is that what may be an average stimulus to most people is an overpowering stimulus to me. I am particular sensitive to noises. My sensory system gets overloaded if I am around too many people for too long, if the TV is too loud, if the kids have friends over playing, when car commercials come on the radio (I have to keep from going ballistic until I can turn it off), when people come in and out of the house repeatedly, when kids are outside playing loudly or a dog continuously barks… I just can’t seem to filter these things into the periphery of my awareness. Instead they dance obnoxiously in front of my face until I feel like I am going mad. Can anyone relate to that?

I am also extremely sensitive to temperature changes, bright lights, and odd smells, like when the dog needs a bath or the hamster cage needs to be cleaned. Maybe the smells are just a mom-thing, but while these noises, tactile sensations, sights, and smells are noxious to me, no one else seems to even notice them. And by noxious I mean that I get highly agitated and sometimes feel physically ill because of them.

Well, this post turned from how my mind decides what my reality is to how my sensory system is highly sensitive.

There is a fine line between what we can and cannot control. In my experience, mental illness is a biochemical phenomenon that cannot be entirely relieved by positive thinking because a large part of the illness involves the inability to control my thoughts.

Thus, “thinking positive,” “being grateful,” “pulling myself up by my bootstraps,” “getting over myself,” and other such platitudes are often ineffective. For me, until medication rearranges my brain chemicals, cognitive behavior techniques are useless. Honestly, for me, they don’t even work that well when I am properly medicated.

What works for me is getting out of my head completely. Excessive thinking is like poison for me which is why I have cut way back on my blog posts. I love reading other people’s writings, listening to positive speakers share their experiences, and creating fine art because the voices in my own head go away during these times – times in which I am completely in the present moment, not thinking about the past or wondering about the future, but experiencing exactly what is going on in the moment – as it is with no judgment of it being “good” or “bad” or otherwise, but just noticing and experiencing.

I did this with the tape-gun incident the second time around. I stopped writing, closed my eyes, stopped thinking and just listened to the sound. To my surprise, my agitation subsided.

Acceptance is the key to relieving most, if not all, of my suffering. Acceptance is the key that unlocks the door to inner peace within me no matter what is going on around me.

Now, if the TV was on, the kids were fighting, and the dirty dog was lying at my feet at the same time my husband started taping up those boxes, I am sure I would not have been able to do this. But, I believe with practice, someday I will be capable of it.

How’s that for positive thinking? 😉

 

My True Self Is

My last post included a video about how those with mental illness have a body/mind sickness, not a “self” sickness. After reading some of the comments, I had some follow-up thoughts which I wanted to share here as well, for my own mental reminder and hopefully, for the benefit of others out there in Blogland.

What is our make up as “beings?” I believe the human or mortal part is made up of the mind and body, and the spiritual or immortal part is the “self” (a.k.a, the Divine, God, etc.) Thinking of it in terms of God, our Creator, connects all the pieces of the religious/spiritual puzzle for me.  I can’t quote the bible verses, but phrases like “the Great I am,” “be still and know that I am,” “what you do unto others you do unto me,” and “made in His image” all point to this “self” – the part that isn’t sick, the only part that really matters, because it is forever while the mind and body are temporary.

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” ~ Teilhard de Chardin quotes (French Geologist, Priest, Philosopher and Mystic, 1881-1955)

As the Universe would have it, another blogger posted some relevant information just yesterday, from The Upanishad (introduced and translated by Eknath Easwaran.) The Upanishads are the oldest and one of the most universal of messages which inform us that there is more to life than the everyday experience of our senses – including our physical and mental illnesses!

Some excerpts from Indian Spirituality:

“The Self is one, though is appears to be many. Those who meditate upon the Self and realize the Self go beyond decay and death, beyond separateness and sorrow. They see the Self in everyone and obtain all things.”

“Control the senses and purify the mind. In a pure mind there is constant awareness of the Self. Where there is constant awareness of the Self, freedom ends bondage and joy ends sorrow.”

“The Self, pure awareness, shines as the light within the heart, surrounded by the senses. Only seeming to think, seeming to move, the Self neither sleeps nor wakes nor dreams.”

“When the Self takes on a body, he seems to assume the body’s frailties and limitations; but when he sheds the body at the time of death the Self leaves all these behind.”

Brahman is the infinite, supreme soul. Brahman is all-prevailing, and the visualized world is a tiny part of the same. Whatever we see or feel with other senses (as in Biology) is Divine Illusion or Maya, and is Asat or untrue. The Only Truth or Sat is Brahman. We, or our souls (Jeev-Atma), are infinite small parts of Brahma.

In Hinduism, Brahman (ब्रह्मन् bráhman) is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Brahman is sometimes referred to as the Absolute or Godhead which is the Divine Ground of all being. Brahman is conceived as personal (“with qualities”), impersonal (“without qualities”) and/or supreme depending on the philosophical school.”

That last sentence is what makes me completely baffled by so-called “religious wars,” because really, we seem to all believe in the same thing.  So, what are we fighting over? Semantics???  How sad!

Anyway, back to the “self.”  I have heard people greet one another with the word “Namaste.” I always thought it meant “peace to you” or something along those lines. Yesterday, however, when I was watching a video on The Light Way blog about Rapid Eye Technology, I learned the true meaning of namaste, which made for the third time in three days from three different sources that the same message of this “self” was delivered to me. I love when that happens. It’s like God frantically waving His arms over His head saying, “Are you hearing me??? Are you paying attention?”

According to Organic Spa Magazine,

“the literal translation [of namaste] is a little more nuanced and suggests that it is not a superficial gesture or word but has deep spiritual significance” such as:

“All sacred in me greets all sacred in you.”

“Honor the peace within.”

“The light in me honors and respects the light in you.”

“I bow to the divine in you.”

“The light in me recognizes the light in you.”

In order for these truths to help me cope with my mental illnesses, I have to continue searching and learning more about them. It’s a never-ending spiritual journey that doesn’t always “feel” good. I also have to talk about it with others, who understand, daily and honestly. And finally, I write a lot and create a lot of digital art (and some paintings) that reflect these truths, so that I am constantly reminding myself.  (btw, the digital art in this post is not mine but listed on elfwood.com as public domain.  Thank you to those creators.)

What beliefs do you have that help you cope with yourself as a person with mental illness?   How do you keep these beliefs in the forefront of your mind?  I would love to know.  Please share!

Writing Moment by Moment #26

Practicing mindfulness

 

Sunlight reflects off of the hood
of a black car parked
across the street.

Naked tree limbs reach up
while wheat grass flutters
in the breeze.

I inhale winter’s crisp air;
exhale steamy puffs
of my own.

I hear cars zoom by
off in the distance; inside,
the washing machine
agitates clothes.

My finger tips are chilled
as is my nose while the sweetness
from a chocolate chip cookie
lingers on my palate.

The garage is cold yet, the sunshine
on the grass and street warms me.

White clouds blanket the blue sky;
they are still
like the thoughts in my mind.

 

This mindfulness exercise was a result of me sitting outside for less than five minutes. I can only imagine how much I would notice if I practiced mindfulness in all of my daily activities.

Mindfulness involves a conscious effort to observe what is through your senses (i.e., eyes, ears, nose, mouth, touch) both inside and outside of your body without giving any subjective thoughts, opinions, judgements, etc. nor attaching any emotions to what you observe.

In other words, everything that you identify through your physical senses is not to be tagged with thoughts such as “That is beautiful” or “This is awful” or “That makes me feel sad” or “That is so exciting!”

Give it a try and let me know what you experience in your moment.

Writing Moment by Moment #23 and #24

#23 – A beautiful person gave me permission to accept help without feeling guilty and to take extra-special care of myself because I am “going through a healing period” which I need not minimize.  A weight lifted from me in that moment.

 

#24 – I think that I finally get what “mindfulness” means versus distraction.  Here’s a fun fact:

“Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density…in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.”  ~Psychiatry Res. 2011 Jan 30;191(1):36-43. Epub  2010 Nov 10

Now, to practice it…

What moment are you grateful for today?  I had three wonderful “in the moment” moments today – the above two and a third which I posted here.

For more on “Writing Moment by Moment” click here.