The Power Paradox by Dacher Keitner
An interesting read on the myths and misperceptions of power.
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Yoga is an ancient philosophy and practice of body, mind and spirit. Having originated in India over 10,000 years ago, yoga has been used as a portal to healing, spiritual awareness and evolution of consciousness. In more recent years, the Western world has begun to embrace yoga as more than just an exercise routine to keep the body in shape, but instead, it is being revered as a scientifically researched practice with incredible efficacy on mental health and physical disorders.
The most pertinent example of research on the benefits of yoga as treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), was conducted by one of the world’s leading clinicians on PTSD, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
Having worked as a mental health therapist for seven years myself, I have witnessed the effects of trauma professionally with the clients I have treated, as well as in my own sensory experiences. Yoga, experiential therapies and trauma-informed psychotherapy have been critical and necessary tools of transformation with traumatized individuals.
The definition of yoga asana in Sanskrit is “Sthiram Sukram Asana,” meaning steady and comfortable pose. Each posture must be steady and comfortable in order to achieve the full benefits of yoga. Steadiness refers to the connection of body and mind, or in other words, holding a position with your body and, perhaps more importantly, focusing with your mind, utilizing your breath. Moving the breath to the diaphragm slows down breathing and the workings of the nervous system. The body begins to calm when respiration is slow and deep in the diaphragm. Most people suffering from PTSD and anxiety disorders experience shortness, or shallowness, of breath in the chest area. Any intense discomfort or pain should be avoided or used as an indicator that a variation or modification is necessary. This methodology is perfect for any human being seeking flexibility and mastery of the body and mind, but especially so for the traumatized person who needs to be met where they are, not where they “should," or are expected to be. This gentle invitation of starting from where you are reflects the philosophical and psychological sensitivity needed for most people to heal. When one advances in yogic practices, it evolves into more than sensory experiences, it transforms into a lifestyle.
More About Trauma
Trauma is an immobilizing experience that leaves lasting imprints on the autonomic nervous system and brain. It often compromises one’s ability to keep her or himself safe because they are experiencing increased, or decreased, arousal on a sensory level in the body. Life is experienced as constant survival mode, i.e. fight, flight, freeze, submit, attach. These defense mechanisms manifest into symptoms such as depression, anxiety, helplessness, loss of sense of “who I am”, nightmares, flashbacks, irritability, emotional overwhelm, substance abuse, mistrust, shame and worthlessness, numbing, and the list goes on.
These individuals lose the capacity to use emotions as effective guides for necessary action. This leaves the person paralyzed and helpless. They are hijacked and unable to take effective action that would potentially protect the self- but instead, end up hurting the self over and over again.
Do you remember being asked to hold a pose, like Warrior II or Tree, for a few breaths, and depending on your ability, these few seconds morph into feeling like an eternity? The tingly sensations that run up and down your body, the impulse to breathe faster consumes you while you’re told to slow down and deepen your breath, and all while racing thoughts of impending doom torment you? And that’s only five seconds of one pose! Imagine living like that 24 hours a day, in relationship to yourself, others and the world. THAT is trauma.
As expert trauma psychologist, Dr. Janina Fisher states, “trauma survivors have symptoms instead of memories.” We must learn to observe these intrusive thoughts, feelings and overwhelming sensations as symptoms- not as a definition of who we are.
Yoga Is The Way
Yoga literally means “to join” and thus helps aid the process of a person becoming an observer of their symptoms/experiences to join back into relationship with their body, mind, and spirit in a safe and loving way.
The first stage of treating traumatized individuals always requires providing safety and stabilization to overcome emotional and psychological dysregulation. Gentle practices of Hatha, Yin and Restorative yoga support the balance and regulation of these symptoms.
Through Dr. van der Kolk’s research, yoga has been shown to be an integral healing technique. Yoga brings attention and direction to the breath (pranayama), which contains life force (prana) to move and shift energy in the body and mind. By bringing awareness to the breath, one can also observe physical sensations in holding the postures (asanas). Dr. van der Kolk’s book, “The Body Keeps the Score,” beautifully describes the implications of trauma on the nervous system (how it is stored in the body) and brain and how yoga and other experiential modalities, such as EMDR, are utilized to integrate traumatic memories that keep people “stuck” in the past or in fear of the future. Yoga enables these individuals to come to terms with the past, recover by developing awareness of the here-and-now and tolerate moment-to-moment experiences in the present no matter the level of stress attached to it.
Yoga empowers the individual to learn to self-regulate their discomfort by holding poses and consciously regulating the breath.
The consistent practice of yoga reprograms the brain and removes engrained physical responses that are automatic and self-destructive. Yoga is the tuning fork of the mind and body. It tunes the person into being present with what is by accepting things as they are with curiosity and non-judgment. It removes the shame and blame often correlated to mental health disorders.
Yoga brings understanding and awareness to these constant disturbances by balancing pranayama and asanas, as they are meditative states of transformation. The breath helps us master our physiology and create safety and stabilization from within. A person learns to live from the inside-out, as opposed to the fear and danger from the outside-in. Individuals also learn to tolerate uncomfortable experiences by shifting into different postures and realizing that discomfort can be limited in time and space- it doesn’t have to last forever! This is crucial awareness for the trauma survivor who is constantly reliving the past as if it were happening now, appearing to have no end in sight.
True Healing Cannot be Undone
A deeper relationship starts to form in yoga that connects the person to their body and mind in positive ways- instead of a relationship that has sabotaged, betrayed and terrorized the experience of their bodies in their everyday lives.
People start to view themselves with compassion, love and forgiveness as they shift their perspective from fear-based thinking into awareness, consciousness, love and gentleness.
We are so lucky we are human beings, born with the ability to self-develop, i.e. evolve our consciousness and reach our fullest potential, Samadhi or Self-Realization. It is our aim and purpose to achieve peace and happiness.
Should it call to you, allow yoga to be the way of getting you there. It has worked for millions of people all over the world.
It requires only one ingredient: your willingness.
Will yourself into happiness and prosperity.
“What you think you will become.” Buddha
“You don’t need to be sad to experience sadness. You don’t need to be happy to experience happiness.” Bhagavad-Gita
A common misconception people share when contextualizing human relationships is when they place their value on characteristics detrimental to the self and others. Shame and fear based relationships are often a whirling pool of distress, confusion and anger- providing the perfect breeding ground for a little (big thing) we call CODEPENDENCE.
What is Codependence?
Well, one of the best ways to understand it is to be curious about your own behavior and thoughts... so let's start there:
1. Do you walk on egg shells around certain people? Feel anxious and afraid?
2. Are you afraid of disrupting the "peace" in your work environment (or any environment) and often find yourself either avoiding, placating, minimizing, rescuing situations and people when there is tension, discomfort, stress, or fear of consequences?
3. Do you often self-sabotage personal success when you're close to achieving it? Do you blame others and their actions when this happens?
4. Do other people constantly let you down or hurt you? Are you in relationship with a person in active addiction?
5. Do you find yourself care-taking other people's emotional states? Especially when they are in distress? Do you feel responsible for their emotional and psychological well-being? (children excluded)
6. Do you replicate behaviors and patterns that cause you to feel "stuck" in your life and not moving forward?
7. Do you feel like other people are getting ahead while you sacrifice yourself for no real merit?
8. Do you avoid communicating your true feelings in order to keep the peace, or in fear that it may hurt someone else's feelings? (Even though YOU'RE massively hurting inside!)
9. Have you said "Yes" to social situations time and time again, even though every bone and fiber of your Being wanted to say "HELL NO, I'm staying in and watching animal videos, but enjoy your brunch in the sun!"?
10. Are relationships stressful and triggering? Are intimate relationships exhausting because you end up doing all the work? Literally and figuratively. Are you always the "nice" guy or girl that get's screwed over?
If you answered YES to any of these questions, Codependency may be present in your life.
The great news is, you can do something about it!
Psychotherapy and 12 step groups like Codependents Anonymous are great resources for help and support.
If you want to start learning more about Codependence in the safety and comfort of your own home, I highly recommend
Pia Mellody's, "Facing Codependence."
8/15/2016 0 Comments
"What am I looking at in this picture?"
- A door to a sensory deprivation chamber.
"What's a sensory deprivation chamber?"
- I'm glad you asked.
The first time I floated in a sensory deprivation chamber at Float Lab in Venice, CA, was around the year 2007. I floated for 3.5 hours not ever wanting to get out. I clearly remember the disruption of hunger pains that stifled my meditation in the chamber, reminding me to nourish myself before I passed out from my otherworldly transcendent experience. Doing my best to integrate the out of body experiences, anti-gravity sensations, and child-like wonder back into my adult "normal" self took a few minutes as I enjoyed the last few moments of freedom from ALL distractions. The warmth and weightlessness of the saline water soothed every muscle, ligament, joint, pore, hair follicle I had/have on my body. The moment I walked out of the front door, into the busy, gurgling sounds and movements of the Venice Boardwalk, I felt a calmness that I had never felt before. As if I was observing the world around me like it was a movie, and I was a polite bystander, bearing witness to the "noise" of the world with a deep sense of peace and safety that was indestructible. It was as if I was a tether in the vibrations of consciousness, oscillating on the waves of awareness that spiritual gurus and mystics often speak about, and normal humans regurgitate into catch phrases that warrant likes and shares on social media. "Just Be You." Great idea! But, who am I? Who is underneath the "personality," the "identity," the "academic?"
Well, in that moment, I was clear. I had returned to my essence.
The feeling of BEING that resonates like a faint memory of what it was like "to be" before being born. A memory I would often drift to as a child, a memory great artists like Salvador Dali discuss as inspiration to their work.
A week ago, I returned to the Float Lab at their new location in Westwood, CA. A phenomenal new location with 7 chambers and state of the art sound proofing and equipment. I was so impressed with the aesthetics and new technology Crash (owner) and his team had developed, that I was too stunned to take photos. (Besides the one I took of the chamber door. See above).
A sensory deprivation chamber is a chamber that contains a depth of 12 inches of saline water (that you effortlessly float in) and is completely void of light (you are in complete darkness) and sound (you can't hear anything but your own mind and body). It is a vessel for deep body relaxation while feeling "weightless." Hence, sensory deprivation- deprivation from senses.
It is place to meditate, reconnect with yourself and allow whatever experience you are presently having, to present itself to you.
I have been floating on and off for the past 8-9 years and dream of the day I can have my own personal chamber at home. As the new generation would say: #goals.
I strongly believe in the healing and perception shifting experiences of the chamber because I have seen it for myself and within others.
As a treatment resource, I have taken clients floating who have stabilized in sobriety after entering drug and alcohol treatment for 30 days or more. This was often a rewarding intervention for most clients who had never experienced a sense of being alone with themselves, without the fear of loneliness hijacking their experience and tempting them back into "escape" mode with substances. There is a huge difference between being alone, and being able to tolerate moment-to-moment experiences while being okay with it. Unfortunately most people react to feeling lonely (alone) by isolating from the world and support systems/groups that help keep a person connected to community, and most importantly, to themselves.
Floating provides for an experience that is solely about YOU. Your thoughts, your feelings, your fears, your dreams, your bodily sensations, your transcendence, your everything. It creates a safe place for you to self-remember and access your internal navigation system that guides you back to YOU. You have everything you need, deep inside of you. (That phrase - totally true.)
I highly recommend this resource for you and anyone you love.
Check it out for yourself, and float on.
The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance
By: Matthew McKay, Jeffrey Wood, and Jeffrey Brantley
You may have heard of CBT- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and ACT - Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, but make no mistake, this book is about another three letter acronym- the DBT's - Dialectical Behavior Therapy.
I love DBT.
Because it's useful, practical and really, really good. Oh, and science backs it up too.
It's an easy and great way of learning the 4 core skill groups (Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation and Distress Tolerance) that will create impactful change over time. Dialectical, by definition, means to have two opposing thoughts, emotions or forces occurring at the same time. This happens to ALL of us: "I want to ask my friend out on a date and yet I'm scared they'll say no and it will destroy our friendship." Both could be true, but which do you do? DBT helps integrate the opposing forces in order to accept things as they are, and still be able to make choices to help you change and LIVE your life.