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    In reply to: Transformation

    I have sought counseling with therapists at different stages of my life, and they have used many different modalities. But I started having some breakthroughs on my own a couple of years ago. I had chronic pain in my neck but I hadn’t been able to connect it to anything. At the same time I was using meditation, prayer, visualization, and setting my intention to bring resolution to some of the emotional issues that had plagued me for most of my life.
     
    As I was driving to work from a doctor appointment, memories of forgotten trauma came flooding back to me. I was on the freeway, becoming blinded by tears. After a bit I took an exit that led to the ocean (lucky me, I lived in California then). I had a pen and a legal pad in the car and I wrote and wrote and wrote about all of the memories, thoughts, feelings, and visuals that were enveloping me. I was having a kind of detached vision of the past. When I finished I drove back to work and slipped into the rhythm of the office as if nothing had happened.
     
    When I got home I sat in the dark in stunned silence for hours. I knew I had uncovered the cause of much of my physical symptoms, distress, and pain. My occipital neuropathy – my “pain in the neck” – was directly related to this trauma. I involuntarily tensed my muscles (“armoring”), and held my breath constantly because of this trauma. I began employing many techniques to rid myself of the tension and emotional pain that I had stuffed deep down inside, including guided imagery and affirmations from a CD for healing trauma.
     
    To make a long story short I turned a corner that day. Just knowing the origin of the muscle tension and spasms, and being able to face and evaluate the cause allowed me to be more objective about it. That was when I was finally able to separate myself from it, and eventually eliminate the pain in the areas of my body that I identified with it. This for me was a transformation.
     
    I wasn’t familiar with the term “emotional decoupling” – thank you to Rachel for introducing it to me in her post from last Thursday – but that is exactly what happened for me, and I believe it has been a key component of my healing process. For me this was a critical area of personal growth that I got to through body listening.
     

     
    #transformation #trauma #emotionaldecoupling #breakthrough
     


    Gail Moser

    This can be a sensitive topic for some, so please keep in mind that the purpose of this forum is to openly accept all beliefs and practices as they contribute to our learning, healing, and growth.
     
    Spirituality is at the root of mindfulness, and many who study mindfulness come across practices and teachings from religion or spiritual beliefs. Prayer and meditation seem to go hand in hand to many people, and we’ve had prayer mentioned by several people in our own exploration these past weeks. While spirituality is getting a little away from our discussion of body listening, I think it bears mentioning as part of our conversation since it can be such a crucial part of how people experience their world and themselves.
     
    In my reading up on meditation I became interested in some of the Buddhist practices that I came across, and one of them in particular, Tonglen, has stuck with me as I’ve developed my own mindfulness routine. Tonglen has become my favorite breathing exercise while I’m meditating or doing a progressive body scan. Simply put, it’s breathing in pain and suffering — from yourself and others — and breathing out warmth and compassion.  Sending positive energy out into the world. I think what I like most about this practice is that it feels bigger than myself. It allows me take the focus off of my individual experience and think outwardly.  It makes my pain seem less significant.  Are there aspects of religious or spiritual practices that you have incorporated into your mindfulness?
     
    If you have explored spiritual aspects of mindfulness, how has this exploration contributed to your mindfulness practice and your techniques for coping with your pain or illness?
     
    #spirituality #prayerandmeditation #tonglen #mindfulbreathing


    Rachel Carriere
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    Over the years I have tried many, many, many different techniques to reduce stress. In my experience, the technique used is unimportant – it can be meditation, but it can also be breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, whatever. The regular practice of the technique is what allows me to recall the relaxation response in times of stress to return my usually involuntary body functions back to their normal, unstressed rates.
     
    I have found that my best and favorite techniques are walking meditation, guided imagery, reiki, and breathing. While most techniques when practiced regularly and with intention will provide relief from stress and often also from pain, I think the tendency is for us to gravitate to one or two which fit into our lifestyle and belief system. I had been meditating for decades, and using guided imagery and reiki for the same, but breathing practice always was an issue. I used to sing for recreation when I was young and still automatically practice diaphragmatic breathing. But whenever I tried to do a breathing meditation or slow, controlled breathing practice I would always feel like I couldn’t catch my breath (as in a panic) and it would actually add to the tension in my body, and to my stress. Although over time I developed some control and slowed my normal breathing rate, I could never understand what caused my breathing issues and I couldn’t fix them.
     
    Fast forward to 2013 when I was enrolled in the Comprehensive Pain Management program at Sharp Hospital in San Diego. They did my intake and decided I needed to work on several areas, which included two types of biofeedback: muscle tension and cardio-respiratory. From the awareness that I developed through cardio-respiratory biofeedback, I learned that I hold my breath automatically when I am faced with a stressor, no matter the source. (I just caught myself holding my breath again, simply from retelling this.) It’s kind of like when you are watching a thriller movie and you know something really scary is going to happen and you take in a breath and hold it due to the suspense – I did this constantly. The more pain I had, the more stress I felt from the problems it added to my life, and the fewer regular breaths I took. I wasn’t breathing, yet we have to breathe to live! Is there any question why I felt like I was just going through the motions, and not really living?
     
    I don’t know how many biofeedback sessions I had – probably only about four or five, but the technician also directed me to practice breathing daily using one of the free breathing smartphone apps. I tried MyCalmBeat and Breathe2Relax. I practiced twice a day – morning and evening – for 20 minutes. I started out with these apps and found that with regular practice, eventually I needed something that could handle an even slower breathing pace. So I found a metronome app called Metronome Beats and programmed it to fit the rate of breathing that brought me the best results. One day I woke up with an awful migraine headache and I found that when I had completed my breathing practice, my migraine was almost gone. Now I use this 20-minute, slow and controlled breathing exercise whenever I have a headache. This is the relaxation response at work!
     
    Another benefit has been the effect on my blood pressure. I’d never had any issues with my blood pressure, historically it has been on the low side. But I would always be rushed when going to my doctor appointments and arrive breathless and with elevated blood pressure. I decided to ask the nurse to wait five minutes so the reading would be more accurate. For five minutes I would practice my slow breathing, and my blood pressure would return to normal. Then one day I forgot to ask for the five minute delay. So while my blood pressure was being taken I practiced the breathing, and it returned to normal, right then and there. For me, this is the reason to practice a stress reduction technique and develop the relaxation response. I can now call up this response on demand! I just have to always remember to do it when in the throes of stress. :-)
     
    WebMD has an overview of the uses and benefits of biofeedback here: http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/biofeedback-therapy-uses-benefits.
     
    Here is a Youtube video about MyCalmBeat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCickT8lLHE. Available for iPhone and Android.
     
    Breathe2Relax: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEZ1dvZuJYc. Available for iPhone and Android.
     
    Metronome Beats: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.andymstone.metronome&hl=en.
    Available for Android.
     
    #relaxationresponse #biofeedback #breathingpractice #mycalmbeat #breathe2relax #metronomebeats


    Gail Moser
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    In reply to: Mindfulness practices

    I also like the journal that I’m using because it also incorporates a nigh routine. As far as incorporating mantras/affirmations; I just keep it simple. I use a phrase that has personal meaning to me or if I had to deal with something stressful the previous day the words can just take the form or an acknowledgement of gratitude for the new day. I’ve also meditated by repeating the word “Om’, but I have not done that in a while. #journaling #meditation #usingmantras


    otmorey
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    In reply to: Mindfulness practices

    I’ve heard from others that morning is a good time for some meditation or otherbody awareness activities.  I’m more or a night person myself; I like to do my meditation as I’m winding down my day.  And I’m glad, otmorey, that you brought up journaling as a mode that allows for mindfulness as well.  We will talk more about this tomorrow also, when we get into therapies and coping.
     
    I would love to hear more about how to incorporate mantras or affirmations into your meditation!  This has always been an area that I’ve struggled with.
    #journaling #meditation #usingmantras


    Rachel Carriere

    stress-1277561_1280

    Stress has come up in many topics throughout our body listening exploration. It’s a problem that all of us deal with in some manner. Stress exacerbates our symptoms. Stress exacerbates everything! I had a realization a few years ago that the stress from my pain and from the frustration of searching for a diagnosis and an effective treatment was actually making me feel even worse. It was this vicious downward spiral of pain and stress, completely holding me back from moving forward and living my life.  When I learned about the parasympathetic nervous system it really resonated with me how important it is to address stress . This might be old hat for you, but for me it was a revelation. The parasympathetic nervous system controls the body at rest and restores it to a state of calm. It is complementary to the sympathetic nervous system which controls stimulating activities, like our fight-or-flight response. I realized that when my parasympathetic nervous system can’t do it’s thing, I am living in a constant state of fight-or-flight!! No wonder my body couldn’t begin to heal when it was constantly in emergency-mode.

    stress-864141_640

    All that is to say that when I realized how critical it was to reduce stress, I began looking for ways that I can incorporate stress reduction into my regimen. My focus shifted from solely treating the area of my pain to working on restoring my body so that it could begin to treat itself.

    I began learning  more about Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Programs. I learned about the very first MBSR program that was started by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the U. Massachusetts Medical Center, and then I discovered that programs like this exist all over, like the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, or the MBSR Program through Duke Integrative Medicine. I was floored to learn about these programs, because here were doctors telling everyone that reducing stress really IS important and acknowledging that mindfulness is a legitimate and effective way to treat your body, not just some new age hokum.  The idea is that meditation can be used to trigger the Relaxation Response.  This term was coined by Dr. Herbert Benson to describe the mind’s ability to encourage the body to slow muscles and organs and increase blood flow to the brain, triggering your parasympathetic nervous system to kick in.  With this new insight, I was on board and excited to ramp up my mindfulness practice.

     

    Since I’ve started practicing mindfulness regularly I’ve noticed positive effects in all aspects of my life, but particularly on my pain and my approach to dealing with my pain. I think stress reduction was the key for me in moving forward and better managing my chronic pain. I can’t believe it took me so long to realize it!
    #mindfulnessforthebody #stressreduction #MBSR

     

    Does reduction of stress contribute to reducing your symptoms? Do you incorporate mindfulness based stress reduction into your treatment? How do you elicit your body’s relaxation response?


    Rachel Carriere
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    In reply to: Mindfulness practices

    Before I get out of bed in the morning I meditate or check in with how I feel. When I don’t have time to meditate I briefly take time to become more aware of my body, notice my breathing and repeat a mantra or affirmation to myself. Early this year my friend gave me a copy of The Five Minute Journal. So after I wake up I also take time to write in my journal, some days are easier to write in the journal than others, however I do find that no matter how I feel it helps me to be mindful of the good in my life and to envision the day I would like to have. #mindfulpractices #morningroutine #meditation #journaling #repeatmantraoraffirmation #breathingtechniques


    otmorey

    buddha-1297531_1280

    This topic is to discuss other mindfulness practices that are not movement-based. This distinction between movement and non-movement is of my own construction, partly to try to organize the discussion and partly because of my own approach to mindfulness. As I mentioned in our previous topic, my first incorporation of mindfulness was through an introduction to yoga and tai chi about 15 years ago. When my movement became seriously limited with pain more recently, my desire to continue mindfulness work led me to explore more sedentary practices.

    I have come to enjoy meditation, particularly guided meditations using a Youtube video or audio recording, and regularly use progressive body scans to calm and relax my body and mind. Progressive scans are my favorite practice, and I try to combine them with a breathing technique. In additional to relaxing me, these scans help me read my body and identify areas where I need to focus on releasing tension. Emotional Freedom Technique has come up before in our discussion of subtle energy, and it’s worth mentioning again here as it has the same qualities as other body awareness/mindfulness methods. EFT can be a helpful method for calming the mind and body together.

    I think at the heart of any mindfulness practice is breath, and the effect of measured deep breathing on the mind and body. There are several breathing techniques that I’ve learned about. Just yesterday I was taught about a technique to alternate blocking one nostril and breathing through the other for deep breaths to calm down the mind and help fall asleep.

    There are an abundance of ways to practice mindfulness, and it doesn’t take following a strict methodology. I would love to hear about how you practice mindfulness and which techniques you favor. How did you learn and choose a type of practice? Did you create something yourself that works best for you? How to do you incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life?
    #mindfulpractices #progressivebodyscans #emotionalfreedomtechnique #breathingtechniques


    Rachel Carriere
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    In reply to: Mindful movement

    Yes, I think that counts! I am not a knitter but I can absolutely see how the rhythmic motions would enable meditation. I’m interested in learning more about how people are incorporating mindfulness into their everyday activities, intentionally or not.


    Rachel Carriere
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    In reply to: Mindful movement

    I’m not sure if this counts but many knitter friends of mine and I feel that knitting is a form of meditation because it requires at least some level of mindfulness and it is a way for people who have some level of immobility to “get something done”. Maybe the idea of knitting as therapy/meditation belongs elsewhere in the Body Listening Project, but being exposed to color and texture (and in some cases, sound [clicking needles]) is a way for people to relax. #unintentionalmindfulness #creatingmindfulness #accidentalmeditation #knitting


    AppleStrudel
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