Short and helpful meditation links for quieting the mind

YFR is happy to offer these short meditations that will bring some joy and ease during these unsettling times

Please watch this short 2 min video if you are new to meditation before you begin practice

https://youtu.be/aOoC3Wtw1C4

Day 1. Audio Meditation- Gratitude

Day 2. Audio Meditation centering on Patience

Day 3. Audio Meditation on Effort

Deep Calls to Deep: Processing Trauma through Deep Stretch Yoga

by Brook Blaylock

The sound of my membership card being scanned failed to signal transformation. I walked into that—and my deep stretch class—unsuspectingly. In class after class instructors talked about the potential of certain poses to rinse my body of toxins and negative energy, but I’d never really paid it much, if any, heed. I found such phrasing a humorous nod to the copious amounts of sweat hot yoga produced in practitioners. I kept “rinsing” myself right along with those numbers because yoga was the only exercise that slowed down my mind. Tormented by a constant barrage of often unwelcome thoughts and images, no other exercise inspired the mental calm of yoga. While this should have been enough on its own, I also appreciated the feeling of physical exhaustion a good vinyasa class engendered, sure evidence I was molding my body into better shape. 

Both motivations were counter-intuitive to the tenets of a sound yoga practice I heard about on my mat. I liked yoga because of the potential to “master” my mind and body, not my breath. It afforded me the feeling of control I desperately sought in every area of my life. By practicing, I tamed a mind whose chaos I longed to temper, and a body I longed to master with my mind.  Everything about my practice was about me controlling the parts of my physical and psychological being I feared would betray me—that I knew had betrayed me and would do so again. As someone suffering from PTSD and at times crippling anxiety, the only thing I wanted out of any kind of exercise was control.

Luckily, yoga forgave these motivations. It waited patiently while I forced myself into pigeon and crow poses, full wheels and triangles, all while ignoring the more “spiritual” facets of its flow. Before that fateful deep stretch class, my most spiritual experience had been falling out of crow pose and onto the top of my water bottle. In spite of the black eye my landing gave me, and the blood that preceded it, I finished the class. In my eyes that experience epitomized exactly what I wanted out of life and yoga: the strength to overcome bad circumstances, the perseverance to keep moving forward, to continue through both my yoga class and my future. Strength didn’t look like letting my body speak to me on my mat. It didn’t look like calming my mind so I could listen to its voice. Strength looked like forcing my body and mind to conform to both my will and the various contortions each yoga pose required.

In the midst of a particularly long pigeon, however, my body betrayed me. Somewhere in my piriformis muscle a memory I always kept contained unloosed alongside my hip flexor. There I was, three years old and trapped in the bathtub. Here I was, 42 years old and trapped on my mat. There I was, scared and breathing rapidly, praying he wouldn’t get in. Here I was, scarred and breathing rapidly, praying the power of this memory would subside. How could I possibly relive this in the middle of a deep stretch class for God’s sake? For the past year, I had been going to weekly therapy sessions employing EMDR, or eye movement desensitizing and reprocessing, in the hopes of moving the trauma of early sexual abuse from where it was stored in my amygdala, an area of the brain primarily associated with emotional processing, to an area of my brain in which I could safely interpret this experience.

In spite of all my therapy, and week after week of my counselor encouraging me to speak about what had happened so as to dissipate the trauma’s power, I remained unable to verbalize my abuse. The closest I had come had been to write out on paper a brief synopsis of what had transpired. Somehow, I couldn’t say the words aloud because I felt that if I said them the beliefs that went with them—I’m disgusting, shameful, bad—would immediately infect the listener with the same distorted view. They would immediately see me as the awful person I saw myself as in that moment. At this moment I felt those words un-stretching in the muscles of my hips and I felt myself sinking not deeper into my pose, but deeper into the corresponding despair.

It was at that point I remembered ujjayi breathing. I began to fill my lungs and breathe through my nose, praying for the memory to go away just like I sometimes prayed ujjayi breath might take away muscle pain. Amazingly, my body and mind calmed and there, in the most unlikely of places, sweating in a pigeon pose in the middle of a crowded room of yogis, I processed my trauma. God met me in between my ujjayi breathing and for the first time, I saw the scene of my abuse differently. I was not alone in that bathroom with my abuser. God stepped between us and lifted me out of the tub. He wrapped me in a hot white towel and carried me to safety. As I felt the heat of the towel enveloping my body, I felt the power of the words I associated with the abuse burning away. I was no longer disgusting, shameful, or bad. I no longer had to carry those words in my mind or in my body. Somehow, they had been trapped in both places, but the time I spent in pigeon pose enabled my body to drive them out, allowing a new narrative to replace them.

Turns out, it was entirely for my sake that God let me relive that memory in the middle of that deep stretch. During therapy, my body never relaxed. I went into every EMDR session tense and afraid of what might ensue. During deep stretch, the time I spent in poses afforded my body a level of openness I could never attain in a therapy session. While the idea of trauma actually being physically stored in one’s body is controversial and as yet unproved, I am convinced that yoga, in conjunction with traditional therapy, enabled me to process a traumatic event in a way that counseling alone never could.  According to Shaili Jain, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, “when…traumatic thoughts and memories remain unspeakable or unthinkable for too long, they impede our brain’s natural process of recovery after trauma. They become stuck points that inhibit the mental reintegration that is needed for healing to occur.”  Deep stretch yoga empowered my body to release this unspeakable memory and my mind to visualize the means by which I could begin a process of mental reintegration.

 Just like I had when I fell on my water bottle, I kept practicing until the end of class. However, I didn’t maintain the same definition of strength. I was only able to have an experience of healing, to reimagine the circumstances of my trauma and redefine its impact on my psyche, because the deep stretch class pushed my mind and body to a place beyond that of my control. When I accidentally stopped trying to control the effects of my practice, my practice began to positively affect me. My body found a space in which it could safely release trauma I had stored for decades and my voice soon followed. At the end of that class I found the strength to tell a friend who had been practicing beside me what had happened. What I had thought had been a betrayal was, in fact, a transformation. My body had a voice and by enabling it to “speak” in the midst of that stretch, I found the power to speak about my trauma and the strength to overcome it. I had an entirely new understanding of what it meant to find release through a yoga pose. 

Rise-Up: 5 Practices to Build Resilience and Cope with Adversity

by: Hope Smyth

They found her body nearly twenty-four hours after she died, submerged in the bathtub. The faucet continued to run as hot water turned cold. Eventually it leaked into the apartment below.  It would take the coroner’s office almost a month to release the final cause of death.  

The phone rang and I knew it was bad news. I picked it up. Shallow breath on the other end, a heavy pause before my stepfather spoke. In a shaky whisper he said, “two police officers were here.” I couldn’t quite digest the words the first time.  My ears turned hot; the room blurred, the ground felt unstable; suddenly, I was on my knees. My sister was dead at a mere thirty-two years old. 

It was a tumultuous childhood for both of us. Why does one sibling survive, while the other took her own life?  I have asked myself this question countless times.  Although, I will never know the answer, the word resilience resonates within. 

How we deal with setbacks, challenges and failures plays a significant role in our psychological and emotional health. Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; or thrive despite challengesResilience is a way to rise- up despite the adversity we face. No one knows for sure why some embody resilience and others succumb to despair. But research is optimistic that we can build resilience and it’s a skill anyone can learn.  

We can choose to create new neural pathways by participating in new activities that train our brains. The pathways get stronger through repetition. Psychologist Deann Ware Ph.D., states that when brain cells communicate frequently, the connection between them strengthens- With enough repetition these behaviors become automatic. Reading, driving, and riding a bike are examples of complicated behaviors that we do automatically because of neural pathways. Below are five strategies for overcoming life’s challenges as you build resilience.  

  1. Breath with Intention: 

There are numerous breathing techniques to help soothe and restore the parasympathetic nervous system. One is diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing. Lay on your back, place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.  Breathe in through your nose. As you inhale the hand on your belly will rise. Breathe out through your mouth and your hand will lower.  There are countless videos on the internet to guide this practice.  

  1.  Re-write your story: 

Changing or understanding your internal narrative is imperative.  We tend to ruminate on the details of a traumatic experience. Allow yourself to explore the event by writing it down. Create a safe space and take 10-20 minutes to free write. Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation. Just let the words spill to the page. Research shows that adding structure to chaos can help us gain a sense of control. Once the event loses power, go back, and see what you have learned about yourself or the experience. What have you gained despite the adversity? 

  1. The Practice of Self-Compassion: 

Self-compassion encourages us to approach our own suffering with warmth and kindness. Although it’s not an easy practice, we must first learn to love ourselves. I invite you to envision someone you love. A child, best friend or partner.  Imagine they come to you with the very same story. How would you comfort them?  Would you hug them, make them tea? Would you give them a safe space to express their anguish?  Whatever you would do for a loved one, do it for yourself. 

  1.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: 

Therapy is the gateway to emotional health. It provides a support network, it’s a safe place to explore emotional trauma while creating a plan of action to build your resilience. If you have tried therapy in the past and determined it was not for you, please try again. It can take a few tries to find a therapist that matches your personality. View it as a job interview or new date; sometimes, you need to explore a few options before you discover the right fit. 

  1.  Physical Self-Care: 

Get in your body and find activities that connect the body and mind. Yoga, mindfulness and walking are excellent examples. Of course, if those don’t speak to you, find something that does.  New research in neural and biological health indicates that mindfully integrating the body with cognitive behavioral therapy can help speed recovery.  

These are suggested practices. Be patient with yourself and remember real change takes time. 

Creating Joy

by Bari Kriependorf

A few weeks ago I took part in satsang at a small metaphysical shop in Charlotte. About 8 people came, and most of them like me were new to this group. The subject for the day was joy which I thought was interesting as I never gave the subject of joy much thought. Normally I thought more about what joy brings and not the actual creation of joy. Happiness and joy I learned are not the same. Joy comes from within and happiness is a byproduct of joy. 

Last week YFR posted an article on working with joy which called out that work satisfaction was more pronounced with individual emotional growth as opposed to growth in material gains.

Thinking back in my own career, I realized this is exactly what makes me happy at work and why I changed roles or left companies. Cultures that are uplifting and recognize individual contribution with honor and respect truly do drive corporate growth and can signficantly contribute to the overall corporate mission.

So how does one create joy? Joy needs to be cultivated and it takes effort to find ways to experience it.

Our group shared stories about managing perspective and finding the positive even in the negative. Stating three things you are grateful for first thing in the morning can have a positive effect on the rest of the day.  Joy is where you find it and is not the same for everyone.

 The group leader shared that humans have 3x more positive thoughts than negative ones but by default, we tend to share mostly negative thoughts. And when we share those negative experiences over and over, we put gloominess and negativity into the universe. Constant sharing of the negative mitagates any joy we might have created from within and simply becomes undone. 

What would happen in the world if we starting sharing only positive experiences? It’s been proven that sharing positive experiences boosts happiness and energy!

So what can we do to find joy from within? Here are some options that came from our group:

It all starts with a change of thought.   

Let go of the shit that brings you down and stop surrounding yourself with negative people. You really can choose who you talk to and surround yourself with.

Cleanse yourself- Drink more water, add Yoga, do Meditation, practice Mantra, and Abhyanga,

Eat more plant based or satvic products- give up the heavy stuff that is weighing down your body and thoughts.

Shake up your routine and try something new- did I mention all encompassing Yoga?

Share more positive experiences.

Speak your truth, you never know who is listening.

Forgive yourself and others. We are human afterall 🙂

Love yourself- you are powerless over everything except you. Isn’t this this truth? We can all be reminded to love ourselves once in awhile.

I’m on board with creating joy. It’s been a few weeks now since I’ve decided to actively seek out joy and I’m feeling great. Future forward I’m going to be that person who sees the cup half-full and not half empty. When asked how I was doing I had to catch myself a few times before answering with something positive.  It’s a work in progress but in the end I’m trying to be more mindful of my internal thoughts and outward communication and feeling great about adding more positive vibrations in the universe.

We are all recovering from something…

What you are recovering from doesn’t need a label but the journey to alleviate suffering always starts from within.

The face on this page is that of a recovering codependent.  An enabler. But it isn’t the whole story either. See – Happily Imperfect 5 Myths and 5 Truths about Codependency.

I had a hard time accepting that when I went to therapy years ago struggling with why so many of my interpersonal relationships were destructive and toxic for me.  I fell into a pattern of never having my needs met through ineffective dependency.

To admit I was coping for neglect with poor boundaries and that I was in fact part of my own problem made me feel weak.  I preferred the story that I was a survivor of abuse, of manipulative people.

But in order to heal I had to slowly change my story.  I had to admit that while behaving codependent had saved my ass many times in the past it was still a poor tool to use – tied to a cycle of addiction in my relationships.  The behaviors had helped me for a time but now that I was ‘aware’ they just weren’t getting me anywhere. 

Changing my story brought me to my next chapter, as I looked in the mirror and asked, “Why me?”  That’s when recovery really started to happen. 

What I found is that there was nothing to be ashamed about in the answer to, “Why me?”  I wasn’t weak or dumb or angry.  I was about as far from an emotional drama queen as one could get. 

When I really started looking at me without the filter of someone else’s view I could see that I am strong and confident.  I am empathetic and intuitive.  I am pretty happily content with myself and the world.  I am smart and capable. 

Really seeing myself for the first time led me to understand the ‘why me’ better.  I kept finding myself in the same relationship struggles over and over because of my good traits.  You can’t be locked into codependent relationships for your entire life without being all the good parts of you too or else you’d give up, stop trying, walk away.  I was in that slowly increasing hot water day in and day out because I really did care and kept trying to repair the broken areas because I inherently knew what happiness should look like and how to achieve it.  The people I was engaged with though – didn’t really know what to do with happiness.

It’s just like you are that super shiny, expensive and high-quality, rare and luxurious desire on the very top shelf that everyone really wants to reach up and have. People are drawn to you naturally because of all your good qualities but not everyone knows how to really take care of something that amazing, especially if they can’t even care for themselves well. If you put the care and keeping of YOU in the wrong hands you will be broken and abused. Not everyone can sustain appreciation of those types of values over a long period of time.

So, when I answered the question ‘why me’ – for myself things got much easier. Not that I didn’t make mistakes but I did decide the best person for the care and keeping of me was – ME. And I’ve slowly started to let others in but I really check and recheck now if their internal value matches mine.

That is my approach to self-care in recovery. 

The road through trauma and recovery takes us to resiliency

First – what is trauma?

There are three psychological needs of humans: relatedness, autonomy, and competence.  See The Science of Gratitude.  A trauma is individualized and interpreted by every human differently when any of these psychological needs is at risk.  It can be considered a trauma to be ‘isolated’ from relatedness if you think about long work hours staring at a computer screen.  This is a trauma inflicted by an individual’s decision to work that particular job but it still affects one the same regardless.  An ‘isolation’ trauma from relatedness can also occur if someone is physically threatened because they identify with a marginalized group thus causing them to isolate their true-self or even avoiding going out in public. 

Given the wide scope in which our psychological needs can be denied one can expect to experience some trauma across a lifetime no matter how you were raised or what individual events have shaped you.  Everyone is recovering from something.  

Second – why recovery?  

Anya Kemenetz’s article The Role of Yoga in Healing documents an interesting experience of young women finding the benefits of yoga in a correctional facility.  The yoga these girls experienced helped them regain some of their basic psychological needs.  And as expressed in the article, ‘recovery’ is not a single destination nor is it an isolated event.  The practice of yoga in a recovery mentality can be expressed physically, mentally, emotionally – hopefully through all three!  The destination of recovery is resiliency.  

How do we tie it all together?  

What is interesting is that while using yoga like a vehicle along the road of recovery is beneficial the eventual outcome is a day-to-day resiliency. First we learn to cope by either physically adjusting or connecting to our body in the yoga practice. Then we learn to exist in the struggle as we assimilate to the ‘language’ of yoga – the overall flow, instructions, and subtle anatomy. Finally we assimilate the full practice by breathing in the space that we’ve intentionally we created. We show up to practice on a regular basis, we allow ourselves to practice when we just don’t want to, we allow our yoga to be communal – seeking out like-minded individuals; maybe teaching or maybe giving back in some small way. Soon we find that we (as individuals) are on a super-resistant highway with our trauma in the rear-view and the destination we chose to set our navigation toward ahead. We end with our choice.

Greener Pastures

In recovery if we assume our destination is happiness, where the grass is greener; then what does that look like? We’re taking a first look at the world with a new experience having realized we were stuck in our suffering.

Ari Yeganeh wrote in his ConciousEd.org article: Happiness: what it means to live a happy life? that it may be a cake we bake ourselves. That we choose what gives us meaning, what to be grateful for, and to be fully aware of our place in the living daily world.

What does your cake of happiness taste like? Maybe ‘green’ is not on the other side out of reach but exactly where you stand right now.

The Measure We Expect

Dorothy had the yellow brick road. I had a yellow tunnel this Sunday as I went for a walk. It had rained the day before – yellow leaves were still on the trees but a lot had fallen to the trail. All that amazing brightness jolted me awake.

I had been having a busy morning running down a to-do list that was unrealistically too long to accomplish in one day but I was determined.  The dogs needed to go outside so I decided on a quick walk for them to do their business and then back to ‘the list’.  But as I came around a corner and entered that golden tunnel I realized (without having to get all the way to Oz) that right there outside in the sun was where I needed to be.  I took the long loop on the trail and stayed out for an hour.  I enjoyed it so much I went back out that evening on a jog with the dogs – AFTER doing some yard work…which coincidentally was not on my to-do but I added it just so I could be in the fresh air.

And this is my lesson about self-care, in order for it to be effective you really do have to love yourself.  You cannot be Dorothy wandering new lands looking for someone else to give her what her heart needs (spoiler alert – she ‘wakes’ up to be exactly where she wanted). What I mean is you have to feel that love as a dedication or passion waaaaaaay deep down in your heart and soul.  Activate YOUR joy without any obligation.   Sunday, I played outside like I was five years old again because I wanted to and not because I felt I had to.

For many, the very early stages of self-care is to commit to a routine. For many that routine has a beneficial goal but why do we ultimately start it – because we are dissatisfied. We determine we are somehow not fit, in pain, we need some change. And I think that is one fundamental reason why so many fall of the self-care routine wagon. What happens when you feel more satisfied? You’ve lost the intrinsic drive and you might need more negative motivation to get back on the wagon. Definitely we need that initial impetus to grow. We definitely need to develop a commitment to a practice, a custom. But from the very beginning we should also be fostering the seeds of our passion and joy.

^Yes, this is a variation on Matthew 7:2: and the measure you use will be the measure you receive. And also goes along with Ahimsa or non-violence; one of the yoga ‘Yamas’ of conduct. This non-violence means both physical and mental AND this non-violence also means outwardly toward others or inwardly toward yourself. In what ways do you limit the joys you get by your thoughts toward yourself?

Photo courtesy of Jasmine Coro at Unsplash.com