Posts Tagged ‘Focus’

Peeling the Onion: A meditative journey

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Think about the traumas in your life, it maybe one horrific accident or a complete childhood, as an onion, each one different than the next in size, taste, color and texture.

Our Onion grew as we aged, more layers added over the years.

Think of some of our awkward or embarrassing moments in life as smaller onions or scallions, much less formidable or detrimental than our big trauma Onion.

PTSD and our onion open up the same way, peeeling back the outer layers, exposing deeper trauma (Layers).

Meditation helped me first become aware of the subtleties of each layer, then helped me peel back the outer layer.

The process like meditation is repetitive.

I meditated everyday, observing my traumas storyline from a distance, becoming familiar with my fight or flight mechanism.

Our trauma Onion is extremely strong, capable of making us cry and suffer if not handled properly.

If we assume healing is the peeling away of all the layers until we hit our core, meditation was the scalpel that made the cuts.

We peel the onion by surrendering to the fear it lays at our doorstep. The deeper layers cause us to stop peeling, the fear is more formidable at these inner layers.

I have healed by sitting prone, focused, while surrendering to my fears, being vulnerable in the face of perceived danger.

Conclusion: That trauma Onion is a mirage, a past traumatic event, stored as an implicit memory with all the fear and emotion of that moment.

No real danger existed in any of my triggers.

The same external triggers exist, however my same mind does not react to them now.

I figured out organically, sitting quietly observing my trauma it was benign.

PTSD is the rerun of a traumatic event that we watch on our personal trauma T.V.

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A closed circuit showing of a past horrific event.

So why did ptsd live after my abuser, my father, died?

The memory does not need him being alive to exist. The onion has grown and now has a life of its own, inside our head unfortunately.

I have never seen an Onion peel itself or PTSD to heal with time.

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Do thoughts sabotage your meditation practice?

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I went to zen center for five years. We would meditate for a half hour, then do a three minute walking meditation, followed by another half hour of meditation.

Most of us fought for an hour for a few seconds of an empty, focused mind. Counting my breaths did not work for me or anyone but the Zen monk.

Being a visual person, I created a breathing model. It resembled an upright infinity symbol with four distinct parts.

Inhale, pause, exhale, pause. The pauses were the weak link, a sort of door for thoughts to proliferate.

First, I performed exercises highlighting my pauses.

I would take a deep inhale, then pause, a long, concerted pause where no exhaust leaks out. As I resisted the pressure in my lungs, I intently scanned my internal organs for agitation or energy.

Feel your whole chest cavity, give these pauses a purpose, an activity to accomplish.

Our pauses are the doors to our inner world. The pauses are as important as the inhales and exhales, treat them that way.

The mind and body work together like our inhales and exhales work with the pauses.

The breath does not flow without pauses, music is noise without pauses between notes.

The second pause is different from the initial pause.

The first pause is like a balloon we just inflated, the air inside creates pressure looking to be released.

It takes force to hold the first pause.

The pause after the exhale has no pressure to resist.

Our body is truly at a suspended animation, an opportunity to know our inner world.

Know where fear manifests in your body, where anger raises its powerful head, where trauma resides, and where contentment and joy spring forth.

The breath is the tool I used to explore my inner world, the tool used to release body trauma and the tool I used to integrate my PTSD.

Until I gave my pauses the attention they needed my meditation practice languished.

I always broke things down to smaller pieces, then worked on those pieces.

I worked on my pauses exclusively for a while, then went back to meditating with increased focus.

Where do thoughts enter your mind when meditating?

Inhales starts bottom right moving upward. The pauses are the short arches.

Inhale, pause, exhale, pause, one breath cycle

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Thoughts can be our Prison: add intent listening and feeling to your meditation practice

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I spent six months isolated in my garage huddled in fear, agorophic from avoiding my trauma.

My crime was trying to think my way out of PTSD, cognitively outsmart it.

Thinking (dissociating) fueled my trauma, symptoms intensified, my nervous system sensed imminent danger constantly.

Solution: I learned a specific way of focusing my mind, using hearing, the breath, somatic feeling (sensing my heart) and a visual model as a useful guide.

The visual guide is a continuum, a sort of upright infinity symbol. We see the breath has four distinct parts each as valuable as the other, it can flow like a sheet of music some days.

Then I am inside my nostrils when inhaling and exhaling. The cool air is the inhale, the exhale the warmer exhaust.

The pauses, for me, were the spaces where thoughts entered my consciousness.

My solution was to prioritize these pauses with present moment sensing. Pauses are like suspended animation, the body is as still is it will ever be.

The body makes noises inhaling and exhaling, expanding the lungs then contracting them.

So I used a somatic present moment sensing and intense hearing for my focus objects.

At my pauses I spend time sensing my chest cavity and heart, getting to know my inner world at this most frozen of times.

I may enter my heart and feel it slowing, then listen for its silent beat.

I use hearing as much as focus on the breath along with feeling my internal

machinations.

Be like a Geiger counter sensing agitation, tightness, pain, anxiety, calm, contentment or unrest during a pause.

Now my pauses had purpose, I would switch from being inside my nostrils for inhales and exhales, to listening and sensing at the pauses.

Thoughts had a much harder time entering my space.

Nothing is full proof and meditating is easier some days then others but even the bad days heal.

Remember, Meditation is not about influencing anything, achieving or overcoming anything, it is not an attack, it is learning to surrender.

Our first goal in meditation is build our focus to the point where thoughts clear and the mind is empty.

The body and mind start repairing and healing around this no thought space.

No cancer will not be cured but optimum mental health can be attained on this journey.

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I am Responsible: first three words of healing


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We are Responsible for our life, our behavior, our reactions and our attitude.

 

Realize excuses are failures to take responsibility.

 

My father was an abusive, violent narcissist.

 

In spite of my father, I am responsible for how I live my life, treat other people and treat myself.

 

If you want to heal this bridge needs to be crossed.

 


We need not forgive but we must take total responsibility for our life.

 


Next, Wellbeing will be harder for me to achieve, it is the challenge I was born into.

 

My responsibility let me accept the challenge of changing it.

 

The buck stops with us, we are the captain of the ship, the quarterback of the offense, the one who is responsible for our actions.

 

Hard to avoid giving all out effort, if you take responsibility.

 


If you do not take responsibility, victim will be the label you earn.

 


Conclusion: Do not compare your challenges with another, think of your challenges as a heavy sled, we are tasked with pushing a certain distance everyday.

 

Focus intently on moving the sled, distractions will find it harder to break through.


Responsibility brings the gift of purpose.

 

My father wins if I fail.

 

That’s all the incentive I have ever needed in the dark times of doubt and helplessness.

 

What is your incentive.

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Meditation is an Auger, headed directly for our trauma

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Therapists use the word integration to describe bringing a past trauma into the present moment.

How do we accomplish this task?

Meditation helped me stay present when my triggers exploded, avoidance and hypervigilance lost power.

PTSD causes many to avoid their triggers, Isolate from the perception of imminent danger.

Meditation takes a different direction.

Meditation is an auger, whatever we have stored containing fear, anxiety, abuse or betrayal is coming up.

Instead of avoiding, we sit alone, quietly focusing on the breath, observing every small sensation intently.

Meditation is an inner exploration, an auger headed directly at our PTSD, those deep dark areas in the mind we fear.

If you do not want to face your fears, give up meditating or do not start.

For me, Meditation was extremely violent at times.

Trauma left in a rage, emotional unrest and anger jolted my being.

Then it was over the next day.

After the first couple of times I relaxed and enjoyed Traumas drama leaving.

Celebrate when you kick traumas ass.

It is a good day.

People I have mentored have some common traits.

They are sincere, able to take action, resilient and even the gals, remind me of warriors. If they ever feel sorry for themselves, it is a brief moment that fades quickly.

I have witnessed people facing enormous suffering and still take action.

Takes courage and daily action.

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Just diagnosed with PTSD….what to do?

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First things to do: Research! Understand the mechanism of trauma, how the fight or flight system fires.

Start repeating a short affirmation multiple times a day. In this moment, right now, I feel my body overflowing with approval, safety and kindness. Record it, play it back constantly.

Next, find a way to calm the fight or flight mechanism from firing. We need to be in a safer zone called our window of tolerance.

When our fight or flight mechanism is fueling ptsd, we our way beyond our window of tolerance.

I picked meditation, practiced everyday, built my focus to face my nervous system exploding.

The journey had many failures, setbacks and trials.

You must find an action to help you calm your nervous system.

Aerobic exercise is an alternative, it dissipates cortisol and adrenaline mechanically.

A good tool but hard to exercise at your desk or work. We would be exhausted trying to exercise our way to healing after every trigger.

The breath can impact the nervous system far more easily and much quicker.

I found enormous power using my breath to access my right hemisphere.

PTSD is an invisible prison while meditation was a ticket to my creative, expansive, free side of my mind.

The left hemisphere (cognitive side), is the size of a beach ball. The right hemisphere is expansive, creative and big as the Pacific Ocean.

Meditation is like space travel for me, journeying to that creative side. No words, good or bad, right or wrong exists to limit our experience.

It seems like heaven but disappears quickly.

You have found a space where the past and future do not exist, where ptsd can not visit.

First time I entered this space, I knew ptsd would lose.

Takes a lot of work to enter this space.

That’s the ante to improve.

I believe, I can help anyone to meditate if they will practice with all their effort.

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Who am I?……Who are You?

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A month ago an old trauma entered my consciousness stealthily, quietly, but once detected it had enormous power and fear.

I went from believing I was an expert on handling PTSD, to acting like a novice without direction or skills.

Knowing better than to handle my trauma, I dissociated for hours trying to change the outcome, save my Ego from being humiliated.

For a month, all my skills bounced off this new trauma.

Hard lesson: No matter how powerful I develop my skills, identifying with my Ego and entertaining trauma thoughts always wins easily.

My skills were worthless when I refused to let go.

We need to carve out a small space where we are present, empty of thought.

I had to change the narrative that was stored with this last trauma. It was distorted by my Ego.

Once my Ego let go of betrayal, the movie playing in my head over and over stopped.

My male ego felt invisible, I surmised my Egos desire were those belonging to my core, my soul.

In fact it was an image created for identity (Ego), that took control of my being through PTSD’s mechanisms.

When I dropped the concept of betrayal, my male Ego emerged as the main culprit in my suffering.

Awareness has uncovered others ways my male Ego deals with life.

He has become more rigid and stealthy as he has aged.

Remember our Ego feels like the real Marty, Sandy, Mike etc.

Ask someone who they are?

Watch how the Ego describes itself, what does it value most?

I need to explore the influence my Ego has in my life after this last episode.

Who are you?

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It takes a while for us to understand PTSD is the enemy and there is an all out war to be waged.

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This is my mindset, I see some things in black and white, different than others. Not right or wrong just different.

Chronic pain and especially childhood PTSD were my enemy.

In my chronic pain group of 15, I was the only one who did not fear his pain. My dad had beat me daily for a whole childhood, pain was a constant companion.

Chronic pain was different from the acute pain he so regularly delivered. Being familiar with pain lessens it’s sting.

With PTSD the fear is reinforced with cortisol and adrenaline, giving the trauma memory real time power, so it seems.

Trauma is stored in a life threatening environment with parts of our mind shut down. The memory is never clear and our triggers manifest in the strangest ways.

PTSD stole my life, naturally I knew this mental disorder was my enemy.

As with sports, I learned everything about him. What powered him, symptoms, what lessens his power and I searched for his weakness.

That is how an athlete competes, I used my strengths, brought chronic pain out to battle. Hiking was the battlefield I chose to attack my chronic pain on.

With PTSD it was the firing of my fight or flight mechanism, that became the battlefield.

Exploring my triggers everyday, I found its weakness.

When our fight or flight mechanism fires, PTSD is at its apex of power.

Ironically PTSD was at its most vulnerable.

This was the battle field I chose.

Withstanding my adrenal stress mechanism firing, staying present, drained PTSD of its power.

Understand depression, chronic pain or PTSD is the enemy, meeting on the battlefield of your choice is how we improve.

Healing is not pleasant or anxiety free.

My healing was emotionally violent inside as evil left my organism.

This is ugly business but it is the path out of suffering.

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Buddhism has no word for emotion

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Matthew Ricard: excerpt from “Happiness”

 


Despite their rich terminology for describing a wide range of mental events, the traditional languages of Buddhism have no word for emotion as such.

 


That may be because according to Buddhism all types of mental activity, including rational thought, are associated with some kind of feeling, be it one of pleasure, pain, or indifference.

 

And most affective states, such as love and hatred, arise together with discursive thought.

 

Rather than distinguishing between emotions and thoughts, Buddhism is more concerned with understanding which types of mental activity are conducive to one’s own and others’ well-being, and which are harmful, especially in the long run.

 

 


This is actually quite consistent with what cognitive science tells us about the brain and emotion.

 

 

Every region in the brain that has been identified with some aspect of emotion has also been identified with aspects of cognition.

 

 


There are no “emotion centers” in the brain.

 

 


The neuronal circuits that support emotions are completely intertwined with those that support cognition.

 


This anatomical arrangement is consistent with the Buddhist view that these processes cannot be separated: emotions appear in a context of action and thought, and almost never in isolation from the other aspects of our experience.

 

 

It should be noted that this runs counter to Freudian theory, which holds that powerful feelings of anger or jealousy, for instance, can arise without any particular cognitive or conceptual content.”

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Is PTSD our Mount Everest?

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A big emotional trauma buried immediately when it happened, enetered my consciousness 3 weeks ago. The power and intensity of ptsd had faded when I healed the first time 6 years ago.

 

My life had returned to a new normal, better than anytime in my life.

 

Three weeks ago that changed abruptly.

 

The skills I share as a mentor, did not deter the flooding of emotional terror and intrusive thoughts.

 

What I tell others, to let the storyline go, was near impossible as the images and storyline never stopped coming. PTSD wears us out emotionally and physically at first.

 

This is how overwhelming ptsd is in the beginning, and how all our effort seems to be worthless.

 

It feels like trauma has an infinite amount of power, maybe it will never end.

 

This is the critical time, when many give up.

 

Therapists have a term called the Window of Tolerance. It means our nervous system, our trauma is at an acceptable level for us to start healing.

 

It has taken me 3 weeks of intensive meditating, integrating and surrendering to these fears to attain my Window of Tolerance.

 

I may regress from time to time however enough of this trauma has been brought to present time, weakening my intrusive thoughts and body trauma.

 

This initial period is when most ptsd sufferers who take action, give up to soon.

 

My intrusive thoughts, my ego identifying with this trauma, made me a victim in this scenario.

 

Thinking was my downfall.

 

I powered my new PTSD for a couple weeks.

 

Never thought that could ever happen to me again with my skill set and experience.

 

My Ego feels humbled by its power and ability to bring suffering.

 

I felt permanent damage, a mirage created by traumatic fear.

 

We need to survive the initial barrage of overwhelming emotions and anxieties. We must endure to heal.

 

It is the road less traveled, the first mountain is arduous and seems it has no end.

 

 

It is a butte not Mount Everest. 

 

Our perception inside our head is flawed, unbearable fear grants ptsd unlimited power.

 

In reality, ptsd has a finite amount of stored trauma, we never know how much is there.

 

Having a mentor or a therapist in the beginning makes the journey much easier.

 

That is what this blog was created for.

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