Galactic Gulfs

This was a phrase I read in a Sydney paper to describe one man’s experience of describing his grief following the death of his wife.

Such an interpersonal gulf also applies to many of you as you re-enter your various worlds following the death of your child.

I would argue that is is probably true for families attempting to explain a cancer diagnosis and the treatment experience to their wider world.

In my conversations with palliative and bereaved families, one of the issues that surface frequently is how difficult it can sometimes be to adequately communicate what it is like to be a grieving parent to others.  This is equally true for surviving siblings.

Grief is, for many an overwhelmingly gut-wrenching experience at times…a bit like a being swamped by an emotional tsunami.  When as humans we experience such heartache, we need that heartache to be heard and understood…or at the very least tolerated for what it is.  What we don’t need is silence, irritation, discomfit or mindless platitudes.

Many of you will find yourselves in the position of trying to communicate to extended family or friends what it is like to be heartbroken and to be faced with the challenges of rebuilding our lives.

I was reminded of a piece sent to me a while ago from a mother who had had this type of experience and what she met was advice that she “not do this to her self”, that she should “get on with her life” and to “focus on the surviving children”.

Needless to say, this was not helpful at the time and only served to add to her already existing distress by making her feel even lonelier and more cut off from the rest of the world.  That sense of being ‘different’, of feeling disconnected from the ease of mutual understanding and communication is an experience that many can identify with.

In her distress, she spent time on the internet, exploring some grief websites and found the following lines which gave her comfort at that time.  She thought it might strike the right chord with others and so suggested that it be included.  I know many will resonate with the words.

  • Please don’t ask me if I am over it yet.
  • I will never get over it.
  • Please don’t tell me she (he) is in a better place.
  • She’s (he’s) not here with me.
  • Please don’t say she (he) isn’t suffering any more.
  • I haven’t come to terms with why she (he) had to suffer at all.
  • Please don’t tell me how you feel.
  • Unless you have lost a child the same way.
  • Please don’t ask me if I feel better.
  • Bereavement isn’t a condition that clears up.
  • Please don’t tell me at least you had her (him) for so many years.
  • What year would you like your loved one to die.
  • Please don’t tell me God never gives more than we can bear.
  • Please just say you are sorry.
  • Please just say you remember my loved one if you do.
  • Please mention my loved one’s name.
  • Please be patient with me when I am sad.
  • Please just let me cry.

Many of us could add many more to the list of do’s and don’ts.

These words, I think, illustrate three very important features of bereavement.

First, that it is not something that people recover from.

Grieving for someone we love ends when we too finally die.

It is a sorrow that is carried as part of oneself, a sorrow that underscores the fragility and preciousness of life and frequently influences in a myriad of ways, the way bereaved people continue into their tomorrows.

It is a process of becoming more familiar with a world that is profoundly changed and moving to a place where, hopefully, the heartache is carried more easily and in a way that permits enjoyment of life again.

Secondly, it describes the fact that while people die…our relationship with them does not.  Children who have died continue to be a part of you and to be part of your lives and remain, someone that you will want to talk about, whose story you will continue to want to share with others.

And thirdly, that communication with the broader social world in which you live can be very challenging at times (the galactic gulf), that language can be limited and that the receptivity and capacity to appropriately respond to another’s pain varies greatly.

Bridging the divide between the world that was and the world that will be, requires the bereaved to re-enter their social worlds – reconnecting with family and friends, developing new relationships perhaps, sometimes distancing or severing some social connections.

Supportive social networks are important to us all.  They are associated with positive mental health and a capacity to manage life crises.  Social support has been defined as feedback from others that one is loved and cared for, esteemed and valued and part of a network of satisfying communications.  Basically, we cope more effectively if we find the social support we need.

For bereaved parents, this will require amongst other things, being able to truthfully acknowledge thoughts and feelings , opportunities to have their changed selves acknowledged and accepted and the freedom to speak freely about ALL their children, both living and deceased.

The death of a child is an unusual event in the society in which we now live and communities are not always familiar with how to respond to the bereaved.

The culture of response tends still to lean towards notions of recovery and closure and a return to normal.  Nothing could be further from the truth, as is so beautifully expressed above.

Bridging the gulf may be difficult but necessary as you re-enter your social worlds, reweaving the web of your daily lives and reestablishing interdependent connections.  This can be comforting and reassuring as it may relieve the isolation of grief…but as observed in the poem, we cannot predict the responses of others and their responses are not within our control and can add to distress.

However, as humans,  we jointly weave our social webs.  By challenging or simply not accepting the platitudes or misguided utterances and providing cues as to “how it really is” we play a role in improving conversations and interactions about love and loss and life after.

blue and purple silk rose flower on pink surface
Photo by Marta Branco on Pexels.com

 

with thanks to Vera Russell Palliative Care/Bereavement Counsellor, a treasured colleague and friend.

 

Building a field of flowers…

Rather than focusing on right and wrong, try to think in terms of creating something new from a pollination of ideas. Consider each mind as a flower, which goes through its own cycles of growth, budding, bloom and decay.

Somewhere along the path, the cerebral flower of the mind comes into full bloom, and through dialogue with others, a wondrous process of cross-pollination with other mind-flowers can begin.

Before you know it, new flowers with new colours, patterns, and shapes begin to emerge everywhere; idea-flowers that have never existed before, not even in our wildest imagination.

beautiful environment field flora
Photo by Mina-Marie Michell on Pexels.com

This process exposes the genius of natural designs and laws which are far beyond our weak intellect’s comprehension. What is essential is that we come together as a community and communicate, and do so as respectfully as possible.

The change will emerge on its own and will carry the unique imprints of each participant forward into the mysterious creation of that which is beyond imagination — a new world.

Bryant McGill

 

Finding grace, tact and empowerment

We have all had the experience where we have been annoyed, offended, hurt, saddened or angered by another. How can we handle the situation and ourselves so that we exercise, grace, tact, and possibly even advocate for change in the world?
Together, let’s explore some strategies which we can adopt to both heal our hearts and move forward in the best manner possible.
Judgment.
It is simply not necessary to introduce judgment into everything. To understand someone’s intention you’d have to fully understand them. How can we possibly know what is in the heart and mind of another? Many times, we and others act without forethought, without conscious intention. Sometimes, our emotions overtake us. A lot of the time, we barely even know ourselves! Broken people hurt other people. Can we really judge them for that?
If, for example, someone is ill, do we judge them for being ill? Do we hold their illness against them? No, of course not! It wasn’t that person’s choice to become ill.
By the same token, perhaps, that person we are so quick to judge hasn’t made a conscious decision to be where they are. Maybe, they themselves don’t even know how or why they ended up where they are. Can we blame people for not knowing what they don’t know?

Boundaries.
If you can’t handle yourself in the company of a person, then it is necessary for you to enact a boundary for the well-being of both yourself and that other person. If you can’t keep your emotions in check, it may be best to distance yourself until you have found some healing for yourself.
We want to spend time with people who motivate us to be our best selves, because we want to bring our best selves to the world.
We do not need to keep people who have harmed us in our lives. We can set boundaries. We can’t possibly have time and energy for all people anyway. We must, however, ensure that we make time for ourselves in our own lives, we must engage in self-care. Self-care is particularly important when we are hurting.
Vengeance.
We have all heard the saying that “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” and it is true: Hate breeds hate. Hate will not heal. It will not heal you, and it will not heal them.
If a person is broken, that person needs healing. They need your love more than they need your hate. Hate will not break a negative cycle, but love may make a difference. Even if you don’t know how to love a person, don’t treat them with hate. Treating them with hate chances them also losing the ability to love themselves.
People who don’t love themselves are often volatile and at risk of poor choices and behavior. Don’t make the problem worse. Don’t treat people the way they have treated you. Treat them the way you wish to be treated instead. Don’t become that which you hate.

Expectations.
Don’t give with expectation. Don’t help someone expecting them to return the favor. Don’t expect them to change. If you have helped leave it at that. Your intention was to help. Your intention is not the outcome.
You’ve done your part. More than that, you haven’t added to the problem. That’s quite something all in itself!
Compassion.
It is easy to love people who are easy to love. The real challenge is to love those who have hurt or harmed you. Love and compassion are not circumstantial. You don’t have to understand people in order to love them. You don’t even have to like them or agree with their actions.
Remember the human beneath. We do not know what may be tormenting a person’s soul.
You can love others with a compassionate heart. Never underestimate the power of kindness and compassion.
Forgiveness.
Don’t carry the darkness of hate in your heart. It will harm you. That anger will seep into every aspect of your life. It will taint everything.
Instead, work through your emotions. Find forgiveness and let go. Don’t hang on to things. Don’t bring the past into the present. When we bring the past with us, we diminish our presence in the moment.
Learn to let go. Forgiveness is for you, not them. Forgiveness does not mean you condone or agree with what someone has done. Don’t replay that which has hurt you over and over again. Don’t torment yourself further. You deserve peace.
Remember, you have the power to make a difference. Your very words and actions can effect change.

Don’t be a part of the problem, be a part of the solution instead.  Be defined by love in all you say and do.

conifer daylight environment evergreen
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Akiroq Brost – inspirational writer

 

Complicated Grief

What is Complicated Grief?
April 29, 2018 By Rev. Terri Daniel, MA, CT

The term “complicated grief” is greatly misunderstood by the bereaved, in large part because the word “complicated” has recently become a pop culture buzzword. Many people have said to me, “ALL grief is complicated,” which is evidence of this misunderstanding. Because all grief is NOT complicated. The majority of people move toward restoration and healing in an expected, healthy — non-complicated — manner. So what does complicated mean in this context?
Think of it this way… you’ve heard of medical procedures that have “complications” when something doesn’t go as expected; something interferes with the expected trajectory of healing. In bereavement, a person is supposed to adapt and adjust to their new reality over time. But if the person feels/functions exactly the same way three years after the loss as he/she did three weeks after the loss, there is a complication.
Complicated grief is also known as “prolonged mourning disorder” or PGD, which I think is a much better way to describe it.
It is normal and expected that we will grieve and feel deep pain when we have a loss, but it is also normal to eventually find peace again. The process of healing depends on many factors, including:
. The relationship with the deceased (spouse, child, etc)
. The type of loss (violent, traumatic, illness, expected vs. unexpected, etc)
. The innate psychological make-up of the griever
. The quality of one’s family and community support
. Whether the death is socially acceptable
. Belief systems that can undermine healing

These are very brief descriptions and broad generalizations (for the sake of brevity).
You can learn more by reading this article from Psychology Today. If you’re interested in a more in-depth academic analysis, take a look at my 2018 essay on complicated grief.
In the last 40 years there has been a wave of new academic and medical research on grief, and we’ve also learned a lot from looking at how other cultures work with grief (thanks to mass media and the internet). Based on this information, we know that although the grief experience is different for everybody, there is a more or less normative trajectory for regaining equilibrium after a loss. When a person does not follow that trajectory, there are “complications,” and that is when help — such as counseling — is needed.
Important to note… grief counseling is a very specialized field, and most therapists and counselors are not specifically trained in that area. If you are considering counseling, please make sure the provider has specific training and experience with grief and trauma.

griefandtheafterlife

Terri has very kindly given me permission to reprint her post.  She can be contacted through the following address.

Rev. Terri Daniel, MA, CT
http://www.AfterlifeConference.com

The psychology Today article can be found here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/get-hardy/201309/about-complicated-bereavement-disorder-0

Please also refer to Repair and Reattachment Grief Therapy at this url:  https://www.rochellewright.com/

 

 

 

Time and Grief

Most bereaved people are on the receiving end, at some time or other, of comments that suggest that ‘time will heal all wounds’ or encouragement such as, ‘you’ll be fine in a while ‘ or ‘just give it time’.

Hour Glass Wallpapers 2 - Copy (2)

Equally, they are frequently on the receiving end of misunderstandings about how long it may take to become familiar with a world profoundly and forever altered and not of their own choosing.

The suggestion that time heals, in my view, does an enormous disservice to the hard work and sometimes overwhelming effort that bereaved people make to adapt to their changed circumstances after the death of a loved one.   It gives time some kind of active participation in the process and makes bereaved people appear to be the passive recipients of time’s healing efforts.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Time is simply something that is measured by clocks and calendars.

It is a convention to measure existence.  Our perception of time is a fluid thing.  Time can go slowly or quickly even seem to ‘stand still.’  We talk about things being timeless.  We can recall things in our past and they can feel as fresh as yesterday or a very long time ago.

However we may understand time, I would suggest it is not an entity that can ‘do’ things.  To suggest that it works on human heartache in a positive healing way is to deny the very active nature of grieving and rebuilding our lives after a death.

The old saying “time heals all wounds” is simply not true.

Parents do not ‘get over’ the death of their child.  There is no amount of time that can pass that will alter the fact that their child has died and that they must continue to live with this unchanging reality.  Time does not stop the ache in hearts nor does it erase the missing of those we love.

Notions of time do however play a part in the grieving process.

Initially for many time will stand still…the rest of the world seems to be getting on with things while the life of the bereaved seems to have stopped.    People often comment on how their sense of time seems distorted.  It can feel like yesterday or forever ago since they did a particular thing.  The death can seem incredibly fresh and yet it can be years since it occurred.

I suspect that this may be because the intensity of grief in the early weeks, with its capacity to fill every available bit of one’s being, carries with it an inability to connect to calendar time – the passage of hours, days, weeks and months seem completely irrelevant.

Once time stops standing still, so to speak, bereaved people may not think much beyond the present day and the recent past.  It is too overwhelming to think about days beyond because that would mean thinking about a future that does not include their child.

Thinking about the recent past generally involves thinking about all that led up to the death as well as focusing on memories so as not to forget.  It is exquisitely painful to think about the many years ahead.  For quite a long time it is simply not possible to think too far ahead.

However, gradually and with tiny baby steps, those who are heartbroken do start to function again.  It becomes possible again to do the shopping, cook meals, go out, take care of surviving children etc.  Time does not do this…YOU DO and frequently with an enormously huge effort.

However, time does provide a different vantage point that enables people to look back and acknowledge the ways in which they have moved from how they were in the beginning, how they may be different in terms of thinking, feeling and doing.  This awareness may boost confidence about survivability and may herald the beginning of regaining a sense of mastery and control over overwhelming thoughts and feelings.

Many of us recognise that after a while, the time in between moments of overwhelming sorrow becomes longer and the time spent feeling overwhelmed becoming shorter.

I would suggest that it is not the passage of time that does this but your own greater familiarity with your grief, your own better ability to ensure breaks from pain and your own greater ability to re-engage with life within your broader social world.  Such capacities usually occur against a background of learning to live with the experience and discovering ways to build a life around the pain of loss.

All of these abilities are actively engaged in by those bereaved, not always consciously, but nevertheless by the bereaved.

I, as a professional Social Worker, Psychotherapist and bereaved mother of an only child am privy to the painstaking struggle that families make to reconnect with life and rebuild their lives.  Time alone does not do this!!!  To think that it does is to take away acknowledgement of all the hard work and frequently painful work done by individuals and families.

As families engage in the tough task of rebuilding, they are further subjected to time constraints placed on them by the outside world.

Most of us have had experiences where others clearly underestimate the amount of time it takes to rebuild and in particular, the time that people continue to feel sad.

We allow more time for people to adapt to workplace change or moving house than we do for grieving people becoming accustomed to a profoundly changed world.

Family and friends, perhaps especially after the death of a child, are often very attentive and caring in the beginning.

For many, such support tends to diminish before the bereaved stop needing it.  Friends and families may think and some directly say it, that it’s time to move on, that you need to get over it, that you have the rest of your lives to think about, other children to pay attention to etc etc

Others may give various forms of “hurry-up” messages.  They want the bereaved person get back to normal and to do so fairly quickly.  Our broader society supports and encourages this notion of a speedy return to pre-existing normalcy as if that were possible.

Bereaved people very simply need to be allowed more TIME to adapt and regenerate.  Time is not the prime ‘doer’…..it is the context within which all grieving and mourning and rebuilding take place.

Hour Glass Wallpapers 2 - Copy (2)

with thanks to my colleague Vera Russell

Sadness friend or foe…?

Sadness is one aspect of grief.

The sadness and sorrow after the death of someone central to who we are, is frequently of an overwhelming nature, powerfully uncomfortable and sometimes frightening in intensity.

It is also an emotion that people want to apologise for, thinking it a sign of ‘not moving on’, of weakness and inadequacy.

At its purest, sadness is love in the face of physical absence.

Grieving may be understood as what is experienced as one becomes accustomed to a world forever changed the includes the person who died with a different connection, a non-physical one.

People may die, but our relationships with them do not.

Sadness is, in fact, a useful and necessary emotion.

Leaving aside cultural rules about this emotion, the question may be asked as to what purpose does it serve?…What good does it do?…Why would nature have chosen this emotion?

The emotion of sadness occurs when we have lost someone or something that is important to us, and there is nothing we can do about it.  Sadness turns our attention inward so that we can reflect and think.  It allows a close examination of everything…which is part of what is necessary to rebuild life around the pain of loss.

Sadness slows us down; it slows down our biological systems contributing to withdrawing of attention from the outside world to our inner world.

Moreover, when we are sad, we look sad.  Our face and body language signal to those around us that we may need help, care and compassionate understanding.

We are hard-wired to respond to each other in this way.  We are biologically constructed to respond with care and concern when we see others suffering.

While many of us have been conditioned to perceive sadness as a negative emotion, it is a necessary emotion and has its usefulness and wisdom.

We are expected to be in control of our emotions and while it is important to learn how to ‘dose” ourselves when faced with intense emotions i,e. Get a break from them; it is important not to suppress them, deny or avoid them,

We, in our culture, tend to overvalue reason, logic and the capacity to be rational.  Conversely, the language of the heart tends to be undervalued.

We search and are encouraged to seek quick remedy, relief and recovery.  We don’t like to be vulnerable, out of control.  We tend to keep our intense emotions secret and unseen and may even feel ashamed of them.

We are taught that to give too much room to intense emotions may be a sign of weakness or breakdown.

We turn away rather than toward them because of cultural conditioning and because they can also be frightening.

Grieving people sometimes fear that they will be overwhelmed by emotions like passionate sadness forever.  They may also feel as if they are going crazy because of the intensity and unpredictability of intense sadness.

Our language is full of advice such as ‘get a hold of your self’, ‘get a grip’, ‘stay in control’ amongst many others.

The fear is that overwhelming emotion may be destructive.

We are sometimes encouraged to take medication that will make us feel better.  The focus is on getting rid of strong emotions rather than learning from them.  It may be difficult to believe that having strong, intense emotions acknowledged, listened and attended to, in fact, helps them diminish.

Sadness and sorrow are neither positive nor negative in themselves …it is the way we think about them that is positive or negative.  How we think about things affects how problematic they may become.

Profound and passionate sadness is not a bad thing.  It is the most normal emotion imaginable following the death of a child.  While at the beginning that sadness may fill every inch of your being, it does not stay the same shape and colour for the rest of time.

Feeling emotional pain is not a sign of being sick…it is a sign of having loved deeply.  It is the other side of love and as noted previously plays an important role in rebuilding life around the pain of loss.  It allows an inward reflection on such questions as  ‘Who am I now?’, ‘How am I different?’, ‘What do I need?’, etc. and it acts as a signal to the world around that compassionate care is required.  This care includes the time and space to, for a while, withdraw from our normal concerns.

In spending time with intense and profound emotion, it is possible to discover or renew the capacity for gratitude, joy, faith, courage and compassion.

Healing is a journey through pain not a departure from it.

The purpose of intense emotion is not to make us miserable forever but to help us heal.

_lonely_mindful_nature_person_relaxing_repose_sitting_solitary_sun_thinking_thoughtful_woman
with special thanks to my social work colleague Vera Russell

Supporting Grieving Adolescents

fantastic-wallpaper-with-butterflieMany bereaved families may have surviving adolescent children who are mourning the loss of their brother or sister.

This is often new territory both for the teenager and also for the parents trying to work out our best to care for them especially when they are feeling so emotionally depleted.

Some things to think about:

1. Grief is not always visible

Grief is not just the outward display of emotion. It is also the thoughts and behaviours that we experience in response to the death of someone we love.
As adolescents are in the process of becoming more independent of their parents and other important adults, they may at times feel reluctant to show feelings or talk about their thoughts as it can reinforce a sense of dependence and vulnerability. They may also choose to inhibit some of their thoughts and feelings out of a desire to protect their families. They may also prefer to share their experiences with their peer group.

Strategy: Be available

It is when we are listened to and heard is when we feel most understood. Create a home environment where open communication is encouraged. Convey to them that it is okay to have the thoughts and feelings that they may have and that you will be available should they decide to let you know what is going on with them.
As with adults, at the beginning of grief, it is sometimes very difficult to communicate what we are thinking and feeling…it is no less difficult for adolescents who have less life experience than adults and who, when they are feeling vulnerable may find it difficult to put things into words.

2. Don’t try to “fix” the pain associated with grief

It is difficult and uncomfortable for parents to witness the pain of their children. They usually want life to be okay for their children and are pained by what they see and uncomfortable about the helplessness it can create in them. This means that we may want to take away or fix the pain of those we love. This may take the form of avoiding conversation about the person who has died or distracting them from thinking or feeling their pain. While this may be momentarily effective, it can result in the adolescent hiding their grief or withdrawing or expressing their grief in destructive ways.

Strategy: Talk about the loss

Invite the adolescent to talk about the person who died. Encourage questions. Should the teenager not want to talk, respect this. Offer others that they may speak with about their feelings.
Always answer questions honestly and clearly. If you do not know the answer to something, say so. Share your memories, thoughts, beliefs and don’t expect that your teenager will always see things as you do.

3) Understand that grief does not proceed in orderly predictable stages.

Young people grieve in doses. Like with adults, their grief is more likely to go in waves. Sometimes adolescents may have outbursts of grief after a period when they have seemed perfectly okay. Know that this is normal. Their grief like yours, may at times seem unpredictable. They are no better at grieving or making sense of the world than adults. The difference is that they may seem unaffected for periods of time and a burst of emotion can catch parents unawares.

Strategy: Allow for adjustment

Because grief does not proceed in an orderly fashion, teenagers need to be allowed leeway as they adjust to a life forever changed. Providing a secure, consistent environment with predictable routines is important. This helps to generate a renewed feeling of safety and security. Be aware of any danger signs such as violence, drug and alcohol abuse, risk-taking behaviour or dramatic changes in personality. Seek help when necessary.

4) Model Healthy Grief

Like all of us, adolescents learn from those around them. They will pick up implicit and explicit messages from those around them on how to grieve. This is how they think they should behave or are expected to behave. They take their cues from important grown-ups in their lives (even if they do not look like they are paying attention).

Strategy: Mourn together

Be aware of the messages that they may be receiving from those around them about how to grieve and offer alternatives when appropriate.
The more adolescents observe healthy communication and the appropriate expression of the many feelings associated with loss, the more likely they may understand, accept and manage the breadth of emotions and thoughts they may have.

Try as much as possible to consider what things might look like from their perspective. Give thought to the closeness of the relationship your teenager shared with their brother or sister. Acknowledge the deep loss it is for them too.

When you can, in the midst of your grief, set aside time, attention and availability for the adolescent. That does not necessarily mean talking about the death but maybe just time spent together doing something that is fun and thereby communicating that they matter and they too are important.

Finally, remember that this is new for all of you and that there will be some trial and error as families become better able to take care of each other.

Helping Parents Heal…

Australia and New Zealand Parents

Helping Parents Heal Inaugural Online Meeting for Parents

Helping Parents Heal is a wonderful organisation designed to allow parents whose children have transitioned to support each other. Unlike many bereavement support organisations, members share knowledge about signs, after death contacts, mediums and other methods of direct communication with their children. HPH meetings are uplifting, inspiring and enlightening.

When: 19th December

Where: Online Zoom – by putting this link into your browser Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://zoom.us/j/6123708172

Or email karynjarvie@ozemail.com.au

When:

4.30 Perth
6.00 pm Darwin
6.30 pm Brisbane
7.00 pm Adelaide
7.30 pm Hobart
7.30 pm Melbourne
7.30 pm Sydney
9.30 pm Christchurch
9.30 pm Wellington

Zoom is the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, chat, and webinars across mobile, desktop, and room systems. Zoom Rooms is the original software-based conference…
ZOOM.US

being present…

“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”
— Lao Tzu

 

An easy way to stay in the present and take control over the thousand little thoughts that bombard our brains on a daily basis is to adopt an effortless technique called breath focus.

Breath focus will enable you to make for yourself a state of calmness amidst turbulent times.   One can do it anywhere, in line in the supermarket, waiting for a plane, train or bus, in the quiet and amidst the bustle of a city street.

I particularly love doing my breath focus in the shower.  There is something magical about having a focused shower.  You already know where the soap goes;  you do not need to think about it.  A perfect time to practice breath focus, under the soothing flow of shower.

So, what is breath focus?  It merely is paying attention to the breath.  Being an observer to this most basic of all our functions that we take for granted.

Imagine if you will that you are in your shower, you absentmindedly reach for and start soaping yourself, your mind is wandering to a thousand different thoughts.   Now, while you are in the imaginary shower with the warm water cascading over you bring your attention to your breath is it in or out, continue to search for your breath.

Now you have located your breath consciously decide to work with it.  Start by taking a deep breath and as you do notice the feeling of your expanded chest.  Note how far you can stretch your ribcage.

Now exhale, this time put your mind to your stomach and as you exhale notice it deflating, notice it relaxing, notice it becoming soft.

Notice your breath as it passes your nose, is it warm?  Notice the speed, the pressure.  Now push the breath all the way out, out, out.

Now repeat, as you breathe in pay attention to every tiny part of your in breath all the in and all the way down.

Repeat, until no thought enters but those of you following the breath.

Congratulations you have just meditated.  Move on with your day in a calm and relaxed manner and when you remember it be present to the breath.

 

 

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Skillsets of Resilient People

 

How to Bounce Back from Adversity

Everything in life is in constant movement and change. Nothing ever stops. The only constant is change itself.

Through our life, we experience change in many forms, from key development milestones, as we witness our bodies growing and ageing, to life-changing shifts such as having children or losing loved ones. In between is a myriad of other episodic life moments, where we experience the effect of change cast over a backdrop of a moving culture, a fluctuating economy and a constantly shifting environmental landscape.

Change can be hard to deal with, especially when it is dropped down on you in the most unexpected and abrupt ways. You can suddenly lose balance, disconnect from your inner resources and feel unable to respond adequately to changing circumstances. In short, you enter into a crisis.

This is what the typical life crisis is made of–the inability to respond adequately to change. It is when your inner world–beliefs, emotions and attitudes–do not reflect the outer world as it changes. Anxiety and stress often stem from this inability to deal emotionally with change. Ironically the wrong response to change is often stagnation.

Resilience and adaptability to change are extremely important life skills, often associated with emotional intelligence and a healthy attitude or perspective towards the self and life in general.

Here are eight ways to help you not only adapt to change, and deal with crises, but actually thrive in it.

Stress and changeStress often stems from an inability to deal emotionally with change.

1. Embracing Change with Excitement and Curiosity

What is the first emotion you feel when you suddenly face an unexpected change that doesn’t have a known outcome? (basically you don’t yet know whether it’s good or bad). For most people, fear or anxiety is the first thing that comes up. Fear of the unknown is one of the deepest and most pervasive of fears. If you let this fear overcome you, it starts creating negative thought patterns and other unwanted self-sabotaging patterns.

Positive people usually get immediately excited about the prospect of change because their view on life is, in general, an optimistic one and therefore they expect that good things will happen more often than bad. They might initially hesitate for a while but then cheer themselves up and end up looking forward to it. They embrace change. They get curious. Curiosity is an important trait to have because it engenders movement and the power to get out of a comfort zone.

2. Avoiding Patterns that Create Stagnation

People who are most likely to deal effectively with change implicitly know that life is in constant movement and they cannot stop and gather moss. They need to move and circulate the energy around, whether it’s the energy of their thoughts, money, body, work, etc. This is a secret very few people know and follow consciously.

Stagnation goes against life because life is–by its own nature–movement. When they face unexpected change, they make an effort to flow with it and keep themselves from getting stagnant. By stagnation, I mean following the same thought patterns and doing the same things. So these people think sideways, try new things, follow new paths or divert their attention away from the same patterns.

Comfort zoneCuriosity engenders movement and the power to get out of a comfort zone.

3. Being Emotionally Response-Able

They own and take response-ability of how they are affected by a situation. Resilient people know that how they respond emotionally to life is everything. Experience is not something that happens to them but something they make out of a situation.

This simple but basic attitude changes everything and most certainly, it helps you deal with any form of change and disruption. When you are emotionally responsible you do not blame life or others. You try to find new ways to look at things and people. In fact, people who are emotionally intelligent find it instinctive to quickly change the energy of a situation, or people around them, by first changing how they feel about it. They know that responding negatively or falling victim to their own emotions is not helpful and will ultimately stop them from moving forward and adapting to change.

4. Keeping Perspective

Perspective is key because it can change your feelings, attitude and will. Give two people the same situation and they will respond to it differently, if their perspective is different. Difficulty can become a useful challenge and an opportunity to learn. Disappointment can become a life lesson that teaches more about self mastery.

Everything can be turned around with the right perspective. Successful people will always look for the right perspective to get a better angle on an apparent problem. A sudden change can be turned into a springboard that helps you leap forward, if seen from the right perspective.

The right perspectiveEverything can be turned around with the right perspective.

5. Knowing and Respecting One’s Fears

We often hear the cliché of facing one’s own fears. I think this is sometimes interpreted as being confrontational or aggressive. Successful people don’t bust their fears. Nobody really does. They understand them more, and respect them for what they are, but make it a point not to be controlled by them.

In fact, mentally strong people are ones who have a healthy internal dialogue. They do not push their fears away and they don’t fight or resist them either. They are just more conscious of which of those fears are holding them back, and understanding them. They befriend them, they talk to them and they might even give them names. In the end, they dance to the music of life by recognizing their fears and overcoming them (not fighting them) through self love, courage and faith.

6. Keeping the Faith in One’s Self

The last point above brings me to the following. To successfully deal with the currents of life, you have to most of all keep faith in yourself. Know that you have all the resources needed to deal with any life situation. Do not be sidetracked by your mind that tries to make you believe you are inadequate or that you need something from somewhere, or someone, to solve a problem. You don’t.

People who successfully deal with change and crisis, time after time, believe that they always have the resources to push through. They do not look outwards for answers–they look inwards. They have faith that they will always look into themselves and summon up the courage, the ideas, the will, the attitude, the answer. They believe that they are connected to a creative life force that they can always tap into, without any consensus from anyone.

Befriend your fearMentally strong people befriend their fears and try to understand them.

7. Self Love

Self love’ is always misjudged by many because it sounds selfish or narcissistic. It certainly isn’t. Quite the contrary, self-love is the key to opening up to the world, and others, with kindness and compassion. Self-love means being open to yourself. You allow yourself to be human, to err, lose and find yourself again. Most of all, it means not to be harsh to yourself by criticizing or judging all the time. This would only create a negative internal dialogue that would generate more negative thought patterns.

As mentioned earlier on, successful people have a healthy internal dialogue. They communicate with their subconscious and their feelings/emotions in a positive way–lovingly and accepting. They don’t judge themselves; they just learn and move on. So when the going gets tough and the world around you changes too quickly, the first step is to love yourself more.

8. Trusting Life

This is very close to the first point, where I mentioned that resilient people are optimistic about change and unknown circumstances. They do not cocoon themselves in but open up their arms and trust the flow of life. They are, in general, optimistic because they choose to believe that life is supportive and not conspiring against them.

If bad things happen, they change perspective, take emotional responsibility and move on; but they do not lose trust in life because they know that once their attitude and perspective is good, life will respond and support them all the way.

 

Adapted from an article by Gilbert Ross on Friday November 24th, 2017