Sharing Your Love: Poetry & Letters from the Heart

 

SHARING LOVE THROUGH WRITING

Whether you believe in Hallmark Card holidays like Valentine’s Day or not, this month is a good time to think about someone you love, either alive or passed. But instead of sending flowers, giving chocolate, or going out to dinner, consider writing a letter or poem. If the person is deceased, you obviously can’t send the letter, but it’s a nice way to remain connected to that individual. My dad passed away twenty-eight years ago, and I always use this month as an excuse to write him a letter telling him how much I miss him, and letting him know what’s going on in my life.

9780141027562For creative inspiration, you might consider reading some love poetry. The poetry of our beloved Leonard Cohen is always inspiring, especially his book of Love Poems, more commonly called, The Book of Longing. More recently, for spiritual inspiration and to surround myself with love, I’ve been reading the works of the Sufi poet Rumi, and I’ve been blown away by his words and sentiments. There are numerous translations of Rumi’s work, but I’ve found those by Coleman Barks to be the most powerful and compelling. As Barks says in his introduction to The Essential Rumithe poems “are food and drink, nourishment for the part that is hungry for what they give. Call it soul” (p. xv). Barks goes on to say that Rumi’s poems help us feel what living in “the ruins feels like . . . heartbroken, wandering, wordless, lost, and ecstatic for no reason. It’s the psychic space his poems inhabit” (p. xvi).

These feelings are what many of us experience now and then, which is why Rumi’s poems have resonated with me and so many others over the years. They fill us up when we’re empty, and illuminate all that is wonderful when we feel good.

rumi-774725_1920Barks’s introduction shared a lot about Rumi, his history, and his life. This timeless poet was born in Balkh (in what is now northern Afghanistan) on September 30, 1207. As a teenager he was identified as a great spirit, and in his 30s he met Shams Tabriz, with whom he shared many mystical conversations, resulting in a strong and magical friendship that inspired and informed Rumi’s poetry.

Rumi died in 1273, and on his tomb is the inscription: “Do not look for him here, but rather in the hearts of those who love him.” For many, Rumi’s poems deepen their overall sense of faith and hope. He was a wonderful soul and spiritual teacher. As Barks says, “He shows us glory. He wants us to be more alive, to wake up . . . he wants us to see our beauty in the mirror and in each other.” Rumi’s poems in their original form have no Persian titles. Barks says this is because “they are works in progress in a life in progress, oceanic living tissue always reconfiguring itself”; however, for the purposes of his book, Barks assigned titles for each poem to facilitate accessibility.

It’s not easy choosing one of my favorite Rumi love poems—I simply adore all of them—but here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite ones, “Buoyancy,” which coincides with February, the Month of Love:

Love has taken away my practices
and filled me with poetry.

I tried to keep quietly repeating,
No strength but yours,
but I couldn’t.

I had to clap and sing.
I used to be respectable and chaste and stable,
but who can stand in this strong wind
and remember those things?

A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself.
That’s how I hold your voice.

 

 

ITP-logo_smallAbout The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University

Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.  The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.

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Reducing Resentment in Your Relationship – What Can Be Done?

psychologist-san-jose-caDr. Randi Fredricks is a PHD in Transpersonal Psychology graduate from The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University. She is a researcher and practicing psychotherapist and marriage counselor. She specializes in preventing and reversing mental health problems through natural methods. The focus of her practice, writing and research is on the development of models that incorporate complementary and alternative medicine in the treatment of anxiety, depression, addiction, eating disorders and related problems. For more than 20 years, Dr. Fredricks has been at the forefront of addiction research.

In addition to her work in the area of mental health counseling, Dr. Fredricks is an award-winning artist and designer. She maintains a number of blogs on natural medicine and mental health, cinema therapy, and the therapeutic use of film. Her dedication to helping people develop personal and shared exceptional human experiences speaks to these lifelong interests. She lives and works in San Jose, California. To learn more about her work, visit her website at http://www.DrRandiFredricks.com. We have re-posted her blog here.

Anger

pexels-photo-277870Anger is a normal part of every relationship, whether it is between partners, family, friendships, or work relationships. Still, anger that accumulates and remains unprocessed becomes resentment, something much more corrosive and dangerous to all relationship.

When resentment shows up in a relationship, it’s as if the grave is being prepared for the feelings of love and connection. The relationship may remain in spite of resentment if commitment is built into it, such as a family relationship. But a romantic relationship, such as a marriage, marches towards a slow and painful death with enough accumulated and unprocessed resentment.

If you or your partner have feelings of resentment, these feelings can lead to certain predictable actions. The person feeling resentful may be:

  • Less trusting of the other person
  • Stop wanting to give as freely in the relationship
  • Feel less love or desire for intimacy
  • Not want to spend as much together time

As you can imagine, these feelings do not lead to a happy, satisfying relationship. Yet, most people ignore the deteriorating effect on their relationship, trying to continue to have the relationship on top of resentment.

arguing-1296392_1280Where Does Resentment Come From?

Resentment is comprised up of old feelings of anger and disappointment. To prevent it from eating your relationship from the inside out, you and your relationship partner need to do something let go of these old feelings.Uncleared resentment works against the good feelings between you and can be a path to more distance and more negative interaction.  Resolving resentments together, if done right, creates understanding, closeness, trust, and love.

Resolving Resentments 

First of all, talk to your partner about the state of your relationship. Let them know that you notice less closeness, more frustration with each other, less connection. Talk about how and why both of you are carrying around some old frustration, anger and resentment at each other. Ask if they are willing to work through these feelings with you in some honest, calm conversations about how each of you feels. If you get a yes for an answer, you picked a partner who’s going to work with you to make your relationship better.

Resolving resentments may take a while and depends on the length of your relationship and the amount of resentment each one of you is carrying towards the other. For some couples, the process could take months to complete.

The good news is, if you are committed to resolving the resentment clearing correctly, you will be growing closer to each other with each conversation. This means the time of resolving resentments is also a time of positive relationship building, and is a time well spent.

For more information on how resentment can affect a relationship, visithttp://sanjosecouplescounseling.com.

ITP-logo_smallAbout The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University

Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.  The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.

 

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Virtual reality as a window into our multidimensional nature? Dr. Marilyn Schlitz thinks it’s possible.

Marilyn-SchlitzDr. Marilyn Schlitz, program chair of the doctoral program at ITP/Sofia U is a social anthropologist, consciousness researcher, and co-author of the books Consciousness & Healing and Living Deeply.

Reality Bubbles? Paradox? Multiple Worldviews? How can we move into this new world? Well Dr. Marilyn Schlitz believes virtual reality technology may help us. Dr. Schlitz’s anthropological research has focused on indigenous practices and mind-body interaction in healing. Taking this a step further, she is wondering how virtual reality technology can catalyze collective shifts in consciousness. Intrigued?

She says that we’re each living within our own reality bubbles, and that some of the most important skills in the 21st Century will focus on coming to an awareness of our filters and to cultivate the capacity to understand, empathize, and interact with people who are living in completely different models of reality.

The following podcast features an interview with Dr. Schlitz as she talks about some of the game design work that she’s doing in order to achieve this, as well as how virtual reality might provide a window into our multidimensional nature and help us become more aware of our own aspects of inattentional blindness.

LISTEN TO THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST


About The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia UniversityITP-logo_small

Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.  The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.

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Meditation- Not Just for Relaxation. Try the Development of Your True Essence.

Jain-Wells-Profile-Image

Dr. Jain Wells holds a PHD in Transpersonal Psychology from The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University.  and is a transpersonal therapist – which blends Western psychology with the wisdom of the world’s esoteric traditions. Jain has a particular interest in transformational practices that help individuals develop at the psychological, emotional, physical and spiritual levels — aspects of the Whole Self. Her greatest passion is the practice of Meditation.

This article has been re-blogged from her website blog: http://drjainwells.com/what-you-really-need-to-know-about-meditation/

“Meditation practice is a skill that you learn by committing to regular practice. However, once you learn how to meditate you understand that this state of ‘presence’ that you are developing is your true essence. To operate your life from this centered and aware state affects your choices and your potential for success in all areas of life.” 

The main purpose of meditation isn’t just to relax. If you want to do that, best have a beer and put your feet up or have a hot bath. Meditation is about cultivating present-moment awareness and reaping the countless benefits that come from the practice.  This includes activating your body’s natural healing powers, increasing self-awareness that leads to more conscious choices, and becoming less reactive in daily life. Meditation is mental training that helps you become alert and aware. So to say it’s about relaxation is misleading.

attend-1786103_1920With consistent daily practice and learning to sustain mental stillness or present-moment awareness, the depth to which meditation can promote deep changes within is without limit. The reason meditation is associated with the ancient wisdom traditions is because it has a profound impact on consciousness, which is another word for self-awareness. Over the course of a lifetime, consistent meditative practice and maintaining present-moment awareness continues to peel away aspects of your psyche that are unconscious and conditioned, and makes them conscious.

The more aware you are, the more you notice things. The more you notice things, the more you’re likely to take mindful action around what you see and perceive. Your ability to live more of your life in a state of present-moment awareness creates a broader range of experiences, enhanced creativity and spontaneity,

Learning how to do it takes some commitment. Depending on the level of mental busyness you naturally have, the more challenging it may be to slow down your thought process. One of first things you begin to notice when learning mindfulness meditation is the persistent thinking nature of your own mind. You become aware of your internal dialogue or inner chatter and the habitual nature of your mind.

awareness-1052371_1920As you reorient yourself to present-moment awareness you become more aware of the details of your sensory faculties in the moment what you see, hear, and feel inside yourself and in your immediate environment. This is distinguished from thoughts of the past and future. Eventually you readily recognize the difference between being present versus becoming preoccupied with your thoughts, because only in the present moment are you fully aware, alive and creative. Conscious breathing helps bring your focus into the present moment simply because your continuous stream of breathing is always present.

How to do Mindfulness Meditation Practice:
  1. Find a comfortable place to sit down, either on the floor or in a chair. Sit with your spine straight, yet relaxed. Rest your hands in your lap or by your side.
  2. Close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths of air to settle yourself.
  3. Place your attention on the inflow and outflow of your breath. Notice the continuous movement of your breath in the present moment.
  4. When thoughts of the past or future come to mind, simply acknowledge them and return your awareness to the inflow and outflow of your breath. There may also be distractions or sounds in your environment, or sensations that you feel in your body simply acknowledge them and return your awareness to your breathing.

The objective of mindfulness meditation is to allow all aspects of the present moment to be held in your awareness without focusing or fixating on any one thing, other than using your breathing to keep you aware of yourself and in the moment. This mental training naturally develops your ability to focus in daily life when you need to and to be less reactive as well.

Begin with five minutes per day and work up to establishing a 20-30 minute practice. It may be challenging at first, though with consistent effort you will learn to sustain present moment awareness and deepen into the practice to experience the benefits.

* This blog by Jain Wells was originally posted on Mind Body Green.

ITP-logo_smallAbout The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University

Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.  The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.

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Staying Wild: Connecting with the Women’s Temple as Spiritual Practice

Women’s Temple as a Spiritual Practice

by Author Ashleigh Kramer-Walthall, MA, LMHC, PsyD candidate.

Ashleigh.JPGThe Women’s Temple is a sanctuary for the feminine where participants resonate with their empowered selves in joy, freedom and desire. Participants gather in circle to awaken Feminine Love & connection.

I have been attending Women’s Temple for 2 years now with Dr. Melanie Hernand, who serves as a powerful guide and mentor in my life.   I remember feeling so intrigued and elated to be a part of this movement and these ceremonies as I wanted to have a place to safely explore my feelings, curiosities, depth, connection and perspective with other women.

Dr. Melanie Hernand : Dreaming Themes and Channeling the Divine Feminine

My good friend and colleague, Dr. Mel, who specializes in women’s health and wellness, breathwork, meditation and women’s temple practice,  started facilitating Women’s Temple in Santa Cruz. Dr. Mel recognized that she felt called to start organizing one for the women’s community in Santa Cruz.

Dr. Mel says that she often dreams of the themes, or that they simply appear during her meditation practice and that she operates more as a channel for the Divine Feminine. Dr. Mel focuses on cultivating love and consciousness in her life. She makes decisions that continue to support her happiness, her growth, and her wellness. As someone who models the wisdom she shares, when I am in her company I often notice that I feel more aware of my feelings, my needs, my body sensations, more confident, and connected to love and thankfulness .

Ashleigh’s Experience: Staying Wild

11954777_885419194898799_8424658446493401501_n.jpgMy own experiences at Women’s temple have been insightful and powerful. One of the earlier Temples focused on devotion and how devotion shows up in our lives. We were paired up with another woman and each asked to be in the place of the Goddess to receive the devotion, as well as the devotee who offers our worship.

Both roles evoked great emotion for me. As Goddess, I was able to let down my insecurities and deeply open to my worth as a divine entity. I could experience love in every cell of my being.

The experience as devotee to have my Goddess in material form right before my eyes, left me weeping, overflowing with gratitude for this inspiration, this guide, this unconditional supportive force. I was able to weep, bowing down before her and continuously offer my voice and expression of love and appreciation. I actually brought this practice into my relationship with my learning partner, and we continue to devote time to creating ceremony toward deeply honoring each other’s divinity and preciousness.

This most recent Women’s Temple was centered on “staying wild”. This felt in alignment with the ferocity, anger, dynamism that we as many women in the U.S. have been feeling and functioning with since the outcome of the recent presidential election. This theme of staying wild also taps into my rage about the oppression and disparagement of women figures in religious history.

984px-Durga_Barisha_Club_2010_Arnab_Dutta1024px-Goddess_Kali_By_Piyal_Kundu1I love that we celebrate Kali and Durga, powerful Goddesses who represent surmounting fear, creation/destruction and tenacious boundaries. These feminine figures who are revered for their intrepidity and audacity encourage me to feel more comfortable to use my voice to stand up for myself and what I believe in without feeling as though I need to apologize for my needs or ideas. To have a space where I can unleash my fury and my confusion, where it is understood, and welcomed is invaluable to me.

Women’s Temple creates a container for me to make better sense of what is happening internally for me as well as externally. There is so much safety, wisdom, virtue and fortitude cultivated in our times together. Women’s Temple continues to change my life for the better and I am forever grateful for getting to dance and love in this life with these divine women.

Interview with Dr Mel

1) How would you describe the Women’s Temple?

Women’s Temple is a sanctuary for the feminine where we meet from that holy place in our hearts. A practice of embodied spirituality with movement, prayer, connection, and respectful touch. A place for you to be celebrated, seen, and deeply nourished–all of you is welcome here. It is a community of conscious sisterhood.

Together, we create a safe and sacred container to dive deeply into practices that bring us face-to-face with our feminine essence, opening us to the insights we need to live fully awake in this modern life, and support us to relax into the knowing that we are not alone–that we do this together.

2) Is the Women’s Temple a spiritual practice for you? If so can you elaborate?

Yes, for me, Women’s Temple feels like home. We are alive & passionate women awakening our hearts with emerging Feminine Rising. We are part of a worldwide current moving, when we gather together, a powerful field is created. We experience our Feminine essence & awakening in devotional practice where all of us are seen and loved. This circle fulfills the deep longing that hungers for connection, love and awakening.
Chameli Ardagh, founder of awakening women, writes:

“An awakening woman is a spiritual rebellion engaged in a glowing and embodied, nothing-held-back love affair with the great mystery. She moves in the world with fierce compassion, grace and freedom, and is passionate about truth, rest and real love. She is fluent in angelic, diva, and in Kali roars. Earth is home and so is infinity.”

Women’s Temple is a spiritual practice where we meet beyond the mind to practice embodiment practices to open the divine feminine essence within each woman. We use meditation, breath, dance, movement, respectful touch, voice, writing and sharing to go deep within and awaken our hearts. All of who we are is welcome in this space and this work heals our relationship with the divine feminine inside and out. It is powerful, nourishing, and deeply fulfilling to the feminine spirit.

Each gathering focuses on a different theme. In this “Stay Wild” Women’s Temple event, we were working with the energies of goddess Kali Ma & Durga (empowerment, creation, annihilation). Our focus was on breaking thru shame, unworthiness, lack, and disempowerment. We are building strategies to recognize our divinity and reclaim our power, while maintaining our feminine essence in the world.

3) How has The Women’s Temple influenced/benefited you?

In essence it has helped me to plant my roots deep down into Her soil, into my body, into the soul food of sisterhood. The Women’s Temple nourishes me in the ancient, timeless magic that sparks when women gather together in ritual until I overflow with a wisdom that speaks as purely as the pulsating Earth, as the tides, white blossoming lilies, falling ash, the rushing river of my soul. It helps me to tune into the subtle rhythms of my body and listen deep for the reply.

4) How do you hope The Women’s Temple benefits others?

We gather to worship and honor the wild, ruthless, soft, luscious, deep, mystic, achingly beautiful feminine root of existence that speaks Life into being. Steeped in beauty, rooted in a wider perspective than the day-to-day, we gather to mirror each other’s immaculate hearts; to remember with every cell that our bodies are miracles of nature; to clear the dust and debris so our true nature has space to seed and sprout as our very lives.

I hope for us to awaken to there being endless love, endless connection in our letting go. The only direction is IN. The Women’s Temple helps us to explore where our fuel is, deep diving, and using all the available fuel at this potent time of our transformation to break thru and let go. The intention is to encourage us to dive into this sacred time together to do our deepest inner work and open to the next greatest version of ourselves. The world is waiting for this movement, the world is waiting for us and our gifts.

About Dr. Melanie Hernand

MelHeadshot-300x300.jpgDr. Mel holds a Bachelor of Science in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley and a Doctorate in Chiropractic from Life Chiropractic College West. She has a passion for helping people create new strategies for reducing pain, dissipating tension and adapting to stress. She effectively helps people connect to their bodies, open up their ability to feel, heal and transform. For the past 17 years Dr. Mel has helped thousands of people transform and awaken to more meaningful and purposeful lives. Dr. Mel specializes in women’s health and wellness, breathwork, meditation and women’s temple practice.

 

ITP-logo_smallAbout The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University

Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.  The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.

 

 

 

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Moonlight Beach: Writing Love Notes to the Universe & Living Zen

Ji Hyang Padma, Ph.D. has been practicing and teaching Zen for twenty years, 15 of those years as an ordained nun. She has completed several 90-day intensive retreats in Korea and North America. While her practice has been situated within the Korean Zen tradition, she has had the benefit of studying with teachers across a wide spectrum of Buddhist lineages. She is gifted at finding an entry-point into practice for people who are just beginning their journey.

Ji Hyang has combined an academic career with her work as a Zen teacher. She holds a Ph.D in psychology from Sofia University. Her dissertation research focused on consciousness & healing, through the lens of traditional Buddhist healing practices. She currently serves as Director of the Comparative Religion and Philosophy Program at California Institute for Human Science in Encinitas, CA. Her first book, Living the Season: Zen Practice for Transformative Times, was released by Quest Books last year.

We have re-posted the following blog from her website.

Taking a walk along Moonlight Beach, discovered these designs, which brought me joy. The act of writing love notes to the universe upon beach sand is one of the most romantic endeavors of which human beings are capable.

 

Love and compassion are like the weak spots in the walls of ego. They are like a naturally occurring opening. And they are the opening we take. If we connect with even one moment of good heart or compassion and cherish it, our ability to open will gradually expand. Beginning to tune into even the minutest feelings of compassion or appreciation or gratitude softens us. It allows us to touch in with the noble heart of bodhicitta on the spot.  –Pema Chodron

 

So I work on… generating more warmth, more open heart. A good way for any of us to do this is to think of a person toward whom we feel appreciation or love or gratitude. In other words, we connect with the warmth that we already have. If we can’t think of a person, we can think of a pet, or even a plant. Sometimes we have to search a bit. But as Trungpa Rinpoche used to say, “Everybody loves something. Even if it’s just tortillas.” The point is to touch in to the good heart that we already have and nurture it.

At other times we can think of a person or situation that automatically evokes compassion. Compassion is our capacity to care about others and our wish to alleviate their pain. It is based not on pity or professional warmth, but on the acknowledgment that we are all in this together. Compassion is a relationship between equals. So in any moment of hardness, we can connect with the compassion we already have—for laboratory animals, abused children, our friends, our relatives, for anyone anywhere—and let it open our heart and mind in what otherwise might feel like an impossibly frozen situation.   –Pema Chodron

ITP-logo_smallAbout The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University

Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.  The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.

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Fitting In: Sociocultural Beauty Standards and The Psychology of Body Image

portrait

Sarah Astarte, PhD is an  ITP at Sofia University alumna where she graduated with her Ph.D in Transpersonal Psychology. She provides spiritual guidance and counseling in Fair Oaks, CA. She and her blog posts can be found through her website

Her first book “The Lover Within: Exploring the Relationship Between Body Image in Adult Women and Archetypes of the Lover” was released in 2010. Her book was based on research indicating that negative self-image, which produces self-abusive thoughts and behavior, is a sociocultural problem for adult females in the United States. Body image is an important part of overall self-image.

We have re-posted her article on Sociocultural beauty standards here.

 

THE DREAM

downloadI had a dream one night during the week that I was teaching about body image and self-esteem in my psychology of women class. I was in the garden of a small house, and it had a large tree with a tire swing and tall grass growing in it. A young girl, about age four, with blonde hair and blue eyes, was my daughter. As more people gathered in the garden, I noticed that the little girl became more self-conscious, and her slender body became more artificial looking and like a doll.

At one point I was on the tire swing with her, and she hugged her knees to her chest, causing her to break into pieces. Her eyes became like glass orbs instead of flesh. I woke up feeling disturbed. Firstly, someone with dark features like mine is unlikely to give birth to a Nordic-looking child. Secondly, I felt pain at the thought of this little girl breaking and essentially dying. I sat with this dream for half the day, and as I reviewed my lecture material, decided to include a documentary about eating disorders to my class.

UNDERSTANDING BODY IMAGE

Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 10.27.08 AMAs part of the lesson I have my students make a full, life-sized body map. I do this as a body image workshop as well. It is to take inventory of what we think and feel about ourselves. Each body part must be labeled with either a positive or negative message that we give ourselves. I instruct them to include scars, stretch marks, blemishes, freckles, and body art (tattoos and piercings). I also have them include emotional scars, and where they carry their tension, stress, and pain.

They write and draw on the map, using numerous colors, symbols, words and expressions. I have had both men and women taking a deeper look at themselves, some with curiosity, new awareness, reflection, and even pain. I have had a few people who will cry in the middle of the activity, as they realize that their beliefs about themselves are mostly negative.

EMOTIONAL REACTIONS

We walk around all day with certain thoughts about what we believe about ourselves. We give messages, often subconsciously, about who we think we are, and what our self-worth is. For some, their body image is relatively in sync with what they actually look like, making them people with a good amount of self-acceptance and even self-love. For those that have a self-critical monologue going in their minds, it has very little to do with their actual appearance but more to do with the negative image in their own minds.

After looking at a magazine for three minutes, about 70% of women have a negative self-evaluation. What is also interesting is that the images that we see are airbrushed and altered by computers. In other words, the images we see of perfect bodies are not real. Over half of all American women have normative discontent, meaning that on a day to day basis, they are unhappy with themselves. For men, this is about thirty percent, and climbing.

SOCIETY

8306032982_f261ac2c1e_bAdvertisers play on insecurities to sell consumers products that they do not need. Both women and men are sold on body types and proportions that are not found often in the general population, as about two percent of the American population looks like models. The average female model is about 5’11, a size 0 or 2, and weighs around a hundred pounds. The average American woman stands at 5’4, is a size 14, and weighs 140 to 160 pounds. Men are told to look extremely muscular and wear a large size, and stand over 6 feet tall. The average American man stands at 5’9 and is a medium to large size, and is not necessarily rippling with muscles with only 8 percent body fat.

Having an unrealistic standard to strive towards can lead to constant insecurity, fear of aging and changing with time, and continued discontent and unhappiness with one’s self. It burns a lot of cognitive energy, and can put a damper on anyone’s day. They are less likely to go out in the world with confidence. Negative body image and low self-esteem can lead to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, unhappy relationships and sexual dysfunction. It can also lead to discontentment with life in general. Going through everyday disliking ourselves, berating ourselves, and not valuing ourselves can lead to a less than mediocre existence. The potential we have to be all we can be is diminished every time we look at ourselves in the mirror. Instead of seeing ourselves with love we see ourselves with loathing. This is beyond counterproductive.

No matter what we look like in terms of height, weight, shape, size or color, it is important for us to face ourselves. This is why I have my students do the body mapping exercise- even if we do not like what we see, before we can change anything, we must accept what is. In looking at and learning to accept it, we can develop a higher self-evaluation. Instead of having a berating belief, such as “My thighs are too big.” we could look at it as “My thighs are strong and part of the legs that I stand on,” “my thighs are part of me,” and “my thighs (and legs in general) help me to get where I need to go.” We can learn to look at something we have in a whole new way.

heart-914682_1920.pngWhen we realize how diverse body types and people are, and we can more easily find each person’s uniqueness and beauty. Our bodies tells a story of who we are and how we survived. They are deserving of respect, care and kindness. Our bodies will change with age, and that is also something to be patient with ourselves about, so we should enjoy the abilities we have while we have them. Like the little girl in my dream (who fit the standards of being the beautiful blonde but was more fearful of others judgments and had it ultimately destroy her) we can choose instead to give ourselves the right to live, just as we are. Instead of trying to fit ourselves into unrealistic outlines of appearance, we can draw our own lines and define beauty for ourselves, one person at a time.

Sarah’s first book “The Lover Within: Exploring the Relationship Between Body Image in Adult Women and Archetypes of the Lover” was released in 2010. Intuitive Inquiry was utilized to gain greater understanding of the relationship between self-image in adult females and the archetype of the lover. This research is grounded in Jungian theory. The archetype of the lover, when activated, can nurture one’s creativity, sensuality, emotions, body, and spirit, leading to greater self-acceptance. The work included a 4 session experiential process, in which co-participants engaged in creative activities such as collage making, body mapping, eating different kinds of foods, dressing up, dance/movement, and mirror exposure work. The groups of co-participants were ethnically and culturally diverse. This helped to deepen the understanding of the ways in which this archetype may be of service to those suffering from negative self-image.

ITP-logo_smallAbout The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University

Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.  The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.

Learn more about our programs.

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Use your greatest pain as your greatest opportunity

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Dr. Valerie Baker holds a PHD in Transpersonal Psychology from The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University. She has found business success with a new method of healing called Heart Talk Yoga® which is a holistic, continuously expanding compilation of technologies for consciousness transformation sourced from yoga, psychology, and spirituality, and organized into a comprehensive system. This system is based on my research on transformation, my personal experience, and my privilege of helping thousands of people transform common unhappiness into uncommon happiness by breaking through the old level of consciousness that created their problems.
This article has been re-blogged from her website blog https://drvaleriebaker.com/blog/

THE WALL

What do you do when you hit the wall, when the rug is pulled out from under you, when the bottom falls out? I see this happen again and again.

Brilliant women stopped dead in their tracks to greatness by a challenging life event. And I just wanna scream: Keep going, love! This is NOT a sign to stop! This is a sign to push through and give birth to the next level of YOU, reveal your greater GREATNESS, tap into your more powerful POWER you didn’t know you had — until this challenge showed up in your way.

So today I show you how you can USE YOUR GREATEST PAIN as your greatest opportunity. I tell a story of my most powerful lesson in this… And share something we can learn from Wonder Woman.

 

THE WONDER OF WONDER OF WOMAN : USE YOUR WHOLE POWER

My 6 1/2-year-old and I finally went to see Wonder Woman and I did some obsessive research beforehand to make sure it was age appropriate. You know that I’m obsessive from the previous blog post when we had a power reclamation party. I encourage you to view this blog and leave a comment what’s wrong with you and we’ll use these as gateways of reclamation.

Today, the gateway we’ll use has to do with Wonder Woman. When Wonder Woman is a child, her trainer keeps telling her, “You’re not using your whole power. You’re much more powerful than you know.” Wonder Woman thinks that she is doing her best though. She rejects her trainer’s statements. Years later, she’s facing her arch nemesis at last. She falls down and she’s wrapped in this piece of metal and it looks like she’s not going to be able to get out of it.

Her nemesis laughs at her and asks, “What did you think you were?” She’s forgetting who she is or maybe she never knew truly deeply her power which I think is true for all of us. So she’s lying there and she’s giving up. There is no hope. Then she sees this plane in the sky and she knows this is her partner, the only man she’s known and we assume loved.

The plane blows up in the sky and she feels this deep pain the likes of which she’s never felt before, and she roars. She liberates herself from whatever was holding back her power. She rises and she taps into the power which she did not know she had.

 

Heart Talk Yoga

THE RECLAMATION

I hope you go to see Wonder Woman. It is incredible. As I watched it, I kept checking in with my daughter during the battle scenes. I’d check in with her and ask, “Is this scary?” And she would whisper back to me, “No. This is amazing.”

Amazing it was. It was amazing to see that reclamation. When we watch a movie like Wonder Woman, we get it, right? It takes this extreme circumstance, this extreme pain to tap into the power that she didn’t know she had. That makes sense, right? That’s a very common story arc of a hero’s or heroine’s journey.

MOVING INTO THE PAIN

But what happens when it happens in our own life? In our own life, we’re very conditioned to retreat from pain. I’m going to tell you a story of my own learning of how conditioned I was to retreat from pain. It also has to do with my daughter. A lot of cool stories have to do with her.

This was one when I was giving birth to her, and I had a wonderful doula (thank God for her) who was coaching me through. I was pushing and feeling this excruciating pain and at some point the nurse turned around to me and said, “You’re not pushing.” What? I think I am. I feel like I am. I’m feel like I’m about to explode.

Then my doula leans in to me and she said, “Well, you’re moving away from the pain. This is not like labor. This is giving birth, so your only way out of the pain is through the pain, so the more it hurts, that’s where you need to go. You need to go into the pain to get out of the pain.”

Because I was completely delirious out of my mind, so much in pain, I guess I had no resistance left in me and so I decided to take her word for it and just go. I went and I went and I went into the pain and into the pain, and at some point the pain became just a sensation which was irrelevant to what was going on. My glorious daughter emerged, all almost 10 pounds of her, and so that was my very visceral learning of how conditioned I was not to go into the pain.

It changed the way I live my life. It really did. Now, when I see the opportunity created by pain, I try to go right in. If I don’t, guess what? Life has its own curriculum. Life is not going to let you get away with not tapping into the fullness of your power. Life creates these circumstances, these painful circumstances for you to go in and reclaim your power fully.

 

Heart Talk Yoga

TWO CHOICES

What happens is just like on a hero’s or heroine’s journey. When you declare yourself, when you declare, “I’m going to step into my power. I’m going on a journey,” the shit hits the fan. The bottom falls out. The journey actually begins.

So this is inspired by a wonderful, powerful woman I had a conversation with a few days ago. We tapped into her power. We tapped into her vision and we decided how we’re going to move into that vision. Then just a few days later, she sends me a message saying that her life has brought this extreme circumstance, a lot of pain, and that she’s not going to continue through with implementing her vision.

This pains me very deeply because those exact circumstances, this is like giving birth to yourself, right? It’s moving into the pain. Her life has created a perfect opportunity for her power reclamation. It’s perfect. It’s painful. It hurts but by leaning into that opportunity, she stands to reclaim so much of who she truly is and fully deliver her vision, fully deliver on her divine assignment in the world.

So at every point the pain comes up, we have two choices. We can move away just like I was doing when I was not pushing apparently, or we can move right in. Life gives us these opportunities to give birth to ourselves very often. Small pains or big ruptures, when the bottom falls out, and if you’ve been following me for some time, you know that I’ve been dealing with one of those in my own life. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you can find it on my blog at valeriebaker.com.

This has been a dance all to leading me leaning away from it and leaning into it, but by leaning into the pain what has been happening is really stepping up in a bigger way, really reaching for bigger things and playing bigger than I had ever thought possible. Because why does life create these excruciating circumstances for us? Why? Is this God punishing us? No, life is very compassionate but life knows that given a place to hide, we will hide. Given a place to hide, we will die.

So life creates these circumstances where hiding is no longer an option such as in my own life with my husband’s illness, it became not an option for me to lean back and say, “Well, it’s okay. If I don’t earn enough money, it’s okay. If I don’t make this work, it’s okay because he’s a guy and we’re married and he’s supposed to be the breadwinner.”

It’s not my conscious thinking, believe me, but that’s the subconscious conditioning that keeps us playing small. This is what Wonder Woman was falling back into when she was lying down on the ground, helpless because she hadn’t yet tapped into her power.

So what rupture are you going through in your life right now? What’s the invitation? What can you reclaim when you lean into it? Does it have to be painful? Well, no. In her wonderful book “Eat, Pray, Love” Elizabeth Gilbert told the story told to her by Ketut, her mentor, and he said that he’s traveled up to Heaven and down to Hell in a beautiful metaphor and he said to her question, “What’s the difference between Heaven and Hell?”

He said, “Heaven, you go up, through seven happy places. Hell, you go down, through seven sad places. This is why it better for you to go up, Liss… Same in end, so better to be happy in journey.”

Life presents opportunities for us to go up and be happy on the journey every day. Every day we can step up and play bigger, every day, but if there is a place to hide, we will hide. That’s why sometimes life has to pull the rug from under us. Sometimes the bottom has to fall out. It’s done compassionately. It’s not done to punish us. It’s done to help us like Wonder Woman reclaim her deepest power.

 

ITP-logo_smallAbout The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University

Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.  The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.

Learn more about our programs.

Leave a comment

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How Screen Addiction is Damaging Kid’s Brains

“I’ve worked with hundreds of heroin addicts and crystal meth addicts, and what I can say is that it’s easier to treat a heroin addict than a true screen addict,” says Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, author of ‘Glow Kids.’

Nicholas Kardaras

Alumnus Dr. Nicholas Kardaras received his PhD in Clinical Psychology from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University. He currently works at The Dunes in East Hampton New York. His research has led him to focus on addiction and more recently on screen addiction in children. His book, “Glow Kids”, is a plunge into the phenomenon of screen addiction in children. Nicholas was interviewed by Vice.com. We have re-posted the article here.

Thumbnail image via Flickr user Sleeping TV Man

 

 

 

 

In the 80s, Graham Nash from Crosby Stills & Nash appeared on MTV for an interview. The popular band had refused to make music videos, and Nash said the reason why was that he didn’t want to provide the images that people would see when they hear his music. Instead, he said that they should instead create their own internal and unique mental visuals to accompany the track. Today, as a consequence of our constant bombardment with screen-based media, some experts believe that kids may have a harder time doing that.

A new book out on August 9 called Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids by Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, one of the country’s top addiction experts, details how compulsive technology usage and reliance on screens can neurologically damage the developing brain of a child the same way that drug addiction can. Through extensive research, clinical trials with diagnosed screen addicts, and experience treating a variety of other types of addicts, the author explores the alarming reality of how children could be “stunting their own creative abilities” by constantly turning on and tuning in.

Dr. Kardaras, who grew up playing Asteroids and loved Ms. PacMan, discusses how game developers use tests to measure dopamine and adrenaline levels in order to make video games as addicting as possible. He also explains how technology might stagnate frontal cortex development. With Glow Kids, Kardaras seeks to push the thesis that we should let children’s “brains fully develop first before we expose them to these digital drugs.” VICE chatted with the author to learn more about his research, why kids are both boring and bored today, and why social media is an illusion of real connection.

VICE: In the beginning of your book, you quote the song that the Oompa-Loompas sing in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory featuring the lyrics, “It rots the senses dead/It kills the imagination dead.” How relevant is this to what is going on today with kids and screens?

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras: I think that Roald Dahl lyric is extremely relevant and prescient. I’ve worked clinically with over 1,000 teens over the past decade plus and one of the most amazing things that I observed was that kids raised from an early age on a high-tech/high-screen diet suffered from what seemed to be a digital malaise. They were, almost universally, what I like to call “uninterested and uninteresting.” Bored and boring, they lacked a natural curiosity and a sense of wonder and imagination that non-screen kids seemed to have. They didn’t know—or care to know—about what was happening around them in the world. All that seemed to drive them was a perpetual need to be stimulated and entertained by their digital devices.

Kids’ brains develop during key developmental windows when they engage their active imagination in such things as creative play. These windows are when the body builds the most neuronal connections. Kids who are just passively stimulated by a glowing screen don’t have to do the neural heavy lifting to create those images. The images are provided for them, thus stunting their own creative abilities.

I grew up in the 1970s and started playing Atari around middle school. I was enthralled with the video games, but still remained active. What’s the difference between how young people engaged with gaming back then compared to today?
The real key difference with that generation of video games and today’s generation of video games is a qualitative one. Games today are more immersive, interactive, and realistic. And that’s just the two-dimensional games. Don’t get me started on immersive 3D and augmented reality holographic games. As my friend Dr. Andrew Doan, the Head of Addiction Research for the Pentagon and US Navy who has extensively researched video games, likes to say, today’s games are a multi-billion dollar industry that employ the best neuroscientists and behavioral psychologists to make them as addicting as possible.

The developers strap beta-testing teens with galvanic skin responses, EKG, and blood pressure gauges. If the game doesn’t spike their blood pressure to 180 over 140, they go back and tweak the game to make it have more of an adrenaline-rush effect. The problem is that adrenaline rush affects what’s called the H-P-A Axis (Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis) and creates the fight-or-flight adrenal response. But that fight-or-flight response in nature is a fairly brief event—you get chased by a dog, your heart races, and your adrenaline surges, but then you calm down when the threat is gone.

With video games, however, the kid sits and plays for hours of adrenal-elevated fight-or-flight. This is not a good thing. Research has shown that this latest generation of games significantly raises dopamine levels, the key neurotransmitter associated with our pleasure/reward pathways and the key neurotransmitter in addiction dynamics. One study showed that video games raise dopamine to the same degree that sex does, and almost as much as cocaine does. So this combo of adrenaline and dopamine are a potent one-two punch with regards to addiction.

I’ve worked with hundreds of heroin addicts and crystal meth addicts, and what I can say is that it’s easier to treat a heroin addict than a true screen addict—Dr. Nicholas Kardaras

A friend of mine has two kids, and he takes them everywhere with him, but both kids are always engaged with their tablet and have headphones on. The only time we hear from them is when their battery runs out. What are some long-term effects of this type of behavior?
What you have observed is exactly what I just talked about: Kids who are so habituated to their hyper-stimulating and dopamine-activating immersive screen reality that they choose to stay in the digital Matrix. The reason why this effect is more powerful on children than adults—although we all know of many adults who are screen-addicted—is that children still don’t have a fully-developed frontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls executive functioning, decision making, and impulse control.

Neuropsychologists call the frontal cortex a person’s “brakes,” but that part of the brain doesn’t develop until our early 20s, which is why teens engage in all sorts of risky behavior—from bungee jumping to unprotected sex. They don’t have the impulse control and “consequential thinking” parts of their brains developed. Adding to the problem, research shows that both drug use and excessive screen usage actually stunts the frontal cortex and reduces the grey matter in that part of the brain. So hyper-arousing games create a double whammy. Not only are they addicting, but then addiction perpetuates itself by negatively impacting the part of the brain that can help with impulsivity and good decision making.

Can a screen addiction even compare to a heroin or cocaine addiction? Most people would say no, especially since phones are a necessity in today’s world.
Well, I definitely think that screen addiction meets all diagnostic clinical criteria for addiction. As does the Chinese Health Organization and many other countries throughout the world. The US is a bit late to the dance. We don’t have it as an “official” diagnosis in our DSM, but we do have the topic marked as requiring further study and review. While phones may be a necessity—and I say may because, let’s face, we can live without a phone—they’re definitely not a necessity for an eight, nine, or ten-year-old.

My whole thesis is that we should let the child’s brain fully develop first before we expose them to these digital drugs (which they definitely are). I’ve worked with hundreds of heroin addicts and crystal meth addicts, and what I can say is that it’s easier to treat a heroin addict than a true screen addict, precisely because they’re so ubiquitous in our society that people inevitably have to interact with them on some level. Not so with heroin. In my clinical experience, the key to digital addiction prevention is to be mindful of the potential dangers of screen addiction and limit usage during those key developmental ages before it creeps over into digital addiction, because that’s a real bitch to treat.

How does screen tech affect behavioral disorders like ADHD, anxiety, depression, increased aggression, and psychosis?
Dr. Dimitri Christakis’ research has found that screen exposure increases the probability of getting ADHD, and several peer-reviewed studies have linked internet usage to increased anxiety and depression. I think some of the most shocking research is that which shows how kids can get psychotic-like symptoms from gaming, wherein the game blurs reality for the player. It’s known as “Game Transfer Phenomenon” and has been extensively studied by Dr. Mark Griffith and Dr. Angelica de Gortari in England. Gamers hear and see elements of the game long after they’ve stopped playing; Minecraft players start seeing the real world in the cube-forms of the game. I’ve worked with several teens who’ve had apparent psychotic breaks from their excessive gaming, and two who needed to be psychiatrically hospitalized. It’s scary stuff. We know that children develop their sense of what’s real and what isn’t—what psychologists call “reality testing”—between the ages of three and ten. If they are exposed to reality-blurring imagery during that key developmental stage, it compromises their ability to discern reality. That’s less likely to happen to an adult gamer, but it’s occurred.

Even though we are seemingly more connected than ever with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it seems there’s a big disconnect in the way people communicate in person because of all the texting and social media. How does the screens play into that?
I like to call social media the illusion of connection. Author Johan Hari calls it a “parody” of genuine connection. We are social animals hardwired for social connection, but that seems to require genuine, in-depth, face-to-face intimacy and connection—not Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

Research has shown that the more Facebook friends one has, the higher the likelihood of depression. That’s been attributed to the “comparison effect”: I get more and more down about my life the more and more idealized images I keep seeing of peoples projected happy lives . Let’s face it, most people don’t post Facebook pics of when they’re struggling. Instead, it’s just, look at how wonderful my vacation is! types of photos. You see enough of those and you can begin to feel pretty crappy, if that’s your only social connection.

Order ‘Glow Kids’ here.

ITP-logo_smallAbout The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University

Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.  The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.

Learn more about our programs.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni features, ITP Academics, Research at Sofia U

8 Ways to Remedy Stress on the Cheap

The Corless Family Fall 2016-29.jpg

About the author: Valerie Abitbol, LMFT, owner of Flow Counseling, PLLC  received her Master of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University. She is a counselor and therapist in Denver, Colorado who specializes in couples and  women dealing with major life transitions. We have re-posted an article from her blog here.

reducing Stress overwhelmed relaxation denver therapist valerie abitbol

 

Don’t break your piggy bank yet. Here are a few cheap remedies against stress. Start here and now!

Here’s my “prescription”: Practice at least two of the tools below every day to increase your resilience to stress, and get back to feeling more grounded, faster.

1- Don’t be a hamster, breathe!

stress anxiety denver therapist valerie abitbol

Yes. It really is that simple. So basic. But when we’re stressed, we forget about our breath; we tighten it, hold it, or simply have a hard time breathing normally. Having less oxygen circulating in your body and your brain will increase your stress and/or anxiety.

And there you are, the little hamster stuck in the wheel.

Here are 3 different options depending on the time/place:

Option 1:

Make it a habit to take a deep breath every day when getting up, leaving the house, getting in/out of the car, going to a new place, meeting new people, before eating, and when noticing tension in the chest or the body in general. Think of the breath during transition points, from one activity or place to another.

Option 2:

Inhale on 4 counts – hold the breath two counts- exhale on 8 counts. Repeat until you feel calmer.

Option 3: 

Take a deep inhalation, filling first your belly with air, then moving to your chest. Hold the breath for two counts. Exhale, emptying fully the chest and belly. Repeat 10 times and continue as needed.

2- Flex those muscles

Practice some progressive muscle relaxation:

muscle relaxation stress denver counseling valerie abitbol

First, tense a muscle group in your body, such as your calves, thighs or shoulders.

Hold it for a few seconds.

Next, release the tension and notice how your muscles feel when you relax them.

Repeat with other muscle groups as needed.

For a guided version, you can download my free progressive muscle relaxation audio recording.

Note: Very important! Always check with your doctor before doing anything physical, especially if you have any medical conditions or injuries.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation | Flow Counseling | Denver
Valerie Abitbol MA, LMFT

 

3- Show your stress the way out

Option 1: When stress starts to go up but is manageable: go for a leisurely walk around the block, focus on the breath and surroundings. Notice the colors around you, the smells, noises, touch some trees. Feel the ground supporting you.

Option 2: When stress becomes more intense: alternate walking one block quickly, with running or walking faster the next. When you start feeling better, slow down and go to option 1.

Include any other physical activities beside walking/running that you enjoy. Go at the speed that feels right for you at that moment. Today may be different from yesterday.

And of course, do what you can based on your physical shape, health situation, and seek medical advice first.

4- Bathe your mind in calm

Bring to mind soothing and calming images of people or pets in your life, things, places and memories. Anything that helps make you feel safe, loved, supported, peaceful, and helps you calm down.

Stay with the image and notice as many details as you can to make the image more vivid.

Notice how it makes you feel in your body, as well as the emotions, and sensations you experience. Let your mind connect freely, from one positive experience to another, and follow the trail.

5- Meditation…

meditation mindfulness  stress denver therapy valerie abitbol

I recommend you use “static” meditation (vs. walking meditation) once you feel a little calmer, to help you maintain and reinforce that state. It can be frustrating at the beginning to try meditating when you feel restless. Use one of the more physical tips above first to release some tension.

If you have a meditation practice, go for it. If not, you can use a guided meditation app. Regular use will provide the most benefits. Here are few free ones I like:

The Mindfulness App for iOS and Android

Headspace for iOS and Android

Stop, Breathe, and Think  for iOS and Android

6- Playful and relaxing activities

Remember when you were a kid?

Wrestle with your partner, your kids or nieces and nephews – have a tickle fight, jump on your bed… bring back the silly and lightness that goes with it.

Take your dog for a walk, play with your pets, or simply give them a long petting session. You’ll both get benefits out of it.

7- Give yourself the spa treatment

Do I even have to mention massage? No matter what kind (back, foot, neck, from partner or professional), get one, or do it yourself.

Get a foam roller similar to this one on Amazon, and start rolling.

Here are a few ways you can use it. How to use a foam roller.

overwhelm stress denver counselor valerie abitbol

Take a warm relaxing bath at end of the day, include essential oils, candles, music… soak in for a  minimum of 10 min.

And if you have more time available, consider making a de-stress trip to some hot springs.

Here’s a list of 30 Hot Springs in Colorado if you’re local.

8- Naps

Short naps can be very beneficial to manage your stress better.

Go for 15-20 min and remember to set a timer. Wash your face with cold water after waking up to feel more energized.

Try at least two of these tips on a regular basis and leave me a comment to let me know how they are working for you.

If none of these hit the spot, consider getting some professional help to get to the root cause and find more customized tools. Just don’t keep letting stress be in charge of your life and relationships.

 


ITP-logo_smallAbout The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University

Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.  The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.

Learn more about our programs.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni features, Mindfulness and Meditation