On the Chakras

More often than not we find scientific ‘proof’ that ancient wisdom passed on through generations that was considered ignorant hokey-pokey non-sense turns out to be true. How did they know?

 

This painting I created is my artistic interpretation of the manifest and un-manifest world. The colors symbolize the manifest world; and the shades of tan, white, black and grey are what is on the other side. The colors also are the Chakras.

 

As humans we know very little that can be scientifically proven regarding the spiritual world or how conscious life pops in and out of existence. The energetic body is something that some types of scientists dabble in, but again there is no ‘proof’.

 

Eastern philosophies and their ancient texts explain that as there is a visible physical body, there is also an accompanying invisible energetic body. It’s just as complicated and intricate. It has systems, nodes, and channels as our physical bodies do. Energy can get blocked just as an artery can. Emotions are energetic. They get stuck and if not released can go deeper and deeper into our being and/or eventually manifest through physical pain.

 

Mental health professional do this type of work and explorations. Yoga is all about the energetic body and helping energy flow more easily through the practice of physical postures (asana). Hence, my interest in the topic. Additionally my interest in art and color peaks my curiosity into how color is combined in various ways.

 

The chakras are something that has always fascinated me, long before I understood, practiced or taught yoga. The first time I heard about them, they just made sense to me. Like my cells deep down inside knew it to be true even though my mind was kind of laughing at the idea.

 

For anyone who doesn’t know about the chakras (I was well into the my 30’s believe it or not before I ever heard of them!), they are 7 of the main energetic centers of our bodies that energy flows through. They start at the base of the spine in the tailbone area and work their way up the body through the crown of the head through the center part of the body.

 

Later while completing a 500 hour yoga teacher certification course I would learn about the rest of the energetic system, but the chakras are the most well known and are depicted through so many texts and pictures throughout history.

 

The chakras have colors. There are 7 and they coincide with the colors of the rainbow. Their flow is vertical (unlike my art piece). Like the koshas (yogic) and other more managerial concepts I’ve learned about in my life through my business education, they remind me very much of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It also reminds me of evolution in that it starts out very basic and physical, but then moves toward a path of higher consciousness and enlightenment toward self-actualization and understanding why we are here. We can’t get there until the lower needs are met. In the chakra system, if anything is blocked on the lower end; the energy is unable to flow up higher.

 

These two pictures I swiped from Google Images are a visual depiction of what I’m describing. Maslow’s famous triangle in this photo is actually colored similarly to the chakras.

The chakras are energetic. I later came to the realization that when I’m in emotional pain, the actual physical accompanying pain is located at a chakra point. It often points me in the direction of where I’m being blocked.

 

I’ve studied and read a lot of spiritual and religious texts. I don’t have a strong belief in any one thing, but I have an idea of how my own personal belief system/understanding of the physical and non-physical worlds are: the tangible and intangible. The part where we are alive and moving about this planet, and the part of the cycle that is blocked to us. The part where we wonder what happens to our consciousness or spirit when our physical body dies. What is our spirit before we are born? Is the spirit even real?

 

My artistic expression of the spiritual life cycle is depicted here. Like the Yin-Yang, half of the time our spirit is in the manifest world and the other half in the unmanifest world.

 

The colored lines are the manifest world, the world where white light bends and we can see color.

 

The non-rainbow colors represent the un-manifest world. When all colors are combined and mixed together, they create the ‘color’ (if you can call it that) brown. When you add white to brown it becomes tan. Adding black darkens it up. White is all there is, with everything included in it (white light contains all the colors in the spectrum), and black being the absence of it all – together they create gray. At dusk when we are in between day and night, color is shaded over. It doesn’t exist to the eye. Only form.

 

Our physical life is surrounding by this unknown. Before birth and after death there is the unknown. Lack of light (life) is as far away from us as possible. Or is it? Does it bend and show color in the absence of material things? Possibly it contains all the colors blended together (browns), and on the side closer to death and darkness that brown is darker, while on the side closer to birth and brightness it’s a shade of tan.

 

White and black together make a perfect in between shade of gray. Gray even has shades- darker and depending on the mixture of black and white: still a total absence of color. Science already has determined that in the absence of anything material, refraction of white light is also absent.

 

At least to our senses that is. Perhaps if we had another sense we’d see a whole other world on the other side….

 

The chakras here in this painting are the physical living world we experience. They move from a lower vibration to a higher one. Less conscious to more conscious. More connected to the earth and physical things to less. Much like Maslow’s triangle.

 

 

1stCHAKRA

Color: Red

Sanskrit name: Muladhara

Known as: Root chakra

Location: Base of the spine in the tailbone area

Symbolizes: safety, survival, grounding, nourishment from the Earth energy (food, other humans, clothing, etc)

My interpretation: it is our root. It’s located in a place where we sit and literally connect to the earth beneath us. Also in a place where we connect with other humans through copulation.

To me it symbolizes the earlist part of life when we are completely at the mercy of others. We build a foundation from the original safety and survival as babies. Our perception of the world is shaped from there. We come into life here. We could be stuck here our whole lives. If we are, unless it’s purely lack of money for food/shelter/clothing – it’s an energetic or emotional “stuckness”.

 

2ndCHAKRA

Color: Orange

Sanskrit name: Swadhisthana

Known as: Emotional chakra

Location: Lower abdomen, about 2 inches below naval and 2 inches in

Symbolizes: emotions, creativity, sexuality, and is associated with water, flow

My interpretation: it is what is next. We feel and can interpret that after we are fed. Sexuality helps life to stay on the planet. It’s the next closest thing to survival after we are fed, clothed and have the ability to live. It’s also our ‘gut’ feeling and is at the gut level. It symbolizes the childhood part of life where we are learning and growing, coming into our own and understanding how to respond to the world.

 

3rdCHAKRA

Color: Yellow 

Sanskrit name: Manipura

Known as: Solar chakra

Location: Upper abdomen, between the heart and belly button (solar plexus)

Symbolizes: Mental activities, intellect, personal power, will. It’s where self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem are built and is at the core of our personality and identity.

My interpretation: Once we have that safety and gut feelings, we are able to use our mind and will power to go about in the world. That will power is based on our heat and desire. Heat and power like the sun. It’s the younger adult part of life up until middle age or the part of life where we shift mentally to part II – or something else. Where we are moving & shaking, taking care of the young and old. Working and using our physical identity to move through the world.

 

4thCHAKRA

Color: Green 

Sanskrit name: Anahata 

Known as: Heart chakra

Location: Center of the chest just above the heat  

Symbolizes: The ability to love, relate to others, have compassion and feel our inner selves.

My interpretation: Mentally we can move past all the intellect and listen to our heart. It’s like the highest of the 3 proverbial minds (gut, mind, heart).  It can guide us the right way if the solar plexus chakra is flowing freely and we can distinguish it between the monkey mind and the inner self. It’s the connection of the physical body to the higher body. It’s a place in life that symbolizes a switch to another thought process. If you can get there it’s beautiful. Usually around middle age or when we start to get tired of the grind and ask “What For”?

 

 

5th CHAKRA

Color: Blue  

Sanskrit name: Vishuddha  

Known as: Throat chakra (voice)

Location: Throat  

Symbolizes: Communication, self-expression, speaking our truth, creativity

My interpretation: When the lower chakras are unblocked we find ourselves more closely in the flow of life. We are able to be creative, speak our truth, and communicate in a heart-felt way with the world and people around us. On the proverbial life line, it’s at the later part of life where we understand how we are interpreted, live from a heart level rather than a level of obtaining material wealth, possession or status.

 

6th CHAKRA

Color: Indigo (or Purple in some places)   

Sanskrit name: Ajna  

Known as: Third Eye chakra 

Location: Forehead, between the eye brows   

Symbolizes: Inner wisdom, intuition, imagination. Ability to see the big picture inside and out. 

My interpretation: In other cultures the elderly are praised for the very notion that we get wiser as we grow older. We can be taught certain things, but it’s only through really knowing and figuring out their truth for ourselves that we can become wise enough to understand the wisdom bestowed upon on from sages of the past.

 

7thCHAKRA

Color: Purple (or White in some places)   

Sanskrit name: Sahasrara   

Known as: Crown chakra  

Location: Top of the head    

Symbolizes: Inner and outer beauty, universal connection with spirituality and consciousness. Pure bliss.  

My interpretation: Sounds like heaven on earth! With everything else unblocked and no attachment to any outcome- we can experience total peace, utter bliss. It’s the closest thing in our living world to death and not having an investment so tied and rooted to the material world. It’s the top of Maslow’s pyramid where we self-actualize.

 

The pyramid and the image of a sitting body are both sort of triangular in shape. My interpretation is that the larger base is at the bottom because those descriptions of what these areas symbolize are the most connected to earth. They are more difficult to move through and where the majority of individuals experience life. As we move up toward the more narrow sections, there are less humans around that thrive in those parts regularly, and it gets a bit easier to move because it’s further away from the root or axiomatic apron string. We can move up and down the Chakras at any time. But if the energy system is blocked by emotion it is difficult. Even a person with little to no food if they are emotionally clear can self-actualize.

 

In my artistic expression of this cycle the colors live in the middle of the known and unknown worlds. The small symbols on the painting that go from left to right, bottom to top are my humble explanation of moving upward through the chakras toward the unknown, which ultimately is completely and utterly surrounded by the pure energy of beautiful, boundless, weightless, expansive and all encompassing white light.

If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog

https://esterinaanderson.com

this and 6 other pieces were inspired by contemporary artist Sean Scully. 2 weeks ago Daren and I went to the Wadsworth in Hartford and it was the last day for his exhibit. He works in stripes mainly.

 

 

 

 

 

The Inevitable Scream

2am this morning.

I’m taking deep breaths and have my hand over my mouth. A long established, cataleptic practice. Additionally my eyes, temples and the space in between my eyes really hurt. I subconsciously begin to rub those areas with the hand that comes off my mouth. In just writing this my forehead, temples and eyes hurt.

 

It hasn’t been that long since these small acts were even noticed and now provide the insight as to what is happening to me. Chakra wise it’s the voice and wisdom body inside that are in pain.

 

I thought back to one evening about a year ago on my therapist’s couch. When I described ‘The Scream’, she (with empathy and almost automatically said) – it’s because you had no voice. Instantly tears sprung to my eyes. With that sudden understanding of what was unknown, obvious and finally understood – my throat hurt. It made sense! It was obvious to her, but new to me. I couldn’t wait to tell my husband. But somehow relaying it not long after over the phone while he was waiting for his son to finish hockey practice late at night while sitting at Starbucks and catching up on work himself, it got lost in translation and I couldn’t quite explain it. It lost it’s potency and I lost the motivation to meditate on it and explore it further.

 

The Scream. It was inevitable.

 

The scream I speak of took place in mid-February 1994 just days before my 18thbirthday outside of the Patchogue courthouse on Long Island. The previous summer on July 9th was the first time the police were involved in the Domestic Violence and child abuse that had been taking place at home since I was born, resulting in the February court date. I wanted justice. I wanted to see something happen, but nothing had. Since I was still a minor for a few more days, the law allowed my parents to move the case to Family court – which was at the time slightly more serious than a bad joke, and my father walked away without even as much as an anger management course or proverbial slap on the wrist.

 

I didn’t know what was going on that day. As I was leaving with my parents in what seemed like minutes after we had gotten there, I asked my mother what was going on. She just ushered me outside. Once out in the bright sun on that brisk February day I asked again. No answer. I stopped and got louder- “What is going on?!”

 

A few passerby’s looked our way. My mother must have felt compelled to answer due to the attention we were drawing. She pulled me aside as my father continued to walk to the car.

 

Mom: Nothing is happening.

Me: What do you mean nothing?

Mom: Nothing.

Me: What does that mean?

Mom: It means we are going home.

Me: What about dad? Classes, probation? What happened in court?

Mom: Nothing. We moved the case to family court and he is able to go home.

Me: I thought that classes and probation were the minimum, what about the restraining order?

Mom: That was if we left it in criminal court. We moved it to family court.

Me: I thought that was my decision.

Mom: It’s not, you are a minor.

 

With that she continued to walk to the car. I reluctantly followed.

 

With each step I grew more and more aware of what just happened. More confused. More enraged.

 

When we got to the car I stood there behind it. I didn’t want to get it. It was bright, sunny and cool out. The car seemed like the box I was proverbially stuck in my whole life – hot, stuffy, enclosed. I was mad at them. I didn’t want to get in. I was confused. I was angry. I wanted justice for what has happened to me.

 

I stood there.

 

My parents got out and asked me what I was doing. I didn’t know.

 

They were urging me to get in.

 

I didn’t want to. I couldn’t even speak.

 

The more they urged me; the more trapped, confused and angry I felt. I felt stuck to the ground beneath my feet. Literally and metaphorically.

 

Esterina – get in the car

 

No.

 

No? What do you mean no?

 

I don’t want to.

 

Get in the car.

 

No.

 

They both started to approach me when I let out a scream. A scream I didn’t know I had in me.

 

They halted their approach and watched me, panicked.

 

“Esterina – get in the car”.

 

I screamed again. And again. I screamed at the top of my lungs, like I never screamed before. A scream that seemed almost inhuman.

 

They stood frozen and watched me like I was a wild animal. That is what I felt like – a crazed wild animal. I continued to scream, and scream, and scream for what seemed like minutes.

 

They watched in awe and horror.

 

When I stopped, I realized I felt better. I had to go home. I had to find a way out of my life and house. It was a few more months until high school graduation. I had no idea what I was going to do; but I had to get in the car, go home and figure it out.

 

It felt so good to scream. So good, I was able to get in the car I didn’t want to be in. I didn’t want to be in their company, but what choice did I have? I got in the car and we went home. My mother spoke of this scream a few times to others, but never me. It was never mentioned again, but I never forgot it.

 

The July 9, 1993 incident happened when I was 17. Until that day, me and my family pretended that our home was like any other and that violence and abuse wasn’t a part of it. Once the cops were called by my youngest brother that day (it was his 13thbirthday) the cat was out of the bag, and it was a little easier to tell my then friends and boyfriend what happened. I showed them the bruises. I didn’t have the voice to talk about the past, but only to say this has happened before. The first time you talk about it is the hardest. That was the last bite the beaver took of the dam before the leak started. It would be years though before the dam actually flooded.

 

That particular day I had an argument with my father. He was annoyed about how long I was dating my boyfriend and didn’t have a ring. I tried to explain that I didn’t want to get married, that I didn’t even finish high school yet. He got angry and couldn’t fathom that I was dating someone I didn’t want to marry. I said I wanted to finish school and have a career first. Then the hitting started. It’s about as far as I care to explain, but it’s the story of how most of these incidences went.

 

The truth was I didn’t want to marry early. I didn’t want to depend on anyone to support me as my mother felt she needed my father’s support. She hadn’t finished high school and was embarrassed by that her whole life. I didn’t something more for myself. I wanted independence and an education. Through words, deeds and actions; my mother has communicated numerous times that she wouldn’t be with my father if it wasn’t for us 3 kids. I grew up feeling like a burden. Very unwanted. Very unloved. There were no kisses, hugs or I love yous in my home. I didn’t even know that was a thing people did. It was for TV if anything.

 

Not long after “The Scream” I decided to join the Coast Guard and set an enlistment date of August 9th. It was the perfect solution for getting out, supporting myself, learning a trade and obtaining money for college. A true ticket out of my house.

 

Against my own intentions, just 3 years later I was already married and pregnant with my first child. At 23 I had my second child. Scared of turning out like my mother, I made it a point to not settle and was determined to obtain a degree to and have the ability to take care of myself. I did finish my required 4 years of active military time. I put in another 4 years of Reserve time. I did go back to school and had a BS in Business by the time I was 24. At 25 my then husband and I bought our first home. At 29 I had an MBA and a very decent full-time job in the government. At 32 we bought the larger home in the nicer suburbs with the good school system. At 34 I was divorcing. There was no violence in my home, but I realized I married a man that had the same maladaptive habits as my father. I was unable to see how badly he treated our children because it was so much better than the way I grew up. In our home there were kisses, hugs and I love yous. I thought it was how it should be. It was later I would realize that it wasn’t so healthy either.

 

From the time I left home until I divorced I felt very healthy mentally. Once the stability of a home and two biological parents were out of the picture, I felt like I started to unravel. The scream was still in me. Unbeknownst to me.

 

The years from 34 on were kind of a rebirth and kind of a mental hell. I love my now husband, but joining two families that came from two different backgrounds with children that still went to two different homes with other parents and family members who could not possibly be any different from one other was a recipe for turbulence. My now husband and I had different ideas on what our newly formed family would look like, how we’d spend our weekends, evenings and summers, how much time we’d spend as a blended family together and apart. What our holidays would look like. All things that were my little to only down-time, and things I had previously very much looked forward to. His ex was far more mean & manipulative than mine, and had a very strong opinion about how we spend time with his kids; which pretty much dictated how we lived, how we spent our money, and everything we did. He didn’t want to fight with her or disappoint anyone and in turn succumbed to the belief that this is what divorced life looks like.

 

I disagreed. I felt like I had little to no voice on how I wanted to spend my time with my own husband, children and blended family. I started to lose the voice I had gained in controlling my own life as an adult. I felt trapped.

 

After a few years “The Scream” came back.  I can’t even remember the first time I screamed again like I had in the parking lot of the Patchogue courthouse. Probably in my car. It was a place I screamed a lot. I would be driving home from work and singing loudly to music thinking I was happy, when I’d get an overwhelming feeling of being trapped. Usually due to traffic, but it rubbed on the nerves of feeling trapped in my life. Feeling voiceless. Feeling that I had no control and had to live as someone else dictated. I’d think about the evening ahead. Evenings busy with making dinners, kid activities in different towns all over the state. Things that I didn’t plan but we had to do. Things I was too tired to do at the end of a long day. Things that took time away from unwinding and spending quality time with anyone in my life – even my own children.

 

Every new thing that popped up on our calendar and every new expense that arrived without my consent or knowledge would feel like a little dagger. It was small at first, hardly noticeable – but over time it would bother me more and more. I’d express my frustration to my husband in the little time we had together and were able to talk without anyone else hearing. Those rare times were in bed, on vacations or on the days our kids were with their other parent and we didn’t have an event of theirs to go to. So it seemed like I was always frustrated. It seemed like all we talked about was how I was frustrated. We couldn’t even get past this to have a conversation about taking control of our lives because the whole conversation would be focused on how I am and shouldn’t always be upset. It went on like this. And the longer it went on, the longer I felt unheard and the more and more the scream inside tried to break free.

 

It would come out often. I’d scream and just lose my mind. In my car, in my house with no one home, at home with people home, late at night while arguing with my husband. For the life of me I couldn’t relate it to anything in my past. Hindsight is so very 20/20. I can’t believe no one else around me was able to help me relate this. We were all in our own worlds trying to get through every single day and all the things that needed to be done, who had time to think about rest, mental health or self-care?

 

Rest. Self-Care. These are things that are SO necessary; but I was taught, and for certain my husband’s ex felt that downtime is for the lazy. We should be busy at every moment doing something productive. Even though our home was full of non-stop activities, if something was unscheduled for one of my step-kids for a New York minute, she’d step in to make sure they had something to do. Something of course that would require my husband’s time, which meant it was my time because he wasn’t around to help me with the house(s), dinner, shopping, pets, other kids, etc.

 

Downtime is necessary. And I didn’t have it. And it sent me into crisis mode.

 

Something about turning 40 initiated a stream of events. It was like the next piece of the dam that I had built as a child to protect myself snapped. Not broken and flooded yet, but enough to cause some damage.

 

It’s no coincidence that this breakdown took place over just a few months. A period where I began physical therapy for my back, started yoga teacher training, and hit my knee under a table at workat work, which required other physical manipulations. Unless you are immersed in the world of mental health and or energy work, it could be hard to understand why I don’t find this to be a coincidence. The trapped emotions were being knocked on and broken up so to speak through these activities.

 

Suddenly, I almost couldn’t bear being in the car and commuting to work. I couldn’t face days of going to work and killing time there when there was so much to do at home. I couldn’t stand another minute of not having time for myself to meditate or go deeper into the practices I was studying. I couldn’t stand having a life with little to no meaningful human connections and being an un-humanized vessel of money and transportation.

 

The scream would come more often. I’d get hot. I’d lose control of my bladder. One day in the summer the following year right before I checked myself into an IOP, I broke into boils on my chest. Every time after a few minutes I’d think about something related to childhood and it was make the screaming and subsequent crying that would inevitably take place for a long time after feel almost like a release. I was embarrassed to tell anyone this. I thought it was rather melodramatic. I had no idea it was all PTSD.

 

Then one evening last summer on July 11th, 25 years and 2 days after that incident when I was 17, I had a really bad evening. It was following a few days of step-children drama, an accusation about something I didn’t do. It followed a few too many drinks at a charity event, and then an argument with my husband about the kids. The scream came out again. It was a hot summer night. Every window was open, and as usual after a few minutes it had nothing to do with the present. I was screaming and crying for the past. I was unbearably hot and had no bladder control so I stripped down, got in the bathtub and screamed. I was screaming HELP. I was screaming about the help I wanted and needed as a child, the help I wanted then mentally. The help I wanted in needing to feel heard and understood and not like a burden of someone who is just not happy with the wonderful life I was being told I have and should be grateful for.

 

I was an adult feeling like a child. I now know and understand that my husband represented my mother. The gatekeeper between me and my father who didn’t want to shake anything up and upset him – so turned a blind eye and pretended that nothing was wrong. The mother who told me that I have a nice life and home and I should be happy. The mother that made me feel like a burden because I was alive and the reason she had to be in this unhappy marriage with this abusive man.

 

My husband was the gatekeeper between our uncontrolled time and his ex and kids. He couldn’t understand that with a nice life why I wasn’t happy. I felt like a burden that I wasn’t happy and tried to use our free to time to discuss things he didn’t want to address – because it would shake things up and upset someone else.

 

It’s now so obvious.

 

A few days after this incident last summer, where again – exactly 25 years and 2 days later cops were called for the first time, I had the epiphany of my current situation and how the characters in my present life represented my past. Once that happened the dam really broke for good. I had a few really long, hard months of understanding this and learning about PTSD and the brain. How my lower brain – the one that takes over in times of crisis (the instinct to run and not contemplate when being chased by a lion) cannot see the actual people, but responds to the emotions it interprets to be dangerous and floods the body with fight or flight hormones. When I couldn’t physically fight I’d scream. And scream. And scream….

 

It’s why I put my hand on my mouth when I’m anxious.

 

That wasn’t my last scream. I was now aware of how dangerous they were. Neighbors don’t understand. They hear help and screaming and call cops. They should! So my screams became muffled. Or I’d get in the car and drive to a remote place. I’d scream until I felt like I was able to ‘get it out of me’. I can’t explain the release I feel afterward. It’s cathartic. Even in the throws of crying and screaming, it’s better than not, and I feel like I’m purging all that is bad inside of me, despite it looking very differently to an outsider.

 

I had a lot more ‘safe’ screaming last summer. Nights I couldn’t sleep I’d get up and write or read about PTSD and allow myself for the first time in my life to think about what happened, and finally begin to process it.

 

I’m not proud of screaming. I’m not proud of how I’ve acted and argued or fought before I actually got to a place of where the scream came. I’m not proud of the self-destructive and relationship-destructive behaviors that took place. My body was in fight-or-flight mode. I actually did feel a shift of losing control at a certain point. I always knew the moment, but I was truly helpless to stop the flood as my lower brain took over. I can relate to the term “faulty alarm system”. It is really what it is. Not a true emergency, but something internally so close; that it sets off the alarm and subsequent actions. The propensity of the reaction to the situation doesn’t match. That is PTSD.

 

 

I haven’t screamed in many many months now. Once I understood what happens to the body, what my triggers were and how to get somewhere safe it was game changer.

 

This is a blog I’m not even sure I will post. It doesn’t wrap up nicely. It doesn’t tie back to some sort of theme. It just is. I woke up, had my hand on my mouth, my temples and third eye hurt… I remembered that it was because it was tied to feeling voiceless. I remembered the scream that first day when I was 18 and felt it was inevitable. That day and always, until I felt I have a voice.

 

The below is from an email I wrote to my family in the middle of the night last summer. Oddly between the evening of Aug 6thand Aug 7th– the anniversary of my mom’s passing. She died around midnight on 8/6/06 but wasn’t pronounced by Hospice until they got there until after midnight, which is what her death certificate says. Strangely it links to someone else who wrote about “The Scream”. Just learning and knowing I’m not alone has helped me to feel human and not alone.

 

Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope I’m not bugging you all with some of these emails. I just had the strangest, but maybe good night and wanted to share with someone. 

 

I woke up as usual in the middle of the night with a overwhelming sadness. I started to cry about things I was remembering. The more I thought, the more I cried. Gabby wasn’t home (she is a college kid often out in the middle of the night). No one else was up for at least two floors and I really, really cried. 

 

I had a assortment of stronger than usual memories. I remembered different places where I felt the most mix of emotions – like extreme excitement and profound anger at being hit at the same time, such as how happy and angry I was when we went to Disney; or bought a new (used) car. I was seeing details of things like I was still living at home. Dented walls, my mirror in my room with the pictures of my friends tucked around the frame. I even remember the exact pictures of who they were of. I remember my ballet slippers hanging off the brass bed, my curling iron on the dresser… It was like I was there, the level of detail was so great. 

 

It was mostly my room that made me sad. I was thinking about how I would lock the door, but that really didn’t do any good. My father broke the knob and lock many times. I was thinking that if he tried to come in I should have just gone out the window, but at the time that never crossed my mind. I wondered why… Because I wouldn’t know where to go… For years I had no vehicle. The neighbors would have sent me back. I had no money or change to make a phone call at a payphone. Unless I grabbed mommy’s phonebook in the dining room I wouldn’t have even known anyone but my friend’s numbers to call. And what would I have told them? How was I going to get past him to get the phonebook and out the door? I was so brainwashed to believe that I should keep this quiet that it would have been a horror to tell someone far away that I didn’t have their number like grandma or aunt Fran. I felt the repercussions of telling anyone would have been worse than just enduring it. It was to perturbing to even imagine telling any friends. My room that I was remembering was like a jail cell. I felt unbelievably hopeless and trapped.

 

As I cried I had such a mix of emotions. Like why? I must have done something in a previous life and this is karma. That actually made me feel better, as it made sense and I was paying my dues.

 

I also couldn’t help but wonder if I was being dramatic. If it wasn’t as bad as I thought. 

 

Some of these thoughts soothed me as I stopped crying and tried to fall back to sleep.

 

I couldn’t fall back to sleep so I googled “delayed onset PTSD in adults of child abuse”. Many things quickly came up, but my favorite (very long) was the this one – http://www.naasca.org/2011-Articles/081411-PTSDinAdultSurvivors.htm

 

There were two things I like about this article. First it is a complete description of my journey, as it describes completely how I’ve felt from a child up until now, and explains why now; after such a delayed period this would come up. The second thing is the poem at the bottom written by a survivor called “The Scream”. 

 

I’ve screamed “The Scream” the first time days before I was 18 in front of the courthouse with my parents when they dropped the only charges we ever had from that famous 7/9 day without my consent, as I was still a minor for a few more days and the laws were quite different back then. They were scared of my scream. They couldn’t get me in the car. They genuinely looked panicked. They told at least Mario about it. I scared myself. I didn’t know it was in me. It felt freeing to scream. After a few minutes and watching their panic, I fell silent and just got in the stinking car – feeling unbelievably trapped. No one talking about a thing. Like what just happened never happened. I was so numb I was not even thinking about how I was going to get out of this jail I was living in. 

 

Up until a few years ago ‘the scream’ was a distant memory. Now it happens often enough. I get triggered and I cannot stop screaming. I remember telling my therapist about it a few months ago, with slight concern. She just looked sympathetically at me and said you are using your voice to get it out, because you felt voiceless for so long. “The Scream” is what prompted the call to the cops on 7/11. 

 

After I read a few articles I felt more normal again, remembering I am having a human reaction to a human experience. I still couldn’t fall back to sleep, so I tried some yoga nidra which has been helpful as of late. When I got to the part about visioning a safe place, I quickly scanned my memory for one and only could remember theapartment on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn. It wasn’t a safe place at all. 

 

Again, I was FLOODED with minute details about the outside & inside. The hallway and two flights up. I was remembering or not remembering that the lock on the front door didn’t work for a while before we moved. I couldn’t remember if that was real or just a dream that I’ve had so many times. If it was a dream, what did it symbolize? Not feeling safe, locks not working? I cried again for a long time. Same mix of emotions like it’s my fault or I’m over exagerating it. But I remembered the article and how the only way to move through it is to experience the thoughts and feelings again. So I let them through to pass. Letting the memories and details just flood me. After reading the article I embraced what was happening, as it’s the only way to let it go. 

 

The article is very long as I said, but here is a clip from the end after explaining how one would have gotten to this point 

 

“Survivors attempt to flee from feelings about having been abused, from normal reactions to an abnormal situation. Because that situation was life-threatening in thepast, some survivors mistakenly believe that to experience those feelings today would also be life-threatening, would bring on an emotional breakdown, a falling apart akin to death. They do not understand that the breakdown has already happened, when their feelings were preempted by shame.

A survivor can afford to look that “death” squarely in the face when he has people who will stand by him, as well as the insight and power he did not have as a child. When it is finally safe enough, the survivor will remember the memories and feel the feelings about the trauma. Such a “thawing out” is a second chance, an emotional reincarnation. Still…the first sensations that have been repressed or avoided all of one’s life can feel like a tidal wave.

When he is ready, the thoughts and feelings return. In response to what has been uncovered, he often feels great anger at the betrayal itself and the injustice and randomness of the violence.

Underneath that anger is a terror and helplessness that is more difficult to experience than the anger. (“Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I remember. Maybe I’m just exaggerating.”) This can go on for a long time, but with the help of others, the survivor will eventually accept that the trauma was as bad as he knows it was.

Profound sadness follows. This compassionate acceptance of “poor me” and the mourning of the losses that the trauma created eventually lead to resolution.

When the losses engendered by trauma are fully mourned, the trauma loses its power over the survivor. Instead of the emotional breakdown they feared…survivors experience an emotional breakthrough! Completing the grieving process means divorcing the trauma from one’s sense of identity and self-worth.”

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Voices Carry

Voices Carry

 

Shush, keep it down now, voices carry

 

The song “Voices Carry” by Til’ Tuesday always gave me somewhat of a chill. Not in a bad way, but through some haunting lens I didn’t quite understand but felt a magnetic draw to.

 

2 years ago while preparing some yoga classes April’s Sexual Assault month which has a strong hand-in-hand partnership with October’s Domestic Violence month (a topic that I feel very strongly about as a child abuse survivor) – I set out on a search for songs about these topics.

 

Voices Carry came up under Domestic Violence. Yes, I suppose – ‘shush, keep it down now, voices carry’. It wasn’t all too different from some of the other 80’s tunes like Luka and Behind the Wall. It had that same eerie vibe that drew me in, while not really digesting much what the lyrics were so poignantly about.

 

A few months ago on the way home from work my music was playing on shuffle in the car when “Voices Carry” came on. Likely for the first time I really listened to and digested the lyrics. The Internet search from 2 years ago plagued my mind, but I wasn’t so sure anymore that Domestic Violence was completely behind it. Was it a secret lover perhaps? What did the words mean???

 

Hours later after dinner, walking the dog and the nightly routine – Daren was out at hockey with Devin and I picked up my phone before bed to search the lyrics meaning.

 

No doubt it was about the power dynamic in an Intimate Partner relationship. But what I read over and over and over, is that the song was originally written with “She” instead of “He”. I read a lot about the video and how the man tried to control the woman… (never saw this video) and how it could be about sexual assault; but I couldn’t shake what almost seems now after one too many sources said that it was about a lesbian relationship.

 

Wow. That just shifts everything now doesn’t it?

 

I’ve written about this before- that back in May 2017 I was required to take a 50 hour CT state training on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in order to teach yoga at Domestic Violence shelters. I was ambivalent about the training. It was a requirement. I had to shift my schedule a bit to fit it in. It ended up being a life-changer.

 

The topics were so eye opening. It wasn’t just about the topics. It was about the dynamic of relationships. The dynamic of human unfairness. The dynamic which children grow up and how certain segments of society are treated unfairly. How cycles of violence perpetuate through generations. How we treat and work with perpetrators. How the police are trained and not trained to deal with these issues. How the law works and how the laws have changed over the years. How our culture almost encourages boys toward violence and treating women as objects. How the LGBT movement plays into it all. How race is involved in this. I trained at the umbrella agency in Bridgeport CT. I was finally able to piece together that these topics are all so very related and are ultimately human rights issues. Human Justice Issues. All encompassing and under one umbrella.

 

It was there I very sadly realized that I myself have PTSD from childhood abuse. I was very likely unable to handle the awareness until then.  It was probably the most educational 50 hours I’d ever spent – professionally and personally.

 

Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and a same sex relationship – how can one song be related to all 3? How can these topics even be related?

 

Strange thing is that they are. It’s all stuff that as a society we’ve kept hush about and swept under the rug. Things that folks were ashamed of and had to hide. The unspeakable, but oh so very real truth.

 

I heard the song again last night on the way home after sharing a few drinks with a friend. It haunted me as always. Something I read a few months back when I search it the last time preoccupied my mind enough for me to try to find it again (of course I could not – go figure). A writer explained how she always believed the song was about a heterosexual couple in an affair situation until she read about the “she” word removal as well.  At that point she wrote a bit about how sad it was that the record company wouldn’t record it, as stations and the public were not ready for the topic; but how that changed the words and entire meaning of the song for her.

 

Voices Carry… Voices Carry… Voices Carry.

 

That was the main meaning. If we don’t keep quiet about a topic, the voice of it will carry to others. The message will get across. Yes, ‘shush’ we’ve been told to keep it down, that voices will carry. But on the other hand – Voices Carry! The more we talk and bring awareness, the more our voices will carry. Would it have been so bad to carry the message the writer intended to send?

 

The love of homosexuals. Any human or sexual orientation that is involved in intimate partner violence. Child Abuse. Sexual assault/abuse/rape. The mental illness of perpetrators. & their own sordid pasts… These are human rights issues. Things that have made people feel ashamed and lesser than. Things they’ve felt the need to hide. People who have felt they have no voice.

 

Not treating everyone the same regardless of the shoes they’ve walked in is ABUSE.

No need to listen to the bully who says “Shush & Keep it down now”. Voices do carry. All of them do. Like drops in a bucket. Each little drop will contribute to the eventual overflow that will change things. Every voice counts.

 

https://spinditty.com/playlists/Songs-About-Domestic-Violence-and-Child-Abuse

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Voices Carry

'Til Tuesday

 

I'm in the dark, I'd like to read his mind
But I'm frightened of the things I might find
Oh, there must be something he's thinking of
to tear him away-a-ay
When I tell him that I'm falling in love
why does he say-a-ay

 

Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry



Uh-ah

I try so hard not to get upset
Because I know all the trouble I'll get
Oh, he tells me tears are something to hide
and something to fear-eh-eh
And I try so hard to keep it inside
so no one can hear

 

Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Uh-ah

 

Oh!
He wants me, but only part of the time
He wants me, if he can keep me in line

Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, shut up now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, darling, she might overhear
Hush, hush - voices carry



He said shut up - he said shut up
Oh God can't you keep it down
Voices carry
Hush hush, voices carry

 

Songwriters: MANN AIMEE / HAUSMAN MICHAEL / HOLMES ROBERT / PESCE JOSEPH

Voices Carry lyrics © Til Tunes Assoc., MECHANICAL COPYRIGHT PROTECTION SOCIETY LTD, 'TIL TUNES ASSOCIATES

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Hygee (Hoo Guh) & How I Plan to Embrace Winter this Year

I never heard this word until last week. I was starting to plan for the holidays and feeling really festive and excited, until my heart sunk thinking about January and the rest of the winter.
I REALLY don’t like the winter. But it’s an inevitable part of life. If I’ve learned anything this year that is positively impacting my life, it is to enjoy the moment, whatever it is; as this too shall pass. Alan Watts wrote a book called “This is It”. Meaning, as we are waiting for life to start or get better we are actually wasting it- because the whole thing; the good, the bad, the ugly… the joys, sweat & tears… and even traffic is “IT”.
I hardly noticed the winter until the year I was pregnant with Gabby. She was due in June and around February I really started nesting. I had a paper calendar on the wall at the time (who didn’t in 1999?) and on the last day of February I excitedly turned the page and saw the beautiful spring picture for March. My heart filled with joy. I was so excited and ready for spring. I went to bed happily anticipating the coming months. But when I woke up it was still freezing, dark and wet. Weeks later it was still freezing, dark and wet. That same year as the days turned darker and colder in October I realized I am one the thousands I have been hearing in the background who dislike what feels like the never ending season of winter.
20 years later and I’m still a hater. I want that to change, or at least to accept it the way I can smile and catch myself from feeling grumpy during traffic. This is a totally new concept for me to accept even a yucky present moment [most of the time anyway] and tell myself that this is really it! This is life. There is nothing else and even this could be kind of enjoyable when I realize I’m alive and experiencing what exists in the spectrum of living experiences.
So I went to my best ally that I turn to for answers (Google of course) and asked “How to enjoy winter?
Almost every search response turned up this word “Hygee” pronounced “Hoo Guh” (I personally like the way I was pronouncing it in my mind better, but that is neither here nor there). Apparently it’s a Danish word that loosely translates to coziness. The Danish are the well known as the happiest culture in the world, but also have one of the more harsh winters with a population of human settlers. What is their secret?
One can look on their own, I’m not going to go bonkers writing it all out- but the general concept is to embrace it, do all things inside that you’ve been putting off, make time for friends no matter the weather and to indulge in winter foods, clothes and warm beverages. Embracing it means hunkering down and getting cozy. Lots of candles, soft light, and blankets. Also, going outside every day for a bit no matter how dark or cold. Not only is the fresh air and movement of walking a benefit, but the contrast back into the cozy home makes it all the more sweeter.
As I raked leaves at both of our homes this week, covered the stubborn little spring bulbs I recently planted that were poking up, and started to put away the outdoor summer items; I felt a sense of connection the earth and dare I say even slight excitement toward this season for this first time ever.
Being prepared and doubling down on making my home cozier than ever felt right. I ordered non-holiday candles for my windows that I plan to not move until the sun starts to set at an earlier hour next year. I purchased those battery operated string lights for little places in the home near the potted plants I brought in from the outside for the winter for extra light & cheer. I hope to have a fire almost every evening (mental note: need to have the hubby show me how first), so I ordered a ton of firewood just for the occasion. AND I put it in the porch right outside the front door so it stays dry and seasoned… and it is close enough to not groan about having to trek anywhere else around the outside to get it.
What else?
I’m making a list of movies I’ve always wanted to see. Creating a pile of books to keep in living room that I want to read this winter. I am putting together exciting crockpot, dessert and soup recipes to try. I have a list of electronic things I never get to that I want to cross off my mental to do list forever.
I also made a list of things to do on weeknights and weekends that aren’t that exciting to do in the warm months because the draw to be outside is so much greater. Some of those things are to use the sauna we have in the basement, cross country ski (we have a trail within .2 miles from our front door), put together puzzles we bought & never touched, paint, write, color, knit, take online classes to get all CEUs or just learn about somethings I always want to know more about, go to plays and musicals at local theaters, visit museums, try new coffee shops…
Just writing it all out again makes me feel like the whole winter might not be enough time for all these great activities! Could it be that I can enjoy these months? I hope so!
It still might not shake out to actually be enjoyable, but it absolutely won’t be enjoyable if I don’t realize all the cool ways I could embrace and make the most of it. Fingers crossed.
If you are of the many like me who dreads these months and found an idea or two here to make it more bearable – then this was worth the time to write and share.
Here is to embracing it all, because after all, this it it.
~Esterina

 

My wood pile on the porch. This was taken only yesterday after moving a half cord of wood myself and then making a large tarp to keep it all warm & dry. I put kindling in flower pots. Today the scene is full of snow!
Now a day later.
Welcome Winter

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On Navigating with Love

There are some experiences in life that seem almost magical or other worldly as they happen. Sometimes it is when you meet someone and you get a sense of ‘deja vu’ or a flash of unexplained feelings. Or when you hear or read something that just seems to strike some sort a cord within you about its unexplainable truth.
One of the dozen or so times this happened to me is when I had first read that the soul is the connection to divine (God, nature or whatever you chose to call all that is). I was so moved by this simple statement. The truth of it was so obvious to me at the moment, that it sparked one of those other worldly flash feelings. The article discussed how the soul doesn’t dish out advice like our loud, animal mind brains do. But if you ignore or quiet the monkey brain and ask your soul for advice, the right answer is always there waiting to be heard. 
Wow. Yes. 
I knew that somewhere but didn’t realize it until then. A few hours later after mulling it over I posted something on Facebook about it- a short quote I made up as my own interpretation of this. It had very few “likes”. Guess my Facebook tribe didn’t get it. 
Not long after I heard a podcast about the moral compass. The speaker explained how we experience negative emotions (depression, hopelessness, anxiety, etc) when we aren’t living according to our moral compass.
Right- that makes sense too! And in my own interpretation I understood that moral compass connection to be through the soul which is connected to all that is. When we can’t hear or follow that sound advice and live against it, we feel unhappy.
Then, not long after I started to better understand the deeper meaning of the yoga I was attracted to. The focused attention of breath and movement quieted the monkey mind. Meditation and quieting the mind is a ticket to really hearing sound moral advice from my soul- that without question always knows the right and loving way to be in this world.
I feel so inspired to write this morning because when I opened my email amongst the midst of things was the start of a sentence that caught my eye strong enough for me to open it. It read “God does what God is: Love. God does not love you if and when you change. God loves you so that you can change!”The email was a few paragraphs long. It is a daily mediation that I signed up for from the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr who wrote a book I recently finished called Falling Upward. 
The email this morning brought the message of the soul and compass home for me. The email referenced one of the famous lines of the Bible where man is created in the likeness and image of God (the divine, nature, whatever you connect to spiritually). That likeness is LOVE.
One paragraph states “Love is who you are. When you don’t live according to love, you are outside of being. You’re basically not real or true to yourself. When you love, you are acting according to your deepest being, your deepest truth. You are operating according to your dignity.
Love… Love it. To me that says it all.
Maybe, just maybe… the allegory of the apple and ensuing suffering was having doubt about pure love. Not living by the advice of the soul. Not having faith in all that is. 
The soul knows. Perhaps we should listen a bit closer. It’s always there- the good angel on our shoulder, NOT jumping up and down loudly like a child with a pitch fork such as the little fiery red guy on the other shoulder. Maybe listening to it really is a key away from fear & suffering.
Hey… it’s worth a try! 

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On Fear and Suffering

“Man suffers most through his fears of suffering”. —Etty Hillesum

I am beginning to understand how important it is to accept fear, suffering, and the unknown as a part of life. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it really is part of being human and our existence. Once we begin accept fear, suffering, and the unknown as natural and ordinary; we can experience a more balanced outlook on the way things are. Once that balanced outlook is realized; we still have fears, bad days and down days – they just seem to have less power and debilitating effects on us.

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In a blog I wrote a few weeks ago “On the Fluctuating Gunas ”, bad things happening to our around us, doesn’t mean something is wrong with us. It’s just part of the flow of life.

What is even more astounding is that as humans we have the capability to truly accept the entire flow of what life is. In our most enlightened form it’s possible to not be affected at all. From a Christian biblical perspective – symbolically, the lesson of Jesus on the cross is to help free us from suffering through demonstrating that at even the WORST, we have nothing to be afraid of if we chose to embrace what is.

Acceptance = Non-Suffering

We can’t fight what life throws at us. It’s fruitless. We will lose by fighting and trying to avoid it every time. It’s a law of nature, but it doesn’t mean that we should lie back and be pushed around by life. In the same way we cannot win by swimming against the tide or sailing against the wind. We have to use nature’s forces intelligently to still navigate where we would like to go using what is there at the time and not just wishing the tide away.

What’s worse is that wishing the tide away means not enjoying life as it is happening. We waste time that would otherwise be enjoyable by being scared of the unknown, thinking things are supposed flow easily – then being miserable when they don’t.

Will Smith even quoted the version of the below phrase in a great YouTube video I watched not too long ago. This is the abridged >2 min version, but the point is well taken. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSIo4JMzcbM

 

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FDR said it best years ago. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

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Years ago I read the book “Who Moved My Cheese”. It was cute enough. I was in my 20’s and it was my first exposure to hearing about accepting change. One of my favorite lines is quoted below. I remember it gave me chills because there actually would have been quite a bit I would be doing if I weren’t afraid.

On the Harvest and our Minds

Always do your best. What you plant now you will harvest later. 

Og Mandino

In the yoga classes I’ve taught this past week, the theme I have been focusing on is “The Harvest”. The chosen reason is the time of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere, especially where we live in New England. The purpose of this theme however is not about the crops we need to harvest before the first frost (which was last night), but all ‘seeds’ and ‘harvests’ for the future.

Not sure what it has to do with yoga? If you are still with me, please allow me to explain.

A seed is just a seed all by itself. A lettuce seed alone has nothing but the potential to become lettuce. If I plant lettuce seeds in the ground in the month of April (appropriate for our Connecticut hardiness zone), there is a decent chance it will grow lettuce. But if I plant a cucumber seed in April, it will absolutely not grow into lettuce, and there is a slim chance will grow at all. Cucumber seeds can only thrive after the last frost. Hence, it would be best to plant them in mid-May for any hope of having a cucumber in August.

So far I have a seed, dirt, and weather that will hypothetically allow me to harvest cucumbers. Seeds, dirt and weather are not that insanely different from the potential we have as humans to manifest goals or create the type of life we desire. In churches and other spiritual communities and texts we will often hear the phrase “As above, so below”.

What does that mean? It means the physical world is not all that different from the mental and spiritual worlds. Even though we can’t see those other worlds, the laws of nature are consistent.

Like seeds, our thoughts are just thoughts alone. The properties of a thought will only bring forth that thought. If I’d like to lose 10 pounds, it’s only a thought or wish until I do something with it. Additionally, wishing it will not yield me a promotion or the improvement of a relationship that I’d like to enhance… obviously. With me so far?

Next that thought is planted or ‘sown’ in my mind. The mind is not so dissimilar to the soil that we plant our seeds in. The thought that I would like to lose 10 lbs in a mind racing with anxiety, wrought with depression, or full with a stressed out ‘To Do’ list will only go into a abyss of other competing and negative thoughts. Similar to how planting a cucumber seed in sand, in the snow, or even in April; the mind’s condition would not be right to help a positive thought manifest into the raw potential it has.

This is where yoga comes in.

Yoga is not soley about moving around in different poses (or asanas). Yoga means to ‘yoke’. This sacred Sanskrit term is used to signify the connections between spirit, mind and body. Whether we are moving through poses, meditating, chanting, doing breath work, etc; what we are really doing is creating a connection of our physical body to our mind and spirit; creating a sense of equilibrium between all three – which are really one beautifully operating unit. It’s difficult to have anxiety when the mind, body and spirit are yoked in meditation or savasana (that last pose in most yoga classes where you actually enjoy laying around doing nothing for a few minutes).

When we are in balance, the mind is clear. When we sow thoughts in a clear mind, it is akin to planting seeds in proper conditions. When the mind is not clear, thoughts will still grow in murky conditions. These conditions often generate unwanted outcomes. For example anxious thoughts will thrive and create even more anxiety in a busy mind. The mind is constantly creating whether we get involved with what is put in or not. Analogous to how weeds will grow without involvement.

Yoga helps clear the mind through pointed focus and awareness. Focusing on breathing while mindfully moving from posture to posture in an average American yoga class (which is what comes to the minds of most when they picture yoga) helps us to stay in the present moment and pay less attention the wandering mind. When we are on the mat and feeling the slight shifts and sensations of our bodies, we are connecting our physical body with our inner selves. While sitting in a posture for a short while, if the body is relaxed and the mind wanders; it becomes very clear what is in there as thoughts arise.

A beautiful characteristic of yoga is that the habits we build on the mat will begin to stay with us off the mat.

A remarkable trait about thoughts is that you can change them.

If we don’t like what is coming up, we don’t have to actually keep thinking them. With a little practice of strengthening the mind, we are able to notice thoughts that aren’t aligned with the life we want and modify them.

Ignoring or changing unwanted thoughts and clearing our minds creates the proper soil and weather conditions to grow an aspired thought into reality. This will give us the boost to perform the last and third step of harvesting what we would like.  That last step is the physical work.

If we plant cucumber seeds in mid-May and walked away… maybe we will have some cucumbers, but not likely. Chances increase if we ensure the seeds are properly watered, have the right amount of sun, and weeds are kept at bay – at least initially. As the season progresses and cucumber buddings begin to grow and get stronger, we still need to keep an eye on them; but weeds and unexacting sun and water levels are less likely to halt the progression of physical cucumbers.

We have to do the work. Once new habits are built and ingrained into our neuropath ways and routines, less focus needs to be put on sustaining the desired result. Keeping 10lbs off is easy with good habits because we essentially reap what we sow. Physically and mentally. If you don’t have a crop harvest right now, it only because you didn’t plant seeds and nurture them in the spring.

The laws of nature as we know it work the same in the mind/spirit world.

Yoga helps us to create the harvest (albeit “life”) we want by cultivating a healthy mind-body-spirit connection. The take home – mind your thoughts, as they can and will create the life and harvest you have.

NAMASTE

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant

Robert Louis Stevenson

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On the Fluctuating Gunas (The What???)

Today I woke up anxious. Physically I had a slight tightness in my chest. My heart felt like it was a little heavy, but the worst was my breath. I couldn’t help but sigh every few moments. Obviously releasing some kind of tension. I felt slightly lost. Not sure where my life is going. Not but an hour later I was laughing and feeling like wherever my life is going it doesn’t matter and I’ll get there as I need to.

These are the “Gunas”. Fluctuations that are normal in the universe. They are everywhere. In the weather, in our moods. It’s a universal law. What goes up must come down. What swings one way will swing the other.

The Gunas are a term I learned in yoga teacher training and were often discussed. It’s now a part of my regular vocabulary and thought process. We don’t stay in one mood forever. Nothing stays in its state forever. We are supposed to feel good and bad. It should be expected that good things as well as bad things will happen. Fighting it is what leads to suffering. In Buddhism a key tenant is that any attachment causes suffering. Even attachment to feeling one way (like happy), being attached to an outcome you want, or any objects/feelings/desires/etc. The Hindu tradition (yoga’s roots) describes the same concept but in a different way.

From Yogapedia: https://www.yogapedia.com

A guna is an attribute of nature, according to Hindu philosophy. In Hinduism, there are three gunas that have always existed in the world in both all living and non-living things:

• Tamas (darkness, destructive, death)

• Rajas (energy, passion, birth)

• Sattva (goodness, purity, light)

Here in our Western world we are not taught to think in this way. We seem to feel that if something goes wrong or we don’t feel well (mentally, physically or spiritually), that something is wrong with us. Imagine we were taught that both elation and depression are normal and to be expected? Neither will stay. Both are an experience of being alive. The more we attach to any experience (the good or the bad ones), the more we will ‘suffer’. Suffering really meaning anything from disappointment to despair.

I’m signed up for daily emails from Richard Rohr. He is a Franciscan priest that wrote many books on spirituality. I recently finished “Falling Upward” which was amazing! Much of it was about how we need to fall in order to learn and grow. How opposite things are complementary and part of life. I will paste a quote from the Tuesday mediation.

“If we are going to talk about light, then we must also talk about darkness, because they only have meaning in relation to one another. All things on earth are a mixture of darkness and light, and it is not good to pretend that they are totally separate!”

Understanding the Gunas is one of the many ways I am learning to accept life as it is. When I remember them when I’m feeling down I almost embrace it as the full experience of life. Not always, but more & more often.

They have helped me- and if you have read this and are willing to try, perhaps that can help you or a loved one too!

Peace & Namste

 

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Life in the Slow Lane

Today I woke up feeling good. On 7/11/18, 2 months and 2 days ago, I had just one of the worst evenings of my life. The following few days were even more difficult. These last 2 months have been a journey that I realize is life-long and I’m in no rush to finish. I’m enjoying and embracing every step forward and every obstacle that prohibits steps forward, or that even sets me a few back. Obstacles and set backs are really necessary learning experiences.

Today I’m in gratitude. I might not be in an hour, but for now I am and I’m incredibly grateful.

I could write for hours about how I got here (I promise I won’t). The biggest contributor was my childhood and the mal-adaptive strategies [albeit very normal] I developed early on to deal with life while my brain was forming. One of my newly favorite psychology writers Van Der Kolk calls it Developmental Traumatic Disorder (DTD). This diagnostic explanation is fairly new in the world of Psych. It didn’t quite make it to the DSM 5 which is latest edition of the manual by which mental health clinicians diagnose and bill for disorders. For now the closest diagnosis is PTSD, which DTD is branch of. Particularly for me, for now it’s Delayed Onset, Complex PTSD. It turns out I’m just another statistic and if someone were watching closely, everything that happened to me could have been predicted.

I’ve been through a gamut of emotions the past few months. Many before 7/11, but even more, and much more intensely since. Crazily, but also not surprisingly this episode took place just 2 days and exactly 25 years after what was one of the most transformational days of my life at the time when I was 17. I’d written about it before in My Mom. It’s one of my trigger dates, something I don’t think I fully believed in until this summer. I didn’t consciously recognize the significance of how the date triggered me, but my body did. The Body Keeps the Score.It really does.

What I realized most profoundly this summer is that I have PTSD. I really do. Two and a half years ago I had my first panic attack. I was immediately diagnosed with Anxiety and Panic Disorder. Last summer the PTSD diagnosis was added. While I remember telling people about it, somehow I didn’t realize how important it was to my mental recovery to embrace and work on it. In fact, when the true awareness hit me like a ton of bricks just less than a week after 7/11 this year, I was surprised to realize that I’d been sharing and telling people about it prior to then. A few days ago I re-read something I added to my blog page in May “About Me”, and it was there too! Why wasn’t I working on it?

I wasn’t working on my trauma and PTSD for many reasons. Because it wasn’t urgent and didn’t seem important. Because no one tells you that it’s important. In fact, no one can; it’s something you have to discover on your own when your body is ready. Also because I didn’t have the time or the life style until now. That is why I’m in gratitude this morning. I’m moving in the slow lane and I love it.

From a young age I moved fast. I always had excessive energy. I never understood how anyone could sit at a meeting or in a class and not fidget. I was just always bursting out of my skin. Driving… I had to be in the fast line. I was constantly assessing for traffic, changing lanes with the flow. Heart always racing. Breath always erratic. I was always, always, always looking for more efficient ways to do things. From driving to folding laundry to cleaning… to redesigning whole work groups and even departments at my job. I was good at it. It was a great outlet for my energy. I was efficient and I helped others to be as well. A good use of my talents. Or so I thought.

Now I’m living in the slow lane. I still have the habit of moving fast, but I catch myself at least 80% or so of the time when I realize that for no good reason my heart is in a lurch or my breath isn’t steady. I stop it and slow down. I manage my breath. I smell the roses. I ground myself in the present and it’s SO much better. I think about that quote about how nothing or everything is a miracle, and see things as beautiful. Even ugly things. I wish we could teach our children this from a young age. Instead we are programmed to ‘succeed’, to do more & faster, to have it all, to do it all. We are programmed to think we are a failure if we don’t meet this criteria. On paper by this methodology I was a huge success.

Take two driven people like my husband and myself, put them together, and what do you have? It’s debatable. 7 years ago I would have thought a match made in heaven. In fact at our wedding we incorporated the Japanese term of kaizen (continuous improvement) into our vows. Ugh… how I cringe now. All I can think of is U2’s lyrics in the song ‘Moment of Surrender’

The stone was semi precious
We were barely conscious
Two souls too smart to be
In the realm of certainty
Even on our wedding day

I do believe in continuous improvement, but not in the way it was taught to me (faster, better, do more, etc). I believe it the slow movement. That less is more. That slowing down and even stillness is where the magic of life lies. Take a look at the pets in our lives. They are content with doing less, watching the world outside the window for hours just as it is. Accepting us for who we are. Not caring about how we are dressed or what fancy letters come after our name. They are in a sense more human from a sense of connection than we are. I have four pets. I didn’t even have time to pet them before. I would shoo them away when they came to climb on me when I collapsed on the couch after 16 hours of non-stop movement. We had to have our dog in day care just to get exercise and go out because no one was home long enough to play with him or take him out. Picking him up and dropping him off was another burdened activity on the check-list. Why have pets, kids, a house (2 in our case), a garden, etc – when there was no time to put any love or life into any of it? It’s been a slow realization for me that none of this makes sense. That I was living by a clock and not a compass. It took even longer to do anything meaningful about it. I’m still on that journey and in no rush to any finish line. The unfolding is a beautiful experience that I’m embracing wildly.

I wrote a few paragraphs back that I could write for hours about how I got here. Everyone has their own journey, their own stories, their own level of awareness, and their own (hopefully) point in their life – more often than not in the second half of it, in which they proverbially “wake up”.

My own story started on March 1, 2012. At work I enrolled in a Franklin Covey industry based class for the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It was a 2-day seminar that set the path of a new life for me. At the time I was recently remarried and my husband and I were just finishing up the renovations we worked on non-stopfor 2 months in our new home. I felt SO alive during those renovations. I loved working on the house. We often stayed up until 1 or 2am in the morning on work nights and didn’t feel the least bit exhausted in the morning.

Once the renovations were finishing up I started to feel trapped, bored, and useless. Something I wasn’t accustomed to feeling. Since my husband and I moved in together with our kids the year before I felt like I was mentally unraveling. The renovations were a pleasant distraction. I began going to a bible study at the hospital where I work which one of my vanpool mates hosted. I hung onto many of the teachings and words, learning new language to explain what I was feeling. The Covey class used similar language but explained it in a different way that opened me up in a special fashion. Three things I really connected with was the concept of a paradigm that we see the world through, that I make my own independent choices constantly, and that to feel in line with who you are; we should be living by a compass and not a clock. Wow. This was mind blowing and life changing for me.

Shortly after I explored the bible much more. Then I ran into a Bishop Spong book quite by accident (I honestly cannot remember which one). I was never religious, but grew up Catholic and felt like it was a sin to question anything that didn’t make sense. As soon as my mind took me to those questioning places, guilt kicked in and I pushed it away. The John Shelby Spong book provided the freedom to question what made no sense and shift the focus to something that did in a more mystical, metaphysical way where it allmade sense. From there I found podcasts on the Centers for Spiritual Living to help time pass while having to drive to Bedford, MA quite often for work in 2 ½ hours each direction. Those podcasts prompted me to read the ghastly large book by Ernest Holmes called “The Science of Mind”. The world was opening and unfolding in ways I could have never dreamed. From there for some unknown reason I started taking yoga classes, which spoke the same type of language. Then I would listen to Alan Watts during my lunch walks and long commutes. All different words, but the same beautiful, timeless messages that make sense.

Years later in January 2016 I loved yoga and this way of thinking so much, I started yoga teacher training. My regular life with work, the kids, pets, blended family, commute, and constant RUSH was becoming unsustainable. Why was I adding a full weekend a month commitment to this training? I don’t know but I just felt compelled.

For some reason I thought in yoga teacher training I would learn more about the poses, teaching, and the actual class. Instead, like the Franklin Covey class years before it became a personal journey. I quickly decided that it was a necessity to meditate regularly. Once I started quieting my mind and relaxing regularly, I realized that is how a body should feel and how I lived for the previous 40 years was anything but calm. It started to become unbearable to not feel calm. Combine that with what I now realize is a few PTSD triggers from work at the time, it’s absolutely no surprise that I had my first panic attack exactly when I did and they escalated from there; completely out of control. My body was releasing 40 years worth of emotion that was bubbling just under the surface. The same energy that kept me moving, grooving and successful; was the same energy that was keeping me stressed and mentally unaware that I was damaging myself by not dealing with the trauma that has plagued my mind, body and spirit.

The past two and a half years since have been transformational. A lot of bad and negative things arose, but more positive, learning experiences than anything bad. You have to go through it to move through it. It sounds simple, but it’s much harder than it sounds. It wasn’t until now that I’ve given myself the time and opportunity to heal. But you have to make the time. Your life has to allow it. You have to slow down.

This past summer was rough. I spent hours upon hours writing and allowing myself to remember and experience the anguish of old memories. Many were the same memories that came up during what I now know as PTSD episodes, but I’d felt too ashamed, embarrassed or dramatic to explore. In writing, crying, thinking, gardening, exercising, waking up in the middle of the night, reading, etc – I started to explore my triggers and where they came from. It made sense. I learned more about how the brain is wired and why I seemed to lose control at times. I logged and shared trigger dates with my family. I allowed myself to feel all that I’ve always pushed away and thought I moved past years ago. It was always there waiting for me to deal with it. I just didn’t slow down enough to hear it.

Today I feel good. Over coffee this morning I saw my husband petting one of the cats who was purring where he shouldn’t be (on a counter). When my husband moved his hand away to finish getting ready for work, our cat Gilmore bipped him on the hand – asking for more petting, which Daren provided. We are in a place where we have time to pet our cats. I am thankful I am in a job where if I woke up in the middle of the night and didn’t sleep for hours that the pressure of getting dressed and driving to the office with a smile is not there because I can telework and I’m part-time. I’m thankful for the mental health breakdown this summer. I spent so much time on the days I wasn’t working living like my pets. I napped in the middle of the day if I needed to. I only ate when I was hungry. If I felt like the sun was calling me, I read and wrote outside. If I felt the urge to move I went for a walk, run or bike ride. Listening to my body helped me to attune to what it’s telling me in other ways too. Our bodies are a walking, living, physical communication device. It’s a compass of that path we should be on.

This summer I also listened to the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People CDs that I was provided with from that class back in March of 2012. Listening to the late Stephen Covey’s voice felt like listening to an old friend with sound, sage, timeless advice. I also spent quite a bit of time doing those old exercises again. I created a mission statement, thought about my values and principles, my ‘rocks’, how I communicate with people, how I think and how I live. I thought about the life that I want to program. My own talents. Not the talents the world has barked at me – like designing things bigger better and faster, but what I wanted to be when I was a kid with no restrictions and what that meant. The imprint I want to leave on the world.

These aren’t overnight answers. If I thought for a New York second that I know them right now I’d be fooling myself. I’ll be working on them for the rest of my life. I’m trying diligently to listen to the compass. If we quiet ourselves enough, and ask our inner selves for advice, the most profound wisdom is all there, right within us. Our bodies know what we need. They keep the score.

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My dog Koji who teaches me all sorts of invaluable lessons without saying a word
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Bored at home after carpal tunnel surgery of my right hand this past Monday (9/10), I decided to try to open my right brain by painting with my left hand
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My left handed drawing depicting what is supposed to be a sunset
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This one started left-handed by I switched to using my wrapped surgical hand to clean it up (majorly). It’s a rendition of a little knickknack my step-kids gave me for the holidays several years back by one of my favorite fun modern artists (Miami artist Roberto Britto)

On Understanding Panic Disorder

I almost don’t know how to start this. “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year” (1)

I am one of those 18.1% who suffer. When I’m in panic it’s almost as if a doppelgängertook over my body. So many people do not understand what happens and that the person has no control over how they feel. Stress and cortisol flood the body.

Last night I had a panic attack. I actually had several in the past week, and 4 or 5 just yesterday alone. What made my last two particularly long and painful is that other people were home and weren’t reacting compassionately. They live with me and don’t quite understand what I go through, how painful it is, and how little to no control I have over how I feel or can possibly react. I can empathize and understand that it can be scary to someone else – really I can. I don’t want to be in full-blown panic either, believe me – way MOREso than the people around me don’t want to see it.

A key driver is understanding. Panic disorder with panic attacks is not something that can be helped at the moment or have a lid put on it. What makes it all so much worse is when those around you and in society judge you and falsely believe mental health issues are something that can be helped (2). I’m writing this because if my own household doesn’t quite understand what this is about, how can any one else? I need to do my part in spreading awareness.

I didn’t know much about true anxiety either. Why should I? We throw the word around a lot. Many of us live with low -evel anxiety constantly. As a society we are mostly all anxious. Anxiety and Panic Disorder is a little different. “This is not to be confused with nervousness — what most people experience in normal situations. Nervousness and anxiety can both cause similar symptoms, but normal nervousness such as how one feels before making a big presentation or applying for a job differs from anxiety in that it’s rational.” (3) Some things can be helped or talked away from. Normal nervousness is one.

I’ve read a lot about anxiety in the past two years since I’ve been diagnosed. Stress is prevalent in our culture. A large part is due to technology and the bombardment of information. Also, the ability for others to reach into our lives at any moment day or night through social media, texting, email, etc. When I was younger and we had a house phone attached to a wall, either going to someone’s house or calling on that phone was the only way to let the outside in. When you left work everyone was shutdown for the day. No one was on texts and emails creating new things to sort through when you got to work – what you left it as the day before is how it was when you arrived the next morning. These things cause constant low-level stress. A text at 9pm makes our hearts beat faster and creates a false sense of urgency to pick up the phone to read it. Whether the message is from a loved one or your boss, the body reacts as if it’s in danger (heart rate, quickened breath, maybe stomach in knots). While we all might experience that quick burst of anxiety when the cell phone dings at 9pm, after a few minutes it goes away. For those of us with an anxiety disorder it not only doesn’t go away, it escalates.

This article describes it better than I can-

Picture this: you’re asleep at night when suddenly you wake up to the sound of someone breaking into your house. What do you do? You panic, like every sane human being would. You start to sweat, you breathe heavily or struggle to breathe, you feel nauseous, your heart races, there’s a heavy pressure in your chest, so on and so forth.

Now picture something else: all of those symptoms happening when you aren’t actually in any danger. No one is breaking into your house. Nothing is about to harm you or is currently harming you. Your body suddenly just starts to panic anyway. That is a panic attack.”

With panic disorder, the body for no real and current reason goes into full fight or flight mode. It differs for everyone, but for me in particular I’m often triggered by something externally that was threatening in the past. Many times I cannot initially identify the trigger. It is almost impossible too when the brain is flooded and the executive functioning goes offline.

Panic attacks arouse the body to a peak level of excitement which makes the individual feel not in control of him or herself. The mind is preparing for a false fight or flight mode, forcing the body to take over to help the victim face or run from the perceived danger, real or not.” (4) The reptilian brain that all land creatures have to flee or fight is what takes over. Rational thinking is completely shut down. It’s not the time to start figuring out the cause or rationalizing with the individual.

I want to feel normal and not panic more than anything. Riding it out, medicine and therapy are helpful, but it took years for the body to become dysfunctional to this point; it likely will not go away overnight.

I can tell you what makes it worse for me –

  1. Being with someone during a panic attack that doesn’t understand and gets annoyed or mad if they can’t help me. I can’t be helped at that point. Someone in my face rationalizing it for me feels condescending. Shunning me at that point feels humiliating and akin to abandonment. I’m humiliated enough. Standing in judgment only makes it worse.
  2. Another horror is trying to hide it to not scare other people. I feel further trapped. I’ve had panic attacks on an airplane, in restaurants, at work, while driving, while getting ready for bed, when waking up… Of course no one wants to see or hear it, but other people hiding or pretending nothing is going on just makes me feel like a freak creature that needs to be avoided.
  3. Last but not least on is the shame of having to hide a huge piece of yourself to others. Our society doesn’t look kindly to Mental Health issues. Before suffering myself, I too thought it was the sign of a weak mind and something you can control. Last summer I spent a full month in an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program). But forbid I let people know. My own step kids and extended family were kept in the dark. I was afraid to tell people at work why I was on FMLA. It may sound silly or it may not, but if I felt that way I would be willing to bet I’m not the only one.

May is Mental Health Awareness month (5). If you don’t suffer from any mental health issues (Yay You!), it’s very likely you know someone who does; you just don’t know they do. Let’s all do our part to bring awareness and be compassionate to one another to avoid shame, humiliation and judgment. We are all human. Let’s treat one another as such.

Peace.

  1. Anxiety and Depression Association of America https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics#
  2. We Need to Talk. Our Society Has an Issue With Anxiety and Mental Health. https://futurism.com/we-need-to-talk-our-society-has-an-issue-with-anxiety-and-mental-health/amp/
  3. https://medium.com/@gtinari/how-to-handle-someone-elses-anxiety-or-panic-attacks-51ee63f5c23bHow to Handle Someone Else’s Anxiety or Panic Attacks
  4. How to Help Someone Having a Panic Attack https://m-wikihow-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/m.wikihow.com/Help-Someone-Having-a-Panic-Attack?amp=1&amp_js_v=0.1&usqp=mq331AQECAEoAQ%3D%3D#origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&prerenderSize=1&visibilityState=prerender&paddingTop=54&p2r=0&horizontalScrolling=0&csi=1&aoh=15272981860562&viewerUrl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Famp%2Fs%2Fm.wikihow.com%2FHelp-Someone-Having-a-Panic-Attack%253famp%3D1&history=1&storage=1&cid=1&cap=swipe%2CnavigateTo%2Ccid%2Cfragment%2CreplaceUrl
  5. Mental Health America http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/doppelganger/”>Doppelgänger</a&gt;

 https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/doppelganger/

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