Your Inner Voice, A Counselors Thoughts on Thoughts
by Stephanie McCrackenNovember 26, 2013 Uncategorized0 comments
Your inner voice, or more accurately, inner voices each of them tugging to be the declarer of your thought and action. Their presence is perfectly normal as they are the culmination of your past, present, and anticipated future experiences melded into your very little internal advisors. At their best, these voices are a valuable hot bed of wisdom! They are the voices that guide one towards the enjoyment of positive choices, healthy boundaries, positive self-talk, and confidence. The utterer of syllables such as, “Maybe you should tap those brakes as the odometer is speeding towards 75, we would like to arrive alive in here! ”I know that wine is really good but how about having a glass of water before your next!?” “John hasn’t called you back in several days and you can’t keep leaving those messages, you deserve better treatment and by calling him you are encouraging him to treat you this way.”
Most of us have experienced some version of this little inner savior, provided this is balanced by properly free spirited fueled actions sometimes then it is perfectly well to enjoy the kind of lifestyle that our inner voice will guide us towards. I notice however that those persons who have suffered childhood victimizing, perhaps by the many forms of parental or peer abuse/neglect and also for those who have suffered from later life trauma, for them, we find that soothing inner voice is dominated by an inner critic. The inner critic may become so overwhelming for the individual that they are desperate to quiet the mind!
Our inner voice typically develops to primarily mirror the kinds of messages that we received from our early caregivers. For those lucky folks who have been the recipients of plenty of hugs, kisses, and assurances in those formative years an inner voice develops to say that everything will be ok when times are hard, to have confidence in the face of adversity, to develop basic coping skills which will help us pass us through life’s trials while maintaining some structural integrity. For the many others who have not been plagued by a stream of criticism, scoffed at for their feelings, or having been victims of deception or outright physical or sexual abuse, then the development of the inner voice becomes quite different. It may say things like, “stay quiet! Nobody wants to hear your opinion!” “Stay in that abusive relationship, you will never find better and are too weak to be alone!” “Drink some more wine, it’s the only way to calm your nerves and you aren’t going to succeed anyways!” So we begin to see the very different internal world of one who has a well-developed inner voice to the one who has a well-developed inner critic!
While it is indeed a fact that even the healthiest among us has a variety of intimations existent within our psyche, meaning we all have both a seat of inner wisdom and an inner critic. It is the balance which is my concern, our thinking should represent vigor, calm, and confidence as this is our natural state and anything else is a residue of this natural progression having gone astray. If you are experiencing this brand of suffering and these inner voices have turned to stresses and symptoms then you are likely eager to begin your journey towards healing. Whether you choose to begin that journey in therapy or by utilizing some other method of transformational growth it will be a magical path and well worth the effort. As a part of your healing, take a look inside and develop an awareness of your inner wounded child. You may try keeping a journal and writing down or simply imagining how would you describe this younger you? What are some of your early memories, for each painful memory consider an alternative ending, what kind of memory would you have liked to experience? Remember now that this is your own story and you may create it however you would like so enjoy the opportunity to be creative! Imagine the younger version of yourself crying and pained, go to the child and offer him/her soothing, love, care, and warmth. It is by healing those parts of ourselves which have suffered that we become whole, healthy and content just as we are meant to be! May the best of preparation and guidance serve you on your journey!
Light and Love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
The Sun & Your Mood, SUNGAZING
by Stephanie McCrackenNovember 14, 2013 mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, Uncategorized0 comments
What if your eyes, your skin and your brain are very much like tiny solar panels connected to your brain? In some capacities they are! Our skin is the largest human organ and it is responsive on many levels to it’s surroundings and stimuli such as the sun. Most any person who lives in the Northern Hemisphere can acknowledge the effect that the seasons have on human cognition, human emotions, and over all sense of well-being. The seasons change and often along with the departure of summer, fall and winter have a marked increase in Seasonal-Affective Disorder (SAD), seasonal depression, general malaise, and even relationship problems. As a large counseling center, we notice a marked increase in incoming client requests in the colder months. If you want to enhance your happiness, enjoy calm and comfort floating through life like a midsummer’s day? Well then it may be a good idea for you to spend some time with your head in the clouds or at the very least with your gaze directed towards the sky. As the cold air descends upon us most of us retreat into our warm and homes and convalesce with our den instinct, along with more time indoors we experience more darkness and harsh overhead fluorescent light. With this in mind, let us examine the specific benefits of sun gazing, it’s origins, and how to do a solar/sun gazing meditation.
In former times, Native American tribes held a yearly sun dance to the approach of the revered summer solstice. The native peoples worship the sun and as a part of the ritual, the sun gazers would dance, fast, and stare directly at the glowing orb in the day sky, this was intended to be an act of communion and rebirth with the earth’s rhythms. As a newly re-popularized trend, Sun gazing is enjoying its resurgence; many of us note that we must reconnect with the earth and her rhythms if we are going to enjoy the full capacity of our health and wellness. Some people report that by staring directly into the sun for 30-60 seconds each morning they enjoy greater vigor, energy, alertness, and focus. You might be wondering “but don’t your eyes get damaged from that?” Many of us recall our mother’s telling us as mall children, “Don’t stare into the sun, you will lose your vision!” After a bit of research, we haven’t been able to find any evidence that supports that claim. In fact, sun gazers note more acute vision and even ocular regeneration as some benefits.
Having trouble staying energized during the day or falling asleep at night? Solar powered meditation may be something you could try! The retina contains several kinds of photoreceptor cells; one of them is specifically responsible for regulating the circadian rhythms which is the bio-chemical/ hormonal process of sleeping and waking. When allowing the sun to contact the open eye, melatonin, one of the primary sleep chemicals is then commanded by your brain to decrease its production. Sleep comes in sync by increasing nighttime melanin production which causes deeper, longer nighttime rest. Contact with the sun will simultaneously increase production of serotonin which is a “feel good” chemical, this neurochemical is targeted in many of the popular anti-depressants on the market today. Just a minute of the suns luminosity can help you sleep better which gives you heightened energy and you can even feel happier in your new found heightened mental and physical acuity! Let us not forget that vitamin d is also synthesized via sunshine and that supports bone health as well as mood!
There is still one more noted and interesting benefit to sun gazing, that it the purported enhanced function of the “Third Eye.” The pineal gland, commonly referred to as the “Third Eye” is a curious part of the brain, it is largely associated with mystical, spiritual, and even psychic purposes. In MRI images, many ordinary subjects show a Third Eye that is atrophied or calcified. On the other hand, many of those who are deemed very spiritual, for example the “Dalai Lama” types show something completely different in this sacred mental cavern. In MRI scans performed on monks while in deep meditation, the pineal gland pulsates an ethereal blue light. Simultaneously, shaman and others who participate in Ajauhausca ceremonies also are said to be decalcifying and developing their pineal gland. Sun gazing is yet another way that we can enhance the powers of your Third Eye thereby heightening spiritual energy.
STEPS FOR SUNGAZING SOLAR MEDITATION
It is a good idea to sun gaze during the first hour or two after the sun has risen or right before it is setting, there are lower concentrations harmful ray spectrum’s during those times. As you begin this practice, aim for the goal of ten seconds during your first day and add an additional ten seconds each day until you work up to one minute which is the maximum suggested time to sun gaze.
1) Raise your hands and aligning your posture towards the sun, tilt your head back to expose your throat chakra and allow your feet to be anchored firmly on the earth. Focus on opening yourself to the energy of the sun and allow your eyes to fall upon the space directly above or below the sun.
2) Breathe deeply through your nose allowing the breath to expand inside of you as you hold your breath for a moment and allow your chest to fall slowly, evenly and gently from out of your nose for 10 seconds-60 seconds.
3) Notice how you feel before and after your mini meditation.
4) A Pro Tip: Turn your inner gaze softly towards your nose where the third eye can be found. This specifically targets the pineal gland and helps in rejuvenating it, you may notice that after your eyes have been warmed you can see many colors and flashes of light while maintaining soft, steady, and abundant inhalation and exhalation. One of the keys is to maintain awareness, mindfulness, and gratitude for the abundant warmth and light. With practice you will be transported to a hypnotic space. People who regularly practice this note that while the sun formerly appeared to be motionless it now pulsates and radiates many colors while they are gazing at it.
Take notice of your energy levels after spending this 2 minutes connecting with the sun and the earth. Do your best to find the time to incorporate this small but powerful exercise into your life for the next 30 days just to see how much of an effect that it has upon your mood and energy. Remember that the body takes time to adjust so one month is plenty of time to really obtain the myriad of benefits. If you miss a day here or there that is ok, doing your best is more than enough. Some people find it easiest to incorporate sun gazing as a part of my morning walk. If you are plentiful on time and are able to do the evening meditation as well then even better for you, otherwise many people find that once a day is more than enough. Remember if the sun is powerful enough to cause the trees and flowers to bloom, to cause the seasons to change, imagine what it can do for you! NAMASTE!
Wishes for brightness, wholeness, and health,
Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Therapy, Marriage and Family Counseling
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
The Art of Compassion
by Stephanie McCrackenNovember 6, 2013 Uncategorized0 comments
When talking with a friend recently the discussion turned to compassion, her gaze drew down and her feet shifted bashfully. After a moment of silence she admitted that she had little to know idea what the full meaning of this abstract concept is, and without even knowing she did not believe that it could offer any relevance to her practical life. Yet the truth is that for many of us who may be contending with the myriad of issues pertaining to basic cognizant living we could reap exquisite benefit from exercising compassion. While it may be initially trying to redirect thinking and acting towards this more illuminated stance especially when the nifty old synaptic wiring recalls pain, trauma, anguish or even simply waking up 20 minutes too late for your morning cup of coffee. Still however, when we share compassionate responses with the world we are not only benefiting others, we too are exhilarated by the positivity which we is then set coursing through our inner sanctum. Why bother interrupting a cycle of careless or hostile mode of being with something a bit more Buddha like? We are all ultimately weighted with the handsome burden of free choice pertaining our reaction to self and others. If you sometimes wonder why you notice a bewildering pattern of melancholia or inner-conflict then perhaps you may benefit from a mild dose of compassion.
The Merriam Webster definition of compassion is a deep awareness of the suffering of another along with the wish to relieve it. Unwittingly many of us may practice compassion already, when you notice the homeless person huddled beneath blankets along your stroll to your office, or the friend who can barely help himself but to become completely obnoxious when he drinks, the colleague who is unrepentantly ten minutes late for each and every meeting. You may notice yourself resisting the urge to be irritated by these and many others along the path of life. Maybe by leaving a pair of hand warmers for the homeless person and having a talk with both your colleague and friend about what may be going on for each of them respectively. Having compassion for those we interact with does not mean that we don’t notice or even that we don’t become irritated with the mystifying ways of others but it does require that we respond in a way that is a reflection of our most wise and caring truth and that our response is rooted in an attempt to relieve the others suffering.
I make no remark that consistently compassionate thought, speech, and action is simple, nor do I state that it is an entirely natural collusion with our at times wicked or selfish human mannerisms. I do however promise you that by living with greater compassion we become the ebullient bringers of joy, and the gregarious gesticulators of grace, the sort of buddaesque persons enthralled under our very own Bodhi trees in a whirlwind of calm clarity. I would like to encourage the reader to take the practice of compassion even one step beyond reaching outwards with this conundrum of kindness. Empathy fueled action towards others is a wonderful way to begin but just as importantly, extend greater compassion towards yourself! According to Buddhist wisdom “Our sorrows and wounds heal only when we touch them with compassion.” If you turn your attention towards your own inner world, in what ways are you your own harshest critic? Which feelings do you carry followed by that additional burden of shame? How do you unflinchingly hammer yourself upon the proverbial cross? Perhaps with just a touch of compassion for yourself you can finally lay those old wounds to rest. Keep in mind that once we become aware of our patterns of thought and deed we are afforded the opportunity to respond to life in a variety of manners and it is my insistent offering that a compassionate response to you and the many nameless and faceless others of the world will unveil a much more lovingly lived life! How may your hour, your day, your week be different if you were practicing compassion?
In health and wellness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233