by Stephanie McCrackenOctober 28, 2013 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
Everyone does it. So if you don’t mind my asking, when was the last time that you really did it? When was the last time you allowed it to propel you to the heights of Nirvana only to have it gently slide you back down into limp flesh, relaxed? I bet many of you didn’t even know that it could be so good, like sweet cream on a warm summer’s evening. After all, this very act sustains the life you are living.
I want to share with you the secrets of doing it really well. I will warn you, it’s not as simple as it seems. It takes training, discipline and wisdom if you really want to experience its full potential. Take some time for yourself. This time will give you the chance to develop tools that will offer an opportunity for clarity, strength, calm, and wisdom throughout all parts of your living and being.
Come. Take some time. Breathe with me.
There is a common misconception that we know all that we need to about the breathing process. After all, isn’t it our first physical act once emerging from the warmth of the womb? Yet, there are gurus, yogis, monks and other wellness facilitators who devote a lifetime of practice to this complex and exhilarating act. As with most everything, what you see is not what you necessarily get because there are many layers of power to be harnessed and experienced within the act of breathing.
Let us journey to our core. Begin by sitting in a chair in an upright position. Now close your eyes, allow them to gently block the outside world. Find yourself in a warm, tranquil space that exists on the backside of your eyelids. You notice the beating of your heart as it pushes warm, oxygen rich blood to the rest of your body. Begin to connect with the rest of your physical self. Notice the distinct calm feeling in your hands as they rest on the tops of your legs. Open your palms in a position of reception for the energy that is coming toward you. Accept this as a gift, a connection from the universe to you. Your feet should be planted flat on the ground. Notice how the floor feels beneath them. What does it feel like to be connected to something as grand as the earth?
Now that you are settled in a peaceful position, we are going to go even deeper inside. Take a slow and steady inhalation through your nose. Feel the warmth of the air as it makes it ascent from the tip of your nose and fills the back of your throat. Feel your shoulders rise as the air continues to spill inside of your chest, filling you down to the bottom of your belly which has expanded to allow the air space inside.
This breath feeds and nourishes your body as you hold the inhalation and very slowly, let it go, let it go, let it go. The act of taking in should match the process of letting go, equal strength and time allotted to each of them. Notice how your body softens as you exhale, feel your shoulders falling as the tightness disappears from your neck and your brow. Now let’s fill our lungs again, taking in the rich air which surrounds us. All that is full of life and power brings the breath into us until we are full. Now hold the breath as your chest expands and your belly begins to soften on the release. These sacred breaths allow everything within you to fall naturally and evenly away, as you savor in the calm which washes over you on the exhale.
Take attention to your body. Feel the energy coursing through your hands and legs. Such supple feelings of softness as you float in the space behind your eyes. Whatever you are noticing, you are exactly where you should be. You are comforted and cradled in warmth. You are present and you are calm in this moment.
Spend time at least once a day to focus on your breathing and the physical sensations related to it. If you can dedicate 5 or 10 minutes of your hectic day to breathe in this manner, you will notice a greater calm and clarity in the rest of those moments where you are devoted to work and family and all of the other tasks related to living life. Always remember the importance of your breathing. Notice the ever evolving shape and speed of your inhalation and the physical sensations attached to this. Close your eyes and for a brief moment, escape, soothe, relish. There are so many ways to do it simply and elegantly.
Love, peace and happiness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage CounselingLearn More
by Stephanie McCrackenJuly 19, 2013 counseling, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
Something about Nothing
The heated summer air is whirring beyond and within your skin, feet pounding upon the city sidewalks in an ever hurried procession. Preparation for yet another marathon, sweat beads forming and sliding, perspiring in cylindrical icicles down your front, back, and every inch of in between, an urgent reminder to go, go, go, harder, faster, more.
12 hour work days, 52 weeks out of the year, the paper work piling higher, depositions and court cases formulating another win, another dollar. You will make partner in your firm by the time you are 40 as long as you stay later in hopes of achievement, more, more, money, more promotions, more responsibility, more ways to know that this is worth it, work harder, faster, more.
Your neighbor owes you 50$ and tells you that she isn’t able to return the kindly favor until next week, you were counting on it to put gas in your tank to take your brother to the store and your dad to the doctor and your daughter to the outpatient drug rehabilitation program, maybe even buying some snack cakes to put in your husband’s lunch pail. Who else needs you today? Who else can you help? Move, go, do, more, faster.
Stick the needle in your arm yet again, the numbness settles within and sealing your mind from everything out there until it’s time to get up in search of another person to rob, a piece of jewelry to steal, to trade for some money to buy some silence in time without thinking of the faceless people from which you steal or the way that it makes you think to be a person who sticks a needle to go numb. More, deeper, harder, faster.
Yield, I insist upon the cessation of all of this motion for just one moment!
You, don’t move another inch towards the needle, don’t lift that tennis shoe from its connection to the ground, toss that mounting pile of paper work to the side, tell everyone to take a taxi today. This moment, this hour, this day will be sacred. In this moment you will busy yourself with nothing! Your work, your accomplishment, your effort will be the achievement of absolutely nothing at all. Settle into that seat, locate a sturdy park bench, or a shady and cool spot under a giant oak, or perhaps you will lay down in your bed, it matters not as long as you are making time to do nothing at all.
For most of us, it takes practice and effort to develop this superior skill. The ability to relax and even glean wisdom from nothing, but in time you will appreciate the restorative properties to doing nothing because, doing nothing is every bit as vital as doing all of those something’s. Moments of nothing can be brimming with einstienesque inspiration, it is the stillness and quiet that is associated with heightened vital energy. Many people are at first uncomfortable in silence, it is in those moments that the mind begins to speak and we don’t know what to feel about all of these thoughts and sensations pouring from within of us. We are typically seated with television blasted and task at hand, there is most always something that provides a barrier preventing us from hearing that inner voice the speech exuding from the quieted mind. My challenge for you is this, insist upon creating a moments time, at least several days per a week or ideally, each and every day, to sit quietly while doing nothing. Allow stillness to cloak you and with eyes opened or closed, notice the quiet settling within and without, simply be seated and breath, observe your thoughts as they meander by like rotund puffy clouds in a warm summer sky. Simply and calmly be, while at first you may find it challenging to achieve this, I will offer my unequivocal assurance that you are in technical terms “achieving.” In this quiet and calm you are equipping yourself with vitality. As the mind, body, heart rate breathing settle, thinking, feeling, and being improve. With the mind calmly alert one is best able to commune harmoniously with others in performing the thinking tasks associated with living a full life. Some may call this exercise mediation, or prayer, or even time out but I will insist upon titling it nothing, the Italians have a luxuriously simplistic phrase for this, dolce far niente, “the joy of doing nothing.” Nothing hasn’t ever sounded so good. Always remember that it is within balance that harmony is borne, silence projects sound, the yin and the yang, all of those somethings, out of nothing….
by Stephanie McCrackenJuly 2, 2013 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy0 comments
Bliss, contentment, joy, with all of this jolly there is much debate. Are we birthed from our mothers’ wombs and onto the terrestrial sphere with an innate capacity to experience greater abundance of positive vibes or is a happy disposition something that can be nurtured? There are endless varieties of self-help books, and spiritual manuals indicating the gamut of tactics which when put into practice, may help us live a life with greater serenity. As a therapist and a woman who revels in her own personal transformation, I have some simple but powerful tools to share with you which will direct your feelings towards the more ecstatic emotions. Here are some tips for the reader:
1) Letting go of resentment. Whether it is a feud that started 10 years ago or just yesterday, when you hold on to feelings of anger and harbor grudges it is very unhealthy for you. Just like the saying goes, “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick!” Letting go of grudges doesn’t mean that you are saying a wrong doing done to you is ok, it means that you recognize that these emotions do not serve you which is why you are letting them go! It may be helpful to release them ceremoniously, writing a small list and burning it and then burying it somewhere deep within the earths soil, truly putting your woes to rest.
2) Make a regular practice to reflect on gratitude. The feeling of gratitude is one of the most powerful positive emotions; it expands thinking and is composed of light and love. No matter where you are in your life, you surely have some things to be grateful for and the best things are typically the simplest- always keep in mind that the tiny moments are the building blocks of the fabric of your life!
3) Take care of your body! There is much to be said for taking the time to invigorate your limbs with oxygenated blood, allowing them the experience of vigorous contortion. We are animals and our forms are intended for motion. Furthermore, we must be mindful to consume nutritious food. Be sure to eat at least one or two foods a day that are plant based, preferably something out of the skin or rind and not out of the jar. Ancient Chinese medicine indicates that all food has energy, be sure to eat things that are live, healthy and teeming with life force!
4) Focus on the breath. When you take the time to understand your body and realize its
rhythms you are well on your way to living a healthy and happy life! The breath is the elixir which feeds our very living, it has the power to calm, or excite and when you hone in on this process you can begin to exert great power over your own mood. Slowing and deepening for deep relaxation or notice how fast and shallow breathing becomes when we are upset or after a run.
5) Value non-material things. Working is an important part of adult life, making money can feel great because money has the ability to provide for basic material necessities and those little bells and whistles which sure can be fun. Yet, the most important things that we know are our relationships to friends and families, they are the true givers of joy. Remember that when your last hour is nearing, you won’t be thinking about your bank account balance, you will crave nearness with the people who dwell in your heart and mind so make time for them now while your time is long.
6) Discover the joy of doing nothing. Most of us stay so busy maintaining the demands of our work and home duties that the idea of doing nothing comfortably gives us the shivers. Yet because of this it is even more vital that we explore the sensory bliss of truly relaxing into our own minds and bodies, far away from the phone and computer or chatter of mates and children. We will all become a bit happier when we carve out some time to enjoy doing nothing, for you maybe that is simply closing your eyes and breathing in a hot bath, or under the shade of the tree or even turning your back on your computer at work, closing your eyes and guiltlessly dwelling in your own mind for a few blissful minutes.
7) Reacquaint yourself with nature. The most content people have a relationship with and an understanding of nature. All of those forces outside of the self, the inspiration of countless poems and paintings, when we place our attention upon the attunement of our earth, she usually has some messages for us. While she speaks, she calms and there are even new studies which indicate that people who sit, plant, and place themselves near soil are happier and boast heartier immune systems. Despite what your mother may have told you about tracking it in the house, dirt isn’t so bad after all, those live microbes carry some secrets such as disease fighting and there are others who say that direct contact with the ground can have astounding effects on your electromagnetic composition, literally realigning your force field.
Besides any of things what are your suggestions for living a happier life? Please share your own personal tips!
In health and wellness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy