by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 21, 2016 counseling, educational, meditation, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, therapy, wellness0 comments
Often when people like you and I hear the word meditation we imagine mystics high atop a mountain, something that is suited for seekers of enlightenment only. Yet many of us have often nurtured a hint of envy for their calm and serenity. Through mindfulness, the benefits of meditation become relevant and translatable here, far away from the brisk mountaintop and practiced in the concrete and bustling atmosphere of our cities and suburbs. Yet still, what is it?
Mindfulness allows us to deepen our awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we are then free from the constraints of reflexivness and replace it with reflectiveness. Mindfulness peels away the mechanisms of one’s consciousness. Mindfulness has tangible benefits too, it reduces anxiety, it reduces stress, it enhances peace and calm, mindfulness helps us love each other a little more, helps us love ourselves better.
We begin by differentiating that which is a reflexive and irrational thought from those thoughts which are adaptive and soothing. When we become mindful in the choosing of the quality of our thoughts we are then free, free to choose direction, behavior, free to assert direction in the gap between our thoughts and the actions we choose to embody.
Mindfulness is about slowing down, we encourage the reader to do some breathing meditation to first connect with breathing, by doing some long slow inhalations and exhalations, and notice the kinds of thoughts that float through the mind or consciousness as you complete 5-10 minutes of deep breathing. To begin your journey toward mindfulness, journaling may be helpful, even if this is as simply, writing down a few words that capture the quality of the thoughts that one may be experiencing as they do the meditation.
An example of this might be, when you are seated doing the breathing your thoughts keep wandering, as thoughts always do, some of the thoughts that come up are, you are wondering if you are doing the breathing right, wondering if you look silly, thinking about lunch. All of these thoughts are perfectly natural, the point is to notice which thoughts are flitting through your mind, to really deepen breathing and maybe for a few moments at a time to zero in on the rush of the air coming in and out of the nose. It really is that simple and when practiced regularly, this has incredible effects on the body from lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety and stress, helping reduce anger and problems associated with conflict, enhance our relationships with ourselves and others.
A good quote that helps us to understand where we are in a moment is as follows, “when we are thinking of the past, we are often feeling depressed, when we are thinking of the future, we are often feeling anxious, when we are in the present, then we have peace.” Buddhist Mantra.
In peace and love,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 9, 2016 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, popular culture, psychology, wellness, wisdom0 comments
“Peace Out Happiness; Why letting go of Happy may make us more Healthy ”
In psychology, in pop culture, in our songs and movies, our social media, we hear words and anthems which suggest that all the world is happy or in search of happy. “Happy” is the new salvation, happiness is quantified, we travel the globe, move our homes and families, friends coach each other through break ups by saying things like “it’s for the best, you weren’t happy.” We take pills, we change directions, we do it all on the quest for the place where we can experience this Holy Grail. Happy is one of those feeling states kind of like love, it means something a slightly different to everyone. What most people mean when they say that they are feeling happy is really more of an ecstatic sensation brought on from external stimulation. We eat, we shop, we serial date, and we orgasm our way into euphoric happy but it’s likely that it’s never enough because this happy is always fleeting leaving us with the notion that something is missing, so begin cycle again, more eating, more shopping, more dating and on and on. Perhaps even most of all, notice the way we judge ourselves or lapse into despair when we inevitably come crashing into the notion that perhaps we are not “happy,” we feel like a failure at life, imagining that everyone else has some secret to being that we have not. Yet maybe, just maybe we are ok just as we are without all of the trappings of that five letter word.
Our proverbial quest changes the moment that we notice that these fleeting sensations are the cheap imitation version of long standing peace. We have been tricked, happiness is a fallacy, balloons bursting, drum roll stopping, external states of joy or daft manic amusements are no place by which to chart the life map. In the misguided journey, happiness will always be a place ahead, sometime in the future looming on a distant horizon. “After the promotion, after the next high dollar sports car, when I graduate school, after we are married, when our first child is born.” Happiness, peace, a space where we can stop and take a breath, the life marker where the “aha’ moment presents itself and the final sense of accomplishment graces our countenance. Be cautious traveler, searching for the treasure trove called happiness will throw off the compass, encouraging the bypassing of eternal states such as peace and serenity which are by far more sustainable emotional destinations.
We can nurture peace when we are living our life in balance, hard things will present themselves but we will assimilate and understands those things and we will allow them to pass by in their right time. Happiness can’t be sustained through the weathers of lost jobs, parking tickets, gossip mongers, accidents and hurtles but serenity, the far more virtuoso milestone can. Yet we know there will be days when happiness will stop by, she will sit down for an afternoon visit, we will always enjoy entertaining her but we know that she must ever move along on her Sunday drive, and we respect this, never demanding that she remain seated for yet another serving of our crumpets, frantic in our fears that the lovely face of happiness may never come again. That which we allow to come and go freely shall remain yet that to which we cling will forever suffocate and seek to escape us.
Our sense of serenity, the little kernel of you which is based upon confidence in personal integrity, the security which knows that whatever may come will be handled with wisdom, we are seasoned captains of our own vessel, when we notice that we have veered into some familiar or odd storm ridden sea which challenges our equilibrium and decimates our sense of peace, fear seizes the cloaked night as we are cradled in the turbulent arms of high winds and sea sprays, white knuckled grasping the helm. The captain allows the winds to die down and high seas ebb away without disturbing his peace.
Storms happen, life happens but peace can remain even in the midst of change, chaos, destruction. Peace is more profound than euphoria, more enduring than pleasure and more tangible than happy. Perhaps the flower children of the 60’s had something right with their peace mantra, maybe we can find a way to come back to that, when we make our life goals, our relationship goals, when we weigh and assess how we are living our life, maybe rather than ask, “am I happy?” or “were we happy together?” “will this new job make me happy?” maybe a better question to ask, “is this allowing me to hold on to my sense of peace?”
Peace and Love…
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Contributed by Stephanie McCracken MSPC
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenMarch 24, 2014 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, Uncategorized0 comments
At long last spring is finally before us, warming sun beams serve as a reminder that winters darkness is ebbing, unfolding to a new time of the year. Before we can finish with a blink of an eye the landscape will be blushing a cool green, the growth of all that only a month ago, was cloaked in hardened winter, a stern remembrance of the branches and twigs formerly befallen with the chilled stagnation of ice and snow. Even the icebergs which were suffocating the rivers and ponds eternal flow have graciously thawed just as do our hearts, mind, beingness—that is if we remain afloat in the process of growing. With springs return we may feel lighter, more content, responding to greater amounts sunlight and warmth, with each day we move further from the Vernal Equinox our knowingness is assured, spring is here. Motivation energizes the spirit which wants to follow the pristine example of the landscape by becoming something even greater, brighter, and more beautiful, on the inside. Some of us create grand plans to dig out our dust pans and mops, rearrange the furniture, switch out our fall and winter wardrobe for the pastels of the season, go all out and do a round of spring cleaning. Like our mothers or fathers and their grandparents before them making use of this special transition to arrange our world into a cleaner and more comfortable environment in preparation for springs blossoming. Perhaps you turn to the instructional mechanisms of Feng shui or some other method to order your environment. Yet the outside, well that has always been the easiest part to wield ones growing sense of mastery, if you really want to challenge your springs cleaning efforts this year, you may want to assess the mechanisms which sustain your internal world by utilizing psychotherapy. All of those thoughts, emotions turned behaviors, reaching their roots as far back as you can recall into the very earliest memories that thought can conjure. I beg you to ask, in what areas do you aim to grow this spring?
This winter has beckoned me to consider the effects of ferocity and holding on far too long. What are some things which you are holding within, exuding to the external? Is there a pattern which you use to shape your interactions with others, can you see it, are you ready to examine this tender area or is it still more safe and familiar to linger in blaming and projections of fears and anxiety? Is there a relationship which you should fix or let go in order to best serve your growth? If you’re imaging that the answer is “yes” then consider a step further, what lessons does this negative interaction hold for you and about you? When you scrape the dust from the long ago blurry mirror and examine your very own image, perhaps you notice a stark face returning your gaze, but what do you really see my friend? Who hides in your shadows?
The earth makes its revolution, revolving 1 time in every 24 hours, our planet is ever in orbit, a seasonal change impending, we feel it, and we must consider how should we change too? Nature is an insistent instructor forever whispering her lessons of change. It is very sad to see those who are ever seeking to remain the same, not recognizing the stages and changes in life, in a solemn and straight trajectory they insist that yesterday should indicate the forecast for tomorrow—yet the best leaders and most well adapted humans accept and thrive through change, allowing it to shape and mold their actions and using it as fuel for their becoming. Ones best course of action through time of change is to examine and then create ones intentions, a typical effort within counseling and therapy. Allow change to unfold by clearing out mental and physical space for spring’s shiny new growth to blossom. Use your mental broom to push stagnant thoughts and behaviors back into the muddy earth and replace them with those which sustain the tender budding life, the new growth, both within and without. Bloom Bright and Blossom Beauty!
In Loving Encouragement,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa
15233 Suite 100
by Stephanie McCrackenOctober 15, 2013 counseling, couples counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, Uncategorized0 comments
There is great wisdom in the seasons, the rhythms of the earth. I admire the leaves, those curious objects transitioning in brilliant metamorphosis. They motion from soft and green to reds, orange, and rust while becoming dry and brittle, forming a carpet upon the earth in their final descent. Yes, the earth has many lessons for us; mere mortals. In spring she takes in, blossoming and growing but with time, she wilts and in a dazzling display, she falls, letting the leaves, flowers, cones and the like, all go back into herself. I often see many people in the world and in my office, even myself at times, who struggle to “let go.”
Past pains, disappointments, greedily lending themselves to calcified resentment. It is that little man perched atop the watchtower of the soul, waiting for another insult or injury from our loved one or family member. Sometimes our little internal watchman becomes hyper-vigilant, ever wanting to prevent our spirits from being scathed. When too many hurts have been accumulated, our memories becomes infiltrated with all of those winces, from the chronically late boyfriend, our ever critical mother, the sister that is always undermining your happiness, these things we remember! The problem is that we often remember too well, it is indeed a part of a healthy longing to protect ourselves from those who would hurt us. So we store away these abundant notations about others, retrieving the data in the future, making an effort to “duck” before the next blow is hurled. Often when we store away so much angst pertaining to specific others, we will become too quick to react, overflowing with hurt or anger in even minor instances. We hold fast to our internal list of wrong doing and to those who will listen we complain and wallow at the injustice of “others” who pain us! There is a normal and healthy amount of time to complain or be upset at the injustices or insults which will inevitably be hurled at us in this life. Yet I must ask, how useful is it to continue to hold on to anger and resentment?
One of my favorite anonymous quotes is “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get die.” Often with our lists of anger, we are exclusively causing injury to ourselves! As it often is with human foible, the very mechanisms which may serve to protect us, become the source of our very own brand of strife! If you will allow yourself to reflect honestly, each time you recount the story of your critical mom, failure to thrive brother, masochistic professor, it really only makes you upset again. The physical and emotional stress that results from accumulating our lists of hurts may lead to coronary disease, somatic illness, angry explosions, drug or alcohol abuse, and may be related to mental health disorders such as depression. Forgiveness and the ability to move beyond the sins of our foes is an ability that will serve you very well, even if you don’t think you’re (insert explicative) boss/girlfriend/ex deserves your forgiveness, it may be time for you to consider letting things go for your own health and wellbeing.
There is wisdom in forgiveness, each of the major religious gurus speaks abundantly upon the topic, for example Jesus Christ, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Along with the Dalai Lama who even wrote a book titled The Wisdom of Forgiveness, he states it eloquently with “All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion, and forgiveness, the important thing is that they should be a part of your daily life.” We should also remember Mahatma Gandhi who is quoted as saying, “The weak can never forgive, and forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” I am not a spiritual leader, I am only a psychotherapist, a woman who struggles with the very same human dilemmas as all of the rest of you, yet I will recommend that you take the time to lay to rest those angers, hurts, and pains.
Take a long hard look, maybe even make a list of all of the grudges that you are needlessly carrying with you. Accept them, remember them, I have even suggested that some clients wrap that list around a rock and carry it with them everywhere for a week. Then when the week is over, take the time to think about your experience in lugging a heavy and burdensome weight in your pocket. When your week is over, the time is up, lay it to rest. As a clinician who respects traditions and rituals, perhaps making a ceremony of it will help you to solidify the process of letting go. Bury it, burn it, burn it and bury it, rip it up. Whatever you do, let it go and don’t set off searching for its remains. Allow it to be over, not for the other person who has hurt you, but because you love yourself enough to not sit with toxicity in your blood. Because peace and serenity are your goals, because Gandhi, Jesus Christ, and the Dalai Lama said so, let go of resentment and make some room for more love, peace, and contentment. In a Technicolor array of splendor like the leaves twirling from the sturdy oaks to rest peacefully atop the fall earth, may it decay into next year’s nutrient rich soil.
In peace and love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233Learn More
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