Good bye 2013, A New Year and What Else
by Stephanie McCrackenJanuary 1, 2014 Uncategorized0 comments
“A New Year, A New You!” and many other such positive affirmations are floating about the cool air, sentiments which promote longed for change during this momentous time of the year. This is indeed a very appropriate time for consideration and setting action to goals with no task being too great or too small for one’s devotion! Following are some tips and suggestions which I have compiled throughout the year and I offer them to you in an earnest hope that you all may enjoy the contentment and good health to which you aspire.
Enjoy Sex, Wine, and Rock&Roll! A unit or two of alcohol enjoyed in good company and without the prohibitive factor of having to operate a motor vehicle or heavy machinery is one of many in the myriad of great ways to unwind from time to time! Most of us work hard and if you want to drink a little, why then you very well should! While you are at it, make sure to enjoy some time blissfully frolicking in the abundant pleasures of your physical and sensual body, to be performed safely, and consensually at all times! Music, well that should need no greater explanation—the pleasure we are able to feel from hearing a favorite melody or band may very well be evidence of the divine’s love for humanity!
Everything in moderation including moderation! Rigidity exerts deleterious effects upon the spirit, make room in your life for some indulgence! Want a second piece of pie or to sleep in an extra hour-we must allow ourselves the occasional enjoyment of such niceties!
Take a multi-vitamin! Many of you may have been hearing this since you were very small but more and more scientific evidence is mounting to suggest that in some instances anxiety, depression, and even symptoms similar to schizophrenia can be invoked from the long term effects of being vitamin and mineral deficient! A vitamin is a simple fix which offers infinite protection to your whole physical and ultimately emotional system!
Eat well, rest well, be well! Yes, and yes again! Fruits, veggies and plenty of rest are the corner stones of a strong physical self. With these factors alone you will be well on your way to the best version of you! If you are mentally or physically having a hard time resting, examine this closely and seek to lay to rest that which is preventing you from rest!
Cultivate greater love for yourself! Whether you are in love with what you see when you close your eyes and look inside or when replaying the life and web of relationships that center you or even when simply looking in the mirror. Work on respecting yourself inside and outside! It is important to engage in positive dialogue with yourself and to keep in mind that we will most always be striving for some hallmark beyond the present but it is essential to remain aware and poised in the infinite now!
Lay the past to rest! It is indeed a time to put to rest all that it is no longer serving us, what will best serve you by remaining but a memory for contemplation as we forge the New Year 2014? Allow your heart, intuition, and logic to guide you towards your personal answer to this wizened question and then enjoy the lightness and freedom which comes from the necessary shedding of the old skin. Traveling towards the future untethered from burdens is certainly an act which will serve all of your tomorrows!
Open yourself to new experiences! Step fearlessly into the unknown, nothing stays the same forever and the more that we make room in our lives for the new, the greater our potential for transformation. Whether you are one who revels in novelty or feebly attempts to maintain the familiar it is always invigorating to see or feel something new!
Seek your inner opposite! It is in fact an ever evolving, life-long process to know yourself. I will still encourage you to undergo inner examination and then look for what hidden characteristics remain unexpressed by your current manner of being. We often find our best balance by merging in such a way!
Fall passionately in love! Life becomes simply sensational when we uncover room for passion, whether that is in the form of an idea, theory, project or a person, the thrill of exhilarated and focused attention will be the feeling which sets your sails in full motion adding meaning and bliss to your life!
Choose compassion over being right So many relationships suffer because our egos become gridlocked in the pattern of trying to be correct instead of being understanding and loving towards our partners and loved ones! Keep this in mind and always remember it is our kindness and care which nurtures those that surround us!
Nurture the buds and blossoms- The buds and blossoms are the yearnings of light and intention in your spirit as well as a relationship to the natural universe. The earth and greater universe support and sustain all animal life and we are always benefited by admiring and relating to it!
A wish for a happy healthy and well balanced new year to all of you out there in cyberspace!
Stephanie McCracken MS, LPC, NBCC
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
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
Breathe, Tips from Psychotherapy on Relaxation
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
A World of Wellness and Psychotherapy
by Stephanie McCrackenOctober 11, 2013 Uncategorized0 comments
Wellness seems to have become one of those kitschy buzzwords, ever floating about, an aspiration, a lofty goal, just another on the list as “something for those other people.” As provocative or anxiety inducing as the term may be for you, it does comprise some ambitious and noteworthy components for the average person struggling to make ends meet while juggling a 9-5 and a house full of other attention demanding cues. Despite what we may often try to ignore, it is in our own best interest as well as the best interest of all of those around us, to regularly checkin with ourselves. By taking some time to reflect, we can determine whether we are taking advantage of the best and most well informed information to guide our self-care plan. If the term self-care plan makes you gasp or giggle, that’s ok too, often it is simply the act of being mindful of the important areas of functioning and turning up your your inner voice, you will be on your way in the right direction.
You may be well served to ask yourself,
“How am I maintaining balance in my life?”
“How is your mood, energy, and appetite?”
“How are your relationships?”
“How do you feel about yourself?”
What is it like to reflect upon yourself in such a way? Are these questions which you often do not ask yourself because for one reason or another? Wellness counseling is the exploration of external and internal behaviors which are preventing you from achieving the wholeness and health for which you may be striving. Often as humans we have a long list of wants, such as losing a few pounds, having greater energy, finishing the last parts of our dissertation, keeping our home in better order, being a better parent/child/spouse. If this sounds like you, you very likely may be feeling frustrated and stagnant if your desire to achieve is stilted buy some level of conscious but very amendable behavior. As a therapist who is also very well versed in the relationship between the mind, body, and the many layers of self, I understand that it is important to formulate a life plan which is inclusive of wellness and heath related goals that often extend beyond the benefits of psychotherapy. Together we can work on a new template for life which will encourage and enhance your preexisting strengths and also identify and remove those tendencies which are preventing your complete holistic optimization. Some of the non-traditional areas for which I may be able to help include,
- Breath work
- Dietary examination including your relationship with food
- Health related goals
- Emotions and enhancing your relationship with yourself
- Goal Obtainment
If any of these goals are something that you think you may be interested in pursuing, come in for a free consultation where we can talk about how to get you started on the path to true wellness. At Reviving Minds, we understand that your true human nature is to be vibrant and healthy and with an outside perspective you will have a greater opportunity to grow beyond the self-defeating thoughts and behaviors and instead you will move into a position where you be at your best, exuding contentment and health!
Feel well, live well, be well!
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
Reiki, Raising Vibrations, Energy Cleanse!
by Stephanie McCrackenOctober 1, 2013 counseling, meditation, mindfulness, reiki, reiki, therapist, therapy, Uncategorized, wellness0 comments
Reiki is an ancient energy and healing technique. Imagine the setting as your Reiki master, attunes to you, tuning in on the subtly flowing outpour of your qui, slowly places her hands above key chakra points on your physical body. The result is the clearing of energy blockages, using a philosophy similarly to that which allows acupuncturists to heal the physical body. The Reiki master works on the Qui, ki, or chi, the life force that exudes from each human and object; once the blockages are healed health is restored. Reiki is valued for its ability to enhance peacefulness, raise and expand ones vibrations as well as soothe emotional turmoil, helps to reduce anxiety, stress or depression. There are many people who state that Reiki has helped to soothe their addiction or behavioral problems as well as to heal biological ailments, and for some, even transcend the physical realm and enter the spiritual. Reiki is a spiritual experience and space where you work on expanding and enhancing the spiritual body. Many local hospitals are now working with Reiki practitioners, having them perform this healing on their sick patients to relax and reduce healing time.
The knowledge of this energetic presence has a fascinating derivation. It is said that all Reiki Practitioners receive their abilities through the essence of the great Reiki master, Usui, who long ago sat atop a mountain in Japan. Usui’s ascension occurred in the midst of a 21 day meditation; it was during the last day that cosmic and ancient wisdom was revealed to him. Usui, with his new found ability became a great healer; it was only later in his life that he began to share this power with a select few, who then shared it with still a few more. The process towards becoming a Reiki master is time honored and much coveted, only one who has reached the highest master level is able to transfer the full vibratory force from one person to the next.
Some people may be confused as to how Reiki is different from a massage. At The Counseling and Wellness Center, individual Reiki sessions begin with the receiver laying atop a traditional massage table and in some cases a chair. Reiki makes use of very light touch and often no touching at all. The Reiki practitioner serves as a channel for the divine energy which flows through each person, this energy outpours from the practitioner’s hands into the points on the recipient’s body, mind, or spirit, which are calling the practitioners sacred knowingness towards healing. The Reiki master is also able to work from a distance by calling upon the power of ancient symbology, through distance Reiki, the master need not be in any close proximity to send the necessary vitality to the recipient.
Reiki is effective in many forms, we offer Reiki for groups, Reiki certification training for practitioners, as well as Reiki for pets.
Group reiki differs from individual, group reiki is done by invoking a meditative setting, the participants will enter a space that may contain soft music, incense and candles. The Reiki master will ask that each person takes a seat as they are guided through a brief guided imagery meditation. Through the progress of the meditation the master will have you contact the divine energy or a sacred seat of wisdom within your self. By giving the participant the opportunity to focus on the mechanics of breathing, you will find yourself in the depths of relaxation. The Reiki master will encourage your conversation with your internal dialogue and he or she, in communion with her own divine self, may even be in receipt of a message for you. You can expect to hear unintelligible chanting that speaks to your unconscious parts, drumming, tuning forks, and bells. Sometimes the participant can expect to be physically touched in one of the Reiki points which are the houses of your chakra energy sources. The Reiki master will work to unblock traumas or point of angst in an effort for your energy to flow in a more harmonious and attuned manner which is the natural flow of your true self. The Reiki master will likely encourage you to drink extra water after your session and for the days to come. Just as the ancient and first Reiki Master Usui meditated for 21 days, Reiki continues to do its work on your physical, emotional, and spiritual self for 21 days to come.
Many people find it helpful to incorporate the bi-weekly or monthly practice of Reiki into their wellness program. The opportunity to focus on breathing and relaxation instills other areas of life with greater bliss and creativity, there are some that even taut some rather astonishing spiritual benefits that have come from their Reiki practice. We will depart from this petite explication while leaving you the reader with the encouragement to continue growing and discovering all of the many parts to yourself and the universe which may compel and enchant you!
In Health and Wellness,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233Learn More