by Stephanie McCrackenSeptember 23, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, mindfulness, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
Tight Hugs I Like; A Psychotherapists Musings
It could be risky to admit this but here it goes anyway, I judge people, in social settings I categorize to such a grand degree, some may say I can hardly help myself. You see, I rank people based on how they hug. When it comes to hugs, they are certainly not all the same. For example, my grandmother, she was a woman who knew how to wallop out a good old-fashioned, full on, closed-arm, hug. Of course she was blessed with a constitution of advantages being a billowy woman who with her puffy arms was capable of ensconcing me in a way that warmly emitted rapture. When I am meeting, enjoying, and connecting, I always cherish most those folks who know how to put extra endurance on the squeeze, those are my people the kind, warm, close, hug-loving people.
Hugs are kind of like the word “love” in regards to the way we have come to dole them out socially. We hug upon meeting and greeting, at every social and familial function, it’s inextricably woven into the fabric of our social essence yet I wonder if the more that we do it, the less care we pause to exert that extra “umph” into its meaning and effort, somehow causing it to lose its magical luster. Like the carelessly tossed “love you” which punctuates the end of conversations over iPhones and peppered unto friendly discourses. The whole thing makes me melancholy, myself being a women known to exhibit a propensity for intensities of passion, I know that the altitudes of love are not unleashed when we lube up every good bye with “luv you.” My fiancé and I have a rule between us that we only say those words when we are superbly overcome with loves sentiments and can offer proper tone and intimations to its grander meaning and I think hugs should be the same.
We can enter a discussion into the mounting scientific evidence which identifies oxytocin and other alchemical neurochemicals and their vast proliferation upon the synapse during human contact, a full 20 second hug ranks best in stress relief, bonding, relationship healing, it’s sort of like a love serum. Yet I really only need to think about the mutually enveloping sensation provoked upon a tight, warm, and long hug and I already know- this is the sweet spot, this is indeed where the magic happens; tight hugs I like.
Perhaps we best know the tight hug by its inverse, the dowdy anticlimax of the one-armed, limited contact encounter, this is the person who offers one limp and paltry arm to the embrace, their hand barely grazing the others back. Sort of like its phony cousin, the air-kiss, quite popular in Europe and Hollywood. These pseudo-signs of affectionate encounter make me wonder “Good gracious Darling!!! Why are we even bothering with a hug?!” Perhaps these people are better temperamentally suited for handshakes or high fives, which is simply fine but please don’t spoil the hug. Still there are others who fumblingly attempt the hug with a gapping distance between their bodies, as they lean in with their chest, their hand taps upon their would-be comrades back. I watch imagining that fluttering hand so close to a warm embrace yet the hand will not rest nor envelop their friend, they will not anchor them down, pulling friends nor acquaintances in, ever missing the full embrace. I sigh watching their leaning chests and tapping hands, saddened by what I imagine to be their trembling fear of connection.
Perhaps I am a romantic as somewhere in my heart of hearts I know that maybe some of us are destined to be less than adequate huggers, the ecstasy of a limb-locked, enduring hug is not something that one can enjoy with everyone. The dreamer in me is helpless to float upon imaginary visions of a world teeming with propensities towards deep, soul-strewn connection, flowery displays of oozing, syrupy, love. Where we hug it out in the market place with arms firmly enveloping the neck, with chests pressing chest, body rocked embraces like pillars of hope amidst the coffee shops and promenades. Can you imagine such a place, an earth where we envelop each other more freely and shamelessly, where hugs mean something and the tight vibration of muscles grid locked around each other thrumming into the hollows of our insides, where we move into the distances, stomping out those numbing chasms and we commence upon celebration of full bodies connections. Tight hugs I like.
Exuding robust love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh pa 15233
412-322-2129 [contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]Learn More
by Stephanie McCrackenSeptember 4, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, elephant journal, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
As written by us and featured in Elephant Journal http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/09/serenaded-by-fire-dancing-with-anger-a-psychotherapists-musings-stephanie-mccracken/
Experiencing and acting upon anger, despite its steeping potentials, is often shrouded in uncertainty and even guilt or shame, causing many people to attempt its subterranean burial. Due to cultural and early childhood learning, anger is only given an opportunity to only to be exhumed by accessing deeper levels of consciousness. This cultural urging to truncate human richness towards the effort of appearing uni-dimensional, saccharine and serene may be especially felt by woman, “be a good girl” they say. Despite valiant efforts to remain superiorly cool, even the most grandiose attempt to dismiss anger will result in its manifestation in less healthy manners. Perhaps you are a person who has been accused of yelling or other frenetic outburst to which you adamantly deny, then this reflection may resonate with your unconscious yearning for wholeness and serve as an impetus towards allowing some of the disavowed aggression to lovingly bubble forth.
In the range of the human emotional experience, anger is a vital, valid, and often in containment of a message. Anger is alphabetically close to danger but this too means that anger has a protective function. Whether the sensation of anger propels our action to ensconce and protect the rainforest from loggers or our child from the grips of a bully, anger is an activating emotion. On a cellular level when anger erupts we will likely notice an acceleration of heart rate, pupil dilation, vasodilation, all similar to panic and anxiety these would have allowed us to evolve in our prehistoric forms by seeing better, running harder, and accessing our reserve of strength. For some this is a rapid and temporarily irreversible ascension which will require some time spent self-soothing to reenter the terrestrial atmosphere. In fact, within couples therapy and marriage counseling it is noted that divergent conflict resolution needs are a common theme, it becomes essential to understand what yours is and how it interacts with those around you with the aim of growing towards health and balance.
It is not only relationships which may benefit from a better relationship with anger, modern science supports that repeatedly experiencing activating emotions renders a tantamount physical and emotional bill. Such as the case of the “type A personality” those with the monumental drive to make the world one conquest are also often noted to linger on the precipice of fiery anger. This puts them at continued risk for heart disease, hypertension, and additionally the social cost that can come for those that motion in a perpetually haughty dance with angers tempo. Allow us to admit just this one thing, whether it be culturally or from our families many of us learn, to our detriment, that there is something dangerous or forbidden about the outward expression of anger. Perhaps it is that we will be consumed by experiencing it or act out in a way that is unacceptable, which may lead to repression of the feeling thereby becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy as those things we wish to bury almost always evidence themselves in more dramatic and unexpected ways. Provided that we recognize and utilize our emotions in a productive and socially responsible manner, angers energy has the potential to become a beneficial driving force!
From Repression to Expression With heightened and hot emotions like anger there may be some cultural and personal sentiments which discourage the human experience by placing an added layer of shame, guilt, or doubt upon the expression of negative feelings, even if done in the most appropriate and effective of manners. The real challenge may be in encouraging a person who practices repression that they are even experiencing such feelings, particularly if they have learned from an early age that the expression of such feelings is unsafe as we see with victims of trauma and abuse.
Unveiling The Masking of Anger The multitude of colors and ensembles with which anger is known to present itself can be bewildering. From the exceedingly calm demeanor which may only display a mild tightening of the area around the lips, to the full out adult temper tantrum and there are even those who utilize passive aggression to make their inner world become evident, anger is indeed a human universal as much as some may wish to dismiss its being.
In recognizing aggressive and animalistic impulses we seek to nurture a healthy degree of fire, without being dominated by unconscious aggression. Even for the good girl, the journey towards wholeness and mindfulness will require that we first prioritize a relationship with our inner self to begin to recognize our anger, respect the sensation and then work within the pause between thought/feeling and action to formulate an appropriate response to anger. Some questions that you may want to ask of yourself- What happens for our internal sanctum as the heart thrums faster and the embers flicker towards rising heat? Do we trust our ability to communicate effectively in a hot state or are we the kind of person who needs a cooling off period to navigate a high level of frustration? When was the last time that you expressed anger and what emotions come up for you as you consider your expression of this human sensation? The point is that provided we are being mindful and authentic we are best honoring ourselves and our bountifully rich human experience.
In robust wholeness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Psychotherapist offering Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233Learn More
by Stephanie McCrackenApril 30, 2014 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
Who among us has not suffered from feelings of anxiety at some point in his or her life, it is common enough to be among the more often seen symptoms which bring an individual into a therapist’s office. Even for the most staunchly healthy psyches anxiety is a typical benchmark which exists in a range of degrees within the human emotive process. Depending upon you as the individual and the technical approach of your clinician you may be offered a multitude of conflicting remedies to intervene upon that which is ailing you.
There are the wildly popular pharmacological interventions such as Xanax or Valium, while widely popular these interventions do nothing to examine the “how’s” or “why’s” of an anxious feeling. These interventions assume that an increased cardiovascular response, heightened worry, tense muscles, sleepless nights, feelings of agitation are all in the physical realm yet quite mysterious. Indeed anxiety in its more insidious form is a grave health concern so it is with accolades that I note the vast number of humans seeking treatment to escape its grips. There is something inexplicably disconcerting about the hyper arousal of anxiety which compels one towards a greater risk for many other issues health issues such as addictions, depression, coronary heart disease, even eroding the erectile function of both the male and female, to name but a few.
Most of us recognize that there are yet other forms of anxiety which are our “bon amie,” the kind which compels our actions for good causes such as self and social betterment. Without a touch of anxiety one may hit the snooze button each and every morning and drop out of society all together. Yet for our purposes we will consider the more sinister form with its wanton undesirability which causes many to seek its avoidance at all costs. There are vastly varied approaches within the medical community in terms of treatment of anxiety, there are folk remedies, homeopathic remedies, new age methods, each with their unique utility. Yet most all of these interventions lavish attention upon the amelioration of physical symptoms but may from sheer neglect, fail to examine the psychological underpinnings of anxiety itself. For those who do experience the necessity of utilizing anti-anxiety medication it is an empirically validated fact that the best therapeutic outcomes exists for individuals who make use of psychotherapeutic settings simultaneously. It is within the psychotherapeutic setting that the focus is cast specifically upon the unique psychology which may be breeding and offering sustenance to an overabundance of anxiety. Allow the remainder of this small essay to offer a rudimentary overview of some of the more typical sources of psychological anxiety.
Significant Life Changes
This form of anxiety is a reaction to some looming occurrence which has skated its way across your horizon, it may be adaptive and is completely natural. Many of us thrive upon constancy, as much as this tendency is at odds with the nature of the universe, inevitably we experience some anxiety while changing jobs, graduating, marrying, divorcing etc. While it is normal to exhibit some emotional reaction to such transitions be mindful to give extra care to yourself even during those joyous transitions. For any anxious feeling that continues to gnaw at your innards, give yourself some time to thoroughly examine all of your thoughts surrounding the (fill in blank) transition. This reflection affords the opportunity to hone in on any ways your emotional self may be beckoning you towards a closer look at something that your conscious awareness is not seeing completely.
The more that we attempt to repress our emotional experience the more that they tend to rupture forth in greatly unmanageable ways. Perhaps you are a product of early learning which valued emotional repression and lack of expressiveness. In some way you may have learned early or later in life that it is dangerous or taboo to talk about feelings or even notice that they exist for you, yet the vast and unstoppable torrent of the feeling state will not be escaped. This form of anxiety or panic urges the person towards understanding and experiencing of inner awareness and emotional expression.
The exactitude and finite nature of time is stated by some to be the source of all anxiety. What is it that you will you do with your precious earthly allowance? By becoming more aware of lapsing time, acknowledging that life proffers beauteous opportunity, love, and abundance still too, how will you cope with mounting defeats, losses, and unrealized potentials? Ones highest hope is to make father time ones friend, utilizing our human energies to compel feats which contribute to human progress. For you that may mean many things, to raise a family, build computer software, tend the forest, love deeply, the myriad meanings for the human riddle.
For some of us it is alarming to consider doing something that risks ones perceived control over ones surroundings. That could mean riding in an airplane, making interpersonal changes like developing new relationships, people are the ultimate unknown variables full of competing needs and possibilities. Will you be able to extend the risk of letting go of the known order to enjoy the potentials?
While this is in no way an exhaustive exploration of that powerful human indicator named anxiety it is something that may compel one to begin to relate to it in a slightly different manner. Perhaps it is time to consider its possibilities, its latent messages, it may one with greater respect for behoove one to not simply extinguish an anxious feeling with a pill or an exercise but to sit with it, even for just a moment, entering its heart palpating, dizzying sensation, in reverential respect for its utility and possibility as an psychic indicator. There is an understanding that in most cases, under the layers of any symptom are a fortunate beckoning towards the best version of yourself, the unrelinquishable layers of consciousness which insist that ideals will be felt and known.
In good health and energy,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Ave
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
*This article does not intend to diagnose, treat, or in any way address an anxiety disorder or supplant psychological or medical advice. This is intended for your consideration only.
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 McCrackenJanuary 21, 2014 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy, Uncategorized0 comments
It’s the time of the year for chills up and down the back, and not the kind that are associated with pleasure unless of course you are polar bear, seal pup, or avid skier! All of us here in the blustery northern hemisphere are struggling to maintain some semblance of energy and optimism yet we may find ourselves faltering with the realities of cabin fevers’ stillness upon us. In fact, according to a mental health organization in the UK this is quantifiably the most depressing portion of the year. The formula calculates: weather=W, debt=d, time since Christmas=T, time since failing our new year’s resolutions=Q, low motivational levels=M and the feeling of a need to take action=Na. The date usually falls within the second or third week of January highlighting the worst of the winter blues.
Arctic air, decreased sunlight , wind advisories and slightly lower energy levels all work together to compel a human version of hibernation. Sometimes so much stillness induces feelings of boredom and restlessness known as cabin fever and other all too familiar notions such as the winter blues, a very mild form of depression. A subtle difference in energy can be expected but if you are experiencing a more dramatic and sudden change in mood or energy, beyond what is normal or even a mild change for an extended period of time, you should talk with a mental health or medical professional. For those of us who have had it with sluggishness and staring at the same four walls please enjoy the enclosed suggestions which are sure to offer some reprieve to the winter doldrums. Before sharing some tips, I will ask you a reflective question; what can be learned from the quiet and stillness which is upon us? There is indeed something balanced in the calm of the winters freeze, all of life seems to slow and with the quiet one may even be able to discern the hushed sound of each of the individual snowflakes falling. What wisdom are you able to obtain in this year’s winter reflection?
Enjoy the freeze my friends and here are some of my favorite ways to keep your mind, body, and spirit warm and well during this year’s frost!
*Eating seasonable local vegetables will vitalize your body. There is wisdom in syncing up with the earths offerings such as beets, root vegetables, cabbages, coniferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are all a bit higher in sugar which will give you a boost of natural energy that your body is likely craving!
*Don’t like veggies? I bet you like ice cream—there are multiple creative options to enjoy the snow, just stay away from the yellow kind! Find yourself a pristine patch of freshly fallen flakes and follow the link for recipes including more obvious treats such as snow cones, ice cream, and even pancakes! These are also great activities to enjoy with the kids! http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/food/index.ssf/2014/01/try_these_snow-based_recipes.html
*If you can’t beat them, join them! Merge with the cool air by taking advantage of outdoor activities such as skiing, snow-tubing, and ice skating. With the proper cold weather apparel you will welcome some time outside of the home!
*I have written about sun gazing before and it is indeed a highly effective mood and energy booster, with the wind and cold air advisories you still may be able to take advantage of some solar meditation through a window. If that isn’t possible or for an alternate exercise, try to meditate upon a candle flame, breathing fully and with your wide-eyed gazing upon its mini solar radiance spindling about.
*My own favorite cold weather activity is hot yoga which allows me to bask as though I reside in the tropics! If you are less than athletic, take advantage of a sauna, many of the local gyms and spas feature them and will typically allow you to purchase a day pass.
*Unleash your inner nerd by utilizing boric acid to create of rainbow burning pine cones for the fireplace or even light bulbs made of snow! Follow the link for instruction. http://www.dvice.com/2013-1-29/14-geeky-and-unusual-winter-activities-fun-cold
*With all of this time indoors be sure your furnaces filter is changed the recommended 3-6months. Your lungs will thank you and also keep in mind that you still need extra hydration! The heated air tends to be very drying and your body will require much more water than you typically consume.
If you have a favorite cold weather activity or suggestion, please feel free to share!
Sending warm wishes for health and wellness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
1010 Western Ave
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
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
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 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 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
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