Choose your community wisely.

Continuing our theme of enriching the soil for life long good health, in this post I will talk about the importance of our community in which we live. I will use the word ‘community’ in a wider sense than the usual meaning; it will also include sense of connectedness and formation of social networks with other individuals in that community. So this includes all of our relationships with each other, including family, friends,work colleagues, acquaintances and strangers; as well as the relationships with the broader world, to the universe and the  community in which we live. I am using this wider sense because we are social beings, and we as individuals can only flourish in a good, wholesome, fertile Eco-system.

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Eco system that promotes stress will cause ill-health. Studies show living in communities that are stressful and cause unhappiness contribute to ill-health and in communities where there is happiness and contentment are health promoting.

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Our Eco-system starts with our families and on that we may not have a choice. If possible we would want to experience in our family a wide range of emotions without fear of harsh judgement and with over all feeling of  happiness, feeling of being safe and supported;  and also having a sense of  unconditional love. In this kind of environment we produce less toxic hormone in our bodies. We are able to learn from our mistakes and grow. We can explore and can afford to be adventurous. Of course the opposite is true when our family environment is not supportive but is  judgmental and so resulting in us shutting down, unable to share our emotional life. The first situation as you can imagine is ‘life giving’ and the second situation is ‘stifling and life draining.’

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Friendship can be mutually beneficial in different ways. The best friendship, according to Aristotle  is that in which both individuals are equally virtuous and never do any harm to each other, to do so would be against their nature; and they have mutual love for each other. Lesser friendships are where there is limited mutual benefit through the association.

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The further away we move from our association with family and friends, to work associates, acquaintances and strangers our reasons for association become more limited but these associations still can have significant impact on us depending on whether the relationship is stressful or not.

The sense of the relationship to our neighborhood should be where its safe to be there without coming to harm from individuals, noise and pollution.

We also want to have the sense that we are not poisoning our planet and we want to leave behind a healthy planet for our children and many future generations.

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Obviously we don’t have complete control to organize our community around us so that it allows us to flourish. We never the less need to align ourselves so that it causes minimal harm to our person-hood  This requires deep thought on what we value, practical wisdom and great courage to make a change. In the end, the change that results in less stress and more contentment will be healthy one indeed.

Healing Suffering With Self-Compassion

 

In the past blog posts I talked about how evolution has hard-wired us to protect ourselves so we can survive to see another day. One of the mechanisms for survival I mentioned was the fight-flight-freeze response when we saw a tiger. In this day and age we know we are not going to be eaten up by a tigers or be harmed by anyone under ordinary circumstances when we step out of our houses; we have developed very sophisticated rules to be able to live in our crowded society without coming to harm.  You may have noticed that living in our society does not however eliminate the problem of stress we feel almost everyday; this stress is not unlike the stress we felt when we saw a tiger, although now it is in the form of emotional and internal stress. Strangely, we are still using our thousands of years old way of coping with this stress: the fight becomes self-criticism and we turn on ourselves, the flight becomes the self isolation and we avoid relationships, and the freeze becomes self-absorption and we get struck in our own thoughts.

In the last 10-20 years there has been lot of attention given to coping effectively with stress. It is becoming apparent that what ever that’s causing the stress or suffering becomes amplified if we try to resist or ignore it. With resisting we may turn sleeplessness into chronic insomnia, anxiety into panic attacks, temporary grief into chronic depression, back pain into chronic pain syndrome. We may feel this resistance in the body as a muscle tension, in the mind as rumination and in our behavior as avoidance. There is lot a of information about “techniques” that will allow you to feel better within minutes but unfortunately these are not lasting solutions. If we want real change we have to feel and accept our suffering.

Mindfulness and acceptance are opposite of resistance; it changes the process by which the resistance amplify the psychological suffering. When we turn our attention to the source of our suffering it may at first amplify the suffering so it is really important to use our intuition to distinguish between safety and discomfort. Feeling vulnerable and uncomfortable doesn’t mean unsafe; hurt doesn’t necessarily mean harm but we must know the difference. Generally speaking it is best to take the middle path between facing and avoiding.

When our suffering is profound than mindfulness by itself may not be enough. When we are anxious and we try to be mindful our anxiety may become worse. In this kind of situation loving kindness and compassion towards oneself will diminish any intractable discomfort. Self-compassion is bearing witness to ones own suffering and responding with kindness and understanding. It means taking care of ourselves just as we treat someone we dearly love. We have to also remind ourselves that we are not the only person suffering in the world, it is common to all humanity; and we needs to have open-balanced awareness and not get absorbed in our troubles, rather we need to approach our feeling with sense of curiosity.  Self-compassion is a way of responding to what’s happening within us and who we are in a healthy way. We don’t want to assume that there is something wrong with us that should be fixed. We don’t want to throw ourselves away and become something better; rather it is about befriending who we really are. This is the essence of self-compassion.

We give ourselves kindness and understanding NOT TO FEEL BETTER, but BECAUSE we feel pain. We have to contact the sorrow before we can become compassionate.

Resources:

The art and science of self-compassion by Christopher Germer

http://flickrhivemind.net

 

How to cope with anxiety without drugs- part 3 Relaxing the Body

Finally we come to what everyone has been waiting for, the strategies for coping with anxiety. The non medication strategies include ; relaxing the body, relaxing the mind, thinking realistically,facing your fears,getting regular exercise, eating right to be calm, nourishing yourself, simplifying you life, turning off your worry and learning how to cope on the spot. There is a role for medication but only in severe cases of anxiety where it is causing severe disruption in the functioning of  persons daily activity. The mild to moderate anxiety can be controlled without drugs.

Please note these strategies has to be practiced regularly to get the full benefit, doing them occasionally will not be sufficient; you have to make these practices part of your life. I know because I have been meditating since I was 13 years old and every time I neglected to do it regularly my life become disorderly, resulting in absolute chaos, and several times in dire consequences. I have finally learned not to neglect this precious gift that my father introduced to me so long ago. Regard these practices as precious gifts and practice them daily. It is more important to be consistent daily rather than to spend longer time but doing them only occasionally. There is more benefit to be had doing it daily for shorter time, of course if you can spend longer then so much the better.

Today we will look at how to relax the body. Anxiety causes physical sensation in our body such as shortness of breath, muscle tension, hyperventilation and palpitations. When we have these sensations in our body it tends to reinforce anxiety producing thought, setting up a vicious cycle. We want to break this cycle by relaxing the body. In a relaxed body there is no room for anxious mind.

Some of the techniques for relaxing the body include progressive muscle relaxation,passive muscle relaxation, abdominal breathing and yoga. I have posted low some videos demonstrating these techniques. I am afraid you will have to sign up for a class to learn yoga.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Passive Muscle Relaxation

Abdominal Breathing Relaxation

Next time we will look at how to relax the mind.  Have a great weekend and my you be happy and at peace.

Resources:-

Coping with Anxiety

Edmund Bourne and Lorna Garano

Interchange Blog

Interchange Blog

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