The word “suchness” has become one of the most helpful words I have used to deepen the practice of mindfulness and to heal areas of distress not only for myself but also in my clinical psychotherapy practice with clients. Saying the word, “suchness” immediately takes the edge off the pain and suffering I may be feeling at the time, and allows for a kinder, accepting approach to any distress I may be encountering.
I have found that saying, “this is the suchness of my present moment experience” creates ease and peace, which are useful resources to draw upon when I feel any kind of mental or physical distress. Suchness goes to the very root of mindfulness practice. The essence of mindfulness is being in the present moment, accepting what is in the present moment, knowing it is temporary, and that we are much more than our present moment experience. It is an experience of non-judgment, acceptance, kindness, compassion, and allowing for what is to come next.
Suchness creates an ideal space to just experience what Martin Buber calls the, “I and Thou,” or in more Buddhist terms, the experience of “equanimity,” where we can be in relationship to the present moment with an experience of fullness, awe, appreciation, and gratitude.
When I am counseling my clients, I do my very best to accept the suchness of their way of being, their unique experience of their issues of concern, and engender acceptance, ease, and warmth with them in each moment. The energy of suchness then creates the conditions for healing, space, and freedom for my clients to tap into their own self-healing resources.
So the next time you are aware of a mental or physical distress, you may consider saying, “this is the suchness of my present moment experience.” You may then want to breathe in and out while being aware of all the temporary mental and physical formations for a few minutes, returning to each moment with the experience of the suchness of the present moment, and allowing the healing to begin anew. In this way, we are bringing a refreshingly open attitude to the infinite creative and healing possibilities of the present moment in service of our highest good.
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(with contributing editors Heather Butts, JD, MPH, MA, Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., and Linda Cammarata, RN, RYT)
Self-Soothing: A Mindful Practice for Health & Wellness by Linda Cammarata, RN, RYT Consultant, Contributing EditorOctober 3, 2013 at 11:58 am | Posted in Mind Body Medicine, Mindfulness, Pain Management, Pain Relief, Self-Regulation, Sleep Health, Stress Management, Trauma | 2 Comments
A soothing backrub was a nightly ritual for my sister and I. Those backrubs warmed us during the cold winter nights and helped us doze quietly off into a deep sleep. Thoughts of my nightly backrubs have created a sweet, soothing childhood memory for my sister and myself.
Has our increasingly busy lifestyle contributed to the lost art of self-soothing? I wonder; if we engaged in more self-soothing, would we have less anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia? Does our health and wellbeing suffer as we become more disconnected from the practice of self-soothing? Has technology displaced our deeply rooted need for touch, connection, and feeling soothed? How does the rise of using medications for stress, anxiety, and pain reflect our diminished relationship to self-soothing?
Atlanta-based physician Anne Namnoum, M.D. has written an excellent article entitled Self-Soothing vs. Self-Medicating. In her article, she explores the importance of self-soothing in the face of today’s anxiety, stress, and discomfort. She makes the distinction between the health benefits found in self-soothing and the challenges found in self-medicating. She points out that self-medicating includes numbing and avoidance, whereas self-soothing promotes acceptance and the decision to do something that will become helpful for our wellbeing in the long-term. She also shares that the hazards of self-medicating vs. self-soothing can result in addiction, obesity, emotional disorders, physical complications, plus a variety of other potential health risks.
The attitude of acceptance that Dr. Namnoum shares in her article reminds me of the mental attitudes found in the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness helps us to stay in the present moment. Mindfulness promotes a mental attitude of curiosity, gentleness, and flexibility, with a willingness to face reality on reality’s terms. There is something quite soothing about the idea of letting go and accepting each moment as it unfolds before us. We can learn to relax and cherish every moment and every breath.
Today, there is an active movement of nurses providing hands-on-therapies for their patients. Medicine is returning to the healing power found within therapeutic touch. I recall the nightly backrubs we provided to our patients when I first began my career as a nurse. Providing soothing touch was an integral aspect of our healing work. Self-soothing can relax the nervous system, reducing pain, anxiety and stress. It is an expression of our human need for connection.
· Dr. Anne Namnoum http://www.annenamnoum.com
To receive our Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC newsletters and future blogs: http://bit.ly/13J8D4V
(with contributing editors Heather Butts, JD, MPH, MA, Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., and Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC)
Tags: health, mental-health
I love introducing the bell of mindfulness to students and clients in my school-based and community counseling practice whenever distress shows up. The bell of mindfulness beckons the listener to come back to the present moment, listen to the sound of the bell, take mindful in and out breaths, and compassionately observe thoughts, feelings, sensations, or images. The bell of mindfulness can also be a metaphorical reminder for us to return our awareness to the present moment. For example, physical or emotional distress can be such a “bell” that activates mindful awareness upon a location within the body that is experiencing tension. Focusing attentively with acceptance and compassion upon that part of the body provides a space for healing and centering.
The bell of mindfulness can be the sound of a meditation bell, the sound of a phone ringing, a dog barking, the voice of a loved one, or it can be an image of what is of value to each person. In my own life, the bells of mindfulness that I use when I am in distress are images of loving family members, places in nature that are connected to my family, or simply being aware of the in and out breath in the present moment as I walk, listen to good music, or eat something healthy.
I invite you to take a moment to think of what nurtures you and come back to that as a bell of mindfulness, breathe in and out, and be compassionately aware of the present moment as you encounter any distress. You may be pleasantly surprised with how much you can heal yourself in the present moment by finding your own bell of mindfulness. What is your bell of mindfulness?
To receive our Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC newsletters and future blogs: http://bit.ly/13J8D4V
(with contributing editors Heather Butts, JD, MPH, MA, Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., and Linda Cammarata, RN, RYT)
Helping You or Your Clients to Develop More Resilience
Resilience is our ability to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and move forward after a setback — to snap back into place after being stretched to our breaking point. When our difficulties include chronic illness and/or pain, the challenges can be both psychological and physical. Let’s explore some ways we can develop more resilience.
The Perception of Failure
The first ingredient involves our perceived shortcomings and our own definition of failure. Did a chronic illness diagnosis make it necessary to leave behind a career or an athletic interest we loved and enjoyed? Did our ongoing symptoms prove to be something a spouse or partner could no longer cope with?
Our perception of failure is critical to developing resilience. The lens through which we view our life experiences casts a certain tint to what has taken place and what will occur in the future. Are we viewing life through a pair of dark, gloomy glasses, or do we see things through more optimistic, rose-colored ones?
An optimistic perception is hard-earned for many people. It takes some cognitive retraining, positive affirmation and other conscious behavioral changes to shift our patterns of thinking. And for those of us with chronic illnesses and painful conditions, our distressing physical symptoms can erode optimism.
If we nurture our ability to find value and success within our current physical reality, then we are well on our way to unlocking one of the secrets of resilience.
Conversely, if we perceive life experiences as meaningless and futile, then we won’t have confidence in our ability to survive them and thrive despite them. This is the reason we need those rose-colored glasses – to help us move forward and achieve some positive outcomes for ourselves.
Accepting Some Truths and Creating a New Path
Another aspect of resilience is our ability to accept reality and to find ways to be creative within it. Sometimes we will need to explore new paths altogether. As a little child with juvenile arthritis, I readily accepted many aspects of my physical reality. For example, I knew that my chances of being a ballerina were quite remote, therefore, I didn’t spend much time pondering what I knew was outside of the scope of my physical ability at that time.
What I did instead was to build upon some of my attributes and pursue interests which were within my realm. My brain worked like a flowchart with the standard, “if not, then” logic. I always had a “then” in mind since I knew there would be some “nots.”
It definitely is more difficult to handle the “nots” as adults, though, since we tend to be more set in our ways and have more previous experiences with which to compare our current reality. But it’s still vital to our level of resilience to avoid getting caught in the trap of thinking only about what we cannot do. There are still plenty of things we can do.
Something Bigger Than Our Illness to Connect With
Looking to the world outside of our skin and connecting with something that holds more power than our illnesses can boost our levels of resilience. Whether it’s the overwhelming natural beauty of our planet, the love we feel in the company of other human beings, or a higher power, we have an array of choices when it comes to these larger-than-life concepts.
How do these connections help with resilience? We can gain strength and energy from them. They help us to not feel quite so alone in our struggles and can provide us with something to focus on that makes our illnesses seem smaller in comparison.
Now that we have focused on 3 key ingredients to resilience, let’s explore some ways to implement them:
- Redefine what failure means. Even in the midst of the most painful life situations, you have still managed to do something successfully. Identify it and celebrate it. Plan to achieve more success in the future.
- Is there an aspect of your physical reality that you have not yet accepted? Is it because you equate acceptance of some limitations with destroying what you’ve dreamed of accomplishing? Dream a different dream. Sure, it may be painful to dismiss or delay the achievement of a dream, but you have the power to revise your dream accordingly and in a way that will ensure success.
- What lies outside of your skin that is “larger” than your illness? A body of knowledge, a higher power, the love of your family, an activity in which you can completely lose yourself…the list is infinite. Pursuing these connections and interests can provide you with additional strength and positivity and will help you to look forward to what lies ahead.
Even if your natural level of resilience is limited by your life experiences, your personality or other factors, you can still work toward the goal of becoming more resilient. It may take practice and some time to instill the necessary habits that foster resiliency, but it will be well worth the effort.
Tina will be the featured presenter on our next webinar entitled “Using Intrinsic Skills and Traits to Help Overcome Chronic Illness and Pain.” Join us on Sunday, March 3, 2013 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. EST. In addition to her experience as a counselor and healthcare advocate, Tina has lived well despite chronic illness since she was a young child. Learn some of her strategies to help you, your clients, and patients live a more vibrant, peaceful life that includes improving physical symptoms as well. Cost is $30. 1.5 CE’s available for most mental health and healthcare providers. For more information and to register for the webinar, please go to:
Five Fundamental Principles of Mind Body Medicine: An Integrative Approach for Optimal Psychological and Physical HealthNovember 29, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Posted in Insomnia, Migraine Headaches, Mind Body Medicine, Pain Management, Pain Relief, Sleep Health, Stress Management | 4 Comments
Published on November 29, 2012 by Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC
There are five fundamental principles that account for the effectiveness of using an integrative mind body medicine approach in teaching people how to self-regulate symptoms associated with numerous psychological and physical conditions. So much of what I have learned about mind body medicine comes from my mentor and friend, Mark Weisberg, Ph.D., a well- known health psychologist from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Whether you are a clinician, client, patient or just interested in the power of mind body medicine in bringing healing to health related issues, you will be pleasantly surprised to discover how learning and applying just a few of Dr. Weisberg’s five fundamental principles in mind body medicine can affect the power of your mind to confidently self-regulate and even alter pain and distress pathways.
Dr. Weisberg is one of the leading experts in the United States in the fields of mind body medicine, clinical hypnosis, and health psychology. He is currently in private practice as a health psychologist and operates an integrative pain clinic in partnership with physicians in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area. Dr. Weisberg has published scholarly articles, books, and presented at many national and international conferences on integrative mind body medicine, clinical hypnosis, and health psychology. Being able to have Dr. Weisberg as one of my primary supervisors as I worked on and received a certification in both mind body medicine and clinical hypnosis was one of the most valuable learning experiences of my professional life as a clinician. It was due to Dr. Weisberg’s outstanding affirmation and guidance that eventually led me to establish the Mind Body Medicine Network, an international online educational webinar provider for clinicians and the lay public.
I believe that you and the people you would like to share these mind body medicine principles with will discover effective and easy to use tools for self-regulation that can contribute significantly to life-long health, vitality and wellbeing. Dr. Weisberg often cites the following five fundamental principles as the foundation for mind body medicine practice.
First: Believe in the power of mind body medicine and your ability to heal. We all have the internal healing resources necessary for healing or to significantly lessen any suffering that comes from many health related conditions.
Second: Our internal healing resources can be found both within and outside of our conscious awareness. We can access these resources through the visceral belief and confidence in our capacity to heal by tapping into experiential and evidence-based mind body medicine principles. Dr. Weisberg states that a mere cognitive understanding of these mind body medicine principles is not enough to bring about healing. To heal, we need an internal experience of change that is experienced experientially, emotionally, and viscerally. A neurobiological explanation that affirms this deeply felt experience is demonstrated by both understanding our brain architecture and confidently engaging the parts of our brain that will bring about mind body healing. When we experience a novel and visceral experience, the pre-frontal cortex of our brain fires up and allows us to over-ride the amygdala that often triggers emotional suffering and physical discomfort including inflammation. We can all benefit from an understanding of the tremendous capacity of the power of the mind to influence the healing of the body. Further validation of these mind body medicine principles comes from exploring the latest research that documents the neuroplasticity of the brain and the burgeoning field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI).
Third: Each of us has our own unique set of psycho-physiologic triggers that communicate early warning signals that distress or illness is approaching. Being mindful of our intrinsic power to recognize and heal these triggers as they arise early on can help us to more confidently and effectively bring down symptoms of distress or pain.
Fourth: Focus on noticing the little changes of improvement to our health to gain more confidence along the way. Even if the minor improvements are temporary or the pain or illness manifests in another part of our mind or body, we can see how to self-regulate. This will play an important role in changing pathways from pain and illness to resilience and confidence. We all have the capacity to be mindfully aware of all the subtle ways to self-regulate and slowly titrate down any physical pain or psychological discomfort. If we can appreciate even the smallest improvements to our health issues, we will eventually be on the path to significant healing.
Fifth: From Dr. Weisberg, I learned the efficacy of honoring each person’s unique path to healing. The notion of allowing people to heal in their own time, in their own way, and at their own pace gives both clinicians and people who suffer with pain and illness the freedom to discover their own terms for healing and at the right time. This individual perspective alleviates the pressure on the clinician to be the expert in picking the “perfect” time, way, and pace for their patient’s healing to occur.
In my own clinical practice, I do my best to honor all of these fundamental principles of mind body medicine practice that I learned from Dr. Weisberg. Whether I am engaged in talk therapy or sharing any experiential mind body medicine modality like clinical hypnosis, I am consistently reminded of the beauty and healing power found within each client to heal in their own time, in their way, and at their pace.
It is an honor to host our next Mind Body Medicine Network webinar with Mark Weisberg, Ph.D. on Sunday, December 9th at 7:00 p.m. EST during a 90-minute interactive experience where all of us can engage in a deeper learning of these mind body medicine principles for change and healing. For more information on Dr. Weisberg’s webinar and to register, please go to:
Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC
Owner and Principal Clinician
Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC
Healing the Mind in Order to Heal Chronic Pain in the Body (by Howard Schubiner, MD and Ed Glauser, LPC)November 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Posted in Migraine Headaches, Mind Body Medicine, Pain Management, Pain Relief, Stress Management | 10 Comments
An epidemic of chronic pain and related disorders is occurring in the United States and around the world. Investigators estimate that 113 million individuals have chronic pain in the United States, and this number is increasing.
The traditional biomedical model attempts to identify an underlying local and structural cause of pain. The efficacy of this approach has not been demonstrated for these chronic painful conditions however, as is clear when one considers the number of people who suffer with these conditions on a regular basis. The disorders considered in this article exclude those with objective evidence of structural disease, such as cancer, fractures, and inflammatory and infectious conditions.
Little doubt exists that genetic predispositions occur with many conditions, such as migraine, anxiety and depression. However, studies have shown that life events are required to trigger these conditions, that is, to cause expression of underlying genetic predispositions. Because of the inability to identify and treat the underlying cause, attention has shifted to pain management. However, biomedical approaches to pain management, including pain medications, injection techniques, and surgical and chemical ablations, have also not been shown to be efficacious. Clearly, a new model for these disorders is needed. This article will describe a mind-body model in which these disorders are considered to be related to individual reactions to stressful (and even traumatic) events and unresolved emotions.
Clear evidence indicates that pain can originate in the absence of a tissue disorder in the area where pain is being felt as seen in phantom limb syndrome. A study by Derbyshire et al confirmed that pain initiated by the brain is identical to pain originating in peripheral tissues.
Learned pain pathways can develop after an injury (even a mild one) or can be created during times of significant stress and emotional reactions. Although most injuries heal within a reasonable amount of time, pain pathways can persist (become “wired”), thus creating chronic pain that is often refractory to medical therapies. These pain pathways are often very specific and can involve discrete or large areas of the body. Pain induced by psychophysiological (PPD) processes frequently moves or changes, as opposed to the pain caused by a specific injury or disease process.
Once a biomedical condition has been ruled out, the next step is to understand the linkages between priming and triggering (bio-psycho-social) events and the onset of PPD symptoms. Howard Schubiner, MD, who is the author of the article this blog is recreating, as well as his book, Unlearn Your Pain provides an evidence-based protocol that can assist clinicians and the lay public to become educated regarding the nature of PPD’s. The Unlearn Your Pain program consists of a mixture of cognitive-behavioral, mindfulness, and emotional expressive techniques. The author’s program has been shown to increase an internal locus of control (i.e. participants begin to believe that their thoughts and actions are capable of reversing their PPD symptoms). Finally, individuals who have endured significant childhood and adult stressors and who have suffered with chronic pain often have a negative view of themselves and low levels of self-esteem and self-efficacy. Therefore, an overarching theme for guiding individuals with PPD to health is the development of love and kindness toward oneself. This can be accomplished by positive affirmations, by meditations and visualizations, and by encouraging participants in the program to stand up for themselves and take time to do things for themselves.
Dr. Schubiner’s webinar on the Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC entitled “Chronic Pain and Associated Symptoms: Healing the Mind in Order to Heal the Body,” on Sunday, November 11, 2012 will be an ideal way for clinicians and the lay public to more specifically learn and apply these effective chronic pain reduction (and in many cases, pain eliminating) and life enhancing techniques in an interactive format. For those people that register for the webinar, a free audio and video recording will be available as an unlisted URL link on YouTube. To get more information and to register for the webinar with Dr. Schubiner, please click on the following link at:
(Blog was taken from excerpts from Dr. Howard Schubiner’s article in the Expert Consult Book, wwww.expertconsultbook.com, Chapter 100 – Emotional Awareness for Pain, In Rakel, Integrative Medicine, 3rd Edition, 2012. Ed Glauser, LPC developed blog from this article)
Tags: mind body medicine, Stress Management
Mind/body techniques take into consideration that the body is the historian. The body holds information that perhaps the mind wants to forget. In its determination to keep us honest, the body nags at us in the form of anxiety or gastrointestinal problems, head aches or muscle tension until we pay attention. Talk therapy provides mental relief and sometimes the body lets go, too. But mind/body interventions can add another dimension to our work.
How? Good question. Many of you may recognize that the attitude of separation of mind and body is passé. And so you may already have sought training in interventions that keep “the body in mind” like Somatic Experiencing, EMDR or Hypnosis. Others of you may have been trained in approaches to therapy in which mental health is considered mental. In either case, there are some simple but powerful and easy-to-learn ways to help people reverse the physiology of stress.
Talk therapy is the most reasonable place to start. We converse with our patients and they guide us so we can guide them through their anguish and confusions. By bringing cognitive understanding of life’s problems to awareness, and by building on their resources, there can be great relief from suffering.
But the body may not fully let go, even when there is great mental relief from our work. In addition, we need to consider that given all of the stress in life, we are all likely to arrive at a place sooner or later where our coping skills fall short of the demands of a stressful situation. Whether left-over residue or new stressors, with mind/body techniques we can use the mind to trick the brain (body) to let go of stress—often with very few words.
We can learn ourselves, and then we can teach patients that the body, which can be as uncomfortable to live in as the mind, is our ally. We can show them how to honor the body’s demand for recognition. We can teach them tools which bring balance and homeostasis to the body-mind. The key reason to learn mind/body skills is so we can set our patients up to feel a deeper, perhaps more permanent relief from suffering. Of most importance is our patients get to feel in the driver’s seat of their own lives. To feel empowered with mind/body skills is to have the power to heal as needed. And what can be more satisfying for us as therapists than to empower our patients?
Think of it this way: Coping can be broken down into two categories: “Problem-solving coping” is a cognitive, left brain approach to dealing with adversity. Cognitive behavioral therapy is famous for matching solutions to problems. So is seeking social support, discharging emotions into a journal, exercising and various healthy distractions such as humor or creative projects.
But another category of coping has been measured to provide empowerment in a statistically significant way. It has been called “letting-go coping.” This is different from problem-solving coping because it is about “being” rather than “doing.” “Letting-go coping” takes the patient under the turbulence—into their body. These techniques have in common focus on the breath. Conscious breathing helps us use our breath to enter our body.
Yogic breath work, the field-tested Relaxation Response™, guided imagery, the Labyrinth™, Mindfulness, Self-Hypnosis, Creating Affirmations—and more—will round out your repertoire of offerings to your patients, especially if talk therapy stalls. Join me in a two-day training seminar in New York City, co-sponsored by the Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC. You will learn how these approaches have evolved from the context of cutting edge brain science and how to apply these techniques in various circumstances. For more information on our two-day training seminar in New York City this coming November 16th and 17th, please go to the homepage of the Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC at http://www.mindbodymedicinenetwork.com/index.html.
Helen Adrienne, LCSW, BCD
Psychotherapist, Clinical Hypnotherapist,
Practitioner of Mind/Body Therapy
Author, On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility
Tags: Behavioral Pain Relief, Chronic Pain, Holistic Health, Insomnia Treatment, mind body medicine, Stress Management
Stress is a significant contributing factor in 80% of visits to Primary Care Physicians and accounts for an inordinate amount of suffering, illness, chronic pain, fatigue, and personal and professional setbacks. Joan Klagsbrun, Ph.D., a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in private practice in the Boston area will be sharing a 90-minute webinar through the Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC on Sunday, September 9th at 7:00 p.m. EST on “Clearing a Space – A Brief Focusing Practice for Cultivating Resilience in Your Clients (with particular attention to patients in crisis or coping with illness).” Through this effective and evidence-based modality that can be used by clinicians or by the lay public, one can metaphorically find and place aside each stress-producing concern, and put it outside the body –bringing relief to body, mind and spirit.
WHAT IS CLEARING A SPACE?
The practice of ‘Clearing A Space’ is a method of finding and placing aside each stress-producing concern that is currently being carried by the body. it can be utilized by therapists as way to center and connect with oneself before seeing clients and it can be used with clients as way to begin a session of therapy.
One by one, each stressor is acknowledged, named, and visualized as being placed aside. This practice then invites you to imagine how your body would feel if you could truly be released from all these problems and concerns. For a few moments you get to experience who you would be—and how your life would want to go–without the weight of your issues.
We often feel stress as an undifferentiated, overwhelming burden. By identifying each stressful situation that we are carrying in the present moment, at first experienced as an indistinct murky sense in the body, we can discover the particular strands that make up our stress “knot.” The whole mass seems to weigh more when it is tangled together. Simply naming and untangling the elements allows us to get a little distance from the issues, and to find a sense of aliveness and well-being that lie beneath our current problems.
HOW CLEARING A SPACE ORIGINATED
Focusing, a mind body practice from which Clearing A Space evolved, came out of research done by Carl Rogers and Eugene Gendlin at the University of Chicago. The object of their research was to ask the question, “When is psychotherapy effective, and when is it not?” They found, that the effectiveness of therapy was not directly related not to the therapeutic method, nor to the skill of the therapist, but to the client’s ability to discover answers within himself. Successful clients, it was found, waited until they got an internal, body sense of a problem or issue, and then “listened” to the answer that unfolded from this body sensation. Those clients who accessed their implicit bodily experience– their’ felt sense’– were more likely to benefit from psychotherapy than those who did not.
Gendlin, intrigued by this result, developed a systematic way to teach individuals how to get a body sense of a problem. Focusing is basically a formalization of the process that “successful” clients naturally use in psychotherapy.
Although Focusing was originally developed to help in the resolution of problems, Gendlin found that for Focusing to be most successful, it was initially helpful just to identify each concern and not try to solve the problem it posed. (Gendlin, 1979) Each concern is labeled and then “placed outside the body.”The individual imagines taking that issue and placing it at the right distance away from her body. Each succeeding issue is treated in the same way, until there are no more issues left. The end result is that the Focuser achieves a “clear space” inside the body. This technique of “Clearing a Space” became formalized as the first step in the Focusing method.
Over time, it became apparent that Clearing A Space had value in its own right. The “clear space” a person created by naming and letting go of each issue or problem is an active, fully conscious state. It differs from other meditation or relaxation states in that the individual does not have a narrow field of attention. It is an active rather than a passive state, developed not by diverting one’s attention, but by at first paying full attention to what is in the way of feeling all clear inside.
•Remembering and visualizing a time and place where you felt relaxed, at peace or had a deep sense of well being. I have found it helps to begin by remembering positive memories and experiences as resources for reducing stress.
•Naming the Stressors We often feel stress as an undifferentiated burden. By entering the present moment, and identifying each stressful situation that we are carrying, that is contributing to this indistinct, unpleasant, and murky sense in the body, we can learn to perceive the particular strands that comprise this stress “knot.”
•Separating the Stressors The whole mass of our troubles seems to “weigh” more, and be less manageable, when they are tangled together. Simply naming and “untangling” the elements that make it up, allows us to get a little distance from our mind-body burdens.
•Putting The Stressors “Aside” The client finds and places aside each stress-producing concern that is currently being carried by the body. One by one, each stressor is acknowledged, named, and visualized as being placed aside or released from the body. After letting the stressor go, the focuser is then asked to notice any change in her body. Typically, a sense of lightness, diminishment of tension, and overall relief is the result. One sets down each of these issues, until there are no more issues left.
•Noticing the Background Sense and placing it aside The background sense is like the wallpaper in our minds… that flavor or mood we carry right beneath our thoughts and feelings. It often brings great relief to bring attention to the background sense, name it, and imagine placing that aside as well.
•Dwelling in the “Cleared Space” Once the present-time stressors have been “cleared,” the individual is asked to spend 30 seconds or a minute in her “cleared space.” This step of the practice often results in a state of wellbeing, spaciousness, and sometimes a change in perspective or awareness.
•Finding the symbol (a word, phrase of image) that captures the experience of the cleared space By finding a handle for the experience, there is often a sense of being connected to one’s whole self—body, mind and spirit. This often gives rise to an experience of balance, centeredness, clarity and unity. An explanation for this experience is that it enables the left and right brain to become integrated—linking the right brain’s’ felt sense ‘ and the left brain’s verbal account, thus allowing the maximum information to flow freely between the hemispheres.
Clearing a Space is a wonderful brief and yet powerful tool to have in your tool kit, both for your own self-care, and to share with clients. It gives you an active way to achieve a sense of well being, spaciousness and peace; it integrates body mind and spirit; it teaches us to have a compassionate relationship to our issues, and it helps us to take a few minutes to dwell in a larger space where we are not constrained by our problems and limitations. What a good use of 10 minutes!
Enjoy learning, applying and mastering this brief focusing technique with Dr. Klagsbrun during our interactive 90-minute webinar on Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. EST. For details, please register at http://www.mindbodymedicinenetwork.com/Webinars.html. Even if you can not make the webinar, you are welcome to register anyway, and be sent a video recording of Dr. Klagsbrun’s presentation.
Tags: Integrative Medicine, mind body medicine, Stress Management
by Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, www.Mind-BodyWellness.org
There is an ancient story from the Zen tradition about a young monk who was committed to seeking enlightenment. His master guided him to the edge of a meadow and said to him, “Walk deeper into the meadow and align your senses fully with your experience. What you first fully experience will be your door to enlightenment.” The young monk strode deeper into the meadow and came upon the sound of a gently flowing brook. He immediately experienced a sense of profound peace and unity; there was nothing to do, as he was enraptured by a state of pure Being. The monk ran back to his master, who was meditating at the edge of the meadow. Upon hearing the young disciple approach him, the master asked, “what did you experience?” The monk replied, “Just as you said…my deep experience of the sound of water from a flowing brook became the door to enlightenment.” The master responded, “and?” The young monk was pensive, and then asked his master, “What if I did not hear the sound of the flowing brook…what if I heard or saw nothing at all…what then would be the door to enlightenment?” The master simply replied, “That would be your doorway.”
There are many “doorways” to managing stress. “Stress management” has become a pop phrase that sometimes equates into applying a mechanical technique to something that is distressing to an individual. Without a doubt, there are many useful stress management methods, skills, and practices, including mindfulness meditation, cognitive restructuring, biofeedback, self-hypnosis, autogenic training, progressive muscular relaxation, cognitive defusion, assertive communication, yoga, tai chi, and qigong. While these can be extremely helpful to individuals in distress, I prefer to reframe the idea of stress management as a deeper reflection of what can be called “self-management”. Stress management is often about “doing”; self-management is more about “being”. Preoccupation with “managing”, “conquering”, or “transforming” something called “stress” can paradoxically create more stress! In that dynamic, stress becomes an enemy to be vanquished, rather than a reflection of self to be appreciated and integrated.
Where then shall we begin in our journey of stress management, if not with a powerful technique to apply to our discomfort? I recommend beginning with intention, self-awareness, and attitude.
Questions such as “What am I seeking or expecting?” and “What skills am I willing to learn and practice?” can help to clarify one’s intention. Without a focused intention that is supported by self-awareness and an uplifted attitude, the best stress management methods are less likely to succeed.
Self-awareness can begin with a mindful connection to body, mind, and breath. Self-awareness allows us to notice physical tension, mental activity, and the quality of our breath (e.g., shallow, deep, constricted, or calm), which can be viewed as a bridge between the mind and body.
A non-judgmental, accepting attitude can combine with intention and self-awareness to neutralize the emotional impact of self-defeating thoughts and stories that interfere with our ability to manage stress.
Above, I made mention of the term “self-management” as a reframing of the term “stress management”. Self-management is an empowering term that is not just about what we “do” when we are coping with distress. Self-management also involves who we are “being” in our world, whether we are experiencing joy, anxiety, or boredom. For example, are we being open, accepting, and receptive to the challenging people and situations in our lives or are we being avoidant, judgmental, and oppositional? Our state of being can contribute more stress to inherently stressful situations or can conversely add more stability to our encounters with the stressors that we face.
With a clear intention and keen self-awareness, proficiency with stress management skills and practices can lead to consistent self-management that is supportive of physical health, emotional wellbeing, and relationship satisfaction.
Certainly, what we do to manage stress can significantly influence the quality of our lives. Over time, self-management can evolve into “self-mastery”, where skills become integrated into the body-mind to such a degree that we can rely upon a natural way of being to harmonize with our inner and outer challenges.
As you walk deeper into the meadow of your life, what you do matters. Who you are being is yet another matter. Doing is a precondition for taking the first steps towards managing stress. Consistent practicing of stress management skills is a precondition for self-management. An integrated state of being is a precondition for self-mastery. The door is open. Enjoy the journey!
Larry Cammarata, Ph.D. will be our featured clinical webinar presenter on Sunday, August 19, 2012 as part of our Mind Body Medicine Network’s schedule of 2012 – 2013 offerings in the areas of stress, pain, and sleep management. The 90-minute interactive webinar entitled “Stress Management for Body, Mind and Relationships” will begin at 7:00 p.m. EST and will also be available as a video recording. Larry Cammarata, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist practicing in Asheville, North Carolina, and is a member of the faculty of University of Phoenix Online. He is passionately involved in the emerging field of mindfulness-oriented therapy and is a regular speaker for FACES Conferences, an organization that brings together leaders and experts in mindfulness and psychology. He will be leading a FACES educational retreat in Bali during July 2013. Larry is a published author who was designated as an “Author-Expert” by IDEA for his writing, teaching, and service in the field of mind-body health, fitness, and wellness. Along with Jack Kornfield, Dan Siegel, and other leaders in the mindfulness field, Larry recently co-authored a book entitled, “A Year of Living Mindfully: 52 Quotes & Weekly Mindfulness Practices”. In addition to his involvement in the profession of psychology, Larry is an instructor of the Chinese martial and healing arts of Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong. In his spare time, he is a professional musician and performance artist who has performed locally, nationally, and internationally. He can be contacted via his website at www.Mind-BodyWellness.org. Please join us for Dr. Cammarata’s webinar by going to the following link to get more information and for registration:
Tags: Behavioral Pain Relief, Chronic Pain, Holistic Health, Integrative Medicine, mental-health, mind body medicine
One of the biggest challenges for people who live with chronic pain is the ambiguity of not knowing if or when the pain will lessen or end altogether. We all appreciate seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, and most of us prefer for the journey to be as brief as possible.
In many life situations, we can ensure the tunnel is finite and that we travel through it at an acceptable rate of speed. With chronic pain, however, clients don’t necessarily have the opportunity to alter the duration of their distress.
This perceived lack of control over their situations can lead some clients to feelings of victimization, hopelessness and despair. Here are some strategies that have been invaluable to me personally, since I’ve lived successfully with chronic pain for decades, as well as in my work with clients:
When clients are inundated with sensations of pain and discomfort that seem to be endless, it’s easy for them to slip into the role of victim. If medical interventions have failed to bring about sufficient relief, clients can plunge even deeper into despair.
Sometimes, even the smallest positive and decisive actions can help to reverse any negative feelings. There are always interventions clients can pursue that will help tip the balance and turn the sense of victimization into one of victory.
Help your clients to seek out areas in which they can make some decisions that will likely lead to successful outcomes, such as choosing to increase their level of knowledge about their condition, embarking upon a gentle exercise regimen, or making an appointment with a physical or occupational therapist.
Break down challenges into bite-sized pieces.
It’s easy for clients to become overwhelmed when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges. When chronic pain limits one’s ability to tackle large projects, suggest that the client break the project down into smaller tasks that can be achieved at his or her own pace.
For example, instead of attempting to clean out the entire garage, focus on one corner first. When clients accomplish these smaller goals, it can boost their confidence and help fuel their desire and resolve to continue moving toward a larger goal.
Indulge in positive sensory experiences.
Chronic pain can wear people down – even those who are well-versed in mindfulness and other coping techniques. That’s why it is vital to ensure clients experience some pleasurable moments each day.
I always recommend dedicating the time to creating positive sensations that can at least temporarily compete with any distressing symptoms. These enjoyable feelings can involve any of the senses and can be something as simple as relaxing in a warm bath or enjoying foods that delight the taste buds. Encourage clients to practice mindfulness and really savor the moment when engaging in these gratifying activities.
Don’t let pain define you.
Chronic pain can take a toll on self-esteem as limitations become more evident and affect clients’ daily lives in ways they never expected. It’s important to encourage self-esteem building exercises to help clients nourish a self-concept that is separate from pain and suffering.
Our clients are dynamic and resilient beings who happen to live in bodies that may not be working properly. But that doesn’t mean that the essence of who they are is broken. Helping clients to make that distinction between their consciousness and the shell that contains it can be quite empowering.
Make peace with your body.
While people who suffer from chronic pain may not like the idea of residing within the confines of bodies that hurt, it’s still important to make peace with their bodies in order to live rewarding lives. And to take it a step further, clients must move beyond simply accepting their bodies and make the decision to nurture them.
Living with chronic pain is a challenge that requires the mind and body to work together in a harmonious manner. Encourage your clients to listen to their bodies and to meet their physical requirements, even if they conflict with what a client would rather be doing. It may not be the most exciting choice to forego an activity during a flare-up of pain or to eat a more healthful diet, but these body-affirming decisions will help ease your client’s symptoms in the long run.
These strategies for living a vibrant life despite chronic pain should complement the work you’ve already completed with your clients and will provide them with some tangible, practical tactics they can implement immediately.
The Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC is dedicated to bringing you the BEST clinical webinars in Mind Body Medicine in the World. In this spirit, please join us for our next clinical webinar on how to “Control the Migraine,” with Bonnie Groessl, MSN, APNP. This 90-minute webinar will take place on Sunday, July 29, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. EST/6:00 p.m. CST/5:00 p.m. MST/4:00 p.m. PST. This live and interactive webinar will be recorded if you miss the live event. For registration for the webinar/recording, please click HERE.
The “Control the Migraine” webinar will provide you with the techniques and strategies to help you or your patients/clients to significantly bring much needed relief to migraines. Start enjoying life more with less pain. This webinar has the power to change and heal the lives of those that suffer through migraine headaches. Click HERE to get started living with less pain and more relief! (Written by Tina Tarbox, M.S.. Tina will be presenting our February 2013 webinar on significant steps to alleviate chronic pain and illness.)
Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC
Mind Body Medicine Network, LLC