Alter Post: Mindfulness meditation frustration

Mindfulness meditation frustration

Lots of people discuss mindfulness meditation and how beneficial it can be.    But how often are the other meditation styles discussed and used?  As much as we love mindfulness meditation, sometimes it just doesn’t help.  We are not interested in being mindful or grounded in the present. No when we’re struggling with understanding which reality (past/present/flashback/nightmare/daydream) we are in at the moment.

Our goal is to ALL BE IN THE SAME MOMENT AT THE SAME TIME

It’s rather disorienting and confusing for the host not knowing when she is in the outside world.

In moments like this, something hat attracts everyone’s attention and pulls us together helps more than anything else.  What can do that?  A different kind of meditation called visualization sometimes helps us.  Maybe it could be called mindfulness since the focus is on recreating every detail of the object in our mind?  But our visualizations are based on imaginary places, not real ones, and use all of our senses, so not sure either way.

Our preferred visualization is always tree or earth-related.  Something about trees feels especially safe, comforting, and grounding.

But anything can be used for the visualization.

The Visualization practice

We learned a variation of this meditation from the hotline volunteers.  You can do this alone or with a partner or in a group.

In a quiet, safe space
    Sit or lie down in a comfortable position
    Breathe deep and slow – inhale, pause, exhale – 3-4 times
    Close your eyes
    Breathe in for count of 5, then out for count of 5
    Notice the sensations and/or thoughts passing through
    Continue breathing deep and slow

 

Imagine a tree in front of you
Notice the trunk
    What color?
    How old or young?
    How big/small, skinny/thick?
    What shape is the trunk?
    What does the bark look, feel, smell, sound like?
Notice the branches and leaves
    What do you see?  Shapes, sizes, colors, textures..
    What do you hear?
    How do the branches and leaves feel?
    Do the branches and leaves have a scent?  Can you describe it
Notice the ground under the trunk
    Is the ground solid?  muddy?  grassy?  sandy?
    How does it feel, smell, sound?
    What colors?
Imagine you can see under the ground
    What do the roots look like?
    How long or short?
    How thick or thin?
    How strong or weak?
Observe all around the tree
    Is there anyone or anything near by?
    Describe what your observe
Breathe in for a count of 5, pause for a count of 5, then breathe out for a count of 5
Breathe deep and slow – inhale, pause, exhale – 3-4 times
Notice how you feel – stress levels, sensations in your body/mind, feelings you’re experiencing
When ready, open your eyes

We hope this visualization can be a tool in your toolbox to help you when other strategies are less than helpful.

Thanks for reading

Anniversaries: Changing the experience

To any who celebrate, Happy Easter 🙂

I used to celebrate.  But after my uncle died, Easter & Passover just weren’t the same.

As with most anniversaries, I experience the usual symptoms before, during, and after the specific day or days.

But this time, I tried something different.

What did I do?

Started with accepting my limitations:

  • Can’t leave my apartment building more than 2x a week
  • Can’t leave my apartment more than 3-4x per week
  • I’m happy if I can leave my bedroom for more than food and bathroom breaks
  • The auditory hallucinations are worse than nightmares or flashbacks, but mostly only happen at night
  • Cooking is difficult, but as long as I have healthy snacks I’ll be okay
  • Weight loss is inevitable with all the stress

Then figured out what I CAN do inside my apartment:

  • Vacuum and clean the floors
  • Dust the walls, ceilings, ceiling space
  • Take a bath
  • Clean my kitchen
  • Reorganize my space using feng shui to make it feel safer & more comfortable
  • Wear as much or as little clothing as feels good according to my body
  • Move my office to the living room

My apartment BEFORE the organizing (mess):

IMG_0421

My Living Room AFTER the organizing (progress):

Kitchen, Bedroom, Bathroom, hall, and closets are still Work-In-Progress (WIP), so no photos yet.

Take a class to help me work on building a better coping strategy toolbox and foundation

Deidre Fay has a new class called Foundations in Healing.  I signed up for it earlier last week and have found it useful in many ways.  The yoga & movement parts are still difficult for me, but not as triggering as when I tried her original class a few years ago.  Once I get further into the class, I’ll share it as resources.

As it happens, I added 2 new Pinterest Boards regarding Feng Shui and Deirdre Fay’s Classes.  If you are interested, the links are here:

Feng Shui Pinterest

Deirdre Fay Classes Inspiration Pinterest

Thanks for reading

Self Care: Sleepy Day & Short Post

I planned to write a follow up post about coping strategies for air travel when everything goes wrong.  That ways my Thursday/Friday experience traveling home.

But I’m too tired.  My body and brain ned to decompress before the work week starts up on Monday.  After crossing 3 time zones in 1 day and being awake for about 40 hours straight (including airplane naps), every part of me just wants to rest.  Our sleep deficit has not been this bad since before moving here.

Happy Sunday to anyone in the Northern Hemisphere.  Happy Monday to anyone in the Southern Hemisphere.

May you all take time for sleep& self care today also.

Thanks for reading.

Coping Challenges: Hyper-vigilance and Cold Weather Triggers

It’s fall.  The weather has turned cool, damp, and cloudy.  Leaves are changing color and falling.

Normally, this is my favorite season and time of the year.  I love rain and color changes and the smell of ozone in the air after rain fall.  The plants have a different scent too; and I’m surrounded by plants and forest on one side; a benefit of living within blocks of a city forest.

And yet, this year, I’m struggling with hyper-vigilance and body memories about cold weather even in my apartment.  The curtains are up, the windows have been caulked.  My apartment is warm with the heat on.  A few places still have cracks that let air in, but not too badly.  If I open the heat vents more, then the place will warm up more too.

I’m being mindful and wearing lots of layers too.  Using coping strategies and grounding techniques to help with the anxiety and depression.  Making financial plans to finish decorating my apartment sooner instead of later.  Going to therapy and for Chinese Medicine treatments regularly.  Maintaining an open dialogue with the landlord/owner about what I notice in the apartment and documenting everything.  And so on.

But at the same time, my body feels chilled constantly.  I feel hyper-vigilant like intruders could get in at any time.  The usual sinus/cold/allergy body memories are trying to manifest as they normally do – making me feel sick and listless – and yet are not.  Instead of severe sinusitis and flu-like symptoms, I feel like I have allergies.  Instead of many sleepless nights followed by crashing, I feel tired a lot and sometimes have to start my day later, but have not needed to take any time off.

And still my body experiences pain around my neck and shoulders.  No amount of hot tea or soup brings my body temperature back to warm/normal.  I feel alternately tired and energetic, yet unable to exercise or be active without backlash.  And my body itself is humming with internal movement.  The kind you might feel after a moderate workout or stretching routine where your muscles were given a thorough workout.

It didn’t help that my alters got activated late last week when a supposedly down on his luck man came knocking at the door asking for a handout.  My alters tell me that he was really a private investigator looking for information, but no one has concrete evidence.  Either way, he made everyone feel super uncomfortable to the point of changing our plans.

The next I let a scam artist convince me to give him and his female partner two dollars.  That felt conflicting because I knew it was a scam, yet my intuition told me that giving the two dollars would help protect the female partner in some way.  The man felt predatory and smug to me; I didn’t like him at all as he spoke to me.  The woman stayed back with hoodie partially covering her face and silent.

Except for her eyes.  Her eyes told a different story.  And for once, I empathized with her situation, and the potential danger of not meeting a quota for her handler.  So I gave the money in spite of my instincts telling me these people were dangerous and to just run away/ignore them.  That was a new struggle for me because my reactions used to be very straightforward:
Danger = fight/flight/faint/freeze response is activated and I run or fight or hide/stay still until the danger passes

This time my reaction was:
Danger = is this danger to me or someone else?  I am safe and can walk away, but that doesn’t stop the danger.  So the danger is not to me; who is in danger?  Can I help?  And will this action help?  Feeling of relief because my small action did help.  Feelings of confusion, anxiety and shame because I did not react like I normally do

So now I’m struggling with making my home feel warm and safe again so that my body can relax.  And then my mind can relax.  And maybe I will stop feeling danger everywhere.  Or second guessing myself and questioning my reality/perceptions.  Or feeling scared and not wanting to leave my apartment.

The only thing really working for right now is reality testing my perceptions and experiences with a compassionate and objective third party.  Grounding, meditation, etc. always helps in the short term.  And in spite of my body feeling unsafe and on alert, the rest of me does feel safe/happy/healthy.

It’s the mixed signals that are confusing me.  Confusing the alters too.

I wish this post could be more positive and offer effective strategies/solutions, but it’s not.  I am struggling too.

If you get triggered by weather or environment or circumstances beyond your control, please take steps to feel and be safe.  It’s often more difficult to reach out as winter and holidays approach.  You are not alone or isolated.  Neither are we.  Sometimes just remembering that helps too.

Thanks for reading.

Anger: Learning to acknowledge and feel anger inside

 

My Terrible Temper

Have I mentioned that I have a terrible temper?  Well, I do.  And that temper gets let out when I do feel angry – not frustrated, or upset, or irritated – so I work hard not to go there.

The only times I truly feel anger (even rage) are when I get triggered into flashbacks or fight/flight/freeze/faint responses.  And then, it’s often one or more alters who feels this anger and shares the memories with us.  We all work together cope with the anger safely now.  No one wants to lash out or take this anger out on undeserving people in the outside world.

Only the outside world?

Sometimes it feels that way.  The anger inside me/us is deep, old, and strong.  Much of it is directed at people who are not part of our lives anymore.  But before they departed our lives, these predators convinced the majority of us that we need to be angry with ourselves and not them.  Even now, many of the alters in our system still believe this and turn the anger inwards.

Feeling the Energy Change Around Me

When you or someone around you is angry, do you feel the energy or environment change around you?  Does your stomach start to hurt or your head suddenly ache?  Do you feel scared of the anger?  Does it change your mood?  Can you feel the anger intensify as an argument escalates?  Can you feel the anger die down as people calm down and try to talk it out using different tones?

I do.

That is what I experience every time I feel angry or someone around me feels angry.  Why?  Not sure, but here is my reasoning.  **Here again I feel the need to remind guests that this is only my opinion (the AlterXpressions System) and not that of anyone else.**

Anger is an emotion.  Emotion is charged energy.  Energy spreads out once it’s released into the atmosphere.  And because anger scares me, I tend to reject or deny or avoid it.  I would look for an escape when the anger is around, but not directed at me. I would try to avoid confrontations so that I don’t experience the trembling, sick, shaky, confusing, negative feelings afterwards.  That never worked though.

Instead, the avoidance, rejection, and denial seemed to attract more and more angry feelings, negative energy, confrontations, explosions of anger from myself etc. into my world.  Got to the point where I was afraid to be around anyone in case the anger spilled out of me or someone else around me.

What changed?

  • Learning (as an adult) that feelings are real and that expressing one’s feelings is a natural, healthy part of being human.
  • Understanding what emotions are and how our mind uses the information they provide to help us stay safe & make connections with others.
  • Finding caring individuals who understand the language/experience of trauma and are willing to help victims/survivors teach themselves coping techniques for overwhelming feelings (aka Dialectical Behavioral Therapy).
  • Learning other coping techniques to help understand how feelings/emotions affect thoughts & behavior (aka Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) so that patterns can change for the better.
  • Understanding that energy can be changed
    • Feelings eventually go away
    • there are many other techniques to help accept the feelings instead of denying them.
    • aka meditation, grounding, Acceptance Commitment Therapy, Exposure Therapy, Hypnosis Therapy, Somatic Therapy, and the list goes on.

Once I stopped rejecting the anger and started accepting it, the anger felt less intense each time.  My temper stopped getting the better of me.  And I stopped attracting so much anger and negativity into my life.

Another Use for Grounding

Every anniversary and holiday I struggle with overwhelming feelings and anger.  They make the time off feel stressful because my usual coping strategies and techniques are necessary but not sufficient.

**While I understand many of you may feel skeptical about reading books like this, please do  try to keep an open mind.  Many of the ideas and information on this website and blog come from alternative healing and alternative thought resources.**

And then I went to my favorite new age book store last Sunday and found a book called “The Reluctant Empath”.   The authors are two practicing shamans who tell the story of a young man who struggles with being extra sensitive to his environment.  The authors discuss coping strategies & grounding techniques for dealing with the energy and feelings the boy used growing up.

Two things stood out from the first 4-5 chapters:

  1. These people were not telling me I need to shield myself from the negative or the positive feelings & energy as the only effective way to cope
  2. These people were telling me that there is an alternative that works better BUT
    1. It’s counter-intutitive
    2. It takes a lot of practice
    3. It means facing fears

What is the alternative?

Grounding out the feelings – yes a grounding coping strategy

Now, I’m not going to be the best at explaining this concept right now.  To be honest, I’m still learning how to use it.  But here is my take on their grounding technique:

Our minds & bodies are conduits for energy.  Energy helps our heart beat, blood flow, brain work, etc. as it flows through us.  Why not use that flow to move external energy in, through, and out of ourselves instead of letting it get stuck in our bodies?

Their technique resonated with me because I use something similar to cope with negative feelings and tolerate overwhelming feelings.  My version of this is the visualization technique discussed here

Conclusion

I used to think my problem was with expressing angry feelings.  Now I understand that the issue is with acknowledging and accepting these angry feelings.  By facing my fears around anger and acknowledging anger instead of rejecting it, I am changing the way I think and feel about the emotion and myself.  I can accept myself and the anger inside me now.

By acknowledging the anger as part of me, I am learning how to face and cope with some of the scariest parts of my past so that my recovery can continue moving towards true self-acceptance and a thriving life.

Thanks for reading