DAILY STRESS RELIEF

Looking for peace in your life and relief from the daily stress we all encounter? Try this short list of changes in your routine. It may not be comfortable at first but the more you do it the more comfortable it will become.

Add to your daily routine the following: If you miss a day or one of the steps don’t worry its OK, get back in stride the next day.

• Set aside 5-10 minutes each night before sleep to meditate, no digital devices and not TV. Let your mind unwind and be at peace before you fall asleep.
1) Sit comfortably, finding a stable position you can maintain for a while, either on the floor or in a chair. Close your eyes if you like or leave them open and gaze downward toward the floor.
2) Draw attention to the physical sensation of breathing, perhaps noticing the always-present rising and falling of your abdomen or chest, or perhaps the air moving in and out through your nose or mouth. With each breath, bring attention to these sensations. If you like, mentally note, “Breathing in… Breathing out.”
3) Many times, over, thoughts or feelings will distract you. You may feel distracted more often than not. That’s normal. There’s no need to block or eliminate thinking or anything else. Without giving yourself a hard time or expecting anything different, when you discover that your attention has wandered, notice whatever has distracted you and then come back to the breath.
4) Practice pausing before making any physical adjustments, such as moving your body or scratching an itch. With intention, shift at a moment you choose, allowing space between what you experience and what you choose to do.
5) You may find your mind wandering constantly, caught up in a whirlwind—that’s normal, too. Instead of wrestling with or engaging with those thoughts as much, practice observing, noting wherever your attention has been, and then returning to the physical sensation of breathing.
6) Let go of any sense of trying to make something happen. For these few minutes, create an opportunity to not plan or fix or whatever else is your habit. Exert enough effort to sustain this practice, but without causing yourself mental strain. Seek balance in this way; if you find yourself mostly daydreaming and off in fantasy, devote a little extra effort to maintaining your focus.
7) Breathing in and breathing out, return your attention to the breath each time it wanders elsewhere.
8) Continue to practice observing without needing to react. Just sit and pay attention as best as you are able. As hard as it is to maintain, that’s all that there is. Come back over and over again, without judgment or expectation.
9) When you’re ready, gently open your eyes. Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions. Pausing for a moment, decide how you’d like to continue on with your day.
• Avoid red and processed meats and sugar. Chew your food deliberately and completely before you swallow, take your time. Meals are to be enjoyed not hurried like a race. Eat as much fruit and vegetables as possible.
• Do 15-30 minutes of exercise each day, even if it’s just a walk.
• Chew gum it stimulates the frontal cortex in a calming way, without creating craving, and relaxes the body. Make sure it is sugar free.

You can expand the timeframe, as you get more comfortable with your routine. Make time for your mind and body to grow in a healthy way.

The Lost Art of Conversation

by Janice Marturano
Institute For Mindful Leadership

Last week we had an unusually warm winter day and I decided to go out and enjoy the lunch hour at a favorite local restaurant. As I walked toward the door, I was reminded of the power our senses have over our experiences. Smells of spices wafted through the air and made my stomach gurgle long before I crossed the threshold. I was ushered to a table by the head of the family that has owned the place for generations. It all felt welcoming and warm…until new guests arrived at the next table.

The new guests were a well-dressed mother and daughter, the child was about 9 years old, and clearly looked happy to be at the restaurant. As they sat down and were handed the menus, the girl started chatting about her choices for lunch while the parent immediately pulled out her phone and began to text. At some point, the girl stopped talking and reached in her backpack for her own phone. They never put them down again until the food arrived, and even then, would occasionally pick them up between bites.

This is not an unusual situation these days, but it left me feeling sad. The connection that could have been made that day was lost and the modeled behavior gave preference to texts over family. Texts do not substitute for human connection. Communication is multi-faceted, and mere letters on a screen do not convey warmth, sorrow, joy, the pure connection felt from a human being’s presence. The art of conversation is not a ‘nice to have’, it is critically important to our growth as human beings.

We learn to listen, we feel compassion, we learn that words can heal, and words can harm. When we converse, we do not get to hide behind a screen, we need to own our words…and their impact, for better or worse. As leaders, this should not be viewed as a “soft skill” but as a job requirement- how many times might we miss the opportunity to lead with inspiration, with compassion and with clarity because we are driven to distraction by our phones, laptops and the noise around us.

So, in the face of the habitual nature of technology, can we return to recognizing and practicing real conversation? Here are a few external and internal tips to increase your chances of having a conscious conversation.

1.      Turn off or put away all screens-you cannot have a conscious conversation with one eye on the phone or laptop. If the person is important, show them. Give them your full attention.

2.      Before you begin, check in on your intention for the conversation. Can you bring an intention to be open to whatever will unfold?

3.      It can also be important to bring kindness to the conversation. you can remind yourself that we are all in this together, that we all aspire to be happy and healthy. Remembering these truths can help you listen more deeply.

4.      When your mind wanders, bring it back. Your presence will be felt, and so will your absence.

Be patient with this practice. It takes time and commitment. But the opportunity to re-connect to those we love and those we work with is well worth the effort.

Uselessness and Self Pity

Bedevilment – We had a feeling of Uselessness
Promise – That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear

Keeping in mind that The Promises come after working the 9th Step…making amends. Uselessness is where it begins.
With Anger comes the classic trap, the “noonday devil,”—a kind of listlessness or boredom in which nothing engages our interest or appeals to us. We wander about in prickly tedium, picking up one thing after another, tossing it down, sighing, wishing for another’s company but also dreading it, wondering how to get through a day that seems ninety hours long, nurturing bitter thoughts that trap us in the dark and tempt us to abandon our course. What’s the use? Nobody cares. Nothing matters, anyway. The translation of this thought is “self-pity,” a far better term than “laziness” or “sloth,” for it conveys both the utter melancholy of this condition and the self-centeredness on which it is founded.
The problem lay not in “bad thoughts” but in a process of bad thinking that is really wrong vision—seeing things from the perspective of our fears and fantasies (unrealities) rather than seeing things truly. Our demons within our soul destroy proper perspective on the world and thus prevent us from concentrating on the actual reality of our life, leading us further and further from our actual condition, making us try to solve problems that have not yet arisen and need never arise.
Treatment of this condition deftly outlines the “way of seeing” that sustains the way of life that is the spirituality of imperfection. It also underlies all later enumerations of the “fatal flaws” to which the human condition is subject, such as turning to our list of those we must make amends to and being “painstaking about this phase of our development.
As always, the trouble comes from failing to see the real issue. Anger, which is inevitable, is not to be squandered by focusing attention on the wrongs of others; rather, it should be directed at our own faults, and especially at how we have wronged others, thus moving us to make “amends”, to do something kind even for the people who have offended us.”
The cure? “Be real” Accept the reality that there is no exit from the human condition. Recognize that running away will not work, for we take these problems with us—they are where we are, and so we can escape them no more than we can escape ourselves.

Fear I Give You Back

Let these words from Native American poet, Joy Harjo sink deeply in. She writes from her personal experience of fear. Change the details to match your experience, but keep the essence of her message.

I release you, my beautiful and terrible fear.

I release you.
You were my beloved and hated twin, but now, I don’t know you as myself.
I release you with all the pain I would know at the death of my daughters.

You are not my blood anymore.

I give you back to the white soldiers who burned down my home, beheaded my children, raped and sodomized my brothers and sisters.
I give you back to those who stole the food from our plates when we were starving.

I release you, fear, because you hold these scenes in front of me and I was born with eyes that can never close.
I release you, fear, so you can no longer keep me naked and frozen in the winter, or smothered under blankets in the summer.

I release you I release you I release you I release you

I am not afraid to be angry.
I am not afraid to rejoice.
I am not afraid to be black
I am not afraid to be white.
I am not afraid to be hungry.
I am not afraid to be full.
I am not afraid to be hated.
I am not afraid to be loved, to be loved, to be loved, and fear.

Oh, you have choked me, but I gave you the leash.
You have gutted me but I gave you the knife.
You have devoured me, but I laid myself across the fire.
I take myself back, fear.
You are not my shadow any longer.
I won’t hold you in my hands.

You can’t live in my eyes, my ears, my voice my belly, or in my heart my heart my heart my heart.

But come here fear. I am alive and you are so afraid of dying.

ANGER

The truly humble person is unable to feel anger.

Sure, we get angry. Who doesn’t? But anger gets in the way of recovery and renewal. It’s all-consuming, a kind of undifferentiated negative energy that gets in our way. Anger colors everything. It immobilizes us. We get stuck in it. Anger is one of the many things that led us to our addiction.
If we can root out each of our addictions, one at a time, we might be able to find out how we got here in the first place. Not only will such a process of self-inquiry help, but without anger, it may no longer hurt.
In recovery, we transform our anger into humility-and bow our heads before God. Stop blaming yourself or those you love. Without humility, we can’t do Step Seven. What’s humility anyway? Simply a recognition that we’re not so great and that God is greater. That’s why we ask God to help us in the process of removing our shortcomings. In working our Twelve Step Program, we are partners with God, only God is a little more so.
When you feel yourself getting angry, look at yourself in a mirror. Think over why others may be angry at you. It’s a humbling experience.

Emotional Sobriety

This is the substance of a revealing letter which Bill Wilson wrote several years ago to a close friend who also had troubles with depression. The letter appeared in the “Grapevine” January, 1953.

EMOTIONAL SOBRIETY

“I think that many oldsters who have put our AA “booze cure” to severe but successful tests still find they often lack emotional sobriety. Perhaps they will be the spearhead for the next major development in AA, the development of much more real maturity and balance (which is to say, humility) in our relations with ourselves, with our fellows, and with God.

Those adolescent urges that so many of us have for top approval, perfect security, and perfect romance, urges quite appropriate to age seventeen, prove to be an impossible way of life when we are at age forty-seven and fifty-seven.

Since AA began, I´ve taken immense wallops in all these areas because of my failure to grow up emotionally and spiritually. My God, how painful it is to keep demanding the impossible, and how very painful to discover, finally, that all along we have had the cart before the horse. Then comes the final agony of seeing how awfully wrong we have been, but still finding ourselves unable to get off the emotional merry-go-round.

How to translate a right mental conviction into a right emotional result, and so into easy, happy and good living. Well, that´s not only the neurotic´s problem, it´s the problem of life itself for all of us who have got to the point of real willingness to hew to right principles in all of our affairs.

Even then, as we hew away, peace and joy may still elude us. That´s the place so many of us AA oldsters have come to. And it´s a hell of a spot, literally. How shall our unconscious, from which so many of our fears, compulsions and phony aspirations still stream, be brought into line with what we actually believe, know and want! How to convince our dumb, raging and hidden 閃r. Hyde’ becomes our main task.

I´ve recently come to believe that this can be achieved. I believe so because I begin to see many benighted ones, folks like you and me, commencing to get results. Last autumn, depression, having no really rational cause at all, almost took me to the cleaners. I began to be scared that I was in for another long chronic spell. Considering the grief I´ve had with depressions, it wasn´t a bright prospect.

I kept asking myself “Why can´t the twelve steps work to release depression?” By the hour, I stared at the St. Francis Prayer … “it´s better to comfort than to be comforted.” Here was the formula, all right, but why didn´t it work?

Suddenly, I realized what the matter was. My basic flaw had always been dependence, almost absolute dependence, on people or circumstances to supply me with prestige, security, and the like. Failing to get these things according to my perfectionist dreams and specifications, I had fought for them. And when defeat came, so did my depression.

There wasn´t a chance of making the outgoing love of St. Francis a workable and joyous way of life until these fatal and almost absolute dependencies were cut away.

Because I had over the years undergone a little spiritual development, the absolute quality of these frightful dependencies had never before been so starkly revealed. Reinforced by what grace I could secure in prayer, I found I had to exert every ounce of will and action to cut off these faulty emotional dependencies upon people, upon AA, indeed upon any act of circumstance whatsoever.

Then only could I be free to love as Francis did. Emotional and instinctual satisfactions, I saw, were really the extra dividends of having love, offering love, and expressing love appropriate to each relation of life.

Plainly, I could not avail myself to God´s love until I was able to offer it back to Him by loving others as He would have me. And I couldn´t possibly do that so long as I was victimized by false dependencies.

For my dependence meant demand, a demand for the possession and control of the people and the conditions surrounding me.

While those words “absolute dependence” may look like a gimmick, they were the ones that helped to trigger my release into my present degree of stability and quietness of mind, qualities which I am now trying to consolidate by offering love to others regardless of the return to me.

This seems to be the primary healing circuit: an outgoing love of God´s creation and His people, by means of which we avail ourselves of His love for us. It is most clear that the real current can´t flow until our paralyzing dependencies are broken, and broken at depth. Only then can we possibly have a glimmer of what adult love really is.

If we examine every disturbance we have, great or small, we will find at the root of it some unhealthy dependence and its consequent demand. Let us, with God´s help, continually surrender these hobbling demands. Then we can be set free to live and love: we may then be able to gain emotional sobriety.

Of course, I haven´t offered you a really new idea — only a gimmick that has started to unhook several of my own hexes´ at depth. Nowadays, my brain no longer races compulsively in either elation, grandiosity or depression. I have been given a quiet place in bright sunshine.”

Bill Wilson

Self Esteem & Honesty

We have struggles being honest with self and others. The concept of false self-image, low self-esteem and lying, is prominent in people with substance use disorders
The following story about myself is a prime example:
Last week I was rejected for a position I coveted. I felt it had the potential to help people recover from addiction and stop the cycle of relapse. It fit perfectly with what I am seeking and my qualifications matched. The interviews went well, I thought. But then I was told I wasn’t the right fit, but possible when they expanded and were hiring again I might fit.
It made me feel disappointed.
Soon after anger and fear were creeping in, but never did I feel like drinking or using. I kept sharing with others in recovery and my sponsor. Being told that it would work out for the best, it probably was not meant to be or maybe I should change my focus.
This advice only made me more determined to find the truth about this obvious mistake. It was making me less accepting and unable to find my part until I started praying to my HP for understanding and acceptance. Within 15 minutes a friend of mine with inside knowledge of what had happened casually mentioned to me he heard what happened and was disappointed for me. Suddenly this little bit of compassion transformed me into an accepting person with many good things to say about everyone involved and how fortunate I felt to know of the program and have met such exceptional people.
I am relieved. I became aware of my need for humility and ability to trust my HP to help me grow, to be resilient and understand it all happens for my good.
My self-esteem is fragile and rejection had fractured it.
I was letting my thinking interfere with my heart, losing touch with it and thinking I was in control with my mind.
Thank you, Sunlight of the Spirit, for energizing my soul, helping me trust and have faith.

We Can All Do Better

The general disintegration of interpersonal relationships, the lack of respect for personal boundaries and the personal abusive verbal and physical attacks has caused me to speak out from my experience.
Being a white male of privilege I have never been the object of unwanted sexual advances or sexual acts such as rape. My perspective is not the same but I believe it is relevant.
About 60-65 years ago my stepfather physically abused me regularly. It was never sexual but it was painful. If you knew me as a child I was small and scrawny. He was big and muscular. I recall never offering much if any resistance, my objective was to cover up and hope it ended quickly.
None of this is the same as a sexual assault. But it made me feel ashamed and guilty.
Anyway my point is our culture and society have become numb to attacks on people because of their gender, looks (including race and religion), difference or beliefs.
Those being assaulted are not the issue!
NONE of it is OK!
What is particularly upsetting is it emanates out of the highest offices in government and businesses of all kinds.
It’s not acceptable.
Human beings were not created to fight, because nobody wins a fight.
If we show each other love, admiration and respect we can have a healthier culture and society. Our heart wants us to be happy and live in peace, but unfortunately we are being manipulated to see each other, as objects not people.
It’s proper to treat others with kindness without expectations.
We do the next right thing, just because it’s the right thing. To no longer be motivated by money and profit, but by what’s best for society.
It will require a massive effort by more than a few, more than just the women, or people of color or the minority groups; it will have to be the will of all the people. It will necessitate a new mindset by most men.
When it comes to sexual abuse and assault, I join with women everywhere.
We can all do better.

New Beginnings – Genesis

When God began to create, the world was gloomy and in disarray. So God sent forth the Divine spirit, giving it light and order. Genesis 1:1
The new beginning. We read this chapter every year at the start of our Torah Cycle. It may be the most read paragraph in the entire book, by people of all Christian and Jewish faiths. It is where everything started, but is it?
If the world was already “gloomy and in disarray”, might it be that there had been a previous world or maybe several. It could be that lack of success in getting the world in a proper state caused The Power of the Universe to begin over and over again to make something satisfactory, not perfect but good enough to carry-on.
If that be, please indulge me, it would seem consequently that our obligation as creations of this Power is to be as good as we can be and do the right thing. Our Sunlight of the Spirit rested, satisfied that this Creation was good enough to be continued. It makes since that we were created without perfection, as is the world we inhabit.
Maybe, after many tries at perfection, God decided that humans were better off not being perfect; with creativity and kindness could fashion a world to live and love in.
The reality of this concept is a chance to live life on life’s terms. To experience a Spiritual Renewal, marveling at the miracle of creation. It gives us the opportunity every day of our lives to begin again, knowing that we were created into an imperfect world we should not expect perfection from our self or others.
We have only to be thankful, that there is no such thing as failure if we emerge like a newborn to renew our spirit and trust The Power of the Universe. Each day we continue on the journey begun thousands of years ago to renew our life with the strength we were given to succeed.
We can’t fail if we begin again as we were taught.

Self Compassion-Heal Yourself

by Kristin Meekhof* EDITED
After a loss in your life because of death, a breakup or even giving up your addiction there is pain. Your level, including anxiety, may actually increase as time passes because you are coming to terms with all that is broken. Unfortunately, a reboot isn’t available. The life you once had no longer exists. It is important to feel self compassion – heal yourself.
In understanding grief or loss, it is important to understand that healing doesn’t occur in one fell swoop. For some, there is much that waits to be healed. In addition, it is not unusual to feel anxiety, fear, doubt, anger and frustration. When working with these feelings associated with loss, practicing self compassion can assuage some of the emotional pain. For the purpose of this piece, I am defining self compassion as this: the act of practicing loving kindness both in words and actions with the intent to heal one’s pain.
Five Ways To Practice Self Compassion After Loss:
1. Journal Writing: This technique allows you to become transparent with yourself and show your deepest fears. It is difficult to heal that which you hide from yourself. Keeping a journal allows you to write the unspeakable. When you look over your journal entries, see the words you use to describe yourself. Take notice if you are overly critical with yourself.
2. Soften The Critical Inner Voice: Speaking to yourself with a harsh and cruel tone shapes the way you think and feel. Your grief can be overwhelming at times, so be gentle with your words. You don’t heal any faster with negative thinking.
3. Forgive Yourself: Mistakes both big and small happen. Beating yourself up isn’t going to change the past or help you cope better. And if you can’t forgive yourself for everything, then try with a small piece and forgive yourself for this.
4. Make Modifications: After a loss, you are not 100 percent. Instead of trying to do everything as you did before, go ahead and make small changes to your daily tasks and schedule. For example, you may still go to a work event, but instead of being the last one to leave you decide to leave early. It is okay to make other adjustments as well. You may not have the energy to clean your entire home at once, so you decide to break it down into small tasks and do it over a period.
5. Reach out: Grief is not a D.I.Y (do-it-yourself) situation. This means that you may need to swallow your pride and ask for help with plumbing, childcare. While you might think others should be at your doorstep volunteering to pitch in, this may not happen. Asking for help can save you a great deal of extra stress and frustration. You may also need to seek professional mental health treatment to help you cope with your bereavement.
Remember that practicing self compassion isn’t natural post loss. Unfortunately, there is not a set time frame for recovery. Your life sustained a severe complex fracture. Give yourself permission to be sympathetic to your own pain. Give yourself grace.