Solutions and StrategiesI began my search for solutions and strategies because I did not want to be overweight. My weight was up and down as I dealt with dieting and bingeing. Of course I had other issues but the desire to be slim kept me looking outside for tools and inside for healing. I suggest that you read these examples of solutions and strategies in dealing with mild to severe challenges and perhaps you can implement some of the healthy self-management tools. See what might work for you and make your own choices for your own healing.
for Mild to Severe Challenges
Anxiety and Panic
Dealing with Change. When I turned fifty years old it came to me to stay home for Christmas. This was my intuition guiding me. Messages from intuition or deep wisdom just pop up. Anyway it felt like a good idea because for the last fifty years I had always gone to my parents' home for the holidays or stayed home with a husband. Stay home, I thought? Why not, I was ready to do something different. Also I loved being in my own home. At that time I had been a single mother for 11 years and my son was going to be away with his father for Christmas. It was a perfect time for me to be home alone with no responsibilities. I looked forward to it.
To my great surprise this Christmas vacation was very difficult. Before I knew it I was feeling anxious and panicky. I was crying. Everything was fine in my environment but yet I was so unsettled. I even had crazy thoughts like my sister didn't love me because she was not returning my calls. On Christmas Eve I was crying on the phone to her, embarrassed to admit my folly. She explained that she had been away on a weekend trip and had told our mother to tell me. My brother was at her home visiting and we spoke. He suggested he fly me out that night to Victoria for the family Christmas. He said that if this was just about putting pins in my eyes why the heck would I stay in Calgary. I laughed and I was tempted. I saw myself sitting at the dining room table with everyone, feeling fine and wondering what all the fuss had been about. Then I knew that I needed to stay home and finish this out, whatever it was. And I was pleased to feel the support and love coming my way. After I hung up the phone I went to a friend's house for dinner and had a nice time.
Later that night at home, I felt anxiety and panic again. I felt my feelings and did my best to walk through the experiences, to be in them. I said yes, accepting what I was facing. I also figured I was shedding layers of feelings, if anything. Then Christmas was over and I felt fine. I reflected. The process made me think about the people who get laid off or retire after 30 or 40 years at the same job and what they must go through. Or a person who loses a spouse to death after 50 years of marriage, even a military soldier who must become a civilian again after years of service. I realized that the cells in the body must go through anxiety, panic, anger, or frustration with the change.
I had gained significant life experience that Christmas and much empathy for people going through great change. It would be several years later that I would also understand the significance of the experience when I moved to Victoria, B.C. and again felt anxiety. It was as if my body was saying what are we doing here? I miss the roots in Calgary. The previous event at Christmas had prepared me for the change I went through when I moved to Victoria. It softened the blow. It has been written that moving is one of the most stressful changes we can make. I always wondered how that could be. I had moved to Calgary when I finished university in Edmonton. That wasn't very stressful. Moving from Calgary to Victoria on the other hand was a different story. Now I understood. I had developed deep roots in Calgary. The deeper the roots the more stressful the change. Again the key is to be in the change with awareness and acceptance.
Thinking that Anger and Other Feelings are Bad
I used to think that anger and other feelings were bad, that to have them was a weakness. Two events helped me gain more understanding. The first event occurred when I was at the meditation school in Italy. This was the place I went to when I was 29 to study myself and meditation. There I meditated, had a lot of group therapy and scrubbed many floors and toilets. Anyway one day I felt annoyed with the sharing of a group member. I should be nice I thought to myself. I told Paul the group leader, about my process. He said I judged myself and that I needed to practice acceptance. How do I do that I wondered. At the end of group a friend said that he was helped with this process by saying 'yes' in front of everything. So I began, "yes I am feeling annoyed at that person...yes I am feeling that cleaning toilets is beneath me," and so on. Eventually what happened was that I moved into more acceptance of myself. With more acceptance came jumps in insights and less negativity. For example a few years later I left my son's diaper on too long. He developed terrible diaper rash. I berated myself as he cried. I put him in a soothing bath as I repeatedly said, "I am a terrible mother. I am a terrible mother." After quite awhile of practicing the yes exercise I suddenly went to an insight. What popped up in me was, "I'm not a terrible mother... I made a mistake." This was lovely.
~Eckhart Tolle writes in A New Earth (2005) how an uncompromising yes allows inner resistance to be gone and we can then find ourselves empowered (p. 172). Also non-reaction to the ego (like saying yes to being annoyed with another person's sharing in group) is one of the most effective ways of dissolving ego and helping us become more conscious (p. 62).
The second event that helped me understand more deeply that feelings aren't bad, occurred with my brother. My father was ill at the time and my brother was visiting from Europe. This brother had studied meditation and done self-development work for many years and was very conscious. When he was ready to return to Europe, he was making plane reservations from his hotel room. I was staying with my mother at the time and later that day my brother dropped over for a visit. To my utter amazement he was so mad. People with this level of consciousness get mad I thought? He said, "How can you people live in a country with only one airline. I have been on the phone for hours," and on he went for several minutes. He was so total in his anger and he wasn't dumping it anywhere like punching a hole in the wall. He was just being it - so alive. I have been afraid when a husband or boyfriend has been angry, worried that he might strike out. One time a partner did strike out, throwing the television remote. But I wasn't afraid with my brother. Where some people strike out, the brother did not. I learned that day that even the most conscious people have feelings like anger - just not as often. The key is what we do with feelings when they come up. My brother was just present, being total in the anger. This was a demonstration of non-reaction to his anger (Tolle, p.62). He didn't judge himself. He didn't strike out. He was just in it.
Managing Anger and the Mind
Following the realization that feelings aren't bad, I was more accepting of my feelings. I recall being very angry at my son's father. It was Sunday night and I was all set to watch the Academy Awards, the only show in the year that I watched. I become anxious if I watch more than one television show a week because for years I used it to avoid myself. Anyway my former husband, David dropped our son off from his weekend visit and then drove away. Normally he would come in and tell me about their weekend. My son came in and said that his side hurt a lot. I went to him and thought I might have to take him to the hospital for an appendicitis or something. I was so upset with David, thinking that he had left this problem for me to deal with and on the night of the Academy Awards! I sat my son down and called a chiropractor friend for advice. We determined that Regan had a pulled groin muscle. It was treated and I went back to the Academy Awards. I was mad at David for three days. My solution was to be in it and not call him because nothing good comes out of my mouth when I am mad. So I felt it and felt it and felt it as I did my usual routines. I was surprised that it took three days but finally it healed and passed.
I telephoned David and he exclaimed, "Where have you been? I haven't heard from you for days." Normally I called him nightly so he and Regan could visit. I told him what I had been through and he said that Regan had complained about his side that morning and he did his usual thing of telling our son to shake it off. He thought it had worked as Regan did not complain of anymore pain. Likely it did and then when our son saw his mother the pain came up again. I wanted to say to David that if he did not come in and debrief with me after his visits then I would not let him see our son. Of course I had no legal right to do this but I sure wanted to say it. Instead there was a little squeak of light getting through and what came out of me were more conscious words. I stretched myself to say, "It would help me so much if you could come in and debrief with me after your visits." He replied of course he could. Now if I had said the initial ego driven words the conversation would have become a swearing match. Being in my anger with non-reaction dissolved ego, helping me become more conscious. This is exciting.
~Eckhart Tolle has a great story about ducks that illustrates the mind. It is in A New Earth (2005) but I couldn't find exactly where. Anyway he writes about being in Stanley park in Vancouver, B.C. sitting on a bench, watching the ducks. He observed two ducks approaching each other. When they got close they began to spar. They flapped their wings at each other. After a few minutes they moved away from one another. They each proceeded to flap their wings and shake off any left over energy. Eventually they calmly swam away. Eckhart commented that if they had a human mind they would have continued 'the fight' and said, "I'll bet he will come near my part of the pond again. I'll have to watch for him. If he comes anywhere near me I'll have to protect myself," and on and on. Instead the ducks shook off any reminisce of energy and returned to peace and calm. By being in my anger until it passed, I too returned to a peaceful state where I was more conscious.
The Goal Is To Face Our Suffering
“Can I sense my essential Beingness in the background of my life at all times...
How do we achieve Tolle's state of Beingness? We achieve it by practicing tools for healthy self-management such as awareness, mind-management and feeling emotions. Also surrendering and relaxing help us to connect to our intuition - our Beingness. Getting counseling for challenges is helpful as we work issues more quickly. Under these circumstances, our Beingness can bloom.
As I face life's challenges I use the tools described on this site. For example, when I moved from Calgary to Victoria in 2011, difficult thoughts and feelings emerged. The first night in my new apartment I had anxiety. As I unpacked boxes for several hours I was aware that I felt nauseous. Was it something I ate? I took digestive enzymes and drank mint tea to settle my stomach. There was some mind-talk about all of the details I still needed to do such as changing car registration , insurance, driver's license, health care, and so on. I told myself to take on one detail at a time. Later when I lay down to sleep and still felt nauseous, I finally considered that I might be feeling anxiety. So I said to myself, "run your course anxiety, do what you need to do" and after a few minutes a shift occurred. The anxiety melted away. I felt better. Was my Beingness in the background at all times? Somewhat but also I was able to use tools to manage the stress and come back to a peaceful place. Intuitive management of challenges occurred. I suffered less. This is the goal of my work - to teach people tools for healthy self-management so they are more peaceful and conscious.
Anxiety - Dealing with Being a Single Mother
Tolle wrote in The Power of Now that “...you need to become fully conscious of your emotions (like anxiety) and be able to feel them before you can feel that which lies beyond them...intense joy...love...peace...(and) feelings of wholeness” (1997, p. 24)
My son was three years old when I decided to end my marriage. Many of my brothers and sisters encouraged me to stay in the relationship because it was tough for single mothers out there, they said. After I heard those words several times, I decided to see if things could work out. My husband was game to try again. Within three days I felt depressed. It was then that I knew I needed to go even though it might be tough as a single mother. I chose to stay in the matrimonial home for an extra three months because the house I was renting was not ready. My ex and I were on good terms and we lived with relative harmony in separate bedrooms so it was okay. This also turned out to be a good experience for the children as it gave our son and two step-children time to get used to the idea and to see that the parents were getting along even though they were separating.
The day finally came to move and I was so excited to get on with this next phase of my life. Happily I packed boxes. The movers came and very quickly the contents of the house were shipped out. As I began to unpack boxes in the new house, I suddenly felt anxious. I was surprised. The relationship with my former husband was clearly finished for me so why was I feeling anxious? I kept unpacking. That night I woke up with anxiety. I was so afraid. As I looked at shadows and heard noises, I worried about boogie men in the house. Not likely I thought and yet I was very afraid. I began meditating at night as well as in the morning so that my mind would be calmer and not wake me up with worries. My business was steady and so I had enough money to pay my bills. But still my mind was filled with worries about not having enough. An insight came about money. During my three year marriage my husband and I shared the bills. On occasion his cheque would bounce. At those times I felt afraid about money and I would tell myself that it was because of him that I felt afraid and that if I were on my own I wouldn't feel this fear. To my great surprise there was so much fear inside of me that had nothing to do with him. I had blamed him for feelings that were already there, just dormant.
In order to cope I rode my stationary bike every morning and listened to self-development CDs by master teachers like Deepak Chopra, Carolyn Myss, Paul Lowe and so on. This practice helped tremendously as it reminded me about healthy concepts and it retrained my mind from its negative thinking. I also consciously felt the fear that bubbled up on a daily basis. Then one day while I was at work I felt a cold coming on. I had one session left to do and so I took a cold tablet. I was hungry at the end of the day and the cold tablet upset my empty stomach. To my dismay I started to feel very anxious. I checked the ingredients on the medicine bottle and caffiene was listed. I was sensitive to caffein ever since I had stopped drinking coffee at university and I had that empty stomach. To make matters worse, my office at the time did not have any windows and I started to feel claustrophobic. This only increased the feelings of anxiety. I managed to get through the hour and finally went home. The next morning I began to worry that I might have anxiety again during my session. As I drove to the office worries were running in my head. To my dismay, anxiety did occur and a more serious level of anxiety emerged. Eventually I developed full blown anxiety attacks. The symptoms included freezing cold hands, a hot face, shortness of breath, a dry mouth, a pounding heart, tightness in my chest, a lightness in my head, a fear that I might faint or throw up, and a voice screaming, "get out of here, run, leave the office, go, get away from here." The clients didn't seem to notice my state as they were focused on their own concerns. This was fine by me as I could then ride out the attacks. I would have a drink of water, I would focus on my note pad and write down themes from the session. It was a terrible time. I even had anxiety as I drove my son to kindergarten. At parties I felt overwhelmed by a crowd of people. I wondered why this was happening to me.
I eventually realized that in my life I had avoided fear, starting in grade one when the teacher was far too strict with us. I had been terrified. I developed a nervous stomach. The dentist did not know how to freeze my teeth properly for dental work and I was so afraid of him. I went to an all girls' school and did not know how to be with the boys. Sometimes our jr. high class went to the the boys' school for dances. Although I had six brothers, I still didn't know about junior high boys and what they wanted from me . I was anxious. When my brothers argued and fought I was so afraid and so I hid in my bedroom and cried. I did not know what to do with those fears and so they stayed stored inside of me. Over time I developed an onion of fear. When the anxiety attacks started to come, it was time for me to deal with the fear. So I did my best to ride out the attacks. And then one day in my office it came to me to say, "Okay anxiety, run your course. I'm not going to run away from you anymore. Do what you need to do." And just like that I felt a shift occur. I had surrendered. The anxiety no longer had a hold on me. It had lost its power over me. With that change in focus the anxiety started to melt away. I had turned a corner. It is interesting to note that when I had told the anxiety to run its course (an intuitive response) there was still the mind telling me, "get out of here, run, leave the office, go, get away from here." But the anxiety didn't hear that part anymore. It only heard the wisdom that said, "Okay anxiety, run your course. I'm not going to run away from you anymore. Do what you need to do."
I recall another occasion where I was feeling a significant layer of anxiety. It was Sunday morning and I had awakened at seven in the morning. I lay on the living room couch and vibrated with fear. I was so tired of this. I was on my knees asking Higher Power for help. "Please help me," I begged. "I can't take it anymore. Please." I was surrendering in a deeper way. And then I felt the sensation of angel wings being wrapped around me, guiding me back to bed. I slept deeply for another 3 to 4 hours. When I woke up I felt so much better . I had turned another corner. Two important actions helped me get through the peeling of the onion of anxiety attacks. One was telling it to run its course versus running away from it. The second action was being on my knees and asking for help from a Higher Power. I surrendered, I gave in both times. In time I began to feel more at peace, just as Eckart Tolle describes in his quote.
Why feel feelings? So that they can melt away, like an ice cube melts in your hand. If we don't feel our feelings then a build up occurs creating an onion. The onion blocks our intuition and our feelings of peace and joy. When we feel those layer of feelings, the onion gets peeled and eventually gets smaller and smaller. Then we can feel that which lies beyond, the peace that is there under the onion (Tolle, The Power of Now, 1997).
Meditation Made Easy
This article is about sitting meditation. The first step to meditation is to make a commitment to do it daily. If we leave it to do later or tomorrow, we never get it done. It is helpful in the beginning to choose the same time each day for the meditation. The routine of meditation is then more easily established. Meditation is easy to do but hard to get done. Our minds can think up every excuse not to sit and meditate. This is partly because our minds do not want things to be different. Our minds want to stay in control. It is therefore helpful to do just five minutes per day to begin. The mind has a hard time disagreeing with just a few minutes of meditation.
There are other types of meditations. Some people prefer dancing meditation or walking meditation in nature. Others like the meditative quality of a quiet warm bath. People have reported feeling that deep connection to Self and Source through these various avenues. There is only one type of meditation that I have difficulty with. It is when a teacher has instructed new students to clear their minds of all thought. This is impossible to force and beginners who try this become exhausted and never want to meditate again.
It is common to repeat a word also known as a mantra during meditation. We can also watch the breath. If we choose a word it is one we are comfortable with. The most commonly used mantra is om, also written as aum. It has been described as being the sounds or vibrations of God energy and our Souls. The mantra quiets the mind. You can also use other words like peace or love. Harvard University did a study on mantras and found that any kind of mantra works and this included phrases such as 'I am peace, love and joy.' The chosen mantra is repeated using the inside voice. No one can hear us chanting our mantra. The use of a word helps us to get started as does watching our breath. These techniques give the mind something to focus on otherwise we would be saying, "What am I doing here. If anyone saw me what would they think?" By saying the mantra or watching the breath we just begin to ease into ourselves. We begin to relax and feel distance from our thoughts and stresses.
The method of watching the breath and not using word mantras is called Vipassana. This type of meditation provides further advancement as it allows us to experience no thought for a few seconds. We experience the gap between thoughts, as we watch the breath. We then build on this happening. Although we may experience only seconds of silence, there may come a time when we will move from mere seconds of the gap of no thought to perhaps minutes of this peaceful silence.
Here are nine guidelines for sitting meditation.
Meditation sounds like daydreaming and there are similarities. In both states, the mind is relaxed and drifting. We may even fall asleep, which is acceptable. The differences are that in daydreaming we are usually laying on the couch and in meditating we are sitting up. Although we are relaxed in meditation, we are also alert. We can hear any sounds in the environment such as a car horn in the distance. However, we are not disturbed, but simply aware and relaxed. If we are stressed about a car horn then we need to be stressed and observe it.
Some clients report that they feel anxious during their first meditations. This is understandable as it is somewhat strange at first to close the eyes and be inside. However the key is to just feel the anxiousness and say the mantra. An anorexic client meditated daily and all she could handle was saying some of the Lords' prayer, then she would open her eyes and get busy again. I praised her for her efforts. She continued to practice and in time she was be able to do a little more and a little more. Eventually she was able to sit comfortably with herself and her eating improved. There are other steps that you can do in your meditation such as connecting to the Higher Consciousness. Saying the Lord's Prayer or just tuning into God energy accomplishes this. At some point, you can also ask for help for yourself or for another. At the end of a meditation expressing gratitude to Spirit is fitting.
Some clients feel anxious because they wonder if they are meditating correctly. They often say, "I couldn't get my mind to be quiet." We are not going to silence the mind except for a few seconds when we watch the breath, so don't even worry about it. Simply say the mantra and you will eventually drift. What happens is that we unhook from the mind. The mind continues its talking but we naturally move away from its chatter and descend into relaxation and our inner wisdom.
According to most of my clients meditation helps their minds have less hold on them. Also a greater ability to accomplish other practices occurs, such as feeling feelings. They focus better and sleep better. They report that most everything improves and that meditation is the most important tool of self-healing.
In conclusion, meditation helps us to be more conscious. This means that we are more aware, joyful and at peace. The mind is quieter and more positive. Although meditating increases consciousness, it does not guarantee it. On the other hand, if we did not do any practices, it is unlikely that we would achieve more beingness.
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