spirituality

LEAVE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE THAN YOU FOUND IT

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Steven Hawkins, the Cambridge Scholar, died today. He is a wonderful example of a man who made the right choices and made them work. His mind was strong but his body weak. He suffered from a debilitating illness yet he continued to work. You see, you have to believe in yourself with the same conviction you have to believe in God. If you could ask Jeff Bezos, (Amazon), the Oracle of Omaha, (Warren Buffet), Bill Gates (Microsoft), and the many others who are billionaires what is the one thing they believed in when the moments of doubt had them stalled…they would tell you…they believed in themselves. They all had failures in their career. Think the Edsel, the Ford fiasco, think Zap Mail, the billion dollar FedEx failure, there are many many others that gave doubt to the men in charge. At every time, in everyman’s life, you have to go with your gut and you may be wrong. Think Custer, and his last stand. Studebaker, Packard, Stutz bearcat are examples.

Believe in yourself and you may be wrong. And that is how I think God operates. “Trust in Him with all your might, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths strait.” Not for your glory but for His. Don’t be afraid of failing to get what you intended from your effort. You know that because of your faithfulness in trusting Him, He got from your effort what He wanted for His purposes. God is in the bowling business, He knocks over a lot a pins with one ball.

Don’t let money deceive you. Business is the best game I’ve ever played, and money is just a way to keep score, but there are a lot of unhappy rich men. There are a lot of unhappy poor men. There are a great many things that contribute to happiness. We haven’t done much in adding to Aristotle’s definition that he made in his book Nicomacion Ethics. He said, “Happiness is the only human emotion that is complete in itself. There is nothing that can be added to it.” I’ve often considered that was the reason Thomas Jefferson (a well-read philosophy scholar) included it in the Declaration of Independence... “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

And what about the number one killer of finding your full potential…a girl/boy. The urge to merge is great and having babies is the millstone to hang around your neck. What I say for boys goes for girls. You work to provide food and shelter for your family, period. And debt. You borrow money for personal consumption items and you have sold your soul to the devil. Debt robs you of your freedom of choice. You can’t quit the job and go to school. Make the mortgage payments. And where will you live? Is this job in the place and under the conditions you want to live during your life? What I’m saying here is, “Life is not a dress rehearsal.” You don’t get a chance to double back and do over. And time is in short supply.

It is said that without Ruth there would be no Billie Graham. Without Pierre Curie there would be no Madam Curie. Yes, there are those who find the soul mate to help them with their chosen field. And such a relationship is precious as diamonds. I wish I could tell you how to find such a relationship, but I can’t. It takes mutual respect, both as a person and as a professional. It takes a since of humor. It takes a large amount of humility, and compassion. It takes forgiveness and thoughtfulness. And most of all it takes love. A deep abiding gratitude for and appreciation of the object loved. And it must endure over time. The girl or boy you fell in love with at 18 is not the same person at 30, nor 40, nor 50, nor 60. You are floating down the steam of life…together. And it is a hard ride. Leave the World a better place than you found it.


This article was written by Lawrence McGrath.

Originally titled: 4th Message for Millennials

Lawrence wrote the book: A Cry From The Heart: A Personal Essay

Click here to purchase his book on Amazon.

Mr. McGrath is an author, father and grandfather. A retired marine pilot, lawyer, college professor, college president, bank president, and consultant.

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE - WELLNESS-MINDFULNESS

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Mindfulness involves an awareness of the here and now, and a mindset that is open and receptive to new ideas, information and experiences. In substance abuse treatment, mindfulness can be a way to cope with feelings, stress, triggers and urges and a way to manage stress and anxiety. Mindfulness can be the difference between responding effectively to the trauma symptoms that often co-occur with substance abuse, and a relapse to substance use to escape the unpleasant symptoms.


 Mindfulness, if practiced regularly is a positive skill that counteracts one’s self-destructive behavior. It is not an escape or a means of avoidance. It is a way of staying present with pain and discomfort, rather than fleeing from pain and discomfort. Instead of staying compulsively busy to avoid an urge, running from an urge or giving in to an urge by using; a person practicing mindfulness observes and accepts the urge, and rides it like a wave – knowing that every urge has a beginning, middle and end - and that this one too will pass.  


Mindfulness is a way of engaging the mind in response to any stressor, situation, interaction or activity that is causing any distress on the Physical, Emotional or Spiritual of you. Mindfulness helps a person recognize strong urges or feelings as invitations to accept or decline after careful consideration, rather than commands to act immediately. Mindfulness allows a person to remain calm under fire, then choose a response to a stimulus that is in his/her short-term or long-term best interest.


Skills Defined


There are mindfulness skills that need to be learned and practiced. When practiced routinely, it will be easier to call upon the skills at any time and to apply them when needed. Part of the beauty of mindfulness practice, is that the practice does not necessarily require sitting in a certain position or closing the eyes. Mindfulness can be practiced and skills during activities and as part of the activities. Some essential mindfulness skills are:


Awareness: Awareness involves focusing attention on one thing at a time, while at the same time recognizing that there are many things going on. Some of these things are external such as sounds, odors, touch, and sights, while some of these things are internal, such as our feelings thoughts, urges, impulses, etc.


Non-judgmental: The emphasis is on observing without judging or labeling things as “good” or “bad.” The idea is to observe my angry feelings without judging them as bad or feeling a need to get rid of them or do something about them. It’s like holding my anger at arm’s length and just noticing that this is anger. Then understanding that not only is it anger, but that it’s ok that it is anger and even understandable that anger would be there.


Present Moment: A present moment focus or being in the present moment means fully participating in the present without being distracted by guilt from the past or worry and anxiety about the future. It means engaging in activities that are meaningful today, not just mindlessly doing what I have always done or going through the motions without attention to what I am experiencing.

 

Open Mind (or Beginner’s Mind): An open mind or beginner’s mind is childlike (not childish). It is being open to new experiences and seeing them as they are; not how you have judged them to be or think they should be. If I attend an event with the mindset that “this is going to be a waste of time,” I have a preconceived notion about the event that prevents me from experiencing the event as it is. Likewise, if I already know it all, I’m not open to learning anything new, or experiencing the joy and bliss of learning.

A Beginner’s Mind is what a child has who experiences something for the first time.


This article was written by Marc Baisden, MACP, MIN

Click HERE to Learn more about Marc Baisden.

https://www.alignable.com/anchorage-ak/recovery-intervention-services

THE TRUE WELL-SPRING OF WELL-BEING


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It is natural and fundamental for living beings to want to be happy, healthy, and free from suffering. Life would not have persisted for nearly four billion years were living things not motivated to, and reasonably good at, seeking favorable circumstances and avoiding unfavorable ones.


When you consider much of what people do in our day-to-day lives, it is mostly in service of meeting our needs for food, clothing, shelter, and a sense of safety, satisfaction, and happiness. We don’t necessarily awaken each morning and say to ourselves how much we hope it’s swamped at the office, or that traffic will be absolutely gridlocked, or maybe we’ll get into a car accident so we can practice with being grateful for the time we have.


Yet we know, despite our deepest desires for how our life will be, that all sorts of things can happen, and many of them range from a little annoying to utterly devastating. Our children can become addicted to the painkillers in our cabinet the dentist prescribed us last year. We can get laid off from our jobs. We can be raped or mugged or murdered or diagnosed with untreatable cancer. We can be vegetarian, alcohol, tobacco and drug-free, run marathons, and still, have a heart attack at age 60. As the old saying goes, people make plans, and God laughs.


When trouble comes, we all get through it one way or another, sometimes more gracefully than others, always hoping to get back and remain in calm seas for smooth sailing. Then something else comes along: the flu, a torn meniscus, a child who develops asthma or depression. It will never remain smooth sailing for long; that’s just not how life works. And yet, somehow, we keep hoping that life will be something other than what it is.


It sounds crazy. Maybe it is. It seems human aspirations are doomed to be awkwardly incompatible with the vicissitudes of life. Indeed, in most if not all of us, there is an undercurrent of dis-ease, a fear about what is to come, that the moment of something terrible happening might be in our future, and not just someone else's whom we read about in the news. So, what to do?


About twenty-five centuries ago, a man named Siddhartha Gautama, better known as the Buddha, left home in search of a resolution to human suffering. After many years of searching, of trying many different things, and close to death and despair from neglecting his physical health and making little progress towards his goal, he had a breakthrough when he simply let go and let the storms in his mind be as they were. He settled more and more deeply into his pure, conscious awareness of all of his sensations, thoughts, and feelings. What he discovered was that human beings suffer when we want life to be different from how it is.


But it's not the desire per se: it's our attachment to it, our belief that our beliefs about how life should be or could be, are more important than how life actually is. This, of course, is foolish. It's not that we have no control over our lives and circumstances, it's that that control is forever limited, and many things will happen that we do not expect, and perhaps do not want.


Yet what he also discovered is that if we can detach from that belief that our wishes are more important than reality, we can begin to find real peace.


The key lies in our conscious awareness. The more we identify with and rest in our awareness, the more we can just be with the truth of how things are in this moment, the more a kind of magic starts to work on us.


We naturally let go of a struggle with life that is deeper and subtler than we ever imagined. We may never want to be sick or hurt or die but are no longer ill-at-ease with the difficult truths of life. It is analogous to someone who is so unfit that they cannot climb a flight of stairs without getting seriously out of breath, who then slowly begins to exercise, a little more with every passing week, until perhaps a year later, they are able to run a marathon. Their body naturally transforms by being more and more active.


So it is with a meditation practice where we simply rest ever more deeply in our awareness of what is. In doing so, we find well-being that is beyond sickness and health, beyond happiness and sorrow, beyond birth and death.


In some sense, finding this power within us changes nothing: we can still dream and plan, take care of our bodies and minds with healthy food, exercise, and rest and relaxation. We still take care of others. In another sense, it changes everything, because it transforms our relationship with every aspect of our lives, and frees us to do all of these things with greater presence, love, and patience.

This article was written by Joshua Sandeman

Click HERE to Learn more about his work.

www.linkedin.com/in/joshua-sandeman

A DEFINITION OF LOVE TO LIVE BY

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Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was a television program that was on public television for 50 years. Which is a good example of leaving the world a better place. But the important thing Mr. Rogers said to the children was “This program is make believe. Make believe is fun but it is not real. It is important that you know the difference between realities and make believe.” Many people have not learned the difference. Take the message of the Christian God.


It all starts with the Bible. Read Bart Ehrman’s book Misquoting Jesus to see a razor sharp clarification of how we got the book called The Bible. There are many people who swear it is the infallible and inerrant word of God. Some add “In the original texts.” There are no original texts. And it is the infallible and inerrant word of God because they believe it is, not because it is. But it is your challenge to find out what the real truth is about God. The intensity of a person’s belief does not increase the truthfulness his argument. That is the main thing to be weary of. People who, for whatever reason, claim that God is real and alive in their lives elevate their personal experience to be a fact of life for all, are in error. He may be. But that experience is personal to the believer. It cannot be transferred. Think of a beautiful sunset or sunrise. You cannot replicate that experience in words, logic, song, or force in another human being to have that same experience and you cannot replicate a personal experience with God either.


The force and the duty to replicate the experience is strong. Parents raise their children in obedience to the dictates of their religion. And as George Orwell wrote, “One cannot appreciate the naiveté of a child to believe what an older person is telling them is the truth.” That places us in Aristotle’s plight who said, “It is easier to teach a man who is ignorant than one in error. The ignorant man can hear the truth you have spoken, but the man in error must first be convinced that what he believed to be true is in fact false, before he can accept the truth.” That is why you will have a hard time finding the truth. What you believe about everything is probably false or incomplete. But have a teachable spirit and a humble attitude and it will make your path smoother.


Now here is the question, “Is God a fact in human existence?” How do you answer that question? Do you first have to believe he is a fact in order to believe he is real? Or do you have to believe there is a God before you can make him a fact if your life. Or do you have to have a personal experience that causes you to believe God intervened miraculously in your life in order to make God a fact in your life. My study indicates all three, and probably more, have proved God is real. But it is a personal experience that does not establish God as a fact for another who has not had a personal belief experience. It follows then, for any person to say, “My belief is more accurate than your belief,” is wrong. If God is an infinite reality, human knowledge begins and ends in the senses. Infinite things cannot be sensed-only believed to exist. Therefore, human knowledge cannot have certain knowledge about God. That is why people who speak with certainty about God are not to be believed.


But the pride of man is limitless. And nearly everyone who believes speaks with authority about the reality of God. Why they are not satisfied to believe themselves and leave everybody alone I don’t know. You have to know what you know and why you know it. Be comfortable in your own skin. All of the world’s religions are directed toward Love. The issue here on earth is to learn how to love through the ages. We need, we all need, to learn the definition of love that can stand for all humankind. Forget about the dogma your religion has taught you. Forget about the rituals your dogma has taught you. The motivation to Love has a new and different definition.

Love is the deep abiding gratitude for and appreciation of the object loved. If we can all do that we will fulfill the admonitions of the world’s religions.



This article was written by Lawrence McGrath.

Originally titled: 2nd Message for Millennials


Lawrence wrote the book: A Cry From The Heart: A Personal Essay

Click here to purchase his book on Amazon.


** Mr. McGrath is an author, father and grandfather. A retired marine pilot, lawyer, college professor, college president, bank president, and consultant.

GRATITUDE FOR A NEW LIFE

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If you're a regular consumer of social media, you've most likely seen this question pop up on your news feed: "What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you were thankful for today".  It makes us all stop and think, in the moment at least, and offer up a few sentiments to the universe before going on with our previously-scheduled programming of stress, worry, and negativity.


But what if you considered making gratitude part of your everyday life?


Gratitude is a positive emotion. While some define it as "the state of being grateful" or "expressing thanks", I like this definition best:


“Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power." -- Harvard Medical School


However you elucidate it, feeling and expressing gratitude has a positive impact on both you and others. I challenge you to find an article or video describing the ill-effects of gratitude.  There are many reasons why we'd want to develop a heart of gratitude, and here are just a few.


A Healthier Body

According to Robert Emmons, leading researcher on gratitude and its effects, those who practice gratitude in a consistent manner report a host of benefits including stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, and are less bothered by aches and pains. (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_gratitude_is_good). In an article published in the National Communication Association’s Review of Communication, Stephen M. Yoshimura and Kassandra Berzins explored the connection between the expression of gratitude and physical health. They found that gratitude consistently associates with many positive health states and reduced reports of negative physical symptoms. (https://www.natcom.org/press-room/expressing-gratitude-makes-us-healthier-who-wouldn%E2%80%99t-be-grateful)


“Gratitude can be an incredibly powerful and invigorating experience. There is growing evidence that being grateful may not only bring good feelings. It could lead to better health.” – Jeff Huffman

 

Peace of Mind


Gratitude can also benefit our mental health. Emmons conducted multiple studies linking gratitude and mental well-being. His findings were that gratitude can increase happiness and decrease depression. And a study published in 2014 in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that athletes can increase their self-esteem, an important component of mental wellness, by expressing gratitude. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022440507000386)


"Results indicated that counting blessings was associated with enhanced self-reported gratitude, optimism, life satisfaction, and decreased negative affect." In a separate study, children who practiced grateful thinking showed signs of more positive attitudes toward their family and at school. (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008).


Sleep Tight


And how about that elusive but necessary thing called sleep? A study done in 2016 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that more than one third of Americans don't get enough sleep. (http://www.healthcommunities.com/sleep-disorders/overview-of-sleep-disorders.shtml) Struggling to doze off, waking in the middle of the night, tossing and turning, starting the day feeling exhausted-- sound familiar? Try gratefulness as a sleep aid. One study showed that those who were grateful fell asleep quickly and slept more soundly, supporting evidence that more grateful people may sleep better because they have more positive thoughts when they lay down to go to  sleep. Gratitude predicted greater subjective sleep quality and sleep duration, and less sleep latency and daytime dysfunction." (https://www.jpsychores.com/article/S0022-3999(08)00422-4/fulltext)

 

Make new friends


Gratitude can help with creating new relationships. A study led by UNSW psychologist Dr Lisa Williams and Dr Monica Bartlett of Gonzaga University showed that the practice of thanking a new acquaintance for their help makes them more likely to seek an ongoing social relationship with you.  "Our findings represent the first known evidence that expression of gratitude facilitates the initiation of new relationships among previously unacquainted people," says Dr. Williams.


But how?


Gratitude acts as a strengthener of our positive emotions, like exercise is for muscles. This practice of appreciation eliminates feelings of envy and angst as it allows our memories to be happier. Through gratitude, we experience positive feelings, which in turn help us thrive after disappointments and failures. It shifts our attention away from toxic emotions and makes it harder to ruminate on negative events. In a study done by Joel Wong and Joshua Brown in 2007, involving 300 subjects who were seeking mental health counseling, they found that when people are more grateful, they experienced brain activity which is distinct from neurological activity related to a negative emotion such as guilt. In addition, they exhibited a greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with learning and decision making. (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain)


Now what?


Though we may understand the many benefits of expressing gratitude, incorporating it into our day-to-day lives can be tricky.  Life's pressures bear down on us and staying thankful often doesn't come naturally...negativity does. But with a little effort, it is possible to maintain an attitude of gratitude.  Here are some ideas to try:


1-Eat thankfulness for breakfast.  Literally, don't allow yourself to get out of bed until you've said, out loud, at least 5 things you are thankful for, whether great or small.  Pause after each and soak in the warm, positive feelings that are associated with each. It's a healthy and optimistic way to start each day.


"Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving." — Kahlil Gibran


2-Fill a thankful jar.  Find a colorful jar at a local thrift shop and set it somewhere you can see it throughout the day. On a scrap of paper, jot down anything and everything that happens each day that makes a positive impact on you:  a kind word from a colleague, a surprise gift from a loved one, the beautiful sunrise on your way to the office, the aroma from your pumpkin spice latte. Wad these up and throw them in your jar, then, at the end of the year, spend an evening reading through each special moment. You'll feel like the richest person in the world.


3-Say it.  Get in the habit of saying "thank you", to everyone you interact with...the barista, the security guard, your coworkers -- even those you don't get along with.  And don't forget to thank yourself -- self-love is an important part of maintaining a positive outlook -- and taking time to appreciate your own accomplishments, achievements, and successes can help with that.  "I appreciate you" is a great ending to almost any email or text!


4-Let gratitude tuck you in at night.  Before going to bed, try opting out of scrolling through what everyone else in the world is doing, and instead, journal about a positive event from today It may be as small as, "I got out of the house without spilling my coffee", or as grandiose as realizing a long-term goal -- but no matter the significance, get in the habit of writing the positives down.


"Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul."– Henry Ward Beecher


And who knows, your own attitude of gratitude may be just the encouragement someone else needs. Don't be surprised if, as you grow in expressing gratitude, that others will want a piece of the pie.  Joy is contagious and when others seeing you living a life of physical health, mental health, sleeping deeply and enjoying healthy relationships -- to name a few -- they will want to learn your secret.  If not for yourself, consider developing a heart of gratitude to be a light to others.


“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzer


 

This article was written by Amy Sargent.

Click HERE to Learn more about her work.

http://the-isei.com/home.aspx

RELATIONSHIPS AND TRAUMA, PART TWO


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“Trauma and its psychological wounds often destroy relationships, families, and communities, even claiming lives.” - From Trauma: Healing the Hidden Epidemic


Last month, we looked at the ways unresolved trauma affects, or almost “infects” relationships. We examined both the practical and the personal burdens that partners of individuals with unresolved trauma can bear. But what happens when both individuals in a relationship—a family, a marriage, a business partnership—carry wounds from the past?


Yours, Mine and Ours


The challenges in a relationship where both individuals carry unresolved trauma can be illustrated by considering the challenges in blending a step-family. As in a marriage between two individuals with children from other relationships, each individual may bring personal difficulties into the relationship that have nothing to do with their new partner, family member, or loved-one. These painful issues may express themselves in a variety of negative or undesirable symptoms and behaviors.


Each individual in the relationship may have some awareness of their own troubling issues. Each individual may also have some awareness of the emotional difficulties their new partners struggle with. Often, however, such awarenesses are hard to grasp. A great deal of confusion and conflict can arise in the day-to-day give-and-take of relationships when pain from the past is influencing behavior and attitudes in the present.


The confusion only deepens when the third set of challenges arise. To use our illustration, if the painful issues of each individual are the “yours” and “mine” stepchildren of the blended family, the third set of painful challenges will be the “ours” children, or the issues the new couple have with each other. These are the challenges and difficulties which arise precisely because of the nature of being in relationship.


Putting it briefly, two key ingredients in significant relationships are intimacy and dependency. For traumatized individuals, intimacy and dependency are very substantial challenges in themselves. The experience of trauma—whether prolonged developmental trauma or events of shock trauma—frequently, if not always, damages an individual’s ability to trust and feel safe in the world. Healthy intimacy and dependency require some ability to trust, and the willingness to allow that trust to grow and deepen. Individuals must be able to feel some essential element of safety in the relationship and be willing to help create a safe place for their partners and loved-ones.


Often, individuals with unresolved trauma lack the objectivity and awareness to sort out the “yours, mine, and ours” in their relationships. They may find themselves creating unfulfilling, destructive relationships over and over in similar patterns, or their painful pasts may be so overwhelming that they avoid relationships altogether. Competent, effective counseling can help with the sorting-out process to help individuals heal and strengthen their relationships.



By Dr. Peter Bernstein

To read more of his articles, please visit: http://www.bernsteininstitute.com/blog/

*** "This article was written and originally published when Peter Bernstein, PhD was a licensed psychotherapist. His practice has evolved and he is currently a life coach, mentor and consultant."

The Kind of Love that Knows No Limits

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As the saying goes, “You are not a human being having an occasional spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being having a temporary human experience.” And there is no better time of the year to affirm that for yourself than Easter.

For me, the Easter story is a dramatic demonstration and profound illustration of something that I believe is just as true for you now, as it was for Jesus over 2,000 years ago—that you are in this world, but you are not of this world.

How so? Your true essence is spirit, not body. And unlike the body, your spirit is eternal and indestructible. Your authentic self is, in a word, divine—an individual expression of that all-pervading energy that many of us call God. And you are here for one purpose, and one purpose only: to express your divine nature in the body, and in the world.

And what, exactly, is that nature? Love. Unconditional love. Divine love.

It’s the kind of love that knows no limits . . . the kind of love that forgives—no matter what. It’s the kind of love that Jesus fully expressed throughout his life, right up to the final moments of his earthly existence. And it’s the kind of love that you, and I, and all of us are called upon to express on a daily basis.

Today, and every day of the year, may you remember who you are, and why you are here. May you remember that the journey of life is not about getting somewhere. The journey of life is about being something. It’s about being the love that you are in every single moment of that journey. And it’s about experiencing the absolute joy that your love brings to the journey, and brings to each and every spirit that you encounter along the way.

Happy Easter!


This article was written by Steven Lane Taylor.

Click HERE to Learn more about his work.

WEBSITE: www.rowrowrow.com


RELATIONSHIPS AND TRAUMA, PART 1

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Trauma affects, or almost “infects” relationships. The partners of individuals with unresolved trauma bear burdens that can be both practical and personal.

Practical Burdens

The lives of partners of trauma-affected individuals are burdened in practical ways because they must often fill in for their loved-one who is in some way “not there” to help with the daily demands of life. The spectrum of “not there” can range in severity from mild impairment to highly dysfunctional. Not only is the individual “not there” to help, they can add to the partner’s burdens with their trauma-related demands and needs for care. Trauma-affected individuals can have symptoms (including depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, sexual dysfunction, mood swings, chronic fatigue, panic attacks, physical pain and disease, See Chapter 1: “Understanding Trauma”) which require care or accommodation. They can also have self-destructive behaviors (addictions, infidelity, risk-seeking activities) which result in negative consequences to the relationship.

Personal Burdens

Partners of trauma-affected individuals are also burdened personally within the relationship. Trauma-sufferers often want to avoid their pain by staying numb, isolating themselves, and refusing to be vulnerable. By limiting the amount of relating or connecting they do with their partners, they reduce the level of intimacy in their relationships, which removes the likelihood of having to feel pain. Partners become a “threat” to the traumatized individual’s sense of safety because they challenge the individual’s carefully constructed defenses against feeling.

The story of Brandon, a veteran of the war in Iraq, illustrates the desire for “numbness” shared by many traumatized individuals:

“But when he was home, the numbness began to wear off. He began to feel the emotional and physical pain of his experiences. Without the tools to successfully confront those feelings and learn to interact with his civilian family and friends, the feelings were completely overwhelming. The symptoms of his trauma were so intense that they were unbearable. Many service members, such as Brandon, feel that the only way to find relief is to be numb again.”
From Chapter 7: “A Note to Veterans and Their Loved Ones”

— Click HERE to speak to highly trained and experienced psychologists online. https://onlinetherapies.com

Self-medication through substance abuse is one way trauma-affected individuals attempt to remain numb, with often devastating effects on their relationships. They often turn to drugs and alcohol, I explain in Chapter 7, “because they want to numb symptoms of trauma. These substances keep the feelings and memories at bay. Their symptoms return when the high wears off, however, and the need to alleviate these symptoms creates an addictive pattern. It isn’t accurate to say that they want to abuse drugs and alcohol. Rather, the issue is that they will do anything to feel ‘normal’ again, or at least, comfortably numb.”

Partners of trauma-affected individuals often feel alone and rejected on some level. They may feel they must always tread lightly in their relationships. They may end up feeling helpless and powerless to make a difference in the lives of their suffering loved ones. Trauma-affected individuals often promote these feelings of powerlessness, because they are committed at all costs to maintaining control and protecting themselves from feeling their pain. Instead of cooperating with their partners by working through their traumas in order to have better relationships, they can actively resist and thwart their partner’s compassionate efforts. This conflictual, combative pattern, if it continues, can destroy trust within the relationship.

By Dr. Peter Bernstein

To read more of his articles, please visit: http://www.bernsteininstitute.com/blog/


*** "This article was written and originally published when Peter Bernstein, PhD was a licensed psychotherapist. His practice has evolved and he is currently a life coach, mentor and consultant."



JOURNEY TO THE HAPPY YOU!

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If you are like me and are inclined to engage in physical activity, integrating fitness and spirituality is essential. For many, many years I struggled to answer the question, “How do I take good care of my body but not fall for preconceptions about physical attractiveness and health?”

The answer was very simple, yet also highly complex and paradoxical. The closer you live to your spiritual heart, the less you tend to engage in purely physical activities and beautifying methods, even if they promote a healthy body and high self-esteem. This is because your spirit knows that sickness, old age, and death are inevitable. The time we have on earth is too limited to concern ourselves with the impermanent aspect of our existence. Every second becomes a valuable chance to recognize our true nature and to realize who we are in the spiritual reality.

When you know that there is a lot more to you than a body and a thinking mind, but you don’t know how to access that deeper part, you end up struggling between the two. This journey in limbo can be interesting, especially because it can teach you to have compassion for your own body. The paradox is that even giving attention to thoughts about fitness and health can lead you to believe that you are a physical being whose psychological needs must be met in order to feel good or to be whole. At this level, you are not living a spiritual existence yet.

However, this is all part of the journey to reaching the happy you. Listening to the heart, so that we can live more and more as a spiritual being can bring our existence to a conscious space where life becomes a loving and joyful adventure that renews itself with every moment.

 

Much love!

Valeria 

A "HEALTHY" DISTRACTION

Fear and insecurity can turn physical fitness into an addiction. While most of us consider the pursuit of physical fitness to be a great habit, for me, it was a painful cycle disguised as a healthy practice. The more unsatisfied I was with myself, the more strenuous, restrictive, and consistent my exercise and diet became.

Looking back, it’s clear to see that dissatisfaction, not poor health, was what propelled me to dedicate more than twenty years of my life to fitness. I strongly believe that the reason fitness and fit people are so popular is because most of us are attracted to the idea of having a “healthy distraction” from our inner conflicts.

Although it is true that exercise and physical attractiveness can improve our overall health and lift our self-esteem, using these methods to hide our pain can also result in increased, unnecessary suffering. I don’t know anything healthier than having the courage to dive deeper into our own hearts for answers.  

Much love! 

Valeria  

To be healthy is to be loving!

ESCAPISM & FITNESS HABITS

The links between my painful past and fitness became clear to me after a period of major inner turbulence. I knew that most compulsive behaviors had their roots in traumatic experiences, but I never connected my obsession with fitness with my lingering inner pain from the past. I believed I was a strong person who had overcome pain because I had a fit and healthy body to prove it, as well as a life that seemed to be driven by (and built on) authentic and exciting experiences. However, the truth was that my fitness habits, to a great extent, were escapism.

Much love! 

Valeria  

To be healthy is to be loving.

OUR OWN CREATED PRISON

Given how exercise, diet, and even therapy can become traps for a painful emotional reality, it’s crucial for us be aware of the fundamental causes of our suffering.

Think of how we might sometimes consciously (or unconsciously) believe that we are not good enough or not worthy of happiness. When this happens, we then begin to work hard in pursuit of this worthiness.

As a result, anything external that gives us the illusion that we deserve happiness for our effort will also become our own created prison.

This cycle of sustaining habits out of fear turns exercise and diet (or whatever our external source of happiness is) into negative forces, thus compounding the root problem as we live for our bodies and for conditioned emotional stability through abusive mechanisms.

This can cause disharmony within the heart, creating a state of mind where true happiness cannot exist.

Much love! 

Valeria  

To be healthy is to be loving.

 UNHAPPY HEART IN A FIT BODY

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Susan had a session with me at two in the afternoon. I was not feeling well after Destiny’s encounter. During lunch, my thoughts had been much more centered on love and kindness, and this reflection was hovering over me when Susan arrived. She’d been training with me for a couple of months.

I began chatting with her about these tender reflections. In the middle of our session, I said, “Susan, you know what I’ve begun to realize?”

 “What?” she asked.

 “That the foundation of health is love; how can we feel comfortable in our bodies if we are not in love with life? Does that make sense to you?”

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She looked at me as if she was thinking about it. Then she said, “Valeria, can you please get the mat for my next buttocks workout?”

We continued with the session as if I’d never brought up the insignificance of a fit body without a loving heart and a happy mind.

Much Love!

Valeria Teles

THE SUN, THE MOON, AND THE TRUTH CANNOT HIDE

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Karen was my last client for the day. We met at seven sharp, right after Steve.

Karen was an obese woman I trained twice a week. She was thirty years old, weighed 250 pounds, and was 5’ 2”. However, these numbers don’t say anything about her as a person. She was a painter who owned her own gallery in Manhattan. The serenity in her eyes and the way she smiled for no reason introduced her to me before she even told me her name.

She had been married for more than five years to someone who was in good shape. I knew this because her husband came to pick her up after our sessions. The conversation we had the first day we met left me pondering about life for days.

I asked the same question I asked every client before we began the program: What are your three main fitness goals?

Karen said she only had one goal: to enjoy the workouts.

I recall looking into her eyes as if she had not understood my question. I rephrased it, and this time I was more specific.

“I understand, Karen, and I will ensure that the exercises will be fun, but what I meant was, how many pounds do you want to lose?”

Again, she answered with a smile and said she didn’t care about the weight; she just wanted to feel good during and after the workouts. Furthermore, she said it didn’t matter if she didn’t lose any weight at all. Her peaceful eyes and joyful smile reinforced the truth of her words.

I could not believe this woman and how out of touch with reality she was. She was obese, for God’s sake! She could actually die of a heart attack at any moment, and my mind refused to believe that anyone could be at peace with a body like hers. It couldn’t be possible.

I insisted. I tried to force her to make a deal with me, and asked her to agree on losing one to two pounds per week.

Once more with the same serene, happy look on her face, she replied that I didn’t understand her. Patiently, she repeated that she was fine with her weight and that she enjoyed her work. She was a person who loved and was loved by her family and friends. Her life was a blessing, and she was grateful for what she had. There was nothing else to be added or removed to make her happier. The workouts with me were just to get her body moving while she had some fun.

I wasn’t amazed by her attitude, because I neither understood nor believed in what she was saying at the time. Nevertheless, after our encounter that day, I went home thinking about her, and I remembered a thought I’d had when I was a teenager, one that had returned many times throughout my life.

I would die young.

I believed I would not reach the age of thirty, despite being physically healthy.

Perhaps intuitively, I knew that my heart could fail at any time because of my lack of understanding of what life was really about: love and kindness.

I am convinced that Karen became my client for a reason—to teach me that to be healthy is to be loving. She trained with me for almost a year, and never lost any weight.

Karen was the healthiest client I ever had.

 

Much Love!

Valeria Teles

SIMPLE PRACTICE FOR A PEACEFUL DAY

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A simple practice we can engage in to cultivate peace and harmony is to give up hope and replace it with aspiration or motivation from the heart—that is, to stop waiting to be happy when something happens. Instead, rejoice in this very moment because what you are doing now should already be the realization of what you want to happen in the future. 

Warm wishes,

Valeria  

CHOOSE TO BE THRILLED!

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We have the choice to change our minds when we can't change the situation we find ourselves in. Instead of perceiving a commitment to finish our work with dreadful anxiety, we can live in these moments with a sense of excitement.

Embrace the challenge of being creative, thus tapping into the unborn parts of the mind that are not habitually conditioned to perceiving external events. 

The main difference between anxiety and excitement is the energy behind these feelings: one is driven by negative thoughts (anxiety), and the other by positive ones. All of the unnecessary suffering in our lives is self-created, and so is our happiness. 

When we are able to perceive reality with an inner “eye” that can’t see itself, our hearts will have become the source of unconditioned joy. 

 

Much love!

Valeria

TRYING TOO HARD

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I now see that my "fit and healthy" lifestyle was made up of a series of these kinds of experiences. I was very disciplined, but this discipline was turning me into the opposite of a loving and happy person. I came to realize that the pursuit of a fit and healthy body could only be a positive thing if we’ve already recognized our spiritual hearts as perfectly fit to provide us with a life of happiness and peace. In other words, although a fit body can improve our health, earn compliments that boost our self-esteem, and give us a temporary “high” of accomplishment, without a content mind and joyful heart, our happiness won’t last long. When our health and feel-good states depend on external conditions and constant hard work, this can propel us into an endless, destructive cycle.

Much love!

Valeria

ON SELF-RESPECT

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From my experience with fitness, I can confidently say that the motivation to have a healthy body should not be based on fear, but on love. One of the hardest negative mental habits to break is the constant need for the approval of others. This habit can result in physical and emotional abuse (as happened to me), by propelling us to overtrain our bodies so that we will be accepted and complimented by others. The more I abused my body at the gym, the more people praised me, and the more I was motivated to keep doing it—to the extent that I even signed up for competition shows. As you can see, this was not that different from a drug addiction. My lack of self-respect and self-love was great enough to keep me open to doing anything that gave me that “approval-acceptance” high. 

Much love!

Valeria

ON SELF-LOVE

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SELF-LOVE

After many insights and lessons, I’ve learned to have self-love without selfishness; to recognize which behaviors are motivated by love rather than fear; to see how closely connected my past is to my present; and that love, joy, and peace are at the core of our true nature with regard to how we relate to others and the world. My new spiritual understanding not only gave deeper meaning to my life, but it has also caused external changes I could never have imagined. 

 

Much love!

Valeria

THE SPACE TO BE YOU 

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"Bravo’s dusty roads were still paths for bull-driven carriages, which squeezed between the houses in a cloud of dust. The carriage conductor would scream loudly to give directions to the bulls. He wore leather pants and a leather jacket under the fierce sun, and whipped the bulls with two dirty ropes. From far off, I could hear the loud creaking of the carriage’s dry wooden chassis carrying large bags of beans and corn.

The sound grew louder and louder as it approached our street. It was a bit scary at first, but it always became the attraction of the week. I would rush to the window, covering my eyes with my fingers so as not to be blinded by the dust. I couldn’t open my mouth to laugh or scream either, unless I wanted to have dust for lunch.

I still enjoyed the passing of the giant, creaking carriage dragged by bulls and whipped by a wild man. Bravo seemed not to care about its bull-driven carriages making loud noises and clouds of dust. It was simply the space that allowed a bull to be a bull and a man to be a wild conductor."

 

Much love!

Valeria