Saturday, April 30, 2011

Unit 6

The Loving-Kindness exercise continues to be a beneficial, open-ended guide of opening my heart, which is relaxing and calming to such a significant degree.  The Integral Assessment was helpful, but not surprising.  Although I do not regularly do such specific meditations as prescribed in the exercises for this class, I do regularly review my life and assess the different areas that are going well and not going as well as I would like.  The biggest area of struggle in my life is a mix between interpersonal and psychospiritual (I think).  I have been finding it difficult to remain calm in the face of my semi-rebellious almost 6 year old, who is incredibly strong-willed.  I tend to engage in the battle with her, instead of allowing her to learn that Mommy is an adult, and adults do not get wrapped into child-like behavior.  It is a lesson I have failed many times, but am THANKFUL that I am finally able to remain calm and assertive with her.  Several things had to come into place to allow this to happen, but one of those things did include all the beneficial information and mental training I have been receiving in this class.  The other things that had to come together, though, was remembering how beneficial it is for my daughter to receive some discipline when acting inappropriately, remembering that I do not have to lose control in order to enforce rules, and then having a good system for rule enforcement.  A good friend of mine was super beneficial in helping me to start an excellent system for rewarding appropriate behavior and gently redirecting negative behaviors.  It has worked wonderfully already!  Some of the specific exercises I can do to help continue to work on this area is the loving-kindness exercise, which is helpful just to remember the importance of these two attributes.  Other practices can be to take deep breaths when feeling my emotions come to surface, speak very quietly when I really want to yell, and if all else fails just send my daughter to her room for a time-out before I lose my patience and things go really south.  The biggest thing is for me to prepare myself mentally throughout the day for the likely challenges ahead, and then planning a course of action to protect all of us from a loss of control.  All-in-all, great stuff!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Subtle Mind

Give me a moment as I return to reality....  I just completed the Subtle Mind practice and I found it far more challenging than the loving-kindness practice.  For the loving-kindness practice we were given things on which to focus our minds, but for the Subtle mind practice we had to let our minds flow and learn to tame them.  Such a different beast, no pun intended.  I thought the concepts brought up in the audio though were very interesting and gave me a lot of food for thought, such as witnessing the thoughts but not getting attached to them.  I had never heard it put quite this way before and it is clarifying for me on applying such broad concepts as "go with the flow" and the like.  What I am finding is that I am much more aware of my mental state throughout the day, even if not yet at a position of yet being capable of changing it.  I know, though, that awareness is the first hurtle, so I am happy to be experiencing even this.

Another thing that got my attention in this practice was how different it is to flow in loving-kindness as opposed to intentionally remaining in that mentality.  In the loving-kindness practice, we had to intentionally move into that mindset and stay there, but in the subtle mind practice we are left to begin battling the waves of the mind with its ups and downs in emotions and reason.  It is far more difficult for me to get to a place of loving-kindness when I am not intentionally in a stance to do it, because my mind becomes attached to the thoughts or feelings brought up in the instant.  I think these practices, though, will help me to become better as having a stance of peace and "being still", which is talked about in Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God."  The stillness intended here is not just a physical stillness but one of internal anxiety and disruption.  I am looking forward to experiencing this profound scripture and its implications in my life through the practicing of exercises like these.

Spiritual wellness plays such a large part in the physical wellness we experience or miss in this life.  I have met so many people who are burdened by stress, anxiety, a victim-mentality, etc and their lives reflect this lack of confidence and position of peace, especially their physical bodies.  Many are overweight significantly, battling with a cancer or heart disease, or just frazzled internally, which manifests in their attitudes toward life.  Who wants to live that way?  Spiritual wellness helps to set the foundation for all other things.  Before I dove into better understanding and securing my spiritual health, the rest of my life was all over the place, but when my spiritual health became my top priority, all other aspects of health flowed evenly from it.  What comes to mind for me are scriptures like 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body," and 1 Corinthians 9:27, "I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified."  Both of these scriptures remind me that I am to take care of my physical form in light of my spiritual position in Christ.  If I did not matter in the big scheme of things, than it would not matter what I ate or did with my physical body, but because I matter and because this is the only body I will receive, it is my responsibility to take care of it to the best of my ability and treat it lovingly.  It is out of my spiritual fitness that my body is physically trained because my mentality is in a position to respect and honor the importance of that activity.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Loving-Kindness Practice

Finally, a successful meditation exercise!  I found the exercise to be very beneficial for my mind.  I enjoyed taking the time to really rest in the concept of loving-kindness and reflect upon its value and application.  In the beginning portion that said to think about someone who I love, I thought about my Savior, Jesus, and was brought to tears remembering His greatness, significant love for me and everyone, and the sacrifice He made to show that love.  He is the epitome of loving-kindness.  I was also overcome with emotion at the thought of the difficulties of a good friend, who is suffering greatly financially since the economic crash.  My deep-breathing and well-wishing turned into intercessory prayer for her and her peace.  I know this time is very difficult for her.  At the end, I was struck by the mentioning of enemies in context of "suffering."  It is so, so, so important to always remember that we are all people who are suffering and hurt.  It is out of our suffering that we respond in negativity and disrespect to others.  When we keep this in mind, and see people for who they really are (people who are hurt, scared, and lonely) we can express loving-kindness towards them no matter what they do.  It reminds me of Jesus' words on the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).  It was a great exercise.

A "Mental Workout" is the process of intentionally training the mind to grow and become more capable, just as we would if we were intending to train our physical body through physical exercise (Dacher, 2006, p 64).  An athlete does not just sit idly and expect that their body would become physically capable of great feats of strength or efforts of endurance, but diligently works to persistently challenge their body to test and challenge its limits, reconfiguring them regularly as they are redefined.  Research indicates that the practice of the contemplation helps to move our minds to an "expanded consciousness and...healing capacities" (Dacher, 2006, p 65), which has been proven empirically through the millenia of Eastern medicine practice.  Implementing these mental workouts on a regular basis, whether through utilizing audio recordings such as the one provided in the class, which walk the listener through a guided contemplation, or engaging in a personalized time of contemplation and focus, would be highly beneficial for training my mind to act in loving-kindness and with wisdom.  This is the follow-through, or application, of "As a man thinketh, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7).  The more I meditate on and feed my mind with the intention and practice of living in a way of loving-kindness and wisdom, the more naturally those behaviors will flow out of me.  If I focus my mind on frivilous, selfish, or anxious thoughts, I will react to situations instead of intentionally responding as needed.  These practices are definitely a workout for the mind to get ready for the daily battlefield.  I don't just want to win the battle; I want to win the war.

Dacher, E. (2006). Psychospiritual Flourishing. In Integral Health The Path to Human Flourishing (p 64-65). Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc.

Friday, April 8, 2011

My Wellness Factor

What is my wellness factor?  Well, currently, I would say that my physical and psychological well-being are at about an 8, while my spiritual well-being is about a 6.  This term in school is pushing my mental capacity for the workload and I am finding it difficult to optimally function in all of my different wellness areas.  My energy has decreased because I am up later in the evening trying to finish reading assignments, so my morning workouts have fallen to the wayside as I am too tired in the mornings to wake up early enough to get them done.  My mind seems to not have time to shut off and just be still, since there are so many various tasks that need to be accomplished during this time, such as school with the kids, watching the kids, taking care of the home, homework, planting the garden, laundry, make food, prepare for government shut down, etc.  I am finding it difficult to just sit still and not HAVE to do anything else.  Because these other elements of myself are out of whack, I know my spiritual wellness is suffering too.  I just feel burdened and pressed, which results in a shorter temper, less focus, and increased emotions, none of which is beneficial for me or my family.  This is one area though that I have continued to focus on by diligently having my bible study in the morning to ensure I get some important things to focus on throughout the day.  It helps.

My goal is to go to bed by 10p each night so I get enough sleep to wake up by 5:30a to workout, which will boost my energy throughout the day.  I also have a goal to secure time to get schoolwork done without interruption, which will assist in releasing some workload stress.  Spiritually, my goal is to meditate on scriptures that speak to these areas of stress and worry and continue to turn them away from myself so that they are not my burden any longer.

I completed "The Crime of the Century" exercise, which was very nice in fact that I fell asleep about 10 minutes into it.  This is what happens when even just sitting down is a welcome relief to the go-go mentality of the day.  Prior to falling asleep, though, I was very happy that I could feel myself relaxing and the tension reducing, but sadly, the other thing going through my mind here and there was that I needed to be doing other things, not sitting still "doing nothing" for 20 minutes.   I think this is going to be a process....

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Relaxation Attempt....

So, it has become incredibly obvious to me in my experience as a student/mother that the law of Murphy is always in effect.  Why is it that as soon as one tries to go through a relaxation experience all the noisiest and least relaxing sounds in the world become ever more apparent, if not increasingly loud and obnoxious?  Such was the case with my relaxation attempt this week.  As I sat down to listen to the directions of the audio, I soon heard the dog barking, kids talking and then yelling, and my baby crying.  As much as I tried to get through the rest of the audio, my time essentially became ironically more frustrating than usual, causing more stress and even a stress headache.  Apparently, trying to take "sit still" relaxation during the midst of chaos for me actually creates more of a stressful situation than not doing it at all.  Since I was unable to actually relax physically, I did not experience the heaviness symptoms described on the audio, but one thing I did glean from it was to intentionally slow my breathing and go through focused relaxation during stressful times, even if while standing and only for a moment or two in between managing children fighting or babies crying.  Maybe next time will be a better report!  =0)