Synchronicity Comes In Mysterious Ways

cricket

“Jung introduced the idea of synchronicity to strip off the fantasy, magic, and superstition which surround and are provoked by unpredictable, startling, and impressive events that, like these, appear to be connected.” ― C.G. Jung, Synchronicity

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Susan has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, severe agoraphobia, panic attacks and dissociation after being robbed at her place of employment. While being held up at gunpoint, she was still able to remain composed and pack the thiefs’ backpack as he demanded.

She returned to work after a week but she remained in the fear response and couldn’t manage the constant feeling of intense danger.  She was overwhelmed and thus came to see me.

We have been working together for almost a year with some progress. Her intense fears cloud her confidence and her critical voice keeps her stuck.

She rather leap forward and “return to normal” than confront her fears with small steps.  She feels the fear and then criticizes herself for having the thoughts at all. She understandably just wants the fear and anxiety to go away.

I have used many of the techniques inside my toolbox.  I introduced mindfulness meditation, four square breathing, grounding exercises, and positive, compassionate self-talk to soothe anxiety. She is able to relax in session and regulate her fears but once she leaves my office, her attempts at home empower fear and her critical voice belittles her efforts.

The Anatomy of Anxiety

Neuroscience has helped us understand how trauma effects the brain. Physiological changes occur even before the conscious mind knows why you’re afraid. The classic fear response located in the amygdala alerts other brain structures resulting in a burst of adrenaline, a shutdown of digestion, a rapid heart rate, sweaty palms, and increased blood pressure.

The circuitry from the amygdala alerts the thalamus and the cortex, the conscious thinking portion of the brain. After the fear response is activated, the cortex and thalamus kick into gear. The thalamus processes sights and sounds and filters incoming cues and directs them either to the amygdala or the cortex.   If the data streaming in through the senses assesses there is imminent danger, the body stays on alert and the thinking part becomes limited.

Once the circuitry proceeds into an elevated stress response for a long period of time, physical, mental, and emotional aspects remain out of normal working conditions. Tools like mindfulness meditation, walking, deep breathing, listening to soothing music, and positive mantras can help regulate the stress response and return your neural circuitry back to normal.

As confidence is built in your ability to self regulate emotions, it is possible to slowly expose yourself to your fears in small doses. Susan was stuck in the stress response and had depleted her self-esteem to try and normalize her emotions.

Symbolism and Synchronicity

While we were in a recent session, I decided to have us switch chairs to engage her into a sense of empowerment. The physical change didn’t help.

But just when things seemed so unhopeful, a cricket appeared. I had been in the office all morning without a cricket in sight. I mentioned seeing the bug crawl on the floor.

Susan lit-up. She said, “My daughter and I were sitting in the backyard the other day and saw a cricket. I was about to kill it but my daughter stopped me. She said, “Mom, crickets are good luck. Don’t kill it. You’ll ruin your luck.”

Was this a coincidence or synchronicity? In Cameron’s book, The Artists Way she described Carl Jung’s term synchronicity as a fortuitous of intermeshing events. Whatever you want to call it, it helped Susan. The belief in seeing the cricket sparked her hope again.

According to many cultures, crickets are a symbol of good fortune and wealth. The cheerful chirps of crickets make us happy. Even William Shakespeare writes about the joys of crickets in his play, Henry IV. In scene IV, Prince Henry asks Poins, “Shall we be merry?” Poins responds, “As merry as crickets, my lad.”

In The Cricket on the Hearth, Charles Dickens writes, “It’s merrier than ever tonight, I think.” And it’s sure to bring us good future; John! It always has done so. To have a cricket on the hearth is the luckiest thing in the world!”

The Chinese observe the cricket as the threefold of life. Crickets lay their eggs in the soil and lives underground as lava. Then they transpire and convert into the imago.

The Irish considered crickets wise and household spirits. They understood all that was said and it was unwise to speak badly of crickets. The singing of crickets keeps the fairies away.

There is much evidence from many cultures and timespans that crickets are a symbol of good things are to come. Sometimes it’s a spontaneous symbol like a cricket that can bring positive change. I am hopeful that Susan will normalize her fears and anxieties.  Soon she will reflect back on the experience as major turning point in her life as a way to make new meaning and sense of a more expanded and renewed sense of self, compassion, and gratitude.

By the way, I never saw that cricket for the rest of the day. I believe it to be a synchronistic event meant only for Susan!

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Running and Meditation

young fitness woman runner running on trail

young fitness woman runner running on trail

“Life Isn’t a Matter of Milestones but Moments” ~ Rose Kennedy

I began running when I was fourteen after meeting Persian woman who’s son I babysat. We instantly became friends. She and I would have long, intimate conversations. Our nightly runs and strolls through the hilly neighborhood streets gave us the opportunity to become quite close. Her husband and my mother were often away for work. Endorphins and close communications soothed our sorrows as did our friendship.

Even after I moved, I continued to jog through other neighborhoods. Running became my sanctuary. I explored new territory and escaped the pain living at home. I didn’t realize it until many years later that my regime of running was a form of meditation. It was my solace. It was the one place where I had control. I could be with my thoughts and feelings without anyone else telling me I was wrong or stupid. I gave myself the respect to listen while others were too busy to pay attention.

I reaped many health and psychological benefits from running. Running increased my lung capacity, my muscle strength, muscle tone, and my endurance.

For some regular running increases metabolism for weight reduction, promotes good mental health, and overall mind/body/spiritual health. Jogging releases endorphins a natural painkiller and mood enhancer. It increases the capacity to focus, practice perseverance, and dedication. It’s no wonder runner enthusiasts exist everywhere.

Meditation

Meditation offers many of the same advantages as running. Meditation is deliberately paying attention moment by moment. It is being acutely aware of what is happening inside and outside of our body and mind. Meditation is listening to our minds chatter, sensations in our body, and the connections to our surroundings.

Meditation and Running

Although most people run while being plugged-in, stopping to check and respond to our mobile mail, or listening to our iPod, taking a brief break from our digital worlds has tremendous benefits.

Mindful running is unplugging, paying attention, and making the choice to focus internally and externally. It entails suspending any agendas, goals, deadlines for the moment and enjoy the full experience of running free. Running while meditating gives the opportunity to sort through problems, find solutions, and let go of any frustrations of the day.

Mindful running is a practice. It is not a performance, a comparison, nor a pre-determined result. Mindful running is directing our attention. Soak in wisps of the wind as it softly tickles the hair on your skin. Take in the sweet smells of fresh blossoms in the air. Taste the saltiness of the ocean air if you are so fortunate or the sweat that bubbles above your lip. Bask in the warmth of the sun and delightful sights as your body swiftly sweeps through the streets. Each stride is an opportunity to notice all that we see, feel, hear, taste, smell and think without criticism, judgment, or evaluation. The regime for mindful running calls for soothing kindness and curiosity.

Personal Time

There is so much to learn from our thoughts and feelings. Running provides self-reflective time for greater awareness. By paying attention, creative solutions can be discovered. And curiosity while roaming in nature and natural surroundings can create a spiritual connection. The next time you run leave your ear plugs, your mobile, or any other digital device at home. There is a whole world to discover and experience not only outside but in your mind.

Principles of Prayer and Meditation

prayer-meditationStep 11 – Through prayer and meditation I seek to improve my conscious contact with God as I understand God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for my life and the power to carry that out

The principal of the eleventh step of Alcoholics Anonymous is prayer and meditation.  Taking a few minutes a day breaking away from everyday frustrations, distractions, and multitasking’s for self-examination can change your life.  Spending just a little time each day consciously connecting with your higher power can directly influence your thoughts, attitudes, emotions, and behaviors.

For most people, serenity is far off in the distance due to those day after day interruptions, obligations, and disturbances that cause chaos and clutter. Making prayer and meditation a daily routine is your path to new hope leading to a more serene life.

Whenever you are feeling stuck, confused, need help, or don’t know what to do next, take a few minutes to talk to your higher power.  Ask for guidance and help.  At first, it may feel awkward talking to a force you can’t see or hear.  Stay with the uncertainty and within a short period of time you will see results.

There are many books, articles, and literature on how to pray and meditate.  Most religions have formal guidelines for prayer.  Religious guiding principles include confession of wrongdoings, asking for forgiveness, expressing gratitude, asking for guidance, asking for blessings on family, friends, and loved ones or trying to love.

Choose your own religious ritual or spiritual pathway that works best for your lifestyle and beliefs.  Select a regular routine that will enable you to continue and make it a habit.  Pray in nature, taking a walk, in the shower, or on your knees by your bed.  Meditate in a group.  Bow your head, clasp your hands, or close your eyes.  Or sit alone, quietly and just think.

Talk out loud or write entries in a journal dedicated to your higher power.  Dictate a long prayer in the morning, night, or recite short messages throughout the day.   Whatever the method, you have the autonomy to choose your own process for prayer.

Whatever your course is for prayer and meditation ensure it is one you can do consistently.  During this time for yourself, you can address self-care, including how to nurture inner peace, when to reach out to others, and how to find a way to embrace a perplexing task and really own it as yours.  You can reflect upon ways to carry through on good intentions, where to make time for fun, and to be present for your feelings.

Prayer and meditation is a time to be open and receptive to whatever comes up.  Honor the process by being with and allowing your feelings to move within and through you at their own pace and timeframe. Stay with the practice trying not to change, distract, distort, or numb what is happening within.

Respect what is happening inside by mindfully acknowledging your thoughts, emotions, and perspectives.  It may be a good time to reach out to a trusted friend, your therapist, or your sponsor for validation.  Eventually you will get to a place of acceptance, understanding, and a renewed sense of relief and peace.

With an inner sense of tranquility, the hurt, anger, and helplessness is diminished.  When the walls of fury are dropped, the gates are open to a pathway for love.  You are more receptive and able to connect to those you love or trying to love. Your connections are expanded because you set free your loving presence to soar.

Cultivating a deeper prayer life provides new opportunities for reflection, affirmation, and lasting change in your relationship to yourself and others.  The eleventh step of Alcohol Anonymous is one that is encouraged to practice every day.  With diligence and consistency, a spiritual consciousness awakens a fuller, robust life with rich, meaningful relationships.

Here is a prayer to get you started.  It is a recovery prayer based on Alcoholics Anonymous, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous:

“Thank you for keeping me straight yesterday.  Please help me stay straight today.  For the next twenty-four hours, I pray for knowledge of your will for me only and the power to carry that through.  I pray that you might free my thinking of self-will, self-seeking, and wrong motives.  I pray that in times of doubt and indecision, you might send your inspiration and guidance.  I pray that you may send me the right thought, word, or action, and that you show me what my next step should be.”

Meditation

what-is-meditationMeditation is concentration of the mind on one or more things, in order to aid mental or spiritual development, contemplation, or relaxation (Encarta Dictionary: English (North America, 2012).

The benefit of meditation is profound. Meditation can significantly decrease blood pressure and muscle tension (Amen, D. 1998). It can increase flexibility, creativity, focus, and attention span (Colzato, L. S., Ozturk, A. & Hommel, B., 2012).

There are several types of meditation with each providing different benefits. The first is Focused Attention (FA) meditation. It is thought regulation, monitoring, and focus of attention on a chosen object. An example of FA mediation is the sensation of one’s own breathing, at the expense of all other internal and external sensations. This type of mediation helps improve the ability to focus and retain concentration.

The steps to FA are focus, breathe, relax, and count.

1. Focus on one spot, object, or sensation.
2. Breathe slowly and deeply.
3. Relax and progressively release muscle tension.
4. Count from 1 to 10 and then 10 to 1 as you continue your attention on your breathe, good thoughts coming in, bad thoughts exiting out, and relaxing your muscles.

For a detailed example of FA mediation exercise read, “Self-Soothing, A Technique for Coping During Times of Stress and Anxiety.” It takes less than ten minutes to complete.

Open Monitoring (OM) meditation is mind-wandering. It is opening your mind to all emerging thoughts, feelings, and sensations. This type of meditation allows for all internal and external sensations to be experienced with the same openness, without focusing on specific objects or sensations. After practicing OM mediation the mind is more free and flexible to access new ideas. Recent studies show that it can actually benefit your thinking and creativity. You can make better plans for yourself and solve problems with increased diversity and creativity. So letting your mind drift far and wide isn’t bad for our daily performance, in fact it can actually enhance our lives (Mooneyham, B. W., & Schooler, J. W., 2013).

Visual Imagery is creating a relaxing experience during a stressful event or visualizing details of successfully maneuvering through a race or athletic event, or imagining presenting confidently in front of a large audience. For example, if you have a fear of riding in an elevator. You can free yourself of the anxiety by exposing yourself slowly and using your imagination to experience a calming and relaxing place. It can be the beach, the mountains, or any haven that brings you a sense of serenity. When creating your safe haven, imagine it with all your senses. For instance, create an imagery and sensation of the sand between your bare toes, the smell of the salty, warm air, taste the salt on your tongue, hear the children play, watch the waves crash along the shore, and sand castles playfully being built.

Visualization is helpful for competitive athletes, creating, clear career goals, or resolving stressful situations. Set your goal, create a clear idea or image, focus on the event daily, and affirm it with positive thoughts.

Using all three types of meditation can be extremely useful in many aspects of your life. I would love to hear how you use mediation in your life.

Sources

Amen, Daniel, M.D. (1998). Change Your Brain Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and Impulsiveness. Three Rivers Press. New York, New York.

Colzato, L. S., Ozturk, A. and Hommel, B. (2012). Meditate to create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking. Frontiers in Psychology 3:116. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00116

Gawain, Shakti (2002). Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life. Nataraj Publishing. Novato, California.

Mooneyham, B. W., & Schooler, J. W. (2013). The costs and benefits of mind-wandering: A review. Canadian Journal Of Experimental Psychology/Revue Canadienne De Psychologie Expérimentale, 67(1), 11-18. doi:10.1037/a0031569

Self-Soothing, A Technique for Coping During Times of Stress and Anxiety

As I struggle to balance taking care of myself and letting a friend know during their troubled time that I care for them deeply, I contemplate balance, differentiation, and self-soothing.  These terms enter my mind as I want to ensure I love and care for others while taking care of my own needs.  I differentiate and free my friend to solve their own problems.  I liberate from guilt and resentment.  And we both learn to self-soothe.

The word balance came to mind as I want to remain independent, accomplish tasks that give me empowerment, a sense of achievement, and purpose as I take responsibility of my life. As I weigh the consequences of my actions, I contemplate the thoughts, “Am I being too independent?”, “Am I not being a good friend?”, “Am I being selfish?”, and “Am I doing the right thing?”

Pondering these questions, I notice my first reaction is that, “I am not selfish”, “I have shown my friend that I care by calling several times during the day to check-in”,and “I am creating healthy detachment so that both of us can take responsibility of our life and self soothe.”

So what is self-soothing?  Self-soothing is the act of taking responsibility for your own needs.  Self-soothing is a set of techniques that provide personal comfort, have calming affects, and brings inner peace during times of turmoil.  They provide self-supportive methods that help alleviate stress and anxiety.  There is no one size fits all mechanism for self-soothing.  As each person is unique, every individual has their own distinctive set of cognitions and behaviors that help alleviate pain.

Here is a list of several self-comforting techniques.  This is certainly not a complete list but a comprehensive list that may trigger more personable practices that help you when feeling down.

  • Meditation

Find a comfortable position.  It can be sitting with your feet flat on the floor or lying down on your back.  Place your hands either comfortably across your lap or palms down on your thighs.  Relax your facial muscles; it doesn’t matter if your eyes are closed or open.  Do what feels right for you.

Now concentrate on the tip of your nose, feel the breath going in and out. Notice where the breath is going.  Is it focused in the chest or are you breathing deeply into your stomach? Notice how you are feeling in this relaxed state of mind and focusing on the breath, and placement in the body.  At every out-breath say out loud or silently a feeling that you want to rid of; i.e. anxiety.  And then on the in-breath say out loud or silently a feeling that you want to bring in; i.e. peace or harmony.

Continue breathing, noticing where the breath falls, and saying the words that you want to bring inward and exhale outward.  Maintain this exercise for a minimum of ten breathes. When you come at 10, notice how you are feeling.

Carry on the breathing mediation starting at 1 again. Focus attention on the tip of the nose, the lungs, stomach, and inner feelings. Maintain for 5 minutes.  Release the attention on the breath, the concentration on the tip of the nose, and notice how you are feeling now.

Here is a list of more self-soothing techniques.  Please feel free to add your own healthy coping skills.

  • Enjoy an aromatherapy bath with calming essential oils such as lavender or rose oil.
  • Take a walk in nature or a safe, secluded path.
  • Schedule a massage.
  • Engage in gardening.
  • Call a friend.
  • Exercise; i.e. ride a bike, go for a jog, weight lift; something that is more in tune with your body and not your mind.

Practicing these techniques can bring a sense of well-being and a peaceful state of mind during times of anxiety and stress.  They can bring a sense of connectedness to your inner being, spending quality time with yourself as you reflect your thoughts and feelings, noticing, accepting, and in the accepting, letting it go, and finally, to transform it.  These techniques can not only bring more inner peace, but they can help build better relationships where we are free from fusion and enmeshment and living more holistically and in balance.