Attitude of Gratitude

A very efficient way to find peace and serenity in stressful or painful situations is to consciously practice gratitude.

By focussing on all the things we are blessed with we take our attention of what hurts us. It really works.

On her deathbed I asked my Mom if she had any last words she wanted to share. I could see her thinking really hard for about a minute and she said: be grateful for what you have and not what you do not. So true!

Me meditate?

So many of us suffer from stress and sleepless nights because our minds have spun out of control. In our fight with addiction we try to control, change and cure the addict and since this is an impossible battle to wage, let alone win, it is obvious how this causes the emotions that stand in the way of peacefulness and happiness such as fear, anger, frustration, jealousy, resentment. All of these emotions originate in our mind through our thinking. Meditation is a great tool to think right.

Many people tell me that they simply cannot stop thinking or that their minds are racing all the time. They are anxious and many have a very hard time falling asleep. This would happen to me too at times.

However, to work on our recovery effectively we need a still, quiet mind. It is not possible to calmly focus on recovery if the mind is constantly preoccupied.

So how do we go about this? I remember it seemed impossible to me not to think. I had experimented with meditation in my college years, but I considered it something for hippies, not for serious people, such as myself … (irony intended)

As I hit rock bottom in my relationship with my addicted partner and in my desperate search for solutions I came across some free, guided meditation audio files that I downloaded from the Internet.  That same night I started using them and after doing so I actually felt better. I continued using them and I started to find out more about meditation. This was years ago.  I now meditate twice on a daily basis (morning and evening) and sometimes more if I feel the need. Meditation helps me very much in keeping a still mind and has been a very important part of my recovery.

Meditation is not about staring at the flame of a candle or at a flower (although you could, it works too).  According to the dictionary meditation means, “to contemplate”.  And that is exactly what it is You can look at it as a way to deeply relax.

A very simple way to start meditating is by focusing on your breathing. Make sure you are in a comfortable position. Close your eyes, relax. Feel the air gently flowing in, and out of you. Take it easy and slowly. Relax your body consciously. Release the tension in your muscles.  Start with relaxing the muscles in your feet, then your calves. Take your time. Next your thighs, your belly, your back, your shoulders, your neck, your face. Be totally relaxed. Let the tension flow out of your system. As you are in this state of relaxation, you can relax even deeper by mentally counting down: 5, relax and as you count down relax even deeper, 4, deeper, 3, deeper, 2, 1. You are now in a very relaxed mental state of mind.

For some this sensation of relaxation can be quite amazing and surprising. It was for me.

There are hundreds of ways to meditate and after a while you find the way that suits you the best; the more you practice it, the quicker you can reach a peaceful and calm state of mind; sometimes within a few seconds.

A very useful and free website to learn about meditation is www.learn-to-meditate.com and there are many more. I wish for you to experience the same beneficial effects of meditation that I did. It has made a world of difference for me.

Have a great day (and meditation?),

Paulus

Why you don’t need new year’s resolutions

During the holiday season many of us tend to make resolutions. And very often they have to do with habits or behaviours we want to get rid of.  I have good news for you. You don’t need them anymore.

Do you realize that the moment you are making your resolution, your wish has already come true. Think about it. The moment you make the resolution to stop smoking,to be nice to someone,or to lose weight, it is already so. Right there and then, you have stopped smoking. You are being nice. You are losing weight.

You don’t need the resolution anymore. And that is a good thing. Let me explain why.It all has to do with your beliefs.  If you believe that you need a resolution to make a change, it obviously implies that you believe that you haven’t changed yet. This is the basis for frustration and struggle. And to free ourselves from this, we relapse into our old behavior. And that is why many of us “fail” in keeping our “promise”. We judge ourselves. We feel guilty.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that the key to saying farewell to unhealthy habits lies in what you think, what you believe. (see for example this post).

By giving up the resolution right after you have made it, you are free. Focus on the here and now. Be aware that the change you desire has indeed already and instantly occurred. It is true and real. You can believe it instantly. Enjoy the relief.  Exhale deeply and mentally say to yourself: I am losing weight now, I am smoke free now, I am nice now.  Be fully aware of the relief and the freedom , and grateful too.

At the beginning and end of each day slow down your mind and repeat the above affirmations. Do this for 21 days. You will be amazed and you can say farewell to resolutions.

The paradox of accepting a Higher Power

The dictionary defines the word paradox as: a seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true. In Greek the word literally translates as “conflicting with expectation”.
Accepting powerlessness over our unhealthy habits, the unmanageability of our lives and the belief that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity, are the essence of recovery in so-called 12 step programs,  like AA, Al-anon, CA, NA, OA, etc.

However, accepting our powerlessness and unmanageability is a hard nut to crack. We do not like to admit we are wrong or that we have “failed”. Basically it means admitting that until now, all the efforts that you have put in changing yourself or someone else were pointless. This a source of frustration to most people.

Secondly, accepting a higher power that can restore us to sanity is also difficult since many do not believe in a supreme being, a Higher Power, a God.

After all, isn’t this higher power also responsible for the current state of suffering in our lives and in the world? So how on earth can we turn to it for such a positive thing as our recovery.

Overcoming our mental resistance because of this paradox is key to recovery and is easier than you think.

We  can only accept reality, now, as it occurs. Our lives are an inseparable part of this reality. The belief that we can change reality is – of course – insane. We cannot change the past, nor can we change the now as it occurs.

The only thing reality can logically  collide with is expectation. If we expect something that is different from reality, this creates anger, frustration and fear.  Once we stop expecting and accept reality as it occurs, our suffering disappears.

When we stop expecting our alcoholic partner to quit drinking,  our children to stop smoking or to become lawyers or doctors, ourselves  to lose (or gain) weight or to drive a new BMW, our lives suddenly change.

What seems to be so difficult (accepting powerlessness) is in fact totally logical and liberating. Reality is undoubtedly a power greater than ourselves. And this realization restores us to sanity.

Instead of using our lives and wasting our mental energies on fighting and resisting reality, by trying to force solutions on others, by trying to make reality agree with our own expectations of it, we now have the opportunity to make new choices in peace and serenity.  We can stop judging, condemning, lying, cheating, pretending, yelling, wrestling, arguing, upsetting, fearing.  We can start loving, we can be honest, we can be compassionate, we can forgive, we can give unconditionally, we can be grateful.  What a relief!

Relapse, relapse, relapse… no more

We ‘addicts’ try over and over again to stop drinking, smoking, using or doing the things that cause us to suffer. Some of us have been in numerous treatment programs and yet repeatedly relapse into so-called old behaviour. Why?
In spite of our knowledge and awareness about our unhealthy habits and not withstanding the tools and skills that we were given we just can’t seem to change our behaviour.

In my experience it all has to do with strongly engrained behavioral patterns that we perceive as comfortable or comforting and which – of course – are not. Our mind is a master of association. We associate smells, images, scenes, people, places and things in the present to past experiences and memories and to the feelings and emotions that go along with them.

A relapse is not simply the falling back into the acting out of a specific unhealthy habit. There is a ritualistic side to it. It could be the room or chair we sit in when we display(ed) the unhealthy behaviour. Or the time of day, or the people we are with. Coming home from or leaving for work for instance.

After a 4 or 8 week treatment program in the unfamiliar setting of yet another clinic or facility we return to our homes and it is not unlikely that the return to this familiarity triggers the return to the unhealthy habit.

The message is obvious. Getting rid of unhealthy habits means more than simply stopping the specific unwanted act. We need to alter or break the existing associations our mind has created and that we subconsciously linked to our unhealthy habits.

A simple beginning would be to consciously analyze the how, what, when and where of our unhealthy habits and make small changes. Get rid of the chair or couch you usually sit in when acting out the behavior you want to change. Ditch the ashtray you use or the box where you secretly keep your stash or bottle. Change the store you usually go to before going home. By consciously making these changes you are sending your brain the message that the old ‘pattern’ no longer functions.

Try, it works if you work it.