Sunday, December 20, 2009

December 20th - 27th 2009

THIS WEEK:

The 19th and 20th were specifically difficult for me. I share this because it impaired my ability to keep up on my responsibilities here. I have recovered well, and as I mentioned in my Tweet, I used two skills in particular that I found to be most helpful:

1 - Prayer/Meditation - this skill enlists each persons own spiritual awareness. It is helpful to us as humans to reflect on our own existence inside the bigger picture from time to time. To meditate on what is around us and how much larger the world is to us. The universe is to us. What our tiny existence inside of this grand universe can possibly mean. To further that, many find it helpful to turn to a higher power for guidance and strength.

2 - Journal - I personally have found it of great assistance to keep a gratitude journal. I am not one to journal on a daily basis, writing out my thoughts and feelings for each day or every other day. Some find that helpful, others have a seriously difficult time doing this. Especially when it is hard enough to emotionally understand what is happening to us, let alone put words to the experience, and further to coherently write those thoughts down. However, as hard as that may be to some, a gratitude journal is a nice alternative. Basically, each day preferably , you journal something you are grateful for. That is it. Date it, describe what you're grateful for and let it alone until the next day. Where this comes in handy is reminding ourselves daily that we are grateful for something really strengthens our ability to see what is happening outside of our pain. Sometimes are pain is so great that we are unable to think of even the most basic positive thing in our life. Reading our gratitude journal can be quite healing in those moments. Also, this record of our gratitude presents a unique 'safe' place to vent. When things get really difficult and your entire physical existence is so completely painful that you are not sure what to do, this is where you can start writing. Just grab a pen or pencil or a marker for that matter and just write. It doesn't have to make sense. It doesn't have to follow the neat and orderly pattern of a story. It is merely to get out onto paper what is floating around your head crashing into one another. The more you get out, the less crowded it is inside, and the more likely you will be able to access your wise mind thus opening up options that beforehand you were unable to see. The beautiful part is, you leave the journal the way it is. When you are finished, you simply pick up where you left off, entering in what you are grateful for. You may choose to re-read your entry, you may not. Maybe days, months or more later you want to re-evaluate where you have been. Maybe you won't. The point is, it is your gratitude journal and the thing we are most grateful for is that there is yet another day to be grateful for. Which is more than we can say for some.

I also used a skill called 'Distact' - the quick of this skill is that you do something that helps you to distract from your pain. I watched a movie, others may shower, take a bath, write a letter, surf the internet or whatever is available. It does help though, to have a list handy of what sort of things will help you to distract. We will go deeper into this skill as well as the above ones when we get to the section of tolerating our distress.

For now though, back on track: Going from judgments impacting or thinking to observations of our experience we gracefully move into descriptions. Describe the experience, put words to it. This may seem elementary, but as you will soon see it is more difficult than at first thought. We may fool ourselves into thinking that we are describing our experiences all the time. Just because our brain is constantly 'talking' about the experience we are in does not equal describing it.  For example:
You have just spent the evening prior dealing with an extremely painful conflict between you and your partner. You have gone up and down emotionally, always returning to a level of ability to use skills. Not calm, but not totally losing it either. You have used your skills well enough to tolerate the distress, and now you have slept on it.

You and your partner come to some sort of peaceful acceptance of the conflict, and you are happy and content that you have avoided behaving in a way that has caused so much pain in the past. Yet, you begin to notice that doing even the tiniest of tasks going about your day seem to exhaust you. You are able to observe that you are on the verge of anger, tears or another emotion that just doesn't seem to fit with preparing a meal. Your brain begins to talk to you here, and it is telling you, "You are so emotional! What is wrong with you? Everything is fine now, just keep it there. Don't go messing it up."  

Granted that is packed full of judgments, but looking past those, is your mind describing what is happening or is it still just observing? 

Observing would be to notice your emotions are jacked up higher than necessary to prepare a meal. Warning yourself that you do not wish to fall apart after your emotional conflict with your partner is self talk. Asking what is wrong with you is setting yourself up for a judgment, but oddly enough if this question is done in an observing manner it would lead to describing. Ask, 'OK what really is happening here?' You start to tell yourself that, you have just spent a lot of your emotional bank on the conflict the night before. You describe to yourself that tears are about to pour out and you are able to describe that the emotion is not fitting the environment. You may describe the feelings in your toes, hands, stomach or other parts of your body. Perhaps describing your racing thoughts. Describing this out loud can be helpful, because then it will become evident that it makes perfect sense that you would be ready to cry, even thou gh the experience doesn't seem to call for it. By describing the climbing emotions as they are coming, 'my hands are tingling, I am shaking' you will be able to better understand the emotional mourning you are going through. Understanding and accepting that it makes perfect sense will be paramount in the next step, and that is to participate in the experience.

Ha! And all this time you thought you were already participating right? Seriously, we can learn to participate effectively. In this scenario, do you A) scream and yell because your emotions are not matching your experience? or B) allow yourself a release of this emotion that seems to be turned to the wrong degree and move on skillfully?

Moving from observation to describing to effective participating. Next week.

TRY THIS: Along with your written observations, try describing out loud your observations. Describe them in detail. It would be nice if you have a loved one that can listen to your descriptions. Only if it will not elevate you more. Perhaps you could ask the loved one if they had observation X, how would they describe it. Make a game out of it and be as detailed as possible.