January 28th, 2008
In our language, we have two similarly named thresholds of awareness. One is the subliminal, “that which lies below,” that which we generally refer to as the subconscious. The other is the sublime, which we speak of mostly at times when we have briefly transcended that upper limit, when we are momentarily sent “over the top” with feeling, with awe, surprise or beauty, surpassing our usual realm of sensation and awareness. People have been known to faint from being unable to sustain the sublime.
We would not know these boundaries if we didn’t, in unusual states and circumstances, access what is beyond them. Symbols, metaphors and buried memories do break into consciousness from the unconscious. And we do have wondrous and sublime experiences in nature, through love, in beholding our own newborn child, in moments of discovery, and through the experience of insight.
These thresholds of awareness frame not where you have been and what you have done, but the range of perception and feeling you were fit to bear, whereever you went and whatever you did.
Our ability to access both the subliminal and the sublime is integral to our capacity to accept and bear their truth and their gifts. These thresholds in the self are not fixed. They can go from brick walls to accessible doorways to a mere change in the landscape within yourself. As you develop yourself as a human being and become someone more psychologically mature, of greater spiritual fortitude, your range of awareness and capacity to feel into both the subliminal and the sublime will grow. You will be able to experience more feeling without fear, awkwardness, overwhelm or discomfort. You will also be much more in touch with the tremendous creative and integrative forces that are within you.
How do you open the range of your awareness and enlarge your capacity to feel and know more of your own life’s forces and riches? The best ways I know involve yoga, creativity and meditation.
©Jari Chevalier, 2008
January 23rd, 2008
Control. Constraint. Inhibition. Constriction. Fear. Tension. Anxiety. Angst. Anger. Angina . . . these last four all share the same Latin root, angere, which means to strangle or choke.
Do you know how to release the grip, to relax, unbind, let go, let down, and "uninhibit" your mind and body? Let me ask this again: do you know how to relieve and relax your own mind?
I have discovered that we can learn to relax right in the midst of fear or pain and, in doing so, more permanently influence and change the state of our minds and bodies.
In the early 1990s I suffered from acute sciatica. The sciatic nerve is the largest bundle of nerves in our bodies and mine was severely inflamed. This ranked right next to childbirth in intensity of pain. I had to ice the area constantly and I lived on Vicodin (Tylenol with codeine) for days.
I had two of these severe attacks before I learned how to use yoga on a regular basis to prevent them, and also how to completely relax both my mind and my body whenever I first started to feel the nerve clenching up. Prior to this time, the nerve would tend to tighten up even further, then go into spasm and have me close to screaming.
But I taught myself to apply consciousness, awareness and intention to muscles and nerves. Then, having experienced the success of this in relation to the sciatica, I began applying this same technique, whenever anxiety and worry started tightening its debilitating grip on me. And I’m here to say that it works quite well.
I do credit this ability to the kind of awareness that develops through the practice of meditation. Meditation develops one’s sense of aliveness and attunement to mind-body processes to an extraordinary degree. We can catch ourselves thinking and feeling with quite a different sensibility than we used to have, or that non-meditators have. This provides a greater freedom of choice, moment to moment, on how life will go for us and those around us, and what we will experience.
In her book The World I Live In (which was out of print for nearly a century and published again just in 2003) Helen Keller says: “The sense of smell has told me of a coming storm hours before there was any sign of it visible. I notice first a throb of expectancy, a slight quiver, a concentration in my nostrils. As the storm draws nearer, my nostrils dilate the better to receive the flood of earth-odors which seem to multiply and extend, until I feel the splash of rain against my cheek. As the tempest departs, receding farther and farther, the odors fade, become fainter and fainter, and die away beyond the bar of space.”
I believe that just as Helen Keller could sense the coming of a storm through her sense of smell, we can sense the coming of anxiety through our awareness. And, before it comes on full strength, we can dissipate it so the storm doesn't happen, or if it does, it may rain, but not be torrential.
Whenever you first sense anxiety’s presence and its encroachment into your mind and body processes, acknowledge it, take a full breath and, staying with yourself, let it out, relaxing completely. This, of course, will not remit the inner or outer conditions that may be giving rise to the anxiety or pain. But, you can head off the intensity of the debilitation in the moment and be better able to function, so as to discern, and then remedy or remove the inciting causes and bring yourself more peace of mind.
January 20th, 2008
The detrimental effects of cell phone radiation on sleep were reported today in the British paper The Independent. Here's the ARTICLE
The Integrative HealthCare Symposium took place this past week (1/17-1/19) in Manhattan, which I attended on Friday. Bernie Siegel, MD (Love, Medicine and Miracles) shared the stage with Julie Silver, MD (After Cancer Treatment: Heal Faster, Better, Stronger) to deliver a Keynote entitled Physical and Emotional Healing: How They Intersect in Cancer Recovery.
Dr. Silver, a breast cancer survivor herself, delivered a message of hope for healing through a holistic mind-body approach. She also cautioned us all to be aware that there is long list of herbal remedies and foods that can interfere with the intended dosages and actions of many prescription medications. Her page at Revolution Health
Then, the highly entertaining and humorous Dr. Siegel demonstrated his warm, humanistic and holistic approach to treatment while showing us slides of his patients’ drawings and discussing how the story of their illness was depicted there, often signaling the prognosis, as well.
My notes from Dr. Siegel’s talk:
If a hillbilly woman divorces her husband, is he still her brother?
We must re-parent each other. Parents, teachers, clergy and doctors are the biggest problems in the world!
You don’t treat a diagnosis, you treat an experience.
Heal your life and it effects your physiology.
Find your rhythm and live it.
Keep your minds open—consciousness is not local.
The question he asks himself in a quandary: WWLD—What would Lassie do?
Self-induced healing: a clear conscience.
Parenting is the #1 problem everywhere.
Patients do not need information; they need inspiration.
We know the future.
Find your way of making people happy; give a tissue, not a stethoscope.
Life is a series of beginnings.
Keep the child in your patients alive.
You can’t be afraid when you’re laughing.
Nourish yourself and your life.
Ask: how may I help you?
If you’re cared for by your family, you’ll do much better.
I invite your comments on what I'm about to say: I am so often dismayed and left wondering why we rely on celebrated experts and costly scientific studies to tell us things that we ought to be prepared to readily discern via our own conscience, moral compass and compassion. Where is the common sense of our hearts?
We can all be lay physicians, healing ourselves and others. But this calls for a shift in priorities and values towards lives of greater meaning and deeper caring. This can be our future. Coping effectively with our own fear, anxiety, and stress is the rational first step.
January 15th, 2008
Welcome to the Inaugural Living Hero Podcast!
Sleep, Memory, Creativity and Dreams, an interview with Dr. Robert Stickgold
• How sleeps helps us learn
• Creativity and stress
• Meaning and insight
• Deep sleep and consciousness
• Sleep and meditation
• Lucid dreaming
• Symptoms of sleep deprivation
Enjoy the podcast! (you can download the mp3 file, which will play in iTunes, RealPlayer, Windows Media Player and other media players). The interview is 57 minutes. You can also listen to it right here by double clicking on the purple media player below.
AND SOME BREAKING SLEEP RESEARCH NEWS:
By demonstrating that worms sleep, David M. Raizen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, in collaboration with other researchers at the Penn Center for Sleep have not only demonstrated the ubiquity of sleep in nature, but also propose a compelling hypothesis for the purpose for sleep.
They propose that sleep is a state required for the nervous system to grow and change, there must be down time of active behavior.
Other researchers at Penn have shown that, in mammals, synaptic changes occur during sleep and that deprivation of sleep results in a disruption of these synaptic changes.
Listen whenever it's convenient!
Want the 21-page transcript of this first Living Hero interview in PDF format? Just ask! Please use the questions/comments box on the right side bar and leave me your name and email so I can send it to you.
January 13th, 2008
We have a biological and psychological need to sleep and dream; and in our dreams we synthesize life experience through symbolic, metaphorical and associative imagery. If denied this activity for even a few days, we become irritable, imbalanced and upset. Eventually, we will start hallucinating (dreaming while awake), dissociating from reality for awhile.
In our waking lives, as in our dream states, it is a support to our mental and physical well-being to process our experience metaphorically. In our society, however, the preoccupations of thought, the constant influx of music, TV and other media, the noise of our busy lives, prevents the active circuitry of the brain from receiving deeper, more subtle intimations of the self and engaging creatively with them.
Given the opportunity, these intimations and their imagery will surface and become active in the brain. Allowing for such opportunities, and actually encouraging, cultivating and nurturing them, brings joy, enthusiasm, understanding, and a sense of well-being, as well as bearing forth powerful new raw material for innovative, artistic and creative projects.
Lynn White, Jr., in her Frontiers of Knowledge in the Study of Man tells us "We are beginning to see that the distinctive thing about the human species is that we are a symbol-making animal, homo signifex, and that without this function we could never have become sapiens. We have not only the capacity to make symbols; we are under the necessity to create them in order to cope humanly with our experience."
This post is my prelude to our upcoming Podcast featuring sleep and dream researcher Dr. Robert Stickgold, scheduled for this Wednesday, January 16th.
January 4th, 2008
As I've been reviewing the material for the first two Living Hero shows, I find a common thread that ought to be of interest to artists, scientists, educators, caregivers and business people alike: the capacity of our minds to recognize patterns and harness the advantage of having done so and, most importantly, how to develop this capacity.
Dr. Robert Stickgold, who studies the brain in relation to sleep, memory and dreaming, tells us that in sleep the brain processes the new information received during the day and indexes it in relation to that to which it has already has been exposed, adding to its "maps of probability" and better equipping it to recognize patterns of relationship in the future.
We are urged by Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future to develop our capacity to not only see the big picture, but also to perceive the many relationships that can make a whole coherent and satisfying, which he calls “Symphony.”
My interest is in HOW we develop these abilities. I think that one key answer lies in both physical activity and deep relaxation.
My work involves teaching people to use integrative movements, acupressure and self-massage, breathing and stress reduction techniques to foster an ideal state for creative work or performance of any kind. There’s a teacher named William Westney who uses movement in what he calls his “unmaster classes” with musicians. Actors, athletes, and body-oriented performers have always used physical warm-ups to reduce anxiety and do a better job.
I am suggesting that physical warm-ups boost performance for all kinds of work, and evidence of this has not shown up in practice enough in schools and in the workplace—yet!
Mindfulness and meditative practices also help develop your capacity for R-directed thinking and you can stay tuned here for more in-depth coverage and exploration of these subjects!