Tag Archive: mindfulness

The Endurer

endurer

In the first part of the 20th century, Austrian Psychoanalist Wilhelm Reich developed a theory explaining how we respond both physically and emotionally to the challenges we meet in life, especially in early life.  From his studies.

Last week, I introduced you, in broad terms, to Character Structures – what they are and how they develop.  This week I’ll introduce you to the Edndurer body and character type; also known as the Masochist type.  In the diagram above, the Endurer is depicted as someone who is somewhat heavy-set with slightly rounded arms and a solid base from the waist down. While this isnt always so pronounced in this character type, it’s generally so.

Why is this body type called a Masochist, or Endurer (I will use these 2 terms interchangably)? Because the person who armors in this way does so by holding in instead of expressing their displeasure or discomfort. They hunker down, waiting out any nlslaught that comes their way. They keep their opinions to themselves – and they have a lot of their own opinions.

In fact, if this kind of person doesn’t find a way of expressing to the rest of the world what’s on their mind, it begins to eat away at them, and they grow angry.  But because they never express themselves, this anger comes out in surrepticious ways – often cruel and petty ways – like biting remarks, leaving someone waiting, not showing up.

On the positive side, Masochists are powerful thinkers and doers, often chugging along when everyone else has long since left the scene.  They are reliable. Atlas carying the world on his (or her) shoulders.

The primary challenge of the Masochist is to speak what is on their mind, without anger.  This is a challenge, because the longer something is left unsaid, the more it’s laced with anger.  Often this means learning to speak up in stages: first speaking up to a tree or to nature or in your car, letting out all the anger – no holding back.  Then speaking up to a trusted friend, with the understanding that this is to help you learn to re-empower your voice and nothing else. Finally, speaking up once more to the world, re-owning that voice that somehow got silenced.

Next week, I’ll introduce the Oral character Type.  If you find this series interesting, and want to know more, and I along with my friend and colleague Jane Mactinger will be holding a workshop on Character Structures in the near future.  Stay tuned for a date and time.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Letting go, pillar of mindfulness

letting go

Letting go takes practice.  It’s easy to let go of a thought or desire if it isn’t that strong or important.  Not so easy when it is.

The cause you’ve worked for all your life.  The son or daughter who wants to move to another continent. The issue at work that you fear might end your career.  These are the kinds of things that keep us awake, and that can take up every free moment in our day.

And yet, it’s by hanging onto them that we have the best chance of losing them – the child or lover who can no longer handle our neediness of them; the cause that needs a new and fresh approach that you can’t bring yourself to embrace.  The issue at work that makes you so stressed you can’t think straight and find yourself making big and bigger mistakes as a result.

Deep down, being unable to let go is about fearing to loose what is important to us.  The problem is that fear changes us, so that what began as something beautiful turns by that refusal to let go into something toxic.

Let go. Spread the love.

I first read of the 7 pillars of mindfulness in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness Full Catastrophe Living. These pillars are Buddhist principles that help us be present and mindful in our everyday living. The 7 meditations I offer to anyone who signs up on my website www.thejoyofliving.co are based on these, and I use them in my own meditation practice.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Following the road less traveled

I watched a wonderful movie last night titled “Legends of the Fall” on Netflix.  It was released in 1994 and stars Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, and Gordon Tootoosis (as One Stab, the narrator); the movie is based on the novel of the same name by Jim Harrison.  The story is about the development and life of a young man who follows his own path, and as can be expected, his road is one less traveled; his path puts him in the way of adversity over and over again.  Early on in the story, the narrator One Stab tells of how the boy counted coup on a Grizzly Bear, and that this attitude of facing and defeating death remained with him all his life.  The message I took from the story was how we must be willing to face our fears if we want to be true to ourselves rather than slave to the will and opinions of others.  Life, in this way, is a lonely business.

The book is set in the American West in the early 1900’s and even though it’s fiction, it has a large element of truth in it: there are many characters of that time period who went West in order to free themselves of the bonds of their community (some good, some also bad); my grandfather was one of those people.

It’s hard to follow our own path. So hard, in fact, that most of us (including me) fall off the path at times and try to follow someone else’s path that’s “safer”, “easier”, more acceptable to those in our society.  Then, at some point, we loose our energy and joy of living, waking up one day wondering how we got to a place of going nowhere, wondering if that’s all there really is.

I’m here to tell you that isn’t all there is. And even more importantly, no matter your age or circumstances, you can get back on your own personal path and reclaim that energy and joy you once felt. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it.  After all, this is it, so far as we know: this life we have now, no matter how long or short, is what all we’re given to live our dream.

How do we do it then, reclaim our path? 

    • First, re-attach your head to the rest of your body.  When we feel attacked and protective (of our dreams, for instance) we go into what’s called fight or flight mode – our stress-response system kicks in and we protect ourselves.  Wilhelm Reich called this body armoring – we tense our muscles and if we do it often enough, our body keeps that tension.  We also repress the feelings we have around what we’re protecting so that, in the end, all we feel is numbness.  And when that happens, all we have is our thoughts no longer attached to the feelings they generate.  So it’s important to re-attach.
    • One way of doing this is to re-learn about what your body feels like. You can do this through the mindfulness meditation of body scan.  Body scan is a meditation technique that is designed to bring you back into body awareness.  There are many similar techniques (relaxation tapes, for instance, if they have as part of their instructions to feel each part of the body as you relax it) – the main point is to bring back into your daily or weekly routine a way of being with your body and re-discovering what it feels like in terms of physical sensations.
    • Then, notice what you feel physically – and where – whenever you are thinking something.  For instance, if I have to give a presentation and I’m stressing about it, I might feel a tightness at my solar plexus, a rawness at my throat; on the other hand, if I’m looking forward to it, I might feel a fluttering at my solar plexus and a warmth at my throat.  One suggestion is to set a timer on your phone, and every the timer goes, stop and ask yourself what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling.
    • Once you’ve reconnected your head and heart, you can access your true inner knowing.  Martha Beck calls this your “Essential self”; some shamanistic traditions call this that part of the “Shideh self” that knows what’s best for us. I call it your “Gut”. In any situation where you need to make a decision, you can go to this place of knowing – your “Gut” – and see how each truly sits inside you.  Does a decision make you feel not so good – nauseous, tight, even dead? Or does it make you feel light, energized, fluid? This is called learning to “Trust your gut”, a phrase that’s often used and rarely understood.
    • Finally, let go. The most important thing about trusting your gut, once you can access this, is not fearing change. Change is a constant part of living and growing, and may mean changing relationships, changing expectations, changing direction, changing long-held beliefs. Fear of change can bind us, and blind us from our inner knowing.  Facing our fears, remaining open to new possibilities, can feel scary; and yet doing that is the path to spiritual freedom. My challenge to you is to incorporate these three steps into your daily routine – even for a mere few minutes a day – then see where you’re at with yourself in a month or a week.

Here’s a practical every-day example, using myself as the guinea pig.

I have a problem that is recurring: I want to do too much. I want to complete a course that’s meaningful to me and adds to my business experience; I want to complete a business face-lift that’s even more important to me; I want to learn how to market myself better; I want to advance in my shamanic studies.  I want to write a book.  And I haven’t even started on all the other things in my life I want to do – spend more time with my friends and loved ones, take vacation, and so on. Well, I can’t do all of them all at once, so how do I decide on what to focus on and what to put aside for now? First, I notice how I feel physically with each one: ”complete the course” leaves me feeling somewhat energized in my stomach area; “complete the business face-lift” leaves me feeling really energized; “market myself better” leaves me feeling heavy and with a restricted throat; “advance my shamanic studies” is similar to the first one.  So if I follow my inner knowing – my gut – the most important thing, no matter what anyone else may think, is my business face-lift (that problem with self-marketing is another issue).

If you have a decision to make and you feel stuck, try this out.  It may take a while – especially if you need to re-connect – but believe me, it’s worth it!

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

Ziggy Marley – Roads Less Traveled

Quote of the Week
Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost

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At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

Acceptance, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness

acceptance

A friend was having issues with the neighbor above her: he was noisy and would wake her with his banging at around at 2am, to the point that she had trouble getting to sleep at all.  Every night.  It began to bother her so much that it was on her mind every evening, taking up all the space in her head with wory and rumination on “What if this” and “What if that” and “Why can’t he do the decent thing” and “Why can’t he be more considerate” and many many more What If’s and Whys. It became a constant nag and an equally constant drain on her energy.

At some point, she’d had enough – desperate and frantic from lack of sleep, she was willing to try anything short of moving (although that would have been next).  And as so many of us know personally, desperation is a wonderful impetus for change.  Sure enough, It wasn’t too long after this decision that she had a huge Aha moment: it was when she changed her perspective just a little, adding one more “What if”: What if her neighbor was like someone with poor eyesight and debilitating arthritis, who couldn’t help but constantly drop things? What if they had to get up at night to use the bathroom? If an elderly person were living above her with these issues, would she be as intolerant? Or would she find a way of dealing with it that brought her peace?

The fact is she would have no trouble accepting the situation as it was for an elderly person, so what was stopping her from accepting the situation as it actually was with her neighbor? The only thing that was stopping her, she discovered, were her own judgments and expectations.  All she had to do to find peace and a good night’s sleep was acceptance of what actually was.

I’ll leave the last word on Acceptance to Jon Kabat-Zinn: Acceptance is a very active process, there is nothing passive about it, it’s not passive resignation but an act of recognition that things are the way they are… Acceptance doesn’t mean we can’t work to change the world, or circumstances, but it means that unless we accept things as they are, we will try to force things to be as they are not and that can create an enormous amount of difficulty.

If we recognise the actuality of things, then we have the potential to apply wisdom to the situation and shift our own relationship to what is occurring in ways that can be profoundly healing and transformative… Without acceptance of a situation it is very difficult to know where to stand and to take a first step.”

I first read of the 7 pillars of mindfulness in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness Full Catastrophe Living. These pillars are Buddhist principles that help us be present and mindful in our everyday living. The 7 meditations I offer to anyone who signs up on my website www.thejoyofliving.co are based on these, and I use them in my own meditation practice.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Trust, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness

Trust, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness

I’m part of a coaching support group, where we practice being coaches on each other.  Contrary to some opinions, I find that coaches use many of the same techniques that therapists do, and being part of this group reminded me of what it was like testing my wings as a new therapist.  I remember watching the teachers conduct hot seats in front of us (a “hot seat” happens when a therapist and client work in front of an audience, generating “heat” simply by exposure for both of them; for this very reason, hot seats tend to generate fast results, when done well); as I watched, I marvelled at how brilliant the therapist was and wondered if I’d ever reach that level of competence – doubting at the time that I would.  Needless to say, over the years since, practicing and meeting with clients every day, I have reached that level – and it feels good, because I’m genuinely helping people achieve their dreams in the process.

The secret comes from trusting myself and the process.  In both coaching and therapy, the work involves the building of a trusting relationship between the coach or therapist and the client.  The client has to feel safe enough to speak openly and honetly; the coach or therapist has to be open and present and trust herself enough to go with what she sees and responds to, and to be able to say when she herself is stuck or confused.  Both need to trust that this process will lead to worthwhile results.  There isn’t a session I have with a client where I don’t learn something about myself as well as about my client.  It’s a process that benefits both of us, as long as there is trust.

When I first started to apply what I learned as a new therapist, I made the mistake of following instructions, so that I found I was completely “in my head” and equally completely out of touch with my body.  When that happened, there was no learning, no relationship-building, and no trust. The client left feeling dissatisfied and I was left feeling guilty and inadequate.

The way to trust is in being authentic and open, and in remaining in touch with our essential selves, which is always revealed in how we physically respond to our world.  For instance, if I were to think of a past event that brought me pain, my body will immediately register certain sensations – for me, it will be a feeling of tightness in my chest, like there was a heavy metal ball in the centre of it.  If on the other hand, I were to think of a past event that brings me pleasure, I feel a feathery kind of expansion in my chest.  When a client says something that grabs my attention, I feel that sense of expansion.  If I follow that interest, something always comes of it. If I ignore it, the session is pretty much done.

My challenge to you is this: discover in yourself how your body responds to painful and pleasant events. For one day, use this knowing to guide you, and at the end of it, take a moment to see how your day went, and how it left you feeling.

I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me, ‘I love you.’ … There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt. ― Maya Angelou

I first read of the 7 pillars of mindfulness in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness Full Catastrophe Living. These pillars are Buddhist principles that help us be present and mindful in our everyday living. The 7 meditations I offer to anyone who signs up on my website www.thejoyofliving.co are based on these, and I use them in my own meditation practice.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Beginner’s Mind, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness

7 pillars of mindfulness

If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.  -Shunryu Suzuki

Last week I decided to wash windows.  The windows in my place are the new kind that fold inward so that you can wash the outside from the inside.  Clever.

But I wasn’t used to these windows, and assumed that they would stay up when I simply put them back – like the windows I’m used to.  This assumption worked fine until the last set, where one of the windows didn’t stay put because, as it happened, the latch was stuck.  The window fell and hit me hard.  That window caused me a lot of pain, and may even have produced in me a mild concussion.

This may seem like a pretty mundane event – one we all encounter daily.  And that’s my point.  Had I approached these windows as something new – which they were – I would likely have saved myself grief.

When we’re relaxed and present, with no agenda going into something, then we have beginner’s mind. The next time you’re with a friend or loved one, try approaching them in this way, and see how that opens up new possibility for you.

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable. -Mary Oliver

I first read of the 7 pillars of mindfulness in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness Full Catastrophe Living. These pillars are Buddhist principles that help us be present and mindful in our everyday living. The 7 meditations I offer to anyone who signs up on my website www.thejoyofliving.co are based on these, and I use them in my own meditation practice.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Non-Striving, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness

Non-Striving-one-of-the-7-pillars-of-mindfulness
The pillars of Mindfulness are Buddhist principles that help us live in beauty and peace.  One of them is non-striving.

I’m the kind of person who is always striving. Stiving to learn something new.  Striving to figure things out.  Striving to get somewhere. Striving involves incredible focus on whatever it is we are striving for,  which means little or no focus on anything else. That focus is on the future – some plan or future goal we’ve developed that is important to us.

If you’re like me, then you know that this practice and habit of striving means we miss a lot that is happening before our eyes. We miss that moment of tenderness or beauty; of connecting to that person beside us and with the world around us.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ll continue to strive for what gives my life meaning and purpose. Striving has its place. But striving sometimes hides dissatisfaction with what is, and can be a way to avoid what we think is, because unless we take a moment to look around us, whatever we believe is simply a thought in our minds.

This last point is important because we have such a huge capacity for self-deception. When I focus on something that engages me – say going for a hike in beautiful surroundings, or participating in a self-improvement course – I can lull myself into believing I’m into self-growth.  But if this is done at the expense of what I need to attend to – like, for instance, a failing relationship – then it’s really me striving to avoid seeing what I need to see.

So, if you’re like me, perhaps it’s time to take a breath, and simply look.

I first read of the 7 pillars of mindfulness in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness Full Catastrophe Living. These pillars are Buddhist principles that help us be present and mindful in our everyday living. The 7 meditations I offer to anyone who signs up on my website www.thejoyofliving.co are based on these, and I use them in my own meditation practice.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Patience, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness

Patience

There are 7 pillars of mindfulness that are contemplated as part of a Buddhist practice.  Cultivating patience is one of these.

It’s said that with patience, we understand and accept that sometimes things must unfold in their own time.  In this way, patience is a form of wisdom – it reminds us that we, along with every thing in existence is in process, and that this process can’t be hurried.  Try forcing a square peg into a round hole: if you persist, the peg will likely break and the hole will become deformed.  The same happens with every process we attempt to force.

So often, it’s us we try to force, becoming impatient with our own process. We loose weight too slowly (then gain it back too quickly); we keep stumbling over mistakes while learning, ignoring or forgetting that stumbling is a necessary part of learning; we want it all – NOW – knowing in the back of our minds that anything worthwhile takes time.

I’d like to distinguish the mindful quality of patience from a natural energetic that some of us have that’s called impatience.  Some of us naturally move fast, think fast, walk fast.  If you’re like this, it’s as natural for you to be this way as it is for someone else to saunter.  Trying to force yourself to slow down wouldn’t work any better than trying to force a slow person to speed up, and may indicate an impatience to achieve some kind of imagined perfection that actually goes against what you are naturally.  It’s a kind of lack of acceptance and tollerance that I’ll cover in a few weeks.

Patience brings self-compassion to our awareness, helping us acknowledge and accept our own process. This kind of compassion melts away all inner resistance, allowing us to be open to each moment as it happens – without judgment – trusting that the process is unfolding perfectly as it is.

The next time you find yourself getting impatient with something you’re doing – even meditating (many of us believe there is a “right” way to meditate, for instance) – take some time to be with the feeling, and with the sensations this creates in your body.  Let is simply be, taking an interest in your natural, organic process of being with these feelings and sensations.

I first read of the 7 pillars of mindfulness in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness Full Catastrophe Living. These pillars are Buddhist principles that help us be present and mindful in our everyday living. The 7 meditations I offer to anyone who signs up on my website www.thejoyofliving.co are based on these, and I use them in my own meditation practice.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Non-Judging, one of the 7 pillars of mindfulness

Judgment

I first read of the 7 pillars of mindfulness in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on mindfulness Full Catastrophe Living. These pillars are Buddhist principles that help us be present and mindful in our everyday living. The 7 meditations I offer to anyone who signs up on my website www.thejoyofliving.co are based on these, and I use them in my own meditation practice.

The one I’d like to cover today is non-judging. When we judge, we form an opinion about something.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that – it’s how our mind works – comparing and weighing whether something is good or not good for us.  It’s important to our security to be able to judge.  It’s what our minds do best – if our assumptions are solid and we have all the facts.

But judging can also be a sign of our lack of self-acceptance. For instance, when I find myself judging the way a friend addresses me, it’s probably because I’m not feeling good about myself and am afraid that others will feel the same about me. Let’s say I gained 5 pouds seemingly overnight; this is something I’m sensitive about, so I’ll likely notice if someone comments on my appearance, take it the wrong way, and generate a judgmental story in my mind that makes me feel miserable.

On the other hand, when I’m feeling good and confident, I’m far less sensitive to any supposed slights. When I’m feeling on top of my world, even if someone came up to me and was explicit about my size, I’d probably laugh it off, knowing that what they said was really about them and not so much about me.

When I’m busy judging, it means my mind is occupied, and I’m not even able to really see what’s actually going on around me. The act of deliberately not judging what comes into awareness means we are with whatever comes up, as an impartial witness.  It allows us to feel what the judgments hide – the pain or anguish that’s really going on inside us.

Some people believe that meditation is a means of making ourselves feel calm. Sometimes that happens. But at other times, we aren’t calm, and during those times, meditation helps us be with our lack of calmness, without judging that lack of calmness as good or bad, as some kind of failure or lack on our part.

I invite you to discover your own way of judging in your world, by takeing 10 minutes and noticing your own judging patterns – along with any underlying feelings that might arise. And when you do this, do it with kindness and compassion for whatever it is you find.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Affect Tolerance, or How to Love Pain

mindfulness

Affect tolerance is all about learning to tolerate chronic pain.  It’s a big topic, especially around mindfulness practitioners, because being mindful can help someone learn to be OK with chronic pain – even love it!

Having a mindfulness practice helps in at least three ways: it helps us bear pain, it helps us accept aspects of ourselves that we try to ignore (which only serves to intensify the pain), and it helps us adjust our priorities to those that are more in line with life and wellness.

  1. It helps us bear pain. Often when we’re in pain, we make it much worse with our self-talk. “This is intolerable!” “I just can’t do anything with this pain and it makes me so angry!” – are two examples of how we can make the pain we feel remain centre-stage. Learning to separate our negative and un-helpful self-talk from the actual sensations not only provides some objective detachment, but also calms the talk.  This can very effectively reduce the actual sensation of pain. You can see this yourself the next time you feel a pain, say, in your hip: sit in a way that supports that painful part of your body, close your eyes, and breathe.  Then go to the actual area of pain, and imagine breathing right into that area – without attempting to alter the sensation; simply breathing into it; being with it. Do this for a few minutes and notice if there are any changes in the sensation as a result.  Most often, you will notice there is a change – a diminishing or softening of the sensation.
  2. It helps us accept ourselves as a whole, instead of limiting that acceptance to certain parts of ourselves. Pain can be a “pain”, but it can also be a friend – by telling us when we’ve gone too far. As we age, our bodies become increasingly limited in their ability to respond to our demands. Instead of fighting this, honoring what our body is able to do – and not able to do – is going to make us – ultimately – more content, moving from self-judgment and self-criticism to self-appreciation and support.
  3. It helps us adjust our priorities – to those that better serve us. This is closely linked to self-acceptance, and is really an extension of that idea: comparison to others who we judge as more fit or less in pain can only lead to misery. For instance, I can compare myself to my slim friend who can eat anything she wants, then judge myself wanting because I can’t eat anything I want without gaining weight and adding pressure to my knees.  Or, I can chose to focus instead on my successes – my depth of knowledge on what truly nourishes me, for instance; which I have only because I must watch what I eat. My priority can be to be ‘better than’, or it can be to be healthy and happy with what I have.  My choice.

My mother, for a number of reasons, had severe osteoporosis in her old age.  Because of this ailment, she had trouble walking and was almost constantly in pain. At first she fought it and ultimately made things worse by doing so.  Then she learned to accept and live with it, getting on with her life as best she could. She didn’t have a mindfulness practice – not much was known about mindfulness in the Western world at that time – but she did learn to really appreciate what was available to her, along with her limitations.  I can only wonder now what having a practice could have done for her.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

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