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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Writing our way through physical ailments.....

This weekend marked 11 years that my father passed away due to lung cancer.  Co-incidently, my sister found a journal of his that he kept during during his illness.   During that time, i had completed Julia Cameron's The Artists' Way - actually both me and my sister worked on it together, and part of the process was writing 3 full pages every morning when we woke up.  http://juliacameronlive.com/the-artists-way/.  During that time, my father was undergoing chemotherapy and coming to terms with his illness - on many levels - physical changes, the reality of his mortality, and more than anything learning to accept/understand himself and let go of the past.  I am a firm believer that stress if uncontained can have multitude effects on the body and i believe that although he was a smoker, he led a very stressful life - emotinally and physically ....Holding all these issues in one's body while still struggling to fight the disease can have consequences on spirit/body and so we suggested that he also start the morning pages -more so to help him move through all these issues.   11 years later, reading these pages, i have no doubt in my mind that writing out his physical processes helped his body/mind/soul come to terms with the inevitable and his passing was more peaceful and less painful.....

So today's post is about writing and its benefits on your physical ailments ---whether it be a headache, lower back pain, recurrent fevers, a terminal illness - whatever it may be - the origin is in stress, and writing out the pain helps one discover the real source of the disorder.    I can imagine people saying to me -"I'm in pain, i don't want to write about it." and i really don't want to go there...it's too painful..."  My answer to those who don't want to go there is this - "Don't avoid it, because sooner or later it will catch up with you."....I cannot emphasize that enough!!!.   Studies have shown that people who write about their traumatic experiences feel better overall and visit doctors less frequently. Just like eating an apple has such wonderful health benefits, similarly, picking up a pen and paper or even typing on your computer for a couple of minutes a day could have tremendous health benefits.    Below are some exercises that I have found particularly helpful to me and i would like to share with you:

1.   Make a chronological history of your health - and be specific to the pain - make a note of incidences, illness, injury, or difficulty, and treatment options including alternative/natural and medications.   It is important to gain a picture of the origins and understand your body in order to help it.  

2.  Move your direction of writing inward ---understand that your body is reacting to something internally and it is important to dialogue that with your body.   Pick a part of your body - your head, your chest, ur back that is in discomfort and begin with the following sentence  "MY Head Feels __________ ...u can keep it simple by having one word answers or you can let yourself go in sentence format ......then the next sentence will be - My Head wants to say...........and again you can give short one word answers or sentence format......lastly, Today I was aware of ........

2.   Just like the process in  progressive muscle relaxation one tenses and relaxes muscles in our body as part of stress management, similarly, one can do a journaling exercise similar to that.....Tense and relax your muscles starting with your toes  feet, legs, stomach, shoulders, neck, face, eyes and as you relax, begin a five minute writing piece with the following  heading "My feet are ........"  You can start with your feet or your head...whatever it is and just let yourself write out what u are feeling......And at the end "Ask yourself - How Am i Feeling right now?

3. Just like people keep a food log, similarly keeping a pain log - jotting down the frequency of the pain, the intensity, after/before meals, if there are any triggers can also help.   http://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/guide/headache-diary

4   For those on the artistic side -close your eyes and try to visualize an image of your illness/pain....and now try to have a dialogue with that illness....this takes longer - at least 30 minutes --so you need to keep time aside for that.....

For those of you putting this off, i urge you to try one of these exercises on a daily basis....it's good for the soul:)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Today's post is on expressing gratitude on the eve of Thanksgiving.   Thanksgiving comes at a time of the year where family come together and really give thanks for the blessings in life.   Lets take it a step further.  I come from a tradition where from a very young age, i was taught that the word "shukhur" or "thank you" was part of my daily prayers.  Something on a subconscious level i have passed on to my son.   The word Thank you is uttered when we pray, and it has stuck to me and stuck within my family too.   So when i moved to this country at the age of 13 and began to take in the american tradition of thanksgiving, i have to admit to myself, it was odd.   Odd not because i didn't find the holiday beautiful, but because giving thanks is something that we do every day. 

Lets take this another step further - the concept of gratitude and what does that do for our spirit - and the shift in "our mindset" when we practice it on a regular basis.  

It is very very possible to get absorbed in our lives - and sometimes we are so stuck in its madness that we can't see past it - practicing gratitude helps us take a step back and really appreciate the simple things that we take for granted -first and foremost the people that are closest to us, that live with us and that work with us.  I've come across so many individuals who get frustrated because they do not feel that the people closest to them appreciate them enough.  Misunderstandings and assumptions occur because of this and resentment begin as a result.  Imagine if we all practiced naming what we are grateful for.  Imagine the possibilities.  And the impact that it could have on others and ourselves.  

There is a saying, so we think, so we become.   Keeping a gratitude journal keeps us in check of our thoughts, and keeps us mindful as to how much of what we think is self-harming, negative, sabotaging - if we practiced the concept of positivity and named those things that keep us alive on a daily basis, imagine the magnitude and the power of that.....

Every day list five things that you are grateful for -and you can do this in creative ways - it doesn't have to be a long 5 page entry.  it can be a notecard  and you could list 5 things that you are grateful for.  

If you are looking for something more creative - you can get a blank notebook and collect pictures/images, quotes, poems that simply remind you of the word gratitude.

You can do a gratitude journal for a whole year - and organize it by month - so that at the end of the year, u can look at all that you can be grateful for. 
Doing research on the different ways to express gratitude - i came across something called the Gratitude Tree - which i found quite creative and also to the point - simple reminders of what we are thankful for.  



A gratitude journal helps keep a positive perspective in our lives.   It allows us to take a step back from our lives that our crazed lives and really appreciate the little things that we often times take for granted.   The act of writing out what we may be grateful for or thankful for puts ourselves in perspective and we can look at ourselves from a hawk's eye view.   In order to move forward to any direction, gratitude is important.    It gives us a higher reason to live, it broadens the purpose of our existence, and makes us enjoy the little things in life.  

The Huffington Post has an article on 12 quotes that reflect the essence of gratitude.   As thanksgiving approaches, take the time to read these quotes.  Each of them is unique and speaks to us the importance of gratitude.
 
Happy Thanksgiving and Thank you for taking the time to read me:)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Anger -i've been thinking lately about the word anger, the things it does to people, and what some of the root causes of Anger may be.  Imagine someone has rubbed you the wrong way - what is ur immediate response? to fight back, to lash out, to attack? or is it to retreat, become silent, and remain passive.  Both are forms of anger, but just different ways of expressing it.   For me the question that arises is where does it come from and how can it be conquered? It is such a powerful emotion that when we are in it, we cannot think/feel clearly.  Our judgement is clouded and we operate on pure instinct.   The end result is we either end up hurting others or ourselves.  We hold onto the grudges inside and let them be built until it becomes a thick layer that is so difficult to undo.  We sabotage subconsciously or unconsciously relationships with people that are close to us, and we turn people away from us.   How can such an emotion take such a hold of us, and what can we do to undo it?   Philospohers, Saints, Sages, religious books have all said to forgive and forget, but doing that really means letting go of the anger inside us that we may not even be conscious of and really forgetting the "so called wrong" that has been done to us.   The most importnat thing is learning to forgive ourselves once we realize that the "So Called Wrong" is two fold - I am as responsible for my actions as the other person and facing that truth is sometimes extremely painful and unsettling.  

Now onto the practical part - to get to that point, sometimes talking about it can be too painful, and in my opinion, it really doesn't allow one to fully let go - the act of writing is cathartic and can really give someone that release.   How can journaling help with that.   In my earlier days, one of the most famous Journaling teachers ever was Ira Progroff who came up with the "Intensive Journaling Method".   I was working in the Family Court Systems and saw the intense burnout amongst case workers, as well as myself, and i felt i needed an outlet beside exercise, beside meditation....So i took one of the workshops from Ira Progroff and that started by passion with journaling.    The techniques provided were so simple yet so profound.  

One of the ones i would like to share with you is called "The Dialogue".  The Dialogue can be done with Persons, with an issue, with your job, with your body, anything....that u may be having conflict/confusion/anger towards.    It sounds bizarre initially but it gets you to really tune into what is going on with you on a subconscious level.   So u begin with a dialogue about the conflict/issue u are having and allow the person's response and/or issues/emotions response to respond to you back.   Allow the process to happen as if it is a conversation and let every thought that comes to you flow naturally without stopping yourself.  If it is easier  give yourself a time limit - or if it the words are flowing, then stop when u feel the need to.  
This process can really help in clarifying relationships, it can clarify ur reaction to issues and it really is one of the most moving and rewarding exercise in journaling.    I utilize it on a regular basis and i have found that it has helped tremendously in my relationship with individuals, and more so in keeping track of my emotions.   

Till the next time.....
Here is the link to those who may be interested:
http://intensivejournal.org/index.php

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Today is Diwali, the festival of Lights!!! A ritual that I observed my grandmothers, aunts, mothers, do growing up was preparing for Diwali - clearing the clutter, the amount of cleaning that we did prior to THE DAY was unbelievable.  The walls would be washed, floors scrubbed, major dusting, the list would go on and on.  Little did i know that watching this ritual would some day be my ritual.   Not to that extent, but to the sense that it was about clearing the clutter we collect throughout the year and cleaning out the houses to welcome the new.   We forget how much we store internally and externally and this ritual in many ways can be extremely healing - if we allow ourselves to look at in that way.

However i have found that each year, Diwali comes too soon, and as much as i would like to do, i don't feel i have done enough.   I remember waking up yesterday with my mind filled with lists of things to do and it was buzzing all over.  I didn't know how to get it to stop.  The lists kept getting longer and longer in my head and i kept feeling more and more overwhelmed.   Finally i decided to Stop and take a breath and write.  

One of the amazing things about Journaling is that you can use it for anything.  This time i decided to create a list of what i needed to get done , but i decided to condense it by keeping it structured.   The mind is like that -if we run with it, oh the places it takes us, and how easy it is to get caught up with that.  I have the image of a chariot with horses if the reins were not there, oh how far would they go.  Similarly our minds need that, and writing helps with that.   Rather than doing a free flowing writing exercise on all the things i need to do, i decided to do a writing piece with the following title "What I need to get done at this moment is ____" and i kept it to 3 minutes rather than five minutes - and instead of writing it in free style, i decided to list it. 

This exercise was tremendously helpful and I would recommend it to anyone who is often faced with such dilemmas.   It helped because i was able to prioritize what was important to me rather than drive myself to doing more than what i needed to do.   It helped because it made me look at what was really important to me rather than spending time frivously on things otherwise that may not be so important.  
The end result, i was not so tired, and i got the job done in a relaxing pace.  

Here are some ideas for writing exercises ---when you feel the need to be structured more in your thoughts
 - What is important to me at this moment_____
-  10 Things I want off my list by tomorrow __________
-What I Need Most________
- I hope to _______

It can be done in a list or narrative form...and the best part it is only two minutes out of your whole day... Enjoy!!

"One of the secrets of getting more done is to make a TO DO List every day, keep it visible, and use it as a guide to action as you go through the day.” ~Jean De La Fontaine! (French Poet)

Friday, November 9, 2012

YOU!!!

So I woke up a couple of days ago saying to myself, i want to blog about journaling.  I have been keeping a journal since forever and it has been my best friend, companion, my therapist, and the inner voice in me throughout these years.  There is something about picking up a pen and letting the ink run without stopping, without judgement and letting the words run through.  during the period of writing, one is simply in the moment focusing on the act of writing rather than focusing on how it will sound.  Kind of like breathing.  We breathe like it is natural to us, but when we really focus on our breathing, like a deep inhale let all the air out, journaling is like that...we are letting out the stuff out of us.  The stuff that sits in our bodies without us being fulling aware, the stuff that is in our head that can make us go crazy, and the stuff in our hearts that can stop make us numb at times to what is going on around us.   Life is about really being present in the moment - keeping a journal has helped me move further towards that goal - we spend so much of our time worrying about the past, worrying about the future, and we forget what's right in front of us....
So this blog is about the beauty of keeping a journal.  
Yesterday i saw the most beautiful sunset ever --the sky was changing colors - it started from a yellow, to a deep fushia ---watching the sunset was very stilling -what is it about a sunset that can just change your mood in an instant.  I began to think -if i had written for five minutes after watching the sun fade away, i wonder about the journal entry i would have made - what would i have to say - i didn't end up doing an entry but i ask you today, if you see something from nature that takes your breath away for a split second - for five minutes grab a piece of paper and a pen and write - see what happens.   I have done that before in the past and was amazed to see what came out - i'm not claiming to be a literary genius/writer - but what i did find is that in journaling one finds ur own unique true voice that makes u   "YOU."    And you begin to fall in love with yourself, laugh at yourself, or even at times cry with yourself when u begin to accept the real "YOU."....

So i end with the famous Dr. Seuss quote  - "Today you are you, that is truer than true.  There is noone alive who is Youer than YOU!!!