What’s the point of forgiveness? After all, doesn’t it let the wrongdoer off the hook? The last thing we want to do when someone harms, hurts or even kills someone we love – is forgive. So why, is there so much emphasis on the power of forgiveness? And how can it benefit our Mental Health?
This is my personal story……In my 40s I met a man and fell in love. Not something I planned, nor was I looking for a life partner but we met and clicked instantly. We had similar tastes in music because we both came from the same era. Morrissey, the sex pistols, the clash all of those groups and musicians who came up through the 80s, so you see – we had a lot in common. As our relationship grew, like many couples we planned a future together. He had his own place, I had mine and every weekend we’d get together and enjoy our time. One Sunday evening – and I keep wondering to myself looking back, was there anything different about that evening? Did anything happen that I could’ve picked up on? Was there anything remarkable? The answer was always no, but that Sunday evening was the last time I saw my partner alive. Months before, he’d taken in a lodger, someone to go halves with the rent and bills. Many of us have done it, nothing unusual there right? What he didn’t know, was the person he took in as a lodger, would eventually kill him in a knife attack leaving 17 stab wounds on his body. Receiving the news that the man I loved had been killed, devastated me to the core. In that moment my body froze and I couldn’t warm it up, it was a moment when as a non drinker, I desperately needed whiskey, something – anything. If I’d only known, if I said I love you just a little bit more meaningfully, if I’d made more of an effort on that last weekend, but I didn’t. So where do you turn in moments like this?
As a stress consultant and healer, I’m often presented with people in distress. Crying and tears have become a huge part of my work and I must confess, my personal life too. Did you notice the wording there? I said “I must confess” – as if crying’s some kind of horrible sin.
You see, in our culture we’re encouraged not to cry. Crying is seen as weakness & embarrassing. we’ve all had it said to us “come on now stop crying, pull yourself together ” and we even bring gender into it. Seriously! If you’re a woman crying is bad enough, but if you’re a man it’s an absolute no-no to cry. A sign of weakness, not being manly and masculine enough. And yet, crying is the one real action of our body that connects us emotionally. To cry is not only human response to sorrow or frustration, it’s also a really healthy one. It’s actually evidenced, crying reduces stress and helps us to eliminate the feelings that come with that frustration. Crying helps us to calm our mind and body and this has a huge physical knock-on effect. It’s common knowledge, holding in stress overlong periods of time can increase the risk of heart problems and other disorders such as acid & cancers etc. Other benefits of crying include:
- Helping us connect with others in terms of support.
- Helping to relieve pain. …
- Enhancing mood. …
- Releasing toxins and relieving stress. …
- Aiding sleep. …
- Fighting bacteria. …
- Improving vision.
Let’s not forget, tears are made up of a compound of salt and water-the best anti bacterial there is. In Biblical times, Mary Magdalen was said to have washed the feet of Jesus with her tears. Whether you believe the story or not, the message behind it cannot be ignored. Human tears are definitely a strong anti bacterial cleanser. So why as a culture, are we so opposed to crying? Maybe it’s because looking inwards at our own problems & deficits is much more difficult than looking outwards at someone else’s and so, for us to cry being ‘normal’ would be unthought of. Which brings us back to the power of mind & meditation. To be able to connect and truly be at peace with our mind, we must first learn to bring the mind to a place of stillness. The only way we can achieve this is through meditation. Through meditation we can begin to acknowledge and understand the nature of who we are, our emotions as they arise & our imbalances. Whilst meditation teaches that we shouldn’t give too much attention to our emotion, for example creating a dialogue and engaging with it. There’s absolutely no reason why, when emotion arises where tears need to flow, we shouldn’t allow them too.
WHAT ARE YOUR EXPERIENCES OF CRYING?
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Every day we hear people say how important it is to have peace of mind. For some people, peace of mind means having a job that’s consistent and secure . For others, peace of mind means a health condition being resolved or settling. There are so many examples and definitions of peace of mind. But what does peace of mind really mean to you?
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Have you ever wondered why some people suffer the effects of trauma & others simply move on? Why some carry past experiences from childhood into adulthood & others refuse – closing the door on the past? We’ve all pondered these things….”Why me? Why does it always seem to be me who suffers?” Well first it’s important to understand how the mind works, and we’ll do it by going on a journey into outer space. When the mind is peaceful we experience vast quiet space – so it seems a great place to start.
So let’s begin right down in the deepest recesses of the mind – THE UNCONSCIOUS.
Have you ever heard of Fight Flight or Freeze? It’s the response we have in the most difficult circumstances. For example, let’s say we get mugged in the street at gunpoint, the chances are we’re not going to put up too much of a fight in case we get shot. Most of us would hand over our things and try to stay alive – we’d probably take flight and have that memory frozen in time somewhere so we didn’t have to deal with it. The unconscious mind is a bit like a filing system where all our traumatic memories get stored. It’s safe and secure and won’t let you down. Whilst your memories are there, you can get on with life as if nothing happened. That’s why soldiers who’ve seen the most horrendous things don’t fall and crumble. It’s why they carry on regardless in war without faltering and why everyday people seem to have extraordinary resilience in terrible situations………..BUT THERES A CATCH! The unconscious part of your mind is only good until another part of the mind gets stimulated and sends a message that it’s safe to let go.
Travelling up from the deepest recesses, is another part of the mind…THE SUBCONSCIOUS
The subconscious acts as a kind of filter between the Conscious mind & the Unconscious. It’s triggered by stimuli of many different kinds. When the Subconscious mind receives stimuli, it passes a message to the Unconscious to say “Ok it’s safe now to let some of your memory out” That stimuli comes from the CONSCIOUS MIND. The subconscious doesn’t try to make sense of things, it’s impulsive and jumps to all kind of weird conclusions because it’s governed by the Amygdala (or pleasure Centre) The Amygdala is part of the brain and is only about the size of a pea. It doesn’t really stop to think, it isn’t rational and it just stampedes right on in there
THE CONSCIOUS MIND
How we process the information gathered by our conscious mind, often determines the path mental and physical health will take. The here and now is where our brain is most active because of our 5 senses. What we see, touch, hear, smell & taste all have memory from certain situations in life. For example, something we see happening to another person, may trigger a memory about something that happened in our own life. How we use the conscious part of our mind is the most important thing, because how we process that information brought about by the senses, determines whether our mental health is likely to suffer. All this may seem complicated, because it sound like you have a choice right? Well it’s actually true you do. Heres a simple example…..
Joe had the most traumatic childhood. He had two alcoholic parents and pretty much had to raise himself through his teenage life. joe’s brother is only one year younger than him, and experienced the same family dynamics and situations. Both Joe and his brother left home when they reached 18 years old. Joe went on to become an artist and opened his own studio, he married and had three children. Joe severed all contact with his parents, it was a very difficult decision but he figured he had to do it in order to move forward. Joe’s brother on the other hand didn’t have to work as hard as Joe because he won a scholarship. The only problem with Joes brother, he decided not to follow this through and he became dependent on heroin. Joe’s brother says it helps him escape the terrible traumatic memory of his past. He says every time he smells alcohol, it reminds him of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his parents. Both Joe and his brother are in their late 50s now, Joe is still doing fine but his brother, he still suffers the consequences of his past.
Here we have two brothers, who grew up in the same family environment but who took very different roads as they became adults why is this? Well there are some very important factors to consider here. Joe made a very significant but difficult decision to sever all contact with his abusive parents and pursue his goal – that was his big motivation. By doing this he closed a door on the traumatic memory & consciously chose a different road. Whilst it’s unclear, if Joe’s brother also cut contact with his parents, what is very apparent, is the fact that Joe chose to go down a very different road. He chose not to pursue the scholarship he had won and to start looking for escape in illicit drugs. So here we have two people, making very clear choices about the way they want to direct their lives. This isn’t a judgement about whether they were right or wrong, it’s only an example of how we have choice. The next very interesting factor, Joes brother says every time he smells alcohol, it reminds him of his abusive parents. Let’s look at what’s happening here in relation to the conscious, subconscious and conscious mind.
Let’s say Joe’s brother is sitting in a park minding his own business. Two people having a heated discussion and drinking alcohol start to walk closer to him. They have no interest in him whatsoever, and will probably walk straight past engulfed in their own arguments. But his conscious mind has already become panicked and is preparing for fight or flight. A message is then sent to the Subconscious by the Amygdala to say something bad is about to happen. This is the only stimuli needed, for the subconscious mind to spring into action. It sends messages right down to the deepest unconscious mind and a traumatic memory is released. At this point, Joes brother will be desperate for his next fix of heroin to escape and this is how it will continue until Joes brother finds a way of closing the door on his past.
Some would argue, that there are instances where we aren’t in control of how we process information. For example in circumstances where a person may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Although not completely unique to the armed forces, it’s fair to say PTSD is found mostly in men and women returning from the line of duty. They have seen the most horrendous things, and if they had responded at the time would probably have fallen completely apart mentally & physically. At the time they experienced these atrocities, there was no choice but to tuck away the traumatic memory and carry on serving their country. It was only on returning home, that these memories started to surface and create massive problems in their lives. As someone who has worked extensively with people suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, I have also researched the issue and have found no actual evidence to suggest who may or may not go on to develop PTSD. For example, we may have two people who experienced the same atrocities at the same time, but one will go on to develop PTSD and the other wont. What is very apparent however, a person who deals with the trauma at the time of it happening, may be less likely to go on and develop PTSD than a person who doesn’t – but again, It’s very difficult to say. So how can we begin to unravel the issue of processing information at the right time? It’s difficult to determine whether we can or not but one thing’s for certain, the mind is a very powerful tool and it can be retrained to think and act in very different ways. One of these ways is through meditation ….. Mindfulness meditation or Vipassana as it’s otherwise known to bring the mind into the present moment, enabling us to rationalise situations and events more easily in a more balanced way. Or in the case of someone who has PTSD, transcendental meditation which allows the mind to transcend the present moment. In other words transcendental meditation allows the mind to rise above the present moment where the difficulties lay, and to find its own place of peace.
A non-trauma-focused therapy, transcendental meditation (TM), may be a viable option to decrease symptom severity of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans, according to a new study published in The Lancet Psychiatry. This study was the first comparative effectiveness trial comparing TM with an established psychotherapy for PTSD.1
What are your experiences of the mind & Meditation? I’d really love to hear your feedback.
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Purely by accident I discovered the many health benefits of the ‘Tibetan singing bowl’ Up until a couple of years ago, I’d used the bowls only for relaxation or soothing effects, but never as an actual part of my healing work. After many years coming and going to India & living in the Tibetan community, I developed a fascination with the bowls, but to be honest, few if any Tibetans actually acknowledged or seemed aware of using the bowls in healing.
The disregard of my excitement and wonderful fantasy about these magical little bowls, being used in monasteries & Temples all over India, nowadays it simply didn’t seem to be the case. After saying this…..it isn’t completely false either – as explained in the interview below, between Rain Gray & his Tibetan Brother in law – Lama Lobsang Molam. You see, the bowls were used historically in Tibet, long before the Chinese communist invasion. Following this, much of the old traditions were lost or banned. While a few monasteries do still use the bowls, few younger Tibetans seem to know of them.
Anyway, a very dear friend of mine gave me a set of these beautiful bowls and I realised, the sounds they emit work as a type of energy medicine that can heal actual physical pain, depression, and stress disorders. One way in which they work, is by allowing your brain to focus on and get in tune with the sounds of the bowl. Another way however, is by allowing the physical vibration of the bowl