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Monday, August 27, 2012

De-Frazzle: Journaling

The unexamined life is not worth living...Socrates

The best way I know of to examine one’s life is to write in a journal. Journaling has been, and continues to be, of tremendous help to me on my healing journey.  It allows me to remove the clutter in my thoughts and feelings – to get them out of my brain and onto paper - where I may be able to observe them from a different perspective.  It helps me to see myself and my life more clearly. It facilitates communication with my Higher Self.  It helps me to get the answers to my questions about myself.  It is my key to self-discovery and self-knowing. My journal is my sounding board, my friend and confidant, my life preserver, and my healing room. This examination of my thoughts and feelings increases my awareness of unhealthy thinking patterns and erroneous beliefs, so I can then choose to change them. 

CONFIDENTIALITY: If you wish to start journaling, I suggest you buy a new journal that appeals to you and call it your healing journal.  If you are concerned about anyone else reading your journal, then find a way to keep it well-hidden.  If you don’t want others reading it after you have passed on, then burn it when you’re finished with it or make it a stipulation in your will that you want your journal burned; or, make sure a trusted friend will take care of it for you.  If you prefer to journal on your computer and are concerned about others reading it, then password-protect your document.  In any case, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you have no concern about others reading what you write – you must be totally comfortable writing anything you wish in your private healing journal. 

APPROACHES: There are many possible approaches to journaling, so I will suggest a couple that I like to use.  I start by getting relaxed and sitting in a comfortable position, breathing deeply.  Being consciously aware of each breath, I close my eyes and imagine that I am in a place of beauty and safety.  Then, I set my intention to be in contact with my Higher Self (AKA inner teacher, soul, spirit, guide, angel, etc.) asking that my Higher Self reveal herself through my writing.  If this is not comfortable for you, just sit down and start writing whatever is in your mind.

MAKE A LIST.  This is simply what it is.  Make a list of whatever comes into your mind, like "advantages of chemo" or "things I love about myself..."  or "things that make me smile" or "What I've accomplished in my life"  or "things that made me smile today" or "things I want to remember about this season" or "what I want to accomplish in my life" or "people that I love", etc. The list of things that you can write lists about is endless.  One that feels particularly good is to make a list of five things, people, events, etc. in your life that you are grateful for - and write this list at the end of each day.  Think of new items to add from the day's events.  Make sure at least two items are things about YOU that you are grateful for.  The expression of gratitude on a regular basis can make a big, positive difference in one's outlook on life.
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS writing can help you to move past your conscious thinking mind.  This is done by writing, without stopping, for at least 20 minutes at a time.  Just write whatever words are in your mind, without stopping to compose before writing, without stopping to make corrections, or for any reason.  Even if you have to write “I can’t think of anything to write,” don’t let the pen stop writing. Try this daily for a couple of weeks and see what happens.  This is a way of "priming the well", getting your writing "muscles" in shape.  It's also a way to lighten what feels like a burden of heavy thoughts weighing you down, especially those pesky repetitive thoughts. If you find yourself repeating yourself, then ask for some new, more productive or positive thoughts you can use to replace the old, negative thoughts.  

Another method is to...
WRITE A QUESTION, and then pause for a moment to listen for the answer, writing down whatever comes into your mind.  Or, better yet, after writing the question, move the pen into your non-dominant hand, then listen for the answer (you won't hear an actual voice) and write down whatever comes into your mind, without analyzing it.  This switches which side of your brain you're thinking with. Then, read it to see if it makes sense to you.  A question can be on any subject, like "why do I feel so exhausted today?" or "What makes me feel better when I'm feeling down?" or "Why did I react that way to...?"  WHY seems to be the most frequent question I ask myself, which I'm sure started when I was a small child.

WRITE A STORY.  Try this - write the story that describes the most joyful moment of your life. Use your senses to include every detail you can remember – the setting, the weather, what you were wearing, the people who were present, sounds, words, fragrance or taste, the emotions you experienced. Now, close your eyes and relax, replaying every detail of that memory in your mind. Re-live those joyful feelings as if it were happening again, right now. ENJOY the memory. Don’t allow your brain to insert any negative thoughts that might spoil your enjoyment.  Stay focused on the joy as long as you wish. Then, the next time you’re feeling down, bring yourself back to that joyful memory and repeat this exercise to see if it will lift your mood.

If your story has an unhappy ending, as the writer, you can change that. Imagine a different, perfect ending - one that helps you to FEEL BETTER.  It's not like you're writing for an audience that is going to judge the accuracy of what you write.  Or, write a whole new story that's totally fictional that just MAKES YOU FEEL BETTER.  Or, write the story of what you and your life will be like when you are totally healed.  Embellish it with as many details as you can IMAGINE - use all your senses to give your story more "life". FEEL GOOD about your story.

Clustering – Begin by choosing a word you want to write about.  Write it in the center of the page, then write down every word that comes to mind.  Write down words even if they don’t make sense and even words that seem odd or silly.  You can work in a circular fashion.  Keep concentrating on doing this and you’ll feel a shift in your consciousness as words just occur to you.  Write them down quickly before the judge censors them.  Notice how one word leads to another. Sometimes, your mind will jump to a more concrete word or an unexpected one.  Draw lines from one word to another as your thought moves from one to the other.  Do the clustering in whatever way works for you.  Later, you can use Stream of Consciousness writing from the ideas or feelings that emerge from the cluster and see what new thoughts arise.  Here is a typed example, for ease of reading.  I started with the word NOW and 'clustered' around it.
I often write prayers and affirmations in my journal. I believe that writing things down makes them more real, more concrete, more achievable, more believable.  My favorite affirmation now is I AM PEACEFUL. I AM JOYFUL. I AM VERY STRONG AND HEALTHY. 

Sources: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Stirring the Waters by Janell Moon
Journaling for Joy by Joyce Chapman

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

De-Frazzle: Thinking New Thoughts

You know, all of life is thinking! No matter what you are doing, or not doing, you are thinking. You thoughts shape your life! This is why it is so important that we all learn to take control of our thinking. Our thoughts create our experiences...Louise Hay

There's my favorite Maxine cartoon.  Don't believe everything you think.  Have you ever found out that something you were thinking just wasn't true/correct?  Like when people thought the world was flat?  Or, perhaps you thought someone was angry with you when they were just having a bad day?  Or, perhaps you thought you were falling in love but it turned out to be just a crush?  Have you ever found yourself acting on an ASSumption that you found out later had no truth in it whatsoever?  

Consequently, we can see that, just because we think something doesn't mean that it's true.  

I have come to believe that TRUTH is a very personal thing.  The best example I can see for this is different religious beliefs - people tend to think "My way is the right way or the only way or mine is the absolute TRUTH".  How can it be possible that only one of these 'ways' is right/true and all the rest are wrong/false?  I know that what is true for me may or may not be true for you, so it's important for me to open my mind to other thoughts and ideas.  There might be some ideas out there that FEEL more true to me than what's already in my head and I'll never know that if I don't purposefully seek out new ideas and entertain new and different thoughts. This is especially true if the thoughts I've been thinking are making me feel bad.  I much prefer thoughts that make me FEEL GOOD.  

Since a repeated thought can become a belief, my goal is to repeat only thoughts that feel good and healing.  Healing is pretty high on my list of priorities and I know that I am responsible for making myself feel good.  

Science tells us that we each have about 50-60,000 thoughts PER DAY.  That's about one thought per second if we're awake for 16 hours in a day.  How could anyone actually count that?  I don't know, but I do know there is  a way to 'monitor' my thinking.  It's by noticing how I'm FEELING.  Science also tells us that our feelings are a direct response to our thoughts.  Following in this logical train, then...

IF I FEEL BAD (sad, angry, worried, fearful, depressed)
AND my feeling is a response to my thoughts...
THEN I can change how I'm feeling by changing what I'm thinking.  Now, that's something to think about!

How do I know when it's time to change what I'm thinking?  It's when I FEEL bad!  So, I need to pay attention to how I feel!  That's not really hard to do.  
Well, who is in control of what I think?  Only one person - ME.  Here's one way to change my thinking/thoughts - use DISTRACTION.  Direct my thinking toward something different.  There are so many ways to do this.... for example:

  • make a phone call
  • read a book
  • watch a movie
  • meditate
  • plan a social event
  • write in your journal
  • play a computer game or solitaire
  • work on a word or number puzzle
  • go for a walk/exercise
  • pray for help to change the thought and feeling

Here's another way to change my thinking/thoughts - use THOUGHT SUBSTITUTION.  It is just what it sounds like....Substitute one thought for another.  This requires a little planning ahead, but once you've used it, you'll want to expand on it, use it even more often and have fun with it (perhaps - at least that's what's been true for me).  

Knowing that ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE in my imagination, I like to see how imaginative and creative I can be in making up "happy thoughts" and "remembering happy times" and storing them in my imaginary treasure chest, which must be in my mind somewhere. Then, I can open my imaginary treasure chest and retrieve a thought, image or memory that I know ALWAYS makes me feel good.  If it doesn't feel good, I have the power to change or discard it.  It makes me feel really powerful!

Treasure chest of good-feeling thoughts & memories
So, I have filled up my treasure chest with MEMORIES that make me feel good, like...

  • my daughter's wedding celebration
  • my own wedding
  • holding a precious child
  • seeing the smile on that child's face
  • hearing the giggle while seeing the smile
  • feeling that sense of accomplishment when  I decided to quit my job
  • feeling the excitement of swimming with a dolphin
  • breathing in the beauty of nature (so many of these awesome memories) with the wind - using all my senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell)
Get the idea?  Take some time with a memory and really get into the feelings of that moment, write it down, talk about it with yourself or others, expand it, exaggerate it, look at photos, draw pictures, use all your senses... Do whatever it takes to firmly implant the good feelings of the memory in your treasure chest, leaving it ready to retrieve on a moment's notice.  Then, you can substitute the feel-good memory for the bad-feeling thought and the good feeling will come. If the memory does not FEEL GOOD when you retrieve it because you have associated a bad feeling with it, then either change the memory (embellishment is fine in our own imagination) so it DOES feel good or take it out of your treasure chest so you don't try to use it again. This really does get easier with practice.  You can do the same with your good-feeling thoughts.

Since there's no actual size limits, I have also filled up my treasure chest with GOOD-FEELING THOUGHTS and SCENARIOS (not actual memories, although they do slip in there sometimes) that always make me smile, like...

  • a scene where my higher self or guardian angel shines a light on my negative thought and makes it disappear, then replaces it and fills my being with light, warmth, comfort and divine healing love (breathing it in to every cell)
  • seeing and feeling my body performing the Sun Salutation (yoga) with perfect strength and breathing
  • inspiring songs to sing, like Gloria Gaynor's I WILL SURVIVE and Helen Ready's I AM WOMAN
  • the shocked look and big smile on my oncologist's face when he says the word "REMISSION" and it reverberates/echoes in my mind over and over again
  • my victory dance - jumping for joy
  • taking flight on a dragon's back to "soak up" the beauty of nature
  • chemo droplets destroying individual cancer cells
  • painting beautiful landscapes and humorous faces
  • imagining that my heart is sending love to every other being on the planet and that we are all connected with love.  With this loving connection, we can bring light to areas of darkness, and transform despair to hope, disease to perfect health, conflict to peace, poverty to abundance, hunger to nutritious meals, and so much more.

There are no limits to what we can imagine!  We are so fortunate to have such powerful thoughts.  We must be able to do lots of healing work with them.  Again, this is what is true for me.  I love my treasure chest of GOOD FEELINGS!  How about you?

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

De-Frazzle: Conscious Breathing

Just pause for a few moments, close your eyes, and focus your attention on your breath.  Slowly, take in a nice, deep, calming breath, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.   Repeat this several times, pressing stale air out of your lungs on the exhale and rejuvenating all your body's cells with each inhale.  Oxygen is the basic food for every cell in your body.  You could even imagine that you are inhaling the ENERGY of RELAXATION and exhaling the ENERGY of tension, stress, and/or anything else you wish to let go of.  This is breathing consciously for a quick, refreshing break.  Its De-Frazzle-Action?
  • Improves lung function
  • Triggers the body's own Relaxation Response
  • Oxygenates the blood
  • Feels good

Here is a hand-out I have used with my yoga class...

Alternate Nostril Breathing
The index and middle fingers of the right hand are folded over and pressed against the palm or straightened out and touching the forehead.   The thumb is used to close the right nostril, and the ring and little fingers together close the left nostril.  Left-handed people may do the opposite.

Close off the right nostril with the right thumb.  Exhale and inhale through the left nostril.   Release the right nostril as you use your ring and little fingers to close off the left nostril.  Exhale and inhale through the right nostril. Continue for several minutes, alternating nostrils.

Using gentle pressure to hold each nostril closed, breathe slowly, smoothly, deeply and evenly.

Variation – pause for a few seconds after each inhale and exhale, holding both nostrils closed after the inhale.

[ Relaxes the entire body
[ Soothes the nervous system
[ Balances both sides of the brain 

Source: The Complete Yoga Book, by James Hewitt
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De-Frazzle: Time Management

A common feeling among "the frazzled” is that there just is NOT ENOUGH TIME. When retailers start selling time,  I want to be first in line to buy some.  Science has now proven that everyone has exactly the same amount of time.  What are some ways we can achieve the feeling that we actually have enough time?

We prioritize all the time. Whatever we CHOOSE to spend time on is our highest priority.  So, it helps to look at how we might be spending our time. It can be revealing to keep track of how you spend your time for an entire week—or just a few days.  Include everything, like personal grooming time, cooking, cleaning, eating, watching TV, working, talking on the phone, entertainment, chores,  email, internet, etc. 

Sometimes, we do things simply because we’ve always done those things, whether they really need to be done or not. Over time, our priorities can change. Things like keeping the house spotlessly clean or washing the car every week may become less important and we can spend less time doing them. Often, we SHOULD all over ourselves doing things because we think we should do them.  Some de-frazzle-action might come from re-allocating some of that time to other, more important things. 


Make Two To-Do Lists
Here's another way to deal with time management....

Make 2 To-Do Lists. Start with a list of all the things you want to get done today, then look at what things are actually achievable today and move all the other items to a second list - and call it God’s list. Moving them off your list will make it easier to not worry about them.  And, some of the items on God’s list just might take care of themselves.
Writing Exercise. List the 3 things that occupy most of your time. Then list the 3 most important things (people, things, events, etc.) in your life.  Now, compare the two lists and see how they correspond. Write about what you can re-prioritize so that you spend more time focusing on what’s most important to you.
Have fun!  If you’re very serious about all the work you have to do, make sure you schedule in time to have fun.  Spending time doing what you love is one of the best ways to DE-FRAZZLE.
Time Management can be a powerful way to begin to de-frazzle!  It helps to De-Frazzle the mind , emotions and body and keeps you cool!

Better Time Management De-Frazzle-Action results in:
  • Feeling like you're in Control
  • Diminished feelings of over-whelm
  • More time for relaxation & fun

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