Rilke and the Soul in Reflection

Rilke and the Soul in Reflection

Writing Through to the Other Side

By far and away, my absolute favorite poet is Rainer Maria Rilke, whose life’s work is a dedication to the voice of the soul. His laborious, sometimes tormented progression through maturation mirrors The Lady and the Unicorn perfectly. We look to him this week to better understand our 5th image, “The Soul in Reflection.” Rilke begins with wondrous praise to the images of the Christian God, relics of power, an outside source and image of the divine spark. He turns his soulful writing toward love and landscape, new adventures, and the potent possibilities. Love, lust, and suffering become the god-image for a time in his life. He then, through heartbreak and failures, begins to write in despair, seeing the darkness as the truest thing. He writes through his dark night of the soul until, after much turmoil, Rilke finds his way through to the other side.

Seeing Without Agenda

I want to suggest as a reminder that it is important to see these stages not simply as a single, linear progression. We like to see clients set goals and meet them, standing on their commitments and progressing beyond the sunset to new territories of life and fulfillment. Sometimes, however, these linear directions are not an adequate reflection of the wholeness of a person nor the wholeness of the psyche’s revelation. We may never fully understand the movement of the soul. Are we to abandon the unconscious in the name of deadlines? What if the “plan” is not the “plan” after all? Tangible goals are always grounding stones in the basket of the hot air balloon. We need them to remain closer to the earth. But we can do more than this. We can learn to see without agenda. Learn to love without condition, learn to unfold without so much expectation.

No Ideas but in Things

Let’s turn once more to Rilke. Here, after his despair and the arrival at a kind of stillness with nowhere to go and nothing new to say. At this important time in his life, he finds himself under the mentorship of a famous sculptor. The artist has the space for the mystery unfolding in Rilke. Rilke asks of the sculptor, “What is left? Is there nothing more to write of? Why doesn’t the voice of inspiration come through me as it once did? The skills are there, the experiences exhausted, now what?” The sculptor knew this place. He smiled and offered to Rilke nothing more than the opportunity to imagine. The sculptor tasked Rilke with spending time with objects and writing of what within them were most alive to his imagination, most personal, closest to the gods within his soul (see “The Panther” at the end of this blog.)

Holding Up the Mirror

James Hillman, founder of Archetypal Psychology reminds us that it is not the psyche that is in me, but me that is in the psyche. To be in the reflective soul is to hold a mirror up to the spirit that lives in what is. We can, through the creative deepening of our hearts, learn to see the beauty and horror in all things. Parts of us sometimes appear as the innocent, the virginal, on the threshold of maturity and so on, while other parts may have moved altogether through to new phases. In “The Soul in Reflection,” we can see that the Lady (soul) sits tenderly as a mother with the Unicorn (spirit). She holds a mirror to the unicorn to witness itself. Can we practice the space, the reflection with interest and a willingness to look to the object of another both to see what my soul can see and to support them to find the voice within themselves.

The Soul in Reflection

The Panther

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly–. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.

Rainer Maria Rilke

The Lady and the Unicorn: Discipline and Maturation

The Lady and the Unicorn: Discipline and Maturation

The Fourth Stage of Maturation

Welcome to the fourth installment of The Lady and the Unicorn, a personified look at the maturation of the soul. It is my sincerest hope that these weekly themes will continue to provide us with new and meaningful ways to participate in this dedication to healing at Barn Life. As I mentioned in previous weeks, The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries offer us, through images, a way of understanding aspects of life and experiences in a soulful way. Each of these tapestries personifies a psychological image for something that the soul is experiencing. Through a depth psychological perspective, we can perceive and ask different questions of our clients. These stages together comprise all of consciousness. If, for example, we recognize a tendency to resist insight or, as Rilke might say “Live our questions now”, we may be encountering the soul in innocence.

The Lady and the Unicorn 4

The Unfolding of the Inner Craftsman

Last week, we spent time in the third phase of maturation – the soul as a threshold of maturation.  I say that it is a common experience to begin to face the inner more intricate work of the soul only to, in fear, regress ourselves back into innocence and the virgin attitudes. Here in our fourth stage, we turn our attention to the unfolding of the inner craftsman. Its exemplified in the fourth tapestry, we observe the soul in practice. Notice, when looking at this image, this once useful vibrancy with a gaze towards simple pleasures, birds of the air, and the unburdening of golden jewels. It now sits with eyes and fingers upon the discipline of her instrument.

Engaging Directly with the Creative Process

When we move with the soul through the experience of grief, loss, and focus attention upon the things closest to our deepest longings, we then begin the actual work of engaging directly with the creative process. This asks of us experimentation, discipline, consistency, and follow-through. It can be difficult to identify this phase because so often these skills are occupied with “necessary” things. It is not uncommon to see clients feeling burned out, trapped, and obligated to a job that is unfulfilling, a relationship that is not supporting their growth, or hiding behind a skill or an accomplishment. Of course, a “get well job” and other stability goals ask of our time, our energy, and our efforts; however, when on the look-out for the practicing soul we must look for matters of the heart.

Meaningful Focus and Inspired Efforts

The practicing soul engages in meaningful focus and inspired efforts. These skills come with discipline and a strong sense of conviction. In our image note also the role of the handmaiden. The ego-self serves the process of the soul’s expression. Here the handmaiden lifts and compresses with all her strength, the wind of the instrument of the soul. The practicing soul lives an intense focus and asks that we pump our thoughts, decisions, and attention into her instrument. In this stage of maturity, the soul begins to lead and the ego begins to serve. How can we encourage a living, conscious relationship with our unconscious motives? Perhaps there is more to play with, and engage with, in the hard work of practice than we realize?

The Soul at the Threshold of Adulthood

The Soul at the Threshold of Adulthood

The Lion King and the Myth of Horus

Have you ever seen the Lion King? It occurred to me this week that the story is based on the Egyptian myth of Horus. Simba must overcome the challenges his father faced and so also find within himself his one unique destiny. We see between the Virginal Soul and the Soul at the Threshold of Adulthood a certain turn well-characterized in this myth. Let’s look at Simba and his story more closely: his loss of father, exile, and confrontation with the shadow king. For our theme this week, we move our attention toward transition itself. Whereas the virgin soul experiences abundant life, the soul on the threshold of adulthood begins the work of initiation. In the psychology of the virginal soul, the spirit ascends. But what comes up must come down. To put it another way, the fantasy cannot sustain us.

Drawn Toward a Distinct Purpose

Remember in the Lion King when Simba adopts a lifestyle of self-indulgence when in exile? Simba along with his companions live in a nihilistic subjective world apart from any collective meaning or sense of belonging. “No worries” is the motto for those in a virginal state of the soul, living on the wings of spirit and freedom. Something happens, as we can see in Simba’s story, however. The psyche draws our attention toward more distinctive pursuits. This is an exciting time in the life of the soul. Memories re-emerge and existential questions arise. That which we avoid most cannot be ignored and the body feels the weight. Call it karma, the daimonic drive, fate, destiny, ancestors – what we know is that all cultures and all mythologies and religions contain strong evidence that the soul is drawn toward its distinct purposes.

From Selfish Fantasies to Divine Callings

From what began as self-indulgence with fantasies of fulfillment and abundance begins to move toward a deeper mystery. Think of the scene when Simba encounters the wise old monkey and hears the call of a return. Simba speaks with his father among the stars and hears the tug of purpose and meaning unique to his own life path. To put it another way, the soul rises and lives vibrantly in the imagination, but the imagination draws us beyond selfish fantasies toward the divine callings. We belong to something and that asks of us more than “no worries” can sustain. What was at first full with potential and satisfaction turns instead toward a bid for reconciliation. Something beyond our nature draws us in. Why would this happen? Why does the virginal soul life philosophy of “no worries” begin to feel so empty?

The Soul at the Threshold of Adulthood

This week in our image of the Lady and the Unicorn, we see our figure turning. Now, the soul removes her jewelry and, with tied-back hair, she withdraws. Above the tent reads, “A Mon Seul Desir” (to my only desire). Scholars speculate that the blue tent with burning embers resembles the lost souls in Dante’s Divine Comedy, a prevalent work during the time of the tapestry’s creation. If this is correct, we can more fully understand what is taking place in our image. The soul has withdrawn from grandiosity. With less distraction, our depression makes room to listen intently and discover our rightful path. Most importantly, we can see that she willfully hands away her jewelry and enters the tent. The lady giving away her jewelry represents the turn of the soul from the splendid path to the ‘heavenly tent’.

Turning Toward Solitude

In my experience, the pattern is a regressive one, where this feeling of loss for the soul provokes avoidance rather than progression. Instead of turning toward the small dark spaces of solitude wherein the voice of the divine can be heard, some regress instead to the innocent soul, keeping it simple and pretending the world out there and the dreams unlived do not require our attention. The Youthful Soul state may replace the threshold experience in an effort to avoid the deepening maturation. Virginal Soul experiences feel good when often the deflation from them feels terrible. Could it be that the loss and longing is, in fact, the threshold of meaning? Without these deflations, we never quite get to the integration. As we will see next week, the tent experience will lead us to our craft, the soul will move into the hard yet rewarding work of utilization.

The Lady and the Unicorn: the Virginal Soul

The Lady and the Unicorn: the Virginal Soul

The High Reaches of Pure Imagination

Let the youthful soul look back on life with the question: what have you truly loved up to now, what has elevated your soul, what has mastered it and at the same time delighted it?…see how one complements, expands, surpasses, transfigures another, how they form a stepladder upon which you have climbed up to yourself as you are now – Nietzsche

Nietzsche helps us understand the youthful soul is in spirited ascent to the high reaches of pure imagination. In the image of hope and potential, we find our why for recovery and change. Nietzsche understood that these ladder rungs upward are the life infusing potencies of the soul. The top of the mountain, the holy grail, and the divine encounter often resemble the longing for recovery, the bliss of a lover and the ideal image of a transformed new life. For our second week on The Lady and the Unicorn, we turn our attention toward the virginal soul. Virginity represents much more than sexual purity. Consider the Mother Mary and her significance in the Christian mythos. Her purity becomes the rightful womb for new life and the child of transformation. We need not look at virginity in the sexual and literal sense of the word here, but the psychological.

An Honest-to-One’s-Self Expression

Lets briefly look at the virgin archetype. When we consider virginity in terms of the psyche, we see the uninhabited potentiality for spiritual insemination. Virginity means pure – uninhabited or untainted, a potency of something or someone without pollination. Virgin in this perspective helps us to attend to what is our own. This is the rightful starting place for a soul in ascent. In Greek mythology, the virgin goddesses personify a complete “does-what-she-does” quality. A virgin goddess is not susceptible to penetration psychologically; rather, she seeks nothing and embodies, in action and being, an honest-to-one’s-self-expression. Consider the Greek goddess, Artemis. Artemis wears a short skirt so she can run through the woods and hunt, fires true, golden arrows at whatever she is after without miss, and prefers the company of her nymphs in the privacy of the wild. Virginity personified in the image of Artemis captures independence, strength, play, and solitude.

The Winds of the Spirit

The youthful soul, firstly calm and quaint grows curious and full of life. As the virginal soul consciousness inflates and the winds of the spirit fill our banners, life takes on a rich and passionate quality. What stirs us with fantasies of heaven? The role of virginity can be seen as the uninhabited, the new potential and inspiration. The Virginal Soul resembles possibility and a generative expression in the world. On the one hand, supporting our clients to “reach for the stars” and live into our passions can fund a sense of self and meaning. On the other hand, our hot-air-filled lift can take us off the ground and away from the things of this world. The virginal soul is not the place to bed consciousness, but it is an important place to attend. Can we support the rising fantasies without dropping lead in the proverbial basket?

Virginal Soul

Recall from last week, the youthful soul is calm and attentive to her string of flowers. The lion and unicorn wear shields of protection over the soul and the handmaiden (ego) simply offers flowers to the souls creation. By contrast, the virginal soul image is filled with life. The image lifts and engages. Note the capes and banners filled with wind. The birds and other animals appear active. The monkey, once sniffing bread in the background, has now taken center stage. Curious and engaged, the virginal soul feeds a fluttering bird on her finger. A magpie and hawk fence on the winds above.  She wears her golden dress uncovered with hair alive on the wind. The tremendous movement and presence of full potential are apparent. Next week we will look at the process of descent where virginity moves us into maturation.

The Lady and the Unicorn: Innocence and the Soul

The Lady and the Unicorn: Innocence and the Soul

The Soul in Innocence

This week, we will be looking at the soul in stages of transformation personified in the 14th-century French tapestries titled, The Lady and The Unicorn, starting with the first of the images: the Soul in Innocence.  James Hillman (2004) identified “the addiction to innocence, to not knowing life’s darkness and not wanting to know, either.” Indeed, his diagnosis sheds light on the oppression and suffering that breathe in the shadow of American idealism. That Hillman equates it with an addiction bears mentioning. It is interesting to consider this perspective when treating our clients with addiction issues. Innocence can be an escape from responsibility, confrontation, neurosis and more. Often we encounter a psychological pattern of sublimation – moving from one addiction to another in an effort to remain hidden and unconscious. Additionally, innocence is a protector, a surrogate womb where refuge from confrontation with the Self can be found.

Our Soul-Nature

On the one hand, innocence represents a time without care, where, in reference to the soul, life is lived without reflection and opinion (neurosis.) In many instances, we like to remind clients to remember their weirdness as children. Think of the things we say and do in childhood without regard or expectation. Our “weird” expresses our soul-nature. Perhaps we loved to wiggle our bodies or mastermind an army of toys. Perhaps we enjoyed lining up our stuffed animals in categories or by size and color, playing school, hiding in closets, or making up songs. Innocence grants us the experience of fluid, free, un-reflected expression. Innocence is ease of mind, of imagination and the body.

Freedom, Growth, and Maturation

In Memories Dreams Reflections, C.G. Jung suggests that through adaptation a second self emerges to better interact with environment and needs.  We become more survivalists – creating a self better suited for needs and approval. How can the persona we show the world tell us about what we value and what we keep hidden? In time the soul may lose expression and, in neglect, sleep behind the second self. Conversely, a soul-centered psychology aims to awaken and attend to the soul in maturation. By regression into the innocent, we avoid our growth. Consider how innocence-idealized may very well be a hiding place and also a threshold into the imagination. Against the backdrop of archetypal innocence, how do we experience freedom, growth, and maturation? Can innocence put into perspective our lost self? Finally, how can we bring that freedom back out into our waking life?

Innocence As Defense Mechanism

On the one hand, the idealization of innocence can concurrently serve a different function in the individual psyche. Perhaps, rather than grow into and mature through our entangled issues, we may instead regress to a helpless and unknowing, irresponsible archetypal possession. The world is chaos and big, responsibility is pressure and overwhelming and, rather than work through and step into a soul in maturation, we might unconsciously find refuge in the complete abandon of “helplessness.” Innocence as a defense mechanism may show up in an attitude of naiveté. “You can’t blame me I don’t know any better,” for example. Does this behavior sound familiar? How can innocence become a hiding place and a regressive move away from maturation? Furthermore, how can innocence draw us toward what was left behind? Is it possible to move into the essence of soul remembered in innocence without abandoning a conscious and integrative process?

The Lady and the Unicorn

Take a look at the image above. We recognize that the central figure is larger than her handmaiden, cloaked in gold, symbolic of divinity, and the blue and red of the imagination and life. This central figure attends quaintly to the task of stringing flowers. The unicorn of the imagination and the lion of the animal nature are attending and raising banners to the central image, the soul in innocence. The soul is attended by a smaller aspect, holding the flowers for the soul’s creation. The focus here is inward and calm. The feeling is intimate and uncomplicated. Can we have these kinds of experiences in our adult life? This week, try to listen and observe with an ear for innocence both in its idealization as an escape from reality and as a way into the imagination, toward the authenticity of the individual soul.

Reflection: Reinvigorating the Seeds of the Future

Reflection: Reinvigorating the Seeds of the Future

A Future of Hope and Improvement

A lady looks into the mirror seeing her reflection smiling back. A man sits by the fire and reflects on the years that have passed and cannot be relived. The still lake holds the reflection of the moon on her surface. The idea of reflection is multilayered. Thinking about things that have happened in the past (reflecting on their deeds) and the bouncing off of light/heat from a surface (a reflection in the mirror) are to name just a few. As we move into another new year, we say goodbye to the past and welcome a future of hope and improvement.

The Path of Renewal and Recovery

Reflecting back on the choices we have made in the past year, we gain a more rounded view of the time and the effects our choices have brought. Making better choices is important while walking this path of renewal and recovery. Our actions should be a reflection of our thoughts and our thoughts should reflect our actions. But we must reflect on these past outcomes before we can alter our future choices.

Taking Inventory of the Past

The most common celebrations of ancient times involved reflection and revolved around the harvest festivals of autumn. Perhaps it was out of fear and reverence. After all, the days grew darker and shorter, and the natural world began to die away. It was an important time because what was done in earnest during this time laid the seeds for the spring to come in the future. This is the meaning of reflection: take inventory of the past to reinvigorate the seeds of the future.

Improving Our World and Ourselves

The Chinese offer us another image of reflection encapsulated in the teachings of the I Ching. In China, a large platform elevated into the sky was used as a lookout, glimpsing both ahead and behind.  As we know, if you are high up, you can see far. However, there is a cost to being able to see behind and ahead. The cost is that everyone can see you better as well. Thus, the only way that we can improve our world is to improve ourselves. The only way to lead others in a positive way is to reflect deeply on our own lives and make an impact there. Obtain a better view and look within.

Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California with a license to treat mental illness on an outpatient community-based level. At our holistic facility in Orange County, our Barn Life staff encourage tried and true healing practices within an idyllic setting. If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or just plain overwhelmed, please consider giving us a call. Our staff is ready to answer any questions you might have and begin the admissions process. Call now and start to love life again!

Perseverance and Overcoming Challenges

Perseverance and Overcoming Challenges

Bringing Sustained Change

Perseverance is crucial for long term change and necessary to overcome challenges using new methods. Many of our clients have fallen into patterns, as we all do. Unfortunately, their “normal” way of dealing with life stressors has been maladaptive. Often, clients have created methods to deal with negative, uncomfortable, or intense emotions. Some of these methods work for a time in that they successfully alter the reality of pain. However, maladaptive skills such as rage, disassociation, disconnection/cut-off, and substance use are not a panacea and thus eventually fail. The cost of these maladaptive skills creates a new set of problems at worst. At best, it supports and maintains dysfunctional behaviors.

Getting Out of the Rut

One significant challenge in learning and applying healthy adaptive skills is to get out of the rut of the “same ol’” that has been practiced through the many years. These trained neurological pathways and practiced responses never simply dissipate. Only hard and consistent work through perseverance can bring sustained change. It can be difficult to maintain focus and utilize new adaptive coping skills. It opposes the tendency to rely upon the familiar even if the familiar is the crux of pain. As humans develop and learn coping skills during the different stages of development, they find a sense of what works for them and then they stick to it, until they face the new challenges that further development brings. Herein lies the crossroads. do people learn new adaptive strategies to meet the new challenges or do they revert to known coping methods?

Transitional Regression and Maladaptive Coping Skills

When people are faced with new challenges and feel overwhelmed or overburdened with the reality that development brings, then people tend to revert into behaviors that worked for them in an earlier stage of development. Clinicians call this reversion “transitional regression”. Reverting to an earlier stage of coping initially brings a sense of empowerment. It also provides a sense of comfort due to the familiarity of these coping strategies. However, regressing often brings even more stress and even shame. Reverting to coping skills of earlier stages that do not meet the demands that new development requires creates higher levels of stress and perceived incompetency. Moreover, this reversion into maladaptive coping skills can exacerbate vicious and familiar cycles. So people get stuck and they stay stuck.

The Torment of Sisyphus

To initiate change feels to many like the pain and torment of Sisyphus. This exacerbates the feeling of being stuck and encourages the continuation of maladaptive coping strategies. This can occur even if the familiar prolongs pain or causes new pain and discomfort. It is familiar and many equate familiar with safety, which unfortunately is not the case with maladaptive coping skills. As clients start to develop new coping skills and when they are beset by old haunts, new challenges, and painful emotions that arise from facing underlying issues, there is a significant challenge in not regressing to old behaviors. This brings us to perseverance and the importance of staying the course of new change and practicing functional and adaptive coping skills with diligence.

This week at Barn Life Recovery, we are working to raise our clients’ awareness of transitional regression. We are working to build and sustain behaviors that are conducive to their treatment and life goals, including the benefits of perseverance. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, please give Barn Life Recovery a call today. We are the first treatment center in the state of California with a license to treat mental illness at a community-based level. Contact us now a learn to love life again!

Celebration: A Helpful Reminder

Celebration: A Helpful Reminder

Why We Work and Live

It is important to celebrate, and it often goes unappreciated. We live in a world that teaches us to watch three steps ahead. It expects us to rush to the next stoplight in order to be on time for our life. This lifestyle has us seeing life go by as a blur. We can lose a vital part of our healthy psychology when we become too stressed, too busy, too lost or too self-deprecating to celebrate achievements accomplished by ourselves or our loved ones. Celebrations can be symbols of recognition and reminders of positive and desirable manifestations. Over time and with meaningful intention behind the celebrating, celebrations can build solid confidence. This is especially true if the celebration is to recognize the achievement of a significant goal. Celebrations have always been a significant reminder to why we toil, why we work and live.

The Meaning of the Here and Now

Celebrations play a significant role in the formation of our identity. We celebrate many things in life as well we should, and some celebrations have turned into traditions. These then become a significant part of our identity as a people, society, community and as individuals. As we learn to heal our minds and cope with stressors from a light speed lifestyle, we can reflect how the absence of celebration and recognition can erode and jade us. When we lose ourselves to the daily grind, we can lose the meaning of the here and the now. Furthermore, we lose the meaning of what has been accomplished because we are already making plans for next week. We often overlook opportunities to build our accomplishments through celebration as we focus too much on the future.

Finding a Life Spark

Many people struggle with guilt, a twisted sense of humbleness as well as negative self-talk. We are unsatisfied with our lives. We think we will be happy if our lives somehow mirror another’s life in some form, fashion or material possession. When we are “possessed” by these negative thoughts we can become jaded to life. We minimize what we have accomplished and overcome. Little wonder why it’s difficult for many to find a “life spark”. Many of our clients are so lost in their head – understandably so – over what has been done to them, what they have done to others and what pain they have gone through that celebration seems like an insult or at least something undeserving. During this time of powerful traditions and celebrations that are part of numerous cultures, we are assisting clients by helping them to remind themselves why they are doing all this hard work.

Celebration with Intent

Let’s help others practice being humble. This not only requires awareness and management of personal shortcomings but also personal strengths and how we can use those strengths to help ourselves and others achieve life and treatment goals. We can help challenge exaggerated or distorted views of self by encouraging each other to recognize and “own” our accomplishments even if only to celebrate our courage for seeking treatment. Let’s teach each other how to build healthy confidence based upon the truth of our accomplishments. Let’s nourish our willful intent to heal, grow and become healthier people. Using celebration in this way, we can help each other build a strong foundation in reality that can challenge negative self-talk and exaggerated self-critical mindsets that hinder us and our progress.

Rebirth: The Grand Cycle

Rebirth: The Grand Cycle

The Process of Decline and Renewal

The idea of rebirth is ancient. Indeed, throughout time immemorial, myths and legends speak of man’s process of birth, death, and rebirth into a new life. But why is this process of appearance, decline, and renewal so firmly etched on our conscious and unconscious thoughts?  The list of gods and demi-gods who have traveled the path of rebirth are as countless as the stars. To name a few: the Phoenix, Osiris, Baldr, Adonis, Dionysus, Attis, Vayu, Quetzalcoatl, Tammuz, Shiva, Persephone, Izanami, Ishtar, and on and on.

An Opportunity for Personal Growth

It is vital to view this concept of rebirth through the lens of non-literal interpretation. In fact, reading these death/rebirth stories and myths as literal events can be dangerous and vexing. However, we can choose to view them with the same sensibilities as Carl Jung or Joseph Campbell. When we do, a whole world of personal growth, psychoanalysis, and psychology opens up. It is like voices from long ago sharing secrets that have endured centuries yet teeter on the precipice of forgotten knowledge. 

Embracing the Present Moment

All of us experience death and rebirth. Letting go of addiction is a small death yet carving out a new life free from bondage is a grand rebirth. Experiencing trauma feels like something has died. However, leaving these traumas on the altars of the past (where they belong) is an embrace of the present moment. Relationships die, only to be replaced by new experiences of connection and love.

A Breath of Fresh Air

These cycles are something we all deal with on a daily basis. However, by drawing up these old stories from this inexhaustible well, we can reach new levels of understanding ourselves, thereby quenching our enduring thirst. The cycles of birth and death are all around us. This becomes all the more poignant for someone in early recovery who is in the process of reinventing themselves, starting over, and putting their pasts behind them. Indeed, they are breathing fresh air into an old pattern of suffocation and stagnation.

Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California with a license to treat mental illness on an outpatient community-based level. At our holistic facility in Orange County, our Barn Life staff, within an idyllic setting, encourage tried and true healing practices. For example, we offer Tai Chi, synthetic-free psychology, relapse prevention, martial arts, meditation, and more. It’s all at our Orange County intensive outpatient program and day program. If someone you know is struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, give us a call today. Start to love life again!

Freedom and the Ability to Challenge Fear

Freedom and the Ability to Challenge Fear

Why Does Freedom Cost So Much?

Freedom has always had a cost and always will if any people have the intention to harm or demonize others or actively work to oppress and confuse or take actions to subjugate and hold dominion over people and their feelings. Entitlement can be a delusion that twists people’s expectations into demanding freedom for nothing. Why does freedom cost so much? Because we still attend and respond to fear in a way that dominates us implicitly and explicitly. We still allow the use of power to keep us in fear. Furthermore, those that wield it toxically might attempt to manipulate those around them so that their thinking becomes limited and actions become limited.

Fear and Prejudice

When we do not fight for freedom, work for freedom, or pay for freedom, life becomes choked. Influences from toxic discourses offer us familiar fear so we do not challenge it. It appears to us as a toxic authority figure that demands our assimilation. It plays on the fear of retaliation which acts as an unfortunately effective leash and muzzle. Fear and prejudice backed by authority offer us comfort in the forms of promises and alluring gifts. It then becomes painful and undesirable to question and challenge oppressive influences.

Barriers to Freedom

To understand freedom is to understand what keeps us from it. Fear and hatred are the oppressive dominant discourses that demand that freedom be paid. For nations, the price has been centuries of struggle, warfare, and bloodshed. For those of us that live in a nation of “freedom,” why then do we create barriers of fear and judgments and spit poison at those that do not wish any harm whatsoever?  Is our own disgust and fear of ourselves so strong that we attempt to find identity through the degradation of others? With this level of intense projection, there also must exist delusion and ignorance or both.

Full of Bias and Judgment

When we buy into this toxic preaching – whether it’s broadcasted through the TV, perpetuated by friends or handed down through generations by family – we close off and become more rigid in our thinking. Sometimes it’s so rigid that we begin to actively act in ways that close off our own freedoms. The herd or mob now controls and influences us. One could argue that the most difficult fight for freedom lies within your own bias, prejudice, judgment, and worldview. When we are oppressed in our own minds we can be kept away from the freedom and blessing of diversity, the freedom of exploring cultures, and the freedom to be true to ourselves. When we are full of bias and judgment and feel as if others should not have the same freedoms as us, what is that if not letting fear and cowardice rule us? This is not freedom.

The Path to Freedom

The path to freedom starts with awareness and the ability to challenge one’s own bias, prejudice, and fear. These actions will bring the necessary awareness to be able to question the authorities that govern our societies. We can also question and challenge those negative voices of judgment and fear-fueled worldviews that keep us trapped from our own values and morals free from hypocrisy. It continues with the choice to behave and earn discipline through actions and perseverance. The path to is wide once we have the capacity to challenge our own biases, fears, and prejudices. It becomes manifest when we engage in the discipline and task to continually fight those external and internal struggles that beckon us to make decisions – not from freedom but from familiarity and fear.

Our Responsibility

The responsibility to attain and maintain freedom is ours. Begin the path with awareness. What fears, prejudices and biases are so stout in your life as to make you rigid and a prisoner of your worldviews? Where did your prejudice and bias come from? How was it transmitted to you? If you can identify this then ask yourself if these are the views you hold because you believe in it or did you come to believe it because you were saturated by toxic influences. Are your actions congruent to the respect for others’ freedom as well as understanding the sanctity and sacredness of your own potential freedom?

Self-Improvement: Letting Go

Self-Improvement: Letting Go

Who Is This Self?

Self-improvement seems like a good idea, at first blush. Who doesn’t want to improve? However, have we stopped to think about who or what this “self” is that desires improvement? This self you call you. Are you the sum total of remembered events or a narrative story in which you are the star? Are you the voices in your head? This week I really want us to look closer at what we mean by self-improvement.

A Left-Brain Construct

How can we improve upon a self that is really just a construct of our left brain. Look it up. The left brain is notorious for cooking up all kinds of stories about who we are and what we should be. Scientists have referred to the left brain as the Interpreter. Tests have concluded that it is the left brain’s function to create order, meaning and a linear storyline of who we are. What we forgot to mention to everyone is that YOU are not your left brain. In fact, you are not even the voices in your head at all. Ancient mystics and now modern science agree, the essential YOU is the space or venue in which these thoughts and ideas come to play. Look up studies by Dr. Michael Gazzaniga regarding the left brain. Explore the writings of Eckhart Tolle, Ram Dass and Alan Watts. The idea of self is a fascinating topic that we only rarely scratch beyond the surface.

Letting Go of the Obsession

What we want to show our students is that self-improvement is ungraspable until you let go. Stopping addictions are impossible to do by trying not to do something: do not drink, do not overeat, do not smoke, do not seek out dysfunctional relationships. There is no quicker way to do something than to promise yourself you will never do it again. It is only by letting go of the obsession that we find freedom.

Doing That Which You Enjoy

Ironically, that which eludes us will curl up by our feet and surrender if only we would stop chasing our own tails. Instead of self-improvement, seek stillness and silence. Self-improvement is a byproduct of doing that which you enjoy. It happens spontaneously. It never happens by design or because you try desperately to make it so. Go try to fall in love or try to find contentment. Go searching for peace of mind. None will be found because you cannot find what you always had from the start.

Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California with a license to treat mental illness on an outpatient community-based level. At our holistic facility in Orange County, our Barn Life staff, within an idyllic setting, encourage tried and true healing practices vis-a-vis Tai Chi, synthetic-free psychology, relapse prevention, martial arts, and meditation through our Orange County intensive outpatient program and day program. If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, give us a call today and start to love life again!

Gratitude: Generosity of Presence

Gratitude: Generosity of Presence

A Time to Give Thanks

It’s the time of year when families all over the country are getting together once again. We look to give thanks and enjoy the year’s harvest as well as each others’ company. In honor of Thanksgiving, we are exploring gratitude this week at Barn Life Recovery. With this in our minds, we turn once again to one of our favorites, David Whyte. Some of you may remember Mr. Whyte from a blog we did on disappointment back in March or so. Here are his thoughts on gratitude from his book, Consolations. We hope you enjoy them.

An A Priori State of Attention

Whyte writes: “Gratitude is not a passive response to something we have been given, gratitude arises from paying attention, from being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us. [It] is not necessarily something that is shown after the event, it is the deep, a priori state of attention that shows we understand and are equal to the gifted nature of life.”

He adds that “[g]ratitude is the understanding that many millions of things come together and live together and mesh together and breathe together in order for us to take even one more breath of air, that the underlying gift of life and incarnation as a living participating human being is privilege; that we are miraculously part of something rather than nothing. Even if that something is temporarily pain or despair, we inhabit a living world, with real faces, real voices, laughter, the color blue, the green of fields, the freshness of a cold wind, or the tawny hue of a winter landscape.”

The Full Miraculous Essenitality

He continues: “To see the full miraculous essentiality of the color blue is to be grateful with no necessity for a word of thanks”. Whyte is talking about experiencing the essence of something here without adding our own baggage or preconceptions. “To see fully, the beauty of a daughter’s face is to be fully grateful without having to seek a God to thank him. To sit among friends and strangers, hearing many voices, strange opinions,” he expands here to promote connection. Whyte goes on, “to intuit inner lives beneath surface lives, to inhabit many worlds at once in this world, to be a someone amongst all other someone’s, and therefore to make a conversation without saying a word, is to deepen our sense of presence and therefore our natural sense of thankfulness that everything happens both with us and without us, that we are participants and witness all at once.”

Participation and Witness

“Thankfulness finds its full measure in generosity of presence, both through participation and witness. We sit at the table as part of every other person’s world while making our own world without will or effort, this is what Is extraordinary and gifted, this is the essence of gratefulness, seeing to the heart of privilege.  Thanksgiving happens when our sense of presence meets all other presences. Being unappreciative might mean we are simply not paying attention.”

Barn Life Recovery would like to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving. If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health issues, please don’t hesitate to give us a call today. Whether it’s depression, anxiety, or just overwhelming feelings, Barn Life is here for you. We have been where you are now and we’re ready to help. Our staff is standing by to guide you through the admissions process and help you with any questions. It’s not too late to love life again!

Adaptation: Cultivating an Innate Ability

Adaptation: Cultivating an Innate Ability

Going With the Flow of the World

The ability to change with an ever-changing world is an innate ability that we sometimes forget to cultivate. It’s easy to be all “zen” when everything is going right. But life happens and situations arise. Going with the flow of the world is not always easy. To add a wrinkle, when do we hunker down and hold on? To go a step forward, when is the right time to surrender and retreat. Control, adaptation, and surrender are all different approaches. Knowing the difference between what WE CAN change externally and what WE NEED to change internally can be vexing. When is force the answer and when is adaptation the answer? When is retreat the answer? Tales, legends and myths are lenses in which we can examine these moments in life when we must decide between adapting, retreating or holding to the center.

Practice and Awareness

Most successful species have an uncanny knack for adaptation. It is, after all, the very reason they’re successful. However, as human beings with the capacity for self-awareness, we needn’t rely on innate talent. The ability to merge with the occasional chaos of life and ride it out like a rogue wave is a skill that can be cultivated. However, it does require practice and awareness. With many things in life, maybe we try to apply our will at first only to learn that an adaptive perspective may be needed. So we switch tactics. This happens often. And that is perfectly fine. It’s a process.

Adaptation, Retreat, and Control

This week let’s explore real-life situations where we can apply control, adaptation, or retreat and observe the results. We are showing our clients everyday examples of adaptation, retreat, and control. We can also pull from mythology many examples of this struggle between grasping (control) and letting go (surrender) and adaptation (change). How many can you think of?

Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California with a license to treat mental illness on an outpatient community-based level. At our holistic facility in Orange County, our Barn Life staff, within an idyllic setting, encourage tried and true healing practices vis-a-vis Tai Chi, synthetic-free psychology, relapse prevention, martial arts, and meditation through our Orange County intensive outpatient program and day program. If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, give us a call today and start to love life again!

Joy and Sorrow: Riding the Carousel

Joy and Sorrow: Riding the Carousel

Ups and Downs

This week we’d like to take some time to examine joy and sorrow. These two feelings seem to lie on either end of the emotional spectrum. They go by other names, too: manic depression, bipolar disorder, or the downplayed colloquialism, ups and downs. We all have joyous days and sorrowful days but if we oscillate between joy and sorrow too quickly and too often, it is often considered an issue. An issue that has a special name and medical code. An issue to be considered. But how?

A Badge of (Dubious) Honor

Joy is easy to experience. So is the mania for the most part. “Busy, busy, busy” is almost a badge of honor in this culture. To not be busy would imply laziness or disinterest. Ask someone how they are doing today and you will more often than not hear the breathless reply, “busy!” This is either a polite way to say that chit-chatting with me is a waste of your time or you want me to know you are an ambitious, go-getter. Either way, I think I’ll pass. High time we embraced depression and sadness, and those languid, lovely summer afternoons with nothing to do.

An Opportunity to Learn

I often think about how Lao Tzu would respond to the question, “How are you today?” Likely by pointing to the spot in the sky where the moon will soon be. Or perhaps he would give a ubiquitous “Oh fair to middlin’!” He most certainly would not say “busy busy busy.” Alas, we digress and wander off the path. Folks generally have no issue with manically joyous behaviors and feelings. It is the polar opposite that troubles them. However, is anything truly gained or discovered when we are happy? To be honest, depression and sorrow have taught me more about myself, compassion, and the suffering of others far more than joy has revealed. Being present at the moment with joy is as easy as falling off a log. Takes no effort at all. But sadness? Yikes, that is brutal. Being sad immediately makes one think “I need to stop being sad!”. Alas, rejecting the present moment, with all its clues and cries, is unwise.

The Human Condition

The math is simple. High highs = low lows. Higher highs = lower lows. At some point, you have to ask yourself, “Do I want to ride the carousel or the roller coaster?” This week we will delve into our passions and depressions. The heat of joy and the cold chill of depression. We will practice being present and engaged with both. Feeling intense emotions is not a sickness or mental disorder. It is the human condition. Avoiding our intense emotions or worse, editing them, IS a mental disorder.

Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California with a license to treat mental illness on an outpatient community-based level.  We specialize in mild to moderately severe mental illness, co-occurring disorders and addiction. If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or just plain overwhelmed, please give us a call today and start loving life again!

Transformation: Visions for a Better Future

Transformation: Visions for a Better Future

A Common Drive

Have you ever thought, I would like to be a little less crazy? Or, I would like to be a little more tolerant of ignorance. How about, I would like to stop drinking so much. Or, I wish I could make better choices so I could live a life I love instead of this inherited life that has me at the end of my rope. Why is it so damn hard to make these desires a reality? What is stopping us? The desire for transformation to improve one’s future seems a common drive for most people. Removing shortcomings and replacing them with our visions for a better future and a better self. To become something. Something more! Yet, despite these desires, here we sit, the same as always. We may think, all I have is this broken-down body and a mind that is as stubborn as a bull.

Manifesting Real Transformation

How can I manifest real transformation? Maybe we have a genetic predisposition to drink too much. Maybe we were just born crazy and no matter what we do, the same nonsense happens to us. Or maybe I was abused and do not know how to form close bonds to others. How do I change that? How does one transform oneself into something else? Lean in close. It begins with thoughts. Yes, that is correct. Thoughts. They cost nothing. They are yours for the taking, require little training and are highly suggestible. Thoughts shape everything around you and give form to ideas. Put simply, thoughts make stuff real. But how? Recent scientific study into the human genome in the past 20 years has revealed something astonishing.  We can alter our genes with our minds. Did you hear what you just read? We can alter our genes with our minds!

Mind Over Matter

Ok, so what are genes again? Genes are the blueprints you inherited from your parents. Until recently, science suggested that you are stuck with whatever you get. However, this is incorrect. Even if you are “genetically predispositioned” for this and that, you can change all that by thinking. Not only that, but you can change it remarkably fast. Our minds and how we direct our minds can unlock genetic sequences we cannot even comprehend, yet. Research has proven the placebo effect. People with cancer or other afflictions think they received a cure even though in truth they have not. However, because of their strong conviction and belief, they cure themselves. People who walk on fire and do not burn. People who lift up cars to save children trapped underneath nd those who handle poisonous snakes and get bit yet do not die. These are astonishing examples of mind over matter.

A New Form of Genetics

Epigenetics is one way to view this process of transformation. This is a new form of genetics where we focus on altering genes through our thoughts and environment. Genes determine so much. But those genes only know what to do because you direct them. When you decide you are worthless and do not deserve happiness, some genes turn on and some genes turn off. As a result, all the proteins and building blocks for worthlessness and depression are produced. If you believe you are fat and will always be fat, certain genes are alerted and make that reality so. However, it works to your advantage as well. Using nothing more than thoughts, you can tell your genes exactly what you want. We conjure our lives from thought and our genetics respond making all that we think…a reality.

Transformation is a process of changing something. This week let’s identify what we want to change about ourselves. One or two things. Start small. By week’s end, we will see how much we have altered our genetic code. The proof will be in the quality of the reality we make for ourselves.

Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California licensed to treat mental illness on an outpatient community-based level. If you are feeling anxious, depressed, or just plain overwhelmed, give us a call today to speak with one of our admissions specialists.

Cravings and Desires, Mountains and Valleys

Cravings and Desires, Mountains and Valleys

Are cravings and desires synonyms?

To put it another way, are they two words for the same thing? Instead, maybe they are degrees of the same thing? Many times in life a simple desire like wanting to eat lunch can become more and more serious as the hours tick by and by. That same simple desire to eat can evolve into a craving for nourishment that is altogether physical, mental and emotional. Perhaps I desire a small drink to take the edge off, only to succumb gradually to the constant craving for alcohol that the alcoholic knows all too well.

Desires seem to be more manageable.

Cravings lend themselves to a more insidious and desperate appearance. Cravings seem to create more frustration in us than simple desires. That which we crave frustrates us. Desires seem to be more easily satisfied whereas cravings never seem to be satisfied. The original quote of the first Buddha was “Stop desiring what will not be obtained.” This is a highly intellectualized, yet painfully simple, approach to the problem of craving and addiction. If we continue to desire that which we cannot obtain, cravings begin to take root. So where does that leave us in dealing with cravings? The fact is we cannot be perpetually high. Even if by some miracle of science we could create a medication that would allow us to feel a constant undeterred state of joy and pleasure with every breath and step, it would backfire.

Perpetual joy without sorrow would become a living hell.

Always feeling good would become a blank feeling because we would have no variance. As we see in nature countless times over, peaks accompany valleys, highs come with lows, waves are followed by troughs. A perpetual mountain would be absurd. However, the nature of an addict, in the midst of a craving, is akin to this insurmountable obstacle of mountains after mountains. This week let’s look at the nature of cravings and how cravings lead to relapse. Let’s also explore how practicing mindfulness, “nowness” and present-mindedness combats feelings of craving.

Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California licensed to treat mental illness on an outpatient community-based level.  We specialize in mild to moderately severe mental illness, co-occurring disorders and addiction. If you or someone you know is struggling with drugs or alcohol, please reach out today. Our admissions specialists are on-call to guide you through the process and get you ready to start loving life again.

The Center Can Hold: Regaining Our Balance

The Center Can Hold: Regaining Our Balance

Turning in the Widening Gyre

Balance and moderation get a lot of lip service in today’s society. Unfortunately, we talk about these things more than we really value them. With a majority of people carrying high powered computers in their pockets, employers expect us to be on call 24 hours a day. And it’s not enough to eat healthy anymore – we have to cut out one nutrient entirely one day, cut out another the next, and only eat between 2 and 4PM on Thursdays. The answer is always more, better, faster and at Barn Life Recovery, we see the consequences of this every day. Folks running from one must-have to the next must-do, losing their centers and themselves in the process. This week we’re focusing on finding that balance again and with that in mind, here are a few strategies for regaining your equilibrium.

Make a List

We mentioned this one in the “Three-Day Monk” blog a little while back and it’s important enough that it bears repeating. Life becomes a lot more manageable when your daily responsibilities are staring at you in black and white. Take some time one night to write out the things you want to get done the following day. Once you’ve got a decent-sized list, be realistic about your time and abilities and start to prioritize. Remember, this is about balance! Move the extra items to another day and block out larger projects into achievable checkpoints. You’ll wake up the next morning with a game plan and checking items off that list is seriously satisfying!

Take Care of Yourself

I know we all get busy and cooking is a major time sink but hitting Mickey D’s every day for lunch isn’t doing you any favors. You’re not going to achieve balance by eating garbage. Besides, do the math. Add up all the time you spend weekly traveling to and from a fast-food spot as well as the time spent waiting. I’m betting you’re left with a nice block of time in which to do some meal prep on some healthy lunches for the week. Your body runs much more efficiently and pleasantly on premium fuel and your health affects all aspects of your life.

Stay Positive

It sounds trite. It’s cliché. You’re sick of hearing it. Fair enough. But if you give it a try, I promise it can change your life. If you want balance and inner peace, you need to start removing the garbage from your life. And for many of us, that means starting with the junk that accumulates in our heads. What good is that negative self-talk doing us anyway? Practice some gratitude instead. Every night before you head to bed, take the time to write out five to ten different things you’re thankful for. Researchers found it helps to lower stress and gives a greater sense of calm at night. Give it a try and see how it works for you.

Get Your Head Right

If you haven’t started a daily meditation practice, do it now. If there’s any single thing I’d like for you readers to get out of these blogs, it’s the importance of meditation. It reduces stress and anxiety, promotes neuroplasticity and brain growth, sharpens focus, and improves sleep. And as you sit, learning to be comfortable in your own skin and the world around you, I guarantee balance will follow.

Barn Life Recovery is the first RETREATment center in the state of California licensed to treat mental illness on an outpatient community-based level. Our blend of evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and individual and group counseling, and ancient healing techniques like meditation, tai chi, and yoga is designed to help our clients find their balance and live with a renewed sense of purpose and happiness. If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, please give us a call today and learn to love life again!

Our Communities: The Next Stage Of Recovery

Our Communities: The Next Stage Of Recovery

Widening Our Scope

The journey of self-identity does not stop with our own self-knowledge and our own personal practices. In previous blogs, we have discussed raising awareness and implementing strategies to increase interpersonal competence. As we have said, self-mastery is the highest calling one can aspire to. But the time has come to start widening our scope. What is the point of putting in all this work bettering ourselves if we plan on living like a hermit in a mountain cave? Human beings are social animals and the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives. Furthermore, the acquisition of knowledge means nothing if we aren’t flexible and savvy enough to apply it to new situations. Now we look at how we take this personal self-knowledge and convert it into wisdom in order to take it to the next stage of recovery – our communities.

The Strength of Our Communities

What do we do within our own groups? How do we behave? And the biggest question of all is: how do we contribute? Communities and groups are part of our lives and are the playground in which we navigate life. They offer us the chance to become part of something larger than ourselves. Whether we’re overcoming depression, anxiety, addiction, or other mental health issues, those of us in recovery cannot rely on willpower alone. We learn to rely on others who have gone through or are currently going through similar struggles. Our communities begin to grow and we become stronger. We learn to stand on our own two feet and, as we do, we begin to take closer notice of the newer members of our communities. We start seeing folks who are as we once were. And we realize that we can use our personal struggles to start helping others.

The Protégé Effect

In order for a full rehabilitation we must look at how we engage with the community now and for the future. How can we use what we’ve learned to help others? How can we contribute to back the world around us a better place? The twelve-step meetings often say that we can keep what we have only by giving it away. Psychologists describe something similar in a phenomenon known as the “protégé effect.” We learn, refine, and master the things we know by teaching other people. Teaching others can increase our metacognitive processes, our motivation to learn, and our feelings of competence and autonomy. We start to move through life confidently and with purpose. We look upon the communities we are a part of and that we’ve helped to build with pride and affection.

Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California licensed to treat mental illness on an outpatient, community-based level.  We specialize in mild to moderately severe mental illness, co-occurring disorders and addiction. If you are struggling with your mental health, whether it’s depression, anxiety, or just plain feeling overwhelmed, please give us a call today. Our admissions specialists are standing by to answer questions and to help you start loving life again.

Habits: Building Blocks of Positive Change

Habits: Building Blocks of Positive Change

Thoughts to Emotions to Attitudes to…

Habits start off innocently enough. Maybe a drink to calm rattled nerves or forgetting in order to blur out a traumatic past. A whole pizza when work was a nightmare. Exercise when stress rears its head. The way you drive to work. A normal day. Call them patterns. Automatic responses or triggered actions. They grow into hard patterns or ruts. It’s not easy to break a pattern. But what were they before they were habits? They likely begin as thoughts. These thoughts trigger emotions. Emotions stack up to build attitudes. Attitudes toward the world, people, yourself, etc. Attitudes are like temporary personalities. They are often situational, changing and varying across time. Attitudes become habits. And habits can be very, very dangerous or extremely good for you.

Replacing the Bad with Good

This week we will focus on how habits are formed. We will also study ways we can break bad habits and replace them with good ones. Often, people identify habits as bad and cease to engage in them. But they fail to replace them with something new. This often results in falling back into the same routines. Ceasing a habit and not replacing it leaves a void in us that is hard to fill. We will look at new scientific breakthroughs that can help guide us in forming new habits from the ashes of our old ones. One of psychotherapy’s chief aims is to help people alter the way they perceive things so that they may augment their behaviors and benefit from this change.

Time, Patience, and Practice

Some may even dare to suggest that patterns and habits may be what drives addiction and many mental disorders. For example, a small habit that may harm us may be to avoid conflict. Maybe standing up to tyranny makes you scared so you developed a response where you shrink and disappear when faced with conflict. Over time, this can manifest as depression and feelings of worthlessness or extreme rage. What would happen if you broke this pattern and stood your ground firm when pressured into conflict? What if you stood up to authority or oppression? It would affect your mental health in a positive way, I would wager. You certainly would not feel depressed as a result of rising to a conflict and meeting a challenge head-on. But learning this new habit takes time, patience and practice. It is a skill that is cultivated via repetition.

It Takes a Village…

This week Barn Life Recovery is helping our students to identify bad habits, as defined by them. We will aid them in rooting it out and replacing it with a self-defined good habit. During the week we can help remind students about their new desired patterns and help them get back into it if they falter. Habit formation takes time. And a community to reinforce it. We have both. Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California licensed to treat mental illness on an outpatient, community-based level. If you are depressed, anxious, or just plain overwhelmed, give us a call today and learn to love life again!

Rebellion and Defiance

Rebellion and Defiance

A Powerful Tool for Change

Rebellion and Defiance are ideas that are very near and dear to many, but not all. Are you a rebel without a cause or a rebel without a clue? Are you rebelling solely for conflict? Rebellion is a societal tool, a tool of great power. A tool for change. Furthermore, if used correctly it can be a primary tool in the creation of freedom. Once we can identify the entities that drain us of personal power and the influences that we cling to out of familiarity and fear of change, what is the next step? How do we push the boundaries of our life? What do we do to push through the purgatory of the unknown and uncomfortable change? A powerful option can be rebellion.

Rebellion Against Illusion, Deception, Delusion, and Prejudice

Rebel against the negative voices in your head that have convinced you that you are a freak, that you are weak, that you are not valuable, that you are pathetic. Rebel. Defy. But take caution: make sure you do not rebel against those that share your road, your cause, and your intention. A spark of truth and a fire of defiance against illusion, deception, delusion and prejudice have the power to ignite a movement. Hopefully a movement within yourself first and foremost. Begin with your journey that started when you decided to contemplate your own power. Look to those around you that are also “waking up.” Join them on the road to rebelling against what keeps your spirit and freedom bound.

Breaking Out of the Cycle

A first step is to question all authority. Take note that I did not say challenge all authority. We must learn to differentiate between authority that is there to help from the authority that benefits from your indifference and fear to change. While in recovery, it is easy and commonplace to identify our treatment team as the enemy and many of us have been in institutions where that is the truth. However, challenge your own authority and question whether your rebellion and resistance are well placed or misplaced. Are the people that are trying to help you benefitting from your pain? Or are they challenging you to face the pain that keeps you stuck in a vicious cycle? With rebellion there is risk. To become vulnerable and walk with courage takes risk. You know where you came from but do you really know what is possible? You may never find out if you choose the familiar haunts and negative self-talk that keep you stuck in your own private hell of monotony and “same ol’ same ol’.”

Choose Life

Rebel and choose to take responsibility for your life. As best as you can, choose responsibility for yourself and to hell with the barriers and limits. If you stare at limitations for too long, the risk of complacency will hook you back into the mundane and harmful familiar. Why don’t you deserve a good life? If you can answer this, then you have identified a target to rebel against. Rebel against the mundane. Seek to find out mentors that are examples of change and success through action. Find those that choose to not compromise integrity to corruption and allow their examples to guide you to your own successes.

Time for a Change

Take an honest look at those around you, those in the world or those that have passed. Look at the inspiration and beauty. Look to what gets you excited and motivated. Many will automatically hear the malicious internal voice of negative criticism and judgment telling you that your ideas are stupid or unattainable. If you never take a journey towards the possible, your future is already woven and it will be the same place of doubt, fear, pain, and sorrow you already know too well. Isn’t time for a change? Look around for strength in the brothers and sisters that are also fighting for good change and rebel with them. Don’t settle for defeat. What’s the point? If you can answer this question, then you have identified another target to rebel against.

Empowerment Vs. Victimhood

Empowerment Vs. Victimhood

The Choice Is Ours

As children, we learn to obey and behave simply because we are told to do so. This can leave us feeling as if we have no choice. As adults, we have more power in the direction our lives move. While some situations and circumstances beyond our control can have an impact on us, we do have control over how we react. Although choices could be severely limited due to the consequences of our past actions, we still have choice. Unfortunately, it can be easy to fall into the role of victim. A role in which we look outside at the cause of problems. How does this happen? Why do we walk away from a path of empowerment and authenticity and toward blame and victimhood?

Poor Self-Image and the Will of Others

There are many of us that seek professional help as the options in our lives seem to have become so limited that we can no longer see our own brightness, our own power, and our own freedom. Furthermore, our lack of self-worth can lead us to give of ourselves to those we think are important only to realize that we have been taken advantage of. Because we view ourselves as inferior, incomplete or desperate, we compromise ourselves to the whim and will of others, especially falling victim to seductive tones. However, to discover our own intrinsic powers requires a journey. Often that journey leads us to those that can act as our guides and mirrors. How can we discriminate those that would intend us harm from those that intend to help us discover our own true power?

Kings, Queens, and Tyrants

We often hold the archetype of kings and queens as an otherworldly reality. However, we overlook the power that these archetypes can have in our lives. What makes a good king or queen? Many people correlate a kingly position of power with a heavy dose of narcissism. This has mainly to do with the history of tyrants that have ruled out of fear. You can easily identify a tyrant through their use of fear-mongering and demonizing. A tyrant will ALWAYS have someone or something to blame, to fight, to kill or to destroy. Furthermore, a tyrant will always demand loyalty and threaten a penalty if it isn’t given to them. It is the only thing that gives them some comfort in their own paranoid head.  A tyrant never understands the value or the cost of true loyalty. They expect it like a baby expects to be fed.

Empowerment and the Responsibility of Rule

If we look truthfully at the role of power and if we want to be good, then we must identify and take on the responsibility of rule. A just and true queen or king has the priority of the people over themselves. They are dedicated to a transcendental commitment, born of empathy and understanding. A commitment and dedication to a cause that is greater than themselves. A devotion to goodness and to the wellbeing of others. To seek personal power is to also recognize it in others and the main rule of the king or queen is to bless the people. A true queen will motivate the people to shine bright – not for the sole pleasure of the ruler but for all within the kingdom.

Taking Our Inventory

What positions of power in your life have been sapping your energy? Or what negative thought cycles have you continued to feed that allow you to settle for your current predicament or worse? What fears bolt you to the ground, make you heavy and allow the rot of self-doubt to drain your personal freedom? Conversely, what personal power and strength do you know? What makes you hope, even if just a little? Is there excitement can you muster to engage in your own responsibility? To make your life manifest instead of allowing life to manifest situations for you? What empowerment do you need to conquer your own doubts and begin to make undeniable change in your life, change that matters to you? This blog is to get you to start increasing awareness of your own capabilities, to start embracing empowerment, and to identify what really is holding you back in the role of victim. This is your life and ultimately only you can change it.

Inspiration: Finding Our Reason Why

Inspiration: Finding Our Reason Why

A Welcomed Old Friend

Ask yourself, “What is my Why?” Inspiration comes in many forms. Getting inspired by something or someone gets our hearts and minds focused on a single subject. This is great practice for folks with scattered thoughts and lingering ADD. Early in recovery, it is hard to get excited about anything. Our brain receptors are a little fried from overuse. Furthermore, they’re locked into the same old habits, the same old grind, running the same old tricks. It’s easy, then, to feel lost, without direction or even an idea of who we really are. But as the clouds begin to dissipate and we get glimpses of who we were before all the headaches, inspiration becomes a welcomed old friend.

Cultivating Inspiration

Now, waiting around to be inspired is a little presumptuous. You can insert any worn cliché or dead horse quote here you’d like, from Edison’s inspiration and perspiration to God helping those who help themselves. But there’s truth in those old chestnuts. I find when you take a step back and ask yourself, “Why?” the discovery begins. We begin to challenge ourselves and start to peel back the layers to get to the heart of things. Besides, inspiration can be cultivated and accentuated. Putting ourselves in new creative environments and surrounding ourselves with inspiring people helps propagate inspiration in our own lives.

Get Excited About Life

Recovery can sometimes feel like a fall into boredom and dullsville. But it doesn’t have to be. Finding ways to get excited about life begins as a practice and a routine. And it doesn’t have to be extravagant or an attempt to re-invent the wheel. But take it seriously, because you are re-inventing your life. Start exploring different cultures or music you’ve never listened to. Or you could learn a language or take a dance class. Engaging in these new pursuits and flights of inspiration help fill the void left in early recovery. Often times it is not just the compulsions that disappear, but an entire lifestyle and identity. Rebuilding this bedrock and filling this vacancy will require inspiration (and some footwork).

Engage, Create, and Share

Sharing what gets us personally excited is one way to help others find their spark for life. It’s one of the things we mean when we talk about community-based mental healthcare. Trying new things and experiences is another. This week let’s have discussions about what makes life so rich and inviting. What makes us want to engage and create? Let’s rediscover that zest for life that compulsive behavior extinguished. Let’s learn to love life again! Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California licensed to treat mental illness on an outpatient community-based level. If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or just plain overwhelmed, please give us a call today.

 

Koans: Keys to a Greater Truth

Koans: Keys to a Greater Truth

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

Ask a person “What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word, ‘Zen?'” Most people will respond with ideas about an imperturbable state of calm. However, if you ask them about the second thing, they may reply,” Isn’t it the sound of one hand clapping or something?” This person is remembering part of a Zen koan. Furthermore, they’re actually probably a little closer to the heart of Zen with this answer. This week at Barn Life Recovery, we are working with koans. These tools can grant us a greater understanding of ourselves and the world around us. But what exactly are koans? And how can they help us?

Empty Your Cup

A famous master, Lao-tzu, once said, “Understanding only goes as far as that which it can understand.” Put another way “Ya don’t know what ya don’t know.” As soon as we think we know something, then we become rigid and unresponsive. You know the famous phrase: “For the beginner, there are many possibilities, but for the expert, there are few.” Maintaining a mind of “not knowing” allows us to respond to situations with openness, freshness, and joy. This is where koans come in. Koans – sometimes called spiritual puzzles – pose questions or situations we can’t answer or understand using logic, and thus force us to go beyond the mind. Koans can be stories, poems or phrases. They convey a direct feeling rather than an intellectual idea.

Working With Koans

In practice, a student is assigned a koan by a teacher or master. The teacher will ask, “What is the color of wind?” or “What is your original face before you were born?” The student is then expected to “live with” and meditate upon the question for some time before returning with the “answer.” If these questions sound like nonsense to you, you’re partially right. Remember, koans work to push us beyond logic toward a realm of feeling and intuition. William Blake was working with koans when he wrote about the Sick Rose, as was Denis Johnson in his stories about fringe characters in the Midwest. This week, we are assigning koans to our clients and seeing what they come up with. The beauty of this technique is that the interpretations are endless and we are ready to uncover truth around every corner.

Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California licensed to treat mental illness on an outpatient community-based level. If you are feeling depressed, anxious, or just plain overwhelmed, please consider giving us a call. Our admissions specialists are standing by to offer a free consultation. Learn to love life again.

Mikka Bouzu: the Three-Day Monk

Mikka Bouzu: the Three-Day Monk

“The Mind Is the Most Capricious of Insects…”

Hopefully after reading last week’s blog about hard work and making your way in the world, all of you were inspired to arise, take up thy beds, and walk. I figure this is the perfect time to talk about a phenomenon the Japanese call 三日坊主, or mikka bouzu. Mikka bouzu translates to “three-day monk” and it’s something we have all been guilty of at some point in our lives. For example, if you go to just about any gym in the country on January 2nd, you’ll find that it’s filled with three-day monks. Twelve-step meetings are also often full of three-day monks, as are recovery centers. Sometimes, three-day monks haven’t even reached puberty yet. Ballet and karate schools make serious bank off the parents of these young ascetics. Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

What Is a Three-Day Monk?

A three-day monk is someone who becomes intensely interested in something and goes hard in the paint for a few days (or weeks), but soon leaves it by the wayside and forgets all about it. Sound familiar? Don’t worry…we’ve all done it and that includes yours truly (ask me about my career as a cellist sometime.) We find a new toy, fall in love with it, wear it out, and watch it collect dust on our shelves or in the corner of the garage until our significant other finally tells us to throw it away. However, today is a new day and we don’t have to live that way anymore. I have a few concrete and manageable tips to keep your saffron robes looking fresh long after their 72-hour expiration date.

Set Some Manageable Goals

You want to learn Chinese. That’s awesome. It’s also a huge undertaking that you’re likely to get frustrated with quickly. That makes it very easy to give up. Instead of doing that, though, how about breaking the Herculean task of learning a new and difficult language into achievable sections. Download a language app and commit to completing one lesson a day. Sound too small? Don’t worry about that right now. Besides, you’ll learn a whole lot more Chinese if you get through a year of doing one lesson a day than if you do a hundred lessons in three days and give up.

Make It a Habit, Then Step It Up

You’ve completed that first lesson and I’m proud of you. But we’re going to sustain it this time. Try to set aside five minutes at the same time every day so you’re less likely to forget. It makes it even easier when you tie it in with an existing part of your routine, like right after brushing your teeth or eating dinner. What you’re trying to do is make it a habit. After you’ve gotten a week or two under your belt without missing days, start pushing yourself a little bit. You were doing one lesson a day – now make it two. Repeat the process.

Write. It. Out.

I can’t overstate the value of this one. We all have busy schedules and we all have things in life we’d like to accomplish. To help stay organized and on top of things, write your tasks down on paper and check them off as you go. Everything looks manageable when it’s on a page and there’s a small but very powerful feeling of accomplishment to be had every time you cross an item off. It’s also a great way to track your progress. This is why I recommend a small notebook instead of the Notes app on your phone.

Show Up and Remember to Have Fun

The two simplest rules are, of course, the most important. Whether it’s five minutes a day to learn a language, an hour a day at the piano, three hours a week at the gym…those sweet plans you worked out for yourself aren’t going to matter if you don’t show up and put in the effort. And a way to keep yourself showing up is to remember that you’re doing this because you want to. If your Chinese lessons are getting a little dry and boring, switch it up and watch an old Shaw Brothers movie (36th Chamber of Shaolin and Five Deadly Venoms are two excellent choices.) Turn the subtitles off and see how many words you can pick out. Remind yourself that this is fun!

Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California licensed to treat mental illness on an outpatient community-based level.  And we don’t merely treat mental health issues – we remind our clients that life is fun and show them how to find that spark of joy again. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, depression, or just life in general, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Give us a call today and love life again!

The Choice to Make Your Way

The Choice to Make Your Way

A Common Mistake

Gong Fu or Kung Fu (功夫) literally means “energy/hard work, time/patience.” It is commonly misunderstood to mean a particular style of martial art, but it actually refers to anything that takes a large amount of time, patience, and energy to accomplish. For example, if someone is learning to play the piano that is their kung fu because it will require a lot of time and energy to become proficient in that art. The concept of kung fu applies to the martial arts as well, but in the West, we tend to assume it is exclusively a martial arts term or a particular style of martial arts and it is not.
“That’s really interesting, Mathew, but what’s the point? What are you trying to tell us?” you’re probably saying right about now. And I’m glad you asked.

The World Is But A Canvas…

What I’m trying to say is, “Make your way.” Please notice how I did not say discover your way or find your way or seek your way. I said: make your way. Make it. Create it. This world seems to take equal parts pleasure in creating and destroying. For something new to emerge, something else needs to evaporate. Appearing and disappearing. So to create this new path in which you will travel with contentment and satisfaction you must first dismantle your old way of living. Only makes sense. We can’t walk two paths at the same time. Time, as most of us perceive it, is moving constantly in a singular direction. Living a life walking two different paths would necessitate 2 of you. Psychologically this happens in the form of a mental split. The psyche either stands at the crossroads unwilling to choose a course or it desires to choose both courses at the same time. Both choices usher in a litany of material impossibilities. However, from a thinking perspective, we are literally stuck – out of synch.

Contentment In All Of This

This is the important part. Either path is the same. The path makes no difference nor cares to label itself one way or the other. By my choice and my willingness to move forward singularly and assuredly, that path is mine alone and it is ever-evolving and growing grander and richer and more satisfying with each step we move forward. Every path is filled with pain and pleasure and ups and downs and there is contentment in all of this when enlightenment strikes you. It seems to favor decisively moving singular targets that walk decisively singular paths. Blah blah blah. So what does that mean or prove?

The Flutter Of A Butterfly’s Wing

Understanding what was just explained is not enough. Believing it to be true is not enough either. Although it does shorten the process slightly. Practicing as if it were true seems to be the action that gets the wheels turning. In other words, behaving as if it were true. It is empowering to practice as if you could dramatically alter the course of your life with a mere one step in a particular direction. Any direction. You can live any life you can imagine, or at higher levels, I suspect, live an unimaginable life. No need to plan out each step. Just keep moving forward.

The World Moves Either Way

A Chinese sifu once said that if you are not moving forward, you are moving backward. The idea that you can stand static still and neither move up or down is really a slower version of moving backward. Getting stuck mentally or emotionally in the past whilst your physical body moves uncompromisingly forward in time causes an existential paradox. Do you realize how much mental strain and internal resources it takes to keep you running counter to the flow of the entire universe? Either you choose one or not choose one. Either way, you made a choice. Decisions made by indecision are still, guess what, decisions. Good and bad are only labels we apply to things based on our preferences, agendas and points of interest. The words themselves mean nothing. They are a choice you decide to apply to situations, people, places or things that you believe do you harm or at the very least, not in line with your preference.