These are very challenging times. We know that in the midst of all that is unfolding in the outer world, and how our inner world is responding, the work in our program can feel like a lot right now. However, as one of our faculty colleagues has shared, we could look at our program as a source of strength rather than demand. Above all, stepping into the world of an idea (another’s experience, a new practice, an unknown, a book) is giving our minds something to chew on and consider, and this is helping us feel more grounded.
The Once and Future King
As Merlyn said to the young Arthur in T. H. White’s The Once and Future King, “The best thing for being sad is to learn something. Indeed, that is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. Ultimately, there is only one thing for it then—to learn. Indeed, learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or mistrust.” (183)
A Soulful and Curious Stewardship
Merlyn is echoing one of Jung’s deep insights, that suffering and consciousness walk hand in hand. This week our program simply wants to encourage a soulful and curious stewardship of these unfoldings. Attend lovingly to your own restlessness. Furthermore, listen intently to the heart. Finally, endeavor to lean into this tension knowing that we cannot solve but only share in the unfolding. On our break from the hero theme, I’ll say briefly that it is my belief that our clients don’t need us to “have it together,” no shielded, armored, sword-striking interpretations and behavioral prescriptions. Instead, we are a bridge to the humanity that links us all to one another. In fact, a global crisis brings a global cause and in this, we may forge heartfelt community. May we endure with open hand the unfolding and show up in this work with all humanity and all humility.
I’d also like to share a poem:
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
– Lynn Ungar 3/11/20
So here we are. In conclusion, let’s lean into the ideas, lean into the learning as a community. Good luck these next few days, trust where you are and where we are going!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.