Jun 09

Meridian Tapping

The ability to change your state of mind when negativity creeps in is extremely valuable.   Prayer and meditation would be at the top of that list but sometimes it helps to take physical action.  Meridian Tapping is a simple method for changing your state that provides immediate relief in most cases.  It’s something you can do yourself without any equipment and very little practice.

“Just as there is no loss of basic energy in the universe, so no thought or action is without its effects, present or ultimate, seen or unseen, felt or unfelt.”   ~ Norman Cousins

Releasing negative emotions and unhealthy thought patterns is a critical factor for physical and emotional well being. Tapping is especially useful for balancing energy.  Just the physical act of tapping combined with some slow deep breathing can create some very noticeable effects on the condition of the body and mind within minutes.

When we combine the effects of tapping on the energetic meridians of the body with affirmations it becomes EFT.  The Emotional Freedom Technique was created by Gary Craig based on Dr. Roger Callahan’s Thought Field Therapy for using the basic principles of acupuncture to create tapping points on the body that stimulate, move and balance energy.  EFT incorporates the release of emotions.  By naming the negative thought or condition and then affirming the positive alternative the emotional aspect is addressed as we tap on the physical points bringing both the body and mind into balance.

EFT can be used to promote healing in relationship to nearly any emotional or physical condition but here is a short list of common subjects for release and relief through tapping:

  • Negative thoughts
  • Traumatic memories
  • Low self esteem
  • Guilt
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Grief
  • Addiction
  • Eating disorders
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Physical Pain

Overview of the Points and Process: 

Most of the information that follows is absolute plagiarism on my part. I see no value in trying to restate what others have already put so concisely.  I would dearly love to give credit to all the websites where I originally read this information but it’s been on my computer for so long that I can’t seem to track them down.  So a heartfelt thanks to all those who contributed and to those who are learning about Meridian Tapping and EFT for the first time I encourage you to visit other sites devoted to the subject.  The chart and instructions below explain the basics as the process is really quite simple but I highly recommend watching the videos below and conducting your own web search for more information from the experts.

As for my personal practice I use the tapping points with and sometimes without using the official version of EFT.  Both Meridian Tapping and EFT are beneficial and so closely related that you will soon know what works best for you in different situations. If you find that you don’t connect with the EFT verbiage at first don’t give up, give it some time to become more natural.  You can also consider writing your own affirmations or tap with a specific intention in mind.  Even tapping with the simple purpose of releasing the negative and connecting with all that is good can have profound effects so stay open to the possibilities as you experiment.

 

  1. KC (1) Karate Chop Point – The Karate Chop point is mainly used for the EFT setup statement, psychological reversals and simple tapping techniques (STT). It is an alternative for the sore spot EFT point.
    The karate chop point is located on the soft fleshy part of the non-dominant hand, between the base of the pinky finger and the wrist. We would use this is the part of the hand break a board… ‘karate chop’ style.
    Releases: Psychological reversal (feeling stuck or frozen), inability to let go, resistance to change, sorrow, feeling vulnerable, worry, obsession, compulsive behavior.
    Allows: Ability to move forward, letting go of the old, healing from grief, finding happiness in and connecting to the present moment. (Small Intestine Meridian)
  2. TH (2) Top of Head Point – This point (set of points) is lo Cated at the top of the head and was added several years ago at an EFT conference. Since then, it has been widely accepted by Gary Craig and many of the others in the EFT community.
    This is an important energy center since many meridians meet at the top of the head. It is also in the area of the 7th. Or Crown Chakra, which is a spiritual energy center. Some say that stimulating this area wakes up the entire energy system and encourages the body-mind to pay attention to what we are about to address. This point is highly sensitive and its important to be very gentle when tapping!
    Releases: Inner critic, ‘gerbil wheel’ thinking, lack of focus.
    Allows: Spiritual connection, insight, intuition, focus, wisdom, spiritual discernment, clarity. (‘Hundred Meeting Points’ Meridian)
  3. EB (3) Eyebrow Point – This point is located on the dominant side at the beginning of the eyebrow, just up and over from the bridge of the nose.
    Releases: Trauma, hurt, sadness, restlessness, frustration, impatience, restlessness and dread.
    Allows: Peace and emotional healing. (Bladder Meridian)
  4. SE (4) Side of Eye Point – Located on the dominant side at the end of the eyebrow, this point falls on the boney protrusion at the leading edge of the temple.
    Releases: Rage, anger, resentment, fear of change and muddled thinking.
    Allows: Clarity and compassion. (Gall Bladder Meridian)
  5. UE (5) Under Eye Point – Located on the bone underneath the eye, directly under the pupil.
    Releases: Fear, anxiety, emptiness, worry, nervousness and disappointment.
    Allows: Contentment, calmness, and feeling safe. “All is well’. (Stomach Meridian)
  6. UN (6) Under Nose Point – Located under the nose, in the little crevice above the upper lip.
    Releases: Embarrassment, powerlessness, shame, guilt, grief, fear of ridicule, fear of failure and psychological reversals.
    Allows: Self-acceptance, self-empowerment, and compassion for self and others. (Governing Meridian)
  7. CH (7) Chin Point – Located just under the bottom lip, in the depression between the lip and the chin.
    Releases: Confusion, uncertainty, shame, embarrassment and second guessing decisions.
    Allows: Clarity, certainty, confidence, and self-acceptance. (Central Meridian)
  8. CB (8) Collar Bone Point – Just below the knob of the collarbone and next to the depression below the Adam ‘s apple.
    Releases: Psychological reversal, feeling stuck, indecision, worry, and general stress.
    Allows: Ease in moving forward, confidence, and clarity. (Kidney Meridian – Adrenal Gland Function)
  9. UA (9) Under Arm Point – About six inches directly below the arm pit (on the bra strap for the women).
    Releases: Guilt, worry, obsessing, hopelessness, insecurity, and poor self esteem.
    Allows: Clarity, confidence, relaxation, and compassion for self and others. (Spleen Meridian)

The Process:

  1. Tune into the problem area where you want to begin healing. Try to be as specific as you can in defining the problem. Rate the intensity of your negative feeling form 0 – 10 with 10 being the most intense.
  2. State an affirmation three times while tapping the karate Chop spot or rubbing the tender spot (see the chart of Tapping Points below) Examples #1 of an affirmation – “Even though, (state the issue you are workiing on), I completely, love and accept myself. Example #2 of an affirmation – ” I am releasing all of the (state feeling) in all the deepest roots and causes of this (name of issue).
  3. Tap the remaining energy points (top of head, eyebrow, side of eye, under eye, under nose, under lip, under collarbone, under arm) as you speak a reminder word or phrase.
  4. Take a deep breath. Take stock. Rate the intensity of your negative feeling now? Notice any new thoughts or memories and practice tapping on each one until it is neutralized.
  5. Return to the original problem and repeat Steps 3 and 4 until you reach zero or the problem is resolved. Zero means that you no longer feel any negative charge.

 

Recommended Links:

http://www.tapping.com/

http://www.theenergytherapycentre.co.uk/tapping-points.htm

http://www.eft-alive.com/eft-therapy.html

http://www.eftuniverse.com/

 

Recommended Videos:

 

 

 

 

Jun 07

Pain or Suffering

Most people don’t find themselves in recovery without going through some kind of pain.  It’s actually pretty common to feel like we’ve already had more than our share.  Whether self inflicted or from outside sources our particular burden has grown to the point where it occupies the majority of our thoughts.  At some point, if left unaddressed, this mental suffering begins to affect behavior and we find we are no longer managing our pain or our lives in a healthy way.  Suffering is not the same thing as pain.  There is an important difference.  While pain is often an unavoidable part of life suffering is something we choose.

 “These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them.”  ~ Rumi

Pain is usually a signal that something needs to change.   Physical pain lets us know we need to move away from the hot stove or allow the broken leg to heal – very useful!  Similarly emotional pain warns us, perhaps to distance ourselves from those who have hurt us or to allow healing to take place where relationships have been broken.  It points to our unhealthy behaviors and shows us that what we’ve been doing isn’t working.

Surprisingly people are often offended by the idea that they have the ability to choose between pain and suffering.  It can feel almost like an accusation when in fact it’s a pardon.  Pain may be an inevitable part of the human experience but whether we learn from it and claim the freedom of letting go or hang on to it and become it’s slave is up to us.  Recognizing our own thought patterns and realizing that we have choices to make regarding how we handle painful situations frees us from suffering.   Even in the most difficult circumstances there are lessons and blessings that can lead us to healing if we are willing to accept them.

One of the great benefits of holistic recovery and working the Twelve Steps is the opportunity to address and release pain.  We’ve been carrying it around with us, either consciously pouring through the details and reliving the trauma or stuffing the emotions down and numbing our feelings until it consumes us.  If allowed to grow and fester, pain can become more than a reaction to the initial event.  In some cases our own thoughts have magnified the problem and continue to reinforce negative emotions creating a version of the original injury that is even more damaging than what actually happened.  One of the best things we can do to begin reversing the cycle is self examination.

The Fourth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous is especially beneficial for coming to terms with the truth about pain in our lives.  Even if your current condition has nothing to do with substance abuse a personal inventory can be a powerful tool for learning from the past and moving forward.  Taking an entirely honest assessment our resentments, our fears and the ways in which we have harmed ourselves and others gives us a sense of clarity regarding the source of painful emotions and why they persist with such intensity.  In the Fifth Step we admit that through our actions, our reactions or even just through our thinking we have contributed to the pain in our lives.  With that truth we find healing as we work the Steps that follow.

This process holds us accountable for our part in creating our current emotional state and what will happen next.  If you aren’t working through the Steps consider using the Step Four post as a journal writing prompt.  If you don’t have a sponsor think about talking with a trusted friend to acknowledge the truth about what you’ve written.   Pray, meditate and believe that there is relief from suffering.  Whether you’re in a Twelve Step Program, working with a therapist or just looking for ways to relieve the stress of your current condition or problem know that addressing painful situations in a healthy way is a choice.  Exploring options that support the choice for healing is the purpose of this site and of every blog post.  Look around, read about something new and embrace the mercies of recovery.

 

 

Jun 02

Taking Inventory

The Fourth Step is the immediate action that needs to be taken upon completion of first three steps.  It takes courage and rigorous honesty for it to be of any use to us but the information we gain in this step will serve us well as we move forward.

“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”  Step Four

We have admitted the state of our affairs and that we can no longer manage them effectively.  We have given our lives over to the care of a power greater than ourselves and trust in our Higher Power’s ability to guide us.  We have become willing to do the work that lies ahead.  Generally speaking I’m not a fan of dwelling on the past or overthinking what are usually considered negative events and feelings but this is not the case here.  This step is an exercise in honesty, a reality check, an opportunity to to address the things that lie within our circle of responsibility and let go of the rest. So we bravely step into the warehouse of the mind and sift through the sometimes dusty shelves with the strength and clarity we’ve gained in the first three steps.  We have a new and clearer vision of what got us here and we are ready to take stock.

Step Four focuses on resentments, fears, and harms.  Most people have difficulties in these areas whether they are addicts or not.  Fearless and entirely honest searching is required if we want to get to the root of our behaviors and we now know that we must if want to be healed.  We are seeking information in this step, information that we already have but for a variety of reasons have chosen to forget, ignore or perhaps have never been honest enough to identify it in the first place.

We have not been functioning as the person we were meant to be.  Out of balance and out of control, we have now committed to a course that addresses the illness of the body, mind and spirit.  It fits well with the idea of holistic recovery.  Consider those three areas not as separate but as parts of a whole, a system that relies on the functioning of each member for health and happiness to be restored.  The body, where our physical behaviors and/or cravings demonstrate themselves.  The mind, where our faulty thinking and mental obsessions play themselves out.  And the spirit, the seat of truth, which has become disconnected from our Higher Power and our true self.

“What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.”  ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Reading through pages 62-71 in the Big Book, if you have it, is a great way to prepare for Step Four.  On page 65 there is a three column chart to to give you an idea of how to get started.  (Or see the recommended links below to read more and view sample forms.)  Some prefer to use a chart with four columns in this manner.  Column 1 names the physical – the WHO, most often a noun, a person, place, institution, etc. Column 2 deals with the mental - WHAT we think happened or how we were wronged. Column 3 deals with the emotional – HOW we felt about what happened.   And finally, Column 4 refers to the spiritual – the TRUTH about what happened.   The fourth column is helpful as it usually reveals how our behavior or thinking has contributed to the situation and helps us release our resentments, our fears and our guilt.

Resentments

The Big Book says that all forms of spiritual disease stem from resentment.  We have been truly ill physically, mentally and spiritually.  When the “spiritual malady” is overcome the others will be overcome as well.  We are not only listing our resentments here but beginning to understand how our own thoughts and actions may have contributed to that resentment.  There are no rules about what to include, only you know what belongs on your list.

Fear

Fear is a normal and useful emotion that can protect us from danger by heightening our senses, releasing adrenaline and inspiring caution.  At appropriate times and in appropriate doses it is healthy and even necessary for survival.  However, dwelling on fear, especially in large doses prevents us from living the life we were created for and can even make us physically ill. This sort of fear controls us.  We become paralyzed, stuck in an unhealthy cycle by our own worries and anxiety.  Releasing fears is an important part of healing.

Aside from fear of eminent danger such as the fear of heights and wild animals our fears usually fall into a few different categories – fear of losing something, fear of not getting what we want or feel we need and the fear of people finding out things we’ve done.  Begin to list your fears with whatever comes to mind first and allow yourself to explore the source of each entry.

Sex and Harms

We now begin to review our own conduct as we go through the sex inventory and harms list.  These sometimes go hand in hand, sometimes put together in one chart or listed separately.  Depending on the length and content of your sex inventory you may want to separate it but the point is to be entirely honest about what we’ve done to others, physically, mentally and emotionally.  For this reason our sex inventory is often intertwined with our harms list.

No matter how you decide to break it up you may want to briefly review your resentments and fears lists to see if you’ve gained any insight or if there are ways in which you have harmed those who have also harmed you.  We are interested in what is called, “sweeping our side of the street.”  In this section write only what YOU did no matter how justified you may have felt at the time.  If you feel that you were wronged you can always go back and add to your resentment or fears list if necessary.

For the sex inventory it can be helpful to answer the questions on p. 68 & 69 of the Big Book.  For more guidance regarding a list of harms to others refer to pg. 70.  In some recovery circles there is another list that can be added after the “Harms Inventory” called a “Graves List” to be used to write down the secrets you would take to your grave.  This list can be shared with a sponsor or trusted friend if you choose but is often burned after completion both for your privacy and as a way to symbolize releasing what you have confessed.

Positive Characteristics

Some people also like to include a list of positive characteristics and attributes.  This is something for you and possibly your sponsor to decide.  Our assets most likely didn’t contribute to our current difficulties but since we’re assessing the state of our affairs it can be useful to acknowledge our strengths.  In some cases our strengths may in fact have influenced us in negative ways that created unhealthy attachments to the ego or inaccurate opinions of ourselves.  An honest assessment of the characteristics that are healthy and serve us well can also help us identify those which are not truly positive.

A few important reminders on the Fourth Step:

  • It is a written inventory, it’s okay if you feel most comfortable doing this on a computer but usually handwritten.
  • Complete honesty is paramount.  This is essential, it is of no real value if you lie to yourself or withhold information.
  • Keep it simple, we aren’t writing our life story here; remember it isn’t meant to be a novel but an inventory.  We will end up telling our story in the 5th step based on this thorough inventory.
  • Be thorough, take your time, but do not dwell on this step.  It’s normal for some feelings to be stirred up during the process but try to remain somewhat detached simply reporting the truth to the best of your ability.
  • Most inventories are written vertically and read horizontally. Go down the list, first who, then what, the feeling and then the truth.
  • Consider the possibility of including yourself in the “Who” columns when it comes to resentments and harms.

In the Fourth Step inventory we further accept our responsibility for the circumstances we find ourselves in today.  We see our part in even our resentments and our fears as we admit that our own faulty thinking has often allowed many of these situations to play out the way they did.  As we review our inventory with another person we take the information we’ve gathered and prepare for the steps to follow.  These lists create a clear picture of the barriers that separate us from health, happiness, peace, other people and most importantly from our Higher Power.  We have an honest assessment of the past, of where we stand now and a guide for what needs to be done.

If you experience new or difficult emotions as you write and review your lists know that you are not alone.  Allow yourself to feel without beating up on yourself or anyone else, you’ve probably done more than enough of that already.  Use this as an opportunity to use what you’ve learned so far.  Continue to humbly admit your powerlessness, keep believing that there is a Power that can and will care for you as you surrender your will and your life – over and over again.  Accept the freedom of letting go as you give and receive the gift of forgiveness.

“We will know peace.” ~ Promise Four

 

Recommended Reading:

The AA Big Book and Guide for Working the Twelve Steps are recommended reading for anyone in recovery of any kind, not only because they were the first but also for their inspirational and direct content. Two great resources for those working the Steps for codependency are also included here. More books on 12 Step Work from other fellowships and programs can be found in the “Steps” drop down list under “Programs and Literature.”

Featured image for this page taken from Hazelden 12 Step Pamphlet Collection – The Complete 12 Step Collection used by patients in recovery centers throughout the nation, these easy-to-read editions are a sure way to gain a basic, and yet thorough, understanding of the significance of each Step. Pamphlets are available individually or in a money-saving full collection.

 

Forms:

Forms for charts can be found here:  http://www.barefootsworld.net/docs/aaworkstep4forms.doc  Taken from “Barefoot’s World” which is an excellent site for more information on working the steps of AA and can easily be adapted for any condition.

Other Fourth Step Links:

http://www.step12.com/step-4.html

http://mycoachjason.com/ForthStepGuide.htm

http://www.royy.com/step4.pdf

http://www.na.org/admin/include/spaw2/uploads/pdf/litfiles/us_english/IP/EN3110.pdf

Recommended Links:

The questions above are fairly generalized in order to apply to a variety of conditions. The basics are the same but if you are working the Steps specifically for drug/alcohol abuse or codependency the following links may help you to explore further. There are many other formats and workbooks available through a simple web search.

12 Step Worksheets

CoDA 12 Step Worksheets

May 25

The White Flag

In battle the white flag is raised as a sign of surrender and also as a signal for a cease fire in order to open the lines of communication and come to terms with the other side.  We often consider this gesture a sign of weakness, even cowardice, when in truth the call for peace always takes both wisdom and courage.

“Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control.”  ~  Jack Kornfield

About the time we get to the Third Step in Twelve Step Programs some of us begin to feel uneasy about what we’re being asked to do.  The fear of surrender and the perception of weakness or giving up the fight can stir up some resistance.  As we begin to more fully understand what we’re fighting for and the purpose of recovery we recognize that the greatest conflict we face is the one we’ve waged against ourselves. Our tactics have been working against us and we must change our course of action if we hope to win anything of value.  It is time to call for a truce while we regain our bearings.  We can use the white flag as a powerful reminder for choosing serenity and letting go.

Consider the following from Wikipedia, “The white flag is an internationally recognized protective sign of truce or ceasefire, and request for negotiation.  A white flag signifies to all that an approaching negotiator is unarmed, with an intent to surrender or a desire to communicate. Persons carrying or waving a white flag are not to be fired upon, nor are they allowed to open fire.”

We all have our battles in life and some of them have gone on for far too long.  Raising the white flag does not necessarily imply defeat.  Knowing when to cut our losses and realizing that cost has already been too great is part of claiming victory.  We have chosen to step out of the fray into a quieter place where we can see more clearly.   We assess our situation with rigorous honesty and come to terms with the futility of the struggle.  We begin to open the lines of communication with others by laying down our own weapons as we become willing to lower our defenses and connect with our Higher Power.

When we agree that we must revise our strategies and choose peace we are led to the Source of all true strength.  Recovery is not for cowards, it takes great courage to raise the flag and face the truth that this war can never be won if we continue to fight in fear and anger.  Surrender and claim a power that is greater than your own.  Claim the protection, the wisdom, the strength and the courage to direct your energy toward serenity and healing.

May 21

Willing To Let Go

The decision we are asked to make in the Third Step involves letting go.  This is the moment of surrender.  For some of us that sounds scary, it might even sound impossible but surrender does not imply giving up or giving in. It is instead a matter of willingness.  We have opened our minds to the idea that there is a better way.  This willingness is the key to freedom.

 “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”  ~ Step Three

We have come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.  That belief is still growing, often fragile, in the early stages of recovery but we are already being asked to prove it.  We’ve been hanging on for so long that the idea of giving up what little control we still have can be frightening.  How can we turn everything over to something we are still learning to trust?  Fortunately we are not the first to have felt this way. There is an answer.

We have agreed that the concept of a Higher Power is not optional in 12 Step programs.  How that Higher Power is defined is very personal but the need for one is essential.  So we take a leap of faith and follow the example of those who’ve gone before us.  We believe that our relationship with God will continue to grow as we begin to let go and trust Him with our lives.  Although this commitment to surrender may seem uncomfortable at first it is necessary if we hope to find peace.  Turning our lives over to a Power that is greater and wiser than we are brings relief.  There is a caring, loving force that we can trust to guide our thoughts, our will and our actions in exactly the right way…. but only if we let Him.

This step is an ongoing process and that process simply BEGINS now by making a decision.  Willingness prepares us and provides us with a source for the serenity and the courage required for the steps to come.  So we continue to take the Third Step over and over again.  The daily practice of letting go frees us from our worry, our expectations and our fears. We begin to see things more clearly and in time this step confirms our suspicions that our own willpower was standing in the way of healing.  As life begins to change our trust in God is affirmed and turning it over to Him gets easier.

Turning over our will does not absolve us of responsibility for our lives.  It instead releases us from the confusion and stress of struggling to control that which cannot be controlled.  We aren’t left hanging there in our discomfort wondering what might happen if we really do let go.  This resolution to surrender is immediately followed by instructions for action.  There is work to be done and the steps that follow show us exactly how to demonstrate what we are learning on a daily basis.  We hold ourselves accountable for removing the obstacles between us, our Higher Power and our life as it was meant to be.

Page 63 the Big Book explains what we can expect, “Established on such a footing, we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life.  As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn.”

We’ve taken a hard look at all we’ve done up to this point trying to set things right and we have come to a realization.  Our failure to change has convinced us that our own methods have not been working.  In the First Step we admitted our powerlessness and the unmanageability of our lives.  In the Second we came to believe that there is a Power that could restore us and now we choose to let go and listen to it.  The first three steps have prepared us and brought us to the place where we recognize the need for something more.  We finally admit that we can’t do it alone and decide that we want the miracle more than we want to hang on.

Working Step Three:

  • Write your thoughts about the Third Step.
  • What do you think it means to turn over your will and your life?
  • What’s hard about turning it over?
  • Do you feel that you can trust your Higher Power to take care of you?
  • In what ways have you tried to control?
  • How does the willingness to let go free you?
  • How does it feel to let go?
  • Have you made the decision to take all necessary actions required to turn your will and life over to the Higher Power of your understanding?
  • Choose a person, condition or situation that you regularly try to control or causes you stress.  Write about ways that you could turn that over to your Higher Power.
  • Start a new habit of taking some time before you react in difficult situations.  Say the Serenity Prayer or Third Step Prayer and take a few deep breaths before you respond.  Making a “God Box” or “Let Go List” in your journal to write down your concerns and release them to your Higher Power’s care.  Call a friend, call your sponsor or go to a meeting before you choose a course of action.
  • Consider rewriting the Serenity Prayer or the Third Step Prayer in your own words.  What do they mean to you?  How can you make them a part of your daily life?

“God, I offer myself to Thee – to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy Will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy Will always!”   ~ Third Step Prayer

Admitting the need for change takes courage, so be kind to yourself as you ponder the Third Step.  Releasing the burden of the past and future is not weakness.  The past has led you to this moment, it is part of what will make you strong so there is no need for regret.  Claim the hope, peace and victory that surrender has to offer.  We have been promised that what lies ahead is far more wonderful than anything we could have dreamed up on our own.

“We will comprehend the word serenity.”  ~ Promise Three

Recommended Reading:

The AA Big Book and Guide for Working the Twelve Steps are recommended reading for anyone in recovery of any kind, not only because they were the first but also for their inspirational and direct content. Two great resources for those working the Steps for codependency are also included here. More books on 12 Step Work from other fellowships and programs can be found in the “Steps” drop down list under “Programs and Literature.”

Featured image for this page taken from Hazelden 12 Step Pamphlet Collection – The Complete 12 Step Collection used by patients in recovery centers throughout the nation, these easy-to-read editions are a sure way to gain a basic, and yet thorough, understanding of the significance of each Step. Pamphlets are available individually or in a money-saving full collection.

Recommended Links:

The questions above are fairly generalized in order to apply to a variety of conditions. The basics are the same but if you are working the Steps specifically for drug/alcohol abuse or codependency the following links may help you to explore further. There are many other formats and workbooks available through a simple web search.

12 Step Worksheets

CoDA 12 Step Worksheets

May 18

Water

When was the last time you had a drink of water?  Not coffee, not soda or an energy drink but pure, plain water….  Think about it for a minute…. How much water do you really drink every day?  Honestly, is it enough?

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”  ~ Loran Eisely

As we progress in recovery we often come to the realization that we haven’t been taking good care of our bodies.  Whether through addictions or simply because we’ve been obsessing over the general mess of our lives many of us need to pay more attention to our physical health.  If you’re feeling run down think about what you’ve been putting into your body.  Remember, the state of the body greatly affects the state of the mind and (second only to air) water is what the body needs most.  It is what we’re made of and it is a basic requirement to sustain life.  If you aren’t quite convinced consider the following:

The body is 78% water.

The lymphatic system is 95% water.

The brain is 90% water.

The circulatory system is 99% water.

Drinking water is one of easiest things you can do right now to start feeling better.  So often we mistake thirst for hunger or try to quench our thirst with caffeine which tends to dehydrate us even further. Headaches and low energy levels are two common symptoms of inadequate hydration.  Know that if you’re thirsty you’re already dehydrated to some extent.  One of the first things to do anytime you aren’t feeling quite right physically or mentally is a sanity check on your water intake.

The old 8 glasses of water a day isn’t a bad place to start.  Mind you these are 8 ounce glasses, not Dixie cups and that is the bare minimum.  One good way to calculate how much water you need is half your body weight in ounces – so if you weigh 140 pounds that’s 70 ounces of water per day minimum and that works out to just a little over those 8 glasses.  There are several factors to consider, your weight, your activity level, the climate you live in and the type of food you eat.  If you have a diet high in water rich foods (natural, raw fruits and vegetables) you may need a little less than someone who eats a lot of junk food that needs to be flushed and provides little to no hydration.  This water calculator from About.com has general guidelines for proper water consumption by weight.

Here are some powerful reasons to increase the amount of water you drink:

  • Water not only hydrates the body but also flushes the systems and organs of toxins, waste and debris.   The higher the level of toxicity or the more chronic the state of dehydration the more important the issue of drinking enough water becomes.
  • Dehydration makes you tired.  Even mild dehydration can make the muscles feel weak, cause dizziness and lead to general fatigue.
  • Although there are many causes for headaches not drinking enough water is the most common in the general population.  Especially when exercising or being outdoors in the warmer months proper hydration is the best thing you can do to prevent a headache and one of the fastest ways to cure one.
  • Water is an excellent tool for weight loss.  Drinking more water tends to suppress the appetite and helps us realize when we are truly hungry.  At least one full glass of water before a meal greatly reduces the urge to overeat.
  • Drinking water has a definite effect on the skin.  Adequate amounts lead to clearer skin, less dryness and even fewer wrinkles when continued as a daily habit.
  • The digestive system requires water to process food properly.  Both constipation and stomach acidity can be reduced and even cured through increased water intake.
  • Proper water consumption can reduce the risk of a heart attack. A study released in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that those who drink more than five glasses of water a day proved to be 41% less likely to die from heart attacks than those who drank less than two.
  • Drinking a healthy amount of water has even been found to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer by up to 50%.

So what can you do to make it a habit?  These are a few ideas:

  • Drink at least one glass of water upon waking, one before every meal or snack and two before going to bed.
  • Drink one glass of water before every cup of coffee, glass of soda or other beverage.
  • Substitute water for other drinks throughout the day.  Maybe choosing a water only policy with lunch or dinner.
  • Carry a water bottle. Know how many ounces it contains and how many times you’ll need to refill it to meet your minimum.
  • Exercise.  Even though exercise increases the amount of water we need to drink it also increases our desire to drink it.

As we bring our attention to taking better care of ourselves we realize that there are changes we can make right now for immediate improvements to our general health and outlook.  We need to be reminded that our habits will absolutely affect the way we feel both mentally and physically, our choices really do matter.  What if some of our discomfort could be relieved at least in part by a few slow deep breaths or a simple glass of water?  Holistic recovery asks us to address the self in its entirety.   One step at a time, one habit at a time we see the benefits unfold and tremendous synergy begins to occur as all the systems of the body, mind and spirit work together for healing.

 

 

May 16

Morning Meditations

Creating some time for morning meditation can be a powerful habit in recovery.   Even a few minutes spent in quiet reflection can make a big difference in the way we will face the challenges of the day.

“Prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening.”  ~ Mahatma Gandhi

In the early days of recovery we are often encouraged to begin the practice of morning meditation.   This can be elaborate or extremely simple depending on your circumstances and preferences.   Whether your mornings start early and busy or late and relaxed it’s worth the effort to carve out some space to get centered before the outside world has had an opportunity to influence your outlook on the events that are sure to unfold.  For that reason early is better, the phone hasn’t started to ring, no one is knocking at the door, and you aren’t running late for anything yet…. You get the picture, but if you’re not an early riser don’t let the numbers on the clock discourage you.

The time of day and amount of time you have to spend isn’t nearly as important as what you do with the time you have.   The best way to start is by finding something that fits easily into your morning routine as it is now.  Choose a quiet place with little opportunity for interruption and take a few deep breaths, acknowledge all that is good in your life, write a few words in a gratitude journal, say a short prayer or affirmation that brings you peace.   Make those moments count, claim that feeling of peace and take it with you throughout the day.  Once you’ve developed the habit your meditations will evolve, your morning routine will start to take shape around this special time as you begin to realize the benefits.

Here are some ideas for developing your own morning meditation:

  • Daily Meditation Books:  One of the easiest options for busy people is to find a book of daily meditations that appeals to you and leave it on the kitchen or coffee table where you have breakfast or drink your coffee.  Spend a few minutes considering how the day’s reading applies to your life.
  • Prayer and Affirmation:  Repeating a prayer or affirmation is a method for connecting not only with your Higher Power but with your True Self.  Commit a few phrases to memory that help you feel empowered and grounded.  Say the Serenity Prayer or simply spend some time talking to God.  Write out your own affirmations or choose a few that are especially meaningful for you and repeat them daily with intention.
  • Yoga: Whether through seated meditation or physical postures yoga is a great way to clear the mind before you start your day.  Sun Salutations are a common morning meditative practice with many mental and physical benefits in as little as ten minutes.  Start with something simple and allow the practice to deepen over time.
  • Journaling:  Start a gratitude, affirmation or prayer journal.  Journaling just a few words written in quiet reflection can be a powerful meditation.
  • Exercise:  Jogging, walking and other physical exercise can be a very effective method of meditation.  Keeping the body busy helps to clear the mind, deepen the breath and focus the attention on the positive aspects of life.

Whether you choose one or any combination of the above makes little difference.  Your practice will most likely change in time and that is a good thing.  These are just a few of many options, do what feels good, make your morning meditation something that you look forward to and commit to giving yourself that gift each day.  Soon you will begin to notice that those moments you spend in the morning have a profoundly positive effect on the rest of your day.

Recommended Reading:

These are just a few of my personal favorites.  Choose something that relates to your specific circumstances or something general that just makes you feel good.  Once you start looking you’re sure to find something that speaks to you in exactly right way.

 

 

May 14

Finding The God Of Your Understanding

It is entirely possible for people to enter recovery without specific beliefs or any beliefs whatsoever regarding a Higher Power. All that is required is the willingness to believe in something.  In the beginning just knowing and believing that the program works is enough.

“Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” ~ Step Two

Twelve Step programs are not religious but they are spiritual. Step Two asks us to open our minds and hearts to the idea of “a power greater than ourselves” and for some this presents a challenge.  Many of us didn’t show up knowing exactly what we believe in and some of us didn’t believe in anything at all.  When it comes to the subject of a Higher Power people can start to shut down. Even for those who were raised with religious or spiritual beliefs of some kind it can be difficult to know if the God of our childhood is something we can put our trust in now.  Fortunately it isn’t necessary to have it all figured out.  When we say that we “came to believe” that’s exactly what we mean.  Through working the Second Step we begin to explore how we feel about spirituality at this point in our lives.  We are encouraged by the stories of those who’ve gone before us and allow our concept of a Higher Power to evolve as we move through the Steps.

In the AA Big Book the chapter called “We Agnostics” begins with a review of Step One and asks us to consider the possibility that if we admit that our lives have indeed become unmanageable we may be suffering from a condition which requires some sort of spiritual experience and awareness for full recovery to occur.  For some this might seem impossible but page 44 reminds us that, “Something like half of us thought we were atheists or agnostics. Our experience shows that you need not be disconcerted.”  Not only is some kind of spiritual experience possible, it is guaranteed as we open our awareness and continue through the Steps.

Many of us have tried before to manage our condition with alcohol, drugs, food, sleep and other self-numbing behaviors. We have tried to control situations and/or people, even tried to control ourselves without real success. There is a saying that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.”  This is not a matter of noble perseverance, if what we’re doing isn’t working, if it’s no longer healthy it’s time to try something different. The Big Book Text continues further down the page to say, “We could wish to be philosophically comforted, in fact, we could wish these things with all our might, but the needed power wasn’t there. Our human resources, as marshaled (or directed) by the will, were not sufficient; they failed utterly.”

So now we are asked to develop our own concept of a Higher Power, a God of our own understanding.  ”Much to our relief, we discovered we did not need to consider another’s conception of God. Our own conception, however inadequate, was sufficient to make the approach and to effect a contact with Him. As soon as we admitted the possible existence of a Creative Intelligence, a Spirit of the Universe underlying the totality of things, we began to be possessed of a new sense of power and direction, provided we took other simple steps. We found that God does not make too hard terms with those who seek Him. To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all…”

It isn’t necessary to define God; in fact it may be impossible. As you work the Second Step see if you can stop trying to figure God out and instead just try to feel your Higher Power with your heart.  The big question is what are you willing to believe?

Working Step Two:

  • Write freely about the 2nd Step. What does it mean to you?  Don’t edit or over-analyze. Just write.
  • Why do you think this Step says “restored to sanity?”  In what ways would you like to be restored to sanity?  What would sanity look like in the areas of your life that are unmanageable?
  • Write the words Higher Power.  What comes up in your mind?
  • Have you allowed anyone or anything to be a Higher Power in your life?  Have you tried to be that power for yourself or for someone else?
  •  Is the idea of God difficult for you to accept?  If so, why?  Is there a concept of a Power greater than yourself that does make sense to you?  Think about Nature, the Universe, Your Highest Self, Wisdom, Love, etc.
  • Write about any experiences with religion or spirituality in your childhood and in your family of origin.  How do feel about that now?  Could you keep what was good and let the rest go?  What do you believe now?
  • Look at not just what you say you believe but what you think is really true about God.  Ask yourself, “What do I believe is true about a Higher Power?”  Write your thoughts.
  • What are some attributes of a Higher Power that you would like to believe in?  List some traits, pick and choose from the beliefs of others if you need to but make a list and allow your own idea to grow.
  • Ask yourself, “Do I now believe, or am I even WILLING to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?”

 

WATER

Water is everywhere and in all living things – we cannot be separated from water. No water, no life. Period.  Water comes in many forms – liquid, vapor, ice, snow, fog, rain, hail. But no matter the form, it’s still water.

Human beings give this stuff many names in many languages, in all its forms. It’s crazy to argue over what its true name is. Call it what you will, there is no difference to the water. It is what it is.

Human beings drink water from many containers – cups, glasses, jugs, skins, their own hands, whatever. To argue about which container is proper for the water is crazy. The container doesn’t change the water.

Some like it hot, some like it cold, some like it iced, some fizzy, some with stuff mixed in with it – like alcohol, coffee, whatever. No matter. It does not change the nature of the water.

Never mind the name or the cup or the mix. These are not important. What we have in common is thirst. Thirst for the water of Life!

As it is with water, so it is with God. 

~  Robert Fulghum

 

As you consider the Second Step this week think about the Second Promise.  Allow yourself the freedom to accept the gifts of recovery including the relief that comes from knowing that there is a Power greater than you are that can remove your regrets and restore your life.  If you’d like to read more on the 12 Steps go to the right sidebar and click on the category “The Steps” for previous posts.

“We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”  ~ Promise Two

 

Recommended Reading:

The AA Big Book and Guide for Working the Twelve Steps are recommended reading for anyone in recovery of any kind, not only because they were the first but also for their inspirational and direct content.  Two great resources for those working the Steps for codependency are also included here. More books on 12 Step Work from other fellowships and programs can be found in the “Steps” drop down list under “Programs and Literature.”

 

Featured image for this page taken from Hazelden 12 Step Pamphlet Collection – The Complete 12 Step Collection used by patients in recovery centers throughout the nation, these easy-to-read editions are a sure way to gain a basic, and yet thorough, understanding of the significance of each Step.  Pamphlets are available individually or in a money-saving full collection.

Recommended Links:

The questions above are fairly generalized in order to apply to a variety of conditions.  The basics are the same but if you are working the Steps specifically for drug/alcohol abuse or codependency the following links may help you to explore further. There are many other formats and workbooks available through a simple web search.

12 Step Worksheets

CoDA 12 Step Worksheets

May 12

Nature Heals

Nature is a healing gift that we sometimes overlook.  When life gets out of control we’re inclined to withdraw, certainly from people and situations but in some cases we can actually begin to physically confine ourselves.  It might take a while before you’re ready to face the person or the situation but don’t wait to go outside and experience the day…

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.  ~ Albert Einstein

There has been much psychological research validating the idea that spending time in nature enhances mental health.   The benefits of spending some time outdoors are both immediate and lasting.  The immediate payoff is mostly related to relaxation and stress reduction that contributes to lasting effects of peace and mental clarity. Just getting out into the sunlight has both physical and mental advantages. Nature really can be medicine for the body and soul.

One advantage of outdoor activity during the day comes from the sun’s ability to increase the production of vitamin D.  There have been many studies recently that confirm the link between depression and vitamin D deficiency.  Another big physical plus comes from breathing fresh air and the tendency to combine enjoying nature with physical activity.  Just being outdoors encourages us to breathe a little deeper and get moving.  Both exercise and deep breathing decrease mental fatigue and foster general wellness.

The natural world makes people feel more connected to life, promotes clarity and reduces negative thought.  There is a feeling of well being that seems to come automatically from experiencing nature.  You don’t have to spend a week in a Hawaii to reconnect and get grounded.  Start by stepping into your own back yard or sitting on a park bench.  Take off your shoes and feel the grass under your feet, look up at the sky, literally smell the flowers.  Getting in touch with nature increases coherence, a sense of wholeness and meaning that comes from realizing that we are a part of something bigger.

In this bigger space we are much more receptive to positive energy and for many time spent in nature is a spiritual experience.  In his paper on the Psychological Benefits of Nature Experiences John Davis, Ph.D. explains, “Peak experiences (Maslow) are defined as experiences of optimal mental health, comparable to intense spiritual experiences or mystical experiences. Nature is a common trigger for peak experiences. Survey results on frequency and triggers for peak experiences (Davis, Lockwood, & Wright) show that nature is the most common trigger for peak experiences.  82% of the general population have ‘experienced the beauty of nature in a deeply moving way,’ 49% felt this had a lasting influence.”

Recovery is a time for healing, for remembering what is good in life.  Enjoying the beauty of the world around you can change the way you feel right now, it can change the way you’ll feel tomorrow and the next day.   So don’t wait to connect with the many healing gifts that nature has to offer.

May 09

Simple Seated Meditation

In recovery circles it’s common to hear the advice that “you need to get out of your head.”  Meditation is one way to do this effectively.  It’s free, it’s natural and you can do it at any time.  Whether through simple breathing techniques, mantras or guided meditations the seated practice calms the central nervous system, brings clarity to the mind and new life to the spirit.

“Through meditation and by giving full attention to one thing at a time, we can learn to direct attention where we choose.”  ~ Eknath Easwaran

Although there are many types of meditation the following is a variation of the lotus pose.  Try this incredibly simple seated practice of focusing on the breath for a few days in a row and see how you feel.  All you really have to do is breathe… If you find the posture uncomfortable try sitting in a straight backed chair with your feet on the floor.

Sit in a cross-legged position with the ankles in front of one another or experiment further by placing one leg on top of the other for half lotus.  You can simply place the hands on the knees, touch index and thumbs or have the palms open facing up. Keep the spine straight, tuck the chin slightly, close the eyes and then with the eyes still closed look up to the spot between the eyes slightly above the eyebrows.  This spot is often called the third eye, or the ajna chakra, associated with creativity, imagination and dreaming.  In yoga, it is often used as an internal focal point for meditation or for the point of focus where the gaze rests during physical postures and breathing exercises.  Now allow the knees and hips to relax out and down toward the floor.  Feel the sit bones grounding into the earth and the crown of the head gently lifting up and away from the rest of the body toward the sky.  Allow the spine to lengthen as you sit a little taller.  Soften the face, release all tension in the neck and shoulders, press your lips together softly and begin to breathe slowly in and out through the nose.

Put all your attention on the breath, feel the body expand with every inhale, focus on the feeling of life entering the body….All your attention on every exhale, releasing toxins from both  the body and the mind…. Whenever your attention starts to wander simply come back to that slow, deep breath.  Feel the air moving in and out through your nose.  Notice the way the breath drags up and down the back of the throat.  Connect with the rhythm of the rise and fall of your own belly.  All of your attention on the breath…Not engaging or struggling with the thoughts that enter the mind, simply becoming a witness, observing, noticing and quietly redirecting the attention back to your own breathing for 20 to 30 deep breaths.

A continued seated practice teaches us to reduce the chatter of the mind.  As we learn to be still we find that a new space begins to open.  Letting go of the past and future gives us an opportunity to choose what we will put into the space we create.  Even the simplest of breathing exercises begins to open the chakras allowing energy to flow more freely through the body.  The physical benefits of the posture include the strengthening of the lower back and spinal musculature, improved circulation, reduced inflammation in the knees, the relaxation of the groin and hips and generally improving the posture of the body as a whole.

Remember, simple and easy are not always the same thing, give yourself some time to work up to 30 breaths… Start with 10, or even 5… If you don’t like counting the breaths then set a timer for even just one minute and slowly increase your time.  The ego tends to struggle to hang on at first, usually whispering the lie that you don’t have time for this or that it’s of no real value.  I encourage you to stick with it, if you find that it doesn’t work for you keep searching until you find a method that does.  As with so many things in life consistency is the key and true value will most certainly be found in the continued practice of meditation.

Many more posts to come on recovery yoga and various forms of meditation coming soon.

 

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