How to Get Through a Rough Patch: Coping with a Dark Night of the Soul

Everybody goes through a rough patch. And sometimes that’s an understatement. Welcome to the Dark Night of the Soul. This is a time of great transition when you have lost your current identity but have yet to create your new one. You could be going through a divorce, a loved one passed away, you lost your job or just feel like you’re stuck and don’t know how to free yourself.

In any case, this is the time when good advice is essential. Dr. Michael Beckwith, a leader in the New Thought Movement, author and founder of the Agape Church in Los Angeles, has some of the best advice I’ve heard on the subject.

He says, when you’re losing your identification and you don’t know who you’re becoming yet, ask this question:

If this experience were to last forever, what qualities would have to emerge for you to have peace of mind?

As you know, what you focus on increases in size and strength. By answering this question you now become aware of the actual qualities that will get you through this dark night rather than keep you stuck in your suffering.

There is a reason for everything we experience in our lives. We may never be privy to all of the wisdom that would keep us away from life’s challenging times, but at least we can rest assured that when they come our way, we can move through them with integrity, resilience and hope. Thank you, Dr. Beckwith.

~Karen Abrams

 

This post was originally posted on GodSelf University

Theta Meditation for Projecting Hope

I’ve been having a hard time lately. This new administration’s appointees, ranging from global warming denialists to dictator-friendly diplomats, has made me anxious about the near future.

Going to bed and waking up, I have been weighted with a sense of dread in the pit of my stomach.

This is not the way I like to live my life.

But for some reason, even after many attempts, I have been unable to completely let go of this heaviness.

What is up with that?

According to Andrew Huberman, Stanford professor of neurobiology, the brain is “mostly a stress-reactive machine. Its primary job is to keep us alive, which is why it’s so easy to flip people into fear all the time.” So, when facing an uncertain future, “there is a litany of cognitive distortions and emotional overreactions that we fall prey to.”

When we are in a constant state of fear or anxiety, the parts of our brain that are responsible for thinking and forming memories shut down. They actually shrink in size while the part of our brain that is responsible for fear gets bigger.

So the other night, while I was lying in bed, I went up into theta and asked, “What can I do to change this? I keep projecting my fear out into the world.”

A simple voice came back to me: “Project your hope instead.”

I instantly calmed down.

I could project my hope, and become involved in the solution instead of the problem. It was so simple and yet those four words transformed my mind and body.

Apparently, my reaction was backed up by neural science. According to Justin Moscarello, researcher at LeDoux Lab, Center for Neural Science, “It’s your belief about your agency that ultimately determines your emotional outcomes… Believing you don’t have control over your own life can lead to depression… while believing that you have a voice, and can influence a situation, can lead to positive feelings.”

We create stories that disempower us, out of our feelings of uncertainty. It is an effort to control what is beyond our grasp.

Yet, we also have the power to create a positive story and become a part of manifesting that outcome. Remembering we have that power renews our faith.

Author Samuel Smiles once said “Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.”

We will always encounter uncertainty in life; just remember it’s a fork in the road, rather than a dead end. Your choice.

Sources:

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_hope.html

Rolling Stone, “Why We’re LIving in the Age of Fear” by Neil Strauss, October 6, 2016.

~Karen Abrams

Breathing Exercises for Relaxation

“Just calm down and take a deep breath.” It’s a go-to when you’re feeling stressed and anxious. Over 5 thousand years ago yogis brought breathing techniques into a daily practice as they began to focus on enlightenment through the body. These practices are still in effect today and as luck would have it, science follows right behind with an explanation.

Our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) connects the brain to the body. When you experience unsettling thoughts, feelings and events, the nerves switch on the Sympathetic Nervous System which is responsible for your Fight or Flight response. This brings about a rise in your breath rate, heart rate and blood pressure. And that’s just the beginning.

Happily, the converse is true, too. When you change your breathing pattern, your heart and lungs are communicating the opposite message to your ANS to switch on your Sympathetic Nervous System (also known as your Rest and Digest or Relax Response). With an extended exhale (at a 2:1 ratio) your heart rate slows, your blood pressure drops, digestion improves and calm renters the picture.

Enter the 4-7-8 Breathing technique. This is a yogic breathing exercise made popular by Dr. Andrew Weil, considered to be the father of Integrative Medicine. Dr. Weil believes this to be a very powerful tool to calm anxiety, triggered emotions, sleep disruptions as well as deal effectively with food cravings.

The exercise is simple:

Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise.

You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.

Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.

Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.

Hold your breath for a count of seven.

Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.

This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

For the first month, you should only practice with four breaths at one time and then extend it to eight. Immediate effects might include light headedness, but that will clear up quickly.

The magic happens relatively quickly but the REAL stuff occurs when you make it a daily practice for 1-2 minutes. Then you’ll have a very powerful tool to calm yourself, lower your heart rate, blood pressure and improve your digestion. Dr. Weill believes this technique to be as effective as anti anxiety medication without the heavy price tag. And having that at your beck-and-call is worth all the yogi tea in China.

Sources:

History of Yoga

How Your Breath Affects Your Nervous System – Baxter Bell, MD


http://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/stress-anxiety/breathing-three-exercises

~Karen Abrams, GodSelf Faculty