Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Meaningful Connection

     When we're under a lot of stress, we tend to feel isolated, alienated, all alone, like nobody cares about us, me against the world. Most people are drawn to mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) courses to better manage their stress and become more resilient in the face of life's many and unpredictable challenges.
     "Resilience is our inherent capacity to see beauty, find connection, commune with something larger than ourselves, and create – even in or after horrendous experiences." Staci Haines
     Stress tends to close us down - we back away from our own authenticity, others & the environment. Resilience allows us to open up, and connect with our own authenticity, with others & the environment.

     "In trauma-sensitive mindfulness practice, resilience involves imagining a place, activity, or memory that connects us to a sense of well-being … This can be cultivated by introducing a brief intervention during mindfulness practice or by practicing a separate guided meditation. Once people feel they can stabilize their attention on the resilient stimuli – the feeling of being somewhat safe, or a positive memory – we can then guide them to feel physical sensations that correspond with the resilient object of attention.”  David A. Treleaven. “Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness. Practices for Safe and Transformative Healing.” W.W. Norton & Co, 2018.

     It's profoundly calming (self-soothing, self-regulating) to vividly remember the physical sensations during a time when we felt deeply connected to ourself, another person, an animal, the environment, or even an activity. Safety, trust & love dominate in connection (& evaporate under stress). 
     Savor the interaction in the (11mins) video below, between Susan and Maddy the bear. The quality of their connection is viscerally obvious.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Community, Synchrony & Coregulation

     After a group of strangers meditate together for a week or so at a silent meditation retreat, a close bond, sense of safety and trust tends to develop and remains intact for years afterwards. 
     The same sense of trust & safety is one of the key "common factors" of successful therapeutic alliances between patients & therapists. 
     Below is one proposed reason for this profound community-building experience (the opposite of social alienation):

     "Like safety, self-regulation is an important component of trauma recovery. When we are in the throes of dysregulated arousal, it can be tremendously hard to function – akin to being caught in a devastating internal storm and being asked to navigate an external world. By enlisting the support of a trained professional, however, we can learn how to regulate – almost like borrowing a power from them that we desperately need. This is actually a birthright we carry: we’re born with a limited capacity to self-regulate and as babies rely on the people closest to us to keep our arousal within our window of tolerance; as infants we learn how to regulate our arousal largely through our caregivers.
     Even as adults, we depend on people to help us regulate our arousal. … other people – who we feel are safe and trustworthycan help survivors regulate arousal, whether through settling eye contact, physical touch, or overall presence. … these adjustments are often nonverbal, taking place largely through cues such as breath, gesture, & vocalization. 
     A technical term for this is inter-relational psychobiological regulation – the way our relationships with other people can help us regulate our arousal. When we’re in safe, attuned contact with other people, we can more easily access our social engagement system and thereby coregulate each other’s arousal. This takes place through nonverbal cues such as making or breaking eye contact, finding an optimal distance between our bodies, and listening to the tone in one another’s voices. Larger groups can also provide this kind of support, where practices such as dancing, singing, yoga, drumming, or martial arts bring our bodies together into connection. 
     Whereas trauma disrupts connection within ourselves and other people, community can bring us back into rhythm with one another – a state, known as synchrony, that helps us regulate our arousal." 
       David A. Treleaven. “Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness. Practices for Safe and Transformative Healing.” W.W. Norton & Co, 2018.

 One Type of Community

Monday, August 6, 2018

Protection on the Path

     Practicing morality & generosity is traditionally required in preparation, before learning meditation.
     We used to refer to such personal reserves of non-material wealth as "character." If we had earned a lot of it, we knew that we were "rock solid" ie stable & dependable, no matter how rough & chaotic things got.
     Today, morality & generosity are rarely even mentioned before or during secular meditation courses such as MBSR, even though they facilitate meditation practice and serve important protective functions. 
"The perfume of sandalwood,
the scent of rosebay and jasmine,
travel only as far as the wind.
But the fragrance of goodness
travels with us
through all the worlds.
Like garlands woven from a heap
of flowers,
fashion your life
as a garland of beautiful deeds."          Buddha 

     In addition to morality & generosity, years of dedicated meditation practice provide even more stability that further protects us from becoming lost within some of the challenging realms that we may encounter in meditation. We thus have a much better chance (*** see Treleaven's book below ***) of remaining absolutely clear about what’s happening, so that the ultimate dimension of our consciousness is never pulled into & gets lost in a chaotic realm, even when we may be right in the middle of it. 
     One of the most important things about our practice is that we start to discover inside ourselves a resource of stability - and that’s really important. That’s part of what meditation is about.         Adyashanti

     If you're a meditator, whether or not you're aware of ever having had significant trauma, whether or not you teach meditation, I highly recommend this new, well-written, important book:
David A. Treleaven. “Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness. Practices for Safe and Transformative Healing.” W.W. Norton & Company, 2018.