Thursday, March 31, 2011

HOW TO RECOVER FROM LOSS AND TRAUMA MINDFULLY

Here’s a book which I heartily endorse. It’s called Wise Mind, Open Mind: Finding Purpose & Meaning in Times of Crisis, Loss & Change, and its written by psychotherapist Ronald A Alexander PhD (pictured opposite).

Ronald Alexander is the Executive Director of The OpenMind Training Institute as well as being an extension faculty member of the UCLA departments of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Entertainment, a lecturer in the David Geffen School of Medicine, and an adjunct faculty member at Pacifica Graduate Institute and Pepperdine University. He is also the author of another wonderful book which I also heartily endorse called Awakening the Buddha Within … wow, what a title! (Never think that the Buddha is just a historical figure. Buddha is an inner power to be tapped, and a potentiality within you to be realized.)

Wise Mind, Open Mindcombines techniques drawn from contemporary mind-body approaches, Buddhist psychology, mindfulness, creative thinking, and positive psychology to show you how to tap into your gifts and create a practical plan for personal transformation that will help you move through the challenges you face.

In times of loss or crisis, people tend to shut down and deny that their lives have been forever altered. Dr Alexander, a mindfulness-based psychotherapist trained in modern integrative mind-body methods of somatic psychology, mindfulness, and relational therapies, guides us through a three-step process that begins with melting even the fiercest resistance to unwanted change.

The most important item in Wise Mind, Open Mind toolbox is mindfulness meditation … demonstrably the best “method” (yes, I know, there really are no such “methods”) for learning to be fully present even in the most difficult and heart-wrenching of situations. Dr Alexander explains how a person can begin immediately developing a mindfulness practice that will build their mindstrength so that they can more easily accept change and uncertainty ("Letting Go"), reconnect with creativity ("Tuning In"), and craft a new life and self-definition ("Moving Forward").

Now, here are six ever-so-practical strategies from the book to help you mindfully recover from a loss:

1.    Reach out for support. Don't try to bear your loss or trauma alone. Ask for assistance from your friends, spiritual leaders, support groups and professionals. Remember, “we are as sick as we are secret” (the immortal words of American poet John Berryman, who sadly committed suicide because he himself could not reach out for support).
2.    Sit quietly and reflect. No matter the severity of your loss or trauma, sit quietly and ask yourself, "Historically, have I experienced other challenges in my life, and how did I navigate through them?" Now use these past experiences to tap into your internal courage and strength and explore whether you can implement the same strategies again.
3.    Trust your inner resources. Once you realize that you survived other losses and traumas before, trust in yourself to know that you have the ability to get through your present challenge. Say to yourself, “I am a person among persons, and what a person can do, I can do.”
4.    Learn to keep yourself centered through the unbearable feelings of grief. When the waves of sadness and helplessness wash over you, initially feel the emotion and its depth - without judgment or evaluation - but then start to breathe through the grief with slow, deep breaths. This will help you stay grounded and bring you back to the present.
5.    Start imagining a new life. Even though you are experiencing immense grief, which we all must face at some time or another, start to imagine and invent in your mind's eye a new future for yourself.
6.    Practice mindfulness. While doing grounding practices such as meditation, yoga or even walks in nature, remember that your loss is cyclical like the seasons. Even when we are in the depths of winter, we know that eventually it will become more manageable with the advent of summer. Learn to tolerate and pace yourself through the most severe times.


NOTE. This blog sets out a simple form of mindfulness sitting meditation.


See [in part] HUFFPOST LIVING  6 Mindful Strategies to Recover from the Shock of Loss
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