Heart & Spiritual Wellness, Inner Renovations

Engaging the 5 Senses to Overcome Eyewitness Overload

photo credit: mikedaledesign
photo credit: mikedaledesign

More is going on in the world than our brains can process in a sensible manner.  Opinions fill our minds, comparisons, contrasts, attempts to decipher the truth and other mental phenomena that have us dealing with fatigue just from a segment of the non-stop 24-hour sensationalized news.  And we won’t even get into the accompanying emotions – if they can even be called that anymore.  At this point, the emotions we are experiencing have become so consistent in their state that they can probably now be classified as full on conditions.  An extended state of worry is no longer just worry, but has progressed into being considered anxiety.  And prolonged anxiety eventually leads to those dreaded panic attacks. I’ll stop referring to it now because the very thought of those emotions sometimes evokes them and we have been triggered enough.

ENOUGH.  This is the keyword. The thought around which we build our next course of action.  ENOUGH.  It is time to create safer spaces within ourselves and to improve our own mental environments.  You have had ENOUGH accounts of negativity in the world – far and near – and have a general idea of what is going on around you and that is ENOUGH.  What deserves more of your attention at this time, is how are feeling?  How is your family feeling?  If you all are experiencing the stress and emotional fatigue that I suspect (because I myself have had to check in to make sure that I too am okay), then it is probably time to discover ways to RESTORE, BALANCE, and CONSERVE your precious energy.

                In this article, we will engage the 5 senses as a way of reconnecting with ourselves and bringing our attention away from the storms around us to connect with the peace and quiet that lives within us.  Using our senses as little guideposts to draw our attention gently back in is an easy mindfulness exercise that you can use right smack dab in the middle of anything and anywhere.  Choose whichever is easiest for you to accomplish at the time, or involve all of them in the same moment of You-Time that you create for yourself.

  • SIGHT: Find something beautiful to look at.  Nature is always a shoe in, but if that’s not possible at the moment – make sure you’re carrying a visually engaging photo, book, postcard or something that positively sparks your imagination or draws you into a serene scene
  • SOUND: Earbuds can be your bestfriend sometimes. With so many apps and mp3s of guided meditations or relaxing sounds, you can transport yourself into a calming space by closing your eyes and drifting into sonic bliss.
  • TOUCH: You know how good it feels when you put a warm blanket fresh out the dryer over you.  Or how good it feels to rub against something soft because touch is kind of a big deal.  Snuggle with a favorite blanket, wear a cozy sweater, get a little stuffed animal to rub – your brain will appreciate being to change the channel to a comforting sensation (even if someone does wonder why you’re rubbing a little furry keychain – don’t worry about that, it’s for your mental health!)
  • SMELL: Scents are powerful. So maybe you’re not ready to go full aroma-therapy yet, you can still find an oil, perfume, incense – or even a box of dryer sheets – that you decide to smell to shift your attention onto something pleasant. Our brains respond powerfully to smell, and if you inhale a scent while engaging in self-soothing thoughts, “I am relaxed, I am blessed today, these are the things I am grateful for,” while inhaling, eventually you’ll associate that scent with your peaceful moments.
  • TASTE: Ok so, we’re usually pretty good at this one. Especially us stress eaters.  So practicing this in a healthy way improves our responses to stress and emotional overwhelm in 2 ways.  To bring your attention to the present moment and give yourself something that you enjoy, feel free to taste the goodness of life.  Is that ice cream?  Is that a flavor of gum that you chew while having self-encouraging thoughts?  Is that a cup of tea that you sip as you read the promises of God?  Treat yourself when you need to, in a healthy way.

Remembering that the goal is to RESTORE, BALANCE, and CONSERVE our precious energy, we engage in these practices in a mindful way so that the effects we experience are positive, life-giving, and healthful.  Don’t overdo anything.  Do just enough to draw your attention back in to what is important, what deserves love, and what is the most meaningful in this moment.

~ CCB

Heart & Spiritual Wellness, Inner Renovations

Re-Establish Yourself in Love

reestablished in love


Over the years, you may have noticed that many changes have occurred in the way that you see things, do things, and the way that you feel. This could be attributed to maturity, or the natural changes that occur with time. However, if we look carefully enough, we may see that some of the changes that have come about are of a more protective nature – defenses that have been created in order to keep from being hurt again.

Have you noticed that you’ve become less trusting? Or maybe a bit more standoffish? And what about your sense of security, been feeling more insecure lately? It is interesting because there was a notion when we were children that we would organically become stronger in those areas as adults. But fact of the matter is, due to the pain and disappointments we’ve endured, it is possible that we have become even lower functioning in certain areas. So what do you do when you find that’s the case?

After becoming emotionally distant, distrusting, guarded, jaded (and all of the other defensive responses that occur as a result of our heartbreaks, setbacks, and letdowns) it is important to take a few rejuvenating steps to get back on track and work towards positive mental health.


Be willing to admit the areas you’re struggling in.

                If you’re anything like me, you’ve done a great job at convincing yourself that, sure you have a few things to work on but you’re not doing that bad, right? It is one of the grandest tricks that we play on ourselves – ignoring what we need to be working on by making claims that we could be worse. This is true, we could always be worse, but that does not give us permission to downplay the areas that need improvement. We have to be willing to admit where we are falling short, notice the areas that give us the most trouble, and acknowledge that we could stand more development to be happier, healthier, mature individuals.

Ask for feedback, accept it graciously.

                It is not always obvious to us where we are the most vulnerable. In fact, if our defense mechanisms are doing their jobs effectively, then we may actually believe that we are doing just fine and it’s everyone else with the problem. So don’t be afraid to ask those that care about you, where they perceive you are the most vulnerable. Say, “What are my hotspots, what subjects do you tiptoe around when talking to me, what have you noticed sets me off?” Trust me, they will jump at the opportunity to tell you what they’ve been thinking but needed your permission to say. It is up to you to be prepared to receive the information in a healthy way.

Ask for help, build supports.

                Now that you’ve had some heart-to-hearts with yourself and others, you at least know a few things about yourself that have been holding you back. Maybe you’ve heard that you’ve started being difficult to talk to or make a connection with. Maybe you’re now aware that you’ve become paranoid about others’ intentions towards you. Perhaps you took an honest look at your need to be perceived as perfect and have decided that is a lie way too hard to live up to. Whatever it is that you’ve discovered, the next step is to ask for help with the matter. Go to God in prayer and ask for these character defects to be removed, and ask to be shown how you should go about making changes in those areas. Yes, we’re intellectuals with amazing resources and cool technology but let us not underestimate the power of prayer when we’re trying to make real change. Also, look for professional and self-help resources in the areas that you are working on so that you have an arsenal of material to feed your mind while you are on the journey overcoming those ways about yourself that you’ve decided just aren’t working anymore. Build good supports with friends and family. Just let them know what you’re targeting and give them permission to draw your attention to old patterns so that you have an accountability team with you along the way.

Step outside your comfort zone to get unstuck.

                If there was a way that we could change with very little effort, I’d be taking that way. There isn’t one. In fact, it is grueling work rewiring our brains that are used to following the same circuits for years and years. So the only way that we are going to create new patterns, more constructive roads towards success, is to take the uncomfortable way. You can’t work on your problem of being closed off until you’re willing to risk opening up to someone. You won’t be able to resolve that social awkwardness without putting yourself into more social situations. You aren’t going to be able to overcome the tendency to distrust others until you give someone else a chance. Steps like these are outside of our comfort zone, but until we are willing to get back in there and create new experiences, we are stuck in our pseudo-safe little boxes that have stunted our growth. To get unstuck requires courage and risk.

Re-establish yourself in love.

                What is your default setting? In various circumstances do you default to fear? Anger? Frustration? Complaining? Take some time for self-examination and determine what your default mode is. Then think about how it would feel if your most common inner experiences involved: love, peace, contentment, acceptance, appreciation, and other life-giving states like these. You can create that atmosphere in your life. By putting everything back into its proper perspective, where God is the center of it all; and having an accurate perspective of who God is (Love), you can re-establish yourself in something that transcends your shortcomings and the problems of this world.

Re-establish yourself in love, and operate from that space. No longer allowing ourselves to crystallize in our defenses, we remain open to the experiences that are brought into our lives and accept that all will work together for the good of those that love the Lord. We do not wallow in our past or allow the behaviors of others to influence our state of mind, but instead consistently affirm that we are borne of love, protected by, and here to share love.

We trade our fears for the greatest thing of all, Love. We keep our feet firmly rooted like trees planted by the water, continuously re-establishing ourselves in love until we are like those described in the Psalms – bearing fruit in our season, prospering in all we do.

~ CCB

Heart & Spiritual Wellness, Inner Renovations, Videos and Media

Personal Peace is a Super Power


There are a lot of things that we are taught during the early years of our lives under the guise that they are important to know for our success as human beings. However, I can’t remember the last time an algebraic formula saved my life. I would have appreciated a class on “How to Maintain Peace in the Face of Challenge,” or a cognitive-behavioral based course titled “You are Not Your Thoughts” offered around the 4th grade. A ‘How-To Survive Life with Your Sanity’ style curriculum starting in kindergarten would probably have reduced the individual instances of mental health conditions and contributed to a more stable society as a whole. Yes, I know… reading, writing and arithmetic – but that could’ve been covered in the span of a year with the remainder of our youth education being focused on life skills, interpersonal effectiveness, dealing with emotion, loving ourselves, and having a healthy relationship with God. But, dreams.

In reality, it takes for us to get to a certain point in life where we notice our own dysfunctional patterns and decide to do something about it. One of the main commodities that we reach for is peace. Which really isn’t a “commodity” at all but when we don’t experience it, we do view it as a thing to attain. The truth is, it’s really a state that exists within us that’s been there the entire time. And on an even deeper level, we realize that peace is our essential nature – supporting the inferences that everything we need is already inside of us and the “Kingdom of God is within” per Jesus.

Prayer, meditation, and visualization are means of moving into a state of consciousness that puts us more in tune with our source of peace. Prayer allows us to speak to God. Meditation allows us to hear from God. And visualization is how we co-create our experience which is a blend of our free will and God’s will for us (as a sidenote, we ultimately want to get to a place where we use our free will to stay in the will of God).

Our journey will have many challenges. We may create unnecessary complexities. Life will continue to throw intense situations our way. There may be unexpected circumstances beyond our control. What we can control is our approach. By taking an approach of peace – peace of mind and spirit which comes from trusting that all things have a purpose and somehow come together in mysterious ways for the glory of God – we are able to survive with our sanity, and actually enjoy this gift of life we’ve been given.

~ CCB

 

Heart & Spiritual Wellness, Inner Renovations

Don’t Tell Me to BREATHE

Breathe

My life was so busy, that I was forgetting to breathe. I was doing more of a low-grade hyperventilation as my stress and anxiety were propelling my legs and flailing my arms in whatever direction it seemed would alleviate the moment’s tension. That’s not living. Unless you’re a chicken with her head cut off. And then, I guess that chicken isn’t really living either.

Something had to change. If I didn’t want to age 20 years in the next 20 minutes, then I would have to find a way to connect with the moment in a healthy and meaningful way. I would have to learn how to stop and feel the sun, experience the rain, accept the love, and truly live. I wanted to do more than just exist.

And so, I did the opposite of what it means to die. In death, there is the absence of breath – and so I invited in that which must be life. I started to BREATHE.


Are you too complex and sophisticated to accept an instruction that is so simple? BREATHE.

Does it seem too elementary to truly be an answer to the collegiate-level problems in your life? BREATHE.

Is it insulting to think that you have invested so much time, money, and energy into finding solutions and it is being suggested that said solution starts when you simply BREATHE?

I only ask because I thought myself to be too complex (and my issues too advanced) to trifle with such diminutive suggestions as “BREATHE.” It was insulting, and in fact nothing would get me more enraged than when I was already at the edge of panic (if not in full-blown) and someone dared make such a barbarous suggestion to me as BREATHE!


Fast forward to NOW. Find us in the moment. Here, in the present I have the deepest appreciation for the healing qualities of a DEEP BREATH. See, we’re not just talking about that shallow breathing that happens as we’re flying through our day, sometimes not even noticing that we’re holding our breath waiting for the next ball to drop. BREATHE is an invitation to engage in slower, deeper, more life giving, breathing. It is the entrance to clarity in the mind, to interrupt the run-on sentences in your mind that disguise themselves as meaningful thoughts – when really they’re just run-on sentences. To BREATHE, in a conscious and purposeful way is to become a part of the process to connect your heart, with your spirit, with your mind and to literally gather yourself – get yourself together, to start moving towards the hottest commodity of all… PEACE.

Isn’t that what we all want: PEACE? And what if someone told you that the first step towards experiencing peace starts with something so simple: BREATHE. Would you keep hyperventilating your way through life? Or perhaps you would seek to experience the essence of life in a more spirit-led way, allowing yourself to take in a certain healing elixir that can only enter your being as you slow down, become present in the moment, aware of the Great I Am Presence: as you BREATHE.

~ CCB

Heart & Spiritual Wellness, Inner Renovations

What Have You Done For You Lately

first love yourselfWe work overtime for others ~ attending to their needs, paying attention to what is important to them, trying to figure out what we can do to make their worlds a better place to be. But when it comes to giving that same love, affection & attention to ourselves it is often put on the back-burner as we focus on so many things around us.

At what point do we stop to make ourselves the priority? Not in a self-centered, egocentric, selfish type of way; but in a self-preserving, accepting and nurturing kind of way. It’s time to do something important for yourself – turn up your self-care.

Become More Aware of Your Inner Dialogue

What are you saying to yourself? Are they self-encouraging thoughts that help you get through difficult times? Or are they self-defeating thoughts that make it difficult to love yourself? It’s time to start thinking in ways that give you that little extra push, like you have a personal life coach in your head encouraging you to move forward. This is a great way to start taking care of yourself. Communicating to yourself that you are:

* special

* worthy

* loved

* beautiful

* successful

* talented

* lovable

* and anything else you can think of to show love to yourself!

Check Your Credentials

Remember that you are no rookie to this life thing. You have earned a few stripes and deserve awards for the things you have already accomplished. Surely you recognize your own strength by now. Remind yourself of what you have already been through and how far you have come in life. There is nothing wrong with reviewing your list of accomplishments to serve as a little pick-me-up from time to time. As you set and reach new goals, make sure they are about what you want and not about what someone else wants for you. Be great for yourself!

Love Others Without Losing Yourself

There are very special people in our lives that we love, and we want them to be happy. That’s great! But there is someone else in each person’s life that deserves to be happy too… themselves! The same way we go out of our way to create beautiful moments and comfortable situations for the people we care about, we have to care enough about ourselves to do the same thing for us. Love, but not so hard that you disappear in the process. There’s a pattern to it that goes like this:

1. Love others

2. Love yourself

3. Love others

4. Love yourself

5. Love others

6. Love yourself

You get the picture.

Some people are really good at projecting an image of self-acceptance and confidence, but don’t actually feel the sense of love for who they are and what they’ve accomplished. Let it be real for you. Treat yourself with the sort of understanding and appreciation that you give to others.

Today, why not remind yourself that you have found the wisdom in mistakes that have been made; you accept the current circumstances as being yet another step moving you closer to your destiny; and you look forward to being a great support system for yourself – with unconditional love for YOU.

~ CCB