INTEGRATIVE + ONLINE PSYCHIATRY + HOLISTIC HEALTH

Tag: meditation

Planet in a hand with ocean and a butterfly

Pandemic LifeSavers

To ensure a safe journey through the present hazardous times of the COVID-19 pandemic, make wise choices.

Be vigilant to protect yourself and others from one of the most virulent and destructive viruses of the century. Keep tuned to the latest news and recommendation from reputable sources, but be careful to avoid any politically motivated misinformation. The COVID-19 infections and spread will continue until effective anti-viral drugs, vaccines, adequate testing, and contact tracing are available.

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Rooster crow morning wakeup

COVID-19 Wake Up Call

The current COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call to understand all the contributing factors, and steps needed to protect ourselves and future generations from recurrences and the devastation.

Hopefully, soon, COVID-19 will peak and subsides. Its rapid spread and lethality have had a devastating and tragic effect on the most vulnerable people and the vital infrastructure of our society. 

When the final analysis is done, what will be learned and taken away as practical ideas or as more profound wisdom? Some useful areas of interest and inquiry may focus on

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Promise of Light on other side of a Wood Bridge of wood bridge in deep forest crossing water stream and glowing light at the end of wooden ways; Copyright: khunaspix / 123RF Stock Photo

Expert Mentoring – A Key to Restoring Mental & Emotional Health

Escalating mental health, emotional or related health issues may signal the need for mentoring or guidance.

When help is needed, it can be difficult to find the outside expert support you need. Developing your own personal self as a resource can also be a challenge.

A person in distress often recognizes that their customary coping mechanism and level of support are inadequate. The dependence on learned ways of dealing with adverse life events often does not help for an overload of stressors and emotional turmoil. The experience for some is like being entrapped in a swirl of thoughts, painful emotions and images. Before distress reaches too high a level, is the time to reach out to others for help and guidance.

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African woman doctor checking patient's blood pressure -Copyright: rocketclips / 123RF Stock Photo

Holistic Approach to High Blood Pressure 2018

High blood pressure (BP) can be alarming when found during a medical visit or at any other time.

High blood pressure readings may be a wakeup call to take affirmative steps for your health. Natural holistic approaches, and integrative treatments, whether you are on medications or not, can help lower BP and bring benefits to important areas of your life, health, and wellbeing. Unnecessary medication use can carry the risk of falls, hip fractures, and drug-related mental and physical side effects; and more frequent visits to doctors’ offices and hospitals. A significant proportion of the U.S. national health care expense goes to treating high blood pressure. Inaccurate blood pressure measurements lead to overdiagnosis of hypertension, treatment, and use of unnecessary medications (1–4).

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scared businessman is falling into office chaos, Copyright: nomadsoul1 / 123RF Stock Photo

HELP FOR ADHD – ATTENTION – FOCUS

People with attention, focus, or ADHD difficulties can be at a disadvantage in work, academic, and social situations.

ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or also referred to as ADD – Attention Deficit Disorder), when diagnosed, allows for a workplace or school accommodations under ADA laws (American Disability Act).  Many with less apparent attention/focus (including ADHD) problems may not be considered impaired or disabled, even though they struggle to maintain focus and attention. When someone with focus or attention issues is in a positive fit with their life situation – operating within their capacity, they are often creative, talented, and productive citizens.

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Meditation, mindfulness, happiness - zen garden with massage stones and waterlily

Meditation – Mental Health Essential

Meditation, Mindfulness, or Introspective Practices

have well proven their value in holistic mental health work for mood, anxiety, addiction, and health issues. Meditation can be an essential tool for happiness and mental health. Enhancement of longevity and decrease in brain aging has also been demonstrated as an added benefit. In many other areas, there are proven benefits as in work, school, athletic performance, sleep, and creativity. The mere awareness in meditation – that thoughts and emotion are of a changing and transient nature – is enlightening for those felt imprisoned by harsh negative thoughts and emotions.

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huge hurricane over florida - hurricanes, depression, and recovery

Hurricanes, Depression, and Recovery

“Hurricanes, Depression, and Recovery” article is a story of one person’s tragedy from severe depression and hurricane losses. Experiencing a larger force of nature brought him not only to a deeper understanding of his life but to healing and recovery. The hurricane calamity also affected the multitude of people living in the same destructive path. The devastating hurricane or a storm can be compared to depressive illness: both need a path to recovery. A story presents one man’s journey of despair and loss, to redemption and healing.

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Pondering a Pond, saltwater flotation

The Saltwater Flotation Experience

Pondering a Pond

Are you unhappy with the results of your current too narrow focused physical or mental health care program? The failure to resolve your problems or to get optimal results might be from a program that has a too narrow or conventional focus. Considering exploring some complementary or alternative options that may help or enlarge your current healthcare work. The goals of doing so would be for regaining optimal health and well-being. The following is an article, looking at one of the potentially beneficial interventions or therapies that could support you in reaching your health and wellness goals.

The Invitation for Saltwater Flotation

A friend and colleague invited me to experience saltwater flotation in his Asheville program called Still Point Wellness. “Still Point” not only has a saltwater flotation tank but highly skilled massage therapists, which includes Esalen Massage, yoga therapy, massage workshops and a Somatic Psychologist. I had experienced a saltwater flotation tank session many years ago when visiting a yoga retreat center earlier in my career as an integrative internist and psychiatrist. My memory of it was pleasant and very relaxing. I was eager to give it another try, especially with my interest in integrative strategies for health and well-being.

Over the years I have had rich experiences in many different integrative approaches to mind, body and spiritual therapies like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. Water has always conveyed to me a meaning of cleansing, flow, flexibility, and consciousness. In Taoism – the Way – the represented symbol is water (see Existence – A Story, by David Hinton).  In yoga, both in prayer and song, the representation of consciousness is often the ocean. When I was nine years old and hospitalized with post-polio meningitis, I was treated with soaks in a hot tub and hyperthermia treatments (being wrapped in warm wet blankets). Years later, my father had come to visit after he had broken several ribs; he hadn’t slept well for weeks. When he rested on the waterbed I had at the time, his pain was relieved, and he slept like a “baby.” I was in the water a lot growing up as I had learned to swim with the “dead man’s float,” which is floating stretched out on my stomach. I even got to float in the Dead Sea during a visit to Israel.  I know now as an ardent swimmer that swimming is about being one with the water, learning the art of flow, technique, breath control, and streamlining. So, when I got the chance, I gladly accepted the invitation to return to a salt water float experience.

Saltwater Flotation Tank Details

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered, and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons (benefits) on his (her) fellow (people).”  — Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 1949, p. 30.

Before I take you on my “Hero’s Journey” – as I describe my three 90-minute float session experience –  in the salt water flotation tank, there are some interesting details about flotation.

Saltwater flotation tank sessions typically are either 60 or 90 minutes.  The flotation space is like a sacred sanctuary with minimal noise, darkness, and a marked reduction in the usual bombardment of stressful stimulation emanating from the outside world. The body floats on top of the comfortable, warm water that is supersaturated with Epsom Salt. The nervous system and brain settle down from its more active brain waves – from beta to the more relaxed Alpha – as it then drifts to the even more relaxed Theta, which appears near sleep or when coming out of sleep.  Enhancement of creativity, learning, problem solving, spiritual attunement and the gaining of a more enlightened perspective have been associated with these more relaxed brain states. Flotation research came to public attention through the research work of John Lilly and others who were interested in the effect of sensory deprivation on people’s bodies, brains, and nervous systems. Studies in the States and worldwide have supported the positive benefits of sensory deprivation and use of float tanks for various mental and physical health benefits: as pain reduction, stress reduction, anxiety and mood improvement.

One can experience saltwater flotation for relaxation as this can be a clearing for the mind and senses from outside stresses. Floating can help one go deeper into a more meditative and spiritual state of mindfulness, awareness, and being. In the state of deep relaxation and heightened receptivity, techniques or programs to foster change as self-hypnosis, other self-improvements or educational programs can be utilized. Floating in the Saltwater Flotation Tank allows better brain learning as this reinforces the integration of new learning material, which can improve performance skills for artists and athletes. Flotation also complements other therapy work, body work, and other healing methods. There are now flotation centers offering flotation therapy around the world with a continuing growth since the 1980’s. Several professional athletic teams utilize float tanks in their training facilities.

In Frank Lawson’s book, Psychoneuroplasticity Protocol for Addiction, he discusses the use of sensory deprivation in his addiction treatment program.  As stimuli, can have an addictive nature, whether drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, or any of the other readily available stimuli that our minds seek for entertainment, gratification, escape or stimulation. And it is easy to become not only addicted but a slave to the stimuli of choice, which can take over one’s life. This can lead to a loss of spontaneity, awareness, responsiveness, creativity, and focus on what is important or essential. Some flotation sessions in a therapy context may be a helpful tool for “stimulation addiction.” See Neuroplasticity article.

Flowing River, saltwater flotationStudies have shown that saltwater flotation sessions reduce elevated levels of stress hormones and increase beneficial hormones like dopamine and endorphin levels. Some of the benefits reported are lowering blood pressure, and aiding in the reduction of stress-driven illnesses and degenerative diseases, as well as improvement in day to day performance, longevity, memory, awareness, and well-being (see Awareness article) .

The positive effects of saltwater flotation can be achieved in other ways, but this could take longer periods of dedicated training, practice, and skill development just as it does with the Zen Monks in their years of monastery training. The use of meditation, yoga or other ways of gaining sensory deprivation and isolation, can also bring some of the similar benefits as floating.  Salt Water Flotation is ultimately a unique experience for each person and has the potential to have positive benefits for each and every one according to their needs.

For more detail and discussion about the salt water flotation tank, see the Still Point website and blog and an article there by Michael Hutchison who wrote a comprehensive book about salt water flotation. I enjoyed reading Hutchison’s excellent detailed book about floating and all the facts, history, scientific research, etc., The Book of Floating.

My experience in the Saltwater Flotation Tank

My float experience is similar to the Hero’s Journey, (see an article by William B. Hart – Hero’s Journey)  a theme Joseph Campbell develops in his book, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.”  The hero’s journey per Campbell has three stages as typically found in mythology – the departure, the initiation, and the return. As I had scheduled three floats, I felt the number three rang true for my anticipated “hero’s journey”.

“The Cave you Fear to enter Holds the Treasure you Seek” – Joseph Campbell – found on the wall of Asheville’s fabulous Elements restaurant.

The “Hero’s Departure” stage

according to Campbell, is the preliminary period before actually going into a new adventure. In my situation, this stage would be the planning and preparation for my anticipated salt water flotation. I become enticed or beckoned by a trusted friend and the call for adventure – to explore the unknown, expand personal growth and spirituality. I had the willingness to enter the portal into another world or space (the Float Tank) as the hero of myth goes on a quest. This departure period for me also was a time of recall of prior experiences with flotation and water-related experiences (some pleasant and some traumatic). My anxiety and ambivalence had to be overcome to follow through with the planned float.  A friend and an owner of Still Point Wellness helped to get me past any personal fears and reluctance. He gave me an overview of what to expect with Salt Water Flotation and some practical tips on participating in the process.

The final step in the initial departure stage of the “hero’s journey” is to pass the “thresh-hold guardian,” which enabled me to enter (the door into the float tank) the unknown entry way into the unfamiliar experience and the darkness. Still Point made all this pleasant with its well-trained staff. Complete guidance was given on how to enter, use the flotation tank, and about how the session would run: as the knock you would hear on the outside of the tank when your time was up, how to use the showers, ear plugs, towels if you got salt water in your eyes, how to exit the tank when needed, and of course much more.

The “Hero’s Initiation” stage

is the second of the three stages in the “Hero’s Journey” per Campbell. My initiation began at the point I entered the flotation tank for the first time and closed the door into the silent darkness, and pleasant softness of floating in the warm (near body temperature) Epsom salt saturated water. Rapidly, the unfamiliar becomes familiar with the onset of a soothing deep relaxation. My inquisitive mind became more and more active with general wonderment about the physical experience. I focused on some discomfort in my body, which led to some experimentation with body position. I then began to wonder about how much time had passed or when the session would be over. My general awareness then shifted toward observing just how active my mind had become out of the depth of silence. Specific residues of the content of my prior day’s activity and thoughts or worries came up. I found my mind looking for purposeful mental activities to do during the float, such as doing some periods of meditation and mantra, or observing for visual images to come out of my mind or from the darkness.
Swimming Hole, saltwater flotation

In my second float, I was much more relaxed with less mental activity as well as having some periods of being in and out of light sleep, which is called in the literature the “hypnogogic state.”  This is where deeper states of learning or the potential for making deep change in habits can occur. Awareness of time seemed to disappear. As I was preparing for a swimming competition, I spent a little time reviewing or rehearsing the sequence of events I would be doing. Flotation is used by performers and athletes and is reported to be helpful. After the float, I improved my swimming time in all five events in which I had participated.

The third float was very pleasant and seemed to go by quickly as I went into a deeper state of relaxation and meditation. There was an awakening of consciousness to the transient nature of thought and mind, from the silence and emptiness to the arising of a rich landscape of thoughts, ideas, and insights. The experience is as varied as individual differences and life experiences. There exists the potential benefit of new learning and perspective change.

The “Hero’s Return Stage”

is the third of the three stages in the “Hero’s Journey” per Campbell. When I exited the flotation tank, I began the task of integration of the float experience.  The difference in the body’s level of relaxation, the mind’s level of heightened awareness and sharper sensory acuity, and the new insights and learning – needed reflection and processing. Also, there was the new challenge of encountering the once familiar world through the changed mental, physical and spiritual perspective arising from the recent journey (float tank experiences). This process of reintegration is also helped by experienced helpers, teachers or mentors (as helpful staff at Still Point) and by reading and study with the books and the references noted in this article.

Water-lilly floatingAs floating is a process, there is a benefit to continuing the journey with more floats and processing, which is also true with other positive conventional and alternative learning, adventures, and therapies. If one becomes more aware, open, accepting, compassionate, restored, transformed, spiritually attuned, or enlightened, there is more potential not only to be helpful to one’s self but to others.

Ron Parks, MD, writer and Shan Parks, editor

Question/Comment:

Do you want to consider other strategies or options to gain improved health and wellness (comment below)?

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Awareness is often ignored, which is one of the most significant of factors for healing - opening the door to healing

Awareness – The Core of Healing

awareness opening door

“Why do you stay in prison when the door is wide open?”

From Rumi the 13th Century Sufi mystic poet

Awareness is often ignored, which is one of the most significant of factors for healing.

Developing awareness, especially to constricting attachments, is an important step in the recovery from illness and pain.  Centuries ago, the Buddha realized the link between suffering and attachment. In sickness, the mind tends to hold tightly to a narrowed set of thoughts, interpretations, and feelings. The repetitive focus leads to entrapment in the mental activity defining the health threatening conditions. The mind is naturally drawn to what is considered a threat as it then gives immediate attention to what the body needs. For healing to occur, however, there needs to be a shift towards a greater awareness and openness for new opportunities, solutions, positive health behaviors, adaptations, and skill development.

Someone who has chronic pain, addictions, depression, cancer or any life-threatening illness – experiences different levels of suffering during the disease. As a result from the illness, the person may find their mind is locked into thoughts about their losses. Fears may begin to develop regarding future difficulties. An individual may worry about death, the loss of function, or the capacity to work or care for one’s self or others. An important aspect of the healers work is to provide a listening presence, wise guidance and education. Also needed, is the sharing of techniques that facilitate the release from unhealthy attachment – especially to rigid ideas, concepts, and unproductive worries. The hope is to help alleviated pain and suffering, and to enhance healing and well-being.

The healing arts have adopted fundamental ideas, which were derived from schools of spiritual philosophy, psychology, and religion.

The value of bringing awareness to the mind’s activity are emphasized for both healer and sufferer, which then counter tendencies towards fixed or rigid ideas as well as judgments and reactions. The so-called self-ego is our developed mental sphere of self-centered awareness, which contains our patterns of reactivity and response. Tight identity with the self-ego has a relative functional role for us as it aids us in adapting, interrelating and functioning in the everyday world. This developed self-ego has locked in perceptions and ideas of what different experiences mean in regards to rewards, nourishment or threat. Depending on the type of learning, parenting and earlier life experiences, the self-ego gets imprinted with adaptive or maladaptive learned patterns, reactive thoughts (judgments), concepts, images, and responses. In the case of early life trauma, for example, patterns and reactive thoughts may be maladaptive with less flexibility to adapt to changing circumstance, which gets perpetuated as pain and suffering.    see article on: Trauma – PTSD

dark cloud to awarenessWith illness or severe loss, the developed self-concept of one’s world is held more tightly.

The person then begins to be less adaptable to change and feels more vulnerable, which intensifies his or her fear and suffering. The degree of pain depends on the level of attachment to one’s developed worldview or biased perceptions, so the tighter the attachment, the greater the person’s inflexibility –  resulting in suffering. With greater rigidity comes a lessened ability to adapt, to change, to heal or transform. It is considered a healing crisis when an opportunity exists that moves along the natural developmental lines towards openness, acceptance, flexibility and spiritual growth. If you examine the healing process and spiritual growth, the essential ingredient in both is the ability to experience or recognize a “felt sense,” which is larger than one’s embedded cluster of ideas, reactivities, and repetitive pattern of responses to experienced situations. The degree of pain depends on the level of attachment to one’s developed worldview or biased perceptions, so the tighter the attachment, the greater the person’s inflexibility – resulting in suffering. With greater rigidity comes more significant pain and a lessened ability to adapt, to change, to heal or transform. It is considered a healing crisis when an opportunity exists which moves along natural developmental lines towards openness, acceptance, flexibility and spiritual growth. If you examine the healing process and spiritual growth, the essential ingredient in both is the ability to experience or recognize a “felt sense,” which is larger than one’s embedded cluster of ideas, reactivities, and repetitive pattern of responses to experienced situations.

Attempts to define or describe the undefinable, this “felt sense” of the greater, larger, all-inclusive space of being, which can be considered the infinite space of potentiality — has led to confusion due too many concepts or terms generated from the many fields of human endeavor: as science, spirituality, religion, and mysticism.  see article on: Depression

One’s ability to gain freedom from mental or physical suffering and attachments is aided by:

  1.  realization of the healing space, which may be beyond one’s contrived limiting self-notions of what we believe
  2.  getting beyond personal rigid fixed ideas, concepts, and beliefs
  3. allowing for movement and release from repetitive thought, actions, and behaviors
  4. developing an openness to a sense of more possibilities, flexibility, fearlessness, peacefulness, and serenity

Awareness, openness, acceptance, and flexibility contributes to better life adaptation, recovery, and healing.

Being stuck in fixed behaviors or patterns may be part of the actual cause or the perpetuation of illness.

The ability to be flexible and to make a change contributes to healing. If caught in an inflexible self-ego, a clouded level of awareness, or a lack of spiritual insight, one truly is in the dance of suffering and decay; while one awaits a release to freedom, new expression, and new experiences.

Alba con cielo blu e nuvole

Most schools of spiritual development teach the importance of following some form of regular practice. Gradual movement is encouraged – from rational thoughts, feelings, emotions and body awareness, to the freeing experience of the profound silence and serenity – as in prayer, meditation or contemplation. The release into the peace of “open awareness” goes beyond the usual mental activity of interpretation and judgment.

Each tradition has teachings related to:

  • the care and nurture of the body, mind, and spirit
  • the achievement of greater happiness
  • the gaining of freedom from the bondage of entrapment in a shallow, unenlightened world of an inflexible self-ego.

With development and practice, the division of self-ego and the spiritual awareness melt away into an experience of oneness and unity.

The progression to enlightenment often follows a course of gradual awakening of awareness, along with total acceptance of change and impermanence, which allow one to experience the deep witnessing that is always eternally present. The experience of an enlightened consciousness can either happen as a sudden shift, or as a mere glimpse in the course of practices, or may occur after some catastrophic event or bout of severe suffering. Integrative psychiatry and nondual therapies support and nurture the development of a stronger, yet flexible sense of self, self-awareness and self-esteem as part of the healing process. The goal is to promote a better functioning and adaptability to everyday life stresses. At the same time, work is done to enhance the individual growth and development beyond the personal self –  as well as the entrapping experiences of everything being about me or mine, to the deeper and more expansive realm of spiritual realization.  This exists as the natural state of peace, happiness, well-being and release from suffering. See article on: The Secret

Some practices to consider, for integrative healing and joyful progress, which are along the different lines of personal, compassionate, and balanced development of a healthy body, mind, soul and spirit:

  • nondual oriented therapies
  • active, consistent exercise, along with a balanced program of rest and recreation
  • yoga, chi gong, and meditation
  • spiritual practices from either one’s background, or from other religious or spiritual traditions
  • addiction and substance abuse treatment – if needed
  • reducing exposure to harmful environmental toxins and allergens
  • correction of medical, metabolic or hormone issues
  • following a more nutritious, organic, plant-based diet with correction of deficiencies — vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids; and health enhancement with herbs and botanicals
  • massage, acupuncture, deep relaxation, and other body-based therapies
  • “other-serving,” volunteer and community service work; charitable and compassionate assistance to others in need; caring for a pet
  • communing with nature and caring for the environment (personal and outside).

Study with a credible, well-trained and trustworthy nondual therapists, a spiritual teacher or a mentor when the opportunity presents itself. Read and study – individually or in groups – the writings and teachings of the great spiritual teachers, as well as other philosophies, and traditions. Be compassionately present. Be who you are, fully aware, liberated and open to the all existing potentialities — not a “who” that is constricted by limiting mind programming, learning, or limiting sets of reactivity patterns as from trauma experiences.

written by Ron Parks, MD, edited by Shan Parks

Resources and References:

Website/Book – In Touch

Book – The Sacred Mirror

Book –  Listening from the Heart of Silence

Article –  The Fourth Wave of Behaviorism: ACT, DBT, and Nondual Wisdom

Website: Radiant Mind

Question:

Have you had a deep awareness or awakening experience that has brought a positive change in your personal healing or recovery? Please share if you wish or comment.

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