The craze for meditation, could it be a response to the increasingly acute demands of capitalism?

People who come for therapy, all at one point, seem to consider going for activities such as yoga or meditation. They say they are keen to ‘capture’ these techniques in order to increase their performance and feel they will be more productive in their everyday life. Certain companies are creating outlets for meditation and run their own programme so that their employees can be more focused at work and perform better.

The development of practices today regarding yoga or meditation is not contradictory to the foundations of meditation, but could it at times limit its purpose? There is a hysteria of performance in our urban world, which can make one deviate from the aim to make contact with one’s self.

I wonder if when someone is into yoga, are they aware to what extent they are using it more of as a technique or a space to be in.

Meditation consists of observing one’s sensations and emotions and has the goal to create a safe and free space which reduces less reaction from us to events. It helps us to get to know each other better, to be aware that happiness is a mental state we can access. The trap is that if it works, then we seek to use it more and more to be more successful and focus on doing it as a ‘task’. But is this the original purpose of the practice?

My understanding is that through yoga or meditation one looks to go deep down inside, to search an understanding of what is happening, to position oneself as a spectator of one’s emotions, to stop and pause from constant mental stimulation. This means we should be able to feel  and sit with the sadness, the discouragement, the anger, the impatience… To accept that we are not able at times to fully “manage” our emotions.

Written by:
Saveria Cristofari

SACAC Counselling

Recognizing and Redefining Resilience

In this age of buzzwords and self-help topics it is often easy to get overwhelmed with all of the recommendations of what we need in order to manage difficulties in our life; one of those very concepts is “resilience.” Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines resilience as: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change. 

What if we expand that definition to include the ability of “moving through?” As Eric Greitens explains in his book, “Resilience: hard won wisdom for living a better life,” we can never go back from a trauma or difficulty to who we were before, there is no bouncing back. We change because of it, we move through it.  

Situations of death, loss, work stress, family problems, infidelities, health problems and even academic challenges have the ability to make us feel alone, weak, vulnerable and confused. These are the situations that can, at best test our resolve and at worst shake the foundations of our life. It is our choosing how to deal with them that defines our resilience. 

Part of being able to move through difficulty is having someone by our side, helping us when we feel like we can’t do it anymore.  Resilience requires courage and vulnerability to allow others to support us when we don’t feel strong enough to carry on. Building better resilience is not a solo act; it requires a troupe.

Resiliency involves not only the courage to reach out and connect; it also involves learning from life’s painful experiences.  Learning how to use the experiences to deepen our sense of self and honoring what we have been through. Using painful experiences as an opportunity for self-discovery is an important aspect moving through misfortunes. 

In order to be able to discover and appreciate who we are in light of our circumstances, we need acceptance and compassion, not comparison. In tough times, it is important to not compare ourselves to how others handle difficult situations.  Nor should we judge ourselves based on how we think we “should” handle a stressful event. By accepting ourselves and where we are in our own journey, we give ourselves permission to “move through” and heal from traumatic events. Compassion and self-acceptance reminds us that resiliency looks different for everyone. 

When tragedy strikes and it takes all our effort to even breathe let alone brush our teeth; we call on our resilience. We breathe, we get up, we persevere. There is no measure for how well we are doing it.  Just keep moving through, keep discovering and keep remembering our darkest times are the alchemy of our soul.

So often we think we aren’t strong enough to handle the problems that life throws at us, we get lost and confused in the details. The truth is we are all resilient; we all have the capacity to overcome, adjust and develop skills to cope with difficulties. We only need to recognize them and develop those tendencies that support us in the “moving through” and growing from challenging times.  

By redefining resilience, we are able to recognize it when we need it. What we go through, overcome and learn from, are all defining characteristics of who we are.  And who we are is resilient.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Eric Greitens, “Resilience  Hard won lessons for living a better life”

Written by: 
Kimberly Fisel
Marriage and Family Therapist
SACAC Counselling

Managing Your (Consuming) Mind (PART 1)

Our ancestors grew up in a very different world to us; over the 2 or 3 million years we have been evolving into Homo Sapiens, they didn’t have any choice about whether to exercise, and eating fatty foods were not something they had a choice about. So our modern problems of diet, exercise and sitting still for hours were not things we have evolved to deal with. We have to learn ways to deal with them – but how? Here are the first four of eight simple slogans:

Your environment matters
Much of what we do we do by habit. Our environment cues our behaviour – often without our being aware of it. So if we want to change we may need to alter the environment. So if you need to diet, you may need to start by getting rid of the snacks usually lurking in the cupboard, perhaps using smaller than usual plates and glasses, and eating before you shop (you buy more when you are hungry). If you need to change study habits, start by tidying and finding places for the essentials, put up some new posters (or take the old ones down), and put the desk in a new position.

The future you matters:
We tend to worry about the present and the immediate future, and not think enough about the longer term. Brain imaging studies suggest that when we think about the future, the areas dealing with the self are surprisingly inactive, while areas dealing with other people are active. We seem to be strangers to our future selves. But we can tweak this: we can put more colour and feeling into images of our future selves. This helps make the longer-term choices more real, and more likely to alter what we do. We can talk about our futures with someone we trust – the more detail we can put in, the more likely it will influence our behaviour.

You aren’t aware of all of yourself:
Habits are difficult to change; most of the time, we go on doing what we are used to. If you really want to change, you may need to become aware of this and admit you are not consciously in charge of your own behaviour. But if you believe you can change, you are more likely to be able to change. In other words, will power is important and it can be developed through practice. Don’t expect to become strong willed all at once – but don’t give up quickly either. By choosing steps of the right kind for you, you can change direction.

Stress can change things:
Under a lot of stress we tend to choose less well, for example eating less healthy but more attractive food or drinks. We cannot avoid all stress, and it’s not so much the levels of stress hormone in our bodies but more the way we think about the stress that affects our choices. So learning to manage stress is very helpful. This includes making wrong decisions – we do best when we learn from the mistakes without beating ourselves up about them!

Four more good thinking habits to come in Part 2!

Written by:
Dr. Tim Bunn
Consultant Educational Psychologist

SACAC Counselling