Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Seven Virtues: Jade Braden

Seven Virtues
By Jade Braden

When I was in my senior year of high school, out of all the subjects we discussed, my English teacher enjoyed talking about the medieval ages to the class with heartfelt excitement. In particular, his favorite subject was King Arthur’s knights. What made these medieval men stand out to him were the codes of honor that those knights practiced rigorously which showed signs of a true knight. Following the completion of high school, I realized that knights were not the only ones capable of gaining these virtues that were memorable enough to write stories and poems about these great men. Numerous sources, from Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato, to the Catholic catechism describe these “knightly” virtues into seven specific virtues.
In the Catholic catechism, the seven virtues were categorized into two sections: the four cardinal virtues include prudence, justice, restraint (temperance) and courage (fortitude) and then the three theological virtues are faith, hope, and love (charity).  Another individual named Aurelius Prudentius later revised the list of virtues through his poem, “Psychomachia” (or “Battle/Contest of the Soul”) as the seven heavenly virtues to combat the seven deadly sins which many people such as you may have heard about through the media’s popular portrayal of these vices. These virtues became chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility.
In this blog entry, I am offering the audience a chance to view these virtues, their vices and the meanings associated with those virtues. As you read each virtue, consider the roles of these virtues or counteracting vices in your life and how you, close ones, or society reacted to any virtue or vice active in your life. Often, people are not aware of the vices that take hold of them but by recognizing the vices, the person receives the option to continue fulfilling vices or appeal to a contrary virtue. Ultimately, the choice is up to that individual. With that, glean what you can from the list of virtues with their respective vices and enjoy!

- Virtue: (Vice)
i.e., Alternative meaning of virtue word
Meaning of virtue

- Chastity: (Lust)
i.e., Purity, knowledge, honesty, wisdom
Incorporating chastity is to abstain from sexual contact, refraining from intoxicants. One becomes honest with oneself and others. One embraces moral wholesomeness and achieving purity of thought through education and betterment.

- Temperance: (Gluttony)
i.e., Self-control, justice, honor, abstention
There is constant mindfulness of others and one’s surroundings. One takes caution to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time. There is proper moderation between self-interest versus public-interest, and against the rights and needs of others.

- Charity: (Greed)
i.e., Love, will, benevolence, generosity, sacrifice
Charity is not the same as simply giving money out to homeless people. Charity or Love as a congruent definition is loving kindness towards all others, self-sacrificial. The sacrificing of oneself can include a sacrifice of one’s time, services, finances, etc.

- Diligence: (Sloth)
i.e., Persistence, effort, ethics, rectitude
One has a zealous and careful nature in ones’ work and actions. One has a decisive work ethic, is steadfast in belief, fortitude, and has the capability of not giving up. One budgets ones’ time, monitoring one’s own activities to guard against laziness. One upholds ones’ convictions regardless if others are watching or not, indicating integrity.

- Patience: (Wrath)
i.e., Peace, mercy, sufferance
There is forbearance and endurance through moderation. One resolves conflicts and injustice peacefully as opposed to resorting to violence. One accepts the grace to forgive, show mercy to others. Create a sense of community and stability.

- Kindness: (Envy)
i.e., Satisfaction, loyalty, compassion, integrity
Empathy and trust without prejudice or resentment. There is unselfish love and voluntary kindness without bias or spite. One has positive outlooks and a cheerful demeanor. One inspires kindness in others.

- Humility: (Pride)
i.e., Bravery, modesty, reverence, altruism
It involves modest behavior, selflessness, and the giving of respect. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. It is a spirit of self-examination. Courage of the heart is necessary to undertake tasks which are difficult, tedious or unglamorous, and to graciously accept the sacrifices involved. There is reverence for those who have the wisdom and those who selflessly teach in love. One gives credit where its’ due while not unfairly glorifying one’s one self. One becomes faithful to promises, no matter how big or small they can be. One refrains from despair and the ability to confront fear and uncertainty, or intimidation

Hunger Cues: Katie Davis

Are You Hungry?

One approach I teach when working clients at The Awakening Center is Intuitive (or Mindful) Eating. Intuitive eaters eat when they are hungry and stop when they feel satisfied. We all had the ability to do this as babies. Have you ever tried to take food from a baby or small child who is still hungry? It’s not pretty! Unfortunately, as we grow older, many of us lose the ability to not only recognize but - more importantly - to trust our body’s cues of hunger and fullness. The good news is that this skill can be re-learned, leading to a comfortable and healthy long-term relationship with food.

One common struggle in the process toward becoming an intuitive eater is recognizing when the body is signaling hunger. Many clients incorrectly believe that they should only respond to stomach growling. In fact, the body gives us many signals that it is time to eat…and oftentimes stomach growling is the very last cue.

The next time you are trying to determine whether or not you are hungry, look for these physical cues or signals. This is your body saying “I need more energy!”
  •  Headache: Note - try to drink 1 cup of water and wait 15 min in case you are in fact dehydrated. If headache persists, it is time to eat.
  • Fatigue/lack of energy: A particularly good hunger cue if it has been >3-4 hours since you last ate
  • Dizziness: When sitting or upon standing
  • Problems concentrating on a task or focusing on a conversation
  • Nausea: Often occurs when other hunger cues have been ignored and extreme hunger has set in
  • Stomach growling or hunger pains: Clearly it’s time to eat!

Many of these signals (i.e. headaches, dizziness, etc.) originate in the brain because the brain gets priority when it comes to energy supply. Plus the brain runs 95% on energy from glucose, which is mainly derived from carbohydrate intake. So it is not surprising that if hunger is ignored for too long, oftentimes cravings for high-carbohydrate foods set in. High-carbohydrate food are quick, easy source of glucose. Your brain is smarter than you think!

Some clients claim they can go for hours during the day and feel no hunger at all. Keep in mind that caffeine, stress and focusing on an important task can all affect our ability to “hear” our body signaling us. To better listen, make an effort to stop what you are doing every few hours and become aware of your body and any signals that might be present. Take a few deep breaths or go for a quick mindful walk. You may find that you were in fact hungry all along, but simply forgot to listen.

Katie Davis, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN offers both individual and group nutrition counseling at The Awakening Center. For more info call Katie at (773) 929-6262  x24.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off, Start All Over Again

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off, Start All Over Again

"Nothing's impossible I have found, for when my chin is on the ground, I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again" (Lyrics by: Dorothy Fields / Music by: Jerome Kern).

On the path to recovery, to a greater understanding of oneself, or even just an improved outlook – it can be tempting to beat oneself up whenever life throws a curveball and a moment or a day or a week occurs that makes you feel like you have messed it all up.  It can sometimes feel like you have to press the reset button on all of your progress, and that nothing you accomplished before that difficult moment counts anymore.  I know I have struggled with this concept.  I felt that if my recovery or my plans for self-improvement weren’t just perfect, that I either wasn’t doing it right or I was just a failure.  I was living in this black and white world where there wasn’t room for progress, only “perfection”.  Then one day I was introduced to two concepts that actually made me pause and reflect on how I was approaching my life.  I was told that I couldn’t push the river, it was simply going to flow as it needed to.  I was also told that if I did find my “chin on the ground”, to be a gentle cop; meaning to acknowledge that perhaps I had experienced something difficult, and perhaps didn’t make the best decision in the moment, but that I didn’t have to beat myself up so badly that I couldn’t even get up again.  I could love myself, understand that I’m human, and just get back up again and continue down my path.  As I adopted these thought patterns and practiced them, I found that I did indeed become more gentle with myself, and over time I actually stopped perceiving myself to be on the ground so much.  It just felt like life, and I was walking down my path with a greater feeling of Self-love and Self-acceptance.  If you find yourself in a moment with your chin on the ground, perhaps you can practice pausing, remembering you can’t push that river of Life, and gently remind yourself that it’s OK, you’ve still accomplished so much, and you are experiencing your journey and your recovery exactly the right way for you.  You don’t even have to start all over again – you simply pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep moving onward.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Falling Apart: Erin Diedling

Falling Apart
By: Erin Diedling

Falling Apart, Coming Unglued, Becoming Unraveled…It’s Good Stuff. No. really.
The idea of it sends most people running, saying uncle or plugging their ears. But it is also an act of being. An act of bravery. I speak from the front lines.
I have the great privilege to work with the brave clients who seek help in dealing with a binge-purge cycle, ADHD, OCD or the myriad other smart ways their nervous systems attempt to right the proverbial ship. I find that these clients use these tactics because they are simply looking for a way to defend against what may feel like a greater emotional pain. It’s actually quite intelligent of the body and psyche to defend against what feels scary and overwhelming. They may fear that if they don’t defend against the overwhelm, they may fall apart. But don’t underestimate the power of coming unglued…the genius of falling apart.
This is usually the difference between a client who goes away to treatment and a client who tolerates the suffering so as not to go away to treatment. That’s what treatment centers are FOR – for clients to fall apart and to have multiple safety nets in place as they do fall to pieces. It is the grateful kind of falling to pieces.
Most of the work I do in a private practice setting, while working with trauma, eating disorders and blocked artists/creatives has to do with controlled little-falling-aparts. Clients keep it together during the week and then come the weekly appointment, in a safe incubator they fall apart a tiny bit in session, do some psychoeducation, and get back on the road of day-to-day life armed with new tools and skills.
In our offices, at The Awakening Center, in a quiet, non-shaming and safe way, we hold a space for clients to gently sink into and feel those emotions. We invite them to sense inside and find a voice, an image, a color, a sense, an expression for that small quiet or scared part to speak up, to be scared, and to get the comfort – to FEEL the comfort and finally get what she needed, even if it is 20 or 30 years after the scary, annoying or triggering incident.
Sometimes it is in the falling apart that the true self can come forth. In allowing ourselves space, time and permission to fall apart, we allow things to ultimately fall INTO place.
I recently had an experience going into what I affectionately call, “the dark night of the soul”. And I don’t say that lightly. It was some of the most difficult, albeit intentional, raw space I’ve ever handled. It is my job to keep others safe. To keep it together. To be a healing force for the mental health of my clients and to forge greater awareness of trauma treatment in the world.
And yet, at the core of me, I knew I needed to fall apart. So I did. I gave myself time, space, permission and the required ethical time away from client work to go through whatever it was that would get me where I knew I needed to go. I craved greater self love. I craved putting my emotions as a priority. I wanted to KNOW what interested me. But I grew up in an environment which put all that on the back burner. There was always a fire to put out, there was always chaos or oppression to dodge.
I see this in my clients. When kids grow up in that kind of home and I ask them as adults what they prefer, what they like, what they desire, I’m often met with silence and a faraway stare. This is a new question to a client who grew up in chaos and/or trauma. If we’re lucky, we’ll actually have time to explore those preferences in therapy. They may have habits, ways to regulate the nervous system, ways to stay safe via ADHD, OCD, restricting or binging and purging, etc, etc. Habits to stay safe are one thing. But when you ask them what they WANT, what is fun, what is worth it, what is desirable, what makes them tick????? Well, that is a whole other ballgame.
Counselors often attract the kind of client they are or the kind of client who has been through what the counselor has been through. Hopefully, a good and ethical counselor will continuously do the internal work so that she can be a wise and experienced resource to her clients. That experience can only add to the compassion within the therapeutic alliance.
My compassion has increased as I see clients who are looking at the potential for unraveling. I let them know that it doesn’t have to happen all at once. That they have their answers inside. That finding the answer may involve some falling apart. It may also involve some joy.
For me, in the process of falling apart, I trusted in the universe and I trusted that the child inside could and would get the support she needed. I joyfully sank into the trust of the universe. And interestingly, the universe delivered. Gratefully, colleagues, healers, friends, even strangers showed up for me in such unusual places. I got everything I needed and more. And my heart is broken open, inviting, but protected and radiating trust. This is all new.
So, you say you’re afraid of falling apart? It’s pure genius. Go for it!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Slowing Down and Being Present: Deandra Christianson, Intern

Slowing Down and Being Present
By: Deandra Christianson

Lately, I have noticed, more than usual, the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Everyone is in a hurry, has somewhere to be, a cell phone attached to one hand, and coffee in the other. People are honking if the person in front of them doesn’t move his or her foot from the break to the gas pedal fast enough after the light turns green. Everyone must constantly “go, go, go!” Now add to the mix cell phones, texting, e-mails, Internet, and computers, and we truly can be reached almost anytime, anywhere.

Personally, this all gets to be a lot. I have started challenging myself to live in the moment and notice the experiences around and inside of me more frequently. Taking a deep breath can bring me to a place of awareness, but sometimes it takes a little more work. This usually happens when I am stressed out or overwhelmed by all that needs to be done. In those times, it feels as if all I can think about is the daunting “TO DO” list. When this occurs, I go through my senses and try to pay attention to what each one is experiencing in that particular moment.

When I practice being in the moment, I am brought to a place of gratitude. I am better able to see all of the wonder and beauty around me. Being in the moment helps me forgive and move on from the past and to not worry about what is to come.

And of course, after these moments, my “TO DO” list is always there waiting for me, and the constant “go, go, go!” goes back to normal. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Different Points of View

Different Point of View
Courtney Morris

 Through my own experience and simple observation, I have recently become aware of the importance of opening oneself up to others' perspectives.  It seems that too often we get caught up in our own lives, which of course is easy to do, and fail to notice (or even try to imagine) what life may be like for others.  When we allow ourselves to "walk a mile in someone else's shoes" (please forgive the cliche), we are opening ourselves up to new experiences and opportunities to gain new insights in which we may not have otherwise. 
    Lately I have tried doing this myself, simply as an experiment.  Whether in a conversation with a friend or family member, or even during a discussion at school or work, I have found the experience to be not only eye-opening but also quite beneficial for the relationship on both ends.  I tried this without telling anyone what I was doing, but it may be helpful to tell a friend what you are doing, if you think he or she could benefit as well: "I've been finding it really helpful to look at life from different perspectives lately."...
    I also found some simple ways to incorporate this into my life.  First, I simply started asking myself some basic questions, such as "what might this situation be like for (so and so) based on his or her background/personality, etc."? or "how might (so and so)'s experience be impacting how they are reacting to what I'm saying right now?".
    In learning to live more open-mindedly with an appreciation for others' perspectives, we can all grow and hopefully become more understanding people

Monday, August 6, 2012

Stress and Coping:Cara Chill

Stress and Coping
Cara Chill

As a senior in college, I often refer to my life as a balancing act.  It is up to me to maintain good grades while applying to graduate programs, doing research, volunteering, and interning.  As much as I love staying busy, it sometimes becomes overwhelmingly stressful.  I am sure most individuals also have this contradicting life style of trying to keep busy without becoming overloaded.  Personally, I feel stress in small increments can be beneficial, it gives us a reason to get out of bed our start our day.  However, chronic stress can be detrimental to our well-being and may cause physical, emotional, and psychological harm. 
There have been many times in my life where I have felt unsure on how to cope with stress and after years of experimenting, I found working out.  Working out had always been something I incorporated into my life but I never looked at it as a way to manage my stress.  I usually looked at working out as a way to be healthy and keep myself fit but today, it is a simple way for me to deal with stress.  Exercising not only gives me time to think about things in my life, it also ironically, provides a momentary escape from reality and allows me to work on the parts of myself that need some TLC. For me, the best feeling I could give myself is a nice workout followed by a shower and a good nights’ sleep.  Whenever I am stressed and do my routine of working out and getting enough sleep, I wake up feeling refreshed and prepared to start my day. Exercising is also beneficial because it releases endorphins which make you feel good that may also help when dealing with stress. 
            I understand that exercising may require time and planning which not everyone can dedicate to.  Also, some people would rather cope with their stress in a different way other than by working out. In that case, there are many other things that have been found to help decrease stress and some take little to no time at all!
1.      Laugh- it is so simple and you will have fun doing it.  Laughter reduces tension and improves blood flow to the heart.  So when stressed, spend some time with a friend or rent a funny movie and forget about your worries.
2.      Write/ keep a journal- it is also great to record your thoughts and feelings and writing your troubles down can be soothing and also a great way to release tension and look at the situation from a different perspective.
3.      Spend time with those you love- spending time in a place you feel relaxed with those you love provides you with a sense of comfort gives you a sense of belonging and purpose.
4.      Meditate- when you feel tension take some time and take deep breathes.  This can be calming and bring you solace.
5.      Be thankful- there is always something or someone to be thankful for and sometimes we tend to focus on the negative things in our lives instead of all the wonderful things.  It is always refreshing to remember all the positive things in our lives.