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Care for Self: Permaculture and Wellness.

Observing and interacting is the foundational design principle in Permaculture.  It was January’s focus, along with the character asset of honesty.

Permaculture is a design system of sustainability principles. It teaches us by studying nature and its local, rhythmic, and bioregional ways. It is guided by three ethics, People Care, Earth Care, and Fair Share.

People Care treats the self, or our inner experience, as a sustainable resource of energy.  Think about this.  Your energy level fulfills many roles and responsibilities on any given day I bet.

How do you keep your battery charged?

In January our CAC members were challenged to do just that.  To take care of themselves, to love themselves, and to commit to practicing this all year long by creating habits and behaviors that support love as a renewable mental health resource.  We will study a design principle and a character asset a month as guides to deepen and inform our practices of LOVE.

Observing and Interacting

Observing and interacting is rooted in patience.  It is a practice of returning again and again to right now and witnessing your circumstances.

~Being with~

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Patience makes us more mindful of our inner world, and how we are practicing love and self-care based on how we are feeling.

A lot of us hate to feel our feelings.  We hate the feelings in the body expressing the ranges of love and fear!

Anxiety, depression. Anger, shame.  Sometimes these are just words we use for feeling really bad.  Addicts use to control not feeling, or to create a way of feeling.

Humans in general get stuck in why do I feel this way?  when sometimes the remedy is simply to feel our feelings.  Often, I have found that softening to how I am feeling right now, being gentle in accepting me for me, is a sure way to calm tension and anxiety.

I like this relief!

Self-care is about being present with who we are by honoring how we feel and what we need.  It’s, in the words of writer Mark Nepo, allowing the heart to say ouch.

I like that, too.

Maybe a goal is trying to grow in mindfulness of how our feelings cause us to react.

Sometimes some of us have old stories written in our body of times our hearts got hurt.  Hurts that weren’t allowed to be felt.  Sometimes that’s why we focus so much on why?

Why is a way we pathologize, or make a problem out of something.  Problems can direct us on how to find a solution.  Self-care as a solution is about learning to not shame our feelings, and to stop labeling experiences that we can’t control or that don’t feel good, times when life has us in ruts, as bad.

If we grew up in a home where violence, neglect, untreated alcoholism or other substance abuse, or untreated mental illness existed, not getting needs met is our normal.

If this is the case, we repeat old self care systems of self-neglect, self-harm, self-abondonment, and self-abuse.  Meaning we treat our self in ways that are neglectful.

We could do this with drugs, alcohol, relationships, food, sex, spending money.  You name it.

Old self care habits like these usually have a story of self worth behind them.

Observing and interacting with our day to day experience with no judgment for our thoughts and feelings and no shame, becomes a way to stay more present with ourself in an honest, fact finding way.

This is how we challenge ourselves, to see if or where old self worth stories, in ways of perpetuating self neglect or harm, might be running areas of our lives.

We challenge ourselves to replace that story and the old neglectful self care behavior with stories and behaviors of love.

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February’s design principle is Catch and Store Energy.  The asset is open-mindedness.  We spend February observing and interacting with the experiences in our lives that specifically help us catch and store self care practices of LOVE.  We are open to this change.

Be well, friends.  Begin, within.  Begin, again!

 

Yoga. Reflections on the Golden Rule.

Today I joined Heidi McNeely of the Worcester County Warriors Against Opioid Addiction for Holy Yoga.  It’s the first time I’ve practiced in OC since I got home from the west coast.  It was Divine!

Of the many life teachers I have been blessed enough to walk beside, Heidi has a boundless enthusiasm that anchors her dedication.  She is a true reminder of life’s gifts.

 Yoga always makes me remember Jasmine, Bobby Ray, and Father Ed, my first spiritual teachers.  Jas’ presence was to be inside a great, hidden city of dark curls.  You ended up feeling exotic yourself, touched by a bit of her calm.  She was my intro to yoga.  These were the early days when I quit drinking.  Life can be so thrilling you know, if you let in what is trying to happen for you.

This was the same time in my life I met Bobby Ray.  People in the Benfield area of Anne Arundel, Maryland, know of this man.  The first thing Bobby ever said that stuck with me was, “the past is full of regret and the future is full of worry. Both are caused by fear. So the present moment is the only moment you can be fully with god, or full of love.”

I think that last sentence I am paraphrasing.  You get the point, I hope~

I was 23, 24ish.   Learning to breathe from a novice yogi, learning to meditate from a guy they called Shaman Bob, and elsewhere, learning to utilize my power of choice in my reactions and interactions, while out experiencing my day-to-day life.

Jasmine and I lived together my senior year of college. This is when I learned that the word Yoga has its origins in Sanskrit.  An awesome poet—he would call himself a poet and deep ecologist—his name is Gary Snyder, was my favorite reading back then.   I was getting a degree in writing.  Gary Snyder is how I learned yoga means to yoke, or as Snyder described, make union.

So I was learning from Jasmine how to use my breath during yoga, to practice union by feeling a deeper sense of being present in my body.

Back then I was also receiving free therapy, from a priest, this was Father Ed. I love the Christian context for the word yoke. The denotation is a wooden tool used to link oxens together.  The connotation is to yoke, or connect the heavy weight of what you carry, to Christ.

That brings faith into the conversation.

Life has taught some people, maybe many?  That we can’t trust treating one another as we would like to be treated because we always have to be on the look out, defending ourselves in order to meet our own safety and survival needs.

To me, when I practice doing unto others, it is a day-by-day, experience-by-experience, chance-after-chance to bring love and kindness. I challenge myself daily to align my behaviors and reactions with these principals.  Prayer, after all, is one thing.  How I act however, that’s on me.  It is how I pay forward my thanks for getting to live.

Probably my most oft-used adage is Begin Within.  This is because doing so gives me the chance to get present with what is real for me.  Is it an old story, what’s going on in my head right now?  Regret or worry—fear-based?  Written in my body by my life’s experiences, hanging out on the neuropeptides of my emotions, too close to my surface for my liking?  Making me uncomfortable?  I was a black out drunk you know, so I keep a close eye on these things…to avoid picking up my favorite or at least easiest way of checking-out.

Deep yogic union can be a way of reminding me that in the present moment, breath is healing.  It is truly all I actually have.  It can be all I need. I believe that life is a gift.  Lots of loss taught me that.  To live today the very best I can and enjoy myself as much as possible while I am–usually requires me to get real with me, then to turn my intentions towards how I want to behave today.  Doing unto others ensures I enjoy my life more because it makes me soft and open, which is the direct result of lightly practicing love and kindness over and over.

Abidingly human, or Aries, or Irish Catholic, or whatever else it is that I am I remember to hold gently the fact that I’m also totally imperfect as it gets.  Angry, lazy, self-righteous, selfish, arrogant, rigid, overindulgent, super anxious, too controlling.  All of these things.  I keep my own self-understanding close, so that compassion for others is never too far behind.

When I get caught up in fear, which always makes my imperfections worse, my work is to begin within.  Being a jerk is easy.  What I don’t work out I will act out.  Taking responsibility for this takes committed return from beginning within to the question, how am I behaving right now?  I begin again with this present moment, using my breath.  For me, it doesn’t take long in the present moment to get grateful for having access to it.

Doing unto others by becoming deeply present to right now.  Giving thanks for the chance to get to do so.  That’s really all it takes.  I think it’s one of perhaps the most simple and simultaneously most challenging acts there is.

Understanding Substance Abuse

At Tuesday’s free seminar kick-off (!!) we discussed the disease model of substance abuse, what this means physiologically for someone in withdrawal, how it impacts the addict or alcoholic in the form of the shame cycle (leading to relapse!), and especially, how to create solution and lasting treatment that works.

It wasn’t until 2011 that a press release was issued from the American Society of Addiction Medicine stating “that addiction is a chronic brain disorder and not simply a behavioral problem involving too much alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex.”

We now know that deep in the mid-brain our survival needs (FOOD! SEX! EXCRETE!  SLEEP!) are wired, AND also from here neurons called dopamines are released when we experience pleasure.

Drugs like alcohol and opioids, among others, surge those dopamine neurons!  The short version of the longterm–your survival brain becomes wired to need your drug of choice as a priority for survival.  Literally, the neurological line in your brain’s sand is when your pleasure transmitters become chemically confused and begin to believe they need that pleasure spike not just to live but to survive.

Because we didn’t even understand the chemistry behind this enough to call it a brain disorder until five years ago, there exists today a serious stigma around addiction because people believe it still to be a mere behavior or will problem.  For more information between the difference, go here and learn more from Dr. Kevin McCauley.

What that stigma especially seems to mean for an addict is knowing firsthand the darkness of the shame cycle. When we haven’t drank or used in weeks but can’t shake that awful creeping gnarling that tells us we’re no good so why bother.

Or,  when we wake up so horrified by our behavior last night that we remedy it by getting messed up all over again, because lets face it, I guess I really do suck if I can’t stay clean…The shame cycle is so emotionally real, and breaking its stories and associated beliefs takes committed practice!

How to begin?  My favorite definition of mindfulness?  RADICAL ACCEPTANCE.  Radical acceptance of the here and now, which literally means of who I am right this second: starting with how I feel.

Honesty about who we are, and learning how to be emotionally present and accountable to ourselves creates lasting change.

Change

Takes

Time.

Learning to name and tend your needs is how to stop abandoning and hurting yourself.  If you have a problem staying sober or clean there is help.

Your body can heal and grow, as can your mind, and spirit, your soul.

Click here to download the Understanding Substance Abuse notes.  dfs-understanding-substance-abuse

Join us again on Tuesday, November 29, 2016, at the Ocean Pines Community Center, from 6-8pm to learn more, and promote solution and change.

Wellness: Gratitude.

This is what I know for sure:

It is still the nature of November light to outline shadows in a way that’s dark and precise,

shadows through trees losing leaves make my heart stir til it aches sometimes, so touching are the simplicities of the world’s grace,

salt air still opens up the breath I forget about and keep hidden in my belly,

it almost always feels good to get out and take a walk,

and at least for today, I am able to do so and–also–gratitude, it goes a long way.

Wellness is a process, not an arriving point. In my experience it has a lot to do with being present.  It’s an action word, how to be in the here and now, and its principals are grounded in love.

To be here and now you have to be able to be still with yourself.  To be here and now you have to be able to love.

Can

you

be?

Wellness rejoices in the truth, begins within, tells the truth to yourself, is accountable to your own day-to-day.

Breath by breath, that’s how we begin.

Be still.  Breathe.  Gratitude=love in motion.

Have you got your breath?  Give thanks.

A minute at a time.  Gratitude in motion. Until the day is done.

A day at a time. What are your first waking thoughts?

What happens if you choose them:

Just for today~THANKS!  For this bed, I am grateful.  For this cozy blankie, I am grateful.  For this cup of hot coffee…

Gratitude begins within.  Is the next right thing.

Just for today what do you need to be well?

Change happens, it comes just as November light will always make long shadows across the ground.  The simple miracle of the Autumnal light of the burning sun.  Just for today, can you breathe?

Can you tell the truth about how you feel and what you need?

Can you be brave enough to share those needs, or listen deeply to someone else’s?

Can you be grateful, and present, and still admit you’re human, you’re afraid?

It’s okay.

Breathe.  This moment is what you have.

Be well.

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Ninth street today.  Ocean City, Maryland.