Dan Cayer, Alexander Technique Teacher teaches an innovative approach to dealing with pain and stress drawing. He provides hands-on instruction and support for adults who wish to learn how to swim without fear or pain and also helps you reclaim your life with a nonmedical, nonsurgical and effective solution to pain and stress management with Fluid Movement in NYC.
In this episode of Cultivating a Healing Mindset, I share a wonderfully helpful technique for moving past stuck places around difficult emotions and pain. RAIN, a four step process developed by Insight meditation teachers, helps us be less at war with ourselves during times of adversity or discomfort. With this gentle yet brilliant technique, you can explore what is holding you back from compassion or insight. It’s meant to be applied either on the meditation cushion or on the spot. In this video, I’ll guide you through the four steps and give context for how I’ve applied it in my own life.
In the pantheon of well-intentioned but lame advice, ill people have borne the brunt of it. Whether you’re suffering from chronic pain, stress, or just feeling out of sorts, the underlying message from others tends to be that you aren’t trying hard enough. If only you were more disciplined, rational, or grateful, life would be better.
This can lead to an attitude that something is deeply wrong with us – perhaps that’s caused our predicament? The ancient teachings of Buddhism however point us towards a different understanding of our selves. In this Facebook livestream, you’ll learn what it means to cultivate a true healing mindset.
A healing mindset is:
• present and powerful
• full of compassion
• ready for laughter
• not based on fear or shame
• generous to others
• inspirational to those around you
This livestream is taught by IDP teacher, Dan Cayer, whose experience with chronic pain inspired him to help others see their situation as workable and potentially transformative. Dan is a trained meditation instructor and Alexander Technique teacher who has also written a book on the pitfalls and profundities of major events like pain and illness: Don’t Get Better: The Secret of a Healing Mindset.
We all face times where we struggle to find balance between our two important Rs — responsibility and relaxation. From meeting important deadlines to getting a healthy dinner on the table, completing our to-do list shouldn’t require that we sacrifice health and wellness. Prioritizing our physical health is an important aspect of self-care — not only will we be better able to succeed in caring for ourselves, but we’ll be better able to care for others. Find the balance between your two Rs with these tips for balancing your fitness routine with self-care.
Add relaxation to your fitness regime
If you set aside an hour a day for exercise, whether it is taking a spin class or running in the park, take the last 10-15 minutes for deep breathing and meditation. Let your body slow down, while your mind lets go of the day by taking savasana— known as final relaxation in yoga— at the end of a workout. Even as little as 10 minutes of meditation a day can have a big impact on mood and mental health.
Create a fitness space in your home
Don’t let a busy schedule keep you from physical and mental health. Create a space in your home for working out your mind and body. If you have a spare room, you can split the space between physical health — weights, cardio equipment, mats, stability balls — and mental health — a meditation cushion, aromatherapy, a soothing view and natural light.
Get a good night’s sleep
A regular exercise routine can help improve the length and quality of your sleep. Sleep is your body’s way to recover and rebuild. Even just half an hour of moderate exercise can help send you into deeper sleep for longer periods of time. Plus, research shows that exercise can release stress and tension from the mind. The rush of endorphins from a good cardio workout improves mood, and the better our mood, the easier we fall asleep. Take it a step further by making sure you have comfortable pillows and linens, low lighting that points away from the bed, an updated mattress and blackout curtains that block light.
Start new hobbies
Exploring new interests can provide a good balance between responsibility and relaxation. You can take on new creative activities such as learning how to knit, paint, scrapbook or jewelry making. When we engage in creative hobbies we stimulate areas of the brain that boost confidence, self-esteem and problem solving. Combining creativity with physical activity is an ideal way to enhance the health of mind and body. Learn archery, go horseback riding, take dancing lessons— these are all ways to burn calories, build muscles, improve coordination and soothe the worries that plague our minds.
Take a mind body wellness class
Almost every gym offers its clients a variety of classes, and a quick way to improve self-care is to sign up for ones that provide wellness for the mind and the body. Check out classes such as yoga, tai chi or Pilates if you want a fitness experience that promotes overall health and well-being. While taking a class can be good to help you learn proper form and function, you can still explore these exercises without a gym. There are thousands of free, good quality instructional videos online. Not only can you practice any time, anywhere, but you can also learn new poses and postures in the privacy of your home.
Self-care is often cast aside in our fast-paced, busy world. It’s not that we don’t care about meeting our own needs; we don’t prioritize our needs. Instead, we might feel pressured to meet the needs of others. When you add one or two exercise and relaxation changes to your fitness regimen, you’ll see how easy— and enjoyable— self-care can be.
A healing mindset is much more than just having a positive attitude. It’s healing the rift between how we wish we were (or think we should be) and how we actually are from one moment to the next. It’s about dropping the exhausting resistance we have to our own emotions. In this video, I’ll explore 3 different components of a healing mindset: Presence, Openness, and being Actively Kind (to oneself and others). You’ll learn a short practice for each of these different components.
It's much more than just having a positive attitude. What we are really healing is the rift between how we think we should be or wish we were, and how we actually are in this moment. So much wisdom and joy can be found when we stop trying to steer each moment into what we think is a better direction.
I just left a sweaty Catholic school gym where 400 members of the Park Slope Food Coop (disproportionately shod in Keen and Birkenstock sandals) voted overwhelmingly to endorse the New York Health Act, a Medicare for all plan that is one state senator away from passing here in New York.
I don’t normally write about political issues, and I’m going to continue that tradition today since I believe that healthcare shouldn’t be a political issue. Watch Jimmy Kimmel tearfully explain in a mixture of disgust and gratefulness how, after seeing his newborn son’s life saved by emergency surgery, no parent should be unable to afford to save their child’s life.
I won’t wade too much into the weeds of the policy – for that, educate yourself here. The RAND Institute, which is by no means a liberal think tank, produced a recent study indicating that the NYHA is not only viable in the state, but would save money and add many uninsured people.
Basically, a single-payer system in New York would ultimately provide considerable savings because:
The pool of risk is truly shared.
There is no demand for shareholder profits.
The system would have better leverage to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers.
Administrative costs would drop drastically (Medicare’s administrative costs are 2 or 3% of total spending; private insurers average 16%).
But all of these points only follow and support the urgent feeling I have that this is a moral issue. As many of you know, I was disabled and in chronic pain for several years; my medical bills would have been tens of thousands of dollars every year were it not for my wife’s excellent health insurance. I avoided bankruptcy and healed. Why should this be unique to people like myself, or Jimmy Kimmel, and not to freelancers, artists, domestic workers, etc.?
To what degree are we in it together, and to what degree are we just in it for ourselves? This is a question we are all continually negotiating, of course, but healthcare – the ability to live – seems so above whether we can afford to drive a BMW or Ford, whether we shop at Target or Brooks Brothers. The society I want to live in is one in which we can agree on the need to take care of each other.
If single-payer seems hard to imagine, consider our current situation: why should Aetna shareholders influence what gets covered on my plan?
The bill is close to passing. It needs only one state senator. That being said, I believe without a groundswell of support, it may languish in Albany. Andrew Cuomo is opposed to NYHA, while his primary challenger, Cynthia Nixon, is a strong supporter.
I’m hosting and setting up house parties where people can learn about and discuss NYHA, be skeptical, drink artisanal cocktails, and participate in a movement. Email me if you’re interested. And check out NYHA’s short video here.
Please remember to vote this Thursday, September 13 in New York’s primary election, and learn which candidates support a more equitable healthcare system.
I spend a lot of time watching people swim. Recently, I shared a lane with a woman who was in the middle of a four hour (7 miles in total) workout, tirelessly raising the arm, burying the arm deep in the water, rolling to breathe. She was training to swim around the island of Bermuda.
Mostly, though, it’s everyday enthusiasts with wildly different approaches to getting across the pool. Some smooth operators carve and glide their way across, making barely a splash as they hunt the fast lane. Other less gainly swimmers smack and attack the surface, as if they could stun the water into submission. The water in their lane seems thicker than that of their speedy neighbor. It’s not their fault. They don’t know how to swim.
How is it that some people seem to move through life with grace and poise when for others it’s an uphill slog with uncountable affronts? Obviously, life isn’t as simple as swimming, but there are parallels.
The good swimmers relate with the water and use it to their advantage – understanding buoyancy, streamlining, and how to use the strongest muscles in their body. Spazzy swimmers just overlay their movements on top of the water. They aren’t feeling the feedback of the water (or don’t know what to make of it). If you relate with the dynamics of water, you swim better.
If it feels like the going is really tough, like struggling all the time, maybe it’s worth reevaluating your approach. There might be more harmonious ways to move through the water.
What looks natural can be learned. The smooth specimen in the fast lane at one point didn’t know how to doggy paddle. She took lots of lessons and logged many hours with not so great form. She learned.
Lastly, don’t automatically make the fast lane your goal. I often move to the medium lane because I don’t want to feel pressure to keep up with someone who takes their recreational swimming too seriously. I just want to swim and unwind. Also, FWIW, the kindest and happiest folks are often the ones swimming elementary backstroke in the slow lane.
In the light of two very publicized and tragic suicides, this post comes from Melissa Howard and the organization stopsuicide.info.
For many Americans, focusing on emotional wellness can be a double-edged sword. In one sense, it’s a good way to ensure that you’re feeling good every day, but it can also bring painful memories or emotions to the forefront, keeping a vicious cycle alive in your mind. Finding a good balance will allow you to take good care of your mental health while ensuring that negative emotions don’t lead to something unsafe, such as the desire to self-harm.
In many cases of depression or substance abuse, the individual feels alone, misunderstood, or isolated. They may isolate themselves purposely due to feeling like they aren’t good company, which can lead to thoughts of suicide. Knowing how to cope with stress or anxiety is key in dealing with these feelings, and in getting help before you reach a dangerous point.
Reducing or eliminating stress and anxiety is the best way to start taking care of your emotional state. Whether it’s work-related or due to your relationships at home, finding ways to stay calm can help you feel better all around. Consider creating an area in your house for meditating or practicing yoga, which is a mindful exercise that allows you to focus your energy and attention on the present and can aid in reducing stress. Click here for tips on how to create such a space.
Do something you love
Engaging in something you love to do–perhaps a hobby such as painting, woodworking, sewing, gardening, or baking–can help you build self-esteem and confidence and channel your energy into something positive, especially if you have a very stressful job. Being creative, in general, can help you release pent-up emotions and feel better about your situation; in fact, art therapy has been used for years in relation to helping people battle stress, PTSD, or substance abuse issues. If you find that something you used to be passionate about suddenly holds no joy for you, it might be time to seek counseling.
Getting organized can help reduce stress and anxiety, especially if you have a very busy schedule or a large family that requires your attention for much of the day. Clean and organize your home; declutter each room and go over ways your family can be more organized when it comes to homework and chores. This will certainly help you manage daily responsibilities more effectively.
Many individuals who are battling stress or depression have found that getting outside helps them feel better not just physically, but mentally. Daily exercise can boost dopamine and serotonin levels in your brain, helping you feel motivated, accomplished, and happy (as well as helping you sleep better), so head outdoors for a long walk with the dog or a game of kickball with your kids. Individuals who are dealing with depression or thoughts of suicide often find that leaving the house is overwhelming, or that they don’t want to see anyone. If you feel anxious about getting outdoors, talk to your doctor or consider finding a group therapy session to work through your feelings.
Remember that millions of people suffer from feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety every day. These can be difficult things to deal with, in part because of the feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, and exhaustion they bring. Taking steps to make your home a happy, healthy place to be will help boost your mental health, as will remembering that you are not alone. Talk to a counselor today if you feel you might self-harm.
I was inspired to write this post after teaching a workshop on lovingkindness meditation and smashing one of my daughter’s popsicle molds in anger (in the same week).
Lovingkindness meditation is a thousand-year-old tool for dealing with hard-heartedness and isolation. Research continues to emerge about the positive effects of lovingkindness, including decreasing migraines and chronic pain, and activating empathy. Recently, at one of my Your Body Is Your Practice workshops, we offered ourselves the traditional phrases:
May I be safe,
May I be happy,
May I be healthy,
May I live with ease.
One might think that these phrases are unnecessary; aren’t we already laboring every minute of the day to be happy and live with ease? Why else would I be obsessively browsing Zappos if not to deliver lasting happiness?
[Insert skeptical emoji face]
Alas, my subconscious wishes for myself are not those golden ones above. They are more along the lines of:
May I be perfect,
May I not acknowledge my uncomfortable emotions,
May I never disappoint…
* * *
I started to self-reflect on these subconscious expectations when my daughter, in the span of a few hours, broke eggs, spilled my coffee, and scattered a container of black peppercorns (it’s hard to explain). My annoyance level surged. In a moment of spiritual maturity, I walked into the kitchen and broke a plastic popsicle mold against our countertop.
While getting annoyed at your kids is to be expected, it also became clear that my subconscious intentions for Ruby were something along the lines of:
May she not get in my way,
May she not upset me,
May she be the world’s first self-sufficient 5-year-old…
Of course, this is a delusional view of parenting and a recipe for suffering. She wasn’t trying to break anything (unlike my popsicle rampage); she was acting like a five-year-old. She wanted to try her hand at cooking. Expecting her experiments to be problem-free creates unnecessary friction. It also obscures my deeper parenting goals, beyond not having to clean up stuff: I want to open my heart to my children and teach them how to live.
So, if we don’t consciously articulate our intentions, our habits dominate (i.e. may I never make a mistake, instead of let me take risks and grow).
This is what I would like to cultivate with Ruby:
May she be happy,
May I be happy,
May we both learn about life together.
The next day, she forgot her sneakers for a field trip and I had to walk them over to her school. Having practiced these intentions above, I delivered her shoes with a spirit of generosity and love rather than begrudging annoyance.
What are you subconsciously wishing? What’s the intention you set out every day with – May I not be challenged? May I not have unstructured time?
What intention would you like to add to the mix?
While they may seem flimsy, awareness and intention are our strongest tools for living the life we want.
What Sharon Salzberg has contributed to meditation and Buddhism in America is hard to quantify. Nowadays, she is everywhere you look within the recent mindfulness surge (and deservedly so): interviews with Oprah, podcasts with Tim Ferris, magazine articles, and her nine books on the subject. She has become known for her emphasis on the practice of metta, or lovingkindness, and her seminal book on the subject (Lovingkindness). This focus has been particularly needed in the West where the temptation to use meditation and spirituality as another self-improvement project or an attempt to control ourselves is so seductive.
That’s why my summer reading recommendation is Sharon’s book Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection, which just came out on paperback. Her writing is thoughtful, engaging, and down to earth. We all could use some help in turning more towards compassion and kindness, and Sharon’s book proves that real love is not about being ‘nice,’ suppressing your needs, nor is it exclusively romantic.
A few weeks ago I interviewed Sharon on the subject of “How Lovingkindness Can Help People with Pain.” Our short interview can be heard here.
One out of three Americans experiences chronic pain. Yet how many ill individuals are prepared to deal with the isolation, disappointment, and self-aggression that arises with pain that doesn’t go away? In this interview with NY Times best-selling author and world-renowned Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg, I ask how can the practice of lovingkindness help people with pain?
My injury in my mid-twenties changed my life: my career, physical abilities, finances, and even relationships. Through her sense of humor, and stories from decades of teaching and international travel, Salzberg reveals how self-love can be cultivated during a difficult time. Individuals with pain are in a unique position to learn “the art of friendship” toward themselves and others.
She puts a fresh spin on the story of Milarepa; how the seemingly solitary practice of meditation can lead to a sense of universal connection and freedom from shame. This is an intimate conversation with one of the West’s leading Buddhist teachers about what inner healing really means.