My Inner Mindful Meadow

My Inner Mindful Meadow

In the 60’s we were told to, “Tune in, turn on and drop out!” Timothy Leary and Stanley Owsley attempted to break us out of the trap we didn’t even know we were in. Strapped onto a conveyer belt we were to go to school, go to college, get married, go to work and end up in the suburbs with 2.3 children and live happily ever after. To jar us out of that mindset, or conditioning, they recommended LSD. I became and enthusiast and a psychedelic evangelist or if you prefer a dealer. I truly believed that this was our only way out of the conditioning that had put blinders on us before we even knew they were there. We were domesticated like farm animals into thinking that society and its overlords were guiding us out of benevolence when they were actually fatting us for the slaughter. The Vietnam War, racism, the military industrial complex, the sexual abuse being exposed within the major Christian denominations, the sexual revolution and the birth of rock and roll all were the fuel in youth culture of the day to empower the message that Leary was promoting and Owsley was manufacturing. If you remember in detail what actually happened, you probably weren’t there.

We had something there, a key concept, but the deliver system was a little messed up but at the time desperate times called for drastic measures. Since that time after tuning in, turning on and dropping out I said to said to myself, “What’s next?,” and then moved on.

At that point I discovery personal spirituality and also the beginnings of Cognitive Behavioral psychology and was surprised they were actually compatible. Along the way I have come to understand that the meat computer between our ears is not the latest IBM or apple. It was capable of getting us through life using two programs, although it can only run one program at a time. The doing program, the one that gets us up and out into the world and the being program (experiential) that helps us stop doing and step back to take stock of our situation within and without. The doing program is subjective and the being program is objective. In this day and age we become stuck in our doing program as we are overwhelmed with our schedules, traffic, relationships and responsibities. Our ability to move into our being program or the experiential aspect of our brain can be compromised like a limb that atrophies from disuse. It takes hard work through therapy for many clients to get access to this aspect of their brain usage. Mindfulness Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is key in getting them into this experiential state. This is far more safe, practical and ethical that giving your client LSD. Through mindful breathing, other mindful exercises and specific use of metaphors I help clients move into this mode of thought so that they can objectively examine their lives, their choices in life and the path that they choose into their future.

After thirty five years as a therapist I have come to depend on some basic metaphors and allegorical stories that clients can relate to and this one is one of my favorites. I first get the client to master mindful breathing which can take a month or so of practice. When they have this set of tools down pat then I introduce them to my mindful meadow. I first describe my way of experiencing this aspect of experiential thinking, then lead them into practice and then let them custom make their own experience so it is tailor made for them.

Mindful Inner Meadow: We start after a mindful breathing session, sitting upright, knees slightly below our hips, back straight but relaxed, arms to our sides, hands on our knees and eyes closed. We begin this mind exercise by walking across a prairie where it is dry, windy and with a glaring sun above representing our daily life. We know where are going, to a meadow deep in a forest, deep within ourselves. We move through the dry grass into the outskirts of the forest with trees sparsely spaced and begin to see bird sign and song. Slowly we enter the forest, cool and shaded, cathedral like and we begin to feel the calm that surrounds us. As we enter deeper into this forest, or deeper into ourselves we relax and then lose their shoes and socks, while some when on their own prefer to lose all of their clothes. As we approach the edge of the forest and our inner secret meadow we see the first of seven stone stairs that will take us down into the meadow that is deep within us. As we put our bare foot on the first step the contrast is delightful, cool, dry and smooth. We then count the seven steps down, each time experientially feeling our bare foot touch the smooth, cool and dry stone beneath it. We pause at the bottom step and settle both feet on the cool smooth stone surface of the last stair. Then we step onto the manicured grass or our inner meadow. Another great contrast for us to experience, now feeling the cool, moist and soft grass under our bare feet. We move into the meadow at the core of our being. I lead go to a stone well with water so clean, clear and cool that it looks almost empty as you can see the stone wall all the way to the bottom. We take a cup that I keep there and take a deep drink of this clean, cold water which always refreshes me to my very core. We then spend some time lying on the grass in our inner meadow and allow thoughts to come up that seem to appear unbidden. When we experience these thoughts objectively we are desensitized to them, seeing them as just mind events. Sometimes issues from our childhood visit but now in this safe place we can view them objectively. Clients have made some amazing leaps in growth when visiting their inner meadow and some with sleep disorders use this metaphor when in bed and never make it out of the meadow but wake up to their alarm going off in the morning. When it is time to leave reverse the order, walk back across the grass, onto and up the seven stone stairs, experiencing the contrast between the lawn and the stone stairs. Then entering the forest’s calm and cool interior before rejoining daily life back on the prairie.

Try this exercise. Custom make it for yourself after you use my version a few times to get the hang of it.

Back in the sixties, we sang, “Take a trip and never leave the farm.” In 2015 visit your inner mindful meadow and get into an experiential state that will refresh and invigorate. Thank you, Leary and Owsley, for pointing the way but thank you Mindfulness and CBT for leading us into experiential states without blowing our minds but by finding them.

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Mindful Breathing

The new movement in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is Mindfulness. This perspective teaches that we have meat computers for brains that have evolved over a few million years to serve us as primitive hunter-gatherers. We lived this way for 98% of our time as humans with only a few thousand years in domestication through civilization and only a few hundred years with modern technology. Our brains are not the latest apple platform capable of running a few dozen programs at once.

We can only run one program at a time and only have access to two programs. The first software application is the doing program. This gives us the initiative to get things started, to plan and to get things done. The second software is the being program. With this program we can experientially or objectively look at our current situation and the world around us. Because of limited RAM we can only run one program at time.

Fifty thousand years ago our doing program would get us out of our cave to search for food. Driving us across the landscape, searching under logs, in crevices, on constant watch for things to eat and always ready to react to things that might eat us. We would keep in this program until we found a possible food source, like a mushroom. Then we would switch to our being program and experientially examine the mushroom. Color, size, texture, patterns, smell and then put this sample up against our memory of all mushrooms and make an objective judgment. This was a life saving program for if you ate it without thinking, like you eat most of your meals now, you could be running through the forest for a few days naked and hallucinating or dead like uncle Louie who ate one like that last year.

The problem is that we are now locked into our doing mind. Our modern world is a doing world. Computers, smart phones, cable TV, work, school, relationships, schedules and business plans all conspire to keep us locked into the doing mode of thinking. How many times have you during a long drive realized that you have just driven for the last half an hour and didn’t notice anything? How many meals have you wolfed down without even noticing what you were eating? You can eat a whole bushel of popcorn in an exciting movie and reach the bottom only to think, where did it all go? That’s your doing mind stuck on doing.

Your experiential mind is rarely used and sometimes it will be quite hard to get running as you are caught up in the doing world busy with a complex life. To get into this mind set or being program you may need to take baby steps first and then practice some basic exercises daily to get things running the way they were designed by evolution.

Here are some experiential exercises:

1. The raisin: take one raisin and look at it for a few minutes. Pretend that it just fell from space and you have never seen anything like it. Look at its color, its texture and its shape. Rotate it to see everything. Now taste it, put it in your mouth and without chewing just let the first tastes occur on your palate. Now chew it and notice the changes in taste from the skin to the flesh. Wait to swallow until it is almost dissolved and then notice the experience of swallowing it. Then notice the after taste. Once a week experience something new to use your being program on.

2. Have an experiential meal one a week: Take one meal alone. From preparing to cooking to eating it, follow the example of the raisin.

3. Breathing: At least twice a day practice this exercise of a minimum of three minutes. I recommend that you expand your evening (two hours before bed) session to ten minutes. Focus on your breath. Breathe deep into your diaphragm, or as some say breathe into your feet. Be your breath. Within a few breaths your attention will wander, this is not a problem, just recognize the thought that comes across your screen and go back to your breath. With the intake feel your lungs, chest and diaphragm expand and then on the out breath feel them all return to the passive position. As thoughts come to you accept them as just mind events, dismiss them with kindness and go back to your breathing. Two physical benefits are; one you will learn to relax deeply and you will clear your lungs, which will allow deeper breaths for the rest of the day and during sleep. Psychologically you will benefit from desensitizing yourself to your thinking. Thoughts are just mind events and have only the power you give them. Negative thoughts produce negative feelings almost immediately while positive thoughts take up to fifteen seconds to produce positive feelings. When you know this and practice reframing negative thoughts into positive thoughts, especially during your breathing exercise you will begin to see that you have some control over what you think.

You probably don’t have to practice running your doing program as most of us are stuck in it but you will have to practice your being program. Deep breathing exercises twice a day can be life changing in many ways and are the easiest way to practice the being program to run in your brain. We can learn much from this experiential state. History has reported that some of the greatest leaps of intellectual pursuit was when we gave up thinking about a problem, relaxed and then had the epiphany.

Thinking (that’s the doing program) about depression or anxiety can make things worse. It’s like struggling in quicksand; you’ll only go down faster. We constantly measure what we think we should be with what we are in attempting to close the gap we frustrate ourselves by making the problem worse. Going into an experiential state and then considering your depression by letting those negative thoughts come across your screen will show you that they are only mind events and enough exposure to such thinking while being objective will desensitize you to them.

If you find relief in this but want more find a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist who is into mindfulness. There is much information on the internet as well as many good books on this subject as well. Knowledge is power.

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Good Bike Karma…Recycle your Cycle

Recycle Your Cycle
Help us send 485 bicycles to school children in the Philippines!
Cap’s Bicycle Shop is accepting donations of unwanted bicycles this holiday season to go to a deserving home. To show that you can give and receive, for each bicycle donated you will receive a gift certificate for up to $100 off of a new bicycle!

Donations can be made on November 28th, 29th, and 30th at Cap’s Bicycle Shop in Sapperton, New Westminster at 434 East Columbia Street.

The goal is to collect 485 bicycles of all types to fill a shipping container destined for Pangalo in the Philippines. The bicycles will be given to local elementary schools that will then load them to children who live more than two kilometers from the school. Some children are walking five kilometers to school. This program is expected to increase attendance in school and make education more accessible.

School buses are not a viable option because of the cost of operation to the municipal government.

Cap’s Bicycles will be providing spare parts, tools and training so that the bicycles can be put in proper operating conditions when they arrive.

The shipping and distribution of the bicycles is being coordinated and funded by Rotary Clubs. The Royal City Rotary Club and Rotary World Help Network are assisting on this end with the loading and shipping. The Mayor of Panglao is founder of Rotary in that community and a past Rotary Assistant District Governor who will coordinate the program in Panglao.

Panglao Island has a population of approximately 68,000 people and was affected by the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that hit the region last September. Rotary World Help is aiding the area with the focus on Health, Education and Employment. There will be projects undertaken to rebuild a small medical center, put computers and libraries in all 10 schools and use micro credit banking to attract business to the island.

Please forward this email and share our mission with your friends! We need all the help we can get!

For more information, please contact us at

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How to eat your way out of depression and anxiety

How to eat your way out of depression and anxiety

Now that I have your attention I lied. You cannot eat your way out of depression or anxiety but you can stop escalating the problem. Food and nutritional supplements can make the difference, if you are exercising properly (anaerobically) and if you are working with a Cogitative Behavioral Therapist (mindfulness in the moment). You can undo a lot of good work by eating the wrong things at the wrong times.

Your brain uses a lot of energy and it needs it in a steady flow throughout the day, even when you are asleep. You have probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is but most of the crap you find on the supermarket shelf should stay there and never be put into your mouth. They are full of sugar, salt and fat as well as a new menace, the genetically modified monster we call modern wheat. (Read: Wheat Belly) Glutton is the plants natural defense against bugs but evil scientists who work for the giant food manufactures have increased it many fold within modern wheat to save them money on pesticides and to help their product stay fresh tasting on the shelf for years. They do not care that most of us will have trouble digesting it or that it causes inflammation or that it will cause your blood sugar to spike or that through digestion it will great an opiate like substance making it addictive. Avoid process foods for all of your meals and learn to cook simple but healthy and tasty dishes that will help you when you are trying to exercise and be mindful.

The best breakfast receipt: Super Oatmeal

½ cup of oatmeal (real oatmeal, not the instant stuff and organic if you can find it)
1 cup of water
¼ cup of flax meal
¼ cup of almonds
¼ cup of pecans
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cinnamon
Table spoon or raw sugar
Table spoon of butter
Boil and stir for five minutes or until it thickens and becomes sticky
Add fruit if you wish.
Add an egg and stir in as the boiling starts if you wish.

This will give you more protein than a steak, keep you full for hours and not spike your blood sugar. It strips cholesterol from you and gives you a solid dose of omega oils and best of all it is cheap and easy to make.

Eat a lean lunch; fruit, veggies and a boiled egg or maybe some tuna fish.

Eat a lean dinner; baked chicken (or lamb, fish or pork) rubbed in olive oil (olive oil rub; add garlic, pepper and a touch of hot sauce) a yam or potato rubbed in the same rub, veggies and a salad. Always preheat your oven and put the rubbed meat in a hot oven.

Keep it simple, home made and make sure your meat is free range, if you eat beef make sure it was grass feed. Keep your snacks to popcorn, peanuts, almonds or home made cookies; Instead of wheat flour for your cookies, use rice or channa flour.

Drink water; that is what your body needs. Teas are good and a coffee with breakfast is good for you but avoid all juices, pops and premixes concoctions like ice tea; especially those huge cans of energy drinks.

Best Cookie Receipt: Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup of oatmeal
½ cup of brown rice flour
½ cup of channa flour
¼ cup of butter
½ cup of raw sugar or honey
Tablespoon of baking powder
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cinnamon
1 cup of real dark chocolate (70% coco)
Rub bake pan lightly with olive oil
Bake at 325 for about twenty minutes (break one to ensure they are cooked right through)

These are not only a healthy snack but two would make a good lunch.

The following nutritional supplements are important to your mental well being as well as for a strong and healthy body.

1. Wild Salmon Fish Oils. Krill oil is great but expensive and make sure you use wild fish oils. Fish oils, olive oil, flax meal, and almonds are great sources of Omega3 EPA and DHA, which your body and brain needs to function well.
2. Magnesium Citrate: Helps relax those tiny capillaries that get blood to areas of inflammation. Will reduce pain and increase flexibility in areas that you would probably take pain killers for.
3. Vitamin D3: best to get some sunshine even if it’s cold as your body can make far more that you can take orally with just twenty minutes of exposure. But if you are not into sun tanning on a cold winter day or may go weeks (months even) without sunshine take Vitamin D3.

So keep exercising anaerobically (cycling, running, power walking or a treadmill in the gym), get some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (Google Dr. Amen’s ANT Therapy to get started) and eat well. Old habits die hard and eating crap and junk food is a tough one to stop but if you eat well for a month you will notice the difference and this will give you some perspective on what your body really wants when it’s hungry or thirsty.

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Trauma Train

Trauma Train

Trauma in early life is in the eye of the beholder. We all recognize sexual abuse, neglect, violence, verbal abuse and exposure to violence between our parents as trauma but many times from a child’s perspective walking in on your parents in a moment of passion, watching your dog get run over by a car or exposure to bullying can also be traumatic. Many of us who experience trauma as children but go on to experience it as teens and then as adults because we do what we know. As the results of trauma build up in our lives we end up with what I like to call a “Trauma Train”.

This Trauma Train is like any train but in metaphor. In a regular train, if you only have an engine in might take fifty feet to stop in an emergency but if you add a hundred fully loaded box cars it may take a mile to stop in that same emergency. The momentum of the whole ensemble pushes the train and the engineer at the controls can only watch as the whole thing screeches to a stop far past what it would be if only pulling a few box cars. So it is with the Trauma Train. We get into an argument with a spouse and because of past trauma our reaction is far greater than the presenting situation justifies. The momentum of past trauma pushes us past the appropriate response and into the area of response that an objective observer would can inappropriate. If the other person in the argument also has experienced trauma then it’s like two long fully loaded trains meeting on the same track.

Therapy can help. Through counseling you can go through your box cars of trauma baggage one by one and as you gain understanding and perspective of each past trauma let it go and disconnect it from you train. One by one, through therapy, of being mindful of your connection to your past in the moment and through releasing the trauma when viewing childhood trauma now through the eyes of an adult your trauma train will shrink. Then as you dismiss your box cars of trauma baggage and shorten your train you will gain the perspective of your increasing mental health and bring your train to a stop within the appropriateness of the presenting situation.

Until then be careful. If you know your car has bad breaks, drive appropriately. Don’t race up to stop signs, tailgate others or speed in school zones. If you know you have experienced trauma be careful in social situations. Be prepared to step out of confrontations and arguments before they escalate out of your control. Get in to see a therapist as soon as you can and begin to deal with past trauma before it deals with you. History tends to repeat itself if not understood and that goes double for personal history that includes past trauma.

You may have been a victim in your past but as soon as you recognize that you stop being a victim and become a volunteer if you continue to relive past trauma into your present situations. You might never fully recover from child abuse but you can stop the carnage by reminding yourself that you need a mile to stop before you start and then to get yourself in therapy so that you don’t need a mile to stop when you see someone you love standing in your tracks.

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Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile Dysfunction

This seems to make men crazy and women sad. Men judge their self worth by their erections thus the craziness. I am constantly amazed by men when in therapy divulge that they are having problems getting and maintaining an erection. There are two usual causes; Psychological or Physical.

Once you understand that the largest sex organ in your body is between your ears and not between your legs you can make some gains in dealing with psychological causes for erectile dysfunction. Past sexual abuse, stresses in your daily life and over thinking the problem are the usual culprits. If you have experienced sexual abuse in your past you need to deal with it through therapy. Most people do not have the objectivity to deal with this on their own. You can deal with the stresses of your daily life by making sure that you have time off, that you limit your work to your work and don’t bring it home and by developing quality relationships based on trust. Over thinking is something that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help you with. Some things are better to just do than to contemplate.

Physical causes for erectile dysfunction can be dealt with through proper diet and exercise. First see your doctor and get their advice to ensure that a hidden physical cause is not your problem. If you can’t get it up or keep it up your body is telling you that you are not in shape for sex. Taking Viagra or any of the other many supplements will only mask the problem and empty your wallet. Your penis’s ability to form an erection is a direct reflection of your overall cardio vascular system. Rather than investing in the internets most for sale supplements or buying a huge truck invest in your own cardio vascular health.

First change your diet. Stop going for the sugar, salt and fat that most food manufactures are pushing. These dealers of death, who lace their products with the three things our taste buds crave, are not your friends. They would sell your rat poison if they could get away with it and you were dumb enough to eat it. They know that through our evolutionary history we never had enough fat, sugar and salt but now we have a conveyer belt laden with this stuff from the supermarket right into our mouths. Then they use emulsifiers, stabilizers and dozens of nasty food colors to make the three deadly ingredients into the shelves full of cereals, canned goods and boxes of crap that fill the middle aisles of your average supermarket. Shop the outside aisles, go heavy on the produce section, select range feed meats, free range eggs and go light on the gluten laden products.

Exercise regularly. Your cardio vascular system needs to be exercised as much as any other muscle structure in your body. If you cannot flex your outside muscles you probably cannot flex your cardio vascular system either. You do that guys by getting and maintaining an erection. Anaerobic exercise is what you need. Lifting weights is good for your outside muscles but you need to run, power walk, cycle or some other kind of anaerobic exercise to work out your cardio vascular system. I choose cycling and I think it’s the best but I am prejudiced. Ride every second day for at least an hour, preferably two, and in a few months you will see and feel the difference, so will your sexual partner. Make sure you have a good bike seat or you may undue all your hard work. Remember you ride on the main nerve that gives you feeling in your penis so your bike seat can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Any good bike shop can give you advice on this, it will be worth the investment, trust me on this.

We get into a rut of bad diet and no exercise and then expect to be rescued by our medical system. Take control of your life. Your doctor will help you in this if needed but if they sense you are abdicating your control to them they will write you a prescription or schedule surgery, which will only take your power away. If you are in good shape stay in good shape but if you can’t see your feet or your penis don’t give us and go for the pill. Change your diet and get on a bike. Start slow but persist and don’t give up. I have witnessed clients cure themselves of diabetes, heart disease, erectile dysfunction and more my taking responsibility for their lives and going for change.

I was listening to a radio show the other day and was amazed by an obese woman who was complaining that she has been waiting for seventeen years to get bariatric surgery. Wow, I almost drove off the road. Talk about codependent behavior between herself and her government. If she would have reduced her caloric intake by a hundred calories a day and exercised regularly (burning a 100 calories each session) she would have changed her whole life in a year or two. I once met a group of women who had to gain a few hundred more pounds to qualify for this surgery as they were not obese enough to qualify for the government to pay for it. They finally were obese enough and had the surgery but did not change their lifestyles. The weight fell off in the first year and they had to have plastic surgery to get ride of the skin flaps that now hung off them like sheets. Once they were tightened up they were ok for awhile. Then two things happened. They kept eating and without exercising they started to gain weight again but their skin has lost its elasticity. Soon they were splitting as their new seams and the next surgeries were to have their jaws wired shut. I met them at that point as a counsellor and could only help the ones who were interested in getting into a regular exercise program and who were willing to seriously deal with their food intake, not just quantity but quality. I was so shocked by this codependent dysfunctional relationship between these women and the medical system that quit taking such referrals and will only work now with people who are willing to take control of their lives and change their lives through diet and exercise.

Depression, anxiety, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, colitis and more can be dealt with through better diet (not dieting) and exercise. Always follow the advice of your doctor but tell them about your intention to get control of these problems yourself. You may need their help with medications or surgery but if you do your part they will have to intervene less as you intervene more.

Don’t give up. Change doesn’t happen overnight. I did it. I lost sixty five pounds, reversed my heart disease, avoided approaching diabetes and the need for Viagra all by choosing a prescription for a bike versus the alternative heart surgery and accompanying medications. That was thirty years ago and I have never looked back. Now at sixty three, I can ride fifty km when I want to and do it regularly, everything works well between my ears and legs and I am now enjoying my grandchildren while my peers that I grew up with are turning into fertilizer.

You are only too far gone to change things if you are dead. Being obese is no excuse to change. If you can’t get it up, do something about it. Don’t ignore your body’s warnings and take a pill to trick your cardio vascular system into an erection. Don’t let your type 11 diabetes ruin your life, change your life through exercise and a healthy diet. Depression and anxiety can melt away when you burn off the stress drugs that you make all day long. Don’t give away your power to anyone but take control of your life and change.

How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one but the light bulb has to want to change.

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Negative Narrator

Negative Narrator

As a Cognitive Behavior Therapist I am constantly amazed by how many clients have no idea of the negative self talk that goes on within their brain. We grow desensitized to the clamor of these automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) similar to those working beside a large generator at an industrial worksite. When it is first turned on it seems deafening but in an hour or two it fades into the background and by the end of the day we forget it is on until someone shuts it down and we are shocked by the silence. So it goes for the negative narrator in our brain. This depressing commentator comments on everything and over the years its drone fades to a back ground noise that we ignore at our peril. The problem with this is that each negative thought uses up energy in its electrical and chemical interaction and because our brains are linked to our bodies through our limbic system each negative thought produces a corresponding negative emotion, experienced usually as anxiety or depression.

We can break this cycle by becoming mindful of our thoughts, to begin thinking about our thinking. Dr. D. Amen has some great articles on ANT therapy (Google Dr. Amen or ANT therapy) to help you begin to understand different kinds of negative self thoughts and how to reframe them. When we begin to pay attention to our thinking, specifically negative thoughts, we are at first amazed by how much of it we are capable of. Its not just calling yourself an idiot or other choice names we adopted for ourselves along the way but it is also reflected in thoughts like I must, always, blame, mind reading etc. etc. and we would do well to invest some time and energy to reframing these thoughts as our negative narrator blabs away. Your brain when starting this process is like an untrained puppy, chewing your slippers, humping your leg and then peeing in the corner while you try to focus on a video game. You have to pay attention to that puppy if you want it to grow up into a well trained dog, so to with your brain.

Imagine you have a cage with two bears in it. One, the negative bear, has been feed steak and eggs while the other, the positive bear, has had a leaf of lettuce if it is lucky. After a few years who do you think is going to rule the cage, what about after twenty years. You can change these dynamics by constantly taking the steak out of the mouth of the negative bear by reframing your negative thoughts into positive ones thereby feeding the positive bear. The change won’t happen overnight; in fact it may take months. When you first went to the gym you only noticed that you were sore the next day. If you kept at it three months later you would begin to see and feel a difference with your body so goes it with your brain.

Negative conditioning is very powerful. Your mother may have told you dozens of times that the stove is hot when you were a child but when you finally touched it you didn’t have to be told again. Throughout our evolution negative conditioning kept us alive long enough to perpetuate our species. Positive conditioning although better for raising children to become thoughtful and caring adults is not as powerful as negative conditioning. When changing your thinking you need to do more than just reframe a negative thought into a positive one. We must install the positive thought. Installation is an important technique when changing your thinking. Just like crazy glue, when you put some on a block of wood and glue it to a wall, you have to hold it in place for a couple of seconds. If you just place it and walk away it will fall off in a few seconds because the directions say hold in place for a few seconds for a permanent fix. It is the same with installing a positive thought in your brain after reframing a negative thought. It takes some time. For instance, you wake up and your first thought is I have to go to work. Reframe that negative thought with I want to go to work. Then install that positive thought by thinking about a few things that you like about your job. I am sure you like it twice a month when you get paid but think of a couple of other things as well. That is how you reframe a negative thought with a positive on and then install it into your memory and brain.

Sometimes when in the thick of it the negative narrator is just mumbling in the background. Dealing with your boss, your wife, your husband, your rebellious teenager or the police officer giving you the ticket can distract us from monitoring our thinking but there is no distracting us from the feelings that we feel within our bodies when a negative thought through our limbic system which creates a corresponding negative feeling within our bodies. So if you miss the negative thought you will not miss the negative feeling that comes right after. So when you feel that anxiety, that depression or that tension in your chest, we all experience it differently, think about what you were thinking before the feeling. Now that you recognize that negative thought reframe it with a positive one and then install it. You can create a positive feeling to replace the negative on. It works both ways but only if you do it.

Sometimes you need to challenge that negative narrator in your brain. He rules your brain just like that negative bear rules your cage. We assume that every thought we are capable of is true but when you start to listen to negative commentator you should realize that not only is he negative he is sometimes quite insane. It may start like this; your boss calls you and asks you to meet him in his office in an hour. Your negative narrator starts like this; what have I done, why does he want to see me, could it be about that extra coffee break I took last week, oh my god I am going to be in trouble, for sure I will be fired, my wife will leave me and then I will be evicted, soon to be homeless and lining up at the soup kitchen, eventually as an addict I will be tweaking through the alleys and end up dead in a dumpster. Along with thinking tirade you feel lousy, are sweating and feel like you may be having a heart attack. An hour later when you sit down in front of your boss he tells you that he has noticed you lately and would like to give you a raise because of your hard work. You were temporarily insane admit it. Not only that but you worked yourself up into a frenzy but you are tense, almost had an anxiety attack or maybe you did and are now exhausted. You did your self no favor by listening to that frantic negative commentator. At that first diversion from reality in your thinking you should have challenged that pessimistic homunculus by recognizing that automatic negative thought, as “mindreading” reframed it or at least challenged it.

Be consistent; follow through with reframing and then installation each time. It will seem clumsy as first but as you get the hang of it you will notice a decrease of anxiety, of depression and maybe even your level of frustration and don’t forget to get on your bike every second day to burn off the fuel, you don’t want to put out the fire with gasoline.

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Spring has Sprung

Spring has Sprung

Spring is the time when most of us decide to get back into running, walking or cycling. I am not in this group as I ride year round. According to theories in Psychopathology normal people fall within three standard deviation points of the mean. They form a bell curve that incorporates into itself approximately ninety four percent of the normal population. The remaining six percent (us abnormals) flow out from the bell curve, three percent in either direction either positive or negative. I will leave it up to up you to decide which way I flow on that bell curve.

So for those of you in the ninety six percent that ride in the spring, summer and fall, weather permitting, read on. (If you reside in that three percent on either side of the bell curve you should read on as well as you are probably trying to get the ninety six percent out riding right about now.)

Get your ride ready. Don’t wait for that first sunny day to take your bike out of the garage, especially if you put it away without a bit of oil on the chain. Maybe you ended up riding a lot by the time the weather changed and didn’t notice that clicking sound that was trying to tell you you’re derailers needed adjusting. Maybe you didn’t notice that creak from your bottom bracket telling you that it needed tightening. Situations like this are amplified by storage over the winter, not to mention flat tires, rusted chains or frozen cables which can all change that first spring ride into experience that ends up in a trip to the bike shop for service. Much better to take your ride into the shop pre-ride for a spring tune up. Since this is probably not original thinking you should not leave that tune up for the day before your ride.

Get your body ready. Cozy living through the cold winter, accented by the feasting of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, and you may have put on a few pounds. Throughout the dark months of winter you, like most of the ninety six percent, cocooned or even hibernated throughout the darkened times with little exercise, so start out slow. Don’t just remember that last ride in the fall, after slowly building up your riding stamina, and just go for it. That could be a fatal mistake, like those who come out of hibernation to shovel the snow off of their sidewalk and driveway. Most hospitals register a spike in heart attacks right after that first big snowfall and I am sure that a flurry of spandexed patients fill emergency rooms on that first sunny day of spring as well. So pick an easy first ride and remember that the harder you ride the funnier your walk will be the next day. Set a schedule for your fist ten rides that gives you a gradient from easy to hard so call up your local cycling map service and plan your first rides accordingly. Once you are conditioned then you can take on whatever comes your way. So don’t start your first ride with one of us six-percenters who have been riding all winter because we don’t need the extra guilt when you fall off your bike clutching your chest. We have enough guilt already, which is usually what drives us to ride year round.

Get your mind ready. If you consider that your lying cheating body talks you out of riding when you should have, remember that it learned all it knows from your mind. Controlling your thinking is key to getting back into the saddle. You were wise enough to put away your bike through the dark and snow of winter, so your mind advises, getting back into the saddle can be put off by the habit of inertial from winter hibernation. Most seasonal riders deal with a spike in automatic negative thoughts the hours before their ride. (Google ANTs for more details) Each negative thought is connected to a following negative feeling. Each feeling which radiates out from our core is then the context for the next negative thought and so on. If unchecked your mind will soon give you the excuse your body wants to get out of the upcoming ride. If you are mindful in the moment and reframe these negative thoughts, like from I have to ride to I want to ride, etc. etc. you will change negative feelings into positive ones, which will make the approach of your ride a pleasurable anticipatory experience rather than one you dread.

So with your ride, your body and your mind ready to ride, get out there and enjoy the next three seasons. Also you may consider investing in some winter riding gear, some lights and more aggressive tires next fall and join the six percent of us who ride year round. Especially, if you live in the Vancouver area, where we get only one or two snow days a winter. You may need a snorkel on some really wet days but compared to Winterpeg or Ottawa we have it pretty good for year round cycling.

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Weak Link in the Chain

Watch out for that weak link in your Chain. Many times when counselling a client I observe that they want to talk about their strengths. I think this is good to a point but they didn’t come to see me because of their strengths. After giving them time to polish those strong links in their chain I bring them to the issue they brought them in to see me.

“We are only as strong as our weakest link,” I remind them. “We’ve spent enough time polishing the ones that never fail. Let’s talk about the one that seems to fail enough that you have chosen to see a therapist.” It is hard to talk about our weaknesses but until we do, we set ourselves up for another bout of failure. When this link fails we experience, divorce, getting fired, being expelled, charged with drunk driving…the list is endless but quite predictable.

A metaphor I use is as follows, “When we stray off of our path and onto a divergent trail we follow it to the side of a nice river. There we find a canoe and a paddle that seemed designed to fit us perfectly. We push off and paddle around enjoying ourselves immensely until we begin to hear a distant roar of water. Now we begin to paddle upstream but to no effect and slowly are drawn towards the sound of the waterfall. Now paddling in earnest we still are pulled toward the inevitable and as we begin to tilt just before the fall we have a sense of being here before. Next comes the screaming, the crash and the consequences. We have done this before, maybe many times before. The problem is not with the waterfall, not the river, not even the canoe. The problem is leaving our path in the first place.

Our weakest link, when we master it, will become one of our strongest but that will never happen when we are in denial. We need to look at the cause of our failures not the reasons, the situations or the resulting pain and chaos. We can’t change the past and we haven’t screwed up once tomorrow but we can become mindful in the moment.

Have a destination, know the path that will take you there, acknowledge you weaknesses, whether it be alcohol, drugs, hate, love of money etc etc., and overcome them by being mindful in the moment and thus succeed in your life.

If your weak link in your chain hangs so low that it is submerged in your unconscious get help from a therapist. If it is an addiction that fails you when you need to be strong get into recovery. If it is a wound resulting from abuse in your childhood as an adult get help for your inner child.

Remember this though, your weak link that now leads you over that waterfall, when you are healed and have insight, will be one of the stronger links in you chain.

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Gasoline and Dynamite

Gasoline and Dynamite

When working with clients in counselling situations I use a metaphor of a smoker trying to quit smoking but doing it in a room filled with dynamite and soaked in gasoline. The consequences of failure are weighted to the extreme and not in the clients favor.

The Dynamite is the constant flow of negative self thoughts that flow up from their unconsciousness into their consciousness. Each is the byproduct of a chemical/electrical reaction within their brains. Since our thinking brain is linked to our reactive bodies these negative thoughts create negative feelings. Because negative feelings can increase the flow of automatic negative thoughts (Google ANTs or Cognitive Behavior Therapies) this can create a feedback loop similar to an electric guitar and amplifier. Both tend to get out of control quickly one uncomfortable for the ears the other uncomfortable for the psyche. Some people have hundreds of automatic negative thoughts a day, some have thousands but most people have more than they need to, especially if they ignore them. They then become like background music that we don’t even notice until it stops. This can lead to very uncomfortable feelings within our bodies and minds. It can be an incredible energy drain on us as well, like trying to jog in water up to our necks. We don’t notice it in our daily lives as it has been going on so long that it becomes the new normal.

The gasoline is the go fast chemicals that flood our bloodstreams daily as we live domesticated lives in denial of our evolved flight or fight systems. This system allowed us calorie conserving hunter gathers to respond with heightened abilities to threats or potential meals. Approximately every forty eight hours we had to run away from something that wanted to eat us or after something we wanted to eat. The rest of the time we wandered slowly gathering fruits, nuts and roots conserving our energy. Being in the middle of the food chain we had to learn how to discern a threat from a potential meal. When our flight or fight mechanism kicks in our adrenal glands and others pump an exotic mixture of go fast chemicals into our bloodstream like nitro into a dragster, giving us the ability to run away or run after. Domestication has taught us to ignore these primal urges, which may make us good citizens but this comes with a cost. These chemicals were meant to be burnt off as they occurred and are linked to a reward from our brain when they are. Spouses, bosses, traffic, bank line ups and more kick in these systems many times daily and we as good citizens just suck it up and stand in line. Eventually we are bathed in these chemicals and end up in Cortisol Response Syndrome, which leads to our immune system attacking us, with heart disease, arthritis, colitis, and other auto immune disorders, never mind anxiety and depression.

So when that smoker tries to quit smoking in a room full of dynamite and gasoline the consequences of relapse are far greater than just having a smoke. So when a client who attempts to quit smoking pot, stop using hard drugs, stop drinking, change their eating habits or deal with anxiety or depression the first thing we do is try to create a safer inner environment for them by getting rid of the dynamite and gasoline first and then worry about the presenting issue.

We tackle the dynamite through Cognitive Behavior Therapy. This begins with dealing with automatic negative thoughts, first through counting them, then naming them and then reframing them is one technique among many that will help them feel better within weeks. This then sets them up with hope to deal with core self esteem issues and more intensive therapies. If they have experienced abuse as children or young teens this is even more critical as they are probably attempting to self medicate their way through their inner pain.

Getting rid of the gasoline is best dealt with though an exercise program and diet. Burning off those go fast chemicals, getting in physical shape and adapting a healthy diet can also result in substantial changes in mood within a short period of time. I always recommend cycling or power walking but any anaerobic exercise program that they will stick to and perform at least three times a week will do. Introducing a more natural diet augmented with fish oils is a great start.

Once the room is cleared of these dangerous obstacles then the client can relax while they deal with their core issues. This is where the expression I often use comes from, “You won’t have to worry about those triggers if you first unload the gun.” Some clients see enough change with just the above that they are empowered to do more, while some are ok with just maintaining these strategies. I have never had a client who has after doing these strategies regretted it after the fact. All have reported positive results.

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