These 2 Questions Will Solve All Your Problems!

These 2 questions wstart stopill solve all your problems!

Am I sounding too much like an infomercial?  And…I’ll even throw in this paring knife!

Ok, now seriously. If you have a problem, then here are two killer questions to help you hone in on a solution.  Ask yourself:

What am I doing that I shouldn’t be?
What am I not doing that I should?

Simple huh? But brilliant. Why? Because, let’s be honest, we all know that there are things we say we’re going to do but don’t. And, there are things we’re doing that either create a problem or make one worse. Right? Right.

I love to help people figure out what they want out of life. It’s a joy to discover what you long to do, how you want to be, and what would make your life more meaningful. Then I usually help you get out of your own way so that you can make your dream happen. But if you’re not going to be sitting in my office next week or talking to me via Skype, you can get the party started by asking yourself those two simple questions. Then start doing what you need to or stop doing what you shouldn’t. If you still can’t, then that’s where people like me (psychologists) come in handy to help you figure out why and get past it. Most of the time, the only one stopping you from getting what you want out of life is you. So what are you waiting for? Get out of your way!

Whoosh! (That’s me throwing the mic down.)

 

“The answer to all your problems is in this bittle lottle.” ~ Lucille Ball

Pain – The Great Change Motivator

Sometimes I get a paincall or an email from someone who is interested in beginning therapy. We talk, they tell me a bit about their situation, we set up an appointment, and they cancel. We try again and they cancel. At that point, I know they’re not going to start therapy and I know why: they’re just not in enough pain.

Pain is the great change motivator. Pain is what causes you to say, “I never want to go through that again. I’m willing to do something, anything different!” Pain is what leads you to therapy.

But why wait so long? Why not get help when it’s just recurring discomfort instead of waiting until it’s overwhelming and debilitating pain? Perhaps it’s the old “devil we know vs. the devil we don’t know” syndrome? A low-level pain can be tolerated; the regular dose of discomfort can be borne.

People seem to know this on some innate level, because they often exaggerate the pain in order to justify change. The boss can’t just be a regular person, biding the time until retirement, and unmotivated to try your innovative ideas. No, the boss must be a lazy lout, who is purposely ruining your career! So now you can give yourself permission to look for another job.

But instead of waiting so long, I say, “Feel the pain!” No, this isn’t some old aerobics slogan. I’m just saying to pay attention to what your pain, your everyday, low-level, tolerable pain is telling you. Stop ignoring it and listen. Maybe it’s telling you to find a different job or even change your career. Maybe it’s saying to start painting again or tell your partner you don’t want to go to your in-laws for dinner every weekend. Who knows? Well your pain knows and it’s sending you a message that you need to figure out. Hey, I’m happy to help you figure it out, but you don’t have to show up at my doorstep practically bleeding out from emotional pain. No worries, I’ll bandage you up and help you figure it out, but you can also save yourself a world of hurt by starting the process early and paying attention to your pain before it becomes overwhelming. Give yourself permission to make a change or seek help because you want to and not because you absolutely have to or will keel over from excruciating pain. Give yourself permission to want more, to dream big, to listen to yourself. Give yourself permission to have better than good enough and to fix what ain’t broke.

Achieving Balance

balancing actBalance is a new buzzword of late.  People often talk about achieving work-life balance.  Usually that means trying to spend less hours working in order to fit in more non-work activities, such as spending time with family or friends.

I’d like to discuss a slightly different form of balance: a balance of your inner and outer worlds.  By the outer world, I mean what you do that is external or directed outward from your physical being.  In other words, what you create in the world, whether a work presentation, a meal, a new business, or a book.  These all entail expending your energy outward and creating something tangible in the world.  We’re very achievement oriented, so understanding what I mean by expending your energy for external achievement should be easy because it’s likely what you do most of the time.

So what is the internal part of this external/internal balance?  Well that’s the emphasis, effort, and energy that you put into going inward.  It is often alone but can also be done in a group, such as yoga, meditation, and tai chi.  It’s not necessarily about being still either, as there are certainly walking meditations.  It is all about where your attention is focused: outward creation or inner awareness.

Yoga is a wonderful way to bring your awareness back to yourself, combining both movement and stillness.  Tai chi is a powerful way to learn to focus inward and manage your energy.  In these kinds of practices, such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, and even journal writing and psychotherapy, your focus is on yourself: knowing yourself, observing yourself, perhaps reaching deeper insights about yourself, as opposed to the external focus that we usually maintain.  In our everyday life, especially at work or school, we are more often focused on others and events external from ourselves, perhaps understanding them or working with them.

When we are too externally focused we lose touch with ourselves and can feel disconnected from ourselves; we may not know what we really want out of life and too often don’t enjoy life.  When we are too internally focused we can lose touch with others and the outside world; we may become disengaged and have difficulty achieving in the outside world.

The healthiest goal is to seek balance between our external efforts – what we create in the world – and our internal awareness – what we come to know and understand within ourselves.  Neither external nor internal is inherently better than the other, we need both for a fulfilling life, and we all have our own unique balance of external and internal that feels healthiest for us.

Please give this idea some thought and consider whether your life is too heavily focused in one direction and could use some rebalancing.

4 Tips for Dealing with Anger

angry man

Anger has gotten a bad reputation.  As I always tell my patients who have trouble acknowledging their anger or expressing it in a healthy way, “Anger is a healthy response to being disrespected.”  By suggesting tips to help you understand and handle your anger, I’m not at all saying that feeling anger is a bad thing.  But acting out of anger often turns into a bad thing.  These tips are to help you deal with anger in a healthier way, not to eliminate the feeling from your emotional repertoire.  Anger about injustice has given birth to many a good cause.  I’m sure Martin Luther King Jr. felt anger, but he didn’t act out of anger.  As a peace-promoting man, he likely used any anger he felt over injustice to fuel his efforts.  But I suspect his actual actions were guided more by conviction, a desire for peace and justice, and the knowledge that anger-fueled action often becomes violence.  So please feel your anger and recognize that it is telling you something, namely, “There’s something going on here that I don’t like.”  But don’t let anger rule your actions.  Let your actions come from a more centered place.

1.  Accept that you can’t control others

Plainly and simply put: Anger is your response to someone not being or doing as you want them to be or do.  You feel angry when others don’t behave or respond as you want them to.  But if we can’t control others, then fortunately for us, they can’t control us either.  Trying to control another adult is so utterly disrespectful.  Do you remember how you felt when someone tried to control you?  I bet you were angry.    Other people are as free to make their own choices as you are, even if their choices hurt you or don’t make sense to you.  All you can do is feel your anger but let your response, whether it involves verbal or physical action, come from a clearer, more centered place.  This is what Martin Luther King did when he responded to violence with non-violence.

2.  Realize that it’s not personal

This one can save you from feeling anger over a lot of the silly, everyday nonsense.  The best explanation of this comes from Don Miguel Ruiz in The Four Agreements.  He states that he can see someone one day who says, “Miguel you are so wonderful!,” and he knows that the person is in a good mood.  The next day the same person can say, “Miguel you are horrible!,” and he knows that the person is in a bad mood.  Miguel hasn’t changed who he is overnight; the other person’s mood has changed overnight.

When you feel angry in response to someone’s actions, realize that their actions usually have nothing to do with you.  If you think the customer service representative on the phone isn’t being helpful, then know that he is likely the same with everyone.  It’s not personal.  Is it frustrating?  Yes.  But is it personal?  No.  The person who is kind to you is kind to most people and the person who is rude to you is rude to most people.  Even if a colleague does something that is deliberately aimed at you to make you look bad and him look good, let’s say to position himself for a promotion.  Know that he would have done it to anyone whom he deemed a threat.  That still doesn’t make it fair, but it does make it not personal.

3.  Take a beat

It’s an important lesson to learn in life that things that are said can’t be taken back.  Couples often tell me that they have said things in anger that they immediately regretted and even apologized for, but their partners never forgot it.  In the heat of anger, you might verbally throw your partner’s weaknesses at him or her or threaten to leave.  Those kinds of remarks are not forgotten and the more it happens the less safe your partner feels about you.

Take a moment before you respond, even if that moment lasts much longer than a beat.  You can say something like, “I need a minute to think so that I say this clearly.”  If you are so angry that you know you won’t be able to think clearly in a minute, say something like, “I have to clear my head a little.  I’ll be back in ‘x amount of time’ when I’m calmer and we can talk about this more then.”  But don’t leave without an explanation or just stomp out.  To just walk out on someone is also disrespectful and then nothing gets solved.  So do your best to calm down with the intention to get back to the topic a.s.a.p.

4.  Learn what calms you down

You need to try different things to see what calms you down when you’re angry.  Again, that doesn’t mean ignore your anger.  It means feel it and then manage it so that it doesn’t overwhelm you.  Maybe taking a few deep breaths, going for a quick walk, thinking of what you could potentially lose, or meditating will work for you.  It may be that you already do or think certain things when you are anxious, such as, “Everything is going to be okay,” or “Things always work out well in the end.”  Perhaps those same thoughts could help you with anger too.  You need to be willing to try different things to see what works for you.

People say that they can’t control themselves in those moments of anger.  But that is not true.  You always have a choice; you always can take a beat.  A split second before you say it, you know that what you are about to say will hurt your partner.  If you think that you can’t control yourself in those moments, then that’s precisely what you have to learn and why you need to practice.  Keep practicing; it will make you more mature and it will teach you self control.  So if you do blurt something out, then try to do better the next time you’re angry.  If you do stomp out, then apologize when you get back and pick up the discussion.  Just keep trying to do better because we seldom get things perfect the first time around and life will certainly give you plenty of opportunities to get angry and practice some more.

 

4 Tips for Getting through Divorce

Divorce is painful.  Tbroken ringshere’s no getting around it.  Whether you were the one who initiated it or not, it is still likely be one of the most painful periods in your life.  These tips are for getting through the first month or two after it’s decided that you’re getting divorced.

1.   Be kind to yourself and don’t overdo

You’re getting divorced and it feels like a shock.  It seems like life is moving on, carrying your body along with it, but your brain and heart are stuck in limbo.  You’re still in shock over the realization that your marriage is over and the future you had imagined with your spouse will never happen.  Don’t make yourself do too much, i.e. work or social activities.  You may have to take some time off from work, ranging from days to weeks.  Each day you’ve accomplished something if you can get one thing done, whether it’s the grocery shopping or getting to one appointment, and that’s great.

2.  Lean on your support system

If they don’t already know, then tell your closest friends and relatives that you are getting a divorce and let them help you by taking care of some things that you can’t quite handle yet.  Get a therapist, or contact one you saw in the past.  Family can be wonderful, but the fact that they knew your soon-to-be ex can make them less than impartial and unfortunately some “helpful” remarks may even blame you.  Get a therapist in place, who can help you get through this in a non-judgmental way at the pace that you need.

3.  Stay in the present

It’s inevitable that you’ll be sad, after all you’re grieving over the end of your relationship.  There’s no pretending that it isn’t over or that you’re not devastated.  But try not to add anxiety to the mix.  There is nothing that causes anxiety more than jumping into the far-off future with thoughts like, “Will anyone ever love me?”, “Will I ever get married again?”, or “What’s my life going to look like?”  As soon as you start thinking like that you’re going to feel that tight vice-grip around your stomach and be overwhelmed by anxiety.   Stay in the present.  That means get yourself through the day.  Take things a day at a time and at the most, a week at a time.

All of those questions will get answered in the future.  There’s no use torturing yourself with them now when you can’t possibly answer them.  Just stick to the present day with questions like, “What am I going to have for dinner?” (By the way, almost everyone I’ve worked with in this situation has lost their appetite and had a period of barely eating.  This is completely normal as deep sadness tends to rob people of their appetites.  But this will most likely pass within a month.)

4.  Accept current reality but have goals

People often balk at the Buddhist tenet of practicing acceptance.  They mistakenly think it means to not have goals or want to achieve anything.  What it really means is that we have no choice but to accept what currently is, i.e. you are getting divorced.  But you can accept the present while still having goals for the future.  They are not incompatible.

Give some thought to what dreams you’ve had about your life and what you’ve wanted to achieve, even if they seem far-fetched.  Now is the time to start thinking of them seriously.  Your life is about to have a lot of space in it, which was once filled with a spouse, marital obligations, and possibly a home to maintain.  What are you going to fill that space with?  Don’t fill it with mediocrity or things that you are expected to do but feel uninspiring.

I’ve worked with people who have created entirely new and more fulfilling lives after divorce.  It usually helps to fill the emptiness with something creative.  Do you love to write, dance, or paint?  What have you always wanted to be or do or learn?  Perhaps you’ve wanted to learn to speak Italian or to cook French cuisine?  It’s your choice.  You’re at a point where life is giving you both the burden and the opportunity of recreating your life.

So these are a few points about how to survive divorce, which I hope will help you.  There is a lot more that I could add, but these are some basics to get you through that initial, “Oh my God, I’m getting divorced,” period.  You’re in a lot of pain and probably think it will never end.  But you’ll notice after a few weeks that you’ll feel a little better, then in a few weeks you’ll feel a little better still.  It happens little by little and it takes time.  There are no shortcuts, but you’ll get through it.  Then one day you’ll find that you’ve gotten through most of the day and you’ll realize, “Wow, I haven’t thought of him/her all day.”  You may even feel a little sad at this realization that the person who was once so important in your life is no longer in your thoughts, but that’s what will happen.  Life goes on and so will you.

Fending off Depression

Close up of young couple fightingSome people have certain susceptibilities, such as getting depressed or overly anxious, and rather than denying these susceptibilities, it’s best to accept them and learn to manage them better.  Take depression, for instance.  Studies show that people, who have experienced a Major Depressive Episode (MDE), have a 50% likelihood of reoccurrence.  So if you have gone through depression in your life, then chances are that you will go through a similar episode at some point again.  While you don’t need to be nervous about it all of the time, which would only add anxiety to the mix, you can accept the likelihood and do your best to recognize and manage the precursors to a MDE.

If the best predictor of the future is the past, then take a careful and honest look at your previous depressive   episode(s).  What thoughts, feelings, and behaviors preceded them?  For example, did you lie in bed for a half hour after the alarm went off in the morning?  Did you start taking longer to return people’s calls?  Did you let your home get messier?  Did you start ruminating about how you were a “failure, hopeless, single forever,” etc.?  Were you feeling overwhelmed or stressed in at least two key areas of your life, such as relationship, career, or health?

Take note of what preceded the last time you became depressed so that you can take preemptive measures while you are still near the top of that slippery slope, before you slide fully downhill and land in a Major Depressive Episode.  You know how hard it is to pull yourself out of there.  Studies also show that MDE’s can end within 6 to 9 months without any kind of treatment.  However, no one wants to feel depressed for months.  And, no one wants to see a loved one depressed for months.

Understanding what thoughts and behaviors precipitate a MDE is imperative.  If your memory is a bit hazy regarding this time prior to a depressive episode, then ask your spouse, a close friend, or family members.  I guarantee you that they will remember a change in your behavior that they either took note of were concerned about before they realized that you were depressed.   Then once you can see your pre-depression pattern more clearly, you can fashion some sort of a preemptive plan to halt your downward spiral.  Again, look to your supportive partner, family, and friends.  Speak with them and give them permission to call you on your “pre-depression behavior” as soon as they see it.

If you can remember how terribly you felt while depressed, write it down somewhere.  Write the worst of it: how you felt, the painful thoughts you had.  Keep it somewhere as a tool that you or a loved one can use when necessary to remind you of how bad it can get, so that you realize it’s better to head it off at the pass.  People forget the depths of their feelings; they remember in theory but don’t remember exactly how they felt.  It’s a funny phenomenon that we think that whatever we are currently feeling will just go on forever.  (If we’re in love, we think it will never end, and if we’re depressed, we think it will never end.)   But if you read about a past difficult time in a diary, it can help you remember exactly how badly you felt and motivate you to do whatever you need to in order to avoid that dark place, for your sake and that of your loved ones.

Then what do you do?  There is no magic “snap out of it” formula for everyone.  You will have to figure out what helped you in the past and be willing to try things that have helped others.  Some suggestions are:

- reconnect emotionally with your partner

- get some aerobic exercise

- see a therapist or revisit a previous one

- take a quick trip to get a change of scenery and perspective

- spend time in nature

- learn something new and creative

- do some charity work and see that your life is not so bad and that you have something to contribute

- spend more time with friends and family so that you can see that people love and appreciate you

Act on these preemptive moves quickly, before the lack of energy and motivation that usually accompany MDE’s hit you.

You don’t have to live in fear of depression, but you need to be realistic.  You survived depression before and you can survive again.  But you may be able to save yourself and your family the pain of your experiencing a depressive episode again if you can put some carefully thought out preventative measures in place beforehand.

The Many Faces of Love: Caretaking A Sick Loved One

Tender Care

I talk to my patients about the many faces of love, whether romantic or non-romantic love.  There is the “It’s early on and everything you say is fascinating” love, the “We know each other so well and can finish each other’s sentences” love, the “Wow, you can still surprise me” love, and then sadly, the “You’re really sick and I’m terrified of losing you” love.  I’ve gone through the last one and it was so terribly painful, and yet in the midst of that pain there were moments of joy too.  I was taking care of someone, who was very sick and diagnosed with a serious illness.  (Thankfully he is stabilized now.)  There were days when just the thought of losing him made me tear up.  One day I even had to put on my sunglasses because the tears just started rolling down my face while I was walking outside.  Other days, my fear would turn into anger when he wouldn’t eat despite my best efforts and cajoling.  Yet throughout this, I would experience unexpected moments of profound beauty when he would allow me to take care of him and I realized that caretaking a sick loved one can be an honor and a gift.  I was awed by his vulnerability, trust, and acceptance.  It takes real strength to show your vulnerability to someone.  Then there were moments when I saw that he was trying to survive and my heart felt like it would explode with love, joy, and gratitude at finding him alive for another day.

How did I get through this difficult period and remain sane?  Well I relied on wonderful, supportive friends, who would take my despondent, late night calls.  I contacted my old therapist, who was willing to work with me on an as needed, weekly, or even telephone basis.  I practiced forgiveness with myself when I fell short of my expectations of being “the compassionate, wise, and calm caretaker.”   That meant that when I was unreasonably angry because he was too nauseous to eat and I accused him of reneging on his promise to try, I later forgave myself.  (Of course, I apologized to him too.)  I knew it wasn’t my finest moment, but I knew it was my own fear of losing him that led me to be so childishly angry.  Also, I had to acknowledge that I was doing my best under difficult circumstances.  Even after clumsily giving him shots with trembling hands, I had to be grateful that I had gotten it done and tried to believe that I would get better with every shot.   I tried to take care of myself.   On those days when even I didn’t want to eat, I made sure that I did and tried to get enough rest because it wouldn’t help either of us if I got sick.   And lastly, I was grateful for every day that he stayed alive.  It forced me to stay in the present because looking too far ahead was scary and made me miss out on the joy of having today together.

So if you are caretaking a seriously ill loved one, my heart goes out to you and my advice is: Cut yourself some slack; you’re doing your best under extremely difficult circumstances.   Be sure to:

  1. Have a support system, such as friends, family, and a mental health professional
  2. Be compassionate with yourself and forgive your shortcomings
  3. Take care of yourself also
  4. Be grateful for the time you do have

Thankfully my loved one is stabilized and I wish you and your loved one all the best.

How Clearly Do You See Yourself?

mirrorDove, in continuance of its “Real Beauty” campaign, recently came up with another great commercial. (The link is below.) They have a sketch artist draw a woman based on her own verbal description of herself, i.e. her own self image.  The sketch artist can’t see her. Then the artist draws the same woman based on a description of her by someone who just met her.  The artist also doesn’t know when he is redrawing the same woman.

The outcome is that the women who were sketched tended to point out their flaws.  While the strangers, who just met them, described them in more glowing terms, such as, “She had nice eyes.  They lit up when she spoke.”

What a clever way to demonstrate that we are too hard on ourselves and have trouble seeing ourselves clearly for who we are.  People often come to me and want me to “fix” them.  But, to me, therapy isn’t about fixing, it’s about uncovering the real you, which you have been disowning for so long.  I see my clients more as diamonds, who have gotten dusty and dirty and who can’t clearly see their own brilliance and their many facets.

This reminds me of a man I worked with who came in because he had not passed the Bar Exam for the second time.  He was planning to take to take it again, but he had lost his self-confidence and his anxiety about not passing again was sky high.  Through the course of therapy not only did he regain his confidence – there was so much evidence in his life that he was clearly intelligent enough to pass – but he realized that he didn’t even want to be a lawyer!  He finally admitted to himself that he really wanted to get an MBA.  And, he even realized that he didn’t even want to live in NYC anymore; he wanted to live in a warm Southern state.

Through his efforts in therapy, he was able to brush off the dust of failed exams and other people’s expectations and see himself clearly for the intelligent, highly competent man he was.  He admitted to himself and others what he really wanted out of life.  By the time therapy ended, he was accepted into an MBA program, was moving down south, and had retaken the Bar Exam.  He wanted to prove to himself that he could pass it – and he did!

One reason why people don’t see themselves clearly is because they give their personal power away to others; they let others define them.  Even in the Dove commercial we hear a woman describe herself by saying, “My mom told me I had a big jaw.”  As the saying goes, “Don’t let others decide who you are; that’s your job.”  Therapy is just one of the ways in which people can begin to see themselves more clearly and own their beauty, strength, and power.  So whatever method you choose to get to know yourself, whether journaling, yoga, art, meditation, therapy, etc., it’s time to start seeing your brilliant, multifaceted self more clearly!

“A human being has so many skins, covering the depths of the heart.  We know so many things, but we don’t know ourselves!” ~ Meister Eckhart

 

Here is the video link: http://ti.me/13t1Spe

Teaching Young Men How to Manage Their Sexual Energy

young men laughingYoung men, and I’m referring to men in their 20′s, have a lot of sexual energy. (Yes, I know that’s the understatement of the year.)  It’s such a fact of life that people tend to joke about how young men are ruled by their hormones and nothing can be done about it.  But that’s not necessarily true; young men can actually learn to channel and focus that sexual energy.  Of course there will be times when the sexual urges will end in sexual activity and that’s fine.  I’m not at all saying that sex is a bad thing or that young men shouldn’t have sex or engage in any sexual activity.  But the fact is that young men don’t get to have sex every time they want it. (When would they ever get anything done?)  So what happens to all of that sexual energy when they don’t get to have sex or engage in some sexual activity?  It gets dissipated and wasted because young men aren’t taught how to channel and better utilize the energy when they can’t have sex.

Do you remember the movie “Rocky?”  There’s a scene in which Burgess Meredith, Rocky’s manager, tells Rocky that he has to abstain from sex before the big fight because, “women weaken legs.”  It’s a funny way to state it, but male athletes know exactly what he means by that remark.  He is saying that if it is not released, then the sexual energy will be pent up and explosive (no pun intended.)  In fact, both Mohammed Ali and Rocky Marciano claimed to abstain from sex for long periods before a fight.

Now I’m not saying that having sexual urges and denying them is comfortable.  What I am saying is that discomfort isn’t the only option.  Instead, young men can learn to channel that energy into other areas, whether it’s sports, creative arts, spiritual activity, or any other area that could use some powerful energy to charge it or bring it to another level.

Eastern and Indigenous cultures do a much better job of teaching young men to do this than Western culture.  In Western culture, we tend to believe that young men are at the mercy of their libidos, making this one aspect of the young man seem larger than the whole of him and resigning him to feeling out of control.  We often see young men’s plight as facetious, when in fact their perceived powerlessness actually causes them emotional pain too.  If older men look back at their 20′s, they’ll agree with me.

So what happens in these Eastern and Indigenous cultures?  These cultures tend to believe in some things that can’t be seen under a microscope, such as energy centers in the body.  You don’t need to learn much about these centers to understand the general principle of moving sexual energy upward.  The growing yoga movement in the US has one modality, kundalini yoga, which specifically focuses on moving this energy upward.

In South America, young men who are in training or apprenticing to become a shaman go through long periods of time on restricted diets, while also abstaining from any sexual activity or release. They learn how to work with this energy.

Also, meditation, a long-standing tradition in Asian countries, such as India, Japan, and China, teaches focus and self-control over some areas, like physical movement, while also teaching how to let go in other areas, like attachment to thought.  Indeed Buddhist monks, who are celibate, do not deny that they have sexual urges.  As one Buddhist monk stated, “Sometimes you think the energy is so strong you think you are going to run outside the monastery and have sex with the first woman you see.  But if you stay with it, you notice it changes. You learn to transform that energy into unconditional love, into the fuel for transformation of one small self to something beyond that.”

Other practices that can help with moving and focusing sexual energy are chi kung, tai chi, and mindfulness techniques.

While I don’t give specific instructions in this article, I do encourage young men, and those people who care about them, to do a little research and help them through a phase of life that can be difficult to begin with, but which becomes even more difficult when they are overwhelmed by their sexual urges and end up making unhealthy choices.  We do a disservice to young men when we leave them to flounder in their sexual energy without guidance.  Teaching young men to both control their bodies and channel their sexual energy would help them feel less lost, overwhelmed, and powerless in the face of what is one of their greatest gifts, if they could only learn to use it and channel it in a direction of their own choosing.

 

Meditation: Your Daily Dose of Vitamin Calm

woman meditatingWhy meditate?  Well my answer would be, why not?  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  I often encourage my patients to meditate.  It’s great for relaxation, stress reduction, decreasing anxiety, and calming yourself down at bedtime.  At the very least, meditation does all of these and, at the most, it does so much more.  Meditation is simple yet profound, easy yet difficult, restrictive yet liberating.  I simply can’t describe everything that meditation can be and all it can give you because I haven’t experienced all of its gifts and benefits yet myself, and I doubt I ever will because I suspect they are unending.

What is the goal of meditation?  Well there are many goals you can set ranging from calming down to achieving enlightenment.   I would aim for calming down.   Begin with that and allow meditation to reveal its gifts over time.

I am not the best at meditation myself, meaning that I don’t meditate every day (although I do on most days.)  I don’t sit for too long (30 minutes at the most.)  And, I can’t manage a full on lotus position (just sitting cross-legged leaves me hobbling for several minutes afterward.)  Worst of all, while meditating my mind runs amok like a drunken monkey suddenly let out of a cage.  So, not surprisingly, I haven’t achieved enlightenment yet.  I haven’t even rid myself of all anxiety.  Yet I persevere and plunk myself down on my meditation pillow.  Why?  It’s hard to say.  All I know is that I miss it when I don’t.  Meditation changes something on a level that I can’t see, but I can feel it.  If I had feathers, I would say that it takes my ruffled feathers and smoothes then down and sets them all in the right direction.  Maybe this isn’t profound, but it’s better than where I started.

As for my chattering monkey mind, well that’s always interesting to watch.  It has transformed, with time and practice, from thoughts of judgment (mostly about how bad I was at meditating) to anxiety (mostly about everything that I had to get done but couldn’t because I was meditating) to being watchful (mostly watching how I get lost in my thoughts while meditating.)  But I have also had some moments of inspiration and helpful advice (to myself from myself) and those moments are wonderful.  So enlightenment may be a ways off, but meditation is my daily dose of vitamin calm in a hectic world filled with costly meds trying to do the same.

So I encourage everyone to meditate.  Do some brief research, if you like.  There are plenty of instructional websites and videos online, as well as plenty of modalities, such as zen, transcendental, kriya, mindfulness, vipasanna, etc. to choose from.  But don’t put it off by looking for the perfect modality, the perfect instructional class, or the perfect spot in your home.  What’s most important is to just do it.  Practice, practice, practice and one day you may get to Carnegie Hall, or achieve enlightenment or, at the very least, feel calmer.