"Heaven gives it's glimpses to those not in a position to look too close". ~ Robert Frost
In the four noble truths we find the definition of the human predicament according to the teachings of the Buddha. The first truth is that human life is wrought with frustration, pain and suffering. The Buddhist tradition refers to suffering as duhka.
The concept is an honest and straightforward description of the experience of human life. Although there are those times when we feel rather elated with our lives, as we engage with others we see, on the whole, so much suffering in the life of humanity. The digital age and the revolution of technology exposes us daily and more readily than in the past to enormous quantities of stories of human suffering and tragedy.
This discussion will reflect on two questions:
The first noble truth also defines human suffering as an internal issue for humanity. Science would define this internal experience of duhka as psychic or psychological, emotional suffering. The human intellect, with our innate capacity and ability of thought, can act almost as an enemy to us in life. Thought alone, with recollection upon memories of psychological trauma, for instance, can inflict us with suffering repeatedly, long after the traumatic event has passed.
Add to this the knowledge we carry that informs us, almost unconsciously, that we will age, get sick and ultimately, we know, we are going to die. This makes human life seem rather pointless. To some, the ultimate suffering of knowing we are living only to one day die, is what we might refer to as a meaningless life. No matter how hard we might try to not think about our inevitable demise, we can't help but think about it. Death, we know is waiting for us all. We've seen death. We know this is true. With this knowledge, we suffer.
The theory of natural selection in science supports the Buddha's reference to life as suffering in a more sterile form. Natural selection suggests that only the strong among us will survive. By survival, the theory of natural selection proposes that as a species of primate, not far removed from the abilities of the chimp, our quest in life is also a simple one. In this theory of science, the aim of humanity is to leave behind on earth, as many copies, individually, of our genes as possible to carry on into the next and coming generations.
Therefore, individual human life is a life of competition with other humans, to ensure the passing on of our genes. The study of evolutionary biology is the science we might engage to support this position to define the human condition or predicament. Evolutionary biology proposes that all human activity is fueled by this survival of the fittest, internal biological drive within humanity.
The second noble truth taught by the Buddha, supports natural selections definition of human life. This second truth teaches that suffering has a cause and that this cause is, in fact, that we are constantly struggling as humans to survive. Individually, we are constantly trying to prove that we are important to the world and that our existence, individually, matters. Unfortunately, the teaching suggest that the harder we struggle to establish ourselves in our efforts to survive with importance, the more painful our experience of life becomes.
The third noble truth in the Buddha's teaching tells us that suffering can end. He says that our struggle to survive, and our effort to prove ourselves to the world isn't, at all, necessary and that we can make adjustments to get along in the world in a peaceful way, without the suffering we tend to endure. Basically, the Buddha says, if we can learn to act in a simple, direct and straight-forward manner with ourselves, by accepting the reality of life, we can eliminate the cause of our suffering. He tells us we can do this by abandoning our expectations about how we think things should be.
This takes us to the forth noble truth, proposed by the Buddha.The fourth noble truth is the way, or path to end the cause of suffering. The central theme of this path is the practice of meditation. For the purpose of this specific discussion, meditation, here, means the practice of mindfulness.
We become mindful, according to the Buddha, by abandoning our expectations about the way we think things should be and, out of our mindfulness, we begin to develop awareness about the way things really are. We begin to develop the insight that we can handle ourselves, and our relationships, and we can then learn to live peacefully and comfortably with ourselves and others in the world.
This is where Buddhism and science come together in an incredibly helpful way. Mental health practitioners are now incorporating mindfulness training into treatment modalities. Mindfulness practice, for those who suffer with a variety of medically defined mental illness, teaches the 'patient' to not only become mindful of behavior, but more importantly, mindfulness training teaches us to become aware of our thinking. By observing our thoughts, without judgement, we can see the thoughts that cause us pain. We can gently allow the thoughts to come and go, thereby eliminating power of negative thinking over time and with practice.
When we look at the tradition of the four noble truths with some comparisons to modern science, the two points of view seem to align. Specifically, when we consider the value of mindfulness teachings and apply the practice in therapy in mental health practice, there is harmony between the two schools of thought.
Speaking personally, I know mindfulness teachings have improved the outcome of my own experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I personally value the practice and now incorporate a few minutes, three times/day into my personal recovery plan. Many report the same value in the mental health community.
As we move towards healing our individual lives, it would appear, both Buddhism and modern science, with the application of mindfulness into treatments, can support one another without conflict. As for any conflicts with religion, we'll leave this discussion for another time. The single concept of mindfulness, is making a huge difference in terms of recovery potential for those who live with the effects of trauma.
Consider a study of Buddhist practice. Consider mindfulness training. Don't suffer with any ideas of conflict. Rather, embrace the concepts and you too will find a contributor to healing. Peace awaits and this peace has been a long time in coming. We all deserve this peace. We all deserve to experience an end to our sense of personal suffering. Mindfulness practice, adopted from Buddhism, can make all the difference.
Be Well. . . . . . . .
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia: Mindfulness (psychology): 2014 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness_%28psychology%29
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia: The Four Noble Truths: 2014 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Four_Noble_Truths
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia: Natural Selection: 2014 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_selection
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia: Evolutionary Biology: 2014 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_biology
The Trauma Recovery Blog: Thought & Mindfulness: 2014 http://www.traumarecoverybc.com/1/post/2014/02/thought-mindfulness.html
"Post Traumatic Stress is an anxiety disorder that leaves sufferers feeling overwhelmed. It is a normal reaction to exposure to traumatic events. Learn about the impact on the body, mind and emotion and how people recover." ~ Dr. Anna Baraanowsky
Thought (Noun): "The definition of thought is the act of thinking, or
the outcome of mental activity."
Thought (Verb): "Thought is the past tense of the word think which
means to conceive in the mind.
~ Your Dictionary definition and usage exampleCopyright © 2014 by
Love To Know
Mindfulness (In Psychology): .
"The focusing of attention and awareness, based on the concept of mindfulness in Buddhist meditation." Wikipedia.com
In the last blog, I suggested that in order to find healing from our psychological traumas, we need to learn to become consciously aware of our thinking. This is not an easy task, given that conscious awareness eludes us, in our efforts. Much of our thinking is insidiously silent, having become for us, subconscious programming.
It is estimated that our conscious mind can process, only 1-3 events at a time, at a rate of 40 bits of information per second. On the other hand, the subconscious processing capabilities are expanded. The subconscious (our "autopilot") processes 4 Billion bits of information per second and can mange to interpret thousands of events, creating a challenge for us as we choose to develop greater conscious awareness of our thoughts and choices.
If we can think of the brain as a computer, think of conscious thought as the writing of our software to operate the programming we experience. Our subconscious, acts as the completed installation of the programming. The subconscious brain operates much like a computer, on autopilot, living through our subconscious programming.
Think about it. We receive "input" (sensory information); we interpret and calculate the input (both consciously and sub-consciously) in the brain; we produce "output" (any given behavior our bodies might perform in response to the input we've received). When this process is confused by our experience of trauma, we operate with a computer that has been corrupted. Trauma, in terms of programming, teaches us to subconsciously remain on alert for future threat.
Because the subconscious is firing so rapidly in terms of processing information (4 Billion bits/second); it becomes a major challenge to hear the thoughts driving the reactions we experience. Prior to our experience of trauma, this way of living on auto-pilot didn't create too much trouble for us in terms of behavior. Up until our time of injury, for instance, we'd likely grown to a point in which we were no longer giving "thought" much attention at all.
I would suggest, that this may be one of the major issues in trauma. We'd taken it for granted that things were a particular way in our lives. We grew comfortable with those ways; and we lived our lives accordingly. When the trauma came knocking at our door to eventually haunt our lives, the brain was simply too overwhelmed with information to cope with the processing. Under stress, our traumatic memories are "super-learned" memories. These memories take over the mind and body, as we attempt, naturally, to make sense and to re-frame our experience.
With automatic, instant, behavioral processes going on for us, thinking through certain actions seems unnecessary. We form memorized habits in behavior. We act out these habits day by day, leaving us to believe that thought is no longer necessary-that thought is no longer a part of our behavioral equations.
It's said that if we are in emotional discomfort, living with anxiety or depression, for instance, our thoughts are focused either to heavily on past information, or too heavily on future events coming in our lives. Some thoughts, of which, have no basis, whatsoever, in our current moment, by moment, present reality. A key to our recovery, lies in our ability to develop a thought process that is mindful; that is based on living in the "now" moments of life. This is the challenge: to think and live in such a way as to remain focused upon our present reality.
How can we achieve this practice? We learn to practice, mindful living. To help us gain knowledge of developing a mindful practice, to aide our psychological recovery, let's meet, Jon Kabet-Zinn, through this biography from Wikipedia.
After reading the article, enjoy the following 72 minute talk, in which Kabat-Zinn discusses Mindfulness with staff from Google. His gentle, teaching approach, brings a softness to the experience. The lessons he shares, will become priceless, as we work to remain present, in the reality of the moment. With his help, we can begin to construct a daily practice of mindful, relaxation; create a better lasting sense of peace; and learn, as well, a technique to assist us as we develop ways to self-regulate our emotions in daily life. Through recovery from our trauma experience, the gift of mindful living will lead us out of the darkness of our past, into the light of the present, creating balance for us, as we march on into the unknown future.
Always keep in mind, that the information shared here is for educational purposes only, and is no substitute for professional guidance. While you are here, please take the time to visit the page, "Charter for Compassion" and consider signing the pledge. Thank you for stopping by! Be Well!
Breath-work also forms a foundation for developing meditation practices should we choose to pursue adding meditation to our recovery toolbox. Mindfulness (learning to live in the present moment) is a practice that is revolutionizing recovery in mental health. Breath-work is a first step in learning mindfulness concepts.
A second key concept is Grounding.
In my own recovery practice, Grounding translates to simply using techniques that help me to restore my direct connection with reality. I still find myself in states of self-protective dissociation, from time to time. Dissociation protects us emotionally. The state allows for detachment from our surroundings when the senses start taking in too much of the action.
Numbing out for a time acts to silence things inside, for those days when our mind is dealing already with far too much in terms of trauma memories.
Dissociation only really becomes a problem for us when the activation of the process creates enough of a loop in memory that activation of dissociation quickens and makes more reactive the dissociative response. The response is quite normal for us otherwise.
When a feedback loop occurs in the filing system in our brain. This creates a problematic issue as the process causing the action of checking out of reality for a time, and with this looping in play, dissociation comes at us more often than is helpful, and then shows up for us when we'd rather it didn't.
Do you recall, for example, losing touch with reality for a time while driving? Feeling as though you've missed, mile upon mile of highway?
This is what the dissociative response feels like in action.
The symptom can become quite problematic for us in the long-term, should we end up with this state looping in the brain leading us deeply into a more debilitating situation of absolute withdrawal from life.
Grounding techniques can help significantly in maintaining our connection with reality, as well. Or, grounding can assist us through a process we can us as a means for coming back into the real world following a dissociative episode:
One that perhaps kicked in to calm the input of the environment for us to physiologically protect us from adding insult to the injury of an already far too busy mind.
Trauma, with anxiety active, gets us thinking incessantly sometimes. Focusing too much about the past or transporting our imagination too far into the unknown future:
This can leave us in a state of inner flux and can leave us highly symptomatic. Remaining grounded and functional in these situations can be quite difficult for us to do. Keeping our focus about living only into the reality of the present moment takes practice following traumatic experiences.
When living with PTSD, it's best for us in terms of recovery to schedule a consistent practice regime for both mindfulness and grounding techniques. For us all, every ounce of prevention we can muster can be definitely worth it's wait in gold.
Managing our symptoms: This for many of us will be a need long-term.
It's better for us, in all situations that can be troublesome for us along the way, to be ahead of time prepared.
Practice, does make perfect. It keeps us on our toes and in touch with the sweet-spot of near perfection.
Daily practice prepares us for those unexpected triggering events that are inevitable in our lives. During meditation, for example, when we allow just five minutes of selfish me time to start with everyday, we can use those five minutes of silence by focusing on a single truth:
The Present Moments in Life are truly the only real moments we have to experience our surroundings or inner-space.
Looking back or fretting about what lies ahead?
This activity is really, in the present moment, only about us recalling memories and imaginings we're reflecting upon. There is no reality left in either one of these states of mind.
Daily breath-work and daily grounding practice will improve our connection to reality in a preventative way, reducing the bodies need for dissociative self-protection, over time.
Traumatic memories can be so intrusive, this is true. They seem to constantly override our experience of the present. It is important to learn to reflect upon the trauma experiences by choice. As we might do in the safety of a counseling relationship.
To learn breath-work practices and grounding techniques we sometimes do best with a human teacher. This is the gift of therapy, actually. Finally accepting the courage we need to allow ourselves a little vulnerability can lead us into the world with a human being who just might know a thing or two about exactly where we've been.
Let's face it. We aren't supermen. To learn these techniques takes training. Help is waiting. We only need the courage to risk being vulnerable enough to ask for it sometimes.
I hope you can use the two videos included in this blog as an introduction to developing your recovery practices. The video is courtesy of Dr. Anna Baranowsky with the Traumatology Institute.
One of the best products they offer, the Breath Trainer App, is a very inexpensive smart-phone application and is an ideal tool to get started practicing and training our bodies to respond to anxiety.
Learning to reduce our symptoms consciously, using our own breath and the act of our own breathing to get us there: This is what recovery is actually all about.
It's a very wise decision to make.
In terms of adding to our lives a little prevention, follow the links below as well to find a 12-Step grounding tutorial.
Many thanks to Dr. Anna Baranowsky and The Traumatology Institute for explaining in the video for us both of these very powerful techniques.
Further Reading and Links
How to Ground and Center
Breath Trainer App
The Traumatology Institute: Online Treatment Program
Disclaimer: These materials and resources are presented for educational purposes only. They are not a substitute for informed medical advice or training. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified health or mental health care provider. If you have concerns, contact your health care provider, mental health professional, or your community health centre.
Darren Gregory © 2014: All Rights Reserved
Associate Member American Academy Of Experts In Traumatic Stress.
(Currently Needs Renewal).