Rio de Janeiro: A Lesson in Wholeness

Why did the competitors who finished last in the summer Olympics so often seem rioexhilarated? They dedicated entire lives to excelling at their sport. Winning was their goal. How can they be so happy in the face of defeat?

This year’s presidential election represents another type of training and competing – but not just among candidates. It also drives the hard work and dedication of those who support them, hoping to promote causes dear to their hearts.

This year toxicity achieved an all-time high, human decency and basics of logic at times tossed to the wind, the two even confused with or dismissed as mere “political correctness.” Abandoning our humanity traumatizes. It robs us of respect for self and others alike. It leaves us suffocating in a toxic waste dump of suspicion, hate, and fear.

This particular political juncture will soon end, at least for the current set of candidates. But what about the rest of us? How do we preserve our humanity and wholeness, after being bombarded with such destructive divisiveness?

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Think Small, Live Whole

Big things happen. Some big things are bad. So are many of their consequences.

In their aftermath, going from day to day can be challenging. Though a number of such consequences relate to state of mind, many do not. The real world pragmatic impact of disaster and adversity must also be addressed. How we proceed in these tasks may change how we see ourselves. Perhaps for the good: we find resilience we didn’t know we had, and adjust our self-view accordingly.

But change takes getting used to. Is this really me? How do I hang olooking up at treesn to any sense of “me”-ness, when the world that shaped and supported me has crumbled? Must I find something else big, some heavy-duty effort, to compete with the impact of major adversity?

Not really. It’s the little things that bring us back.

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Peace Like a River

big benRight now is all we have. That’s it, the sum of our existence.

Yes, we do plan for an expected future–probabilities certainly suggest that time will continue its trek. And we can’t ignore that the past once was. That is where learning occurred, how we each accrued personal encyclopedias of how to be or do in the world. But experiencing peaceful presence in day to day life, and achieving genuine connectedness with fellow human beings–that only happens in the now.

Now is as an ongoing flow, begging us to dip in our feet and appreciate its gentle currents. This is easier said than done in today’s world. Inner peace at times seems so evasive, so often dammed away somewhere upriver, leaving us to stew in our own juices. Judging, blaming, criticizing, uncertainties, fears, self-doubt–all prevent us from achieving the glow and peace of inner presence.

We do not purposely strive to be dysfunctional. If we did, our species would not have saber-toothed tigersurvived. On the contrary, roadblocks to peace are typically protective, standing guard for imminent threat or other forms of crisis. There is value in being constantly on the alert if the hostile tribe next door could attack anytime, or a saber-toothed tiger could be lurking around any corner. But most of us do not live in such a world. The adversities of modern society do not often require constant awareness of them in order to survive. But our neurochemistry does not know that.

Is it a lost cause, then? Are we slaves to the neurochemical dictates of trauma and survival? Continue reading

Why Are There Anniversary Reactions?

Another September 11th has come and gone. Remembrances were shared, stories told, honors given. We pick up, we move on.

Yet feelings may linger. Perhaps it is something you can’t exactly put a finger on–some timevague discomfort. Maybe it’s an unidentifiable sense of loss, anxiety, or anger. Whatever it is, it followed a crescendo as the date approached, and now slowly ebbs as time marches beyond.

Why do anniversary reactions happen? Not just on September 11th, but on any date marking an experience of trauma or loss? Continue reading

PTSD and the Brain

“I heard PTSD is tied to brain damage. Does that mean it’s forever?”

For many years science suggested that once the brain reached maturity, it stopped growing and replacing cells. If a person suffered brain damage, it was thought to be neuronpermanent.

This perspective has changed. We now know neurons in the brain form new connections throughout our lives. New learning is both facilitated and stored by way of such rewiring. Continue reading