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How to Enjoy the Holidays When You’re Not Well

Christmas has moved to a dramatically different kind of holiday than its beginnings: it could now be more accurately called “Stressmas.”  It has truly become a time of stress: having to get the right presents for the right people; getting enough presents; how much money to spend or not to spend; expecting certain gifts from specific people, who and how many to invite to celebrations.  Our attachment to people’s reactions to our gifts and our reactions to others’ gifts reminds us of what the Buddha said, “Attachment is the cause of all our suffering.”  To celebrate the birth of Jesus—one who taught unconditional love, perpetual forgiveness, and said, “I came that your joy might be full!”—perhaps we need to rethink the whole picture; otherwise, we are not celebrating unconditional love but instead creating stress.  And since stress causes 80% or more of our physical symptoms, this could be seen as a season we have celebrated in a way that brings illnesses or intensifies the ones we are already manifesting.  It is the “ego mind” that has taken over—that internal voice which promises love, safety, peace, and joy, but always gets us to think or do that which produces the opposite.

Why not start by consciously deciding that we want to promote love, joy, and peace instead of stress and sickness during this season. Can we risk letting spiritual values—happiness, peace, and love—dominate rather than pressure, “have to’s,” guilt, and therefore, stress and possible sickness? Do we really want material objects and corporate profits to dominate our holidays and our lives?  We might even tell our family and friends about our decision to make these changes.  And, if we are already sick, why make it worse by creating more stress?  And if we are healthy, why create stress to make ourselves sick and unhappy?  We must remember that sickness is a choice; though, we often make it more unconscious by blaming it on something external.  Now is the time to begin to make it conscious.

 

Some tools for keeping love, peace, and joy—and, therefore, health—more of a priority this holiday season:

  • Give priority to meditating at the beginning and end of each day.  You might even keep repeating to yourself this mantra: “I choose joy, love, and peace instead of stress today.”  Breathe deeply and say the mantra 30 or 40 times.
  • Whenever you find yourself feeling pressure, start breathing deeply, fully emptying your lungs and then breathe in fully, filling the belly, and then adding a little more into the chest.  Keep repeating throughout the day, so that you do not play out the American saying: “I didn’t have time to breathe.”
  • Make sure that each gift you buy or give only comes from the heart—no “shoulds” or “have to’s.”
  • Do the thymus heart rub when you start to feel anxious, pressured, or guilty. Place your hand flatly over the upper chest.  Begin to rub gently and soothingly in a circle, to the right, looking on from the outside.  Then, as you continue rubbing, say, “I deeply love and accept myself even though I have started to feel stressed (pressured, guilty, etc.).  I deeply love and accept myself because I am so glad I caught these negative thoughts.  And I deeply love and accept myself as I choose to let these thoughts go.” Repeat this throughout the day every time you catch yourself thinking a thought that takes away your joy, peace, or love.

 

You might also say, “I make this a holiday of love, peace, health, and joy,” remembering that it is your thoughts that cause your pain or joy.  “And I am in control of them.”

 

Looking for more great reads?

 

Excerpted from Your Power to Heal: Resolving Psychological Barriers to Your Physical Health by Henry Grayson.

Henry Grayson, PhD, has been lecturing, teaching, and providing professional training for more than 30 years. He is the founder of the Synergetic Therapy Institute, co-chairman of the PTSD division of the Stand for The Troops Foundation, and author of Your Power to Heal: Resolving Psychological Barriers to Your Physical Health. For more information, visit henrygrayson.com.

Henry Grayson: Your Self-Healing Power

Henry Grayson, PhD, is a psychotherapist, public speaker, and the author of such books as Changing Approaches to the Psychotherapies and The New Physics of Love. With Sounds True, he has published his newest book, Your Power to Heal: Resolving Psychological Barriers to Your Physical Health. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon talks with Henry about how our beliefs and cultural conditioning may affect our long-term health. Henry discusses how identifying our subconscious limiting narratives can help us embrace our own self-healing capabilities. Tami and Henry also speak on methods of pulling ourselves out of entrenched conditioning and seven steps for identifying what might be underlying physical symptoms. Finally, Henry shares a practice for approaching and eventually getting clear of a limiting personal belief. (69 minutes)

Henry Grayson: Change in an Instant

Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Henry Grayson, a leading psychologist who has spent decades exploring the connections between psychology, physics, and the spiritual traditions of the world. Dr. Grayson founded and served as chairman emeritus at the National Institute for Psychotherapies in New York. With Sounds True, he has created the nine-hour audio training course The New Physics of Love: The Power of Mind and Spirit in Relationships. In this episode, Tami speaks with Dr. Grayson about the role of thoughts in our relationships, how the non-local nature of the universe impacts our consciousness, and the possibility of “deleting undesirable and obsolete core beliefs in the twinkling of an eye.” (60 minutes)

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5 Tools to Create More Space in Your Mind

Busyness, distraction, and stress have all led to the shrinking of the modern mind.

I realize that’s a strange thing to say. Most of us don’t think of our mind as something with space in it, as a thing that can either be big or small, expensive or claustrophobic.

But just think about the last time you felt overwhelmed, stressed, or out of control. Chances are, you might not even have to think that hard. You might be experiencing that state right now as you read these words.

What happens in these moments? 

First, our mind wanders. It spins through all sorts of random thoughts about the past and the future. As a result, we lose touch with the direct experience of present time.

Second, we lose perspective. We can’t see the big picture anymore. Instead, it’s like we’re viewing life through a long and narrow tunnel. We become blind to possibility, fixated on problems.

Put these two together and you’ve got the perfect recipe for eradicating space in the mind. The landscape of the mind begins to feel like a calendar jammed with so many meetings, events, and obligations that these neon colored boxes cover-up even the smallest slivers of white space. 

So it could be nice for our partner, for our kids, and, mostly, for our ourselves to consider: how can we create more space in the mind?

Here are five tools for creating mental space. If you want to go deeper, check out my new book with Sounds True on the topic called OPEN: Living With an Expansive Mind in a Distracted World.

1. Meditation.

You’ve no doubt heard about all of the scientifically validated benefits of this practice. It reduces stress. It boosts productivity. It enhances focus.

That is all true. But here is the real benefit of meditation: it creates more space in the mind. To get started, try it out for just a few minutes a day. Use an app or guided practice to help you.

2. Movement.

So, maybe you’re not the meditating type. That’s fine. You can still create space in the mind by setting aside time for undistracted movement.

The key word here is “undistracted.” For many of us, exercise and movement have become yet another time where our headspace gets covered over by texts, podcasts, or our favorite Netflix series. 

There’s nothing wrong with this. But it can be powerful to leave the earbuds behind every once in a while and allow the mind to rest while you walk, stretch, run, bike, swim, or practice yoga.

3. Relax.

When it comes to creating headspace, we moderns, with our smartphone-flooded, overly-stimulated, minds seem to inevitably encounter a problem: we’re often too stressed, amped, and agitated to open.

Relaxation – calming the nervous system – is perhaps the best way to counter this effect and create more fertile ground for opening. When we relax – the real kind, not the Netflix or TikTok kind –  the grip of difficult emotions loosens, the speed of our whirling thoughts slows, and, most important, the sense of space in our mind begins to expand.

How can you relax? Try yoga. Try extended exhale breathing, where you inhale four counts, exhale eight counts. Try yoga nidra. Or, just treat yourself to a nap.

4. See bigger.

When life gets crazy, the mind isn’t the only thing that shrinks. The size of our visual field also gets smaller. Our eyes strain. Our peripheral vision falls out of awareness.

What’s the antidote to this tunnel vision view? See bigger.

Try it right now. With a soft gaze, allow the edges of your visual field to slowly expand. Imagine you’re seeing whatever happens to be in front of you from the top of a vast mountain peak. Now bring this more expansive, panoramic, way of seeing with you for the rest of the day.

5. Do nothing.

Now for the most advanced practice. It’s advanced because it cuts against everything our culture believes in. In a world where everyone is trying desperately to get more done, one of the most radical acts is to not do — to do nothing.

Even just a few minutes of this paradoxical practice can help you experience an expansion of space in the mind.

Lie on the floor or outside on the grass. Close your eyes. Put on your favorite music if you want. Set an alarm for a few minutes so you don’t freak out too much. 

Then, stop. Drop the technique. Drop the effort. Just allow yourself to savor this rare experience of doing absolutely nothing.

Nate Klemp, PhD, is a philosopher, writer, and mindfulness entrepreneur. He is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Start Here and the New York Times critics’ pick The 80/80 Marriage. His work has been featured in the LA Times, Psychology Today, the Times of London, and more, and his appearances include Good Morning America and Talks at Google. He’s a cofounder of LifeXT and founding partner at Mindful. For more, visit nateklemp.com or @Nate_Klemp on Instagram.

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Give a listen to this deeply inspiring, deep-end conversation exploring: Presence and the alchemy of the past in the now; the concept of relational coherence; post-traumatic learning; avoiding presence as a way to protect oneself; attunement versus numbness; our interconnected nervous systems; ethical development; privilege and responsibility; increasing our ability to remain grounded; the power of feeling met; global witnessing groups; bringing love to the edge of a conscious universe; the three-sync process for becoming more aware of your body, emotions, and mind; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

Matt Gutman: Conquering a Lifetime of Panic Attacks

28% of Americans will experience a panic attack in their lifetime. Some researchers say that number is closer to 50%. Renowned ABC News correspondent, Matt Gutman, never felt afraid when assigned to active and dangerous war zones. Yet when he had to speak on live television in front of a viewership of 9 million people, the seemingly unflappable reporter suffered intense panic attacks that nearly cost him his job. To help anyone whose life has been impacted by this often misunderstood mental health challenge, Gutman shares his personal journey in No Time to Panic

In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Gutman about the book and the hard-won insights he brings his readers, exploring: The importance of destigmatizing panic attack disorder; conventional and alternative healing modalities; “retiring the drill sergeant” (aka managing the inner critic); excavating unresolved grief; how panic disorder can metastasize into other psychological issues; physical threats vs. social threats (and how we tolerate them); the evolutionary purpose of anxiety; how vulnerability is often the first step toward healing; the paradox of welcoming your panic; psychedelics and ego transcendence; the power of mindfulness and meditation; and more.

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