Thursday, December 26, 2013


Art work by Claudia Tremblay
Ever since I was in middle school, I have sought out how to calm my mind. I've mentioned it in numerous blog posts that I suffer from Panic Disorder. Yes, it's an actual mental disorder. According to the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health)

"People with panic disorder have sudden and repeated attacks of fear that last for several minutes. Sometimes symptoms may last longer. These are called panic attacks. Panic attacks are characterized by a fear of disaster or of losing control even when there is no real danger. A person may also have a strong physical reaction during a panic attack. It may feel like having a heart attack. Panic attacks can occur at any time, and many people with panic disorder worry about and dread the possibility of having another attack.
A person with panic disorder may become discouraged and feel ashamed because he or she cannot carry out normal routines like going to the grocery store or driving. Having panic disorder can also interfere with school or work."

Luckily, I am not on medication, nor do I require any. Sure, it would be easier, but considering the fact that I have lived with this since I was 8 years old, it's suffice to say that I have it under control. I have learned coping mechanisms.. and today, I'm going to share those with you.

I became interested in meditation in high school. After reading a few books at the age of 13 on Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder, I figured out quickly that it was all about finding balance and calming the mind. As I got a little older, and the weird 1970's "meditation" books about transcendental meditation were replaced with meditation for the every day "stressed out person" in the 80s, I was able to get a better grasp on what it could do for me. By the time I was in college, I bought a meditation pillow, some yoga videos, and began this quest to calm the mind.

Then life happened. I walked away from it all.

Then I picked it up again. Only to walk away from it all.

I want to go back there. I want to find that inner sanctuary and get a good handle on everything. I have removed what needed to be removed. I have simplified. I have a good support system. I'm situated to be successful in the process.

And boy oh boy, is it a process.

I want to share with you some of the things I find useful and helpful. Again, I am a flawed individual with tons of stressors and outside influences, but I try... and that's all you have to do to become successful at this. Think of it as a little cognitive behavior therapy. ;-)

I always thought that this greeting is the most beautiful way to view other people. If you ever share something with me and I do a slight bow and hold my hands up in a praying position... I am basically saying this to you. So many people think I am being silly.. but I mean it.

This was the biggest lesson I learned in 2012. I read so many of Lao Tzu's writings, and realized that people have inner wars they are battling and sometimes they spill out and onto others. It is our responsibility to remain calm in the storm.

My number one source for peace is my faith. I am a Catholic.. and yes, we are Christian (the originals.. the be exact.) Our faith has changed very little in the 2,000+ years since Christ. Here is a beautiful figure of Jesus and the Sacred Heart. Devotion to the Sacred Heart (also known as the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus) is one of the most widely practiced and well-known devotions, taking Jesus Christ's physical heart as the representation of his divine love for humanity.

This devotion is predominantly used in the Catholic Church and among some high-church Anglicans and Lutherans. The devotion especially emphasizes the  love, compassion, and long-suffering of the heart of Christ towards humanity. The Sacred Heart is often depicted in Christian art as a flaming heart shining with divine light, pierced by the lance-wound, encircled by the crown of thorns, surmounted by a cross and bleeding. Sometimes the image is shown shining within the bosom of Christ with his wounded hands pointing at the heart. The wounds and crown of thorns allude to the manner of Jesus' death, while the fire represents the transformative power of divine love.

The Chakras. Oh I often joke about my Chakras being out of balance.. but you know, there is some truth to all of this. In Hindu metaphysical and tantric/yogic traditions and other belief systems chakras are points or knots, in the human body. They are located at the physical counterparts of the major plexuses of arteries, veins and nerves. Various scriptural texts and teachings present a different numbers of chakras. There are many chakras in the subtle human body according to the tantric texts, but there are 7 chakras which are considered to be the most important ones. The 7 Chakras are the energy centers in our body in which energy flows through. Blocked energy in our 7 Chakras can often lead to illness so it's important to understand what each Chakra represents and what we can do to keep this energy flowing freely. To learn more, click HERE.

Now I mentioned that I am Catholic, and I wanted to find an easy to read diagram of what that means. Unfortunately, this is not so easy to read, but the pin on my board is. You can find it HERE , If you have always wondered what all it means to be a Catholic... here you go. It keeps me grounded. Luckily, the new Pope is helping lead some much needed change in the Church and I am proud, once again, to be Catholic.

Sweet, beautiful Mary. I often feel a little bad for my Protestant brothers and sisters, whose tradition has almost all but stripped the honoring of Jesus's mother away. Unfortunately, so many people think we "worship" her, and we do not. Catholics hold saints in esteem because they are such wonderful images or mirrors of Christ. Paul several times exhorts his readers to be imitators of him: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor 11:1, also Phil 3:17, 1 Cor 4:16).
Mary is the first saint, and holds high honor today, as she did in the early Church. Over the course of history, devotion to Mary has taken many forms, and even has been confused with worship. Church teaching has consistently placed Mary in the company of the saints, however.

Devotion to the saints comes back to the theology of image: Christ is God's image, the saints are Christ's image. We honor them because we desire to imitate them. We pray to them the same as we call upon earthly friends to do a favor for us. This too, is scriptural. In Acts we read of Peter and John going up to the Temple for prayer and encountering a beggar. Peter says to him, "I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk" (Acts 3:6). Peter makes it clear that he has the power of Christ in his possession. 

To be sure, it is Jesus who heals, but Peter holds the right to extend that power. The same can be said of Paul. In Acts 19:11-12 we read, "So extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face cloths or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them." These texts are the basis of the Catholic practice of asking saints to help us, of honoring (not worshiping) the bodies and relics of saints.
If you have ever been in my office, you've seen my Zen Garden. I love to rake the sand around the little rocks. It calms my mind and helps me focus. Just what is a Zen Garden? Japanese rock gardens got their western name because of the tranquil nature of the garden, which encourage meditation and a Zen-like atmosphere. Zen, which is a school of Buddism, is interpreted by many Westerners to mean a state of introspection and enlightenment achieved by deep meditation. The first reference to the Zen garden can be found in 100 Gardens of Kyoto by Loraine Kuck, published in 1935. Zen gardens have become a part of the stress relieving product industry, with much smaller versions available to the public. These may be considered as a somewhat watered down version of the true art of rock gardening, but they are popular nonetheless. A desktop garden is made up of a small tray with rocks, sand, and a miniature rake. The armchair gardener can then place the rocks anywhere the mood strikes, and rake the sand to his heart’s content. While it may not induce the deep meditation a real Japanese rock garden can help achieve, it may provide a little bit of the calming diversion a person needs to get through the day.

Another big part of calming my mind is through meditation. There are a bazillion different forms. Do your research and figure out what would work best for you.

I think this is some of the best advice. You know, even though Buddha did not acknowledge a "God," it is important to recognize that some of the teachings help people identify the beauty, the simplicity, and the vibrancy of the world. We do need to take a moment from time to time.. and just laugh. It's only life, after all. None of us will get out of it alive. ;-)

Do you keep symbols in your home as a reminder to relax? A cross, perhaps? Special quotes or meditations? Photos of your family and loved ones? I try to surround myself with pictures and items to remember that everything is going to be okay. No fear. I always that that this meditative statue was a perfect example. It reminds me to sit.. be thankful.. and just breathe.
Speaking of breath.. this is apparently the only way to truly get a grip. Have you ever been so anxious that you felt like you could not take a deep breath? Yep. There are some simple meditations out there that are centered around breathing. I used these to ease the symptoms of panic. It works... oh how it works..
I am big on taking a nice hot bath. I also believe in pampering your body. Our little "house" works hard for us, and we need to take as good of care of it as possible. Here are some wonderful "at home" beauty treatments. I have tried most of these and it's wonderful.

Good stuff. The Dalai Lama is brilliant. Pick up some of his books, you won't be disappointed.

I love this meme. I have (for years) flipped to the back of my bible to seek out certain words (fear, pain, sorrow, love..) and would read the corresponding Word in order to calm my mind. I hope this helps you. If you have never touched a Bible.. give this a whirl. It might just change your life.

I am all about understanding the circle of life.. the energy we put out there and how Karma works. I often wear a bracelet that says "Karma." I want to be clear about something.... I NEVER SEEK TO HARM. I never want Karma to "bite someone." No... by thinking that, I have brought harm to myself. All I can do is send love and light.

I often tell this to friends when they are upset. I try to remember this when I am upset. When I was going through my divorce, people were shocked to find that after everything that happened, that I remained friends with my ex. This is why.

Finally, the lotus. If I ever decide to get another tattoo.. I assure you, it will more than likely be a lotus blossom. Do you know the story behind the lotus? The lotus flower represents one symbol of fortune in Buddhism. It grows in muddy water, and it is this environment that gives forth the flower’s first and most literal meaning: rising and blooming above the murk to achieve enlightenment. The second meaning, which is related to the first is purification. It resembles the purifying of the spirit which is born into murkiness. The third meaning refers to faithfulness. Those who are working to rise above the muddy waters will need to be faithful followers.

The color bears importance in the meaning of the lotus flower in Buddhism. A white lotus flower refers to purity of the mind and the spirit. If a lotus flower is red, it refers to compassion and love. The blue lotus flower refers to the common sense; it uses wisdom and logic to create enlightenment. The pink lotus flower represents the history of Buddha and the historical legends of the Buddha. A purple lotus flower speaks of spirituality and mysticism. Finally, the gold lotus flower represents all achievement of all enlightenment, especially in the Buddha.

The stage of growth the lotus flower is in represents a different stage of enlightenment. A closed lotus flower represents the time before a Buddhist follower found Buddha or enlightenment. A lotus flower fully bloomed and open represents full enlightenment and self-awareness.

The mud represents an importance in the meaning of the lotus flower in Buddhism. All humans are born in a world where there is suffering. This suffering is a vital part of the human experience; it makes us stronger and teaches us to resist the temptation of evil. When we banish evil thoughts from our mind we are able to break free of the muddy water and become one with the Buddha. The mud shows us who we are and teaches us to choose the right path over the easy one.

Finally, the lotus flower represents rebirth, both in a figurative and a literal sense. The rebirth can be a change of ideas, an acceptance of Buddha where there once was none, the dawn after one’s darkest day, a renaissance of beliefs or the ability to see past wrongs. In a literal sense, the meaning of the lotus flower in Buddhism represents rebirth as a reincarnation, such as in the Buddhist religion, when a soul leaves this world in its present form to be reborn in another.

If you are interested in me writing more about anything in particular (on this subject,) simply email me -

Hope you are having a wonderful holiday! BREATHE! 

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