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Wage Peace not war

How do we wage peace when we have spent centuries becoming experts at waging war?
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Peace Whispering - 15th September 2018

There is no better time than now to commit ourselves to create more peace in our lives. Peace Whispering will show you how you can get more peace in your life and why it’s so important in our modern world.
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Golden Moment

Crisp air, sunshine, green grass, vegemite and apple sandwich on fresh white bread, freshly squeezed orange juice, … and my mother. I was the youngest, smallest, sickliest, runt of five children in a family in chaos and this was precious time alone with my mother with mental illness, who I had mostly experienced as not present. And the reason for this precious time was yet another bout of bronchitis.

I was a young child but this was already a recurring illness that had begun at the age of two with pneumonia. I cherished this space from the outside world, which already seemed scary, and this feeling of being nurtured and loved. Until recently there have been very few moments in my life to rival this exquisite golden moment of love.

What followed was a pattern; an internal battle between wanting to be strong to keep up with my siblings, to ’show them’, and being sick. Bronchitis became asthma, a near-fatal tick poisoning at 11, back pain, depression and anxiety, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, dangerous births and finally Multiple Sclerosis. I developed an identity as a ‘sick person’, that was my place in the order of life.

All this illness was woven with rowing, sailing, tennis, dancing, walking, natural birth, and, and, and … to prove I wasn’t the runt of the litter, any litter not just my family. I felt defiant independence that waxed with a crippling emotional dependence. A desperate need to be different and an equally desperate need to be loved. It was a rollercoaster, perhaps a physical expression of my mother’s bipolar disorder.

And underneath this physical battle lurked the increasing feeling of madness. A guilty secret that I couldn’t tell anyone, not even myself. My cover was arrogant calm, a demeanour that kept people at a distance, and the personal identity of a sick person who was doing her best. This madness manifested with my family, when I was premenstrual, post-natal anxiety that lasted long after the birth of my children and finally, clinical depression.

Yes, I had MS, yes, I was in a wheelchair, yes, my marriage was dissolving and I was facing an uncertain future but really, I had just run out of cover. I had exhausted my energy to not be mad, and I was in the open and exposed. This is where healing began.

As I reflect on my life, I can see the reality in the story. My illnesses were all diagnosed in the evidence-based medical world; I have brain scans, blood tests, ultrasounds, surgeries, hospital records and reports, there have been real traumas. Yet I can also see the story, in reality, they are inextricably entwined.

The story gave me an identity when I felt lost but it also interfered with my healing. I didn’t know how to be well. It also caused me inexplicable guilt; that I may have caused my illness or that it really may not have been real, that I have caused my own suffering and the suffering of my children.

The reality has caused me pain, disability and disadvantage, And as I have travelled my healing journey, I have swung between addressing the reality of physical illness and addressing the story of my mental and emotional identity.

I am now understanding that the key to my own healing, and possibly healing more generally, is to embrace the wholeness of my experience of life, in the cultural context I have grown. It is not reality or story, physical or mental, physical or emotional, physical or spiritual, it is ‘and’ – reality and story, physical and mental and emotional and spiritual healing.

I am learning the importance of progressing my whole self and embracing the technologies, both ancient and modern, that are available in modern western culture. We are embodied, social beings who experience life emotionally and mentally. We have histories that bring us both suffering and joy and impact on our relationship with ourselves and the world around us.

Disruption to any aspect of our whole results in disruption to the whole hence healing requires a holistic approach. Healing the whole is what I bring to my students and clients. I have learned that the reality and the story are not independent, and there is no ‘wrong’ in this interlinking, it just is.

If we can remove fear and guilt from reality and story, we can allow both to be seen in their totality, with kindness and compassion.  The issues that are exposed by this gentle awareness can then be addressed, limiting wrongness and guilt, and ultimately reducing suffering.

For example, a client who has been suffering a chronic condition for three years will have grown an identity around being chronically ill. Without awareness, this identity may interfere with healing and create confusion and further suffering. With gentle, non-judgmental awareness she can notice the expression of this identity and manage her choices accordingly. Consequently, her whole being moves along the healing journey, with congruence across all layers of experience.

My golden moment of feeling nurtured in the context of suffering was formative. For a long time, I thought the lesson was to seek to be nurtured through suffering but now I understand the lesson is to look for joy and peace in the context of suffering. This is what I share with my students and clients.

My journey has taught me to understand the importance of care in the world of healing. The intersection of reality and story and the need to yoke all the layers of our experience into one intertwined peace – yoga.

Lynnette Dickinson is the author of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, and teaches yoga, relaxation and meditation in Canberra and via Skype or phone. Classes, personalised programs and yoga therapy. Visit www.splendouryoga.com. Listen to Lynnette telling her story click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2, and be inspired.

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A Prayer for Peace

“May all beings be at peace.
May we all live in the true peace of our own hearts.”

I say these two lines at the end of every class yoga and meditation class I teach and every therapy session. It is an invitation to my students to find peace in their hearts and a wider invitation to humanity to live in the peace present in all our hearts.

It is a simple prayer but always engenders a sense of peace and connection within my own ecosystem. These two lines give me hope and remind me of my own power when I feel hopeless and powerless.

It also reminds me that we are all united in our search for meaning and our search for peace and happiness. I believe even those now on the path of terror began on a search for peace, a sense of belonging.

In the wake of the last few weeks of terror related violence in the UK and the ongoing violence around the world, I have felt despondent and powerless. And then I repeat these simple words and am reminded that my greatest power is in my own state of mind and how I relate to my community.

This personal responsibility remains unchanged by acts of violence in the world. I have felt the temptation to become fearful, felt the lure of hate, and then I remember. We all have a choice to live in fear or love, to choose the kind of community we want to live in and be that community, ourselves.

this prayer for peace reminds me of my choice to navigate my choices by the love and peace in my heart. It reminds me that love and peace are an internal state, not given or dependent on the external world. It reminds me of my own journey from fear to love, that continues to enable the life I now live.

I offer you this prayer as an invitation to find the peace resting in your heart and continue your own journey from fear to love.

The practice

  • Make yourself comfortable.
  • Take a few minutes to allow your breath to settle, noticing your breath in your nostrils and the rise and fall of your chest.
  • If you feel comfortable, allow your eyes to softly close, otherwise direct your eyes downward and soften your gaze, and your hands rest in your lap.
  • Repeat, “May all beings be at peace.
    May we all live in the true peace of our own hearts.”
  • Take a few moments to rest in the stillness that follows.
  • Gently return to your life and notice the difference.

Repeat this practice when you feel anxious or fearful, as many times a day as you need.

As one of the many great peacemakers of modern times, Gandhi, said,
“be the change you want to see in the world”.

 

Lynnette Dickinson is the author of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, and teaches yoga, relaxation and meditation in Canberra and via Skype or phone. Classes, personalised programs and yoga therapy. Visit www.splendouryoga.com. Listen to Lynnette telling her story click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2, and be inspired.

Read more →

A Prayer for Peace

“May all beings be at peace.
May we all live in the true peace of our own hearts.”

I say these two lines at the end of every class yoga and meditation class I teach and every therapy session. It is an invitation to my students to find peace in their hearts and a wider invitation to humanity to live in the peace present in all our hearts.

It is a simple prayer but always engenders a sense of peace and connection within my own ecosystem. These two lines give me hope and remind me of my own power when I feel hopeless and powerless.

It also reminds me that we are all united in our search for meaning and our search for peace and happiness. I believe even those now on the path of terror began on a search for peace, a sense of belonging.

In the wake of the last few weeks of terror-related violence in the UK and the ongoing violence around the world, I have felt despondent and powerless. And then I repeat these simple words and am reminded that my greatest power is in my own state of mind and how I relate to my community.

This personal responsibility remains unchanged by acts of violence in the world. I have felt the temptation to become fearful, felt the lure of hate, and then I remember. We all have a choice to live in fear or love, to choose the kind of community we want to live in and be that community, ourselves.

This prayer for peace reminds me of my choice to navigate my choices by the love and peace in my heart. It reminds me that love and peace are an internal state, not given or dependent on the external world. It reminds me of my own journey from fear to love, that continues to enable the life I now live.

I offer you this prayer as an invitation to find the peace resting in your heart and continue your own journey from fear to love.

The practice

  • Make yourself comfortable.
  • Take a few minutes to allow your breath to settle, noticing your breath in your nostrils and the rise and fall of your chest.
  • If you feel comfortable, allow your eyes to softly close, otherwise, direct your eyes downward and soften your gaze, and your hands rest in your lap.
  • Repeat, “May all beings be at peace.
    May we all live in the true peace of our own hearts.”
  • Take a few moments to rest in the stillness that follows.
  • Gently return to your life and notice the difference.

Repeat this practice when you feel anxious or fearful, as many times a day as you need.

As one of the many great peacemakers of modern times, Gandhi, said,
“be the change you want to see in the world”.

 

Lynnette Dickinson is the author of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, and teaches yoga, relaxation and meditation in Canberra and via Skype or phone. Classes, personalised programs and yoga therapy. Visit www.splendouryoga.com. Listen to Lynnette telling her story click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2, and be inspired.

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Pain - Drugs are not the only way

Public health policy desperately needs to re-frame its recommendations regarding the management of chronic pain or we will drown under escalating healthcare costs and effects of the increased consumption of prescription pain pharmaceuticals.

Add to this the treatment of associated depression and anxiety with antidepressants/anti-anxiety medications and people with chronic pain end up taking a cocktail of very powerful psychoactive chemicals, all funded by our public and private health system.

But there is another way…

Two weeks ago, on the slopes of Naeba Snow Resort in Yuzawa, Japan, I began developing a migraine. It was not a normal headache, with pain in the temples and ache across the forehead but a change in the pressure of my skull, altered balance and vision, sensitivity sound and light, breath becoming laboured and the deep ache that begins at the base of my skull.

At the time, I was on a ski lift, on the way to the top of an intermediate ski slope and there was only one way down from there, or at least one preferred way of going down. So, I began to consciously relax my body and breath, taking my awareness inside my body. Meditation was the Ace up my sleeve.

I found the muscles that were holding tension and released the tension with my out-breath. instantly felt my mind become more spacious and the migraine begin to soften, as I focussed my attention on the back of my skull.

Now the more difficult stage of skiing down the slope.

Skiing is still relatively new to me, not yet in automatic body memory. I only learnt to ski two years ago, as a 49-year-old person with MS, so every run still contains a certain amount of wonder and trepidation. The normal unknowns of skiing combined with the extra ingredient of not knowing if any of my limbs or faculties would spontaneously fail.

So, standing at the top of the slope, I once again slowed my breath and awakened all my senses. I centred, pointed my skis down the slope and skied. I stopped thinking about getting to the bottom and simply focussed on the present moment, this turn and the next.

When I got to the bottom I felt elated. Not only the best skiing I had done up to that point but for the whole run I hadn’t been aware of the burgeoning disturbance in my Central Nervous System (CNS).

I retired to the nearest café and within half an hour my symptoms slowly returned. I decided to withdraw into meditation for the afternoon to see if I could kick this migraine while my daughter and partner returned to the slopes.

Adjusting my posture again, my breath slowed as I relaxed through my body and withdrew my focus from the outside world. I brought my attention to my brain and consciously created space with my inhalation and softened my attention with my exhalation. Then went inside the pain, focussing on dissolving the inflammation with my breath.

This is how the next hour and a half passed – sitting in a busy café in stillness, dissolving the pain and inflammation in my head with my breath. People came and went, I was aware of their conversation but my choice was to focus my attention inward. One of the terms we use to describe the state of meditation is relaxed alertness and this perfectly describes my mind state during this hour and a half.

By the time my daughter and partner returned my symptoms had diminished considerably. I felt relaxed and at peace. I was still very conscious of keeping myself centred with my breath and my posture but contrary to the predictable path of a migraine, my symptoms further reduced through the evening. I woke the next morning with a crystal clear central nervous system. 

During the whole afternoon and evening, I had taken two paracetamol tablets. I took them after the worst symptoms had passed, more as a prophylactic against further symptoms occurring while I was walking around in the snow trying to find food.

Chronic pain conditions, including migraine, are costing our health systems millions of dollars a year – increasing prescription of powerful pharmaceuticals, lost productivity, increased mental health issues related to the experience of pain and the side-effects of pain medication.

Prescription pain medications are becoming an increasing cause of addiction and death across the US and Australia as doctors use stronger drugs and off-label prescriptions in a desperate attempt to manage escalating rates of chronic pain in our communities. Added to this is the increased risk of liver and gastrointestinal damage, cognitive damage and autoimmune conditions.

Patients want a life without pain and doctors want to provide a solution but as my story demonstrates, drugs are not the only solution.

I have arthritis, three prolapsed discs in my spine and Multiple Sclerosis and I occasionally take a couple of paracetamol when the pain is at its worse and I know I will need to function in the world – three health conditions involving chronic pain and a net cost to the public health system of…well…zero. And my practice not only helps my pain management but also manages my mental health, which directly benefits my family, further reducing cost to the communoty.

Mine is not an isolated story. My clients also report that the meditation and relaxation I teach is a much better pain management tool than conventional pharmaceuticals alone. Some clients combine meditation with pharmaceuticals, often reducing their dependence on pain meds and some have been able to stop their prescription medications altogether, keeping them around just in case.

Added to this anecdotal evidence is an increasing body of independent evidence from respected academic institutions to support an integrated medical approach to chronic pain management. Therapeutic Yoga, meditation, relaxation, tai chi, hypnotherapy, massage and acupuncture have all been shown to have an equal or better impact on patients’ experience of pain as pharmaceuticals.

Pain clinics are emerging in capital cities, offering a range of treatments for pain management (including mindfulness, massage and hypnotherapy) but too often these clinics are private and expensive, out of the reach of the average person. When the services are available through public health, they are usually funded for short courses which simply doesn’t support individuals developing a sustainable personal practice.

Imagine a trip to your local GP for pain and you leave with a prescription for mild pain meds and a referral to multidisciplinary clinic, offering meditation, relaxation, gentle yoga, tai chi, hypnotherapy, therapeutic massage and acupuncture. Everything designed to support the development of your own long term pain management practice.

This approach would not only help to manage your pain but would also support your whole wellbeing, mentally and physically. My story shows this is can be a reality if we personally and publicly take the leap.

Lynnette Dickinson is the author of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, and teaches yoga, relaxation and meditation in Canberra and via Skype or phone. Classes, personalised programs and yoga therapy. Visit www.splendouryoga.com. Listen to Lynnette telling her story click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2, and be inspired.

 

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An Impossible Day

Yesterday I had one of the most physically and emotionally satisfying days of my life. A day that would have been impossible even last year. I skied all day, from 8am to after 4pm, skied black runs, explored new runs on my own and exploded in a fall that resulted in skies flying and me tumbling and spinning down the slope some distance from my skis…and laughed. And I did it all in the company of friends.

In short, for a whole day I was a normal advanced, intermediate skier enjoying a beautiful day on the slopes with friends, on a beautiful winter’s day in Japan.

Except I’m not. I am someone with a degenerative chronic illness that attacks the central nervous system and has left me in a wheelchair on more than one occasion. I am also someone who has lived in fear for most of her life, fear that has precluded exploring the unknown and being in easy company with friends.

But on the walk back to our hotel I started to feel the familiar leg collapse that can herald the onset of MS. ‘no, it is just the snow crunching underneath my boot.’ Then the unmistakable ache from the right side of my sacrum down my right leg.

I focussed my whole attention on walking, perfectly balancing my skies on my shoulder to require the least amount of effort. Picking up my pace to get there and sit down…and save face (still saving face). I made it to the steps, got down the steps, unloaded my skis, sat down and went into a full-blown MS moment.

The pain, spasticity and dysfunction reminding me that MS is also a part of my story. For a moment, I felt defeated but then as I started the climb up Staircase Mountain, I realised, “I just skied a black run, I can climb stairs”. And I did, one twisted and painful step at a time.

I felt embarrassed to have been so disabled in front of friends who had never seen me like that but they were nothing but supportive, seeming to think no less of me for my disability. I felt emotional, grief for the illusion of greatness I had lost.

And then the tension in my body and mind was unwound with the warm waters of the hotel onsen and the soft presence of my partner. I began to understand that far from taking away any of the greatness of the day, this MS episode brought the remarkableness (it’s a word) of the day into crystal clarity.

MS revisiting took nothing away from what I had achieved it just put the achievements into context of the whole of me, making them...well…remarkable.  I began to remember every turn, every run, every explore with awe – “Wow, I really did this”. Gratitude like warm golden honey flowed through my awareness.

And then an even more remarkable thing happened, I began to look at my life from an internal perspective, without external reference points, no comparisons.  I began to feel my life from the inside.

I had grown up being the youngest and feeling the weakest, dumbest, maddest etc., comparing myself to everyone to find out where I ranked, always seeking external acknowledgement of worth, rather than feeling it for myself. So much so that for the most part it was invisible. That is, invisible until it wasn’t. Sadly, even friends, family and partners became competitors rather than fellow travellers on the journey of life.

Even over the last ten years of healing, writing and teaching I have not felt the worth of my journey, yet here I was in the bath, feeling my life. This MS moment was a gift, putting everything into place. I could feel the magnitude of my journey. I felt worth and love. And in doing so I felt worth and love in others’ lives.

So today I am feeling my life. Feeling grief and sadness, and so much love and gratitude for the people and events that have carried me to this place, particularly the ancient practices of yoga and my teachers that have facilitated my healing.

I am writing this in a café while my friends have gone skiing in another beautiful winter day in Japan. I have felt emotional while writing, sometimes to the point of tears, but no resentment of my friends, no comparison of their fate with mine. I have felt only appreciation and gratitude for their presence in my life.

It was an impossible day where pleasure and pain were transformed into healing by the alchemy of presence. The possibility available now is greater peace in my mind and my relationship with the world.

Imagine this possibility in your life. What would that look like for you? What would it look like for the world if we lived with the possibility of self-worth derived from inner knowing rather than external indicators of value and status? If we didn’t need to prove our worth by better than others we would be capable of true compassion

I may or may not ski again but if I do it won't be to prove something, it will be for the sheer thrill of sliding down a mountain on sticks of fibreglass, in a beautiful environment alongside fellow travellers.

 

 

 

 

 

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Perfection ≠ happiness

“Sometimes life seems far from perfect, sometimes life just is and that’s enough. My lesson is to surrender to what is; embrace what is and what happens next is joy. A little bubbling well of joy that is increasingly close to the surface, arising in the most unlikely of places.” A Journey to Peace through Yoga, Lynnette Dickinson.
I wrote these words in 2010 after a three-year odyssey through healing and transformation. There is truth in these words; truth that I have come back to again and again, each time with a deeper understanding, each time at a time of need.  

Of course, I had read this wisdom in other people’s books but until my own journey into and out of suffering I had not felt the experience, myself. And then I experienced this freedom twice but it wasn’t until I wrote about my journey that I found the depth of its truth in my memories and now I find it in my present, and again and again it frees me from fear and suffering.

The most dramatic demonstrations were in the times of highest suffering – in physical and emotional pain and dysfunction and finding bliss. The first time, at the beginning of my MS journey in a hospital in Britain, began my meditation practice as management tool for fear. The second, at the beginning of my journey with Dru in a wheelchair, began my healing journey of becoming a yoga and meditation teacher, walking and finding peace and love in my life.

When writing my journey, I discovered similar moments retrospectively and they become crucial in healing my past. I would be writing about an incident or symptom of great suffering and out of the middle would rise a pearl of joy or wisdom or love or beauty. This gave rise to one of my favourite sayings, “inside every oyster there is a pearl”, because it has become my truth.

I am human and hence a work in progress, so I also have “I’ll be happy when…” stories. These stories interfere with my equanimity, creating dissatisfaction – a wanting mind. Ultimately, I rediscover the wisdom of unconditional acceptance, equanimity returns and the joy settles a little deeper and with more stillness.

So recently while feeling overwhelmed by current circumstances at 2am (of course it was going to be 2am), I started to look forward to an idealised version of myself who was beatifically resting in gratitude and equanimity. But recently I’ve become a little wiser to my stories, and I realised I was falling back into “I’ll be happy when…I’m past the tricky bit and I can smile graciously”, and a thought came to me. ‘if then, why not now?’

Well, why not now? Why can’t I feel gratitude now? So, I began to focus on the sensation of gratitude (which is just love with a smile). Not gratitude for anything or anyone specifically, just the background sensation of gratitude. Gratitude filled my awareness completely and I became gratitude.

I had returned to the same place on the spiral but a few rungs higher, as my physiology seemed to change in some way. The days since have been lived, facing the same circumstances but with an underlying attitude of “love with a smile”. Life, decisions and relationships have been lived largely without overwhelm and with a very quick tool manage it when it arrives. Fear keeps leaving the building.

This is what I teach my students and clients, so it has been so gratifying to rediscover the wisdom as a felt experience; to know that this wisdom has a place in managing life, particularly in managing suffering and to know that I can share some tools to make it possible in your life as well as mine.

In 2010 I had discovered that joy and peace were the same, regardless of the circumstances in which they occurred, that “perfect” was an illusion and that this is a kind of freedom. My life continues to deliver me to this understanding as I ascend the spiral – arriving with suffering and emerging with peace and a deeper understanding to share.

So, if you’re reading this, I urge to find the joy in your life, right here right now as it is. Find it and then let seep through your whole being, saturate every molecule – become joy…and your life will be different, without changing a thing.

Then imagine what our society would be like if we apply this more broadly.  Children might find satisfaction and joy in the work and in themselves; patients might find recovery with more love; people with PTSD find their way back to peace: and our wanting mind could take a lie down. Imagine if we institutionalise peace.

Lynnette Dickinson is the author of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, and teaches yoga, relaxation and meditation in Canberra and via Skype or phone. Classes, personalised programs and yoga therapy. Visit www.splendouryoga.com. Listen to Lynnette telling her story click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2, and be inspired.

 

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