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From anxiety and insomnia to self-love, thank you menopause

In the early hours of the morning a couple of days ago I woke up in the grip of anxiety. It was a feeling I am very familiar having suffered insomnia as a child then for most of my adult life, until my yoga practice changed my sleeping patterns I thought forever…until menopause.

Menopause has brought so many ‘gifts’, including the return of my old friend 2am spirals of anxiety, sometimes descending into sheer panic. It may have begun with a surge of heat that even in the middle of winter in Canberra necessitates all bed coverings thrown off or perhaps a nightmare that I have jerked myself awake to leave. The predicted path of the next couple of hours would have been tossing and turning, more heat surges and little sleep, getting up close and personal with my deepest fears and descending into panic.

Over the last six months my friend’s visits have become increasingly frequent and all of the tools I had used previously were increasingly ineffective, breathing in particular seeming to make the anxiety worse, not better. I have been growing dark circles under my eyes, MS has been returning and people have started to remark on my tiredness.

Then at around 2am one morning in the grip of anxiety I started to use a Yoga Nidra format of rotating my consciousness around my body but this time using the detailed anatomy I had been learning for yoga therapy, starting with the deltoid muscle on my right arm and remembering as much detail as I could.

I made my way around my whole body, externally and internally, so I didn't gain much sleep but I was certainly more relaxed and didn't feel so tired the next day (and I felt slightly righteous for studying). Each night I woke after that I repeated the same format and sleep increased.

Again, this was not to last. about a week ago anxiety returned with a vengeance, bringing its two best friends, insomnia and menopause. I felt wretched.

Then a couple of nights ago I woke with both heat surge and nightmare, and each time I began to rotate my consciousness around my body, the anxiety and/or heat returned to distract my concentration. I prepared myself for another descent … until I thought about the opposite of anxiety.

Anxiety is the expression of fear, the opposite of fear is love ergo the opposite of anxiety is love. What is love? Unconditional acceptance. What if I held my anxiety in my arms like I would a baby, with acceptance instead of more fear?

This time it was anxiety that was derailed rather than my attempts to alleviate the condition but I still wasn't asleep.

So I began to rotate my consciousness again but this time with the warmth of love and each time a fear arose I held it in acceptance and went on, and before I knew it I was asleep. The same a short time later and then again the same night. I woke in the morning feeling soft and rested.

The next night the same thing happened but I only woke once. Then again and again. And I am looking forward to sleep tonight.

You see, just before my anxiety returned I had realised I had been expecting the outside world to fill my need for love and it is my thought that menopause has brought me to the next layer of my recovery in this area; my fear of not being loved and my neediness in the face of that fear.

The thing is, self-love is not a prescription that can be filled by anyone else but until a few days ago I didn’t know how. Holding the 2am spiral in love, holding my deepest fears in love, holding my anatomy in love is dissolving the fear and filling me with love. Who would’ve thunk it?

And during the day I have noticed that my background reactivity has also dropped. This has given me the space to reflect on the content of my inner dialogue and a deeper understanding of acceptance – another circle. Allowing the reaction and pausing in the reaction gives me choice and a moment to understand the judgement or self-criticism. My life has become peaceful again and my sleep and health have again improved.

As a culture we have successfully stigmatised and/or medicalised menopause, anxiety and insomnia. Menopause is a thing, anxiety is a thing and insomnia is thing, and together become a very big, toxic thing, particularly if we ignore them or feel shame to the point of silence. Let’s open the conversation to include all the possibilities of experience and therapy, without shame or exclusion.

So, I have been reminded that menopause can be a current, albeit a bloody uncomfortably strong one. It can carry us to a place we can transform fear into love. And most importantly for me, I have been reminded of the tools I have that can help me navigate the current, and the power and my obligation to share those tools.

 

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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Why we need yoga to treat trauma



Trauma is endemic in our society and is a major source of chronic mental and physical health problems, that are not being addressed by our current health policies. We need to look at this growing problem holistically or risk being overwhelmed by a tidal wave of suffering.

Whether from chronic or acute illness, childhood sexual assault, domestic violence, an active career in Defence, Policing or the emergency services, bullying, an accident, violence or a witness to violence, or any sudden change, trauma leaves an individual bereft and disempowered, often incapable of living a functional life.

When a person experiences physical and/or mental trauma, their whole being is impacted, therefore their whole being needs to be rehabilitated. Frequently survivors of trauma experience mental and emotional turmoil, social isolation and inability to integrate into community, as well as any physical consequences of their trauma; severely impacting Their relationships with partners, children, workplaces and the broader community.

In addition, the parasympathetic nervous systems of survivors of trauma are trapped in fight, flight or freeze mode. The consequence is a body that is physiologically always in crisis, ready to respond in a fraction of a second.

Always in fear, the individual becomes hypervigilant and hypersensitive, leading to anger, anxiety and depression. Physiologically, chronically high levels of adrenalin and cortisol increase the risk of diabetes, cancer, autoimmune diseases, heart disease and chronic pain.

This is beyond the scope of Western clinical practice, alone. Medication and cognitive behaviour therapy, while useful, cannot on their own manage the whole being disruption that trauma creates. Therefore, we must address this problem with a range of techniques, including tools that relax the autonomic nervous system.

Every week I work with survivors of trauma, including: childhood sexual abuse, transitioning from prison, chronic illness, grief, acute illness, drug addiction, post & antenatal depression, domestic violence and active duty. The focus of my teaching, therapy and coaching is to gently release the tension held in the tissues of their body, while switching the autonomic nervous system from alert to relax.

The tool I use is trauma-sensitive Dru yoga, which includes gentle stretching sequences, breathing, progressive relaxation, and sometimes mindfulness and meditation. My classes are not aerobic or pretzel yoga but designed to be inclusive and light-hearted, therapeutic tools of healing. Yoga therapy programmes are designed to give clients at least one tool they can use in their everyday lives, to manage their own condition.

Classes are monitored with questionaries at the beginning and end of courses, and yoga therapy clients provide feedback on their progress in each session. What I have seen consistently, across both classes and yoga therapy, is the immediate experience of relief in feeling so relaxed. This is usually followed by a few days of making better choices, being less reactive and feeling less pain or other physical symptoms.

Overtime, students, clients and carers report cumulative effects of recovery and healing. For example, one of my students began with chronic depression related to trauma and severe ankylosing spondylitis. The same student is now regularly exhibiting her artwork, has taken up sailing, been re-employed and gradually reduced all her medication for pain and depression, to zero. For this student, yoga has been the most effective treatment and she is fine if she maintains her yoga practice.

I began yoga teacher training in 2007 because meditation was the only activity that relieved the madness I experienced every day, due to many years of living in a state of crisis. Within three months of daily yoga practice, I had eased myself off the antidepressants that enable my attendance at a meditation weekend in an electric wheelchair and within twelve months I returned the electric wheelchair. Now I teach and write and speak and ski – I am in healthy relationship with the world.

And it is not just my anecdotal evidence. My Dru teacher and his colleagues were funded by the United Nations to teach yoga in war zones in Africa and Europe in the 1980s and 90s, and produced remarkable results. Additionally, an increasing body of academic research suggests modalities such as yoga, massage and tai chi delivered by experienced and qualified therapists, are effective tools in the treatment of PTSD.

We need to invite experienced and qualified professionals from complimentary, clinical and community sectors to the table, so that we can develop effective funding and management strategies and improve therapeutic outcomes. And we must scope our strategies from cradle to grave, across all social, racial and financial divides.

Our society is in crisis, and the increasing rates of chronic mental and physical illness are indicators that our traditional methods and current policies are not working. We desperately need to look beyond our own discipline, beyond what we have always done and collaborate.

Lynnette Dickinson has been delivering therapeutic yoga and meditation since 2009, and is the author of A Journey to Peace through Yoga. If you are interested in therapeutic yoga, yoga therapy, yoga for teens or trauma sensitive yoga, please contact Lynnette at www.splendouryoga.com or lynnette@splendouryoga.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Yoga of Skiing


Two years ago I was crying like a baby, gripped by fear, two months ago I skied my first black run with freedom and love. In this excerpt from the second edition of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, I describe using meditation to overcome fear.

I think the best way to illustrate not only the distance I have travelled in the last five years but also the impact of sharing my story, is to once again share – this time about sliding down the side of a mountain on two sticks of fibreglass with Nicola, still by my side, no longer on my lap.

Nicola and I arrived on the ski fields of Nagano, Japan, courtesy of a Christmas present from my partner, who had also booked us group lessons; kids for Nicola and growed up for me, both beginners. We were both feeling a shirt load of fear as we put on our ski boots for the first lesson.

A quick kiss and cuddle and off we went to our different classes. I have never been so bad at anything in my whole life! Each time I moved I fell and each time I fell, I had to be helped up – I just didn’t have the strength to get up, sooo disempowering.

I started down the slippery slope of comparison and identification with being crippled. “I am the worst in the class.” “Why did I think somebody like me could ski?” “How could I been so stupid?” And over and over again, “I have MS. Why did I think I could ski?” An hour and a half into my lesson, I baled and when I saw Nicola at lunch, discovered so had she. we both cried like babies.

My partner exchanged our group lessons for a fewer number of private lessons that we would have together (thank you!), and we could start in the afternoon of the next day. Nicola and I played in the snow all afternoon but my mind was filled with the undercurrent of every negative comparison I had ever held in my life – essentially I was less-than everyone at everything.

So in the early hours of the following morning, I meditated: meditated on being strong enough to get myself up when I fell, meditated on holding fear and courage in the same hand and meditated on joy.

And the next morning woke up, yoga-ed, dressed and meditated again, this time I realised that just being there was an extraordinary achievement and privilege, and I focused on gratitude for each moment. I set an intention to engage with each moment and learn as much as I could, rather than on how I was compared to other people, acknowledge my fear and ask any question that came into my mind, no matter how silly it seemed.

It’s funny how much this intention eased the pressure and fear. I felt light and very committed. This lightness and fear enabled me to support Nicola on the shuttle to the ski fields.

The lesson went well and the ski instructor was excellent (thank you, Henry). Nicola got it almost straight away and I was able to get myself up, lasted the whole two hours, found it difficult to coordinate the two sides of my body and discovered that I really was determined to learn as much as I could.

I was also bolstered by another instructor who, when I apologised for being in his way, said “never apologise for being a beginner”, and I didn’t after that. Another lesson and I was further along the way, and Nicola and I went down the beginners’ slope.

I loved watching her graceful turns but I was still feeling the lack of control that came from not being able to coordinate the two sides of my body. And somewhere along the line, I made a vow to share this journey so that it wasn’t just for me.

After more yoga and more meditation, this time focus on postures and visualisations to stimulate communication between the two sides of my brain, I went back to the Magic Carpet. This time I would just keep going down the magic carpet until I got it, no matter how many times it took.

First time I fell. Well, at least now I could get up. Second time and I turned right. The third time it clicked, both sides of my body working together, turning right and left. A few more times to make sure, visualising both sides of my brain working together, looking up and feeling it in my body.

On the ski lift with my partner, something I could never even have dreamt about, and then skiing down the slope with my daughter and my partner, actually skiing, not just snowploughing to the bottom – triumph! Again, after lunch.

More meditation and yoga, much more gratitude and the next day the ski instructor couldn’t believe how much I had improved in a day. I told him, I meditated and visualised but he decided my partner and friends were good teachers - which might also be true.

The next day, our last day in the ski fields we skied again but my legs and knees were getting tired and decided to have a short day on my skis, not wanting to push my luck. I felt such an extraordinary feeling of achievement for myself and pride for Nicola's achievement.

I had learnt so much about myself and my capacity to learn, and Nicola learnt the confidence that comes from facing down fear. Now I am honouring my vow to share my story. If I can accept being a beginner, ask questions, fall over and try
again, completely accept where I am in any given moment and be completely present, the possibilities for my life are endless.

And if I can accept myself, truly befriend myself then I can accept and befriend my circumstances, and then I can accept and befriend each person who crosses my path. I can welcome the full catastrophe of life with a clear mind and an open heart – I think this is peace.

I am still on the journey but I can look back and recognise that in this 24/7 workshop we call life, my spiral is ascending. A spark of the splendour that’s possible…

Order your copy of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, at www.splendouryoga.com, or go to Amazon to purchase your eBook. 

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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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Recovery is not a place you land and unpack


“Peace is not a place you land and unpack.”
Petrea King, Quest for Life 2016.
… and neither is Recovery.
In stages, the impossible becomes possible.” T.V.K. Desikachar
Recovery from any adversity, whether illness, drug addiction, trauma, mental health disturbance, grief, disaster or major life change, is a process that is ongoing. We don't wake up one day cured rather we continually make progress along the path of recovery.
In my own recovery process, I have often felt like I have been ascending a spiral, often returning to similar issues but at a higher or deeper level of resolution. This appears across all the layers of my experiences and I often don't notice until I am moving out of an experience and may need to reflect on the last rung on the spiral to get perspective and prevent being disheartened.
Yet over and over my students and clients ask why it is taking them so long, wondering if there is something wrong with them or they are doing something wrong. Our society seems to think that recovery from trauma, illness, grief or any kind of life-change happens in distinct stages within a distinct time-frame (usually within 12months), and then we move on.
There have been many occasions when people, having read my book, heard my story or even been taught by me during a particularly ‘well’ phase, will have expected me to be cured and if I fall off this perch they will be distressed and disappointed on my behalf…and perhaps theirs.
I am always moved by people’s concern for my wellbeing and reassure people that I have chronic illnesses that I manage not cure. I manage with the tools I teach and that even if I don't come out of this exacerbation, I will continue to live in peace which for me is what it’s all about and if I do come out, it will be at a higher place than I was before.
You see, this the reality for those of us who have suffered some form of trauma or major life change is that recovery is ongoing and comes in waves. For many of us, the greatest recovery comes from the inner peace gained from the acceptance of our present situation and this too is ongoing.
So, if we accept this to be true, if we accept that recovery is ongoing, how do we support ourselves and each other through this process?
Firstly, find a practice that improves your wellness and then maintain a regular practice, even after the initial flush of recovery. It seems to be a common nature for us to find a practice that makes us feel better only to let it go when we start to feel better. The best way to stay out of the hole is to keep doing whatever it was that got you out of the hole.
And if you fall off the wagon and find yourself in a hole again, give yourself a break releasing as much guilt as you can because you're human. go back to the Same ladder and start climbing again.   
Find a support team and give them permission to keep you accountable. This might be a coach or a counsellor, a yoga teacher, therapist or trusted friend. Choose wisely, not because they will take you out and get you pissed but because you know they will respectfully keep you honest.
It is a friend, colleague, partner or family member the first step is to listen. Stop what you're doing, make a cup of tea and listen. Ask questions – what has helped before, how would like me to support you, would you like me to come with you? Questions that invite the person to consider and find their own wisdom and path. Set an example in your own behaviour. Things not to do: nag and remind them they've been here before - They know, already!!!
The most important things I have learned about recovery is that it is not a place you land and unpack. It happens in stages and requires resilience, acceptance and forgiveness. Whether it is yourself in recovery or someone you care for, it takes time, is ongoing and is often more about finding peace where you are right now than finding a cure.
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 Part 1 and Part 2, and be inspired.

 

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From Wanting to Abundance


‘Tis the season to be jolly…or not. Many people experience rising anxiety and other symptoms of a wanting mind during the festive season, so today I thought I would offer a few tools to move from a wanting mind to a mindset of abundance, so we can have the most joyful Christmas possible.

I think gratitude is our most powerful tool to shift our mindset from wanting to living, and there are several ways it can be used. Here a few ideas.

  • Whenever we find ourselves wanting or complaining we can look for something in our lives where we can feel grateful and focus on that until the wanting or complaining has passed.
  • We can start a gratitude practice that encourages us to notice the abundance we already have in our lives – when we notice what we have we are less concerned with what we don’t have.
  • Gratitude practices include a daily practice of finding three things you are grateful for and recording them in a Gratitude Journal, Facebook or little slips of paper and putting them in a Gratitude Jar; setting a reminder to notice something you feel grateful for, every hour or so (particularly good for people in difficult workplaces or daily circumstances); or a daily practice before bed of feeling grateful for your life, food, shelter, family, friends, material well-being, goals and the means to achieve your goal.
  • Focusing on gratitude brings acceptance and a general background feeling of abundance and peace. This also enables us to see opportunities when they arise and act on them because our mind is free from the limits we might otherwise place on ourselves. 

Another way of moving from wanting to abundance is to set an intention of looking for beauty. Recognising beauty in our lives lifts us into our own divinity, regardless of what that means for us and we can experience true joy.

This is easily done once the intention has been made, either because you start noticing beauty in the world around you or because you are deliberately choosing beauty.

  • You can take walks in parks and gardens, listen to uplifting music, watch sunsets, buy flowers for your desk and/or home, chew food slowly and mindfully so that you sense all the flavours.
  • Essentially bathe your senses in beauty – it is hard to feel deprived when your senses are alive and the world around you, which was drab is now beautiful.

So I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, full of abundance, gratitude and joy.

with love,

Lynnette

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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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The role that’s invisible on my CV



Imagine a role where you were on call 24/7 with no overtime or time in lieu, where your job description includes being vomited and pooed on, and the stakeholders have the rest of their lives to discuss what you did wrong.  And here’s the kicker – the salary is … well … $0 and the status is … well … invisible.

24 years ago I began a job for which I didn’t apply and definitely didn’t have the necessary qualifications or the skills. This is perhaps the most important job I will ever have, in both skills I have learned and its impacts on the stakeholders, yet I have never put this job on a resume or discussed in an interview. The job? Motherhood.

As mother (and for the last seven years, a single mother), I have been manager of a team, collaborated with my fellow manager, CFO, logistics coordinator, caterer, administrator and secretary (admittedly badly – yes, I would have sacked me), creative designer (particularly around book week and school productions), nutritionist, nurse, tutor and counsellor. Thankfully the role of IT manager has naturally fallen to the stakeholders themselves.

As a project manager, I have managed numerous house relocations, overseas travel for stakeholders, Christmas and birthday celebrations by meeting deadlines, setting timelines and meeting budget.  And while managing might seem like the creative use of this term, without the reality of my management these projects would not have been completed successfully. We have successfully moved house, we have never gone hungry or not paid rent, stakeholders have returned from their travels in one piece and all are now thriving.

As the stakeholders have grown and my collaborator and I both have new collaborators, I have also become a negotiator, adding active listening and non-violent communication to my list of skills. Working towards outcomes that bring the whole team forward is a key component in this new role.

My active listening and interpersonal skills can be demonstrated by the countless hours I have spent listening to my stakeholders’ concerns, interests, heartbreaks, obsessions, anxieties, depression, anger, fears and successes. Success in these skills is clearly demonstrated by the coherence and functionality of the whole team, including all collaborators.

My skills in logistics and operations management can be demonstrated by getting three stakeholders to three different schools, mostly with lunch in bag and breakfast in the belly, followed by me making it to my business. Then managing transport to the different after school activities, often at different sides of the city.

My capacity to simultaneously manage different projects with different demands is clearly demonstrated by the multitasking nature of the role defined as a mother. And while my administrative and secretarial skills are a work in progress, enough notes have been signed and forms completed that we are still afloat.

All of this while managing a chronic health condition that has seen me in an electric wheelchair and several long stays in hospital, retraining, building a micro-business teaching yoga and meditation to people in crisis, writing and marketing a book and contributing to my community by volunteering and charity fundraising.

As a mother, I have learned and developed invaluable skills in the management of individuals, team building and capacity building but I have never referred to them in my ‘professional’ life.  However, there is no doubt in my mind that these skills, this ‘job’ has informed and contributed invaluably to my business role as therapeutic yoga teacher and yoga therapist.

It is now my paid job to nurture people to wellbeing, engage with organisations to build resilience, capacity build for all stakeholders, engage in active listening for clients and students and design programs that will best serve individuals, groups and organisations. I have project managed the release of two editions of my book, A Journey to Peace through Yoga, from conception through writing, pitching and marketing. I have taught on yoga and meditation teacher training, given many public speaking presentations and been interviewed for print, radio and television.

I now offer immeasurable value into my community and none of it would have been possible without the experience and skills I gained through the most important and longest position – mother.

So why haven’t I included this most important role in my resume? On reflection I think I have perceived the society I am applying into does not value this lynch-pin role in creating community. This may or may not be a correct perception but regardless, in holding this belief I have limited my own valuing of my role as a mother, while denying others the opportunity to also recognise its value.

As I look back on this nearly 24-year role, I realise it’s time to include this role of 'Mother' in my CV because, while the dollar salary was zero, the actual salary was and is life and love.

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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Mental health – when we fall off the trapeze we need a safety net


Mental health across Australian society is in crisis, yet government funding for the community services that support mental wellbeing has been reduced, partly due to the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Simultaneously, philanthropy has reduced for both general and special interest community groups, the assumption being that the NDIS will pay for everything that Medicare doesn’t.

Sadly, this isn’t the case, with the groups most affected being the most marginalised and stigmatised groups in our society: Indigenous Australians and people suffering mental illness.

I have experienced the issues relating to mental health from multiple perspectives. I watched my mother struggle with bipolar through her life, her suffering was accentuated by the medicalisation of her condition that didn't allow her to have a life that walked alongside her mental illness.

The stigma associated with mental didn’t allow her condition to be discussed or even acknowledge that we might also be suffering. There was little safety net or support structure for her or us and the shame was palpable.

I have experienced clinical depression in a more enlightened time. I was funded to have talking therapy. My children and husband -as carers, were supported by community organisations specifically funded by government and philanthropy, to provide this safety net.

I even received funding which enabled me to engage with yoga and meditation teacher training, which was ultimately my saviour physically, emotionally and spiritually.  In the last nine years alone this has saved thousands of dollars in care, pharmaceuticals and medical consultations. My suffering and the suffering of my family has been drastically reduced, while massively contributing to society through my teaching and and writing.

I now teach therapeutic yoga and meditation, and give private yoga therapy for people experiencing mental illness, PTSD and chronic conditions, in the community sector.

My fear is that the current user pays, evidence-based environment being created by the NDIS is the beginning of a return to the bad old days of the medicalisation of mental health. Medicalisation works with equipment, medication and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, but doesn't provide the safety net of community. Treatment without community is a problem.

We need a vital community sector that offers a whole range of services. People from marginalised communities are the least likely to enter into the rigorous and protracted process of NDIS application. They are also most likely to understate the impact of their illness, and therefore most likely to be rejected by NDIS criteria.

And then, even if they are accepted there needs to be the services available that enable them to walk with their illness, and possibly even overcome its dominance over their lives.

The community service sector plays the role of mother, nurturer and carer in our society. It provides the safety net that family and society used to play, unconditional support when the proverbial faeces hit the fan, regardless of your status in society. This is as important for working Australians as it is for people who qualify for a disability pension or a disability parking ticket.

For people suffering mental illness these services include crisis accommodation, access to rehabilitation programs, counselling, financial planning, telephone support, support groups, hang out locations, access to technology, sport & recreation, arts, massage, volunteering opportunities, education and information services, carer nurturing and respite, and most importantly, community services at their best provide an understanding ear for people experiencing crisis, a place for people to land in the midst of their storm.

These services are both therapeutic and preventative and are not offered by the NDIS or Medicare. They are essential for maintaining mental health, preventing mental illness and responding to crisis that can affect any stratum of our society. They provide the care that balances with treatment and equipment – contentment is not just about having the right medical equipment and drugs.

We need to provide a vital and comprehensive safety net for people if and when they fall off the trapeze of modern life. Research shows that mental health is supported by holistically engaging in life; connection with other humans, purpose, nutrition, physical exercise, creative expression, relaxation and meditation/mindfulness. The evidence suggests that these ‘lifestyle’ factors are not luxuries but essential in recovering and maintaining good mental health.

Yet our peak funding bodies are funding and advocating awareness campaigns, pharmaceutical and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)solutions, whilst reducing funding for small community sector organisations that provide lifestyle support, on the basis they are not evidence based.

I know from my own experience that pharmaceuticals can be part of the solution for anxiety and depression. Zoloft opened a space in my dark and cloudy mind for the sun to shine through, enabling me to find more sustainable solutions for my mental health. I could see and then engage in the possibilities of my life when the medication had calmed the dogs breakfast that was my mind; and medication is essential for the management of mental illnesses.

Similarly, (CBT) is very effective for some people, but only one of several evidence based talking therapies that can help people reframe their mental landscape. And even in this current wave of domestic violence, relationship counselling or therapy is not funded by any publicly accessible pathway. The psychologist who helped me to see the light in 2006 would no longer be funded under the current arrangements and I would have needed to travel an hour into Canberra in a wheelchair and find $150-200 a session – not very likely.

I have been servicing this sector since 2009, and have watched the funding for the safety net services dwindle, staff become burnt out and clients suffer as “luxury” services they depended on to maintain wellbeing, disappeared.

Many of my students claim that the classes I deliver are the most effective solutions for improving and maintain both physical and mental health but if they have to make money they become unsustainable. I have already lost one class and others are threatened because students are unable to pay for a service that used to be free. Many are either not registered for the NDIS, have applied and been rejected or are still waiting for their package.

Recovering and maintaining mental health in a modern society requires all the resources we have available to us and to enable this requires honest and open collaboration between all the stakeholders and a vital and viable community safety net. We are a like a huge and complicated family and a family needs a mother that loves unconditionally and is always available to catch the falling trapeze artists.

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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