My first encounter with a client outside of therapy was a scenario that had played out in my mind many different ways, most seemed to be characterized by feelings of awkwardness and discomfort. I had heard of a lot of strange stories of counselors and field instructors running into their clients and I was not looking forward to it. As a counselor, the ethics state that if I come in contact with a client outside of therapy I cannot smile, wave, or do anything that would indicate a connection to that individual. The initiation of contact or acknowledgement of familiarity has to come from the client. If a conversation were to take place it is also my responsibility to avoid any language that would reveal the nature of our relationship and protect client confidentiality. In other words, it’s a tricky situation that could play out a million different ways and there are a lot of aspects that are out of my control. I think my uneasiness and fear related to the situation is understandable. Luckily, my first experience was a positive one.
This October marks the ten-year anniversary for Second Nature Entrada, in Santa Clara, Utah. Not only has Entrada set the standard in providing the highest level of care for our adolescent and young adult participants and their families back home, it has also supported and helped to grow the local community.
Recently, I was playing catch with my two-year-old daughter, which is one of her favorite games lately. I’m hoping I can get a lacrosse stick in her hands before her next birthday. One of my throws was a bit too high and “Bonk” it bounced off her head. The look of shock on her face quickly melted into tears welling up in her adorable blue eyes. It is amazing how fast children learn the concept of secondary emotions, because soon after her hurt came the anger. A series of forceful one-liners: “No, No, No” erupted from her pursed lips. Then she attempted to walk past me and go to her room, which she’s learned to do in the process of her own emotion regulation. It’s a place for her to calm herself in her own space.
There are so many reasons to invite more mindfulness into one’s life. The reasons are as plentiful as the practices themselves. One of the subjects regarding mindfulness that I enjoy teaching most is, “Indulging the little things.” The implications of enjoying the subtle and simple are far reaching in ways that can surprise and inspire.
Pranayama is the Yogic art of breathing. Prana = vital energy, ayama = extension. The practice of pranayama helps bring awareness to the breath bringing the mind to the present moment. The exercise of refining the inhale and exhale can have an extraordinary effect on mood, promoting relaxation, focus, clarity. In the Yogic tradition, the breath is often referred to as a communication with the soul or the vehicle of the soul. Developing a greater understanding and awareness of our breath helps develop a greater awareness of the soul as well. Through the years I’ve been teaching Yoga, the most surprising thing I’ve learned is how profoundly the breath can relieve stress and anxiety with just the simplest practices. Here is one pranayama technique we practiced this week at the Oasis. Try it for yourself!
Self-care means so many things. It’s not just about adequate sleep or good hygiene. It’s about allowing gifts into your life no matter how small or large, no matter if you think you ‘deserve’ them or not. Perhaps even more importantly, it’s about knowing how to give those gifts to yourself. Taking a moment on a hot afternoon to prepare yourself a sweet treat like this melon salad may be just what the doctor ordered. Even though this recipe is brimming with sweetness and flavor, you are also nourishing your body with healthy alternatives to empty calories and processed junk food. Let this simple dish be a day at the spa for the taste buds – enjoy!
It can be a difficult decision to have your daughter or son leave home to participate in a therapeutic wilderness program. There can be elements of the unknown, thoughts that “my child is not that sick” or overwhelming feelings of uncertainty, shame or guilt. Frequently your child doesn’t want to go, they think they don’t need help, don’t want help, or believe they can get the help they need at home. While home treatment can absolutely work for some, others can be so lost they need to create some physical separation, so the child can truly focus on their own personal well-being. In a recent blog article, a previous student of a wilderness therapy program, referring to herself as a “treatment-kid”, expressed her feelings before leaving home:
Thich Nhat Hanh, the well-known Zen Buddhist monk, tells a story about the Buddha being asked what he and his students practice. His reply was, “We sit, we eat, and we sleep.” The inquistitor, perplexed, replied, “but we all do that.” The Buddha, in his perfect wisdom and grace asserted, “Yes but when we sit we know we are sitting. When we sleep, we know we are sleeping, and when we eat, we know we are eating.”
The yoga mat teaches you something about yourself every time you get on it. We can use these lessons toward any personal journey we undertake. In the case of addiction and recovery, the mat is an excellent place to challenge the addict brain. It reveals our knee-jerk reactions to discomfort and our over-indulgent behaviors toward pleasure. Like a mirror, the mat shows us our strengths and weaknesses not just in our physicality but also in our character. The lesson does not stop with a casual glance at our short-comings. Oh no! At this point, we have only taken out our notebooks and pencils.
If the word mantra draws up an image of bald Hare Krishna chanting men in orange robes asking for money in airports… you’re not alone. That said, we’ve come a long way, baby!