The Lighter Side of Transformation

with Lisa Wessan, LICSW

Coronavirus Retreat Tip #1

Dog in mask

Over the years I have been trained up to always see the pros and cons of each challenge. Not to be in denial of the pain, trauma and suffering — but to see the possibility of hidden value in the challenges.  “What if everything that is happening to you is happening for you?” asked  Colin Tipping years ago in a lecture in New York.   That thought percolated through me for years before I could finally understand what it truly meant, and the freedom and peace of mind that comes from living with this deep level of acceptance. 

What are the pros and cons of this Covid-19 challenge we now face? Here are some resources which have helped me sort this out and remain more peaceful and relaxed during this difficult time. 

To be transparent as ever,  I am feeling the full dialectical nature of this moment: sometimes I feel a deep peace and stillness within, and at the same time I feel the edge of a panic attack creeping up on me.  The difference between now and 30 years ago, however,  is that I have learned to observe my inner world so much better…so when I sense that edge, I use some breathwork, distress tolerance skills and physical release to shift out of it.  (More on those skills in the next Coronavirus post).

Over the next few days, I’m going to unpack some useful tips for coping with this extra level of anxiety we all share from the pandemic.  As always,  I have been sorting and cycling through my personal tool kit, plus I have found some new and impactful ideas that I will share here too.  The best of the best for you, my dear reader…as we trudge this road through the forced Retreat to wellness and bliss.

First, listening to Jack Kornfield  and Tim Ferriss discuss ways to re-frame and re-focus during this difficult time gave me more insight and some good practical advice. Kornfield’s  75 years on this Earth have been well spent.  As a brief overview, he was a Buddhist Monk in Thailand, then served as co-founder of the Insight Meditation Center in Barre, MA,  then became a psychologist. Now he is involved in many educational and activist programs to help bring mindfulness and other useful transformative skills to the public. 

Tim Ferriss is one of my favorite teachers. First, I love Ferriss’  passion for extreme wellness.  I love his awesome lifestyle hacks and his never ending curiosity about world class performers  and the minutia of their morning routines, what they eat for breakfast,  favorite books, how they sleep and more. He also has an impressive history of  brilliant investing, living with bipolar illness and managing well.  Yes, I’m a fan of Ferriss! 

You can access this podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts:  Listen to #414: Jack Kornfield — How to Find Peace Amidst COVID-19, How to Cultivate Calm in Chaos from The Tim Ferriss Show in Podcasts.

For your consideration, here is my brief summary of this  podcast. During this two hour, wide ranging conversation, you will learn: 

  1. During the first hour, “It’s not about perfecting yourself, it’s about perfecting your Love.”  Learning to live in this world with more love, embracing the inner and outer imperfections with radical acceptance is one path to more inner peace and joy here.  Kornfield delves into some wonderful coping and practice skills to help move through the anxiety and depression of these pandemic days.
  2. From 1:07 there is a discussion of psychedelic research aka Sacred Medicines, for the treatment of drug resistant depression and anxiety.   Kornfield discusses the mysteries of our multi-dimensional selves.  “We are learning to use sacred medicines to know who we are.”  Apparently, this paradigm shifting research helps us form more positive and useful world views. Ferriss cites exciting and impressive research coming out of Johns Hopkins Medical School which has gotten robust results.   After listening to this  segment, I made a note to read The Cosmic Game, by psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, which describes the wisdom and understanding that hundreds of trials of Sacred Medicines have offered seekers in laboratory conditions, to help better understand the nature of consciousness Itself. (As it happens, Harvard Medical School is hosting a large conference here in Boston  May 1-2, 2020, on Meditation and Psychotherapy: Learning from Non-Ordinary States).
  3.  From 1:23 Kornfield deconstructs suicide and suicidal patterns and how to reduce treatment resistant depression.  I was intrigued with this curious idea,  how we long for “sleep,” and how for some suicide is the big sleep that they think will solve their painful life for good. Suicidal people have  worthy intentions, not the best solutions…Kornfield’s approach to suicide is practical and soothing.  
  4.  From 1:32  Kornfield explains his trauma work, and how to be in the field of compassion which allows us to process the trauma successfully. “To witness with a loving gaze, it’s not who you are, it’s something that you went through.”   This reminds me of the teaching that “We make mistakes, but we are not a mistake.”   Again, learning to pause, observe, step back and see the pain as something that we passed through is very different then feeling a permanent imprint from it, rendering us emotionally compromised,  with anxiety, depression, PTSD and other conditions.  

I hope you enjoy listening to this podcast as much as I did.  It really gave me a booster during these troubled times. There is hope! There is a solution…

Stay tuned for my next Coronavirus Retreat Tip…may these tips serve you well! 

Onwards and Upwards in good health, 

Lisa Wessan

 

Related reading: 

Dr. Abdu Sharkawy: My Turn: Mass panic may be worse than virus itself

 

 

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