Giving the Gift of Yourself

20121207fr-gift-of-yourselfby Larry Barsh, M.S. C.HT
Life Counselor

Each year at this time, the familiar stories of holiday stress, guilt and anxiety begin to swirl. “Do I have enough money and/or time to get the right gift? What if they don’t like…? What will they think? How can I get it all done?”

Well, in the end, what I have found is that the best gift you can ever give is the gift of you being filled with life, love and joy. You being fully present and happy, just because. This is a gift which you have always had to give, and it will always be yours to give.

As I work with clients around the world, I hear again and again how not taking time to care for themselves, and not allowing themselves to be their true selves, greatly contributed to debilitating stress and physical dysfunction.

So, how do you give the gift of yourself in the face of overwhelming errands, memories, and holiday decisions? Well, a little understanding about why you do what you do, and some tips on how to relax and create a better you for the holidays can make a surprising difference. Here are some things to think about.

  1. Rethinking Gifting. Whether we are aware of it or not, we have extensive mental files that tell us how to re-act (act again with the same/similar behaviors and emotions as before) to holiday situations, circumstances, relationships and environments. It’s very helpful to notice when your mood negatively changes and you feel anxious, guilty, inadequate, sad or angry in relation to some aspect of the holiday season. At those times, ask yourself, “What can I do, in this moment, to be better?” The answer to this question usually is positive and constructive, and helps to break the habit of re-acting in troubling ways. For instance, if someone were thinking, “I don’t have the money to buy the kind of gifts I want to, or think I should, and the holidays just won’t feel right,” then that person could also consider, “I can only do my best, and I’ll give whatever I can with love and creativity. Right now I can begin planning what I can do that’s within my budget, and will be fun for me to do, as well.” Remember, most people would rather have the pleasure of your joyous company than some stuff. And when you feel comfortable with yourself and your decisions, knowing you haven’t stretched yourself to the brink, you will be able to be more peaceful and joyous because you have been honest with yourself.
  2. The Thymus Tap. If you find yourself feeling anxious or sad, or even tired, there is a wonderful technique you can use to feel better. I call it the Thymus Tap, and it works very well. At the base of the front of your neck, below the soft area, there is what is known as the breastbone. With the first two fingers of your right hand, tap on that bone. Behind the bone is your thymus gland. It seems that when you tap on the bone, and repeat a positive phrase (“I feel calm and happy”), the thymus radiates the message throughout all of your body, and your mind and body produce the results of your phrase. Practice using this technique several times each day, before you really need it. Each time you use the Thymus Tap, the results increase, and happen faster. You can use any positively stated, present tense phrase you want. Have fun experimenting to see what combination of words works best for you. My clients have used the Thymus Tap to alleviate pain, change mood, concentrate, increase confidence, improve sports performance, and much more.
  3. Breathing Deep for Deep Relaxation. Often, when we are stressed, we either forget to breathe or breathe shallowly. Not breathing well can imitate create symptoms associated with panic attacks, cloud our minds, and generally tire us. Before any of this happens, take a few moments each day to just breathe and relax. That way you will be training yourself to breathe better, and perfecting a method to help alleviate stress. Here’s what to do. Take in a deep, full breath, filling your abdomen first, and then your chest. As you complete the inhale, let your body breathe out on its own (as you make an AHHHH sound) until all the air is exhaled. Then, rest in that quiet place until your body tells you that it’s time to breathe again. Repeat the breathing process about eight times (or as often as you like). This is not hyperventilation, and it will help you slow down, calm down, and focus.
  4. Shrug it Off. Did you ever hear the phrase, “Shrug it off”? Well, it turns out to be a good suggestion for relaxing the head, neck, shoulders, and upper chest. All you do is, from a sitting or standing position, raise your shoulders as close to your ears as possible, hold for a few seconds, and let your shoulders drop. Several shrugs should relax tension.
  5. Taking Time for Yourself. Taking time for yourself seems to be harder and harder to do, yet is very, very important to your well being. I heartily recommend making at least one (more are better) thirty minute relaxation period for yourself each day. This is a time of no disturbances when you can listen to soothing music, inspirational or self improvement programs, read, meditate, or practice the Heart Smile. The Heart Smile consists of simply sitting quietly, closing your eyes, breathing easily, and imagining a tiny light glowing at the center of your heart. With your mind’s eye, watch the light for a while, and see it begin to grow into a soft and happy smile. As the light surrounds the smile, imagine the smile slowly growing until it fills every inch body, and even expands beyond. Feel the sensation of a happy smile filling and surrounding your body, and even broadcasting out to others. Take your time as you let the smile grow, and then stay with it for as long as you like. When you are finished, let the smile and light flow back into your body to stay with you as you take a few deep breaths, open your eyes, and stretch. As you practice, the results will come faster until, just by thinking about the light and smile, you’ll feel filled with their gift.

I hope that something mentioned here helps you give more of the gift of yourself. If you have any questions about any of these techniques, please call me. I’ll be happy to explain them in greater detail.

Happiness and good begin within each of us, and with the positive choices we make to care for ourselves in sustaining and enriching ways. It is true that we care best for others when we care well for ourselves. When we are filled with life, we can give fully. When we feel somewhat empty, we are giving from deficit.

So, fill up your holiday tanks with joy, be the best you can be, and do good things.

I Wish You Well

Be Wonderful

Larry

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Perspective on Stress Management

by Larry Barsh, M.S.   C.H.T.

If you are living in a physical body, you are experiencing stress to some degree. Stress has been called a “silent epidemic”, and is cited as the cause of, or major contributor to, about 80% of all illness. And while most people talk about stress, very few understand what it is, or how to manage and release it.

The concept of physical and emotional “stress” was first presented by Dr. Hans Selye. The term “stress” refers to the wear-and-tear on the body caused when a person physically and/or emotionally reacts to a real, or imagined, event. Keep the word imagined in mind for a minute. It’s a significant key to relieving stress.

There are several types of stress. One is environmental stress – the irritation caused by pollution, pesticides, fatty foods, electromagnetic and other radiation, consistent loud noises, etc. These stressors put a load on your body, and your body has to work harder to compensate and balance for their effects.

Another type of stress is Eustress. This is relatively good stress – laughing, loving, singing, bliss, proper exercise. These stressors also cause the body to have to re-balance, but their overall results can be to release bad stress and create greater physical and emotional benefits.

The third type of stress (there are more aspects to stress, but for the sake of this discussion we’ll simplify) is called Distress. This is where the word imagined comes in. Most of the stress that affects us is created by our beliefs. Our beliefs (preferences, desires, ethics, prejudices, fears, priorities) cause us to react. For example, if you have a nightmare, you might thrash about, call out, feel fear, have an increased heart beat, and perspire. You may wake-up confused and breathing hard, feeling tense. You have experienced a stress-filled event, and why? Because your mind created an imagined story (based on some part of your belief system), and then your mind believed it, and your body reacted. That is a familiar example of how distress occurs. And the good news is that you can re-evaluate the beliefs that cause fear, anxiety, and other distress.

Beliefs are programs that run in the computer which is our mind. If your mind were built to scale as a mainframe computer, it would have to cover an area the size of the entire state of Texas. With a mind as big as Texas running a negative, stressing program, to which you physically and emotionally react, is it any wonder that the body can be adversely affected? The solution is to identify the stressors in your life, and eliminate them, or, alter your perception of them. That can take a little time, but it’s not as hard as it seems, and you’ll see and feel amazing changes in your life and health. It’s important to know that you are not stuck with your stress!

While you are considering making changes in your life to manage stress, there is one technique you can use, right now, to help relieve stress. It is the Thymus Tap. First, find the bone at the top of your rib cage, just below the soft skin at the bottom of your neck. Now, think of what you want to make better, and say it positively, in the present tense (I am calm, I feel strong, I am comfortable, my mind is clear). Next, as you repeat your phrase/s, tap on that bone with one or two fingers. Do this for thirty seconds to one minute. You will probably feel improvement quickly.

Behind the bone where you are tapping is the thymus gland. For some reason, the thymus seems to broadcast your phrase throughout the body, and the physical body takes appropriate action. I suggest practicing this technique about 12 times per day, for one minute. Each time you practice, your mind and body respond more rapidly and effectively. As simple, or odd, as the Thymus Tap may seem, I have gotten reports from world-class athletes, business people, children, heart patients, and many others that it works. Some have even said that it saved their lives.
Perspective on Stress Management by Larry Barsh

The practice of meditation is one of the best ways to reduce stress.

Several decades ago, Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard University began testing people, while they meditated, to see what their bodies were doing. He found that the minds of meditators were quieter, that heart rates slowed, stress hormones in the bloodstream decreased significantly, muscles relaxed, and the subjects expressed a greater sense of well- being.

Years later, a large health insurance company asked people at Maharishi University, in Fairfield, Iowa to participate in a study which would compare their general health conditions with 600,000 of the company’s current clients after one year. The stipulation was that the Fairfield people would meditate twice daily, for twenty minutes each time. At the end of the year, the meditators were always at least 50% healthier than the current clients, and most often scored 70%-80%-90% and 100% better in the categories studied (i.e. incidence of heart problems, stroke, emergency room visits, accidents, cardiopulmonary disease, diabetes, etc.).

So, what is meditation? And can anyone do it?

Meditation is simply the practice of learning to quiet the mind, to engage in focused relaxation. Your mind says about 35,000 negative things to you each day. It nags, remembers bad things, awfulizes, and limits your abilities. By learning to actually “sit still, doing nothing (this is one definition of meditation),” you can ease the constant flow of negative thought, clear your mind, and begin making positive choices for being and feeling better. Anyone can do this and receive beneficial results. The key is to begin, and keep meditating.

While the aim of meditation is to learn to quiet the mind, many other rewards occur. Along with those found by Dr. Benson, I have seen many clients heal faster because their calmer bodies could devote more energy to recuperation. Meditation can also lead to increased energy and greater ability to focus and think clearly. Because muscles and nerves are more relaxed they actually become stronger and can function better. Many world-class and professional athletes utilize some form of meditation to enhance their athletic performance. And, benefits of meditation produce positive affects for people of all ages.

Throughout history, all religions and spiritual paths have relied on meditation and contemplation as a significant part of daily practice and observance. To learn how to meditate, you can find a book that explains meditation and follow the instructions. That book should be brief, and to the point. Unless you want to be a meditation scholar, you just need the “sitting still, doing nothing” basics which will include some mind focusing techniques, easy breathing techniques, methods to bring your mind back when it wanders, and answers to the questions which all people ask when beginning meditation.

Locating a meditation teacher is a preferred way for many people to learn meditation. Personally, I like to have a human being available to answer questions. In eastern Iowa, I am aware of only a few places where you can go and learn meditation from a teacher. I believe that the Fairfield, Iowa area has several teachers of Transcendental Meditation (as should Maharishi University), and the cost can be substantial. In Iowa City, the Zen Society teaches and welcomes anyone who would like to come and meditate with them. I also teach meditation, and create an audiotape program with individualized instruction which can be followed until meditation becomes familiar to you. There is a charge for the tape and instruction.

One other good way of learning meditation is by listening to commercial audio programs which teach meditation. While the instruction is solely on tape, there are some accomplished meditators who have designed easily understandable approaches to basic meditation. Larger, local bookstores should have a selection of these taped programs, and, of course, there is always the Internet. The Sounds True audio publishing company would also be a good place to investigate. They produce good quality products.

Finally, think of meditation this way. Is it worth taking twenty minutes once, or twice, a day to relax and probably greatly reduce stress, add balance to your life, and help your body feel and be better? It is to participants in Dr. Dean Ornish’s program. They used meditation, along with eating nutritionally well and exercising, to unblock arteries and improve the overall conditions of their heart systems. And how many times each day does twenty minutes slip by while you’re resting or daydreaming? Why not add a little extra to those times, and experience the surprising benefits of meditation?

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The Calming Breath

by Larry Barsh, M.S.   C.H.T.

Our breath is a natural tranquilizer and pain reliever.

Most people have forgotten how to breathe well and, consequently, receive only a minimum of the air they could take in (often as low as 30%). So, put a hand over your navel and breathe in. Did your hand move outward? If not, you are probably inhaling insufficiently. Practice breathing like a baby.

When you watch an infant sleep, you notice its diaphragm/abdomen area gently move out and in. That is good breathing. And you can train yourself to breathe like that again. Simply take every opportunity you can to place a hand over your navel and inflate your
diaphragm/abdominal region as you inhale, and deflate that region when you exhale. You will see your hand moving out and in to show you that you are breathing more deeply. After you breathe in using your diaphragm, you may inflate your chest with air. Then, when you exhale, deflate your chest first, and then your diaphragm. When it seems that all the air is out of your diaphragm, push in a little more with your hand to expel the last of the air. By doing this you strengthen your diaphragm, and it is able to take in more air next time. Soon, you will notice that you are naturally breathing diaphragmatically.

By practicing diaphragmatic/abdominal breathing, people find that they are calmer, have more energy, can focus and quiet their minds, lessen and relieve pain, and benefit from diaphragmatic breathing massage of internal organs. This kind of breathing creates many subtle benefits, and when incorporated in the Calming Breath Technique, can work to develop higher levels of well being.

The Calming Breath Technique consists of three simple steps. First, place the tip of your tongue to the back of your upper front teeth (at the ridge where the palate meets the teeth). Your tongue will remain there throughout the entire exercise. Then close your mouth, and breathe in through your nose, to the count of four. Next, with mouth closed and tongue in place, hold that breath for a count of seven. Then, part your lips and breathe out around your tongue to the count of eight. Pace yourself so that the last of the breath is expelled when you reach eight. If you wish, you can press on your diaphragm/abdomen to push out more air and strengthen the diaphragm. Repeat the technique three more times (four times in all), and do this twice each day. When you feel comfortable doing the Calming Breath four times, increase to eight times, twice each day. Of course, you may use this technique whenever circumstances call for it. You won’t hyperventilate, and I’ve never heard of side effects from this practice.

When you begin to breathe more deeply and naturally (diaphragmatic/abdominal), and utilize the Calming Breath, you will probably notice a sense of having greater control over instances of pain, anxiety, anger, and upset. The pay-off is significant for those who consistently practice each day, as you give your body one more tool for balance and rejuvenation. That’s worth a few minutes of attention out of each day.

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Mirror Talk

by Larry Barsh, M.S.   C.H.T.

Talking to ourselves can be very healthy. We do it all the time and don’t even think about it. Each day we say more than 50,000 words to ourselves… 75% of which are negative. When you consider that the mind learns through repitition, and that we listen to ourselves more than we listen to anyone else, what we say to ourselves can be a powerful influence. It can create and sustain the way we think and feel.

If we are the most important influence in our lives, doesn’t it make sense to communicate with ourselves in positive ways? If we have persuaded ourselves to feel and be the ways we are, can’t we persuade ourselves to feel and be better?

We can! If we speak to ourselves in a more focused manner, our minds and bodies seem very willing to fulfill our requests. One of the best ways of contacting the healthy abilities within us is to talk to ourselves in the mirror. When we are concentrated in such a conversation, we can contact a wise part of us that knows how to make things better. It’s easy to do, and you can begin as slowly or quickly as you want.

Find any type of mirror and look exclusively at your eyes. Some find this difficult, so keep at it, even if only for a short time. When you look at your eyes, fix your gaze there, and begin to speak to yourself. Tell yourself that you love and appreciate yourself. Thank your body for doing the job it is doing. Phrase everything positively and in the present tense. Then, address your goals. You may say something like, “I love you and appreciate you. I thank my body for doing its best for me. I now release any and all pain. All sensation I feel is comfortable and pleasant. My body and mind always work for my highest good and well being. I am calm and balanced. I deserve to feel well and be well, and I accept being better.” Then, you might add this phrase, which I find very helpful: ” I now order the part of me that knows how to release all pain and create safe and effective remedies within. I order that part to activate all my natural resources to create comfort and wellness.” And then continue with commands that are specific to your situation, and return to cheering yourself on with more positive phrases.

I find that five minutes or more of this concentrated talk is very beneficial, and does produce results. I would further recommend that every time you pass a reflective surface, look at yourself, say I love you, and add one other meaningful phrase. Make it a habit to speak to yourself in loving, supportive, and positive terms to counteract any negative self-perceptions you may have adopted.

Even in serious situations, I have found that going to a mirror and speaking like this helps to diffuse negative sensations and thoughts, and often release them entirely.

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Respect

by Larry Barsh, M.S.   C.H.T.

When you are stressed, everything hurts more, and everything seems more upsetting. So, if you are experiencing pain or upset, it makes sense to identify stressors in your life, and eliminate or mediate them.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to ask one simple question: “Does this respect me?” Whenever you are about to make a choice, and ask this question, you are deciding whether or not you will create conflict or resistance, or balance and satisfaction in your life. If your decision does not indicate respect for your true desires, beliefs, commitments, ethics and morals, then the disrespect you show yourself will cause stress.
For example— You have planned to go out and do some errands that have been waiting for weeks. Now you have the time to do them, and because you do them you will complete some pressing tasks around the house. As you are leaving, a friend calls begging you to come over and help move some furniture (there is no urgent need for it to be moved right now). You say you are just leaving. The friend begs even more, claiming he/she REALLY needs your help. You answer that you want to finish these long-standing chores that are now irritating you. He/she pathetically continues, and you agree. Now you are angry with yourself, and the friend, because you compromised your intention. And you continue to be irritated by unfinished work.

If you had asked yourself, “Does this respect me? Does this choice show respect to me? Does this choice express love towards myself?”, then you would have honored yourself by truly doing what served you best, and eliminated a cause for stress (and possibly pain and injury).

Many people are stressed, and consequently experience greater pain, because they put themselves second to others. It’s fine to be of service, of course, as long as you are absolutely clear that the choice is the one you want to make. By asking, “Does this respect me?” at every opportunity for choice, you train yourself to be mote self-fulfilling, and less anxious. After a while you won’t have to consciously ask the question, the process will be automatic, and you will be making favorable decisions which will help relieve stress and pain.

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The Thymus Tap – For Wellbeing

by Larry Barsh, M.S.   C.H.T.

The Thymus Tap is one of the most useful and productive techniques for reducing/eliminating pain, and for generally improving wellness and well being both physically and emotionally. It can be done by almost anyone.

To use the Thymus Tap, simply tap on the breastbone area at the bottom of the neck just below the hollow of the throat. Use the first one or two fingers of either hand. As you tap, say to yourself (or out loud) a present tense, positively stated word or phrase that represents the goal you want to achieve. You may also use many phrases, or even carry on a positive, present tense conversation with yourself, speaking as if the outcome you desire has already occurred. For example:

I now only feel pleasant and comfortable sensation in/from my __________;
I am calm; My body is relaxed and strong; My body now regulates and
balances to create sustaining comfort; and, Each day, in every way, I am better and better.

Also, when doing the Thymus Tap, you may say something like this:

I now order the part of me that knows how to release pain, and create comfort, strength, healing, and well being.

When you tap on the breastbone, you stimulate the gland behind it—the Thymus gland. It seems that the Thymus radiates your message and intention throughout your body and mind to effect the results you seek. If you only tapped on your breastbone for a total of five minutes a day, and said nothing, you would stimulate your immune system (the Thymus regulates much of the immune system). I suggest that you practice this technique for one minute (or longer) at least 12 times per day so that you are familiar with using it, and your mind and body are trained to give you positive results.

If you are concerned about tapping your chest, you may use a tapping motion which just stops short of contacting your chest, or even put one hand over your chest and tap the hand. Even just imagining tapping your chest works for some people. The most important thing is to practice and become accustomed to the Thymus Tap (make its use second nature) before you unexpectedly need it. Of course, you can use it often to create and maintain beneficial results.

I have taught the Thymus Tap to thousands of people, and many have told me what a difference it made… even saving lives. That’s worth twelve minutes a day of practice!

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