Recently Chloe Pearson, a research specialist and freelance writer contacted me with the following article. She volunteers for ConsumerHealthLabs.com because she understands that in order for consumers to make the best decisions about their health they need reliable, well-researched information on which to base those decisions. And that’s precisely what everyone at Consumer Health Labs aims to do as they explore and interpret new health-related data and research. here is her story and message.
"For as long as I can remember, my good friend Tessa struggled with depression. Somewhat socially awkward, she faced constant bullying and criticism in high school for not “fitting in.” She eventually turned to drugs and alcohol in an effort to cope with her loneliness, but instead found an even deeper sadness than she’d ever known: she told me once that pain was her only constant in life, and she wasn’t sure how much longer she wanted to fight it. Fortunately Tessa’s family helped her find a wonderful addiction treatment center, and she’s now found the happiness to embrace life wholeheartedly. Sadly, I know there are many who don’t find help in time.
Suicide can affect anyone at any age, but when it happens to a young person it is particularly devastating. Teens are especially at risk these days because of the many worries they face, including family issues, stress over school performance and fitting in, and social media activity, which can lead to bullying. The teen years are often difficult enough without throwing in depression or dark thoughts, so it’s important for everyone to learn how to cope with change and emotional issues.
It’s also important for parents, teachers, and counselors to learn the warning signs of depression and suicidal thoughts and how to help their loved ones. The causes vary greatly depending on the individual and can stem from events that happened long ago or only recently; they may manifest themselves in different ways and lead to various behaviors.
Some risk factors are genetic and can come from a family member who has a history of depression or suicide; others come from outside factors, such as substance abuse, suffering physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, or having an undiagnosed mood or mental health disorder. The warning signs are generally consistent no matter what the root cause may be and can include:
Because there is a big difference between depression/suicidal thoughts and normal teenage growing pains, it’s important for parents to know when to step in. The most helpful way to do this is to keep an open conversation with your child about their life, who they spend time with, and their activities outside the home. Making an effort to get to know their likes and dislikes and what their interests are can make a huge difference in making them feel safe and loved.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. For some, this is a last resort because of the stigma surrounding suicide and those involved, but having a healthcare professional or counselor who can help sort out those confusing, painful feelings is hugely important for a young person suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts.
It’s also important not to have expectations where treatment is concerned. Everyone reacts differently to counseling and medication, so let your loved one know that you’re there for them and that there is no pressure to find an immediate solution--there may not be one. "
I am currently teaching meditation to hundreds of people every year. I teach in a number of places including Canyon Ranch Spa, The Graduate Institute, Columbia University, the YMCA and several yoga studios.
My background in meditation spans over three decades. My first experience of meditation was to support my first wife. She was dying of a brain tumor and used meditation as a tool to manage pain. I had no idea what I was doing. I would sit beside her in an uncomfortable position, forcing myself to sit in lotus for an hour at a time, ankles aching.
From this torturous time I learned:
My wife left me before she died. I went into a deep depression. My world view was shattered. Everything that had meaning and brought me happiness seemed superficial and empty. I sought answers to my pain and confusion.
Over the next thirty years I found myself in the company of powerful teachers such as Dhirivamsa, Osho Rajneesh, Teertha, H.W. L. Poonja and Andrew Cohen. Each teacher gave me new insights into the nature of life. Each contributed to my understanding of meditation. Each one gave me a clue to the puzzle of life I was trying to solve.
Dhirivamsa revealed meditation is not a particular experience. I was on a three day meditation retreat with him in Western Australia. We were sitting for ten hours a day. More than I had ever sat at anytime. At one point a woman excitedly described her experience to Dhirivamsa. She said she could see colorful lights exploding in her mind’s eye. He admonished her and said she was not meditating and to keep still. He looked at me and said “you are a good sitter.” Thirty years later I would understand what he meant.
Osho Rajneesh made it clear to me and tens of thousands of others that meditation may take radical, sometimes powerfully cathartic actions to see beyond the powerful fluctuations of the mind.
Teertha revealed the commitment to meditation is a commitment to living life in a new way.
Poonja could humorously make light of thought, to the point I would feel a deep ecstatic joy in his company.
Cohen distilled everything into a comprehensive and intellectual theory. Reminding me that theory before experience is meaningless. Theory after experience is obvious.
Finally I trained at the Kripalu School of Yoga and found new devices to help me teach others what I had discovered over thirty years - that we are always, already meditating.
So how do I teach meditation?
I start by saying “we are already meditating. We relax to meditate not meditate to relax.”
I like to use the eye of a hurricane as a metaphor for meditation. A hurricane’s powerful winds twirl about a still center. Without that still center the hurricane would have no integrity. It would not exist. The closer we come to the center of the hurricane the winds calm down and become quiet. So it is with meditation. The winds are metaphors for the whirling thoughts and emotions. Like a hurricane we have a still, quiet center from where we witness everything.
Max Piccard, the twentieth century philosopher said a man who has lost silence has lost his very structure. Meditation is remembering that silence within. It is the recognition of an integral part of our totality, our structure.
I offer seven buoys to help those in the class experience meditation. By focusing their attention on any or all of these buoys the class becomes very still and quiet. I have taken five of these buoys from Kripalu’s B.R.F.W.A. model and added two more - P. and S.
P = Posture. Good posture is essential to be comfortable and alert. The original science of yoga was dedicated to postural alignment in order to aid practitioners to meditate.
S = Smile. On a long retreat in the Berkshires (10 days of meditating for up to sixteen hours a day) I discovered that smiling was a powerful way to yoke in my mind. A simple slight Mona Lisa smile fractures the mind’s habitual tendency to dwell on something is wrong.
B = Breath. Focusing on the four parts of the breath gives the mind something to notice that is happening in this moment. The four parts of the breath are the inhale, exhale, and two turning points between the exhalations and inhalations. Some schools of meditation such as Vipassana make this the sole focus of attention. Yoga has introduced many breath techniques in order to help the mind stay focused or balanced.
R = Relax. The body is like the canary in the coal mine. The unconscious movement of thought will tense the body. Finding areas of tension in the body, gross or subtle, means you can use the breath and mind to soften and relax these areas. Relaxing the body, over time, will relax the mind. Relaxation will support you to be alert in order to notice you are already meditating.
F= Feel. Many Zen meditations focus on simple physical feelings. Feeling is another in the moment experience. Examples include feeling: the surface of the foot on the ground; your sit bones on a chair; the air against your skin, the movement of your breath in and out of the body. As you become more attuned and sensitive you may feel more subtle feelings such as your heart beat. If you feel subtle tensions you can apply the other buoys such as Relax, Posture, Smile and Breath to help ease the tension.
W = Watch. I prefer the word Notice here. Notice what it is you have not yet noticed. Perhaps it is sounds you can hear around you. Let the sounds come, drift and go (similar to Mindfulness techniques). Perhaps you notice the sound of your own breath. Then you may notice the inner sounds - thoughts. Let the thoughts be like little birds flitting between branches. Watching thoughts come and go is like coming into the center of the hurricane and noticing the whirling winds in the distance. The goal is not to stop thought but to notice the way thought comes and goes.
A = Allow. Allow or Permit your experience to be as it is, without judgment. In the end this is both the path and goal of meditation. The source of all tension is the non-acceptance of your experience. Practicing letting everything be as it is is the taste of witnessing free from wanting something in particular. This freedom from wanting something (or not wanting something) is meditation. It is both a practice and a way of living. It is the arising of what yoga calls Santosha or contentment. I have discovered it is my natural state and that state is free of worry or anxiety. More so it is the source of a non-material blissfulness.
Finally I like to remind myself and others that to approach meditation with any presumptions of how it should or should not be will prevent you stumbling upon the truth - you are already meditating.
Lawrence's introduces such diverse groups as police, teachers, senior citizens and young children to meditation. For public talks, events, workshops and coaching contact Lawrence for more information.
"Lawrence Carroll's workshop on personal stress management, which he conducted with my Columbia Grad School class
was a huge success."
Neal Pilson, Columbia University, Former President, CBS Sports