On this Veterans/Armistice Day we salute all veterans and active military personnel, with appreciation for their tremendous service to our country.
But not all Veterans have had such a welcoming homecoming experience.
The transition from civilian life to one of military is tough enough. But returning home after duty is a completely different kind of transition for many Veterans.
No more rigid environment. Nobody setting your schedule for you. No more camaraderie with the other troops. You’re in charge of your own life again. And if you saw combat, it can be much more emotionally devastating. It can be very difficult to make that psychological transition back home and back into civilian life again.
If you see a Veteran, not just on Veterans Day but any day; thank them for their Service but also sincerely ask them how they’re doing? Your question may spark a need for support. Below are some resources available:
In the Detroit area, Veterans support can be found at:
The Michigan Veterans of Foreign Wars provides assistance will filling out and submitting VA forms and processes, and also offers a Buddy to Buddy program that can pair up Veterans that can support each other to help handle the transition back to civilian life.
Raising awareness within oneself is often the first step taken if one wishes to become more aware to one’s surroundings and to life itself. Can’t know anything outside of us if we’re out of touch with our own selves.
A simple way to begin a practice like this is to just pay attention to, and switch up routine things about ourselves.
For example, if you are right-handed, begin to do some things with your left hand; such as brushing your teeth, combing your hair or shaving. Reach for things with your non-dominant hand, and just notice what it’s like to do that and how it feels.
Look at how your feet are pointed as you’re walking or standing still. If necessary, gently correct the alignment by re-positioning your feet so that they are pointed straight ahead as you walk or stand still. Your hips and spine will thank you for this, too. Just notice, and gently correct and then see how it feels to walk and stand in this adjusted manner.
Last but never least is the breath.
Notice the depth of your breath throughout your day. Especially during any anxious moments. Can you notice your breath?
The breath is both a barometer/indicator and a tool that can be used to calm the nervous system. If you notice that your breath is shallow, simply make a point to pay attention to the length of your breath and try to lengthen your exhale to be double the time of your inhale. For example, if you count your inhale at four seconds, lengthen your exhale to eight seconds. And then see if you can notice what its like to do that, and how you feel after watching your breath and lengthening your exhale for a few minutes. Do this throughout your day, especially during anxious moments and just notice what its like and if there is any difference in how you feel during and afterwards.
These are some basic steps to become more self-aware.
As these are practiced, see if you begin noticing any difference in your awareness within yourself, and also outside of yourself; of your surroundings and of other people.
Controlling your anxiety and nervousness can be helped by simply lengthening your exhale.
Hacking your Vagus Nerve simply by using your breath and a lengthened exhale can help against stress responses, and will improve your Heart Rate Variable.
During an inhale, the sympathetic nervous system stimulates a very brief acceleration of the heart rate. During an exhale, the Vagus Nerve secretes a transmitter substance which causes a deceleration of the heart rate via the parasympathetic nervous system.
For example, a yoga practice instructs us to focus on the breath; specifically on the exhale. Using just the breath alone, one can lower one’s heart rate, which will in turn help to bring down anxiety levels, and help with agitation and general stress. Pranayamic breath work has been in use successfully in many ways for thousands of years around the world for the exact same reason. Almost every couple of years, fresh research corroborates that each of us can trigger our “rest and relax” parasympathetic nervous system to bring about a relaxation response , simply by focusing on the inhalation-to-exhalation ratio of our breathing and consciously extending the length of each exhale while doing breathing exercises as we go about our day-to-day lives. This allows us to focus more clearly, pay closer attention to someone or something, and allows us to be much more “present” in our lives with others. Immensely helpful in any situation.
Using these respiration patterns frequently (slowed and with longer exhalations) can explain a significant part of the efficacy found within contemplative activity practice. Though contemplative activities are diverse, they have shown a similar pattern of beneficial effects on health, mental health, and cognition: mostly in stress-related conditions and performance. This pattern can be explained by these controlled breathing exercises.
An easy way to test this and integrate it into your daily life is to use the 4:8 breathing cycle.
Inhale deep and long for four seconds, then exhale deep and long for 8 seconds. This should come out to about 5 cycles per minute.
Any time you’re feeling stressed out or anxious, try 2 minutes of Vagus Nerve Breathing, or about 10 rounds of the 4:8 inhale/exhale cycles. Just see for yourself how you feel afterward.
While meditation can and will provide a sense of peace and tranquility, there are many other benefits to be had from a daily practice.
Lowered blood pressure, calming of the nervous system, and better management of Anxiety Disorders all can be had from a daily practice of meditation.
Sleep quality can be improved, meditation can be used as a part of chronic pain management therapy, and it will also boost your immune system.
Lastly, meditation will help you have happy relationships, because you will be more peaceful and calm. Less will irritate you, and you’ll be inclined to recognize happy and joyful moments throughout your day more.
Do you notice a difference in yourself during Springtime?
Before 1582, the Julian Calendar had the New Year beginning on the Vernal Equinox. The New Year used to coordinate with The Spring season. The introduction of the Gregorian Calendar changed the new year to January 1 instead.
One of the things that happened with all of this calendar change is that we began to get less in sync with nature. We began to fall out of rhythm with nature.
You can check this for yourself; if you notice anything different about how you feel during the beginning of January, as compared to when you begin to see new buds forming on trees and you hear birds singing again outside.
Do you notice a difference?
We ARE in tune with nature, biologically.
With the onset of Spring, we want to throw open the windows and air out our house (physically and metaphorically). Spring cleaning happens almost automatically. We tend to want to de-clutter, and get ready to be out of doors more. A new beginning.
As a fundamental part of this Spring Cleaning, its a perfect time to take stock in our lives.
How are we living? How is our health after being cooped up indoors all winter? Are we carrying out our lives in the manner in which we want to? Are we living true to ourselves?
Do we even know what being true to ourselves is? Do we know who we are and what matters to us?
I think that these questions are fundamental for Spring Cleaning. Because if we’re not on a path that supports who we are, we’re just pretending to live; and we’ll end up angry, insulating and generally checking out of our lives.
And let’s face it; there is more than enough evidence of checking out already all over the planet. We needn’t contribute any more.
Welcome Spring, welcome April, and here’s to asking the person in the mirror if we’re being true to them.
“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up.
This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done.
By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.”
Your body is a physical manifestation of what you tell yourself.
Contentment within the emotions produces the like in the body’s systems. One’s immune system becomes strong, muscles can become strong and limber. This helps our emotional outlook and general well-being. We’re in a good mood when we feel good. Nothing seems impossible.
But should those same emotions become negative, producing quiet voices within us that speak “I can’t”, “I’m not good enough”, I don’t deserve”, the body also manifests physical forms of these emotions. Disease easily finds a hospitable breeding ground in consistent negative emotions. Which in turn then makes us more uncomfortable, more sad or angry – because we don’t feel well. The system becomes out of balance, and since emotions produce physical attributes in the body, the cycle that was once positive can turn negative, and the since the manifestations in the body support the emotional condition, we become sick more often. Chronic pain can develop. Headaches, body aches, fatigue. Just like a viral disease, the body can do harm to itself as a result of a consistent, negative emotional environment. Often, this is an old cycle; meaning that we learned this manner of walking in the world at a young age; so recognizing it can be tricky to do.
So what to do?
If you find yourself in a similar condition, talk with someone. It can be very helpful to have a third party’s support in looking to see if we are managing our lives compulsively or consciously. Get around some other people. Exercise is a fantastic holistic remedy; and is quite necessary as we all age to keep our bodies as well as possible. A Yoga class, bicycling, running, walking, a health club membership; all will change the body’s chemistry and produce positive results not only physically, but also emotionally from being around like-minded people and from accomplishing goals.
The first step can be difficult to take. But it can also make a world of difference in your life and in the lives of those around us.