Acronyms as paths to peace

turtles

Turtles lined up at Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, BC

If you’ve been following the blog lately, you’ll know that I’ve been taking an Introduction to Buddhism class at Vancouver Buddhist Temple.

As part of the 5 week introduction, Dr. Adrianne Ross from BC Insight Meditation led us through a really good meditation check in about two weeks ago and although I can’t recall everything she said, she had some really good acronyms to share.

ELSA

  • Embrace : good and bad
  • Let go of reactivity
  • Stop
  • Act

WAIT

  • Why am I talking?

She explained the Eight-fold path is divided into three sections including mind, using effort wisely and concentration.

RAIN

  • Recognize it
  • Attitude towards it
  • Investigate it
  • Not taking it personally

She talked about recognizing a feeling as outside the body, not taking it on as being a reflection of good or bad. For example, if you are depressed or angry, you acknowledge it: Depression is here. Anger is here. Sadness is arising. That way, you can recognize emotions as a temporary state.

birds

Fluttering at the feeder

Set an intention for the day and remind yourself of that intention throughout the day.

Take a 3-minute breath break and stop. Ask yourself, Where am I? How’s the body right now? Where’s the mind? How am I feeling? Recognize the emotion and name it.

Envision your body and mind as connecting with the space around you and just passing through that space into something much larger which has a diluting effect on whatever you are experiencing in the moment, especially if it is highly energized in a negative way.

How big is your wanting? Exaggerate it to let it move through.

Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation

If you’re interested in mindfulness and/or starting a meditation practice, then you still have time to sign up for a class beginning on Tuesday, October 11, 2016 at St. Marks church on Larch Street in Kitsilano and offered through BC Insight Meditation Society. The cost is $40.

Fall Food Bazaar

Something else to note in your calendar if you’re so inclined. The Vancouver Buddhist Temple will have their Fall Food Bazaar on Sunday, Oct. 30th from noon – 2pm.

Online learning knows no boundaries

“The best poetic moments are moments when you’re allowed to reside in the moment without looking to the future,” – Jonathan Bates, University of Warwick.

In the past year I’ve learned, firsthand, the value of online education.

It started out when I took a course in Developmental Psychology for credit through Athabasca University. In spite of my initial resistance to doing an online course, I found it a much more enjoyable way to learn than being stuck in a lecture hall, hearing just one human, blah, blah, blah ad nausea and surrounded by others who, of varying degrees, may or may not want to be in the course.

In the Athabasca online course there were pretests and post tests and challenges and study tips and it was a much more interactive and focused experience than I expected it to be and it resulted, for me, in what seemed like greater retention of the subject matter than is typical for me.

More recently I completed a four week online course about PTSD in U.S. Veterans and how to interact with them and their families. It was called Mental Health Care for Family Members of Post 9/11 Veterans: Practical Approaches to Addressing the Impact of the Invisible Wounds of War on Families.

It was offered through the Massachusetts General Hospital and directed mainly at therapists and mental health professionals. Registering as a student, they let me in and it was free.  There were role-playing therapy exercises that were videotaped that used experienced therapists doing therapy with volunteer actors and volunteer military family members to demonstrate interventions. They highlighted the intergenerational model, how to manage substance abuse and communication methods using the CRAFT model,  as well as educating around the DSM V definition of PTSD including symptoms to ask about and be aware of. The videotaped sessions, and then a roundtable of case exploration at the end was so fantastic in terms of giving insight into key factors to be aware of in working with many of the common problems that arise in this specific population. But would be transferrable to others.

More recently, I saw a course offered through the University of Warwick and a portal called FutureLearn.com about Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Well Being. In this recent course, very well-known personalities, Stephen Fry and Sir Ian McKellan, along with university professors discuss the impact of literature, poetry specifically, on stress reduction and mindfulness. It’s wonderful to hear and see others, especially an actor of McKellan’s quality, read a poem aloud beside the river Thames in keeping with the lines in the Wordsworth Poem, ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge.’

When I read this poem below, it was my favourite of the bunch. By the late W.H. Davies, a welsh poet.

Leisure

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

The discussion boards on this course on Literature and Mental Health have a ridiculous number of comments, up to 2,500 on a single question.  It’s AMAZING!  The students are dropping in from all over the world via their computer screens. There is no reason to leave your house anymore. And yes, that is a problem!

There has perhaps never been a better time to embrace lifelong learning than in any other time in history, and the fact that it’s free elicits delight indeed!

Have you ever taken an online course? What was your experience? Do you even think about how you can continue to learn into old age and all the ways that’s possible?

Post Secondary 30 years later

AbnormalPsychologytextThose of you who know me off the Interweb know that last July I started taking courses as a part-time student. I enrolled at Vancouver Community College. I tentatively stuck my big toes across a classroom’s threshold to begin to gather prerequisites to eventually apply to a Masters in Counselling Psychology hoping to be accepted at one of BC’s universities somewhere in the vicinity of Fall 2016 or thereabouts.

That first classroom experience was excellent. The instructor was lively and animated. She was a woman who had returned to school herself just years before. My fellow students were an eclectic mix of people with former degrees, McWorkers, recovering addicts, and those, like me, who have overcome their own traumas and dramas and reasons for needing to seek counselling. They were a super lively bunch who ranged in age from mid 20s to late 50s. It was a great class! Had that experience been less than it was, I am not sure I’d be continuing on this journey.

At that same time, I enrolled in the six month Graduate Manuscript Workshop via SFU Writer’s Studio taught by Wayde Compton. I must say that writing and exploring writing, especially nonfiction if it’s related to personal history, fits really well with taking courses in counselling. The trick is to figure out how to keep writing when my focus is so dispersed.

Content of the courses aside, these new endeavours are proving to be most interesting not just because of what I’m learning but what I’m observing about the different campuses. I feel like a mystery student, akin to a mystery shopper, dropping in to VCC and Douglas, returning to SFU’s downtown campus and who knows, maybe I’ll cherry-pick another pre-requisite online from Athabasca. I feel like I should be carrying around a little clipboard taking notes of all the things these post-secondary institutes are either doing really well or need to do better. There’s a lot of each to choose from.

This term, I managed, in spite of 18 people on a wait list, to get into a course I need at Douglas College and going there is a little more personally daunting. The biggest challenge is that everyone, as they should be, is right out of high school. I’m like, Mom’s here! I think back to when I was at SFU, right out of high school, and had I seen someone my age, I would have been confused, maybe even a little hostile. Why is she taking up a spot? I get it kids. I understand.

At VCC, small classes are the norm, 20 people or thereabouts. I really like that. The instructors actually know every student’s name. The counselling courses are very interactive, obviously, and fellow students become practice clients which isn’t ideal in terms of boundaries but the most viable option. You get to know people. You feel a part of something.

At Douglas, there must be at least 35 people in the class and the instructor just finished teaching the same thing to a different section right before. Give the guy a gold star… or maybe some drugs! How do you talk in front of people, repeating the same thing, in the same afternoon-evening for more than 6 hours and not start to sound like a crazy person? He managed to stay incredibly articulate. Kudos to him. Still, the whole instructor at front lecturing seems so 1980. There’s got to be a better way. Luckily, they seemed to have improved the text book, complete with Canadian references no less. I opened to a page and a photo of a guy I was friends with as an undergrad, now a Psychiatry professor, was staring back at me. Shocking in both good and bad ways. I know too much. About him! I don’t want to see him looking back at me from a textbook.

At the same time I’ve begun training to volunteer at the Vancouver Crisis Centre and can I just say there is probably no better training that I’ve experienced in terms of let’s ramp things up here and get into the psyche and psych-ache of BC. I was worried about doing it. How will volunteering there impact my own mental health? That’s yet to be determined. What I’ve learned there in the first two weeks of training has been equivalent to at least an entire semester at any course I’ve ever taken, and more.

It’s been an exciting and intense start to the New Year. I’m guessing my brain is looking a little bit like that childhood toy, Lite-Brite.

“We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.” – Paulo Coelho

Thank you to my friend Elaine for the quote this morning. It seems to fit.