Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Month: June 2010 (Page 1 of 2)

5 steps to diffusing anger

Recently, I engaged in a heated debate.  Not a full-on argument, just the exchange of strong opinions.

I noticed how the adrenalin began to flow.  I suddenly felt supercharged as an upsurge of energy flooded my body.  The sensation was like a high, illustrating why anger might actually become an addictive though unwanted pattern.

Once the high quickly wore off, my body felt all churned up and ill-at-ease. I realized that I needed to apply my own medicine. As a highly sensitive person, I don’t need the extra chemicals coursing through my blood stream to the inner and outer reaches of my body.  But the truth is, anger isn’t healthy for anybody.

Medical doctors confirm that chronic anger is detrimental for your health.  It can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and possibly diabetes.  Getting all heated up with aggression and frustration activates the body’s “fight or flight” system, the adrenalin response, which puts the immune system on hold and has a whole series of other knock on effects.  As such, angry people are more likely to get sick.  It’s often advised not to eat when you feel angry because the digestive system has also been put on hold by the adrenalin response.  In addition to the physical effects, no one likes to be around an enraged, irritated person.

Now chronic anger may not be an issue for you, but most of us are prone to get ticked off now or then.  So what can you do when you feel overcome by the power of these impassioned emotions? The following five steps will help you become a master at diffusing anger.

Five steps to diffusing anger

1. First and foremost, remove yourself from the provocative situation, disengage from the conversation.  This is often difficult to do in the heat of the moment, but it will become easier with practice.  Develop one or two key phrases to rely upon to extract yourself from the interchange.  It can be as simple as, “I need to reflect on this more, can we talk again tomorrow?”  Another possibility might be, “I’m not feeling well and would like to discuss this again at a later point.”  The same approach applies whether its an in-person conversation, phone call, or online interaction.  Politely disengage.  Don’t write another comment or email response.  Don’t push the send button.

2. Go to a quiet place and breathe! Go outside for  a breath of fresh air.  Get in your car.  You can even take refuge in a toilet stall if your options are limited.  Whatever works! Slow, deep, regular breathing is one of the best ways to calm down the adrenalin response.  You can use any breathing technique you would like.  An  easy one is to simply breathe in as you count slowly to five and then breathe out as you slowly count to 5 again. Continue the same cycle of breathing until you feel a sense of calm.  It may take five minutes or it may take twenty minutes.

Focus your attention on the process of breathing.  Just watch your breath as you breathe in and breathe out. When your mind becomes distracted or a cascade of angry thoughts reappears, simply bring your attention back to the breath.  This is a very simple, basic form of meditation for calming the mind. Meditation has been medically documented to successfully calm the stress response. It will work if you give it a chance.

Once you feel calm, return to your regularly scheduled activity. Or you may just want to take a break and do something enjoyable to further de-stress your system. The anger may reappear over the course of the day or even for weeks to come.  Simply reapply the breathing technique and focus on the breath until the anger is diffused and you feel a sense of calm.  Repeated practice is the trick.

3. Try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. When you feel sufficiently calm, perhaps later in the day, try to view the situation or problem from the other person’s perspective.  Why do they feel or think the way that they do?  Can you recall a time when you acted in a similar way?  Remember what you appreciate about the person. It may just be one behavior that’s triggering you off.  Consider what it is about the situation or behavior that is getting your goat. Sometimes, the behavior or the situation that annoys you the most represents a negative quality you abhor in yourself.  Just recognizing this alone can deflate the intensity surrounding the problem.

Use the analytical aspect of your mind to try to find a little crack in the anger where you can see a glimmer of understanding, commonality, tolerance, or even compassion.  Often, just creating more space around a problem or issue can open new possibilities for resolution.

If your anger is too strong, it might be impossible to engage in this step.  If that’s the case, continue with steps 1 and 2 every time the anger returns.    Don’t be hard on yourself if you find it difficult to accept or understand the other person.  Just make an aspiration to be able to do so in the future.  Some rifts take longer to repair than others.  The key is to have a positive intention.

4. Forgive yourself for getting angry. Everyone has a a lifetime of unhealthy habitual patterns in one form or the other.  You are not the only one with bad habits! These negative tendencies can definitely be overcome, but it takes time, practice, and patience. Be gentle with yourself.

5. Consider whether you are ready to forgive the others involved and let go.  If you are not ready, that’s understandable.  Again, simply make a heartfelt wish to be able to forgive in the future and continue using the steps above when feelings of anger or ill-will reappear.  You can revisit forgiveness once again once the anger wears away.

Consider your options

Chances are you will need to face the aggravating situation and person once again.  Whenever possible, only do so when you feel a sense of calm.  Do your best to have an open mind and clear heart.  Trying to see the situation from the other person’s perspective will help to create level ground and contribute to a more successful re-encounter.  If the situation seems impenetrable, another option is to ask a friend to mediate or to even hire a trained mediator.

In the end, there are only three ways to approach any particular situation that annoys you:

  • You can decide to leave the situation.  For example, if you dislike your boss you can quit your job.
  • You can decide to change the situation.  For example, you could ask for a transfer to a new department.
  • Or you can change how you view the situation. For example, you could decide to see working with a difficult boss as the ultimate, free training in cultivating patience and thus appreciate the opportunity.

Review the challenging situation in light of these three options and chose the best approach for you.

Anger is not healthy or fun for anyone.  Always remind yourself of the ill-effects of anger. You can decide right now to never again hold anger in your heart. Simply commit to transforming anger whenever it comes your way using these five simple steps.

How do you diffuse anger?  What works for you?

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Non-stick cookware safety tips

Annabel Candy, who writes on empowering tips for life and work, made the following comment on my last post concerning the potential dangers of non-stick cookware.  “The fact is they always get scratched in the end and then you end up with bit of Teflon in your food.”

I agree with Annabel, it’s virtually impossible to maintain safe non-stick cookware in addition to the fact that it emits toxic fumes when overheated.  The warnings from Dupont about the potential dangers of Teflon brand non-stick coating apply to any non-stick coating not just Teflon. It’s also important to be cognizant of the dangers of non-stick coating when it is used in products other than cookware.

Non-stick cookware safety tips

However, if you cannot afford to make a switch to uncoated options like stainless steel, be sure to carefully read and follow use-instructions that come with your cookware and follow these safety tips whenever using non-stick coated cookware.

  1. Turn on the exhaust fan and/or open a window at the start of cooking.
  2. Do not preheat your non-stick cookware on high heat.
  3. Never leave non-stick cookware unattended on the stove
  4. Do not use non-stick coated cookware when cooking at high heat.
  5. Replace aged or damaged non-stick cookware.

It may only take two to five minutes for non-stick surfaces to exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases.

And remember to remove your pet bird from the kitchen while cooking because the fumes from overheated non-stick coating can be fatal to these highly sensitive creatures.

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Bird Safety, Teflon, and a Teflon-free Rice Cooker

According to Dupont’s Bird Safety Tips brochure, when overheated, cookware containing Teflon non-stick coating emits toxic fumes that can prove fatal to your pet bird.  These fumes are not necessarily healthy for you either.

Dupont, the maker of Teflon, recommends that you remove your pet bird from the kitchen while cooking to avoid the possibility of “Teflon toxicosis,” the official name for the poisoning that occurs in pet birds from these fatal fumes. When the same fumes make people ill, it is called “polymer fume fever.”

The Environmental Working Group says:

“In two to five minutes on a conventional stovetop, cookware coated with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces can exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases linked to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pet bird deaths and an unknown number of human illnesses each year, according to tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG).”

“DuPont studies show that the Teflon offgases toxic particulates at 464°F. At 680°F Teflon pans release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens, two global pollutants, and MFA, a chemical lethal to humans at low doses. At temperatures that DuPont scientists claim are reached on stovetop drip pans (1000°F), non-stick coatings break down to a chemical warfare agent known as PFIB, and a chemical analog of the WWII nerve gas phosgene.”

Sounds tasty!

Rice cookers without non-stick coating

I no longer use cookware that contains non-stick coating of any type, especially after watching the non-stick coating peel off inside my former Panasonic rice cooker due to a vagrant piece of dried apricot.  While it’s easy to find alternatives to standard non-stick cookware, it’s tough to locate a rice cooker free of non-stick coating in the inner pot. There are plenty of rice cookers with stainless steel outer pots, but few with stainless steel inner pots. To save you the hassle of a search, here are two options.

I use the Suppentown SC 866 3-cup Stainless Steel Rice Cooker & Steamer, which is the perfect size for an individual or couple.  It does cost an arm and a leg, but it is a worthwhile investment if you are a voluminous rice eater like I am.

This rice cooker contains no non-stick coating whatsoever.  The outside and inside of the outer pot, inner pot, and cover are stainless steel.  The handles, the knob on the top, and dial panel are plastic, as you can see from the photo, so there will be off-gassing of these plastic parts during the initial period of usage.

This rice cooker makes perfect rice every time.  As recommended, I add extra water for softer rice and soak the rice in water for 15-30 minutes before cooking.  You will need to experiment to find the right ratio of rice-to-water to meet your preferences.  Clean up is a breeze if you simply let the stainless steel inner pot soak for awhile before hand washing it.

The Suppentown SC 866 has one unusual feature.  About one cup of water is added to the outer pot at the start of the cooking process.  Standard rice cookers generally release steam, but this one releases more due the evaporation of this extra cup of water.  Be forewarned in the event that a bit of extra steam might be a problem for you.

All around, it’s a well made, substantial counter-top appliance, but it’s not petite like other 3-cup rice cookers.  Smaller is nicer for traveling, but the stainless steel is what sets this cooker apart and makes it worth the investment.

A second option is the 8-cup Miracle Exclusives ME81 Stainles Steel Rice Cooker & Steamer, a better choice for a larger family and a more reasonable price as well.  I’ve never used this one so I can’t vouch for it myself, but it does get rave reviews on Amazon and appears to be fully stainless steel.

Is non-stick coating really unsafe?

Now you might wonder, “Will a little non-stick coating really hurt me so much?” 

Theoretically, non-stick coating is safe if you carefully follow use instructions and never overheat or scratch it.   Fat chance, in my kitchen!  In any case, do you really want to take a chance?   No one knows for certain the cumulative effect of toxic chemicals in the body.  Environmental toxins are now associated with the staggering increase in cancer in adults as well as the radical burgeoning of chronic disease and illness among children.   Currently, four out of every 10 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes.  Adding it all up, my vote is for better living without chemicals.

Dupont kindly alerts us to the fact that in addition to toxic fumes from overheated non-stick coating, pet birds are also highly sensitive to a variety of fumes such as aerosol sprays, perfumes, smoke, pesticide sprays, glue, paints, self-cleaning ovens and cooking gas.  More theoretically “safe” stuff for humans.

Have you made the switch from non-stick coating?  Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

[Note:  This article contains an affiliate link.]

Thank you for reading and sharing!  If you enjoyed this article please subscribe for free updates by email.  With love, Sandra

Captivating me

Every week my breath is taken away by the vast reservoir of inspiration, positivity, goodwill, talent, and knowledge that I encounter during my travels on the worldwide web.

Please enjoy a taste of my favorite posts and new blog discoveries from the past week.  Let me know which ones also captivated you.

My Favorites

  • Suzuki Roshi is a blog of all of the transcripts and audio recordings of talks given by the remarkable Zen master, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, brought to us by the San Francisco Zen Center.  This is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the words and wisdom of one of the most loved and decidedly greatest Buddhist masters of the twentieth century.
  • Overcoming chronic illness and stress – TimeThief explores the transforming effects of gratitude and mindfulness. She also shares 20 ways for taking care of oneself.  Catch a glimpse of her blog redesign, too. It’s gorgeous!
  • Bad art in the boonies – This is a hoot from the irrepressible Invisible Mikey; don’t miss these captivating photos or the chance to meet Mrs. Invisible.
  • At Kikolani , Kristi shares an infinity of knowledge on the art of blogging, exuding a generosity of spirit the whole time.  If you are an introvert like me, you can also learn a thing or two about breaking the social media ice.  Or how to do it better, if you are already a hot tweeter.
  • Marketing the “You Know What” out of your blog provides perspective on the first year of blogging when both traffic and comments prove elusive.  Don’t get down, get marketing.  Here’s how to do it.
  • Gratitude Connection – Claire asks, “What are you grateful for today?” Drop by and share. Be part of creating a critical mass of gratitude.

On the topic of me

You might also be interested in my all-time most popular post on Reducing Your Oil Use.   BTW, we’re talking petroleum, not saturated fat.

Connect with me on Twitter! I am mastering the slow poke approach to Twitter.  Would love to see you there.  See that little bird in the sidebar?  Do not pass go, you don’t have to go to jail, just click and be transported directly to my Twitter page.

Have a great weekend.  May you be well, happy, and safe.

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Irresistible benefits of meditation

“All man’s difficulties are caused by his inability to sit, quietly, in a room by himself.” -Blaise Pascal

More and more people are beginning to discover the countless benefits of meditation for health, well being, and peace of mind.  It is not an esoteric practice for the few, but highly relevant to functioning effectively in today’s busy, stressful world.

Meditation is the ultimate form of personal development.  By bringing your mind home and allowing it to settle, you are able to see far more clearly well-worn habits of unproductive thinking and observe less than helpful behaviors and thus effect positive change.

A springboard for overcoming self-centeredness, looking inwardly also unleashes the core of our humanity.  And, with purposeful reflection, the mysteries of the universe are penetrated. One’s full potential for lasting happiness is actualized.  At the same time, all fear of death is put to an end as we come face-to-face with the “unending, deathless nature of mind.”

As if this were not enough, meditation also provides countless benefits for your physical health.

Positive life impacts of meditation

Tibetan Buddhist meditation master Sogyal Rinpoche beautifully describes the positive impacts of meditation in these ways.

1. Through bringing the mind home, all the fragmented aspects of yourself dissolve. The constant sense of inner struggle abates and you become friends with yourself.  You feel whole, centered, and at peace.  This settling of an overactive mind, allows you to see yourself clearly without recrimination and thus act wisely on behalf of yourself and others.  Once mind is at rest like this, you may catch a glimpse of the true sky-like nature of mind—a sense of openness and spaciousness beyond description.

2. Pain, negativity, and suffering naturally diffuses so that any harm is removed from within.  Thus, meditation is a practice of profound peace that pacifies emotional turbulence and aggression, and, as such, is the highest form of “inner disarmament.”  Fundamental forgiveness happens—you are able to forgive yourself and others.

3. Through the regular practice of calm abiding, you begin to feel well in yourself, congruent, at ease, confident, and spacious.  There is a new found joy of simply being as you come more and more in touch with your true self.  All the anxieties, irritations, and past provocations no longer seem so overpowering or important.  You are in charge of your mind instead of being constantly swayed by untoward emotions.

4. With all sense of harm and unkindness dissolved, your fundamental “good heart” is revealed. The artificial barriers between yourself and others melt away and a profound sense of connectedness  arises.  You begin to understand that others are the same as you — they have the same hopes and fears, joys and struggles, pain and suffering.  Just as you care for yourself, you begin to care for others as well. This is the awakening of love and compassion.

5. A clear and profound insight into the nature of reality arises.  The world no longer seems so fixed, solid, and permanent.  An awareness of the interdependence and interconnectedness of all beings and all phenomena comes into play.  This is the awakening of wisdom.

All this is accomplished simply through having the courage to sit quietly by yourself.

Neuroscience confirms the benefits of meditation

Recent research studies conducted by neuroscientists on the brains of seasoned meditators have confirmed that meditation is able to alter the function of the brain in positive ways.   This quality of the brain is called neuroplasticity.  Their results show:

  • A high level of activity in the parts of the brain that help to form positive emotions, such as: happiness, enthusiasm, joy, and self-control;
  • A decreased level of activity in the parts of the brain related to negative emotions like depression, self-centeredness, and a lack of happiness or satisfaction;
  • A calming of the section of the brain that acts as a trigger for fear and anger [the amygdala];
  • The ability to reach a state of inner peace even when facing extremely disturbing circumstances;
  • An unusual capacity for empathy and attunement to emotions in other people.

Meditation benefits your physical health

Regular meditation is also highly beneficial for your physical health according to Life Divine.  Indeed, the countless positive effects are almost astonishing.

  • “It stabilizes the autonomic nervous system.
  • It reduces the heart beat.
  • It reduces the speed of breathing.
  • Blood pressure drops.
  • Cardiovascular effectivity goes up.
  • Breathing effectivity increases.
  • The skin receives more blood.
  • Stomach function and bowel function improve.
  • The endocrine function is heightened.
  • Muscle flexibility increases.
  • The intake of oxygen gets stronger.
  • Mobility and flexibility increase.
  • The hand-eye co-ordination increases.
  • Reaction-speed increases.
  • Body posture is improved.
  • Strength and resistance increase.
  • Stamina increases.
  • There is a heightened energy level and vitality.
  • People’s weight is stabilised at an ordinary level.
  • The ability to sleep increases and the time people need to fall asleep decreases.
  • Pain is weakened.
  • Stability is improved.
  • There is a heightened degree of relaxation.
  • There is a lessened degree of muscle tension.
  • The production of serotenine increases.
  • Menstruation pains are softened.
  • Increases serotonin which influences moods and behavior. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression,       headaches and insomnia.
  • Reduces anxiety attacks by lowering the levels of blood lactate.
  • Decreases muscle tension (any pain due to tension) and headaches.
  • Helps in post-operative healing.
  • Enhances the immune system.”

On top of all this, meditation is free and can be done anywhere, anytime!

Getting started

Some ideas for getting started:

1. You can learn more about meditation by watching one of the two videos below.

2. Try out this three-minute exercise in non-meditation.

3. Take a look at my favorite books on meditation.

4. See how people are learning to use their innate resources and abilities to respond more effectively to stress, pain, and illness at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society.

With all these astonishing benefits, how can you resist the lure of meditation!

Do you meditate?  What benefits have your experienced from meditation?

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Healing images and guides

TimeThief’s process of considering a new favicon for her blog and her comments on animal totems stimulated my thinking about healing images.  As someone obsessed with the word, the use of visual imagery is not second nature to me.  Nevertheless, I once clipped an image of a polar bear and her two cubs from an environmental calendar.

This image has traveled with me from the States to France, where I posted it on the wall of my bedroom for three years.  I was particularly drawn to the protective quality of this humongous bear, the way she lovingly watched over her two cubs in the space in front of her—one tentative little creature and the other perky and curious.

The polar bear as totem

Although I left the aforementioned image in Europe, the polar bear has clearly not left me.  An image of a polar bear came immediately to mind as I read through TimeThief’s blog post and has lingered since.  Perhaps this white knight has more messages for me?  I was prompted to learn about the significance of the polar bear as a totem. In traditional cultures, animal totems are seen as the source of spiritual guidance. You can learn the lessons they may hold for you by observing their characteristics, habits, and habitats.

The essential meaning and messages of the polar bear are “fearlessness, aggressive, provider, powerful.”

“Polar bears are known for their fearlessness and aggressiveness. Polar bears are good hunters and strong swimmers. Humans are their only predator. Because Polar bears are so high up on the food chain it is understandable why they are so fearless. When polar appears you will want to evaluate your fears by looking at the things that make you reactive or act out. Or, you may need to strengthen areas of personal weakness.  The Polar bear is a good provider for his family, anyone with Polar bear as his totem bears the honorable responsibility to provide for others. It is right for the strongest to care for the weakest. Polar bear totem asks that any aggressive behaviors you display are for defensive purposes and not meant to bully.”

“All the arctic totems are survivalists. Living in a cold climate and harsh environment demands stamina and determination to survive. Arctic totems teach the ability to thrive under the direst of circumstances.”

The polar bear brings additional meanings to my mind:

  • white as a symbol of purity of body, mind, and spirit;
  • the ability to swim through water symbolizing the capacity to move through emotions without getting stuck;
  • a harbinger of the dangers of global warming.

The polar bear with her qualities of fearlessness, power, protection, and knack for survival is without question a strong image for me.  Now that I am aware of all her special qualities, I will consciously embrace this totem as a guide through the next phase of my healing process.

There isn’t a single one of us who is not impacted by global warming, however the plight of the polar bear seems to be sparking the awareness of millions.  The documentary The Great Melt depicts the effect that climate change is already having on the Arctic habitat. The film hones in on the polar bear as one animal who cannot sustain itself over the progressively longer periods of warmer weather that are occurring due to global warming. When the ice melts, polar bears are unable to hunt for daily sustenance. This has always been the case, but it is the unnaturally protracted periods of warmth that are endangering the species. In fifty years time, the polar bear may be extinct. It was heart-wrenching to watch as these giants lumbered along, growing thinner with each passing day of the Arctic summer.

So I also feel a special connection with the polar bear because I too suffer from the impact of environmental toxins and choose to speak out about it to warn others.  Man is the polar bear’s only predator, but in this case we are not shooting them with guns, but killing them through our high level of oil consumption and other misuses of environmental toxins.

The turtle as totem

The turtle is another animal totem that speaks to me.

“The turtle is probably best known for its longevity. The turtle is a nomad who carries his home wherever he goes. The turtle’s shell serves as a protective shield from the elements and its predators. It lives on the beach, between water and land.  The turtle does not stress. Turtle moves slowly, reminding us to slow down. What is the hurry? If turtle appears you may need to start delegating your duties, or let go entirely of some things. You also may need to withdraw from others (retreat to your shell) and recoup your energies.”

As a highly sensitive person, I need to intentionally create a protective field around me, be aware of my stress patterns, function at a comfortable pace and not the frantic one dictated by our society, and withdraw from time-to-time to regroup.

Do you use imagery as part of your healing process?  What images speak to you?

Source:  Animal Totems

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