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Life Lessons from a Hoover

Life Lessons from a Hoover

My apartment came with a hoover. I didn’t really give it much thought. It appeared to have most of the parts missing and I assumed it to be a broken down thing which I had to make the best of.

It had no wheels on it and no nozzles, extensions or attachments. Hoovering involved dragging it around and crawling around on my hands and knees to reach everywhere with the small nozzle. It meant that, perhaps, I hoovered less than if the task was easier but at no point did I get frustrated with this – I just accepted that was what I had to do to clean my apartment.

Each time I used it lately I thought to myself that soon it would need emptying – but so long as it kept functioning I kept using it. Today, it stopped working and started making a loud painful noise.

This annoyed me, I was mid way through cleaning and did not want the hassle of having to empty it.

Nonetheless the moment had come where I had to do it. Being the non-practical, clumsy person that I am, I anticipated that this was going to be messy and perhaps it would never go back together again!

It opened easily….and there was a liner which, of course, was completely covered in dust. I removed the lining – cue explosion of dust everywhere. Underneath the lining, in the drum, was all of my hoovered up mess but I was surprised to see some bigger things inside it….they were too big to have fit through the hose and I wasn’t sure what they were.

Inside the hoover drum….covered in all the dirt and mess……were all the brand new, still packaged accessories that came with it. Wheels, attachments, nozzles – all the things that make hoovering easier.

It was a good representation of my life and how I approach it. Not to mention how much easier things could be if I do things differently.

Right there…..inside of the hoover….all along….had been just the tools I needed to make the job easier and yet I had never thought to look inside it.

I accepted that things were damaged and made the task harder for myself without question….and yet it wasn’t even damaged.

I used those damaged things until the point of break down despite being aware that at any moment the break down was due and the longer I left it the messier it would get.

Turns out the thing is a brand new, powerful hoover suitable for cleaning wet and dry mess up so long as you use the right attachments each time….the instruction manual was right there on the lid of it all along – I just never read it.

Even if life did come with an instruction manual – I don’t suppose I would have read that yet either!

Moments of realisation are good….even if it takes sitting in your apartment covered in an explosion of dust after an hour of crawling around on your hands and knees hoovering.

Now to absorb it and apply it to the rest of life……….

LAUGHTER…….It really IS the best medicine

LAUGHTER…….It really IS the best medicine

I go through my ups and downs just like I am sure you do. When we struggle with these moments we try to find the best remedy. My solutions have not always been the smartest and most definitely have proven to not have much resolution.

Well my friends, I have stumbled onto the cheapest, safest, fastest healthiest and most rewarding elixir. I know you are all waiting with bated breath to find out what could this cure possibly be…….

Laughter, it really is the best therapy; I know, I know you are asking “What is this thing you speak of? and how does one get it?”

Let me gladly share with you how I obtained this precious piece of information. Remember how I was saying that I have struggled with my many ups and downs? When I say many I am not exaggerating either, sometimes I feel like a yoyo in a human casing and when I am on the downward part of that journey I am not a happy person. But then something miraculous happened over a year ago, I had the fortune to be around some very amazing people that now I have the privilege to call my friends. These friends also had their ups and downs but the beauty is that when we interacted with each other we were able to lighten another’s load simply by making a joke or doing something outlandishly funny. This behavior had no other result then the gift of laughter and then before I knew it many of those troubles seemed to be forgotten or somehow if not forgotten absolutely not as severe as they were originally.

There are other ways to partake in laughter such as watching a funny program however, I have found that the most therapeutic way is the laughter that comes from within you because the ones that are making it happen share experiences with you at some moment in your life that personalize it. A true example for me is when I look at a photo of my mates and I or perhaps just them and it reminds me of times we shared and before I know it I am laughing out loud. This is a laugh that comes from the heart and the mind which amazingly releases so much pleasure.

I am not trying to tell you that laughter is a cure for all that ails us. After all, some of us do have some serious issues we have to deal with and those are the things we must work on but I am here to tell you laughter sure as hell helps to alleviate some of that pain. Listen; if we had a cold wouldn’t we do something about that? A cold cannot be cured, you must ride it out but we do things to make us more comfortable when we are suffering whether it is a bowl of Grandmas chicken soup, our blanky and an early night or accepting the compassion of someone that loves and cares for you.

Yep, not only is laughter the best medicine it is also the best policy.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ICE CREAM!!

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ICE CREAM!!

There is something that is truly missing today for me and it is the nightly excursion to the shop in the village after dinner. All my mates and I would meet outside of the dining hall and take the stroll for what I affectionally recall as a great ending to another interesting day.

(Personal blog posts following several people’s journey through mindfulness and suffering. Including the unique experiences of spending time at a ‘mindfulness’ community in Thailand.)

We all had our favorites I reflect back on how funny it must have looked to the woman that owned the shop. We would rush in and dart straight to the freezer in the back. We would dig through all the different kinds of ice creams to find our favorite flavors. Being the somewhat OCD person I am I would find myself organizing the scattered mess of ice lollies and ice creams so we could easily obtain the one we wanted.

So…is this really about the ice cream or is it about the event of getting together with people you have made dear connections with you ask? I will answer that by explaining what really took place while we were enjoying our sweet treats. This moment every evening was about people sitting around a table talking about their day whether it was good or bad, happy or sad, hard or easy. We took the piss out of each other with love, we took the piss out of ourselves unabashedly and shared the things we learned that day  that did, will and does shape our worlds to be a better place.

There were no inhibitions around this table. We were open and expressive; we asked each other their opinions about something that one might have had to go through. We asked each other for advice. We dissected our behaviors, weaknesses and strengths. None of us were ever afraid to tell the other if there perhaps might be an area one could improve on or if there was an area we commended. We sat around that table and ate ice cream to learn to become the person we yearn and are striving to be.

So much more took place then just gobbling down our dessert. It was a meeting of the minds and there were definitely some strong ones. We laughed around that table, we cried around that table but most of all we made history around that table. All of us are interwoven in a moment and time of vulnerability and I cherish it every day and cannot help but giggle when I look at some photos that reflect the times around that table. For that I am truly grateful today.

My favorite you ask? I aptly named mine ‘Angry Panda.’ No matter how many times I bought one and I can assure you it was plenty, Angry Panda always had that same scowling look.  This photo gives me the giggles every time because it reminds me how precious life really can be.

Life After ‘Brain Fat Camp’

Life After ‘Brain Fat Camp’

Neuroimaging studies have shown that if you were maltreated throughout your childhood your amydgala will be hyper activated. The extent of this hyper activation depends on the nature and duration of that maltreatment as well as what age you were.

They reckon that this is one of the precursors to developing PTSD after traumatic events as an adult. They found that PTSD sufferers have a hyperactive amygdala and the connection between that and / or the hippocampus with the frontal lobe can be dodgy.

So basically, it means that the areas of the brain which regulate emotion expression and regulation is a bit fucked up. Or, as I’ve started to see it….parts of my brain are overweight.

(Personal blog posts following several people’s journey through mindfulness and suffering. Including the unique experiences of spending time at a ‘mindfulness’ community in Thailand.)

I’ve been back to my ‘old life’ now for about 4 months….so how is it different following my immersion in a ‘mindfulness’ community – aka brain ‘fat camp’?

  • I still get times where I’m so overcome with fear that I have to get away from whatever situation I’m in as fast as possible
  • I still have nightmares where I wake up screaming, sweating and terrified
  • I still have problems making attachments and trusting people
  • I still get times where I get caught up in the past and cannot separate it from the now
  • I still get so exhausted from lack of sleep that I struggle to function properly

So much for my super slim and fit brain?! This pissed me off for a while to be honest, but just as with weight loss….it’s going to take time and require a daily ongoing maintenance. The more weight you have to lose the longer it will take. They couldn’t take away my weight and stop it from coming back but they did teach me a lot of skills for maintaining that weight myself.

The main difference now to how I was before – awareness. It doesn’t sound like a big deal but it really is. I’m able to actually see what’s going on with me. Not in a way that makes me hate myself and cringe at my behaviour (really important considering the crazy shit I sometimes do!). Through this increased awareness….slowly….I can change the rest.

One neuroimaging study showed that people who show traits of mindfulness have reduced activation in the amygdala and modified gray matter in the fronto-limbic network (which includes amygdala, hippocampus, etc.)

A further study showed that practicing mindfulness changes the grey matter in these parts of the brain (as well as other parts).

Based on these studies; PTSD sufferers generally have hyper amygdala activity, people with traits of mindfulness generally have calm amygdala activity, practicing mindfulness can change the grey matter in these parts of the brain.

That means the effects of mindfulness could counteract the effects of PTSD.

Mindfulness is not the only way to achieve and maintain ‘brain weightloss’ of course, it’s just an aspect. And it’s not the only way I’m working on my PTSD right now.

But, to me, it means that no matter what my genetic predispositions and childhood / past experiences have led me to be – I can change it…

References
Fox, K.C.R. et al. (2014). Is meditation associated with altered brain structure? A systematic review and meta-analysis of morphometric neuroimaging in meditation practitioners. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. Published by Elsevier.

Song, H L. et al. (2014). The brain structure correlates of individual differences in trait mindfulness: A voxel-based morphometry study. Neuroscience. Published by Elsevier.

Admon, R. (2013). A causal model of post-traumatic stress disorder: disentangling predisposed from acquired neural abnormalities. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Published by Cell press.