Monday, November 17, 2014

The Science Behind How People Heal: Using Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga in the Therapeutic Process.

The Science Behind How People Heal: Using Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga in the Therapeutic Process 

When you meditate, practice mindfulness, and use yoga postures the body releases different neurotransmitters which helps restore a natural balance.

Our bodies know how to heal itself. We have come into this world with certain chemicals in the brain and body to help with this process. 

Different kinds of neurotransmitters that help with the healing process are: 

Glutamate: excitatory and GABA

Acetylcholine: lowers heart rate through vagus nerve and activates the somatic nervous system

Dopamine: pleasure and reward

Serotonin: emotionality and sleep

Norepinephrine: alertness

Endorphins: alleviate pain

Oxytocin: hormone which can function like a neurotransmitter. It changes the cell activity in many biological functions such as social connection, optimism which is activated by touch through the vagus nerve. 

Your thoughts do effect your body. The mind body link. Think about sinking your teeth into a lemon. What happens to your body? Your mouth begins to salivate. 

Ideomotor means that your thoughts have an effect on your body.

Meditation teaches us that we are a unity of mind and body. Yoga means (yoke) the union of the mind and body. 

When you think HEALING while you meditate  your body will start to elicit the healing chemicals in your body so healing starts happening. Meditation and yoga elicit a feeling of well being. 

Trauma sanctuary meditations for people who suffer from PTSD which is ANY past trauma.

Visualizing a sanctuary a place to elicit ideomotor change.  Which means again that your thoughts have an effect on the body. Putting your mind at ease, relaxing, and thinking about that sanctuary in your mind produces the feel good chemicals that starts the healing process. 

Child's pose is an excellent pose to help with people who suffer from trauma. It helps gain a sense of safety, security, and healing. 

This is why when people practice  mindfulness, meditation, and yoga practices they do experience MIRACLES. People can heal their bodies and minds from dis ease in the body. 

Neuroscience has proven that people can change the neuropathways the brain structure in their brains by meditation, power of positive thinking, yoga, mindfulness, and visualizations. 

Yoga and mindfulness interventions:

Focus Meditation on Sound
Focus on a mantra: OM
(All of the particles vibrating in the universe)

Focus Meditation with Breathing
Vagus Nerve Effect of Breathing Meditations

This is a wandering nerve interconnecting the heart, lungs, stomach, and brain.Breathing meditations activate the Vagus nerve to calm the nervous system through all these systems. Also, it calms down the brain stem too. 

Counting the Breaths
Rhythmic Breathing
Moving with the Breath
The Complete Breath
Experiencing the Breath

Mindfulness Meditations

Develop a non judgmental attitude:

Notice sensations: don't decide if good or bad
Notice thoughts: notice and accept them just as they are
Notice feelings without judging them pleasure or pain
Advanced Application: Notice a discomfort and don't judge it good or bad

Practice Classic Mindfulness

Dates back to original Buddhist Sutra, The Great Discourse on the Establishing of Awareness, where Buddha first described this way of attending to experience. 

Mindful of the body
Mindful of emotions
Mindful of thoughts
Bring it all together

Focusing Attention through Yoga Postures and Movement:

Modified Chair Sitting Arm Reach
Chair sitting arm swing 
Chair sitting Triangle
Chair sitting Sun Salutation

I have indicated only SOME of the practices that are used to help facilitate the healing process. Most importantly these practices teach us that we have the power to change our lives through mindfulness, body movement using yoga postures, and meditation.


Dr. Melissa Samartano, PhD.,LMHC
Holistic Counseling Center
Raynham, MA 02767
Cell# 401-263-1599
Office# 508-819-0441

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Why can't kids relax? Mindfulness and Yoga practices for Children and Adolescents

Mindfulness and Yoga practices for Children and Adolescents

I hear more and more parents express feelings of concern about their kids not being able to relax. The general feeling is that we are setting up our kids in a very competitive environment from the time they are very young. So much academic, social, and athletic competition.  

This competition can send kids a message that they have to fight for being the best or they won’t get into the best college and they won’t be successful in life. 

Kids live in a very sympathetic nervous system state. 

Sympathetic nervous system is when our bodies are always ready for action and the mind is constantly scanning for possible threats. The fight or flight response which is located in the limbic area of our brain takes care of our survival. For kids whose sympathetic nervous system is engaged all the time they are living in survival mode making it very difficult for them to relax and be calm.

Parasympathetic nervous system is when the body can rest, heal, and grow. The mind can integrate new information and see the bigger picture. How do we get kids to relax?

“Mindfulness is paying attention to your life, here and now, with kindness and curiosity.”
Amy Saltsman

Yoga offers a pathway towards mindfulness, grounded in practice and accessible to all.

Tools to help kids relax and be calm:

Start kids off with Connecting
These skills can help children and adolescents connect to their emotional experience, to others in their community, and to their environment. 

An example: Use a Loving Kindness Meditation
Have kids say to themselves with their eyes closed if they feel safe

May I be happy
May I be healthy
May I be safe
May my life be filled with joy

Then have them think about someone they love 
and have them say:

May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you be safe
May your life be filled with joy

Then have them think about someone who annoys them and they don’t like. Have them say:

May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you be safe
May your life be filled with joy

Next you want to help kids Breathe.

Heart and Belly Breathing 

Have kids put one hand over their heart and the other hand over their stomach. Have them close their eyes if they feel comfortable doing that

Say to them:

See if you can find your breath
See if you can make both inhalation and exhalation be the same length
See if you can breath in air around your heart

 Langhana Breath is also very helpful. It is a calming breath. 
Inhale freely and exhale sloooooowwwlly. Inhale and count 1and 2  exhale 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Alternating Nostril breath is also very helpful.  
It is a neutralizing breath. 

Next use yoga poses

Grounding poses:

Mountain pose 
Frog pose
Child Pose

Strengthening Poses
Moving Lunges
Boat Pose

Balancing Pose

Tree Pose

Next use focus activities

Single Pointed Focus

Glitter Jar is very helpful when working with kids.  Shake it up and watch it settle.
Have them focus on their mind wondering and then bringing it back. Have kids say a mantra during this practice. “I am really strong”

Lastly, Relax poses

Restorative Yoga poses are really great:

Legs up the wall

Yoga Nidra ( Tense and Let Go)

Try and use some of these mindfulness 
techniques and yoga poses with children and adolescents. They are exposed to an 
overwhelming amount of sensory stimulation, are chronically sleep deprived, and generally have no idea how to calm themselves down. These activities provide an opportunity for them to rest the mind, body, and spirit.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

NFL Players, Politicians, and Movie Stars: Why so much DRAMA?

NFL players, movie stars, and politicians to name a few. All seem to have similar problems. These people are the ones all over the news, in the news paper, and often in jail. According to the DSM-5 psychiatric manual they would be characterized as having a personality disorder. Narcissistic Personality Disorder to name one of the personality disorders in the DSM is when people are in love with the IMAGE of themselves. Not in love with themselves but the image of themselves. 

When that breaks down and is shattered they often experience:
Rage or humiliation in response to criticism, sense of entitlement, demand admiration, lacks empathy, grandiosity, exploits others for their own needs. It is the sense of emptiness they can't handle or live with. They create a LOT of drama often hurting others and destroying their own lives.

 "A personality disorder is a human being who persists in a behavior in the face of clear evidence it is inappropriate, and ongoing bad consequences."  W. John Livesley, M.D.

Not sure this helps explain some of the reason for why they are like this? Seems like a lot of talk going on right now.. My husband just told me the other day Brandon Marshal NFL player came out with having Borderline personality disorder and receiving mental health treatment has helped him.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The shocking truth about your health: Dr. Lissa Rankin MD

Here is an interesting and informative,18-minute video by Dr. Rankin. In this video, Dr. Rankin speaks frankly about her own life, her professional journey and important details about research in integrative medicine. 

The shocking truth about your health: Lissa Rankin at TEDxFiDiWomen 
The shocking truth about your health: Lissa Rankin at TEDxFiDiWomen

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mindful Living: Mindfulness Practice


Thich Nhat Hanh on The Practice of Mindfulness

"Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in." It is such a simple practice, but it can transform your life. The great meditation master THICH NHAT HANH teaches five mindfulness exercises to help you live with happiness and joy.

Our true home is not in the past. Our true home is not in the future. Our true home is in the here and the now. Life is available only in the here and the now, and it is our true home.

Mindfulness is the energy that helps us recognize the conditions of happiness that are already present in our lives. You don’t have to wait ten years to experience this happiness. It is present in every moment of your daily life. There are those of us who are alive but don’t know it. But when you breathe in, and you are aware of your in-breath, you touch the miracle of being alive. That is why mindfulness is a source of happiness and joy.

Most people are forgetful; they are not really there a lot of the time. Their mind is caught in their worries, their fears, their anger, and their regrets, and they are not mindful of being there. That state of being is called forgetfulness—you are there but you are not there. You are caught in the past or in the future. You are not there in the present moment, living your life deeply. That is forgetfulness.

The opposite of forgetfulness is mindfulness. Mindfulness is when you are truly there, mind and body together. You breathe in and out mindfully, you bring your mind back to your body, and you are there. When your mind is there with your body, you are established in the present moment. Then you can recognize the many conditions of happiness that are in you and around you, and happiness just comes naturally.

Mindfulness practice should be enjoyable, not work or effort. Do you have to make an effort to breath in? You don’t need to make an effort. To breathe in, you just breathe in. Suppose you are with a group of people contemplating a beautiful sunset. Do you have to make an effort to enjoy the beautiful sunset? No, you don’t have to make any effort. You just enjoy it.

The same thing is true with your breath. Allow your breath to take place. Become aware of it and enjoy it. Effortlessness. Enjoyment. The same thing is true with walking mindfully. Every step you take is enjoyable. Every step helps you to touch the wonders of life, in yourself and around you. Every step is peace. Every step is joy. That is possible.

During the time you are practicing mindfulness, you stop talking—not only the talking outside, but the talking inside. The talking inside is the thinking, the mental discourse that goes on and on and on inside. Real silence is the cessation of talking—of both the mouth and of the mind. This is not the kind of silence that oppresses us. It is a very elegant kind of silence, a very powerful kind of silence. It is the silence that heals and nourishes us.

Mindfulness gives birth to joy and happiness. Another source of happiness is concentration. The energy of mindfulness carries within it the energy of concentration. When you are aware of something, such as a flower, and can maintain that awareness, we say that you are concentrated on the flower. When your mindfulness becomes powerful, your concentration becomes powerful, and when you are fully concentrated, you have a chance to make a breakthrough, to achieve insight. If you meditate on a cloud, you can get insight into the nature of the cloud. Or you can meditate on a pebble, and if you have enough mindfulness and concentration, you can see into the nature of the pebble. You can meditate on a person, and if you have enough mindfulness and concentration, you can make a breakthrough and understand the nature of that person. You can meditate on yourself, or your anger, or your fear, or your joy, or your peace.

Anything can be the object of your meditation, and with the powerful energy of concentration, you can make a breakthrough and develop insight. It’s like a magnifying glass concentrating the light of the sun. If you put the point of concentrated light on a piece of paper, it will burn. Similarly, when your mindfulness and concentration are powerful, your insight will liberate you from fear, anger, and despair, and bring you true joy, true peace, and true happiness.

When you contemplate the big, full sunrise, the more mindful and concentrated you are, the more the beauty of the sunrise is revealed to you. Suppose you are offered a cup of tea, very fragrant, very good tea. If your mind is distracted, you cannot really enjoy the tea. You have to be mindful of the tea, you have to be concentrated on it, so the tea can reveal its fragrance and wonder to you. That is why mindfulness and concentration are such sources of happiness. That’s why a good practitioner knows how to create a moment of joy, a feeling of happiness, at any time of the day.

First Mindfulness Exercise: Mindful Breathing

The first exercise is very simple, but the power, the result, can be very great. The exercise is simply to identify the in-breath as in-breath and the out-breath as the out-breath. When you breathe in, you know that this is your in-breath. When you breathe out, you are mindful that this is your out-breath.

Just recognize: this is an in-breath, this is an out-breath. Very simple, very easy. In order to recognize your in-breath as in-breath, you have to bring your mind home to yourself. What is recognizing your in-breath is your mind, and the object of your mind—the object of your mindfulness—is the in-breath. Mindfulness is always mindful of something. When you drink your tea mindfully, it’s called mindfulness of drinking. When you walk mindfully, it’s called mindfulness of walking. And when you breathe mindfully, that is mindfulness of breathing.

So the object of your mindfulness is your breath, and you just focus your attention on it. Breathing in, this is my in-breath. Breathing out, this is my out-breath. When you do that, the mental discourse will stop. You don’t think anymore. You don’t have to make an effort to stop your thinking; you bring your attention to your in-breath and the mental discourse just stops. That is the miracle of the practice. You don’t think of the past anymore. You don’t think of the future. You don’t think of your projects, because you are focusing your attention, your mindfulness, on your breath.

It gets even better. You can enjoy your in-breath. The practice can be pleasant, joyful. Someone who is dead cannot take any more in-breaths. But you are alive. You are breathing in, and while breathing in, you know that you are alive. The in-breath can be a celebration of the fact that you are alive, so it can be very joyful. When you are joyful and happy, you don’t feel that you have to make any effort at all. I am alive; I am breathing in. To be still alive is a miracle. The greatest of all miracles is to be alive, and when you breathe in, you touch that miracle. Therefore, your breathing can be a celebration of life.

An in-breath may take three, four, five seconds, it depends. That’s time to be alive, time to enjoy your breath. You don’t have to interfere with your breathing. If your in-breath is short, allow it to be short. If your out-breath is long, let it to be long. Don’t try to force it. The practice is simple recognition of the in-breath and the out-breath. That is good enough. It will have a powerful effect.

Second Mindfulness Exercise: Concentration

The second exercise is that while you breathe in, you follow your in-breath from the beginning to the end. If your in-breath lasts three or four seconds, then your mindfulness also lasts three or four seconds. Breathing in, I follow my in-breath all the way through. Breathing out, I follow my out-breath all the way through. From the beginning of my out-breath to the end of my out-breath, my mind is always with it. Therefore, mindfulness becomes uninterrupted, and the quality of your concentration is improved.

So the second exercise is to follow your in-breath and your out-breath all the way through. Whether they are short or long, it doesn’t matter. What is important is that you follow your in-breath from the beginning to the end. Your awareness is sustained. There is no interruption. Suppose you are breathing in, and then you think, “Oh, I forgot to turn off the light in my room.” There is an interruption. Just stick to your in-breath all the way through. Then you cultivate your mindfulness and your concentration. You become your in-breath. You become your out-breath. If you continue like that, your breathing will naturally become deeper and slower, more harmonious and peaceful. You don’t have to make any effort—it happens naturally.

Third Mindfulness Exercise: Awareness of Your Body

The third exercise is to become aware of your body as you are breathing. “Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body.” This takes it one step further.

In the first exercise, you became aware of your in-breath and your out-breath. Because you have now generated the energy of mindfulness through mindful breathing, you can use that energy to recognize your body.

“Breathing in, I am aware of my body. Breathing out, I am aware of my body.” I know my body is there. This brings the mind wholly back to the body. Mind and body become one reality. When your mind is with your body, you are well-established in the here and the now. You are fully alive. You can be in touch with the wonders of life that are available in yourself and around you.

This exercise is simple, but the effect of the oneness of body and mind is very great. In our daily lives, we are seldom in that situation. Our body is there but our mind is elsewhere. Our mind may be caught in the past or in the future, in regrets, sorrow, fear, or uncertainty, and so our mind is not there. Someone may be present in the house, but he’s not really there, his mind is not there. His mind is with the future, with his projects, and he’s not there for his children or his spouse. Maybe you could say to him, “Anybody home?” and help him bring his mind back to his body.

So the third exercise is to become aware of your body. “Breathing in, I’m aware of my body.” When you practice mindful breathing, the quality of your in-breath and out-breath will be improved. There is more peace and harmony in your breathing, and if you continue to practice like that, the peace and the harmony will penetrate into the body, and the body will profit.

Fourth Mindfulness Exercise: Releasing Tension

The next exercise is to release the tension in the body. When you are truly aware of your body, you notice there is some tension and pain in your body, some stress. The tension and pain have been accumulating for a long time and our bodies suffer, but our mind is not there to help release it. Therefore, it is very important to learn how to release the tension in the body.

In a sitting, lying, or standing position, it’s always possible to release the tension. You can practice total relaxation, deep relaxation, in a sitting or lying position. While you are driving your car, you might notice the tension in your body. You are eager to arrive and you don’t enjoy the time you spend driving. When you come to a red light, you are eager for the red light to become a green light so that you can continue. But the red light can be a signal. It can be a reminder that there is tension in you, the stress of wanting to arrive as quickly as possible. If you recognize that, you can make use of the red light. You can sit back and relax—take the ten seconds the light is red to practice mindful breathing and release the tension in the body.

So next time you’re stopped at a red light, you might like to sit back and practice the fourth exercise: “Breathing in, I’m aware of my body. Breathing out, I release the tension in my body.” Peace is possible at that moment, and it can be practiced many times a day—in the workplace, while you are driving, while you are cooking, while you are doing the dishes, while you are watering the vegetable garden. It is always possible to practice releasing the tension in yourself.

Walking Meditation

When you practice mindful breathing you simply allow your in breath to take place. You become aware of it and enjoy it. Effortlessness. The same thing is true with mindful walking. Every step is enjoyable. Every step helps you touch the wonders of life. Every step is joy. That is possible.

You don’t have to make any effort during walking meditation, because it is enjoyable. You are there, body and mind together. You are fully alive, fully present in the here and the now. With every step, you touch the wonders of life that are in you and around you. When you walk like that, every step brings healing. Every step brings peace and joy, because every step is a miracle.

The real miracle is not to fly or walk on fire. The real miracle is to walk on the Earth, and you can perform that miracle at any time. Just bring your mind home to your body, become alive, and perform the miracle of walking on Earth.

Originally published in the March 2010 issue of the Shambhala Sun.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Does God talk?

God definitely speaks to us. The problem is listening. Can we humble ourselves enough by putting the ego aside and listen? Can we be brave enough to understand the subconscious mind?  Bringing all that information to consciousness and thinking in a  broader more abstract way.  Invite it into your world and ask for divine healing and understanding. We learn so much from the experiences we go through. Remembering that the world we CAN'T see matters the most. Beyond what you may think. There is a deeper meaning and higher purpose. There is a reason why we go through so many challenging experiences. It is so HARD and it does SUCK at times. But remember the hard work you do here in this life does not go unnoticed. You do earn spiritual merits which takes you to a higher level of intelligence, understanding, and  consciousness.  It's like a hierarchy but in the spiritual realm. You have to trust in a higher source of intelligence for that. It is your choice to work at this or not and it is never to late to start.