Awareness and Acceptance

Blog Post created by Thomas3.20.2010 on Nov 17, 2014
  That's what I call this stretch of road in my Recovery! I have come to an awareness - different from a cognition - of my permanent status as an Addict. But not just any addict but my own personal brand of Thomas the Addict. I feel my weakest point - when others relapse I feel responsible and my strongest point - when I learn I share. I am still in the process of learning non-judgment of myself and letting go of others' addictive actions. It's not enough to 'know' that I have nothing to judge myself for and that I can't change others' behaviors. I have to really 100% get it - here, in my heart, not just my head! 
  Here's how I have been working on this:
  I have been using Mindfulness Meditation and Neurofeedback.
    Mindfulness Meditation
   Mindfulness meditation, yoga practice, and regular exercise lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your bloodstream, increase your interleukin levels (enhancing your immune system and providing you with greater energy), and streamline your body’s ability to cleanse itself of chemical toxins, such as lactic acid in your muscles and bloodstream, which can affect neurotransmitter receptors and alter your mood. Mindfulness practice may positively affect the amount of activity in the amygdala, the walnut-sized area in the center of the brain responsible for regulating emotions. When the amygdala is relaxed, the parasympathetic nervous system engages to counteract the anxiety response. The heart rate lowers, breathing deepens and slows, and the body stops releasing cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream; these stress hormones provide us with quick energy in times of danger but have damaging effects on the body in the long term if they’re too prevalent. Over time, mindfulness meditation actually thickens the bilateral, prefrontal right-insular region of the brain, the area responsible for optimism and a sense of well-being, spaciousness, and possibility. This area is also associated with creativity and an increased sense of curiosity, as well as the ability to be reflective and observe how your mind works. 
    By building new neural connections among brain cells, we rewire the brain, and with each new neural connection, the brain is actually learning. It’s as if we’re adding more RAM to a computer, giving it more functionality. In The Mindful Brain, leading neuroscientist Daniel Siegel , defines the mind as “a process that regulates the flow of energy and information.” His early brain research showed that “where neurons fire, they can rewire”; that is, they create new neural pathways or structures in the brain. He postulates that one of the benefits of mindfulness meditation practice is this process of creating new neural networks for self-observation, optimism, and well-being. Through mindfulness meditation, we light up and build up the left-prefrontal cortex, associated with optimism, self-observation, and compassion, allowing ourselves to cease being dominated by the right-prefrontal cortex, which is associated with fear, depression, anxiety, and pessimism. As a result, our self-awareness and mood stability increase as our harsh judgments of others and ourselves decrease. By devoting attention, intention, and daily effort to being mindful, we learn to master the mind and open the doorway to the creativity available in open-mind consciousness.   
    The pillars of mindfulness practice are non-judging, patience, a beginner's curiosity, trust, non-striving, acceptance, and letting go. That doesn't mean you have to have all of these to get started! It means that they cultivate mindfulness and mindfulness cultivates these attitudes!  
     Neurofeedback trains the brain directly and is often referred to as exercising the brain. Computer feedback enables the brain to learn new patterns to function more efficiently. Interestingly, neurofeedback training takes place almost entirely at unconscious levels similar to learning to ride a bike or balancing on one foot. The mind doesn't need to "understand" for the brain to learn.    
     Specialized equipment allows the practitioner to observe brainwave activity while the client either listens to sounds or a combination of sound and visual display (games) for feedback. The auditory and visual feedback "rewards" the brain's achievement when the student meets target goals.  Rewards encourage the brain toward more appropriate patterns, resulting in new brain function and greater self regulation.   
     Self regulation is key to neurofeedback because as  the brain increases its capacity to self regulate,  both mental and physical functions are able to improve. The goal of neurofeedback training is to shape the brain toward greater self regulation. Over a series of training sessions, the new patterns in the brain become more permanent (as with learning to type or ride a bike) for  lasting improvements in both mental and physical performance.   
      Neurofeedback can help me regulate my own nervous system so I can have an appropriate anxiety response when it is necessary and stay calm when it is not. Infra low frequency neurofeedback can help my depression. It also helps me cope with the psychological stress of having a chronic incurable ilnness and chronic physical pain.    
      With increased clarity and awareness comes ever increasing self-compassion and self-respect. It makes the possibility of relapse a never option! N.O.P.E.! Not this fellow!