How Effective are Vibration Massage Chairs in Providing Pain Relief

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What Does Family Mean to You: The Multiple Definitions

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Meditation Prep

Elena Brower’s Sequence to Strengthen Core Connection

Today, we’ll work on strengthening your core with a few standing postures, which will help you feel the relationship between your core and steadiness—
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A Sequence to Beat Restlessness + Prep for Meditation

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Get Your Sit Together: 7 Best Meditation Cushions to Support Your Practice

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A Heart-Opening Yoga Sequence with Elena Brower

ace, where you receive and give love. ELENA BROWER UPDATED: MAY 16, 2017 ORIGINAL: SEP 8, 2016 Today, we’ll practice moving your...

Alan Finger’s Energy-Clearing Yoga Sequence to Prepare for Meditation

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Try This Heart-Centering Meditation Before You Take a Forest Bath

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“I Tried 40 Days of Yoga, Meditating, and Chanting at 4 a.m. Every Morning”

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Get Your Sit Together: 7 Best Meditation Cushions to Support Your Practice

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Move Into Meditation with Shiva Rea’s Prana Flow Pranams

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Benefits of Meditation

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The Miracle of Meditation

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Growing Up with a Narcissist: How I’m Healing from the Abuse

“You could have grown cold, but you grew courageous instead. You could have given up, but you kept on going. You could have seen obstacles, but you called them adventures. You could have called them weeds, but instead you called them wildflower. You could have died a caterpillar, but you fought on to be a butterfly. You could have denied yourself goodness, but instead you chose to show yourself some self-love. You could have defined yourself by the dark days, but instead through them you realized your light.” ~S.C. Lourie As the memories of my childhood flash within my mind, I am brought back to a place in which I did not know if I was going to ever be happy. Happiness, stability, and love seemed so far away and out of reach that I met each day with overwhelming sadness. I longed for peace, I longed for someone to understand, and I longed for someone to save me. No one really knew what was going on behind closed doors with my mom. She was a tyrant who emotionally demolished anyone who got in her path. My siblings and I were her constant targets. Due to her nature, she isolated us from family and friends and only brought us around to make her look good and build up her ego. The classic case of a narcissist. You see, it was not until many years later during my adult life that my mom was officially diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. If you are unfamiliar with this diagnosis, it is someone who lacks empathy and is unable to show love. They appear to have a superficial life and they are always concerned with how things look to others. She was incapable of being loving and nurturing, things we look for mothers to provide. While I was a child, I was always grasping for answers to the constant emotional, verbal, and physical abuse that plagued my household. I learned very early on that I was to be seen not heard, and that any challenge or inquiry of fun would be met with a tongue-lashing and/or strike to my body. When you are the daughter of a narcissistic mother you internalize every strike and every word laid upon you. You feel dismissed and discounted. You never feel good enough. I remember moments in where I wished for the mother-daughter bond that my friends experienced. I would cry whenever I would read about it in books or see it on television. When you are a victim of abuse, you always feel as if what you desire is out of reach because you believe don’t deserve it. How could someone who gave birth to me inflict so much pain? This question flooded my brain on a daily basis. Motherhood is a sacred act of love that was not provided to me, and therefore, I suffered. I suffered with lack of confidence, limited beliefs, fear of failure, anxiety, perfectionism, and lack of emotional closeness with romantic relationships and friendships. It was at the age of nineteen that I decided that I no longer wanted to be a part of this life. I made up my mind that this cloak of darkness would no longer plague me. I left. I left with all my belongings in a laundry bag as well as what little light I had within me and moved in with my now-spouse’s family. I was grateful that that they welcomed me with open arms and that I was safe. Little did I know that the real healing began once I decided to step into it. Trauma leaves not only emotional scars but also tiny imprints that influence your thoughts and decisions. I was an adult who knew nothing about adulting and lacked the guidance from a parental figure: I was terrified. But I realized that sometimes you must mother yourself. In the chaos you learn how to give yourself the love and affection you longed for in your most powerless moments.  I needed to show up for myself and the little girl within me that didn’t have a chance to enjoy life. It was time for me to take my power back and ignite my inner being. I started becoming increasingly curious and hopeful about this transition I was beginning to step into, so there were a few steps that I began to implement on this journey of transformation.  I hope you may find them useful when you are ready. Distance yourself from the toxic behavior. Sometimes distance and time help heal and give clarity as well as peace. I’ve had to take myself out of situations where I knew I had to protect myself. This allowed me to take time out to really focus on what I wanted and the direction I desired to go in. At times this meant limited communication, geographic distance, or emotional distance. This is not always easy, but it will help keep you on track if you constantly remind yourself that it is for the development of your highest good and your healing. Surround yourself with people who can lift you up and pour into you. Coming from a household where love and warmth were not present can leave you feeling empty. Surround yourself with friends or other family that can lift you up while you are sorting things out. Being around people who were able to showcase this for me provided me with the motivation to continue creating it within myself. Develop and nurture a spiritual practice. Faith and hope were the two driving forces behind my motivation to leave. I just knew deep down that this was not the direction that I wanted my life to go in and there were better things out there for me. Developing a spiritual practice helped me to gain inner peace when moments of fear, anxiety, and doubt heavily crept in. It comforted me when I had no idea if taking a leap would work out, but the valuable lesson that I learned was that when you take a leap, the net will appear.  Meditation, prayer, and connecting to a higher power can create stillness within the chaos. Start with unconditional love toward yourself. Surviving verbal and physical abuse is no easy feat and can tarnish what little confidence you may have had, which is why beginning to develop that within yourself is super important. I had to learn that if I loved myself I could feel more confident in my abilities and continue pushing forward. Give yourself those motivational pep talks, read dozens of books, work with a professional, listen to uplifting music or podcasts. Pour into yourself and become your own best friend. No one can take that away from you. Give yourself time. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to healing. It is a journey that loops and curves, but it all leads to a transformation. It can take time to unravel all that you experienced, but be compassionate with yourself as you figure it all out. Set the intention of working toward a positive transformation and gather the tools necessary to facilitate the change. It took me years of trial and error to get to the place that I am in right now, but my intention was always to become better than I was yesterday. Nurture your healing, there is breakthrough on the other side. Continue to make that conscious choice every day to grow, heal, and reach transformation. Don’t shy away from the healing necessary to set yourself free and live the life you deserve to live. You have to shed the old in order to let in the new and no longer allow fear to have a strong hold on you. There is beauty in discovering a life of inward and outward victory. Throughout my transformation my breakthrough consisted of this one powerful mantra: I am not a victim of my circumstance, I am victorious. You are too. About Victoria Grande Victoria Grande is a licensed mental health counselor, certified clinical trauma professional, and transformational life coach for women. Learn more about her at www.beingvictoriouswomen.com and look out for upcoming biweekly newsletter called, “Living Victoriously.” Want to connect? Follow Victoria on Instagram and Twitter. See a typo or inaccuracy? Please contact us so we can fix it!

6 Things to Remember When You Think You Don’t Matter

In a world with billions of people, in a culture that promotes being special and...

I Will No Longer Allow My Doubt to Convince Me I’m Not Good Enough

DisclaimerThis site is not intended to provide and does not constitute medical, legal, or other...

How Mother Nature and I Manage My Depression

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” ~John Burroughs I sat on the front stoop sobbing, unable to move. Hunched over like a heaving dog hugging my knees and clutching a wad of decomposing tissues. About fifteen minutes before, I’d managed to get myself off the couch where I’d been parked, withered and absent, for the fourth consecutive day, and had made it through the front door. Once there, I tried to stay upright, but like cool syrup I slid down the side of the wrought iron railing and down onto the steps. Now all I had to do was get up and walk to the mailbox and back and maybe I’d feel better. But I couldn’t do it. It was too much. I hoisted my ladened head from my knees and stared out the driveway to the mailbox about seven hundred feet away. It may as well have been ten miles… or fifteen feet. It didn’t matter, it was too far. “Please just help me get up,” I pleaded to a somber sky. The help didn’t come and so there I sat crying, searching for the energy or the wherewithal to make myself move. Fifteen minutes, twenty minutes, twenty-five… the time oozed by thick and distorted. It had happened before, more than once, and had overtaken me at varying speeds and intensity.  Sometimes it leached in with the change of seasons; like an inflatable pool toy left floating past the end of summer, sad and wilted, the air having seeped out in infinitesimal degrees. Sometimes I could fight it off, catch it before things got too grim. Not this time. I’d felt myself spiraling down, hot wind escaping me until I was in a deflated heap, slack and flaccid on the sofa. It had happened a few years ago, although not this bad, and a chirpy classmate had suggested that I just “snap out of it!” “Just… ‘snap out of it?’” I repeated. “Yeah!! Snap out of it!” “It’s not that simple,” I said. “Sure, it is! Like the song says, ‘Put on a happy face!’” “Are you kidding me right now?” “No, I’m not kidding,” she said. “It’s mind over matter. Just distract yourself by doing something that makes you happy. Stop thinking about it… you know, snap out of it!” I looked at the woman through a haze of disbelief and deadpanned, “Just snap out of it. Gee. Why didn’t I think of that?” Another friend enquired, “Why don’t you just ask for help when things get bad?” “Because you can’t,” I said “What do you mean you can’t? You just pick up the phone and ask for help. It takes two seconds!” “I mean you can’t; not when you’re in the depths of it. That’s the insidiousness of it. When you need help the most is when you’re least able to ask for it.” “That doesn’t make any sense,” the friend replied. “If you’re sick you call the doctor. If your car breaks down you get it to a mechanic. If you have a drinking problem you go to AA. When you need help, you ask for help!” “That’s like telling someone who is trapped under a piano to walk over to the phone and call the movers,” I scoffed. “You simply can’t” “Of course, you can! You’re not actually trapped under a piano and you’re not paralyzed, are you?” “Well, no, obviously it’s a metaphor. But in a way you are… paralyzed, I mean.” “Oh, come on… I think you’re being a little dramatic.” “And I think you’re being dismissive and oversimplifying it.” “Because it’s pretty simple. You just ask for help.” “I don’t think there’s anything I can say to help you to understand how it feels. I just don’t know how to explain it if you’ve never experienced it.” “Well, I think if someone needs help, they should just ask for it.” I sighed and said “Maybe the name says it all. It’s a good name for how you feel. ‘Depression.’ There’s the word depression like a hole in the ground and you definitely feel like you’re stuck down in a hole. And there’s depression in the sense that something is pressing down on you. It absolutely feels like there is a physical weight holding you down. It’s inexplicably heavy. It’s heavy in your mind. It’s heavy in your lungs. It’s heavy in your body. Sometimes, when it’s really bad, it’s nearly impossible to move.” “Nearly impossible… but not impossible,” my friend said. “You could still get to the phone.” Okay… Whatever… But that was then and now I was alone. No nonbelievers to convert nor pep talks to deflect. Medication had worked to a degree and only for a while. The struggle to find the right prescription and dosage combined with the ever-growing list of side effects had proven too much. I also swore I could feel the drugs in my system, and they made me feel toxic, for lack of a better term, and I couldn’t stand it.  So, under my doctor’s guidance I’d titrated off my meds. I’d discovered that, for me, the best way to loosen the grip of despair and keep it at bay was intense, intentional, physical exercise. As I slowly increased the time I spent walking, then running, my doctor kept close tabs on my progress. It had worked. It was my magic pill and like any prescription, I had to take it without fail or face a relapse. I’d found that he more/less I exercised the more/less I wanted to, and the better/worse I felt; it was self-perpetuating in both directions, and over the past couple of months I had gotten lazy; my laziness turned into malaise, the malaise had become despondence, and despondence had gotten me here. Sitting languid and bleak between a spitting gray sky and the gravel drive. It was late September in Mid-Coast Maine. The days were growing shorter and winter would not be long behind. The hibernal season was always a struggle and it was harder to manage my mood. The window of opportunity was closing. If I didn’t get ahead of it straightaway there’d be no escaping without medical intervention. I had to move my body so my mind could follow, it was the only way out and would happen right now or not at all. I had to dig down deep, excavate some minuscule untapped reserve, the survival instinct maybe, and use it to push back against the darkness with everything I had left. Okay. On the count of one… two… three… I took a deep breath in and with the exhale, slowly rolled forward off the step onto my hands and knees into the small dusty stones. I looked out to the end of the drive, toward the empty road and the stand of pines beyond, then hooked my eyes onto the mailbox. Just get there. Crawl if you have to, but go. I crept a few feet forward on all fours, the sharp pebbles jabbing into my knees and palms “I think you’re being a little dramatic…” I rolled my eyes and set my jaw. Sitting back on my heels, I pushed with my hands and came up into a four-point squat. I sat there for a minute keep moving keep moving then, fingers splayed on the ground, I stuck my fanny in the air, grabbed hold of my thighs one at a time, and hauled myself up. Arms crossed over my stomach and chest, stooped and shivering, I hugged myself. Move. Move your feet Taking tiny steps, increments of half a foot-length, I shuffled forward; right, left, pause… right, left, pause…  “God it’s so hard.” Keep going keep going… Over the past couple of years I’d become an athlete, a trail runner. I ran twenty-five or thirty miles a week, up and down ski slopes in the summertime, yet right then I could barely move. There was nothing physically wrong with me, but depression is an autocrat and I’d fallen under its totalitarian rule. It forbade me from moving with my normal grace and ease and instead had me shackled and chained… but I kept going. “You should die from this,” I breathed out loud. “If there was a true, proportionate cause and effect, feeling this bad should, in all fairness, kill a person.” Keep going keep going.  “But it doesn’t. It squeezes the life out of you but doesn’t actually kill you.” I was halfway to the mailbox.  I didn’t pick up my feet, just sort of slid them along, rocking back and forth like a sickly penguin leaving drag marks behind. It hurt to move, it hurt to breathe. “Please help me,” I turned my face upward and beseeched the misting sky. “Please give me a sign. I need something, anything, so I know this will be worth it. If you do, I promise I’ll believe it and I won’t give up.  I promise I’ll keep going.” Right, left, right, left. I was closing in on the letterbox, tears flowing. My body ached. I got no sign, no random flash of light nor clap of thunder, just the sound of the breeze in the pines and my feet scratching in the pebbles. When I was about ten feet away, I extended an arm, right, left, right, left, almost there… reaching…  fingertips touching the cold damp metal. “I did it,” I feebly cried. Maybe there’s something in the mail today… maybe that will be my sign. I opened the box and peered inside. Nothing. Just a flyer from the market with its weekly specials—not even real mail, just more junk. But with or without a sign, I’d made it. Oh… God… I turned around and, clamping my Kleenex and the stupid flyer to my chest, stared blankly back down the driveway to the house. Now I have to do it again. It was so far. “Just get it over with and then you can be done.” I breathed in and started back… right, left, right, left, right, left, I resumed my melancholy march. My gaze was fixed yet something moving high in a tree caught in my periphery… a bird; a crow or raven maybe. I paused and looked up, and there he was flapping his wings just a bit, arranging himself on his perch. The huge chocolate-colored body and glorious white crown were unmistakable, even at this distance. Bald Eagles were common up here, but this was no ordinary creature and I knew it.  Strength, pride, power, Mother Nature to the rescue again. Yes, this was my eagle and I understood the message he brought. I sniffled, dragged my damp sleeve across my nose and cheek, and nodded. “Okay,” I whispered. “Thank you. This is good. I can do this” I regained momentum. Right, left, right, left. I’m a runner, I’m an athlete, I eat hills for breakfast, Goddammit. Keep going. Hand outstretched, I grabbed hold of the railing and climbed the three steps to the house. I made it back, albeit barely, and let myself inside. I got out of my wet clothes and wrapped myself up in my accomplishment and a fluffy robe. I would get a little something to eat, I thought, take a hot shower, go to bed, and watch TV.  I still felt like hell, but I did it. I would get some sleep tonight and first thing tomorrow morning, I told myself, I would go to the mailbox again… and maybe just a little bit farther. * * * * When a person releases any type of toxicity from their lives or stops accepting their drug of choice, in whatever form it takes, after years of abuse, they discover all sorts of things about themselves that may have been masked by, or mistaken for, their addiction. One of the things I unearthed when I got sober was a history of severe depression that I’d attributed to alcoholism; I was wrong, they weren’t one and the same. They were, however, mutually parasitic, two separate entities that fed off one another. Which came first, the depression or the alcoholism, I have no idea and, frankly, it didn’t really matter to me. My substance abuse certainly exacerbated my despondency, but cessation didn’t cure it; I was left with chronic, sometimes debilitating bouts of despair. My first twelve-step sponsor suggested we meet for weekly walks at the town reservoir, a three thousand-acre forested reserve dotted with pristine watershed lakes. It was to become a transformative practice. Once a week, we walked and talked our way around a popular three-mile loop where I learned, among many other things, a quote that I believe helped save my life: “Move a muscle, change a thought.” This quote introduced me to the theory that physically moving the body helps dislodge negativity and facilitates a healthy thought process. It also reintroduced me to my love of the woods, something I’d forfeited long ago to alcoholism. The activity became so enjoyable that I began to seek out my new like-minded friends for a “walk at the Res,” building healthy relationships in a tranquil setting, eventually heading out on my own as well. I’d walk the loop after work as the days grew long and hike for hours on sunny weekend mornings. I’d often catch glimpses of deer, even a doe with her fawn. It relaxed me and made me smile, which may not sound like much but for me, as sick as I’d been, it was a big deal. Surrounded by the soft shapes and sounds of the forest, the whispers of the breeze rustling the leaves, the sound of water moving over rocks in the creeks and the birdsong in the trees, and the rich smell and feel of earth under my feet, I found the magical world I’d claimed as a girl and then left behind. Being alone in nature I found peace and my very first feelings of joy as an adult. I’d forgotten that joy existed, let alone that it was something that might be available to me. Not to be understated, it also kept me occupied, away from dangerous environments and temptation. As the happiness in my heart grew and my healthful body returned, I began going for short runs. It wasn’t easy, but I kept at it, physically challenging myself gradually, mindfully, and without impunity. The endorphins, already being released on walks and hikes, increased proportionately with the pace, the distance, and demand of the terrain. I was feeling strong, happy, empowered; literally and intentionally changing the chemical balance in my brain. With the blessing and guidance of my therapist, I slowly replaced my antidepressants with scheduled, purposeful exercise, proud to be scaling my active participation in my recovery under the watchful eye of my doctor. After several years, I traded regular visits with my shrink for the occasional tune-up with a sports physician.   Nature was at the center of my spiritual healing and running and hiking had become my medicine.  And like any medicine, if I kept taking it, it kept working and, well, if I didn’t… **** Day by day, I had allowed one excuse after another to erode my commitment to exercise and disrupt my healthy routine, but I’d just sloughed it off. “No big deal,” I told myself. “I’ll get back to it tomorrow.” But my “tomorrows” were adding up and before I knew it, momentum was lost and the pendulum had swung. Then, my relationship fell apart. My conditioned response would have been to run it off; take my anger and pain into the woods and leave it there rather than turn it inward. But it was too late. My depression had already taken hold and gotten ahead of me, so instead of hitting the trail I’d spiraled down and hit the couch… and I stayed there for days. It was a very difficult lesson, but I learned it. I have yet to make that mistake again. Today, nearly twenty years after my long journey to the mailbox, I have a million things to do. But first, I went for a run. I know I need to make intentional exercise a priority, and to celebrate the small victories when all I can manage is a short walk. When you’re depressed it can be hard to see this, but small wins are wins, nonetheless. If you’re struggling right now, I get it.  I know you can’t just snap out of it. I know it’s hard to ask for help. I know you might need medication, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But perhaps, like me, you’ll find it helpful to get out of your head, get outside, and get moving. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s to never underestimate the healing power of physical exercise and mother nature. About Amie Gabriel Holistic Wellness expert, certified yoga, meditation, and group fitness instructor specializing in mind/body fitness, women's wellness, 12-step recovery, processing grief and depression, and celebrating joy. Amie creates mindful, nature-based programs and retreats focusing on the inseparable connection of mind/breath/body/spirit/intention. Her work has been featured at Canyon Ranch Lenox and Tucson, Mayflower Inn and Spa, Washington Depot, CT, Silver Hill Hospital, New Canaan, CT, among others. She has written a book on healing through holistic wellness to be published in 2020. See a typo, an inaccuracy, or something offensive? Please contact us so we can fix it!

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Guided Meditation

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