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+ From a ‘Human Doing’ to a ‘Human Being’

This is the story of an anguished Mom whom I mentored over 4 months to help her reestablish the broken connection with her teenage daughter who was engulfed in frequent cycles of intense, and nearly debilitating emotional suffering at a very crucial time in her life (1). After aggressively trying so many other ways, which were proven ineffective in resolving her various family problems, up against a brick wall, her desperation lead her to be open to modalities of healing from any source. She trusted me enough to try out a multipronged approach of healing. Whatever I suggested and when found useful, she made it a part of her practice. She was a voracious reader and tried to evolve herself in spite of the prolonged traumatic life experiences. She was so primed and ready to leap to a higher level that with a little spark, understanding, emotional support and a few directional arrows she could come out of the mental hell she was in. On my request, she described her journey during which she used many resources. Her writing talent shows up. I am yet to see another client of her nature. I hope this description inspires others. I added the numbers in brackets and linked notes with related information.

One remarkable feature of this case is that though the daughter was supposed to be the dysfunctional one to be fixed, I never got to even see her or talk to her. I worked only with the mom and when she changed, the daughter’s behavior changed! This proves the saying “When I change the World changes.”

Here is her story.

” Before My Journey Started
My mind was constantly busy. I could not shut off my mind. I was never at peace even when I was sleeping. Waking up first thing in the morning, my mind was already at full speed, while still laying in bed. Many useless thoughts, negative thoughts, constantly analyzing the same things over and over again. At times it felt like there were loud screaming monkeys in my head. Pema Chodron uses the term “gibbering monkey” (2) . Eckhart Tolle uses the term “incessant thoughts”. Anger, despair, frustration, impatience dominated the state of my mind and emotion (3). The most frightening part was that I wasn’t fully conscious of my reactive emotions.

It all started with a typical story of a single parent trying to do the “right” thing, to launch their college bound child to the future. I thought I followed suggestions from teachers and guidance counselors. I thought I was doing the same things most other parents do. In the midst of teen dating, teen anxiety and depression, full time job, a household to run, and another younger child to take care of, things didn’t go well. Parental encouragements were perceived by my children as pressure. College application process did not progress all through Summer and Fall. Family dinner became a rare occasion, a life situation worse than marriage dissolution. I was on the verge of losing my relationship with my child. Coming home from work at times felt dreadful. If only one could go to an electronic store and purchase a remote control that could turn the mind on and off!

Then CS Came Into My Life
A friend referred me to the man who teaches people how to count breaths, CS (short for Suryanarayana Chennapragada) (4). I had nothing to lose by spending one session with him. On the other hand, what can you expect out of a guy who teaches you how to count breaths? (5). The first lesson I learned from him: “HAVE NO EXPECTATIONS”. After learning my background and evaluating my disposition, CS suspected that all of us, my kids and I, suffered from some sort of trauma. There are a few methods of therapy for trauma using talk therapy but they take too many years. Our experience of talk therapy for my children post divorce with 4 other previous therapists only took care of some of the symptoms but never got to the root cause of the problems, something I kept asking these therapists. None of them gave me clear answers. None recommended me to get help with therapy for myself. None even mentioned the word trauma at all! CS was the first person who mentioned the word trauma and strongly recommend that I build some solid emotional foundation for myself. That was a prerequisite to enable me to effectively help and support my children’s effort to become emotionally and psychologically healthy and strong.

I took up his suggestion in pursuing EMDR therapy based on his reading and understanding of EMDR (6). I went on and sought help in this therapy about which I never heard of, administered by an EMDRIA certified therapist, as quickly as I could. Well, finding one locally in Albany who would take insurance, has availability for the proper age, pronto, was impossible. It sometimes takes a few trials and errors to find a therapist with matching chemistry, the right fit. I finally found a therapist for myself on self pay. With her exceptional and amazing psychotherapy skills, she administered the first EMDR session on me after 3 evaluation and preparatory visits. The EMDR therapy helped me jump start rewiring my brain in forming a new habit of processing life situations and regulating my emotions. It’s all scientific. It’s biology, yet it feels like a miracle. Based on my experience, I think EMDR is a catalyst. There are many schools of thoughts among certified EMDRIA therapists. With insights into this field, CS helped me evaluate and assess the quality of the therapy throughout the entire process, a very important factor in our healing efforts due to the amount of time and cost commitment.

As miraculous as it sounds, EMDR is not a silver bullet. It does help dig up and dissolve thick layers of unrealized, painful  memories lodged improperly in our brain. But life goes on filled with events, situations, moments that need to be dealt with, many can be quite unpleasant. At this point in my life, parenting is the most challenging endeavor I have to take on. I spent the majority of my life fighting for good education, good career, relationship, marriage, and child rearing to prove my self worth. Though it did bring many good fortune to our lives, it wasn’t for free. I suddenly realized the long term cost of the good fortune: lack of inner peace and serenity in everyone in my family. Since the birth of my first child, I’ve always identified myself as a Mom. Well, a roaring machine would’ve been a more accurate description of my old self.

The Beauty of ‘Meditation on Breathing’
We apply the practice of physical care to our daily lives for better mental hygiene and stronger immunity. When we are sick, we go to the doctor to get help to get better. Our mental wellness needs the same amount of care. Dalai Lama uses the term mental immunity. Daily practice is the keyword. My daily practice of breathing meditation turned out to be one way I nurture my mental hygiene. The beauty of the breathing meditation that I learned and practiced is that you don’t have to dedicate a huge block of time which is the stumbling block for most aspirants like me. There is no pressure on my schedule, and I don’t feel like I ever miss a day of meditation. I can do it throughout the day (7). Some days I can only afford 10 minutes before bedtime. I started forming a habit of snagging the few seconds or minutes of focusing on breathing while walking, while driving, warming up my lunch in the microwave, etc. CS cleared out so many misconceptions around the meditation practice that brought me back to his page “Who said Meditation is difficult? (8). To sum it up: no pretzel legs required, don’t strive for anything, drop the word “should”, no formality, all casual.

Getting It Off My Chest by Writing
James Pennebaker discovered the connection between expressive writing and wellness (9). I discovered that expressive writing, as encouraged by CS, had been a useful tool in helping me navigate through my emotion and help me gain clarity on the true reality of my experiences. Writing letters to my children to address some critical issues is a powerful and effective tool I used to connect and reach out to them at a much deeper level. Writing emails or texting with CS about updates of the healing work we did apparently was also therapeutic. It gives me a sense of cleansing work. Ideas keep pouring out as I type. Of course not everything I typed made it out of my mobile device, so for those who don’t find it easy to open up about their personal and emotional struggles to others, expressive writing is worth trying. Yes, the books recommend that you use paper and pen, but for so many reasons, those prerequisites would just give me another excuse for why I won’t feel like doing it. Improvise, make it easy. We are all busy.

Audio Books
I started reading a few self-help books a few years ago. Having a coach like CS adds another dimension and depth into my understanding and ability to apply the concepts I learn from these books. No, I do not have time to sit down and enjoy good readings. Thank goodness for modern technology and CS’s persistent encouragement, I’m hooked on audiobooks now. I look forward to driving nowadays as I use the precious time alone for listening to audiobooks and focusing on breathing. Today, I have more than 15 audio books in my library (10). It is amazing how thirsty my mind is for good life lessons on nurturing and healing our emotional pain and suffering.

Parenting Skills
For the first time in my life, I have someone teaching me parenting skills. A luxury I never thought of even wishing to have since both my parents were deceased before my first child turned three. CS stayed by my side through frequent dialog via phone calls, text, and emails, as I could not find time for counseling visits. A fundamental lesson I learned is to understand the true meaning and the misconceptions around the term unconditional love and boundaries. Applying all of these with compassion makes a difference in supporting my children’s struggles and efforts to navigate through many aspects of their life challenges. Raising successful individuals which could generate lots of stress and anxiety is no longer my goal of parenting. Helping my children with increased awareness to develop into wholesome individuals is the new goal.

Many of us are skeptics when it comes to the notion of spirituality. We associate it with the metaphysics world, or even religion. Those of us who were raised in Western education environments cling to the idea of scientific proof. Well, there have been an explosion of scientific research activities all over the world on the neuroscience of breathing meditation; which I could have cared less about, except that the result of my own practice proved some of the theories drawn as conclusions from this research. In the very short period of time, I have had exposures to the fields of neuropsychology, quantum physics, the science of meditation, and the anatomy of human mind and emotions. I found newer and deeper meanings in the words compassion, hope, love, and many others.

The Transformation
Fast forward 4 months. some of my friends, and  my own children noticed the change in me. Calmer, happier, more mellow, are the words I heard which were used to describe the ‘New me’. One used the word light and floating. CS described me as a ‘tigress’ on the first day he saw me. “You can’t change others, but you can change how you respond to others” was one of the first lessons I learned from him. There is a good chance that others will change in response to your changes. Sure enough my children are changing with me.

The journey has just begun. Glimpses of inner peace and serenity started appearing more and more throughout my days. The thick, heavy blanket of toxic emotion has started to lift off, little by little. “Light”, as in ‘”not heavy”, is the closest word I can think of to describe how I feel nowadays. Sure, frustration and disappointments are inevitable but I can now stop the emotional flow from turning into anger. The need to seek help from my therapist on a weekly basis starts to wind down. I am becoming more and more capable of dealing with challenges in my life with grace.

Today, my children and I are travelling together on the path of recovery to healthier relationships through collective awareness. I realize that this is a life long learning process. Having a person with such positive vibes who models compassion alongside of me makes learning so much more effective and fun!

CS may not give you the straight answers to every life problem you face. However, I receive many pointers as listed above, as well as suggestions on readings about and using essential oils. One time I unintentionally called him GPS!  He stated the teachers are literally everywhere. All around us, at any given moment, ready for us to learn our life lessons. Some attribute this quote to the Buddha: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”.

Are You Ready?

Mom V2.0 ”

(1) The daughter was an accomplished teenager with high achievements in academic, sports, music, and art. With more than a decade of dysfunctional family condition riddled with hostility and violence that ended up in her parents divorce, she developed into an unhappy adolescent full of anxiety, depression, and phobias. The habit of coping mechanism through emotional shutdown cause her to fail to see and appreciate acts of love and kindness. She trusted no one in her life, and animosity toward everyone in the family was very strong.
(2) Pema Chodron
(3) Eckhartt Tolle
(4) Programs
(5) Focusing on breathing
(6) EMDR
(7) Daytime practice
(8) Who said Meditation is difficult?
(9) James Pennebaker
(10) My List of Inspiring Authors and Books

Eckhart Tolle: The Power of Now
Brene Brown: Rising Strong, Daring Greatly
Pema Chodron: Making Friends with Your Mind, Coming Closer to Ourselves, The Pema Chodron Audio Collection
Marianne Williamson: A Return to Love
Don Miguel Ruiz: The Four Agreements
Douglas Carlton Abrams, Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu: The Book of JOY
Mark Manson: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
Kerry Paterson: Crucial Conversations
Mark Goulston: Just Listen, Talking to Crazy
Michael A. Singer: The Untethered Soul
Susan Forward: Toxic Parents
Harriet Lerner: The Dance of Anger
Francine Shapiro: Getting Past Your Past, EMDR
Wayne Dyer: The Wayne Dyer Audio Collection
Paulo Coelho: The Alchemist
Julie Lythcott-Haims: How to Raise an Adult
Cynthia Kane: How to Communicate Like a Buddhist
Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish: How to Talk So Teens Will Listen & Listen So Teens Will Talk

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