Tag-Archive for » focus «

Seminar – Venture Inward

I offered the second seminar at ‘Venture Inward’ (2) on June 18, 2014 from 7 to 8.30 pm. This was set up by Margaret Kaufman owner of this business and a Hypnotherapist. Attended by total 5 adults, 4 female and 1 male. A set of my key handouts (1) was distributed to every participant. 

Scanned images of the feedback forms (without names)

Summary of the Feedback

I knew about this seminar from 

  • E-mail from ‘Venture Inward’ – 4
  • My mother. The sticker “Focusing on breathing’ was on her fridge. (Her mom attended my previous seminar and collected the sticker at the end of the class.)

My expectation from the seminar is fulfilled to level 

  • A+: 4
  • A: 1

I will use this technique for my (concern) 

  • Anger/ Frustration – 1
  • Stress, Panic, Parkinsons
  • Worrying, excessive thinking, stressful situations, everyday
  • Focus, Relax, High blood pressure
  • Help with focus for meditation

My take home from this seminar

  • How easy it is to share with my clients, family and friends! I will use it during my stressful meetings as well.
  • Valuable info.
  • I became very relaxed. This contradicts the saying “If it seems to be too good to be true, it usually is.”. Great class.
  • Wonderful portable relaxation technique to help detach from daily stresses. Great suggestions as how to incorporate into daily life easily and how to make it a daily practice.
  • I can control the situations with the breathing techniques.

I recommend this technique to other groups (name the group)

  • Senior citizens – Albany senior citizens & Colonie senior centers
  • School for special Ed classes

(1) Documents for download – for all the handouts
(2) ‘Venture Inward’ at 568 Columbia Turnpike East Greenbush NY 12061

Related pages
Public Seminars

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@ 9th Grader with ADHD improves

Prakash (not his real name), a 9th grader with ADHD attended 8 of my classes over 5 months (1) . He has been attending special classes at school. His class performance was reported to be very good. His mom was averse to medication and wanted to try ‘focusing on breathing’ and related techniques to help improve his symptoms (2). He is my first client with ADHD. 

Prakash, his mom and younger brother in 6th grade jointly attended first 5 classes. Then he continued with solo classes.

What were his problems?
Anxiety, Anger, Impatience, Stress, Lack of focus, Nervousness, Frustration, Uncontrolled laughter and Lack of eye contact.

What modes did he practice?
First I introduced the regular modes of ‘focusing on breathing’. He liked them but the restless movement of his body and uncontrolled laughter ware not showing much reduction. On a hunch, I introduced the ‘Dynamic modes of ”focusing on breathing’ as an experiment (3). He liked these techniques a lot and practiced them on his own with very little prompting from his mom.

When did he practice?
Bedtime, Waking up, waiting, Stressed, Walking, Tired

His mom’s assessment of his improvements.

Anxiety: Reduced by 60%

Impatience: Reduced by 50%

Focus: Improved by 70%

His younger brother in 6th grade wrote his own impressions with the permission of his mother during the evaluation session.  

Anxiety: Decreased a little   

Patience
Before: He couldn’t wait
Now: He entertains himself doing the 911 mode and enjoys it.

Focus
Before: He couldn’t make eye contact. His head always faced the window.
Now: This is slowly decreasing.

Frustration
Before: When he was mad, he was yelling and out of control.
Now: This is slowly decreasing.

He does some chanting/ prayers taught to him by his grandma. He has been taking 1000 mg of EPA+DHA per day in the form of Fish oil on my suggestion.

I added waking up  routine and simple stretching and moving based on Yoga to his daily routines (4).

(1) ADHD – Page from National Institute of Mental Health 
(2) How can I focus on breathing?
(3) Dynamic modes
(4) Waking up routine    Loosening exercises – Yoga

Updates:
Feb 9, 2014: His mom said that in he recent PTA meeting with Prakash’s maths teacher, she said his focus improved and he could be put in regular class instead of the special class next year.

April 19, 2014: During the class 2 weeks back, his mom said his behavior was sometimes out of control at home. He was in the habit of pinching her and his younger brother and apologizing soon after. But he did nothing of that kind at school or outside. I told her privately his out of home behavior showed he had enough self awareness and self control with other people. I advised her that if he pinched her next time she should immediately tell him firmly “I don’t like to be pinched”. She should not get angry or blame him or comment on him at all.

Today when I called her to know how this new response to his pinching was working she said it had drastically reduced and she was happy for this improvement.

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@ The beginning of a journey

Feedback from a remarkable client, a Chiropractor who attended 4 of my classes over a period of 6 weeks. Immediately after the the first class, he reported big changes in his way of looking at daily experiences and his new style of responding to them. 

“It began with a chance meeting with a stranger, leading into a conversation of meditation and counting breaths (1).

Shortly thereafter, I was called to action after a road rage incident prompted me to move forward with exploring the possibility of living in the moment, being aware of all my actions.

Since beginning counting breaths (2) I began to notice the color of the autumn leaves for the first time in over 50 years.

An inner peace was overcoming me while driving to the extent the radio playing my favorite music was perceived as noise.

At home, a more peaceful time was experienced, reading rather than watching the television. A sense of clarity and focus began to evolve.

My leisure time now is spent in quiet, conscious of breath with a sense of awareness I have not experienced in the past.

I’ve become comfortable with peaceful time, reading, which is now part of my daily life.

My counting breaths these days consist of calming and happy thoughts. I no longer think about the past or worry about the future. I work on living in the present, experiencing what happens in the now.

Through ongoing practice, awareness and an internal peace have been the one of the greatest accomplishment in my personal life…..and the journey continues.”

(1) This is another classic instance of ‘everything falling in place’ when the person is ready for change. As he explained in person – let me call him Frank, (not his real name), was at a party and heard two other people talking about meditation and counting breaths and joined the conversation. One of them – let me call him Alfred (not his real name) talked about my classes and techniques. Frank was interested and gave his e-mail ID to Alfred for sending my reference. Frank did not get the e-mail. But for some mysterious reason, Alftred followed up with something unusual. He printed his e-mail message and mailed it to Frank. When Frank got my information, he visited this website and felt this is something he would like to try. He has been coming to my classes and “thus began his journey” into the world of reality!
(2) How Can I Focus On Breathing? For different modes of breathing.

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@ Mindfulness at Robert C. Parker School

Here is a wonderful blog by Meg Taylor Head of Robert C. Parker School (1) on how the school is introducing mindfulness in various modes. Focusing on breathing (2) is a popular mode in the elementary grades, now being extended to the middle school.

” Learning to channel attention to productive tasks, to sustain motivation when work becomes demanding, and to handle the frustrations of sharing, learning, and communicating with peers are skills that depend on the ability to understand and manage emotions.

As one part of our effort to help children build emotional resiliency and self control, we use mindfulness techniques with them every day. Our faculty has worked with C S Rao (3), a grandparent in our school, to learn a form of breathing (2) that allows us to quickly relax and tune out distractions. He calls it ‘Counting Breaths’ (2) and it has the effect of feeding oxygen to the brain, calming emotions, clearing a busy mind, and giving a sense of peace and focus.

Teachers have adapted CS’s ideas for classroom practice. In Pre K 3, a chime is rung and children breathe smoothly and quietly, as the chime sound diminishes.

In Pre K 4, students use the image of falling leaves while they breathe.

In K-1, Liliana has adopted the language “going into your silence” as children sit quietly in both mind and body and breath slowly.

Grade 2-3’s practice taking five slow clearing breaths as do the 4-5’s. (4)

This year middle school teachers are going to teach the students CS’s method of using the fingers to count breaths. As CS says, the technique can be used anytime – when you can’t sleep at night, or if you are feeling anxious (5). And it works! I use it in the middle of the night when my mind is racing (6).

The effect with children is very positive. They have a strategy to calm themselves that they can use anywhere. It is a great tool for successfully negotiating frustrations, stress and anxiety and gaining attentiveness and focus. Having the ability to be mindful gives children confidence that they can handle difficult things (7). That is a gift for any individual.

You can read more in this complex and fascinating article “Why Teaching Mindfulness Benefits Students’ Learning”, in Mind/Shift (8).”

(1) Perspectives on Parker Blogspot
(2) How Can I Focus On Breathing?
(3) Suryanarayana Chennapragada
(4) Breathing breaks in the classroom – Report by Lynn Schuster
(5) Daytime practice
(6) How to Enjoy Quality Sleep and Conquer Insomnia?
(7) Benefits for Mind, Body and Relationships
(8) “Why Teaching Mindfulness Benefits Students’ Learning”  Post in Mind/Shift

Related pages
Training children

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@ The river is your life! – Alfred’s progress

See (1) to know about Alfred. 

“Imagine a beautiful and wild river.  As you travel down it in your boat, you encounter fearsome rapids and long reaches of calm water.  Rain pelts down on you chilling you to the bone and the sun warms you like a snake on a rock.  At night, the forests along the banks, which were so beautiful by day, can become dark moving shadows, mysterious and unsettling.  The river has so many faces, boring and exciting, beautiful and treacherous.  It goes on and on ever downward, never revealing its final destination.

The river is your life.  The boat, which enables you to navigate the river, is your thoughts .  Now imagine you come upon a tranquil glade by the river-side.  You pull your boat to the river bank and tie it securely to a tree.  You sit in the glade and focus on the present, filling your heart with peace and calmness.  You can hear the river gurgling nearby but now you do not have to think about it.  If you do have a worrisome thought about the next rapids or rain storm, you can put that thought into the boat knowing it is securely tied to the bank and is safe.  You can allow yourself this present moment on the bank in the sun, knowing that life, with all its beauty and challenges will be there when you return.

When you return to the river, it will be with new calmness which will not only help you better navigate the rapids but also appreciate the infinite beauty around you which so often is missed.”

(1) Alfred

All his posts

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@ “Thoughts are like dead leaves blowing in the wind” – Alfred’s progress

See (1) to know about Alfred. 

Practices

I had begun to worry about some aches and pains in my neck and hips and so I met with Elisa Cotroneo, a yoga teacher and somatic movement specialist. She was great and gave me some good advice on modifying my morning routine. I have begun to implement these changes and am already feeling an improvement. I have continued to develop the asana which I made up and am finding ever deeper relaxation from its practice.

Regarding your suggestion about extending the sitting meditation
It is interesting because I have begun to do that as a sort of natural progression.  When I find an asana (yoga posture) that makes me particularly tranquil, I will stop counting and continue the pose for some time.  I think these extended time frames are usually only 10-15 minutes now because that is about how long my total meditation time has increased.

Ideas

The Tree Metaphor
When meditating try to experience all those things a tree experiences- the touch of a breeze, sunshine, bird song, roots reaching into the earth, branches to the sky, the weight of being. Avoid all those human overlays such as anger, anticipation, and regret.

Thoughts  vs Ideas
Because we cannot just turn our minds off (and it would be dangerous if we did) I have begun to differentiate between thoughts and ideas as I meditate. My definition of a thought is that it is a fragment of an idea. Thoughts come and go, some good, some bad, like dead leaves blowing in the wind. An idea is a whole thing. It can stand alone like a large smooth rock on the ground. It can be looked at from different sides. The glue that holds an idea together is intuition. Here is an example of an idea – that the tranquility experienced from meditation is a baseline. To achieve tranquility is simply opening a door to a new space. The exploration of that space is what counts. When I meditate I concentrate on that idea (as well as my breath, my body sensations and my state of mindfulness). Keeping that idea in focus allows me to ward off distracting thoughts and achieve tranquility more efficiently.

Results
  • I took a long and stressful (busy traffic and bad weather) car trip helping my son move into a new apartment in Brooklyn. The rented van had extremely uncomfortable seats and we drove for over 7 hours. I used body awareness techniques I have learned from my asanas and ended the trip with no residual body stiffness.
  • I find myself striking up conversations with strangers or people who I hardly know more often.
  • Also, I think I am listening to other people better.

(1) Alfred

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Related posts: Alfred’s progress

@ Seminar at the Bethlehem Central Middle School

I offered the first seminar at this school library on May 15, 2013. It was organized by the Bethlehem Healthy Kids Committee. Anna McMahon, a member of this committee and great supporter of this technique was instrumental in setting this up. Seven women, two men and two girls attended. I distributed select handouts from my website to the adults and children. (1) 

 Adults – Feedback

Scanned images of the feedback forms

I came to know about this seminar from

  • Anna McMahon – 2 responses
  • Healthy Kids Committee – 2
  • Husband/ Healthy Kids Committee
  • Posters at the school
  • Times Union – Bethlehem Blog
  • Healthy Kids Committee Face book post

The seminar was …

  • Very useful –  8
  • Useful – 1

I will use this technique to relieve my (concern)

  • Sleep, Stress
  • Sleep and Relaxation
  • Sleep, Stress
  • Stress at work and Insomnia
  • Stress reduction
  • Stress, Anger and Relaxation
  • Headaches, Anxiety, Stress I have with my family
  • Anxiety, Panic
  • Self and Wife

Comments/ Suggestions (if any)

  • I want to practice this and feel better.
  • Wonderful. Very excited to start working on this and looking at your website!
  • Great Presentation.
  • Very practical and user friendly. I look forward to practicing it.
  • I am really looking forward to trying this with stress and sleep.
  • Very helpful. I feel very relaxed after practicing this technique.
  • I had been feeling tense all day, but now I am feeling more relaxed.
  • Helpful. I have used other counting breaths methods but this simplifies the process so the focus is not so much on counting that you forget to breathe and just enough focus on counting and breathing to keep your mind from wandering.
  • Very practical. Great tips and modifications.
 Children – Feedback

Scanned images of the feedback forms

I am in ….

  • Grade 5
  • Grade 4
When I practiced the breathing I felt …
  • Happy, at peace and slightly sleepy
  • Calm and sleepy
I want to try this technique when I….
  • Can’t go to sleep
  • Am stressed at school
I think this practice will help me for ….
  • Sleeping and keeping my cool
  • Going to sleep

(1) Documents for download

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Please send your comments  through the ‘ABOUT – Contact’ page.

Parent page: Past seminars

@ Stress-relief, as easy as 1,2,3

This is a reproduction of the blog post in the Times Union Newspaper by Anna McMahon (1) who is a practitioner of this technique and also its great supporter. She was instrumental in organizing my seminar at the Bethlehem Central Middle School on May 15, 2013. I am grateful to her for the wonderful encouragement.

____________________________________________________________________

Stress-relief, as easy as 1,2,3
Tuesday, May 7, 2013 by: Anna McMahon

Free presentation: Focusing on Breathing, at Bethlehem Central Middle School (Library Media Center)
Wednesday May 15, 2013 7-8 pm

Presented by Suryanarayana Chennapragada (“C.S.”), at the invitation of Bethlehem Healthy Kids Committee.

We all know that modern life is stressful. Work pressures, school pressures, family and relationship pressures…everyone suffers stresses of one kind or another, and too much stress can lead to health issues such as headaches, insomnia, anxiety or panic attacks.

Relief may be at hand – literally. With the Focusing on Breathing technique (2), instructor Suryanarayana Chennapragada (“C.S” for short), demonstrates how stressful thoughts and feelings can be brought under control through a simple process of focused breathing, using the fingers as counters. No pills, no special equipment, no mystical concepts. If it sounds ridiculously simple, well, it is! Even young children can learn it, and people of any age can practice it.

My personal experience includes using the technique successfully to get to sleep, and to calm myself in anxious situations. A good friend of mine has found relief from debilitating chronic insomnia. On C.S.’s website you will find testimonials from people who have used the technique to overcome numerous problems, including quitting smoking, improving blood pressure, building self-confidence and increasing focus for work or study.

Everyone is welcome to attend the one-hour seminar hosted by Bethlehem Healthy Kids Committee. Come and try the technique, and see if it works for you. You have nothing to lose but your stress!

____________________________________________________________________

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(1) Blog link
(2) How to be calm Anywhere, Anytime (24)
(3) Testimonials 2012 (24)

@ Improved on Stress, Pains and Weight

Improvements reported by a client who attended my 10 classes over last one year.

Stress: Reduced by 80%

Fibromylagia pains: Reduced by 35%

Focus: Improved by 25%

Weight: Reduced by 9 lbs.

Diet: I do think differently about the food I’m eating. I try to make better choices when shopping for food.

Her previous feedback
Aware of diet, meditation and prayer

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* Calmed myself on a scary air flight

This is the first report of its kind. Emily Marynczak (1) shared with me how she used the segment mode of ‘focusing on breathing’ (2) to keep herself calm for about 2 hours, during a scary air flight.

“A year ago I was traveling back home from Ohio. The flight was scheduled to be about two hours long and the weather seemed clear. But shortly after take off, the pilot announced that there was some windy weather that we would have to contend with and he was going to keep the fasten seat belt sign on, until things calmed down. And then the bouncing begun. It felt like the plane would suddenly randomly drop down a few feet – taking everyone’s stomach with it. It felt like the plane was being tossed to and fro- and then up and down. We had non stop turbulence for the entire flight, it was terrifying. (I don’t like flying even on a good day!) It would have been truly horrific for me, had I not had the mental focus that came from ‘counting my breaths’ (2). When the plane first began to bounce, I had my book on my lap but with the first big bounce, my fear began to rise and I was unable to concentrate on my reading. I was starting to feel a bit of panic surface. It was clear that all the people around me were getting very afraid too. I could hear audible gasps with the bigger drops we felt. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to cope.

Then really from a place of desperation, I decided to try ‘counting my breaths’ (2). I needed to focus on something other than the scary thoughts about a plane crash.

I closed my book, closed my eyes and placed my hands comfortably on my lap. I started using the ‘segment mode’ of ‘counting breaths with my left hand (3).

As I finished, I was noticeably calmer. I realized that while I had given my mind the task of moving my fingers with each breath, my mind was occupied and therefore there was no time to worry about the plane falling from the sky. I was so focused on my breathing and my task of moving my fingers that I couldn’t even really take in the stress of the people around me.

I continued counting my breaths in this manner, for the duration of the flight. Every now and then, if the plane leveled off and the winds calmed, I would stop, open my eyes and take in my environment. I took great comfort from knowing that if the wind picked up, I would have a way to cope, something concrete to do that would really help. Sure enough, the winds would pick up and like my life depended on it, I would resume my breath awareness, always starting with my thumb going to my pinky at the top segment. Two hours later, we landed safely.

The passengers on the plane cheered loudly, as they released their stress. As we were getting off the plane, it was obvious that the other passengers were visibly stressed and shaken by this awful flight. But I had a unique sense of calm. I think my calm came from not only the meditative practice of concentrating on my breath and having an anchor for my thoughts with the movements of my fingers, but also from the peace that I got from just knowing that I had something to try, if I felt scared. I am forever indebted to C S (Suryanarayana Chennapragada) for sharing this powerful technique with me. I am forever empowered in my life, to cope with the inevitable stresses that will come my way.

This was the first time that I had really practiced the segment mode of counting breaths on my own.

In my work as a childbirth educator,  I practice this technique as I teach my students, once or twice a month. The version of the counting breaths technique that I had been using a lot, prior to the airplane ride, and still use several times a week, is the version of counting to three, over and over again without using the fingers at all, all in the mind (2).  I practice this technique whenever I want to go to sleep. Sometimes when I start off, I hear the voice of my inner cynic say- “this won’t help you fall asleep.” But I practice it any way and then in the morning I awake refreshed and happy. I know that counting my breaths to three really works. Incorporating the finger movements doesn’t work for me when my goal is to go to sleep. It’s too much effort to contract the muscles of my hand. But as I demonstrated in my airplane story, the extra energy of contracting my fingers in such a deliberate and focused way, was exactly what I needed to use up the extra energy created by the stress I was experiencing.

I am grateful to CS for teaching me these simple yet profound tools.

(1) Emily Marynczak, AAHCC and Bradley Method Certified Birth Instructor #(518) 478-0062. (AAHCC is for American Association for Husband Coached Childbirth)
(2) How can I focus on breathing?
(3) Segment mode’ of  counting breaths as she practiced: “I brought my thumb to the top segment of my pinky finger and with the next breath I moved my finger down to the middle segment of my pinky and with the third breath I moved my thumb to the lowest segment of my pinky finger. With the next breath, I was onto the ring finger and so on, until three segments of all ten fingers had been touched with their own breath.” Also read (2).

Related pages
Seminars and classes 

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