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* Seminar for kids at the Hope Club

I offered a short seminar of about 30 minutes to the kids and their coordinators and facilitators on Oct 4, 2011, at the ‘Hope club'(1). It was attended by about 10 children and 5 adults. Three of the kids had lost a parent due to cancer and other kids had a cancer survivor as a parent. The proceeding at the seminar is summarized below.

The participants introduced themselves. I demonstrated the ‘Tip Mode’ (2) to them, using one hand. We all practiced together, on one hand, counting the breaths aloud. They did one hand, counting aloud while I was watching their finger movements. Then they alone practiced the technique, till they completed 4 hands (alternating both hands), counting the breaths silently. They were given the choice of keeping the eyes open or closed. Most of them practiced eyes closed. The practice lasted for about  5 minutes. When they opened their eyes all the faces were smiling! This is a common observation.

I asked each participant to share with the group how he or she felt about the experience. They said that they felt relaxed or calm or good.

I asked each of them to share when they intend to use the technique.  Most of them said they would use the technique at bed time. Other ideas were – on waking up, when angry and when stressed.

I distributed a 2 page hand out of the technique “Calm yourself anywhere, anytime” (3), to every participant and the ‘Relax Anywhere, Anytime’ hand out (4) to the adults.

One adult asked whether the breathing should be deep or normal. I clarified that one should breathe normally. One should watch the in and out breaths like watching the waves in the ocean, sitting on the beach. This breathing is a passive observation of the in and out breaths, unlike Yoga breathing, in which the breathing is to be regulated, to meet given guidelines. The facilitators said they would reinforce the practice on the days the kids meet at the club. They would try it during the transitions from one activity to another.

We agreed to meet again after a month, to review the practice and share individual experiences. The tentative date set is Nov 1, 2011.

(1) The Hope club is located at 1 Penny Lane Latham NY 12110 is a part of the American Cancer Society. It offers free programs to support individuals suffering from cancer and their families, including children. I volunteered to offer my periodic seminars and follow up classes at this place to help its members with support from Tracy Pitcher the Director. The children’s programs are coordinated by Alana Streifert.
(2) How can I do it?
(3) Calm yourself anywhere, anytime
(4) How to be calm Anywhere, Anytime
(5) Report on the follow up visit

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* I rebuilt my broken spirit

This is a testimonial from Eva (not her real name) who attended 8 of my classes over 5 months (6). It illustrates many lessons in getting out of the grip of a verbal or emotional abuser, not a physical abuser.

  • It is a dramatic model on how a person can break the spell of the abuser  and lead a stress free life. Daily contact with that person may be unavoidable. The abuser may be abusing verbally or emotionally.  The abuser may be a boss, spouse, parent, friend or any other.
  • It proves the saying  “You can’t change others. You can only change your response to their behavior.” and the related one “When I change myself, the World changes.”
  • It proves the spiritual saying “When the student is ready the teacher appears”
  • And surprise! The abuser may turn around!

See more of my comments at the end.

The report
“I suppose it was the end of May 2011 because the 10 foot high snow banks at the end of the parking lot had finally melted. I think it was a Monday or a Tuesday. Back then, I didn’t really focus on real- time. I simply prayed to get through each day. Each and every new morning presented itself with tremendous anxiety, demanding self-preparedness to battle with my verbally and emotionally abusive boss. I had been dealing with his relentlessly abusive behavior over the last two years. I was daily confronted with humiliation, degrading, argumentative, embarrassing control tactics, accusations, and lies. Me responding with anxiety, fear, tears, withdrawal, disgust and frustration. I was losing sleep, and it felt like I was constantly spinning.

I was treated by my physician for severe panic attacks and sleeplessness. My dermatologist was treating me for the red blotches, itching and welts on my face. Rock bottom came when a coworker made an unkind comment to me, back on that Monday or Tuesday. It broke my spirit to the core. I went out of the office, to the end of the long unused hallway, sat on the floor with my arms wrapped around my knees. I soaked from my tears. What was happening to me? How do I stop this monster of a boss from making me feel like this?

I figured I had two choices – fight or flight. I pulled myself together and went back to the office. I prayed to the angels to please give me some kind of a sign.

A few days before, I planned to attend the seminar by C S (Suryanarayana Chennapragada) on ‘Focusing on breathing’  at the local library, but I couldn’t make it. On coming to know about my interest from my coworker, CS offered the classes at his office. I saw CS that day.

He patiently let me unload everything that was making my life miserable. He taught me the different breathing methods to control stress and help with relaxation (5). He made me practice the techniques briefly sitting in his office.

I experienced a sense of calmness almost immediately. I could feel my tense shoulders drop. In his weekly classes he shared with me his own life experiences and some healing thoughts (1). I began to understand things in a whole different way. I knew I was 100 feet under water but after a few sessions with CS, I knew I had crawled up by 10 feet, inch by inch.

I had a long way to go but I knew I was on the right path. I practiced the techniques every day and several times a day when things got bad. I could thus create my own calmness to some degree. I created sanity in my work space by including things I love and a few ‘props’ from C S, to insulate me from further emotional trauma (2).

After several months and many visits later. I can honestly say that I am ‘riding the waves’ instead of drowning underneath them (3). I have learned so much from the relaxation techniques and guidance from C S,  that now I recognize the bad behavior before it comes to me. I learned how to respond to it in appropriate ways, to throw “IT” (the ‘bug’, meaning the abusive behavior) back and put the fire out before it burns me (4).

I had a revelation not too long ago inspired by the experiences C S shared with me. It became clear to me, that I was causing my own frustration because I was expecting my boss to change into someone he could never be. I realized that I could only change myself. I had to only keep my mind clear without confusion and my heart clean without any negative intention or attitude. I am now stronger, more confident and more aware of my own being. I am a better person now. When confronted with difficulties and bad behavior at work, I know I am going to get even better. I have eliminated all expectations about him! I feel can do this! I keep a small sign on my desk with a chant that CS introduced to me. It reminds me frequently that my boss’s abusive behavior is not because something is wrong with me. The sign has the letters “koerauoyavE”. It does not make sense to any other person. I am the only one who knows that reading it backwards, it gives me the healing message “Eva you are OK” (I am OK, it is my boss who is suffering from the ‘blame bug’).”

The report ends happily here!

Some unexpected developments
My boss realized that I was not cowering anymore when he behaved intimidatingly. On the other hand, he saw me replying to his accusations calmly, boldly and factually, looking into his eyes, all the time. He then changed his behavior dramatically. He started behaving like an immature child and making jokes, trying to make up with me! Unbelievable!” “A few days back, at the end of the day, I asked him “Doc! are we closing the office?”. He replied “You tell me.” I said “You are the boss. You are the one to decide.” He said “No. You are the boss!”. Imagine this one coming from the micromanaging and intimidating boss who used to say in all petty matters of the office “I am the boss. You have to follow whatever I say.” What a transformation!”


My comments

Eva is an unique personality, unlike any others with whom I worked so far. In her past career she always had kind and caring bosses. This abusive boss was a great shock to her.

She instantly grasped the concepts and techniques I shared with her, internalized them and used them right away, to manage the situation on hand. She benefited remarkably from the stories and articles that I shared with her in the classes.

After a few weeks of practicing the breathing and the new thought processes, she discarded her previous practice of wearing the green smock to the office, like a medial staff. She wore the normal office dress like a receptionist, with pride. This small step boosted her morale, one notch.

(1) She quickly absorbed the messages of these stories/articles and ideas and practiced them in real life.

  • “He insulted me” on how we can refuse to receive the insult being thrown at us or internalize it.
  • “The walker who laughed at A, B and C” on how we think we have some problem, instead of the abusive person.
  • “The blamer is hit with the blame bug” due to which he can’t help displaying the symptoms of blaming disease.
  • “My brother Ramu dies at the age of 10” describing how my unrealistic expectation was the cause for my suffering.
  • “We do not see the first parts of people’s lives” making  judgments of other people, based on their current behavior, without knowing the experiences they were subjected to till that point of time.
  • “To speak or not, to act or not” illustrating that as long I have a clear mind without confusion and a clean heart without negative emotions, I can speak and act appropriately without being afraid of any one, including GOD.
  • Unrealistic expectations sap our motivation and abort our attempts at making small forward moving changes in our routine. The president of an African country was asked by a journalist to describe the achievements of his government. He said ”My dear friend, I am not in the happy position of seeing what heights I have reached. I only see from what depths I am coming up!”. The personal change process is such that we may not experience any waves of happiness even after many many years of practice. The few daring people that attempt this process have to sustain their efforts and draw deep inspiration from the tiny reductions in their daily suffering.

(2) I helped Eva in creating reassuring and calming props, right in front of her, while sitting in her chair, in spite of any objections by her boss. This was also to break the spell of controlling and being controlled, under which both her boss and she lived, for more than two years. She also had to demonstrate her right to arrange her undisputed physical zone as she liked, without being challenged by her boss.

  • I described the story “He insulted me” using my pen for practical demonstration and at the end, gave her the same pen to take with her and place it right in front of her on the desk. This pen would remind her of the message of this story during the abusive interactions of the day, thus protecting her from distress.
  • I used a piece of crumpled paper to represent the bug in the story “The blamer is hit with the blame bug” and asked her to keep it on her desk, to remind her that her boss could not help behaving abusively because he was having the blame bug in his head.
  • I made a card in the shape of an inverted V (like a name sign used in meetings) and wrote “koerauoyawE” on it with a colored sketch pen. This was the message “Eva you are ok” written backwards as one word, so that only she could decipher the hidden message. Whenever her boss made a statement putting her down, she looked at this card lying on her desk, reminding her she was OK and it was her boss who had the bug (problem). Looking at this message helped her shake off the negative messages about her that her boss was trying to inject into her mind. Her coworkers saw the card and asked what was the meaning of that word. She quietly smiled in reply.
  • I asked her if she had any plants or flowers on her desk or around her, to look at and care for, as her own. She said her boss did not like any such things. I said this is a very good chance to assert her right by bringing some flowers from her garden or buy a small plant in a pot and keep it on her desk. She followed these suggestions.
  • She heard western classical music being played in our office when she came to the classes. She remarked that it was very calming whereas the music channel in her office radio blared hard drum sounds and disturbed her as well as the patients sitting in the waiting room. I asked her to change the station to classical music. She was not sure he would allow it but she made the change anyway without his noticing it, to her great relief. Listening to this soothing music all the time also contributed to reducing her stress.

(3) A spiritual teacher said that the meditative techniques like ‘Focusing on breathing’ do not eliminate the problems which are a part of life. But they help us manage them without getting distressed. He said  “You can’t avoid the big waves coming at you. But you can use the meditative techniques as a surf board and ride over the waves”.

(4) Her boss was throwing the blame (bug) at her and she now learned how to throw it back at him, instead of getting infected by that bug. She protected herself from being infected by the blaming disease that her boss was suffering from.

(5) Six different modes of ‘Focusing on breathing’

(6) Seminars and classes 

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* Feedback from the seminar at the ‘Hope Club’ of the American Cancer Society’s the Capital Region

This seminar was attended by 7 women and one man. The one hour seminar was curtailed to 45 minutes, as I reached the venue late, due to an accident to another car on the road. Feedback could be collected from 7 participants as one person left earlier.

The seminar was …..

  • Excellent – 5
  • Very good – 2

I will use this technique to relieve my (concern)………….

  • Sleeplessness, anxiety and stress level
  • Insomnia, Arthritis
  • Insomnia
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Asthma, Insomnia
  • Asthma, Arthritis
  • Sleep

Comments/ Suggestions about the class (if any)……….

  • Very informative
  • Very clearly explained
  • Excellent presentation. I would like to have more sessions on breathing.
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* Helped in focusing and reduced stress during a long exam

A patient of my daughter Padma Sripada M.D attended my seminar at the East Greenbush Community Library on May 4, 2011. I met her again today when we both participated at a seminar on ‘Mindfulness’. At the end of the seminar, she sought me out and said happily “I want to to share with you my recent experience with ‘focusing on breathing’. Recently I had a long civil service exam of 8 hours, sitting at a school desk. It was very stressful. I frequently practiced the ‘focusing on breathing’ technique during this exam. I used the counting mode and 911 modes a lot. It reduced my stress and helped me focus.”

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Related pages
Improving Concentration and Focus – Success stories

* Useful for women in labor

I offered a complementary seminar for two couples taking lessons from Emily Marynczak, a childbirth educator (1). Her feedback after the seminar –

“Thank you very very much for your session last night. I personally have benefited so much form your techniques and I know that my clients have too. I will continue to discuss how well your techniques apply to labor. The concept of using the fingers to ‘anchor the mind’ is very promising for use in labor. Your “911″ remedy (2) for a stubbed toe is something that I teach for labor just with a different name. I also teach women to vocalize their exhalations- to release the power of the contraction- we practice open loud powerful wailing sounds to release the breath and any fears. A kind of birth song- but ultimately just a simple breath technique. I think that perhaps counting breaths, 1,2 3, 1, 2, 3 out loud may also be helpful to some women in labor. I am so enthralled with the simplicity and freedom inherent in your approach- It is freedom and simplicity that I strive to teach in my birth education work.

Subsequent comment:
I continue to refer my clients to your web site. We often practice together in my classes. I too look forward to a time when these techniques are main stream.”

(1) Emily Marynczak, AAHCC and Bradley Method Certified Birth Instructor #(518) 478-0062. (AAHCC is for American Association for Husband Coached Childbirth)
(2) 911 mode of ‘focusing on breathing’

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I would like to continue hearing about your program

Received this mail from a participant who attended my seminar at the Department of Environmental Conservation New York State a few years back.

“I have been following your counting breaths strategy (1) for sometime and find it very helpful.  I will be leaving DEC at the end of September and would like to continue hearing about your program.  Could you please add my new e-mail address to your contact list.”

(1) How can I focus on breathing?

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