Mindfulness in Sobriety

Mindfulness in Sobriety

When Being Sober Isn’t Enough

A 4-Week Online Meditation and Coaching Experience

On April 18th, I decided to postpone this event until I have at least 6 participants. If you are reading this and would like to attend, please let me know by sending an email to megan@meganwmoyer.net. When I have enough people to make it happen, I’ll let you know.

I recently wrote a post titled Stay Grounded with Mindfulness and in it I mused about creating a workshop about mindfulness in sobriety and on how mindfulness can move us toward and enhance our emotional intelligence in sobriety.  Well, here it is!

Each meeting will begin and end with a mindfulness meditation and I will focus on the important early steps in identifying mindsets and blind spots that might be keeping you stuck.

If you are in recovery and can relate to this, I hope you take a look at this event and consider joining me in this work. Or, if this event isn’t for you, consider passing this on to someone who may truly benefit from the experience.

Thank you and many blessings on your journey!

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Instead of saying “I’m damaged, I’m broken, I have trust issues” say “I’m healing, I’m rediscovering myself, I’m starting over.”

~ Horacio Jones

Awakenings

I wish there was one simple recipe to guarantee an awakening that would look like a perfect chocolate soufflé. Maybe this: Start by carefully whipping up some awareness in a stainless steel bowl then gently fold in an open heart – add a dash of honesty and bake with love for 25 minutes. To keep your soufflé from falling, chill the batter as the oven pre-heats, don’t slam the oven door and don’t you dare over-bake it! What do you think?

I’m not a baker and have to admit to never, ever having tried making chocolate soufflés. I decided to read some recipes before writing this post with my clever idea to use an image of a perfect chocolate soufflé to represent awakenings and once I started reading, all sorts of lightbulbs went on. After reading several recipes with words and phrases like whisk until smooth, allow to cool slightly, beat until stiff but not dry, gently and quickly fold in and then bake until the soufflé is puffed and still slightly wet inside, I threw in the dish towel!

A perfect soufflé is NOT a good metaphor for an awakening. Now, an imperfect soufflé that has fallen and cracked a little, allowing all the chocolate to flow out still tastes as good and is more like the awakenings that I know – messy, but delicious nevertheless.

We all reach any awakening differently. Something makes us aware of a need to pay attention. Some might pay attention right away but often it takes a long time for that bothersome bit of awareness to become one of the ingredients of an awakening. Sometimes, other ingredients like pain, losses, prolonged depression, addiction or just timing are a necessary part of your recipe.

I read an article written by psychologist, Steve Taylor and he defines an ‘awakening experience’ as a temporary expansion and intensification of awareness that brings significant perceptual, affective and conceptual changes. I agree with this and remember the exact moment when my awareness turned into an awakening. I felt an immediate sense of relief and the realization of what I needed to do. At least for a moment, I didn’t feel any fear or anxiety, knowing that all would be well.

My awakening didn’t conform to any recipe that I know of or anyone else’s experience, and if I tried, I wouldn’t be able to replicate it again. If I return to my soufflé metaphor, mine would look more like brownies – definitely messy and since the baking took a few years, they’re not so soft inside but the rewards have been stunningly delicious and satisfying! My experience with awakenings has allowed me to accept them when they come, to pay attention when awareness presents itself and to let go of any need for that perfect soufflé.

Yum – I’m looking forward to more of these awakenings!

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“Awakening is not a thing. It is not a goal, not a concept. It is not something to be attained. It is a metamorphosis. If the caterpillar thinks about the butterfly it is to become, saying ‘And then I shall have wings and antennae,’ there will never be a butterfly. The caterpillar must accept its own disappearance in its transformation. When the marvelous butterfly takes wing, nothing of the caterpillar remains.”
― Alejandro Jodorowsky

Why Do I Feel This Way?

I always had this feeling of not belonging or feeling alone in a crowd – a feeling of disconnection that seemed to keep me separate and apart. Do you know this feeling?

It literally took six decades for me to learn that I felt this way and still do every now and then because of early childhood attachment problems. I was in a graduate level psychology class where one of the texts was The Neuroscience of Human Relationships by Louis Cozolino, W.W. Norton & Company, N.Y., 2014. In this text, Cozolino says, “Interpersonal neurobiology is the study of how we attach, grow, and interconnect throughout life. It is the story of how we become dysregulated and unhealthy and how we regain our emotional balance and mental health. It is also the story of how genes and environments interact to produce who we are and how we create each other through relationships, the stories we tell, and the imaginary worlds we fashion, inhabit, and explore”(page 12). He goes on to talk about all of the psychoanalysts and scientists involved in the research of attachment theory and I remember holding my breath when I realized the “why” and “how” behind my self-blaming and fear-based mind-sets – it was right before my eyes in black and white. Raised by a stern and perfectionistic mother who was dismissive and rejecting led to my long-term feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. The good news came later in the text when Cozolino says, “Thus, the powerful shaping experiences of childhood can be modified through personal relationships, psychotherapy, and increased self-awareness” (page 156).

I thought I had made tremendous improvements in my feelings of self-worth through my 12-step program and therapy but it was only by reading and studying about these earliest of childhood attachment experiences that I was truly able to let myself off the hook. It wasn’t my fault! I had spent the majority of my lifetime not understanding why I felt the way I felt and blaming and shaming myself for something that was completely out of my control.

Now what? This is my work today. Not only do I continue challenging and changing my own very entrenched mind-sets but I help others to do the same, if they are willing. I invite you to watch two videos I’ve prepared where I tell my story in more depth and then, if you can relate and are interested in talking to me further, I’ll look forward to that call.

Until then, remember that awareness is the first step toward freeing change in your life.

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Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.

~ James Thurber

Stay Grounded with Mindfulness

“Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally, in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.”

~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation are popular topics right now with many people giving it a try only to fall away quickly, claiming their minds are just too busy, they can’t sit still long enough, or they just can’t do it right. Here’s the thing, busy minds are completely normal for us human beings and mindfulness meditation takes practice.

I’ve been practicing for a while now and I’m actually enrolled in a Mindfulness Meditation Teaching Certification program and my mind still wanders! I’ve learned quite a bit during the time I’ve spent in this self-paced program and I’d like to share some of the common misconceptions about mindfulness meditation:

  1. We must eliminate all thoughts during mindfulness meditation. No – that is not the goal. The goal is to practice becoming aware and accepting of all parts of experience, including thinking. It’s not about suppressing thoughts or being without thoughts.
  2. Believing that if you’re being mindful you should feel the same way others are feeling. No – mindfulness will help you find what’s true for you and it might not necessarily be comfortable. Sitting with whatever you are truly feeling will allow you to learn how to be compassionate with yourself.
  3. Thinking is my only way of knowing. No – mindfulness puts us in touch with other ways of perceiving and knowing that complement our usual cognitive methods. Be open to the experience – you will probably be surprised.
  4. I’m distracted all the time so I can’t do this. No – being distracted is normal and you’re not doing anything wrong when thoughts creep in. The practice encourages us to non-judgmentally notice when our minds have wandered and then to intentionally bring ourselves back to the breath or whatever else you are focusing on. Eventually, the time you are able to stay completely present will lengthen – you’ll get better at this but, remember, distractions always happen even to the most experienced meditators.
  5. Mindfulness seems very serious so it won’t be fun. Maybe – but describe fun? I’ve discovered that by suggesting that we approach everything with a beginner’s mind and to allow yourself to be curious introduces a lightness that approaches fun. Again, the goal is to experience the experience and that might be fun or just calming.

Here’s what I’ve discovered through the practice of mindfulness meditation – I’m calmer and I’m able to pause and do short mini-meditations whenever I feel agitated – they work. I spend less time ruminating about all the would’ves, should’ves and could’ves and more time noticing and appreciating what’s going on in the moment. I don’t hang out in the future, worrying about things that probably won’t happen because I’m actively engaged in what’s going on now as I prepare for the future so I’m more productive. I’m also able to sit with difficult feelings and emotions without any need to react or make hasty decisions. More often than not these uncomfortable feelings just dissipate or are resolved through insights that reveal themselves during these quiet moments. My ability to be kinder and to feel compassion for myself and others has increased and my dips into depression are milder and short-lived. I’ve noticed a general feeling of well-being and less stress overall. I could go on, but I guess you can tell that I think mindfulness meditation is pretty cool.

In fact, since I think it’s so cool, I’ve decided to offer a workshop on mindfulness in sobriety that focuses on how mindfulness can move us toward and enhance our emotional intelligence in sobriety. I’m still imagining how this will look but I think a 5 or 6-week program that focuses on sitting in meditation and then attending to one or more topics relevant to the change process and emotional sobriety will be very useful. I hope you agree and I’d love to hear from you if you’d be interested in attending. Lots more information will follow!

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“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”
― Mother Teresa

I’m FINE – Really?

Freaked out/F – ed up

Insecure

Neurotic

Emotional

Now that you know one of the acronyms for FINE, you won’t be able to flippantly say, “I’m fine!” without smiling to yourself anymore. It’s a perfectly fine word that has been ruined by overuse, usually by people who don’t want to tell you that they’re not fine. I was one of those people, and now I can’t say, “I’m fine” anymore.

I first heard this acronym in a 12-step meeting when someone said, “I’m fine” with a bit of an edge and then everyone laughed – yes, they laughed. Then, realizing what he said, he used some more specific words to describe how he really felt – he said, “I’m angry and I’m freaked out!” The overall feeling in the room was “aah, now we hear you and now that you’ve told the truth, don’t you feel better?” After the meeting, he was surrounded by others who were listening, providing support, writing out phone numbers and digging deeply below the surface – no superficiality there.

I used to be one of those superficial people. I had to look good at all costs and I would never, ever let you know that I wasn’t fine. I was definitely freaked out or f-ed up on any given day. I was insecure, neurotic, emotional and a lot of other things like angry, frightened, depressed, confused and adrift but I’d still say “I’m fine!”

I’m so happy this has changed for me and that the people I choose to spend time with are also able to be honest about what’s going on with them. Living authentically and deeply rather than superficially has changed my life and has allowed true connections to develop. If you’re interested in how I moved from despair to joy, I’ve made two videos where I tell my story. If you watch them, I hope they are helpful and if you can relate please let me know. Now, “How are you?”

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Tell the truth about what you are feeling. Tell the truth about what you are thinking. Tell the truth about what you are doing and why.

~ Iyanla Vanzant

Crossroads

What should I do? What choice should I make? Which way should I go? When you’ve done the hard work to reach the place where you are living in integrity, decisions will come from a solid, rational place rather than from knee-jerk reactions. No matter the outcome, there will be nothing to regret.

It’s hard to decide, sometimes, and harder still when living in internal chaos. I’m not talking about what shoes to buy or how I’m going to organize my day – I’m talking about major decisions like getting sober, leaving a marriage, learning how to cope and trying to find purpose.

I’ve lived this and can feel a swelling of anxiety as I remember those days. I was always trying to please others then, working hard to fit in and to present an outward face that I was fine and that everything in my life was perfect. I was living in cognitive dissonance because I was compromising my true self daily.

Thankfully, I finally listened and created a support system for myself because trying to go it alone wasn’t working. I found a group of people who helped me with the baby steps that I decided to take. Each step allowed me to speak truthfully and to slowly move into integrity. As my inner core values began to match my outer self, the hard decisions were easier to make.

I didn’t do everything perfectly and I still made mistakes but these mistakes became opportunities to learn and to grow a bit more rather than reasons to shame myself and die just a little bit more. What a shift in perspective!

This is what integrity brings – a shift in perspective and a feeling of flow where there is very little resistance and fewer gaps between my internal feelings of value and the choices I make and the actions I take.

If you’re in the midst of an internal struggle and would like to learn more about my story of transformation, I have a free offer that might help you. It’s titled, “Why Wait to Find Peace?”

WHY SIGN UP?

• This is for you if you’ve been struggling to find purpose in your life – if you’ve been feeling stuck and wanting something more or different.

• This is for you if you have chosen a life of sobriety but are still unhappy and feeling adrift.

• This is for you if you’d like to feel connected.

WHAT WILL YOU RECEIVE?

• A video where I tell my personal story of recovery, finding my true self, and learning how to live a happy, meaningful and purposeful life – a life of integrity.

• A PDF with journaling prompts for self-reflection.

• A video about my experience with labyrinths and how this ancient tool for mindful meditation changed my life.

• A downloadable and printable finger labyrinth so you can participate in a meditative finger labyrinth walk.

You can access this offer by clicking on this link and saying Yes!

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“When you feel life at crossroads, you need higher perspective view.”
― Toba Beta

Living in Flow

One day you realize that everything seems easier. You’re not having to check your thinking or the words coming out of your mouth. You’ve eased into a flow that seems effortless and wonder when this happened?

This happens when your heart and soul are in alignment with what you do and the way you behave. This is the embodiment of authenticity and reaching this place is the result of hard work.

So what does being authentic mean? It means being true to oneself. I found an article in Psychology Today that explains this very well. Authentic people:

  1. Have realistic perceptions of reality.
  2. Are accepting of themselves and of other people.
  3. Are thoughtful.
  4. Have a non-hostile sense of humor. 
  5. Are able to express their emotions freely and clearly.
  6. Are open to learning from their mistakes.
  7. Understand their motivations.

The first steps in moving from inauthenticity to authenticity were becoming aware that you were in regular if not constant internal conflict, then awakening to the reality of this uncomfortable state of being and discovering that there were people who could help you and tools you could use to make important changes. Finding the courage to move out of a state of denial or inertia and into action is where you’ve been most recently and now reaching this state of ease is evidence that you’ve transitioned through the process of deep change – maybe not for everything that has caused you pain but at least for what has been most problematic at the time.

Whenever those old feelings of inauthenticity arise, and they will, this underlying system of awareness, awakening, discovery, courage, action and flow will help you move through the necessary work to identify and change those mindsets that set you up. You can begin the process again – dismantling old patterns, behaviors and habits while creating new ones allowing you to be in flow again.

I’ve written about these stages of change frequently and I’m inviting you to take a look at these older posts and let me know what you think. Here’s a link to my last blog about flow. Enjoy the reading, the process and being in flow.

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Authenticity means erasing the gap between what you firmly believe inside and what you reveal to the outside world.

~ Adam Grant

Move Into Action

You finally found just enough courage to try. You found even more courage to risk failure by moving into action – playing the music that’s always been in your heart – speaking your truth – agreeing to let your true self out of hiding so you can be seen.

Once I began, there was no turning back. Every step that I took felt affirming. I felt the joy of someone who has been reborn and is learning something new everyday, all while feeling valued for the first time not only by others but by myself. Instead of hating myself, daily, I found the growing feelings of self-love.

Moving into action opens us up to the vulnerability of potential failure but let me be clear, failure is not the end of the road – it’s information. Information that is needed to start again, if necessary. Information that will help you make adjustments so the next time you try you’ll have a better chance of success – living and learning, right? Failure can be a very important part of the process and surrounding yourself with people who understand will help smooth out the bumpy roads that will inevitably be encountered.

When we move into action we are beginning the process of rewiring our brains. The big word for this is neuroplasticity. By changing our mindsets and behaviors and creating new patterns of behavior and thinking we are literally creating new and healthier neural pathways while simultaneously closing down the ones that created problems in our lives.

This is a critical stage in our efforts to better ourselves. Do this work with others, always. If you’d like to read more about my transformational process, I invite you to sign up for a free offer that I just created. I hope you’ll find all of this helpful as you move into action yourself.

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Action is the antidote to despair.

~ Joan Baez

Calling Someone is Courageous

This is what your latest iPhone looks like when you’re thinking about making an important phone call that could change the direction of your life.

It was like this for me. I wasn’t using an iPhone then – just a push-button desk top phone that suddenly seemed heavy and almost too complicated to use. I picked up the handset – heard the dial tone – dialed the number I had been given and once I started talking, I knew I could start telling the truth because I was talking to someone who knew me, inside and out. Help was being offered, right then and there.

That was the second courageous act I engaged in that day. The first was realizing that I had to make that call. More small acts of courage would come within the next ten weeks – one compounding on the last until I reached a beautiful point of no return.

I managed this with all the support I received, beginning with that phone call. In a previous post I described how this support allowed my courage to grow, slowly tipping the scales away from all of my fears and toward a willingness to take action.

If you can relate to my very heavy, vintage phone description you might be on the verge of making that important call. Take 3 mindful breaths, center yourself and dial.

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“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”
― William Faulkner

The Door is Open

The door may have been open but what’s on the other side? Fear of the unknown is a powerful reason to stay in places that are undesirable and even toxic. Why? Because we know those places. We know what to expect and have developed ways to cope, even when our methods of coping harm us.

I always had options but exercising those options meant that I would have to change. It meant that I would have to reveal myself and at that point in my life, telling the truth, asking for help and making huge changes seemed impossible. I preferred living in denial and having another big glass of chardonnay.

The problem is that once you’ve discovered something, you can’t un-discover it. It’s knowledge that will always be there unless you work very hard to bury it in denial. As I write this, I’m feeling uncomfortable because this is what I used to do and by doing this I was constantly living in a state of cognitive dissonance which means living in a state of mental conflict – having certain core beliefs yet doing something or behaving in ways that aren’t consistent with those beliefs. The tension that is created is very real both emotionally and physically and needs to be relieved somehow. I chose numbing myself for many years with daily infusions of alcohol because I refused to consider change. I tried very hard to make this habit look glamorous by only drinking expensive wines in lovely stemmed glasses but the hard reality was that I was intentionally numbing myself with alcohol and the quality of the wines and the vessels didn’t matter.

If you’ve reached this paragraph and are feeling uncomfortable, then maybe you’re at a discovery point. You’re balancing on a fulcrum and can go either way. I’d like to suggest walking through the door and asking for help. If you’d like to talk, contact me. I’ve been where you are. I understand how you feel.

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Transformation is a process, and as life happens there are tons of ups and downs. It’s a journey of discovery – there are moments on mountaintops and moments in deep valleys of despair.

~ Rick Warren


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