After a deep sleep

So now I slowly awaken.

So many things have occurred after the holidays.  Even my gratitude journal lay dormant for a few months while changes occurred, as if a whirlwind entered my space.  Much upheaval, many thoughts to cope with, to sort out, and always, always fighting the demons of depression and physical pain.

Then there’s realization.  The realization that hope still lives in me.  The realization that I can get through this.  The realization that I am stronger than what I believe I am.  Just beginning to settle down in an old, new place, I find that I sometimes become overwhelmed.  Then I laugh at myself and tell myself, remind myself actually, that I’ve been here before, that all I need to do is tackle things at an organized pace.  I finally pull out my gratitude journal and begin to write again.  I come here and begin to write.  I cannot forget my purpose.  I have a story to tell, even if it is in bits and pieces.  I am shy in person, but I do not feel the need to be shy here.  I can speak to you as if I know you and you are getting to know me.

I am protected by anonymity yet I am known.  My words speak of years that have passed by and times that are coming and moments that are presently current.  I simply cannot forget my purpose.  I still have goals to achieve and a long journey ahead, yet I still have time to gaze at the blooming trees and the way they seem to be ablaze in the morning sun.  God is good, I tell myself.  I am thankful for the ability to see such beauty and to contemplate it.  No negative thought can take away what is before me, the sprawling carpet of farm, the trees enclosing it, marking its territory.  A reminder of when life gets too busy yet the beauty remains.  Even when life seems dormant, it is still beautiful.  When it awakens, it shows off its splendor for the world to see.

I, too, am a part of nature.  Like nature, I slowly awaken.  I shift my gaze and look upon that which is praiseworthy and excellent, real and untouched.  I see how everything changes, slowly, ever so slowly, nature adapts to its seasons.  It follows the flow with accurate precision and I follow it.  We both meet the sun and point our faces toward it but we don’t miss our pace while we grow.

This is what happens after a deep sleep.

Super Genes, A Willing Servant (Book Review)

I found this book to be an interesting read.  While there is a basic understanding that what we think and our environment and what we eat affects us overall, Super Genes helps the reader to see how deeply our lifestyles affect us.

Part One explains how the “memory of personal experience…may be immediately passed on…” to future generations.  This part helps the reader to understand the importance of how environmental and social factors affect us directly as individuals and future heirs of our genetic makeup.

The authors suggest that ‘what happens to you today…is recorded at epigenetic level…potentially passed on to future generations.’  Therefore suggesting that if one changes one’s life, our future offspring (and their future offspring) would fare better when faced with life’s circumstances (especially the negative, stressful life circumstances).

The authors further suggest that our genes first adapt to outer (and the inner) stimuli before mutating or transforming into something more permanent.

Part two deals with diet, exercise, sleep, stress, meditation, and emotions.  In this part, the authors state that ‘we begin with the lifestyle habits that send positive messages to your genome.’

This section is meant to open the reader’s eyes so that the reader makes more conscious choices toward positive lifestyle changes, including those of environmental and social stimuli.

Another key point that I found attractive was the section on inflammation.  Those of us who suffer from depression should be aware that inflammation and depression are in close correlation, as well as inflammation in other parts of our body.  While inflammation is the body’s way of fighting off infections and diseases, it can also have a negative effect when it becomes chronic.  The authors explain, and tackle, inflammation in “Getting Rid of Inflammation.”

Part three talks about the most common illnesses that most people face in today’s date and time.  Illnesses such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disesase, and depression, to name a few.

Overall, this book is meant to take the reader into the exploration of how one’s thoughts, emotions, environment, and eating habits affects the reader deep within the entrails of our body.  Wow.

I received this book for review from Blogging for Books.

The Power of Surrender: A Book Review

I really enjoyed reading this book. From the very beginning, starting at My Initiation Into Surrender, to the end, Embracing Ecstacy, I found that I could hardly put the book down.
I found this book to be of interest because of the author. Dr. Judith Orloff is a bonafide psychiatrist. However, unlike psychiatrists that I’ve come across, she is a very spiritual person, and even dedicates this book, The Power of Surrender, to her spiritual teacher. So this isn’t just a clinical type of book, where techniques of mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, or conditioning isn’t the only thing explained, but it is mixed with the warmth of spirituality and really looking inwards, where most of life’s answers lurk and where true love can really be found. The author’s work here sort of reminds me of the works of William James, a psychologist who believed that, in order to properly diagnose someone, one must look at all aspect of the client’s life, including the spiritual side. Dr. Judith Orloff is modern and crisp at her approach to psychiatry. I can only wish that more psychiatrists would follow this path instead of giving us clients the cold shoulder and endless medications that do not work and create more side effects within our bodies.
Dr. Judith Orloff starts the reader off with explaining what her experiences were when she began to put the power of letting go in the section entitled, “My Initiation Into Surrender.” I found myself relating to her almost rebellious yet kind nature and her need to get out of society’s status quo. Her need to be different, albeit following the footsteps of her parents, led her to discover a different aspect of psychiatry and medicine that her parents were unable to tap into in their time. This has helped Dr. Orloff not only experience the ecstacy of letting go, but also has allowed her to help countless other people in this process. And she reminds the reader that she is there with you every step of the way. Dr. Orloff reminds the reader to be “someone who wants to become everything you were meant to be and more.” Who doesn’t want that?
Dr. Orloff goes on to explain that surrender does not equate weakness, powerlessness, or being a pushover, in the section “An Introduction To Letting Go.” She talks about assertiveness at the right moments, regaining control of your life, and letting go of what no longer serves you. She explains the issue of reconditioning oneself, or reprogramming oneself from old habits and beliefs, letting go of drama, looking within oneself (which is probably the most challenging aspect in this book for most people), and recognizing that you are not what you thought you were in the negative aspect.
Dr. Orloff separates “The Power of Surrender” into parts. The author explains that these parts are the areas of most interested to the majority of people and she couldn’t be more correct. She starts off with Part One: Power and Money. Many, many people may find these subject areas quite daunting. And she explains exactly what kind of people find them daunting by writing about specific money types followed by useful meditation and surrendering techniques that will help these types see money and power in a different way.
Part Two: Reading People and Communication explains that reading people is not a personal thing, rather an exercise into understanding what the next person is going through without bias or judgment from your part. In other words, keeping an open mind when faced with people from different backgrounds than yours. The author also provides helpful surrendering techniques to be able to read people accurately. The author states, “People who read others well are trained to read the invisible and fine-tune their senses, including the sixth sense.” She goes on the explain the importance of communication and how potent it can be in everyday life. Again, the author provides useful surrendering techniques so that one can become an effective communicator. Dr. Orloff explains, “Impeccable communication means relating to others with compassion, flaws and all.” For some people, that can be a hard pill to swallow. Here she outlines the different types of communicators and asks that you be as honest with yourself as possible without judgment.
Part Three: Relationships, Love, and Sensuality delves into an ever popular area of the when, why, and how’s of relationships of all kinds. Dr. Orloff begins this part with an introduction of the Sixth Surrender: Honoring Soul Mates, Soul Friends, and Animal Companions. Yes, folks, animal companions. Here is where everything gets even more deeper. Indeed, the author forces one to look deep, deep inside to recognize all of the barriers one might have built against true love, by recognizing obstacles we put up ourselves and why. One of Dr. Orloff’s techniques here is the Surrender Old Relationship Rules, Create New Ones where the reader is again made to look at their own behavior towards relationships and take old bad habits and replace them with effective techniques. She also explains surrender strategies for soul mates and soul friends and animal companions. This part also touches the subjects of the Seventh Surrender: Exploring The Divinity of Your Body and Sexuality, where it explains how to pay attention to what your body is telling you (for example, if you’re sad, cry) and surrendering to the subtle energy in your body or your chakras. The authors further talks about surrendering to a positive body image, something most people have a problem doing. The Eighth Surrender talks about igniting sexual power. Here the author explains how to “get out of your head” and allow passion to flow. She lists the Ten Qualities of a Good Lover and Common Killers of Passion and goes on to explain how “orgasm is the crown jewel of surrender.” Here there are many surrendering techniques to look into. The Ninth Surrender requires the reader to look at the natural world and its sensual essence. Yes, the natural world is sensual. Here the author teaches how to look at the world around you with a different perspective: Night and Day, the trees, flowers, the sound of birds and frogs, stones, caves, earth, water, fire, the air, in short everything pertaining to nature. This third part will have you looking at yourself, and the natural world around you, in a very different way.
Part Four is dedicated to Mortality and Immortality: Cycles of Light. The author helps the reader to see illness and pain by providing surprisingly common sense strategies and five ways to heal yourself by surrendering to intuition (page 292). The author states to “use these along with information your doctor offers about various treatment options.” I found this part very useful, as I am currently dealing with a degenerative illness and I have faced depression, fear and have been “frozen in inertia” because I went from being vibrant and active to nearly bedridden. The Eleventh Surrender explains experiencing radiant aging. This surrender helps the reader to accept the changes that the aging body requires, to deal with the mental and emotional aspects of aging, explains the several factors of aging, and spiritual aging. The Twelfth Surrender refers to death and its concepts, includes a meditation journey into death, mourning and surviving loss, and even asks what is your perfect death.
Part Five entails the final surrender, embracing ecstasy, basically celebrating the blessing of joy. Dr. Orloff states that “being joyful is a courageous choice which makes your path of surrender vital and thrilling.” She continues by saying, “By consciously embracing joy…you’re declaring, “This is the person I want to be and can be.””
I read this book from cover to cover. I found that most of the surrender meditations were more useful to me if I recorded them with my own voice and listened to them at my highest relaxation state, before going to sleep. It helped me to see a part of myself that was always there, once I got out of my own way, and quieted the constant negative chatter in my mind. I recommend this book to anyone who has tried conventional methods with little to no results. While Dr. Orloff suggests that one can read this book from any starting point, I recommend reading it from the beginning. It is meant to change the reader’s perspective not only in the areas mentioned above but also from how one sees oneself. She also suggests not to judge oneself and to keep an open mind. I agree. The techniques in this book will help the reader see a different side of themselves, probably in a way they have chosen not to see. Like the Bible says, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” I hope you enjoy this book as I did.
I received this book on September 14, 2015, via UPS Ground, in really good condition (paperback version), from Blogging for Books for an honest and unbiased review.

On depression, photography and mindfulness

For a long time I have had struggles with the constraints of depression.  The way it just sneaks up on you sometimes and threatens your overall well-being in a matter of days.  Sometimes the overwhelming sensation of falling, like Alice going to Wonderland, just takes too long to subside, and the journey may seem long, dark, ominous, and bleak.  Then there was the longest battle I’ve had with this dark side of humanness: two years of depth, with a lot of prayer, a lot of support from my husband (who really made an attempt to understand what was happening to me), and the determination to take that daunting climb out of that underground cave.  I went from studying the effects of the Stanford Prison Experiment (of which I felt my circumstances were similar to), to having a collection of positive quotes and even studying a textbook on positive psychology.  I’m not crazy about taking pills for any condition, especially if I am aware of alternative methods, such as proper psychotherapy and psychiatry skills, so whatever I was prescribed was short-lived and really did not have the effect on me as the doctor felt it would. Only I knew what I needed and I sought it out as vigorously as I could.  Still, I was not completely out of the hole.

As I began feeling physically better (I was suffering from a severe case of gouty arthritis on the knees), I wanted to go out more, to socialize more, to change my perspective more.  Slowly, but surely, that is what began to happen.  My husband and I moved from one place to another and the change was exactly what the imaginary doctor ordered.  We went from an overcrowded and loud city to a rural paradise that only God Himself can create.  I was born and raised in the city, but my heart and soul were meant for the countryside.  My husband and I still struggled, but the environment was set up to be able to surpass the struggle, or at least go through it with a much clearer mindset.

We arrived in rural upstate New York toward the end of July and was very surprised with what I saw.  Of course this was not my first time traveling from the hustle and bustle to an absolutely serene countryside.  But it had been a few years passed for me, and my body, my mind, and my soul and spirit welcomed it with such wide open arms.  The air was cooler and cleaner and everything was so green.  In fact, we were in Greenville, NY, part of Greene County.  No lie.  Oh and we lived right across the road from a creek.  But I digress.

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Basic Creek, NY 81 (West), Greenville, New York 12083 (Original photo by Yvette Roman)

That August, my husband bought me an HTC One M7 smartphone and I loved the equalizer on it very much when it came to listening to music, but, little did I know the larger role this phone would play in the upcoming months.  As the summer months turned into fall, which then turned into winter, I found myself falling again into the throes of darkness.  This time I decided to take a proactive approach to this situation.  During previous studies I had encountered several ways to fight the battle against depression, including but not limited to, eating well, taking supplements, daily exercise (even simple walking), meditation techniques, and mindfulness.

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This tractor was just sitting there, near the bank of the creek. Greenville, NY (Original photo by Yvette Roman).

According to Wikipedia, mindfulness is ” the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment, which can be trained by meditational practices…”. (See Mindfulness).  Wildmind.org also defines mindfulness as ” … the gentle effort to be continuously present.”.  (See What is Mindfulness).  Wildmind also states that “in mindfulness we’re concerned with noticing what’s going on right now.”  So, I took that very seriously and began searching for ways to practice mindfulness by noticing what’s going on here and now.  I decided that it was time to take whatever I’ve learned so far about battling depression and putting it into action.  I will take up photography.  So I did.  With an HTC One M7 smartphone.

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I love barns and sheds. They have such character! Greenville, NY, along NY 81 East. (Original photo by Yvette Roman).

Because I also have a physical disability (arthritis) I decided that walking, not briskly, but at a leisure pace, fulfilled the physical exercise portion of the no more depression workout, and allowed me to also take in the scenery with a different eye.  And I saw everything!  The sky, the bare trees, the old pickups nestled in their parking space, a field tractor near the creek, the snow, the sun, the signs….everything.  I attempted to learn what I could about my smartphone camera: ISO, shutter speeds, special effects, macro, etc.  It was a little frustrating at first.  I was seeing everything around me with a different set of eyes for the first time and I had an innate desire to capture what I saw with my eyes on digital film.  It wasn’t working out.  But mindfulness isn’t about rushing into anything, it is about being present in the moment, sort of like living in the moment.  So I learned a new craft, slowly.  I became better in my photography as time went by.  I learned more about the technicalities of photography in general (there is so little out there about smartphone photography techniques).  I joined Facebook photography groups.  I even created my own photography group entitled, Nature Photography. (See Nature photography. This is a private group.).

This is the center of town, near the cross streets of NY 81 (going east/west) and NY 32 (going north/south). Greenville, NY

Today, I still consider myself an amateur photographer and I photograph when the opportunity strikes (always!).  I still haven’t upgraded from my smartphone to a digital camera but that’s okay.  I still haven’t learned fully about other functions and ways to manipulate the way photos come out.  I try my hardest to publish my photos in its original content, meaning no special effects and no editing, like the one shown above.  I think and feel that my photos reflect their honesty that way and can also be seen differently and more creatively if naturally blurred or if the environment is naturally two-toned.

Basic Creek, overpass view, facing southwest. Greenville, NY
Car bridge facing Red Mill Road, off of NY 81. Greenville, NY (Original photo by Yvette Roman).

There are many ways to fight the depression monster: one is learning something new, another is practicing mindfulness, yet another is watching what foods you put into your body.  I searched Google for many, many days trying to find creative ways to do things and new things that I can learn to do. So, if you find yourself having a blah moment, suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression, or anything that clouds your mind, first seek the advice of a physician.  Second, do some research.  Third, do something new and different.  The list can continue from there.  Live your life now, my friends, not tomorrow.  And if you have other helpful links, please feel free to share.

I am grateful for you and I hope that you live in the moment.

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At the boardwalk headed toward the beach, Kure Beach, North Carolina. (Original photo by Yvette Roman)