On the Importance of Asking for Help

a5533265c5f77fa5d0c66fdb8d5ee9e4Life has been difficult lately. On paper, the work and school schedule that I have is manageable. It leaves little room for a social life, but it works. What I didn’t anticipate when I committed to the schedule was a reemergence of OCD symptoms. When you throw a panic attack into the mix, and some everyday generalized anxiety while you’re at it, the workload becomes damn near impossible. For this reason, I’ve been struggling to maintain the light within me.

My work environment is the root of the issue. My office is known as the recreation department, which holds all the arts & crafts supplies, movies, games, beauty supplies, sports equipment, & misc. items the girls could ever dream of. What all that means to me is a whole lot of clutter. While I did my best to organize it in one full work day, I barely made a dent. Being in there makes me feel tense; in a constant state of discomfort. I’ve tried to just suck it up and not look behind me, where most of the clutter is, to no avail. Although the generalized anxiety escalated to panic attacks, I was afraid to open up to my supervisor about it. I felt as if I was asking for too much. Yet, I was at the point where something had to give. The anxiety followed me from the office to everywhere else, causing my quality of life to take a serious hit.

I wrote a letter of resignation during my desperation for an escape route, then pondered the option of turning it in for a week. It didn’t sit right with me, I felt like a coward. Yes I was setting my expectations for myself very high, but how would I ever conquer anxiety if I chose to run away from it? It finally dawned on me that maybe there could be a middle ground. I was preparing to run without even giving this agency, that had been so good to me thus far, a chance to work with me. I decided it was time to open up to my supervisor. I explained my symptoms to her and the source, along with a few suggestions of what I thought might help me (part-time hours and either a new office or a laptop to work elsewhere when symptoms worsened). To my surprise, she was more than willing to work with me. She thanked me for going to her rather than simply quitting under the pressure; she understood how difficult that was for me. My part-time schedule was mapped out and agreed upon. Finally, she’ll be speaking with the HR Director to try to work out the office situation. They’re going to try to get me out of there altogether, but the laptop will be the backup solution.

What a relief it’s been already. I am so appreciative of my supervisor’s willingness to accommodate my needs. Furthermore, I’ve learned a valuable lesson; asking for help shouldn’t be a shame inducing action. People might surprise you and extend a helping hand. As this photo depicts, “Life is so very difficult. How can we be anything but kind?”

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Catching My Breath

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Goodness gracious it’s been a hectic month! It’s only been 1 month since I started working again, but it feels as if it’s been much longer. Not necessarily in a bad way, it’s just that so much has happened! Starting work again has been exhausting/thrilling/inspiring. I’ve told you all about the exhaustion, and a bit about the thrill of diving back into a field I love. My journey hit an inspirational point when I discovered that our new Head of Mental Health Services is a 3rd waver! He’s a LMFT, and currently in a Buddhist Seminary graduate program! How perfectly this happened to fall into place; at the same time that I’m looking for a practicum site, a 3rd wave supervisor happens to start working at my agency! I’ve already talked to him about the possibility of completing my hours at our agency, and he confirmed that he plans on reestablishing the student trainee program. I’m crossing my fingers, hoping that it happens in time for me to start accruing hours next fall.

School is a bit more challenging this semester than it was last. There’s a lot of memorization in Law & Ethics, and I’m pretty sure I’ve diagnosed myself with about 6 different disorders thanks to Psychopathology. Then there’s Concepts of Family Therapy; we had to create a genogram and write a paper about our family histories and dynamics, and thank goodness I started a month in advance. I spent the first 2 weeks crying as a I wrote, because my family’s history of abuse and trauma just had to be mourned. There’s something so profound about seeing it all depicted on a genogram. Family patterns become unignorable; demanding awareness, proper grievance and more importantly change.

Finally, my home life has been bitter-sweet. I spend so little time at home now, which unfortunately means so little time with my husband. However, our hectic schedules have sort of forced us to cherish every moment that we do get together. We spend our time talking about our upcoming plans to buy a home; letting our imaginations soothe away any lingering fatigue. Once again, he’s proven to be my rock during the most trying times. I’m hoping that the summer brings us some ease. We’ll be moving into our own place and I’ll have a bit of a break from school. For now, I have to keep reminding myself to breathe through the chaos.

Treating the Diseases of the Mind

4aab39d815bf906210f56c7e16a8af3eThe Buddha is like a doctor; the Dharma is like medicine. Not modern day doctors, but the olden day ones that used to give you a list of herbs that you’d then have to go find to heal yourself. It required one to be observant and aware of their issues, then actively work toward recovery. We must be aware of our breath & work with it to reach desired outcomes. When feeling discouraged, look to the Dharma, lean on the Sangha. The purpose of this contemplation is to get you back to home base, the breath. We must learn to be self observant.  When greed or lust arise, we first have to pinpoint where it’s coming from to determine how to deal with it. This course of medicine involves your participation as well as the doctor’s. The Dharma is meant to be put into practice. You reach the benefits when you see it through.

When Meditation Meets Creativity

& If All I Can Give is Compassion, Then I’ll Sit Here and Give Every Breath.

Every night my light will shine, through the windows of my heart. I will bow my head in silence and respect the nature of the art.

May heaves of loving kindness travel straight through my soles planted, to the destitute knees of the woeful souls who’ve been slanted.

f10f779539d7af2b2b4daf044f638785May it wrap up all guilt, resentments, shame in the warm embrace of our connectedness, all humans the same.

May it find its way through darkness, from afar and back to me. For there are as many breaths as we need to all be compassionate beings.

-Crystal Venegas

As I was meditating this evening, playing with mantras and inspiring messages, my mind fell upon the first line of this poem. I enjoyed it so much, I let the idea run free. That line took me through a beautiful little journey from the comfort of my own yoga mat. My compassion has traveled a long way this evening, I encourage you to let yours run wild too! 😉

What You Can’t Change vs. What You Can

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We have a tendency to push against things we can’t change while neglecting the things we can. Wisdom comes in knowing which attitude to apply in any given situation. Always start with good will; make this your default setting. Strive to maintain that attitude. Take joy in other people’s happiness. More importantly, learn to take joy in your own happiness, in the fact that you’re progressing. Our attitudes in response to situations is what we can change. Aging, illness and death are inevitable; they cannot be changed, but whether or not we are going to suffer because of these things can be. We take our state of mind for granted, but it’s something that can be changed.

 

Immersion Exercise

Hsi Lai TempleAlthough I have greatly admired Buddhist values for years and have committed myself to routinely putting its methods into practice, I am reluctant to call myself a Buddhist. This is primarily because I have never belonged to a “Sangha,” or community of like-minded individuals to practice with. I’ve spent countless hours studying the Dharma on my own, but my shyness has prevented me from taking the final leap and immersing myself into the community. For an assignment in my multicultural counseling class I decided I’d finally visit the Hsi Lai Temple, which is the Temple that University of the West is associated with and happens to be only a short distance from where I live.

I made arrangements to tour the Temple and was enthralled by my experience right from the start. The temple is surprisingly large and an unexpected delight in the suburbs of Hacienda Heights. During my time there, I was able to earn a more thorough understanding about the culture than I’ve been able to acquire in the books I’ve read. The literature I’ve focused on thus far has mostly covered the history of Buddhism, meditation styles and primary concepts such as the four noble truths and the eightfold path. The temple on the other hand, offered information I have yet to come across about the Bodhisattvas and the Arhats. I especially liked the idea of bowing to the Bodhisattva statues, not because you are idolizing them, but rather to humble yourself and seek their guidance on your own path to enlightenment. I made a point to bow to the Bodhisattva of great practice as well as the Bodhisattva of compassion and loving-kindness because I’d like all the help I can receive in cultivating these qualities.

After the tour, I felt silly for previously being fearful of visiting the temple. The people I encountered were either very friendly and helpful or kept to themselves, lost in their own practice. I found it funny that I would have felt more comfortable entering a catholic church, despite the fact that I don’t believe in God, than I did going to the temple even though it represents the spirituality I plan on sticking to. Yet I suppose it’s understandable, because I was raised in a catholic household. I may not have enjoyed it or even believed in it, but I became familiar with the traditions. At church services I’ve attended, whether they were in English or Spanish, I knew exactly when it was time to kneel, sing, pray, etc. without even really having to pay attention to the service. I feel like I can blend in more with that community even though I don’t feel connected to it.

Thanks to this assignment I faced my silly fear and found comfort in the temple. I plan on going back to check out the various activities they offer on Sundays. I’m especially interested in experiencing meditation amongst others, yoga and the Dharma classes. The new cycle of classes start on November 8th! My only concern now is whether to attend the Dharma class first or the meditation class. Since their scheduled times overlap, I’ll be forced to choose just one. However, I’m sure whichever one I choose will be a great decision, because either way I’ll finally be immersing myself into a Sangha; an experience that will prove to be invaluable if I plan on suggesting that my future clients find similar support systems of their own.