Connection

November 3, 2019—by Emma Shoaf. I recently had the privilege of witnessing Elton John perform his Farewell Tour in Memphis, Tennessee. It was an absolutely incredible show. If you have seen the movie released this year portraying his life, then you are aware of some of his deepest, darkest struggles with alcohol, drugs, abuse, trauma, etc. Elton John sings a song called Sad Songs (Say So Much), and I do believe he (and Bernie Taupin) was wise beyond his years. 

In the therapy world, a phrase we often hear is, “We are hardwired for connection.” This is thanks to the growing popularity of attachment theory and the work of researchers like Brené Brown. And it’s so true! We are absolutely hardwired for connection. In fact, there was an experiment conducted in the 1950s that helped prove this idea. 

Harry Harlow, a well-known psychologist, studied maternal deprivation in rhesus monkeys. Infant monkeys would be taken from their biological mothers and placed in a cage with wire and terrycloth “mothers.” He found that even when the milk was placed with the wire “mothers,” the infant monkeys sought comfort from the terrycloth “mothers” almost every time. This demonstrated that even more than food, what animals (and humans) crave is physical connection and attachment. A bond of some sort. It is absolutely necessary to our development and ability to survive. Without it, we begin to quite literally die from the inside out. Those monkeys would have rather held onto their soft and warm “mother” and starve than drink milk from a wire object which offered them no sense of security or connection. 

Are we not created very much the same? We were made for deep connection with God [or a Higher Power] and other humans. You may have heard it said, “We are made for vertical and horizontal connection.” Both are necessary. 

Elton John sings in Sad Songs, “Guess there are times when we all need to share a little pain… cause from the lips of some old singer, we can share the troubles we already know.” He is referring to the very idea of connection. Have you ever turned on this song in the midst of a painful or lonely day/season and experienced a sense of shared connection in your struggle? You may begin to feel less alone when listening to this song or any song that speaks to you on a deeper level. Music is no doubt therapeutic, as it allows you to feel some sense of deeper connection. What one person experiences, so has another. Though in the midst of pain or struggle, it is so easy to forget this, and so often the worst part of a painful season is in fact the loneliness of the experience.

So how else might you begin to discover safe and secure connection? Maybe you first need to identify what area most requires your attention. Is it the vertical or horizontal that is most lacking in connection? It could be both, in which case you might find that once you begin to nourish one, the other begins to replenish itself. It might be helpful to picture yourself as a seed, which requires care in order to grow and thrive in any environment. You are a seed which needs cultivating, fertilizing, watering, and so much more. Like a seed, you cannot cultivate yourself. You require care from people and things outside of yourself in order to truly flourish.

Just as we learned through Harlow’s monkeys, growth and development are not possible without connection. And just as Elton John sings, “When all hope is gone, sad songs say so much.” The song might also read, “When all hope is gone, connection means so much.”

Day 21 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge

Day 21 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge. Today meditate on your own for 15 minutes or follow along to the meditation "Breath Awareness Meditation" by Mary Maddux, found on the Insight Timer App on the Memphis Center for Mindful Living group.


Congratulations to those of you who have been keeping up with the meditations! Hopefully this is a practice you can continue throughout the year. Tomorrow the winner of the gift card will be determined.

Day 19 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge

Day 19 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge. Today meditate on your own for 15 minutes or follow along to this Affectionate Breathing meditation by Cassondra Graff of the UCSD Center for Mindfulness.

https://health.ucsd.edu/specialties/mindfulness/programs/mbsr/Documents/MP3/Cassondra-Graff-Affectionate-Breathing-15min.mp3

Day 17 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge

Day 17 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge. Meditate on your own for 15 minutes or follow along to the guided meditation "Relief From Stress and Pressure" by Mary Maddux found on the Insight Timer App. Just look there under the Memphis Center for Mindful Living group.


Also, it's time for another Weekly Mindfulness Challenge. This week, whenever you feel a sense of stress and pressure, stop and take 3 breaths, bringing mindfulness to each one.

Day 16 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge

Day 16 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge is to do a 15 minute meditation on your own or follow along with the guided body scan, "Saturating the Body with the Breath" by Vidyamala Burch. This meditation is found on Insight Timer and is posted on The Memphis Center for Mindful Living group.

Day 15 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge

Day 15 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge. Today either meditate on your own for 15 minutes or follow along with the mindfulness of breath meditation by Steve Hickman of the UCSD Center for Mindfulness.


This begins the final 7 days of the challenge. Do you have a favorite meditation so far?


https://health.ucsd.edu/specialties/mindfulness/programs/mbsr/Documents/MP3/20_Min_Seated_Meditation_8bit_1.mp3

Day 14 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge

Day 14 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge. Today either meditate on your own for 15 minutes or use the following guided meditation by Kristin Neff, pioneer in self compassion research. You can also find this same meditation on the Insight Timer app.


https://palousemindfulness.com/meditations/soften-soothe-allow.html

Day 12 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge

Day 12 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge. Meditate on your own for 15 minutes or use the guided meditation found below, led by one of the first American Insight meditation teachers, Joseph Goldstein. This meditation helps develop the capacity to be with difficult emotions.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDTP4qKzpnk

Day 11 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge

Day 11 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge. Today meditate on your own for 15 minutes or follow along with the Awareness of Breath meditation, just click on the link below. This meditation is from UCSD Center for Mindfulness, which offers MBSR courses among others.


https://health.ucsd.edu/specialties/mindfulness/programs/mbsr/Documents/MP3/Awareness-of-Breath.mp3

Day 10 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge

Day 10 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge. Meditate on your own with a timer or go to the Insight Timer app and listen to Gratitude Meditation by Sarah McClean, which is posted in the Memphis Center for Mindful Living group.

For the Weekly Mindful challenge, notice 3 things you are grateful for related to your body.

How to adapt the Weekly Mindfulness Challenge to children and teens.

For kids a game could be made with strips of paper that each have a body part written on them (or a picture of the body part). Have each family member take a piece of paper and share what they appreciate about the body part on their piece of paper. They might focus on what that body part allows them to do. Teens might draw an outline of their body (or just their hand) on paper and write in all the ways they are grateful for their body (or hand).

Day 8 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge

Day 8 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge. Today either meditate on your own for 15 minutes or follow along with Tara Brach's RAIN of self compassion meditation. This meditation is very helpful for meeting difficult emotions like shame or unworthiness with self compassion and openness. This one is available both here and in my group on Insight Timer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wm1t5FyK5Ek

Day 7 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge

Day 7 of the 21 Day Mindfulness Challenge. If you are still participating at this point, give yourself a pat on the back. If you haven't jumped in yet, join us. There are still 14 days to go. Today either meditate on your own for 15 minutes or listen to the following meditation by Insight Meditation teacher Oren Jay Sofer. This meditation helps build equanimity, or the ability to experience the highs and lows of life while remaining emotionally balanced.

https://www.orenjaysofer.com/meditation-equanimity

Day 6 of the Mindfulness Challenge

Day 6 of the Mindfulness Challenge. Today either meditate on your own for 15 minutes or go to the app Insight Timer and choose the meditation "The 3 Letting Bes" by Mark Knickelbine. This is a meditation instructor I know and sit with regularly. I will link to it on the Group "Memphis Center for Mindful Living" on the app. Once you join the group you can see the post with the link. Let me know what you think of using the app compared with clicking on links to meditations here on the Facebook page.

Day 5 of the Mindfulness Challenge

Day 5 of the Mindfulness Challenge. Today you can either meditate on your own for 15 minutes or sit with the guided body scan meditation found below. Body scan meditations are useful for increasing awareness of the body, handling discomfort, and reducing stress. It can also be helpful to meditate using lengthier versions of the body scan.

Tomorrow we will use a meditation found on the app Insight Timer, so be sure to download the free app if you are able.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0nuKBVQS7M

How to include teens and children in the 21 Day Mindfulness challenge

How to include teens and children in the 21 Day Mindfulness challenge:

I suggest inviting them to practice paying attention to 3 breaths with you daily, such as at bedtime or before meals. Also, invite them to do the Weekly Mindfulness challenge. For children, make it a game. With this week’s challenge, have fun practicing kind and mindful touches as well as the opposite. For example, have everyone do an activity like make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, make a shape with play dough, or wash hands that you’ve deliberately gotten dirty. First do it in a way that is rushed and careless, without kindness. It will probably be messy and they won’t take much pride in their efforts but they will have fun with it. Then have everyone do it again, this time with a kind, mindful touch. Talk about the difference with them. Their efforts will probably be of better quality, they will be aware of what they are doing, they might notice how it feels to be gentle and caring with their hands if they wash them or how much more they notice the object they are touching, like the playdough. Do this once or several times this week. For teens, you might have a brief discussion about the difference between doing things with love and care, like taking the time to write a thoughtful note to a friend versus quickly rushing through a chore and being careless. Then discuss where they suspect they might not use their hands in a mindful, caring way. Invite them to choose to use a kind touch when they undertake an activity this week, like brushing their hair, making their bed, handing someone an object or giving a family member a hug. Then later talk about their experiences and how they are different from their usual way of doing things. 

You may want to buy your own pack on Mindfulness On The Go cards, which I am using for the Weekly Mindfulness Challenge