Vajra Blue

Mindfulness and Compassion. Understanding trauma in young people.


Containing consciousness: The clash between species and personal evolution.

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There were crimson roses on the bench; they looked like splashes of blood.

Dorothy L. Sayers
Strong Poison (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries)

For human mental health, there is an unfortunate clash between the way our brains evolved to maximise our chances of survival, and the way our mind has developed and evolved to meet the demands of consciousness.

There is a dynamic tension between them and sometimes the two act at cross purposes. The content of the mind can trigger a full-blown, physical survival response, such as a panic attack, that seems to erupt almost out of nowhere. While the fight and flight response to imminent danger, involves the inhibition of conscious thought.

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Mindfulness: a safety catch when dealing with difficult emotions.

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Light the blue touch paper and retire.
Instruction on a firework box.

The human mind has only a very limited bandwidth available for the conscious processing of incoming information.

This means that much of our response to events is unconscious.

Because of this, we have developed highly effective systems for processing most of the data that reaches our brain without bringing it to full awareness.

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Mindfulness: guarding the gates to our senses.

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In 122 CE, Hadrian, the Roman emperor, drew a line in the sand, and set limits to the size of the Roman Empire.

This step was necessary as the Empire had become increasingly unwieldy to administer. Instead of throwing even more money, and yet more troops at the problem, as many suggested, Hadrian determined on a different solution.

Boundaries were marked around the Empire, and although the walls and defensive works that he ordered to be built, did serve a military purpose, the main idea seems to have been to control what came in, and what went out of the Empire.

For many of us, deciding what we allow into our inner world is a major problem.

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Mindfulness: solitude, spending time with ourself.

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My parents and my lecturers could never understand
Why I gave it up for music and the Free Electric Band.
Well they used to sit and speculate upon their son’s career
A lawyer or a doctor or a civil engineer

Albert Hammond

In the modern world with its lifestyle of continuous connection and instant availability, it is not surprising that we seem to have become afraid of being alone.

As a social species, human survival has depended on being part of a group.  The greater the crowd, the smaller the chance of any one person being eaten.

There is safety in numbers.

The accompanying fear of silence, presumably related to the silence that falls when a predator is close at hand, seems to go beyond a sensible degree of anxiety about our safety, to a genuine fear of being alone with our thoughts.

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Mental health: taking a BET on treatment.

Mental health has become a major concern of the modern world.

There are rising levels of depression.

Ever increasing numbers of work hours are lost to stress and related disorders.

There seems to be an epidemic of suicide and self harm among the young.

Current treatment regimens seem to rely too much on medication, often as the only intervention, and fail to address the holistic picture.

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Compassion: a brief introduction.

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Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.

Without them humanity cannot survive.

The fourteenth Dalai Lama.

In the media we seem to hear almost as much about compassion as we do about mindfulness.

Every time there is a natural disaster the newspapers express concern about compassion fatigue.

The Dalai Lama is held up as a great example of what it is to be truly compassionate.

So what exactly is compassion?

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Mindfulness: where does the research stand?

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aglet, aiglet
ag·let  (ăg′lĭt)
n.

1. A tag or sheath, as of plastic, on the end of a lace, cord, or ribbon to facilitate its passing through eyelet holes.
2. A similar device used for an ornament.
[Middle English, from Old French aguillette, diminutive of aguille,needle, from Vulgar Latin *acūcula, from Late Latin acucula, diminutive of Latin acus, needle; see ak- in Indo-European roots.]

Mindfulness and meditation have been around for thousands of years.  It is only relatively recently that they have started to appear on the radar as potential treatments for physical and mental health difficulties.

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Being human: Balancing the unique with the commonplace.

Christmas truce

It is the nail that sticks up that gets hammered flat.

I was recently watching a programme commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War. The programme showed clips of interviews with survivors of the Western Front, both British and German. One particular interview caught my interest, it concerned the 1914 Christmas Truce between the British Expeditionary Force and the German army along part of the Western Front in Belgium.

The now elderly, young British subaltern was still bemused, fifty years after the event, by a conversation that he had had with a young German officer.

While they were burying their dead, he had asked what the German was writing on a simple wooden cross. The German replied that he was writing “For Freedom” and “In the Sight of God”. This was the cause of the young officer’s confusion, for this is what the British believed that they were fighting for as well. Freedom, and God was surely on the side of the British.

So why exactly were they all fighting?

For a few brief hours the soldiers on each side gave up their attachment to the idea of country, army, regiment, and war. Instead they let these ideas fall away, giving up much of what they had held to be true since childhood, and celebrated their common humanity.

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