Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Inner Sanctuary, Part 2: Life Instead of Death

During the Inner Slum/Inner Sanctuary series we've talked about inner, mental slums filled with dirt, noise, and chaos. We've also talked about the polar opposite of the inner slum: the inner sanctuary. We've described many of the qualities of an inner sanctuary. We've noted that an inner sanctuary is a place of peace, renewal, and excellence. It has calm instead of chaos. Renewal instead of stagnation. Excellence instead of mental squalor.

But we haven't yet discussed the most important aspect of an inner sanctuary:

An inner sanctuary is a place that literally promotes LIFE instead of DEATH.

I've been reading a fascinating book entitled Anticancer: A New Way of Life by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber. Dr. Servan-Schreiber is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and cofounder of the Center for Integrative Medicine. He is also a survivor of brain cancer. I've read several books and articles that discuss the mind-body connection. There is a consensus that emotional states can affect physiological processes such as the immune system (the body's defense against infection and disease). These physiological processes then affect one's health. A factsheet prepared by the U.S. National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute states that:

"The body responds to stress by releasing stress hormones, such as epinephrine (also called adrenaline) and cortisol (also called hydrocortisone). The body produces these stress hormones to help a person react to a situation with more speed and strength. Stress hormones increase blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels. Small amounts of stress are believed to be beneficial, but chronic (persisting or progressing over a long period of time) high levels of stress are thought to be harmful." Psychological Stress and Cancer: Questions and Answers, pg. 1. http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/stress

How many of us are living with chronic, prolonged stress? Are you living with chronic, prolonged stress? If so, for how long?

If so, how much longer are you willing to live like this? For the rest of your life?

Are you willing to learn to think differently to reduce the amount of stress in your life? Are you willing to learn to act differently to reduce the amount of stress in your life? Are you willing to learn to live differently to reduce the amount of stress in your life?

The factsheet goes on to note that, "Stress that is chronic can increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, depression, and various other illnesses." In the context of cancer, Dr. Servan-Schreiber states that:

"It usually takes anywhere from five to forty years for the 'seed' of cancer in the form of a cellular anomaly to become a detectable cancerous tumor. This seed is born in a healthy cell due to abnormal genes, or much more commonly, exposure to radiation, environmental toxins, or other carcinogens . . . No psychological factor by itself has ever been identified as being capable of creating that cancer seed. However, certain reactions to psychological stress can profoundly influence the soil in which the seed develops. . . These situations don't spark cancer, but, as an article published in Nature Reviews Cancer in 2006 observes, we know today that they can give it an opportunity to grow faster. . . . The factors contributing to cancer are so numerous and varied that no one should ever blame themselves or feel guilty for developing this disease." Anticancer: A New Way of Life, pg. 132.

I'm really happy that Dr. Servan-Schreiber emphasized that last part about not blaming ourselves for illnesses. I think that's an extremely important point. We can learn how to live differently, and learn how to treat ourselves better without blaming ourselves.

About 6 years ago, I decided to learn how to live differently, and treat myself better. I was having chest pains. I went in for a series of cardiac stress tests. Including the one where they inject a nuclear isotope into you so that it can travel around inside your body, and scan the inside of your heart. Praise God, it turned out that stress is all it was. I spent some time going to work with nitroglycerin pills dangling from a medical necklace. My doctor insisted that I keep them with me like that, "just in case." Just in case I had any further sudden chest pains while waiting to take my scheduled tests. I barely resisted the urge to sarcastically ask her if I should look into getting my own cardiac defibrillator.

My cousin was dying of cancer. Many of my relatives were displaying the same sort of inappropriate behavior surrounding her illness that they did with my aunt. [I described this during Part 1 of True Fellowship.] There were some spectacularly unpleasant things going on at work. That was a point in my life when I realized that I needed to make some changes. No, I haven't achieved a Dalai Lama state of mental chill. But, I've made some changes and have gotten better at handling certain types of things.

Are you willing to make some changes?

16 comments:

Sister Seeking said...

P&B

Not only did some of the health problems I’ve experienced urge me to do better but I just got sick and tired of being sick and tired of living in a constant state of stress.

I think the turning point for me was when I caught site of my big but! Lol in the mirror one day! I thought: OMG—is that my but? OMG! LOL

Since then I’ve

• Invested money in purchasing a home gym to put in my basement.

• I’ve enrolled in a semester of “mindfulness” classes by a local student of a Zen monk

• I’ve gone back to talk therapy to discuss the two transitions I’m going through in my life

• I’m dumping people, places, and things left and right—getting rid of negative, toxic, crazy people who wish nothing but drudgery for me and family—including some relatives

• Working day by day a step at a time on positioning myself to home school full time while retaining my own income.

Miriam

Khadija said...

Welcome, Sister Seeking/Miriam!

{deep martial arts bow in salute of your efforts to save your own life}

I'm always delighted to hear testimonies like yours.

There's so much resistance to the "save your own life" message among BW. It's shocking. For example, I was horrified by the amount of resistance Evia got on her blog when she talked about the simple observation that more BW need to exercise & lose weight.

What is there to debate about that observation? As far as I'm concerned, the IS NO debate. Come on now. Just look around. Let's be clear: I include myself in that category of BW who need to do better about getting fit. That was the original reason why I started going to the gym years ago, and hired a personal trainer.

That's why I also invested in creating a personal gym in my home (I really like being able to roll directly out of the bed & onto my bike & Total Gym).

I'm also delighted to hear that you've enrolled in "mindfulness" classes. That's really important. As a people, Black folks don't do much of anything to maintain internal mental cleanliness. There is no periodic (much less regularly scheduled) mental house cleaning.

You've reminded me of the kenjutsu classes (Japanese fencing with wooden swords) I took years ago. They performed a similar function to the "mindfulness" class you mentioned. Practicing the (slow motion) cutting techniques is basically moving meditation. You have to pay attention to your breathing, your foot position, your sword, and synchronize all of these things into one smooth movement.

"Mindfulness" is the opposite of the auto-pilot that most people operate on. Mindfulness is also being present in, and living fully in, the current moment. Most people do a lot of "time travelling" in their daily thoughts. Instead of paying attention to what they're doing in the current moment, they're either thinking about a past or future moment.

In the class, we spent WEEKS practicing how to walk in a near-perfectly straight line while matching our breathing to our steps. It's amazing how practicing various martial arts "katas" (patterned movements) clears one's mind, and forces one to pay attention to the present moment.

You go, girl!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hello there everyone! {waves}

Thanks for this post, Khadija!

Thanks for your testimony, Miriam/SisterSeeking!

I had a discussion at my blog a month or so ago after the death of the congresswoman who died of a brain hemorrhage. Many black women THINK that this just "happens"! It doesn't JUST HAPPEN. There are many symptoms that precede this situation. Frankly, I can't think of one fatal medical condition that JUST happens! We must step out of denial.

People often tell me that I am a very calm person and that I am an intense person. The reason why I am calm is because I pray a lot and worship a lot with songs at home, and I sit in total silence a lot. I do not have a television. I do not bring noise into my home...UNLESS it is music that nutures my spirit. My friends comment on how peaceful my home feels to them when they walk in.

I want to ask every person reading this to think about the ENERGY that is in your home right now.

I do not allow my friends to call me anytime they feel like it or call me all day long. Unless they have an URGENT matter, there is a certain period of the day that they can call. This allows me to maintain a measure of stilliness in my day. Ladies, you need to set BOUNDARIES if you want to have peace.

Listen to some women speaking...some do not even speak in COMPLETE sentences. Why? Their thoughts are usually incomplete. Why? Their minds are malnourished.

What is the diet that you feed your mind? Will we ASK ourselves?

I call some of my friends on the phone... tv blaring in the background...constant interruptions while they are talking...they are yelling some pet or some child (while on the phone)....they are clicking over on the phone to incoming calls...and they are always talking sooo loudly on the phone (which indicates there is a bunch of noise in the room they are in). These ladies tell me they just don't know HOW IT IS that I am so calm and steady. They don't look at how they handle themselves...all that confusion in the energy around them is a norm!

Thank you for this post, Khadija. You will save someone's life, I know.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!
Lisa

Khadija said...

Welcome, Lisa!

Thank you for your kind words about the post. Lately, I've been looking around (in the aftermath of a colleague's recent death, and some other events) and I see that so many BW have embraced practices that literally promote DEATH. Emotional death, spiritual death, financial death, and finally physical death.

And you're right. Stuff does NOT "just happen." The seeds for various crises (be they mental or physical) have been planted and nourished for many, many years before they come to fruition. This applies on so many levels. For example, how many other violent criminals did Jennifer Hudson's sister take up with before the massacre involving this current jailbird?

Let me not get too far into discussing the types of energy we bring into our homes. I can talk about this one topic endlessly. I'm amazed at how careless most people are about the atmosphere they allow to develop in their homes.

For as much as I hear so many Christian BW talk about "spirits," they don't seem very concerned about the spirits of:

1-The tv shows they & their children watch.

2-The music they & their children listen to.

3-The written materials they bring into their home. [*Note: This is why I refuse to bring any work material home with me unless it's an absolute necessity. I do everything I can to make sure that it's NOT necessary. I DON'T want photos of injured people in my home. I don't want court papers detailing a marriage's unravelling in my home. I don't want arrest reports in my home. I don't want any of that negativity in my home. Period.]

Many Muslims I encounter have an opposite problem: Their homes are scrubbed clean of obvious external forms of negativity; but there is a hateful & oppressive atmosphere inside the house. There is NO joy to be found in too many Muslim homes. These homes are prisons for everybody except the husband.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Sister Seeking said...

P&B

Thank you all for such a warm welcome, and such positive support. I really do appreciate that. I never knew that blogging could become such an informative practice. Thank you ALL for that. : )

@Lisa

What is the diet that you feed your mind? Will we ASK ourselves?-Lisa

SS: This is a wonderful point you make in this question. Lisa, I’m learning that it’s very important to “screen” what we tell ourselves; what we allow others to tell us; and what we expose ourselves to. When I reflect on all the emotional garbage and dysfunction I had to sift through in my journey through Islam, this could never come at a better time. This is one reason I decided to get back into talk therapy, and take some mindfulness classes so that I can learn how to take care of my mind, and more importantly how to prevent experiencing un-necessary emotional distress. Lisa, I once read a book by Bishop T.D. Jakes, and he gave an example in the introduction of book I can’t forget:

(Paraphrasing by the way)

Imagine two ladies at a diner talking. Now imagine a waiter coming up with a coffee container. The waiter asks“would you like some coffee ma’am” and the lady replies “yes, please.” So, the waiter is pouring coffee into her coffee cup and meanwhile she is just conversation waiting—until the hot coffee begins to overflow because the waiter is still pouring coffee into her cup.

The point Bishop Jakes was trying to make was that allow people, places, and things to just dump things on us until our cup is overflowing not with joy or peace but with sorrow, distress, and unhealthiness. One day you look up and BAM: your cup is overflowing all over the table.

I realized one reason some orthodox Muslims are so mentally dead is because they have allowed everybody to just pour, and pour, and pour—I’m grateful that I had at least a muster seed of courage to begin to walk away.

Thank you for that. : )

I want to ask every person reading this to think about the ENERGY that is in your home right now.-Lisa

SS: Amen honey! Right on! I think that parenthood for me has been a learning curve thus far. There was a time when my beliefs about motherhood were confined to classical Islam, and cultural dispositions of other people. When that was the case the energy inside my home was not light, loving, and in order and proportion. There is more than one way to be a parent. I think it’s called “mother style” or “mother gift”. But we all have styles, talents, and gifts that work differently. In any case, I’m finding that for me, I’m just not a high powered corporate run with the wolves’ mother. At the same time, because I am finally secure in who I am and what I want: I’m not going to knock a mama who is that corporate run with the wolves’ mother. Her journey benefits me too.
I finally realized after trying both the SAHM option and the WM option that I’m more comfortable function in the middle ground as WOM. For example, G-d bless those corporate mothers who have the energy and discipline to do both. I’ve found that I don’t have the energy to raise my daughter the way I believe children should be raised. I believe that children need consistency, structure, and love rather on a long term basis. I’m finding that the energy in my home is decent but not the best it could be.

G-d knows best.

SS

Sister Seeking said...

P&B

“Many Muslims I encounter have an opposite problem: Their homes are scrubbed clean of obvious external forms of negativity; but there is a hateful & oppressive atmosphere inside the house. There is NO joy to be found in too many Muslim homes. These homes are prisons for everybody except the husband.” –Khadija

SS: You know sister, I’m just rejoicing these days. I really am. I’m grateful that Allah guided my husband and I to one another. I’m so grateful that I didn’t marry some one whose only intention was: sex and domination. For the most part, many of our challenges were external but ended up becoming internal. It took a marriage counselor to point that out to us! lol : )

For as much as I hear so many Christian BW talk about "spirits," they don't seem very concerned about the spirits of:

1-The tv shows they & their children watch.

2-The music they & their children listen to.


SS: This became a terrible point of contention between the last relationship I had with a BA and her daughter.

I only listen to: classical, jazz, gospel, and in our bedroom old school R&B. I don’t allow Amina to listen to anything else—this is also a problem in our pre-school but that will change VERY soon.



I do allow television, but I also believe that children need to play, and also play out doors!

I personally don’t find television entertaining. I’ll go a see a movie but that’s about it.

I some times wonder, if our culture has lost the ability to find enjoyment in nature, arts, crafts, and just simple tea’s?

You know what I’ve doing on the weekends these days:

Sitting at home in my basement cross stitching, listening Ella, with Amina running around crazy dressed up in my too tight dresses! lol

Khadija said...

Hello there, Sister Seeking/Miriam!

Good for you, and good for Miss Amina!

I firmly believe that a mental addiction to passive pasttimes like tv is the main reason why Black folks are so nonproductive. Years go by and there's nothing to show for all of that tv watching.

I didn't realize how unusual my mother and aunts are until I got older. Unlike them, nobody knits, nobody crochets, nobody sews, nobody does macrame, etc. Nobody does anything creative or productive. At least NOT among most BW I've encountered over the years.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

DeStouet said...

I've always wanted to live a life of abundance. A life filled with love, joy, care & peace. I'll do anything to have that too. Since I was a young girl, I've been ridden my life of troubles & negativity. My biological family were the last to be dumped into the sea but that was because I did believe that I was capable of bringing a certain peace & happiness into their lives. I was a fool in love. LOL

I want to live more than I want anything else.

There are a few changes that I need to make in my life as far as my diet & lack of physical activity but I am planning on doing something about this as we speak.

foreverloyal said...

About creativity, I just finished a dress yesterday. This is only my third dress ever, and I definitely made some mistakes.

However, even with all the frustration and lightweight cussin', I have something wearable and I have learned lessons that I can apply on my next attempt.

"Don't get discouraged if it's not perfect the first time" That's what I'm always telling my children, but I need the reminder myself sometimes.

Khadija said...

Welcome, DeStouet!

We've all been fools for something. Be it love, money, ideology, material things, status, whatever. LOL!

Like I said in another comment, all of this (moving toward the light, abundance, and life itself) is an ongoing journey. I just bought a juicer & veggies (including nasty little Brussels sprouts---feh) this morning. I've been toying with the idea of juicing ever since Hagar's Daughter did her juice fast. {raised fist in salute of Hagar's Daughter!}

Now, I'm not ready to go so far as a juice fast/feast. But I AM going to start juicing. Today. Right now. [Especially with the anti-cancer vegetables that I absolutely REFUSE to eat, such as Brussels sprouts---how I detest cabbages of any kind! LOL!]

Onward & forward!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Khadija said...

Welcome, Forever Loyal!

Good for you!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Khadija said...

After 1st juicing experiment:

Yep. The Brussels sprouts are as revolting as I remember. [Feh.] Thank God I camoflaged them with plenty of fruits!

The model I bought had a good tip in the instruction booklet about putting a plastic grocery bag in the pulp container to minimize clean-up. [I got a Hamilton Beach 'Big Mouth' Juice Extractor.]

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

foreverloyal said...

I've only had brussels sprouts once and I hated them. However, in all fairness to the vegetable this WAS at the college cafeteria, so I don't know for sure that I don't like them. :)

Khadija said...

Hello there, Forever Loyal!

Brussels sprouts are FOUL as far as I'm concerned. LOL!

As a small girl, my efforts at hiding the fact that I wasn't eating them (lightly chewing & then spitting them out into a paper towel to be thrown away) were the source of many punishments!

It turns out that these horrid little things "are exceptional sources of. . . anticancer molecules and should be eaten regularly." "Foods to Fight Cancer: Essential Foods to Help Prevent Cancer" pg. 77 (from the chapter "Cancer Hates Cabbage"---yeah, well I do too!) by Richard Beliveau, Ph.D. and Denis Gingras, Ph.D.

Thankfully, my mother suggested that I juice them instead of trying to choke them down. Thanks, Mom!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

JS said...

How could you NOT like Brussels sprouts Khadija! If you add a little extra virgin olive oil, a little trans fat-free margarine, dash of pepper and seasoning salt you might just change your mind about those “nasty” little Brussels sprouts.

Let me know what you think.;)

Khadija said...

Welcome, JS!

LOL! {smile}

There is nothing that can improve the taste of those nasty mini-cabbages. The only thing that CAN be accomplished is to overpower the nastiness with another taste.

Relatives tried over the years to demonstrate the other side to these {cough, gag} Brussels sprouts. All sorts of culinary wizardry was wasted in those efforts.

Nasty is as nasty does.

Feh.

Peace,blessings and solidarity.