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Join Us for Full Moon Meditation in February

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Valentine’s Day Full Moon Heart Peace Meditation

meditationI am really excited about this opportunity to create and expand the feeling of love in the hearts of you all on such a special, sentimental night!  I will guide you into a gentle and easy heart chakra meditation on the quality of love, which will have layers of assistance for those of you who have a hard time meditating and plenty of openness for the skillful meditators who would like to have a group meditation experience.

The evening will begin with gathering casually, introducing ourselves and then I will give a short talk and introduction to the meditation. Any one is welcome to share before and after meditation. We will have a full 30 minutes to explore the silence of the heart within this group practice, and then close with questions and a ten minute Earth Peace Meditation  practice for radiating the love and peace to the larger community.

Friday, February 14, 2014  (Valentine’s Day)
6:30 P.M. – 8:00 P.M.

Event Description:  Join us for generating love on Valentine’s Day, with heart focused meditation experience.  We will gather for a short introduction to meditation, where multiple options for heart meditation will be described in depth, and questions answered.  Sitting in the stillness of the meditation experience will be the central focus.  Heart Meditation generates a peaceful and dynamic energy which can be felt by most participants.  The event will proceed with further sharing and questions with a wrap up short yogic meditation practice for sharing and radiating that love energy generated to the heart of the world.

Location of the event: Coffee Catz Café, 6761 Sebastopol Avenue, Sebastopol, CA  95472

Event Speaker:  Vicki Van Winkle, MFA, MFT, Meditation Teacher

Contact information: Vicki Van Winkle

Phone:   (707) 338-6177

Website:  vickivanwinkle.com

Email: vickivanwinkle@gmail.com

Cost:  *there is no charge for this event

Coffee Catz continues serving after this event if you would like to purchase beverages or snacks.

Celebrating Diversity in Sonoma County (written for a local publication)

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When counting the many beautiful wonders of Sonoma County let us remember to count among them our county’s human diversity.  We stand out, even among California counties for our extremely diverse population.  No matter under what lens you examine us, our diversity will show up.  Look at us by our ethnic or racial identities, our religious or sexual orientations, or socio –economic positions.  However you look you will see quite a range, and many differences.  It is up to each of us to remember that this diversity is a tremendous asset, bringing color, richness, and flavor to our county and deepening our hearts and minds.  We can let our experiences of diversity be a valuable tool for keeping our hearts open and letting our minds grow flexible and open up too.

Diversity in humanity sometimes brings ruffled feathers, hurt feelings and misunderstandings due to communication barriers, and the widely divergent world views held by this world’s various cultures.  However, if we keep the perspective that diversity is valuable in mind, then with an open heart and mind we can transcend and resolve the various difficulties that arise when people from different places and different cultures come together by chance.

When groups of humans coalesce and grow there is often a force of homeostasis which seems to push most people toward the mainstream, while leaving some people out of the flow of this push and leaving them vulnerable and  disenfranchised from belonging and access to the resources of the group.  How can we  be careful to resist this tendency of the lower emotions of territorialism, greed and fear?

Its about flexibility.  Flexibility of the mind and the heart, which are the key to embracing diversity are not much different than flexibility in the body.  We have to use the flexibility we have or we will loose it in time, and conversely,  if we really want to we can expand the flexibility we have through practice.    What do we need to practice?

We need to practice curiousity and willingness which are known to be powerful energetic mental states which  enhance our subjective experience of “flow” and therefore increase experience of happiness.

We can practice remembering natures facts about diversity.  It really takes a lot of diversity to make any ecosystem work over time.  It takes all of the colors of the rainbow, and their mixes to make the colors of nature come alive.  Each color can be enhanced by the presence of other colors whether similar or complementary (opposite).

It may serve us all well to remember just how boring the world would be if we were all the same color, race, religion, orientation or gender.  We all need us to be as diverse as we are, and there is room for all of us here, if we are willing to make room for each other to be.

Appreciating diversity comes more naturally for some, and for others can be a learned set of skills and values.  When it is not coming naturally its important to assist ourselves by remembering that we are participating in something much much larger than our own minds and belief systems, and to remember to be curious and approach the world with wonder.  We must remember to ask:  What can we learn when we drop our preset mind and participate in the vastness of the beautiful world of human diversity?

And at times when we find our resistance more challenging, and old patterns of closing down seem to be closing in, its really important to remember that our county is growing more and more diverse with time, and that cultivating and developing our inner and outer flexibility is an important set of skills to insure our own peace of mind, let alone the peace of those in relationship with us.  Let us all remember to contribute to world peace in everyday ways, with the simple gift of appreciating diversity, approaching human differences with curiosity and willingness, and letting go of our preset ideas about how things “should be” in order to get on with the business of participating fully in the world as it is.

Vicki Van Winkle, MFT has been a psychotherapist and meditation teacher assisting the people of Sonoma County to recover from dealing with highly stressful life events, anxiety and depression for over 15 years.   If you have any questions regarding approaching life with curiosity and willingness please contact me at vickivanwinkle@gmail.com.  I would be happy to assist you or direct you to some resources to assist you. 

Calm Your Mind by Remembering Your Heart

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A few words about calming the MIND:  this was undeniably one of the most difficult things for me to learn how to do as a person who had grown up traumatized and with lots of intellectual defenses and anxiety, not to mention the well developed dark alleys of depressive thoughts.  Literally, it has taken my whole lifetime to learn it, and I am still learning.  However, I will never give up learning this because it has proved to be the most important task, and its fruit is sweet, so sweet.  Which is why I share it with you, my fellow traveler, and encourage you to persist in the task, till you taste the sweet fruit too….

Remembering the heart may seem like an unlikely entry point into taming the mind, but only taking a few moments for the experience itself can convince you.  You may not be convinced the first time you try, or for many a time to come, but just dont give up on yourself, and allow yourself to remember this task, again and again, when the moment is right for you.

What is this task, Remembering the Heart?  What does it consist of?  As for myself, I first encountered the idea when I attended a Berkeley, CA meeting of some Sufi friends who had gathered together to listen to Llewellyn Vaughn Lee, who had come in from London to talk about a meditation of the heart that he had learned from Irina Tweedie, author of Daughter of Fire, and an amazing early woman Sufi teacher from the West, but trained in the East.

What I learned from Llewellyn, was to sit quietly, and comfortably, and to remember love, and to do this by evoking the memory of whatever it was at that moment could help us to remember the pure feeling of love.  Even if it is just the face of the dog or the blush of pink over the sky at sunrise…. anything at all that would give the hint of the feeling of love.  And once the feeling is evoked, just catch onto that thread and let it expand in the heart.  Keep coming back to it again and again, no matter where the mind goes.  Keep recentering and remembering Love itself.

Some days will be harder than others, so try to sit regularly for a few minutes, but at least sometimes try to make it an hour.  Of course your mind will try to think of many things.  The mind will tell you everything else is important and must be done right now.  But do what you can to convince the mind, cajole it, and if you must force it to make time… to sit in the silent art of remembering love, remembering the heart.

On the best days something will soften and open up, something like sunshine and like nothing at all both at the same time will replace the chaos of the mind and you will rest in it, relieved, loved, remembered by love, remembering love, you will float, or perhaps dissolve, and then you will be glad that you sat through all the harder times, when you weren’t sure why you were really sitting, or what you were waiting for.  Once you have this taste, it will help you to keep a regular practice.  Until you do, keep listening to those who have gone before you on the journey and who have tasted the pure water, of the sweetness of the heart, which is Love, Love, Love.

Meditation itself may not solve many of your outer problems, (or it may?), but regardless, a regular practice of meditating a few minutes or an hour a day will make you stronger, more flexible and more able to solve problems as they come your way in life.  Llewellyn also taught that:  ”many problems can not be solved on the level of the problem”.  This was confusing to me for many years, but over the decades I have seen it proved true again and again.  Many times I let go of the attitude of struggle I was having with a particular problem and focused on wellness and peace within, and next thing I know, some solution to that problem just came along and presented itself.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I am not promoting an attitude of irresponsibility or shirking of problems.  What I am promoting is a balance of effortful problem solving with a peaceful listening of sitting in the heart and letting yourself rest in the peace of the love of the heart, and then coming back, refreshed and renewed with a new approach to the dilemmas at hand.

This heart mediation from the Sufi path has meant so much to my life, that I always take the opportunity to teach it when I can.  I offer it first in the rotation of Full Moon Meditation events each January, and will also teach it during the Summer Solstice Event and other classes, as time allows.  But why wait?   Just take a few minutes now, how about set a timer for what you can spare 5 or 25 minutes and just practice right now….just close your eyes and remember something, someone that makes the feeling of love begin to tingle or grow in your heart and then let your mind and heart focus fully on that tingly place, the heart, the place where we often feel love.  Just let the feeling be there, and let your mind be there with it.  When your mind wanders, remind yourself, and resume putting your attention there on the memory of love, in the Remembrance of the Heart.  Let the door of the heart take you were it will……

Re-boot Yourself After Trauma

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Reduce Stress Quickly with this article that has been published at Santa Rosa GoLocal.com .

Reboot Yourself with Triangle Breathing

In my work as a therapist, I often initially see people when they are under maximum stress.  The first time a person comes in, they have usually procrastinated calling a therapist for some time, for as long as they could manage to.  By the time I see them on the first visit, their stress levels are very, very high.  To quickly reduce the experience of being stressed I teach them to re-boot the mind and body with a practice from India known as pranayama (yogic breathing technique)  When the breathe is calmed and settled the mind also follows.

We all have an experiential understanding of stress. But let’s take a closer look at the many changes that go on in the body under stress.  Changes in the pattern of breathing occur consistently among distressed people.  The breath becomes either shallow or fast or both.  It might even feel locked up and choppy.  In fact this single element, change in the breathing pattern,  is so powerful, that when it occurs,  it sets off a cascade of other reactions, which are collectively known as the flight or fight or freeze response.

 

Using The Practice of Triangle Breathing to Reboot the Mind and Body

The practice of Triangle Breathing turns this cascade around by bringing our attention to the diaphragm muscle at the base of the lungs.  The networks of nerves in the diaphragm register the patterns of breath and send this information to the brain.  The brain automatically interprets this information and determines our current level of danger, it automatically decides how alert we need to be at the moment, how on-guard.  So when the brain registers a distressed breathing pattern, the entire body-mind stress response fires itself up for action.  Trouble is, it may not be time for action, you may be trying to sleep or enjoy some time with your family / friends/pets.

To re-boot your mind body system at a time like this, the triangle breathing pranayama very effective.  It works to reduce stress by deactivating the alarm system of the mind/body system.  It overrides the alarm reaction by sending a powerful positive message of safety to the entire mind and body. This powerful tool can release the constriction you feel after perceiving an experience as dangerous and stressful.  When it’s time to move on, take a moment to get centered!

 

 

 

Triangle Breathing Practice Instructions

The way of this practice is to make the pattern of breathing become steady and long.  To accomplish this we create a 3 part breath (inhalation, hold in, & exhalation).  In this practice, we strive to make the three parts of the breath equal in length.  In this practice we imagine the structure of the breath to be an upside down equilateral triangle.  It has 3 equal sides, a flat top that represents the held in breath and a point at the bottom to indicate that there is not hold in the breath after the exhalation.

 

First thing we’ll need to do to find out how long our breath usually is.  Just take a simple baseline by exhaling fully, then, while inhaling slowly count until your lungs are full.  Then hold your breath inside for the same length, and for the same length exhale, with a controlled exhalation.

What was your baseline inhalation? Do you need to adjust because you cannot either hold or exhale for that long? Make an adjustment in the size of your starting triangle that will be easy for you to accomplish. For many people the beginning baseline is between 4 and 6, which will fuel the stress cascade.

To stop the stress reaction, the goal of the pranayama is to slowly increase the size of the triangle.  Just attempt increases one number at a time, and when you reach point where it is too difficult to either inhale, hold or exhale for that length….just back off to a breath length that is more comfortable for you.  If you practice to your point of comfort you will slowly begin to increase your ability.  Most of the time we do not even breathe as deeply as we are capable of, so bringing your time and awareness to the practice will give your rapid improvement.

Even a little bit of this practice will increase your ability to handle stress smoothly and improve your mental and physical health.  Three to five minutes of practice is the minimum I would recommend for resetting the system… but even with just these few minutes of work on your breathing pattern (pranayama) You will notice some changes and relaxation.

 

Benefits of Triangle Breathing Pranayama:

Working with your breath will reduce stress and increase happiness. You will discover the wonderful differences deeper breathing will make in your quality of life. When the breath develops qualities of evenness and length from consistent practice it provides ease to the body and brings rest to the mind allowing one to enter into a steady, calm, aware state, fully immersed and living in the present moment. You will notice little side benefits here and there like being able to swim along time underwater, and run without getting winded.  Additionally,   you will certainly gain more emotional self control…either in controlling your temper or in expressing yourself more clearly and easily.  Perhaps with increased awareness and a way to address that restless feeling you might break some other habits or pattern you’ve had but which hasn’t been serving you.                Deeper breathing will also make life easier on your heart and lungs, since they will not have to work as hard, they can learn to be restful. You might like being able to think more clearly with more oxygen getting to the brain.  In fact, all the parts of your body will have a little less wear and tear when you have improved your awareness of your breathing and the length of your breath.  The triangle breathing pranayama is an excellent method to achieve these milestones on your way to being healthy and contented in life.

To see the original article click below:

http://sonomacounty.golocal.coop/stories/reboot_yourself_with_triangle_breathing/449/

Trauma Recovery

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Trauma Recovery Therapy and Resource Page

 

As an expert and a professional in the field of trauma recovery:  I have been there, and  I am HERE NOW for you.  I have recovered from severe traumas and I have aided hundreds of others on their trauma recovery journey!  I welcome you to partner up with me on a healing journey.

 

You can feel better more quickly than you can now imagine if you are dealing with a recent or long past trauma in your life.  You may be discouraged and exhausted from all the attempts at healing you have already made.  It may be time for you to seek someone with enough compassion and knowlege to really assure your success this time on the healing journey.  My step by step healing process are tailored to each and every person and situation.  I will listen to your story and your symptoms, and as I do, I will be formulating and sharing with you the strategies, tools, and attitudes that will help you recover at the fastest rate possible.  The best way for me to help anyone with their trauma recovery process is through a series of weekly therapy sessions in my Santa Rosa office.

That being said, I am also available for those who prefer or need to work with me online or in telephone sessions.  (Only in person sessions are covered by health insurance policies).  To get an idea of how I work, and what kind of information and help you can expect from me check out my online healing seminar:

 

 “Season of Healing”  is now available:  Would you like to have an audio experience of the kind of healing work I do? Check out my style without taking any real risk.   You can find out more about whether or not I am the right therapist for you, or you just enjoy the free seminar and use it to further your own healing.

Season of Healing, a four part audio seminar is available for you to listen to and/or download at no cost.  Just send me an email, and I will send you the links. 

 

Expected Benefits of Therapy

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What Are the Benefits You Can Expect From Therapy
with Vicki Van Winkle in Santa Rosa Van Winkle, MFT

Not everyone will have the exact same results from meditation training or from therapy. However, if you participate fully these are some results that you may expect to get over time by doing your inner healing work.

The most important benefit you will gain from combining meditation, breath work and therapy in your inner healing process is an ability to relax into your own peaceful nature and reveal that peaceful nature in your daily living and interactions with others on a more and more consistant basis.

You will be likely to experience better concentration and more consistantly good moods. Your problem solving skills will be likely to improve.

Much More Self Understanding and Improved Relationship with YourselfLearn to understand your own feelings and needs better. be able to prioritize and manage your own feelings and needs.Better Mood Management Skills

 

Improved Self Care Levels

As part of our healing journey we will take a close look at the habits and beliefs taht influence and control the way you are taking care of your mind and body on a daily basis. Our work focuses on healing the WHOLE YOU!

 

Less Anxiety, Better Sleep

Improved Communication Skills
Education and training about specific communication skills will actively be taught where needed in the therapeutic journey
Be able to spot problems with more clarity and solve them much faster.

 

Learn to Respond effectively rather than reacting erratically to situations.

 

Choosing A Therapist

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Choosing The Right Kind of Therapist For You!

Given that there are so many different kinds of people and so many different kinds of therapists….How do you find the right one?  Use the information below to help you in your journey.

Do you prefer to use your health insurance plan mental health benefits?


If so, check the insurer’s website to see if they have an online directory of covered providers.  Start with providers that are near to where you live, work or go to school.  Make a short list and search their names on the web for more information.  Many providers now have websites where you can find their up to date address location and contact information, as well as a description of the services they provide.  You may be able to get an indication of the style in which they work, as well, from their website.  Use any and all information you can find to make a short list of therapist to call or email.  Call or email several regarding your specific problem or need, scheduling needs, and to see if they are taking new patients insured by your plan.  If possible ask other people who may know of that providers services, such as your doctor.

No Insurance?  Not Planning to Use Your Insurance Plan?


Many therapists have sliding scale rates available, for people who pay out of pocket.  You may choose not to use your insurance plan, even if you have one, if your need is not one of medical necessity, for example.  Or even if you just prefer not to have your mental health information on your medical records.  Compare the rates of several therapists and if you need one, ask directly if they have a sliding scale.  The rate you will pay for therapy should be negotiated before the first session, so you are sure of what you will be expected to pay before entering the therapy office.

Other things to clear up before the first session, either by phone or email….


If you have specific mental health condition or life situation, ask to be sure the therapist has experience in handling those matters successfully. Have a short conversation with the person in which you give him or her an opportunity to reassure you that you can be helped by coming in to see them for therapy.

If you had a specific type of therapy that had worked for you or not worked for you in the past, it would be helpful to discuss these preferences, and try to find your best match.

Is it important that you speak to either only a male or only a female?


In some kind of life situations one will only feel comfortable talking things over with someone of a certain gender or age group.  Decide if your situation is of that kind and write down your limitations.  Then begin to interview people who match what you feel you need first.  It is important in the healing journey to honor your basic needs and preferences when possible.

Do you need to speak with someone of a specific group, or specific orientation (cultural, religious, or sexual orientation)?
If you feel that differences having differences from your therapist in any of these areas, it is worth making sure ahead of meeting time that you are going to feel comfortable with your new therapist.  Usually, I can work with anyone, but I have met people who were not comfortable working with me due to some perceived difference in these areas.  I have a number of photos of the Buddha and of some really famous Yogis like Paramahamsa Yogananda in my office.  If people are going to be upset over the existence of those images in my office, for example, it’s best for us to find that out as soon as possible and spare us all the disconnect.  There are so many kinds of people who are psychotherapists in this community, you can surely find someone who you feel cozy with.

It is not always easy to reach out for help when we need it, especially with our inner lives, inner thoughts, inner pain and worries….  So give yourself the best opportunity for success by discussing your situation with several therapists and choosing the one you think and feel will be able to help you the best.  If your situation allows for it, even interview two or three therapists in person until you find someone you are comfortable with.   PUT IN THE EFFORT TO FIND THE BEST THERAPIST FOR YOU , You Are Worth It!

Self Help

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Here are some things to consider when you would like to help yourself feel better right away.

If you would like more assistance in applying these methods in your life, feel free to call, email, or schedule an appointment now, online. for an in person or telephonic session.

 

The quality of your mind will match the quality of your breath. The Breath can control the Mind.


When you are upset and start breathing shallowly, rapidly or holding your breath, the mind interprets that to mean that you are in some kind of serious danger. When that happens the mind will whip up a tornado of thoughts and speed up its scanning of the environment, reading in more trouble behind every corner! You can intervene at times like these by intentionally breathing in a more slow and steady way.

 

Try the triangle breathing method of training the breath to stabilize.
Triangle Breathing: imagine an upside down equilateral triangle. the left side represents the inhalation, the top represents the holding in of the breath, and the right side the exhalation. Your job is to make all the sides of the breath triangle as long and as equal as possible.
Begin this technique by inhaling as slowly as you can and counting how long your breath is. Then hold your breath in your lungs for the same amount of time. Next count the same number out as you slowly release your exhalation in a controlled fashion, making sure you have enough breath to make it all the way to the end of the count. After you have completed the first cycle, complete 2 or 3 more the exact same way. Next add one number to the count as you inhale and do a couple of cycles at the higher number if you can. If you can not, simply return to the lower number and try to increase it when you practice the triangle breathing next time. You can continue to train your breath to be slower, richer and deeper by practicing this method regularly, at least 3 times a week. It is a safe method to use to train your breath, even once per hour. So employ it liberally, and enjoy a greater peace of mind and a more relaxed body today! See my post “Reboot Yourself” for a more extensive description of this method.  http://vickivanwinkle.com/re-boot-yourself-after-trauma/

 

Stress causes you to use up key nutrients very quickly


If you are under a great deal of stress you can become easily depleted in B vitamins, which give you energy, and minerals such as calcium and magnesium which help you to relax. If stress is making you feel bad you might want to learn more about what kind of vitamin and mineral supplements will help. Besides ordinary food and multivitamins, you may benefit from specific supplements
help encourage healthy brain function, such as SAMe, phosphatydal serine,
GABA,or HTP 5 Hydroxy tryptophan.

You own mind may be making things worse by attacking you instead of helping you calm down and solve the problem at hand.


You may need to take some time to evaluate whether your own thought process is helping or hindering you in reducing your stress levels at this time. Dont Believe Everything You Think!!!! You may be blaming yourself, or jumping to conclusions or seeing things in black and white. You may be maximizing your obstacles and minimizing your strengths or making any number of cognitive errors. In order to best help yourself it would be good to get the book, FEELING GOOD, by David Burns. He explains the common errors we make in our thinking that make us feel more and more miserable. In his book he makes excellent suggestions for sorting out these distorted thoughts and getting our own mind back on our side of the problem solving crisis at hand.


If you are currently ready to seek in person therapy in Santa Rosa, CA ….or would like to schedule a telephonic therapy session please click here: