Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

 

Recently, in my quest for improvement, I started to meditate. I had always heard meditation was good for you, unfortunately, the types of people who always told me to do it were often WOO WOO types who like crystals or individuals who maybe took a few too many hallucinogens in their lives and were people I really couldn’t take seriously. When I was in university there was mention of the benefits of it when I was working on my Psychology Degree.

The question is why didn’t I listen then? It is possible that I really did not respect individual professors. Or they simply didn’t put a real effort into getting the classes to attempt to meditate. Or they really didn’t understand it enough to teach it in a way that was relatable or meaningful for everyone. Or I simply didn’t care to listen.

So why did I start?

Many of the podcasts I regularly listen to, individuals who I respect for the expertise or drive all had one thing in common. No matter their political ideology or stance on things they all meditate. Why? Because according to them it helps them focus and most of their successful friends do it. Oh and don’t forget the science. All signs seem to point to one thing.

Meditation is good for you.

In all honesty, I had tried meditation before but always had trouble focusing. So how you ask am I now regularly meditating with the guidance and structure I need to stay on track?

Easy. Sam Harris recently released his Waking up Guided meditation app on Android.  Here I can get daily regular guided meditations from someone I respect. Someone who is a respected neuroscientist, American intellectual and someone who has spent much time on the subject of meditation and mindfulness. You don’t have to agree with everything he says to appreciate the work he has put into developing this simple and easy to use (and affordable) app that can help one and all learn to meditate.

Now that I have started almost daily I have noticed a few things. I am enjoying the little things when walking outside. Like shadows, colors and other things and thinking positively of them rather than thinking nothing. I am a becoming more aware of when I am getting agitated. And in general, I am feeling better.

While I am no expert like Sam the key seems to simply be about calming your mind if only for a bit. In today’s world, we have far too much stimulus. While in the past if we wanted to have a quiet time it was a simple matter of a walk in the forest. Now unless you live next to the forest even that takes stimulus and effort with driving etc. And unless you want to make a big trek out of it most of the popular forest trails have far too many people.

Meditation is a way to easily and regularly quiet the noise both externally and more importantly internally. I have been doing as little as 5-10 minutes a day and have notices benefits. I should know that due to my previous experience with Yoga (casually) I have some experience with breath control. So if you are reading this and decide to start to know it might take a little longer to get the hang of it. The waking up app is designed for beginners so dont fret too much.

Being the Krav Maga instructor that I am, I started to think about how closely related mindfulness is to the Mental model of the Awareness colour code we use at UTKM. Or more commonly known as being “Situationally Aware“.

We as Krav Maga practitioners know how to be aware of impending physical violence by maintaining situational awareness or mental colour code yellow when we are out and about. But how often do we apply the same model to our own mental state? If you are stressed or anxious, internally that might be equivalent to being in colour code orange. The only difference is the threat is not real but perceived. The problem is prolonged time at orange means our bodies will get tired and burn out.

In a real threat with an identified threat, it can quickly go from orange to red. How long in real life would you stay around an identified threat or stay in a fight? Say a person standing there with a knife. Our first instinct should be to get away to safety. Or if we must FIGHT with all our might.

Ask yourself how is that any different if the threat is perceived but your nervous system is giving the same response.

The fact we often forget to consider this as Kravist, especially as we spend so much time learning to be hyper-aggressive, is a problem. We often do not learn how to be balanced.

In today’s world, Soldiers, Police, and first responders are experiencing and the epidemic of PTSD and other side effects because they spend so much time dealing with real threats they start to internalize and bring them home as perceived internal threats.

We can only fight for so long before something has got to give.

In traditional martial arts, they have to know about the need to connect mind, body, and soul for a long time. Its just unfortunate they lost the practical application to their styles along the way that for people like us Kravists its far to easy for us to ignore the other important aspects of self-defense that we spend little to no time on.

That is the internal mind and soul part. Sure we train our minds to handle stress at the moment for self-defense situations but we dont learn to soften them for the rest of the time. And we certainly don’t spend time on any spiritual aspect because for us time is limited.

Meditating-1Yet it is so important for us to remember that “so one may walk in peace” should mean both physically and mentally. Change your perspective that the mental awareness color code is for both external and internal threats. Recognize when you are becoming your own worst enemy and though you can handle physical foes, your mental ones are the real problems.

So I ask that you consider meditation and mindfulness as a path to walking in peace and remember that they are not just for monks, priest, hippies but also for warriors, soldiers, officers, Kravist or those who simply need a break.

 

 

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I Must Not Fear 1

Pull yourself together! Just overcome your fear! It always sounds so corny or easy when people tell you that but it actually can be very difficult.

Last weekend I participated in my first BJJ tournament and I sucked, I lost my two matches and still got away with a bronze medal. But even though I lost, that bronze medal means so much to me – over 20 years ago when I competed in Judo I always dreaded competition day. When I stepped on the mat I was scared and I often blanked. I was afraid of doing the wrong thing so I often did nothing. You remember the colours we always talk about in krav maga? White being oblivious, all the way through yellow, orange and red and the colour we always try to avoid – black. This is where I was, code black, frozen, unable to do anything. I didn’t enjoy competition at all and tried to avoid it like Satan the holy water.

So why would I sign up for a BJJ competition to begin with? We were talking about cross training for Krav Maga and how competition can help you to get better. When rolling mostly with the same people you are getting used to their style and it limits you. When I signed up I was hoping others in my club would follow. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen but it doesn’t really matter.

I was incredibly nervous and anxious, like for my orange belt test. It was my first competition in decades; I read the rules over and over again to make sure to understand them and not to do anything that could get me disqualified. When I stepped on the mat for my first match I tried to focus only on my opponent and also to be active. And I somehow managed to not go into black but was able to do something, I faked one way, used my opponent’s reaction to throw her and got her to the ground. I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to submit her and we went into overtime. Each of us had to take the back of the other and we had to try to escape out of the seatbelt grip with the hooks in as fast as possible. My opponent was a bit faster than me.

Editors note: Though we fully understand the ruleset of the competition she was in (a submission only tournament). Petra should be proud as in a points tournament petra would have dominated as control is an important aspect in these styles. We want to give props to her opponent who showed excellent defensive skills.

I was disappointed in myself. I usually tend to be very hard on myself and that’s not always easy to deal with because it is in my head, my inside voice(s). When somebody else is yelling at me or gives me a hard time I can go away, close the door or hang up the phone. That is impossible with my inside voice. After I also lost my second match I was sad, disappointed and then also relieved because it was over. And then I realized that I also had a bit of fun. I have to train more, put in the effort but it also means that next time I’ll be better prepared, I’ll know a bit more about BJJ competition, the rules etc. It won’t be completely new for me. If I had given in to my fear I would not have made that experience and learned something. Every failure is also a learning experience, unless you die, of course. After the matches were over I started to feel excited because I had stayed and seen it through and this is what that bronze medal stands for.

if you let fear run your life, you don’t have a life.

 

Fear can be good, it makes us more cautious. I’m an analytical person. When I’m in a difficult situation or have to make tough decisions I analyze everything and try to be as rational as possible. When I’m able to understand what makes me feel scared I can somehow handle it better. It doesn’t take the fear away but it helps not to drive me insane.

Petra wins bronze.jpgI also had a little bit of an epiphany when I was in my early twenties and working as a travel rep in Crete. I got into an argument with a co-worker who lost his cool during that argument and started threatening to kill me. He got fired right away and had to leave Crete. I went to the police but they couldn’t do much. It didn’t take long and that guy came back, he had gotten another job at a car rental place. He started stalking me and one night he slashed two of my tires. My car was parked right in front of my apartment. The knife marks on the tires weren’t pretty and it was a shock for me. At night I kept my windows closed, my door locked. I was incredibly scared! Also because he came back couple nights later to slash my other co-worker’s tires. It took me a long time to get over that fear but it taught me a valuable lesson – if you let fear run your life, you don’t have a life.

 

Music a Tool to change mood: A Personal History – Part 3

Posted: November 2, 2017 by Jonathan Fader in Mental Health

Music a Tool to change mood: A Personal History – Part 2

 

Depression in nabulus.jpg

Depression near Nabulus

 

Fast forward to the middle to later part of my service. Stationed in Nabulus (Schem) on a mountaintop next to a Jewish Settlement overlooking numerous Arab villages. It was a particularly stressful time with little sleep, constant guard duty, pointless riot control that was like a stupid game of cat and mouse. At the same time, my best friend at the time and Spotter had been selected to go to sergeants school which means he would be gone. At the time I didn’t realise how having him, there was helping me to keep my sanity, but apparently, my commanders noticed a drastic change in my behaviour after that.

Outside of the army, almost all the people whom I had moved to Israel with had either moved off the kibbutz where I was living or were people I disliked or vice versa. Nothing had gone to plan, and I felt Isolated and alone with no support. I was spiralling into a deep depression and didn’t even know it at the time. Thankfully I rediscovered the album Kelidescope by Tiesto which had been released a little over a year previously. Though controversial from his fans as it branched away from his traditional style, it might have literally saved my life.

I found myself when not on guard duty, putting my headphones in and putting one or two of his songs on repeat. I could be seen pacing around our room or the base listening to it on repeat on what could probably look a zombie with earphones. At this time the album was the only things that brought me any Joy. One song often found itself on repeat. Here On this Earth feat. The Cary Brothers

“And the sun has fallen, and the backbeat’s telling truths
That you want to hear, and you want to hear again
And the closer that you get, with the force of all the weight
And it’s also clear, do you want to feel her

Want to feel her, want to feel her

For as long as you are, here on this earth
I feel alive
For as long as you are, here on this earth
I feel alive

And you take your time, because we’ve got all night
Saturday or nothing, we can do what we want
I’m a sucker for your game, it’s the way you tease
And it’s so unreal, when we touch the ceiling

For as long as you are, here on this earth
I feel alive
For as long as you are, here on this earth
I feel alive

Make it so, it shakes your heart
Nice and slow, but can you let it go
And you feel life fall away, and you have no fear
And you let it go, just let it go
And you feel life fall away, and you have no fear
Can you let it go, let it go

For as long as you are, here on this earth
I feel alive

Feel alive, feel alive, feel alive, feel alive
Feel alive, feel alive, feel alive, feel alive”

Though the song talks about love, and a person existing giving the person meaning for me it was the chorus that helped me.

“For as long as you are, here on this earth, I feel Alive”

For me, I put myself in place of the lover and the protagonist and as long as I was Here on Earth, I felt Alive. Just like the Warrior I had imagined myself before coming, I felt alive, and I was fighting for myself emotionally though at the time I didn’t know it. It wasn’t until much later after I returned from Israel and had a manic depressive episode that I even knew I had depression. But this song grounded me at what would be one of the darker times in my services.

Music. A powerful tool. Intuition says so, Science says so. So how are you going to use it? Early in my life, I used it to enhance my mood negatively. Later, I used it to motivate and drive me forward. Then I used it to stay alive and feel alive. The trick is not just finding music because it is trendy but finding music that not only speaks to you personally but music that can be used positively to enhance your mood. Don’t listen to music to enhance dark moods for this will only make you feel worse. Find music that inspires and motivates and keeps you feeling alive. Use it as a tool to help you with your mental challenges so that you can once again walk in peace.

Conclusion Note:

When I chose this topic to write about I had an entirely different idea in my head of what the final product would look like. But then I started writing. I began to listen to the songs I discuss, some of which I have not listened to in a long time. Not surprisingly to me, though slightly unexpected and certainly surprising to anyone who thinks they know me these songs brought back some relatively strong emotions as I re-lived these times in my life.

This just shows the power of music and its effect it has on emotion. Despite what people think even my self the robot is only human and is still subject to the same general biological rules as everyone else. I thought, am a warrior at heart, and accept my humanity, even if I think emotions cloud judgement far too often for far too many people. So if you have a hard time with emotional control find the tools and use them positively, music is just one of the few tools that can help.

 

Music a Tool to change mood: A Personal History – Part 1

It’s actually because of Matisyahu and his music that helped convince me at the right time to drop everything, move to Israel and join the IDF. Specifically, two songs. Jerusalem and Warrior which also happen to be two of his earlier songs. But with all music, words alone cannot do them justice so here are the songs, assuming It doesn’t get pulled.

Jerusalem:

 

At one point I considered getting the lyric

“Jerusalem, if I forget you, let my right hand forget what it’s supposed to do.”

tattooed on me, in Hebrew as it is a biblical verse. I am glad the tattoo artist convinced Jerislam hebrew.jpgme out of it as it is a bit too religious for my liking now. Instead, I got the Hebrew word for life tattooed on me, to symbolise that I chose life, which I put in the centre of my black and white star of David. It not only expressed my identity, as I am a proud Jew even if I have great disdain for religion but also that the universe demands unity of everything. Male and female, right and wrong, and good and evil.tattooed on me, in Hebrew as it is a biblical verse.

However, the second verse of Jerusalem, in particular, spoke to me, which goes as follows:

“Rebuild the temple and the crown of glory
Years gone by, about sixty
Burn in the oven in this century
And the gas tried to choke, but it couldn’t choke me
I will not lie down, I will not fall asleep
They come overseas, yes they’re trying to be free
Erase the demons out of our memory
Change your name and your identity
Afraid of the truth and our dark history
Why is everybody always chasing we
Cut off the roots of your family tree
Don’t you know that’s not the way to be”

It references the Holocaust and how history has attempted to destroy the Jews as a people, uproot us and destroy our lineage. Did I mention I am a proud Jew?

I decided to accept my identity of as a Jew not because I care about the Torah, not because I am religious, not because I like the holidays but because of history. In the end, it does not matter what I think, whether I accept myself as a cultural Jew, a religious Jew, or a genetic Jew. Those around will always see me as a Jew.

Hitler determined that if you had two grandparents that were Jewish, even if you weren’t a practising Jew you would be considered a Jew and thus subject to the atrocities that were committed under his orders. This was even used in the construction of Israels Right to Return Laws.

Despite claims that there is no anti-Semitism in this world, it is a false narrative. Even when there are mass protests, like the misguided love trumps hate rallies, many of those who claim to operate in the name of love still hate Jews. For antisemitism is real and strong as ever. As such, no matter what I think those who would hate Jews will always see me as one no matter what I think.

This song, as well as the hate of others (irony), made me realise I must accept who I am and be proud of my heritage even if I don’t plan to continue the Jewish practices. This song helps me solidify who I am as a person. It helped me know who I am and accept it. It helped me understand the meaning of the Term Never Again, when referring to the Jewish People in particular with that second verse and come 2008/2009 when I decided to move to Israel to join the IDF this was one of the reasons I convinced my self to go.

The second of Matisyahu’s two songs that helped me decide to go to Israel was Warrior

With this song, the line in the chorus,

“You’re a warrior, Fighting for your soul”

spoke to me.

For I am a warrior, fighting for my soul. Lost and unhappy and looking for a purpose.

For I am the Lion, The Wolf and the Fox, and I will fight for me because no one else will. Though I add the animal analogy as I write this, the three animals which I think embody UTKM, the rest was true at the time. I decided, yes I am a warrior. I don’t care if others look down at me, berate me, hate me, or deny my talents and potential. I will do it for me.

I even thought of my Grandfather who was a proud veteran of the Canadian Forces and a proud supporter of Israel. Outside of my Israeli Cousins, I would be the only of his children or grandchildren in North America closer to him that would continue the military tradition. I know he would have been proud of me, though unfortunately, he passed before my service, the memory of him and his dedication along with the song and what it means to be a warrior further pushed my decision to join the Military.

Music a Tool to change mood: A Personal History – Part 3

Your musical brain.jpg

Music is something that has been in the history of man for as long as most can tell. It is sound, vibration, the transfer of energy that creates soothing, or intense emotional reactions. Some of us, are even lucky enough to get goose bumps when we hear music, myself included. Music is ingrained in most cultures in one form or another and can be used for the most beautiful of intentions or used to manipulate you into buying something you wouldn’t otherwise have done.

In 1991 a French Researcher Dr. Alfred A tomatis wrote about something he called the “Mozart effect” in his book Pourquoi Mozart? Tomatis did research into auditory effects of music to help with various mental ailments.

In a follow-up study published in Nature in 1993, Rauscher et al showed using the Mozart effect that listening to particular music could definitively help with spatial reasoning and enhance IQ scores.

In short, something we have always known intuitively, that music enhances mood was shown by the Mozart effect and numerous other studies that music can improve performance and mood both for good or for the bad.

Now that the obvious is out of the way, let’s get into my personal history with music and how two artists, in particular, helped inspire me and get me through some tough times.

When I was younger at home, my parents used to put on things like classical music, opera, or some form of news radio. I used to fall asleep to things like Enya, Sarah Brightman, Andrea Bocelli and Peter and the Wolf as narrated by Captain Jean Luc Picard himself Err, I mean Patrick Stewart. I often forget that when I was younger, I was exposed to such things as it was so long ago, but once in a while when I take to time to think back I remember, I do like such music. Outside of that, however, music was not a part of my life as my family, in general, is not of the musical variety.

As I grew older in Elementry school, for some reason or another, I lost interest in music completely. I didn’t understand my peer’s obsessions with the top 10 hits on the local radio stations. Among other things, this was the begging of my realisation that I am not really like other people. Perhaps I didn’t understand why they all just blindly liked the same thing like sheep and I rejected music because though I didn’t know it yet I am and always have been a wolf. Because of this at the time, I never used music for the good or the bad.

Enter High school and the standard years of angst. I don’t recall exactly how or why I started listening to it, but I began to listen to angry music like Slipknot, D12 or other such things. At the time I used it to enhance my anger, my hate and the feelings of loneliness and despair as I slipped closer to the Dark Side. Though I had “friends” I certainly never fit in, and looking back I feel like they only kept me around out of boredom or to have another person for their games. Post army, learning what real brotherhood and friendship was like I realised none of them ever were my friends. It’s a shame I didn’t know that at the time for perhaps I would have found different friends and had a happier time.

Later, in high school, I found a different group of friends, those who were also social outcasts but not socially inept. Through them, I found things like classic rock, The Beatles, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC and at the time my favourite Led Zeppelin. Though not any happier with myself or any less angry at least I found music that would no longer enhance such emotions but instead would foster a more open view of the world around me.

As time passed, happiness, finally free of the prison that is the school system. A place not for people like myself, who don’t fit the mould in anyway shape or form and someone completely, to this day, unwilling to be a sheep and conform to the lies and laziness of the powers that be.

It was at this time I started branching out into alternative music and EDM and other similar genres.

On January 18th, 2006, only a few months free, while watching the late night show I saw this performance:

Yes, you guessed it, Matisyahu. If you had read my series on my Camp My Way Experience you would have noticed several of his songs. Though Matisyahu has evolved from his previous personal as that Hassidic Jew singing reggae his music has always spoken to me. Though I am not in anyway a religious man in any way I think Matisyahu’s lyrics and music do a beautiful job at capturing what it means to be human.

Whether I knew it or not, like the butterfly effect, changing the channel on this night at this time would set things in motion for things to come and lay the path of my future life.

Music a Tool to change mood: A Personal History – Part 2