Archive | January 22, 2016

The 7-Year-Old Girl Who Doesn’t Feel Pain, Hunger and Fatigue*

The 7-Year-Old Girl Who Doesn’t Feel Pain, Hunger and Fatigue*

Meet Olivia Farnsworth, a British girl who doesn’t feel any pain and never feels the need to eat or sleep. At age seven, she’s able to go for days without sleeping and eating, and comes away from terrible injuries with nonchalance. In fact, she was recently run over and dragged down the street by a car, but she casually walked away from the accident without shedding a tear!

Olivia has doctors baffled. They know she suffers from a condition caused by something called chromosome 6 deletion, but this is the first time they’ve witnessed anyone displaying three rare symptoms at once. According to her mother Niki Trepak, the little girl has no sense of danger because she literally cannot feel pain, and neither does she feel the need to sleep or eat. Her doctors have nicknamed her ‘bionic girl’, while her mother says she’s “made of steel.”

“She got run over and dragged down the street by a car and she didn’t complain,” Niki said, shortly after the accident.

“It was horrendous, I don’t think it’s something I will ever get over. I was screaming and all my other children were screaming as she ran out. But Olivia was just like, ‘What’s going on?’ She just got up and started walking back to me.”

Niki also added that Olivia should have been severely injured by the impact as she had a tire mark over her chest, but she got away with only losing skin on her toe and hip. Her doctors think that she was able to escape injury because she didn’t tense up like other people normally would under such circumstances. And this isn’t the first time Olivia has acted strangely calm after getting hurt.

“She also once fell badly and ripped her lip off and didn’t say anything,” Niki recalled.

“She had to have major plastic surgery to correct it.”

Getting Olivia to eat right is also a challenge, because she doesn’t get hungry

“She became a really fussy eater and would have nothing but milk shakes,” Niki said.

“At the moment, it’s chicken noodles. She lived on butter sandwiches for about a year. She doesn’t feel hunger so I can’t threaten her like other children by saying if you don’t eat that you’ll not get this as she isn’t bothered.”

Her third ‘superpower’ is that she doesn’t feel tired.

“She once went three consecutive days and nights with no sleep,” said Niki.

“As a single mum of five it’s really hard. She’s never tired. We have to give her medication to get her to sleep.”

Although she’s a happy child most of the time, Niki says that Olivia can suffer from violent outbursts from time to time.

“She’s head-butted me, punched and kicked me and can have outbursts of swearing which can be embarrassing if we’re out in public,” the mother-of-five said.

“It happened in a park the other week and people were wondering what’s going on. They don’t know what’s wrong. Everybody laughs because she’s so wild and extreme. She says let’s jump off here and all the other children are like, ‘That’s way too high!’”

“This is why I want to raise awareness on chromosome 6 problems. To look at Olivia you don’t know anything’s wrong with her.” There are apparently 15,000 registered cases of chromosome disorder worldwide, but only 100 of them have the ‘6p’ deletion that Olivia has.

“There may not be anybody out there the same as Olivia,” said Dr. Beverly Searle, former research biologist and chief executive of chromosome disorder support group Unique.

“You can’t treat chromosome disorders but what we can do is alleviate the symptoms. We try to find matches and provide information for families, which can be great for friendship and local support.”

Niki insists that her daughter isn’t a freak – she says that despite her superhuman toughness, Olivia is the most loving among her five children.

“She’ll be the first to share sweets with you. She’s got the best personality. She’s just crazy, but in a good way.”


Related Topics:

The Bright Blue-Eyed Chinese Boy Who Sees in the Dark!

How a Young American Escaped the No-Fly List*

How a Young American Escaped the No-Fly List*

By Murtaza Hussain

Yaseen Kadura arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport more than four hours early for his flight to New York on January 15, hoping to ensure that security delays wouldn’t stop him from making his flight on time. Kadura had not been allowed to board a plane for roughly three-and-a-half years, but in his hand was a laminated copy of a letter from the Department of Homeland Security, which stated in writing that “the U.S. government knows of no reason Mr. Kadura should be unable to fly.”

Yaseen Kadura

Kadura, an American citizen, was placed on the federal government’s no-fly list in 2012. Since then, in addition to being prevented from boarding flights, he has been detained, interrogated, and harassed at border crossings and pressured by authorities to become a government informant.

The 25-year-old American medical student, who was raised in Indiana, has spent the last three years trying to coax information out of the government and clear his name. Last year, he sued in federal court over his watchlisting, joining four other Muslim Americans represented by lawyers from the Council on American-Islamic Relations. That case was still ongoing, when, this past September, Kadura suddenly received a brief, terse letter from the government indicating that he was no longer on the list and could board a plane without impediment.

Kadura’s January 15 flight was his first attempt to exercise this newly restored right. After years of arbitrary and capricious harassment at borders and airports, he felt unbearable anxiety about the trip.

“I couldn’t even sleep the entire night before thinking about it,” Kadura told The Intercept.

“I was taking cough medicine to try and make myself drowsy, but I was so scared about the prospect of trying to fly the next day that I couldn’t fall asleep.”

Before Kadura arrived at O’Hare, he attempted to check in online through an app on his phone, but was unable to do so. Once he got to the airport, he tried to check in at a JetBlue terminal, but the computer informed him this wouldn’t be possible either. After approaching an airline representative to be checked in manually, he waited for nearly an hour while the attendant spoke on the phone with a DHS representative, relaying questions to Kadura about the purpose of his visit to New York.

Finally, after receiving a boarding pass, he was escorted by a number of TSA agents to a special security room, segregated from other passengers for a private security check.

“I told them, ‘I know the drill,’ to let them know I’m used to this kind of thing. After they searched me, they let me go and board my flight normally,” Kadura said.

“After years of not being able to fly, I still didn’t believe it. I was sure that something was going to happen, up until the last minute, until the plane was in the air.”

Kadura’s flight to New York marked his first successful attempt to board a plane since he was first prevented from doing so in 2012. But despite this victory, Kadura’s case in many ways exemplifies how placement on the no-fly list, an opaque, unchallengeable, and seemingly arbitrary database, can completely upend an individual’s life.

In February 2011, a wave of protests began in Libya that soon transformed into a mass uprising against the government of Muammar el-Qaddafi. As international media attention fixated on the Arab Spring, Kadura, who was born to Libyan parents, came to prominence on Twitter as a young activist tweeting under the handle @Cyrenaican. In March of that year, he left for Libya, where he says he spent six months helping run improvised civilian aid convoys over the border from Egypt and working as an English-language fixer for journalists from the New York Times, Associated Press, GQ, and Al Jazeera English.

When he returned to the United States in August 2011, Kadura says he was greeted warmly by customs agents at the airport, who were sympathetic toward his participation in a popular revolution supported by the West.

Soon thereafter, though, his travel problems began.

In December 2011, Kadura, along with his brother and father, at the time ages 17 and 57, were detained for several hours while crossing back into Michigan over the Canadian border.

“When they scanned my passport, some kind of problem came up on their screen, and they told us to pull the car over,” Kadura said.

“They handed us an orange slip that said ‘ATS-L x 3’ and then took us to a room where they started interrogating us and searching all our belongings.”

Unbeknownst to him at the time, Kadura had been flagged by DHS’ Automated Targeting System, or ATS, a program originally created to identify potentially risky container cargo but later expanded to assign risk ratings to individual people. Kadura and his family were held for six-and-a-half hours, subjected to what Kadura described as “humiliating” searches, and their cellphones and other electronic devices were seized for “inspection.”

“They didn’t give us any explanation for why they were treating us this way,” he said.

“The worst thing though was to see them treating my dad like a criminal, someone who was older and had worked for us his whole life. It was really painful to watch.”

The Department of Homeland Security declined to comment for this article.

For the next several months, Kadura, then a student at Purdue University, was able to travel without major incident. In September 2012, however, following the deadly attack against the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, things began to change for him, as well as for many other Libyan-Americans.

While driving back to the United States from a trip to visit family in Toronto, Kadura was stopped at the U.S. border, handcuffed, and detained for nearly eight hours.

“After I pulled up to the crossing and the officer scanned my passport, he ordered me to get out of my car and to walk backwards with my hands behind my head out into the open area near the crossing,” he said.

“All the other traffic was backed up behind me and people were staring and taking cellphone videos, as though they were seeing a major terrorist being captured.”

“Later, when I was in the holding cell, I asked them why any of that had been necessary,” Kadura added.

“They told me it was for both their protection and mine, so that I wouldn’t end up getting shot.”

Kadura again underwent humiliating searches and interrogation. ICE agents denied his requests to make a phone call and confiscated his phone, saying they would contact him to return it in 24 to 48 hours. In the end, he did not receive the phone for nearly two months.

It was close to 1 a.m. when Kadura, who had arrived at the crossing around 5 p.m., was finally allowed to enter the United States. Disoriented and upset by his experience, and with no phone or GPS to guide him, he arrived home in Indiana at 7 a.m.

By this time, Kadura was growing deeply anxious about the scrutiny he was receiving from the U.S. government.

“Every Libyan male I knew was having similar experiences and things were starting to get kind of worrisome, but I still didn’t fully comprehend how deep it went,” he said.

On October 22, 2012, as Kadura attempted to board a Turkish Airlines flight to visit his mother who had been staying in Libya for the Muslim festival of Eid, he was informed at the check-in counter that he would not be allowed aboard the flight.

“They just told me straight-up that I wasn’t allowed to board the plane and I wouldn’t be receiving a refund. I was outraged and started demanding an explanation, but they wouldn’t tell me anything more,” he said.

“After a while, a security officer who seemed more sympathetic took me aside and told me that I couldn’t fly because I had been placed on the no-fly list.”

On November 2, Kadura’s lawyer, working pro-bono through the Council on American-Islamic Relations, received a call from an ICE agent requesting a meeting with Kadura to discuss the contents of his phone. When this request was denied, the agent called him directly. During the call, Kadura says the agent explicitly threatened him with severe government harassment if he didn’t agree to meet privately with him, stating now that the meeting should be “without my lawyer present, or with me even telling my lawyer about it.”

Kadura also says the ICE agent told him that “the only way you’ll ever get your name off the no-fly list” would be by agreeing to work for the government as an informant.

ICE declined to answer questions about Kadura.

Kadura refused the offer to become an informant. Unable to travel, and with the government refusing to confirm or deny whether he was the target of any kind of criminal investigation, he became paralyzed with fear about what might come next.

 “I had been focused on my studies and preparing to apply for medical school, but by this time my mind was a mess,” he recalled.

“I was terrified and didn’t even know what was going to happen to me or my family from day to day.”

Kadura’s lawyer filed a complaint on his behalf through the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, established by DHS in 2007 to “resolve possible watchlist misidentification issues.” On May 8, 2013, the department responded to the complaint with a letter that refused to acknowledge whether he was in fact on the no-fly list. Kadura and the four other Muslim Americans filed their suit 15 months later.

While that lawsuit proceeded, in April 2015 a separate case filed by the ACLU succeeded in compelling the government to at least inform U.S. citizens whether they were on the no-fly list or not. Months later, Kadura’s lawyers sent an email to the Department of Justice asking that Kadura’s complaint be processed under the new, slightly more transparent rules.

In return, they were forwarded an email from DHS noting the government had “re-evaluated Mr. Kadura’s redress inquiry” and now suddenly had no objection to him flying. Although his lawyers had been preparing to meticulously make the case he was not a security threat and should be removed from the no-fly list, this “re-evaluation” of his status made the point moot. Indeed, to all appearances, the government had arbitrarily changed his status, deeming Kadura suddenly safe enough to fly without receiving any new information.

Yaseen Kadura’s boarding pass from New York to Chicago, January 19, 2016. Photo: Courtesy of Yaseen Kadura

In the afternoon of Friday, January 15, Kadura breathed a sigh of relief as his plane touched down at New York City’s JFK International Airport. Despite the special TSA security check he had received in Chicago, he felt unburdened.

“After I made it to New York, I just felt like on some level that I’m normal and that I’m part of society again,” Kadura said.

“I’ve lived my whole life in the United States, and after these problems started I felt like I’d done something wrong and I wasn’t even welcome in my own country anymore.”

Tall and bespectacled, Kadura talks with a slight Midwestern accent, a reflection of his upbringing in Indianapolis. He is now studying to become a doctor at Chicago Medical School. In 2014, he was accepted into Boston’s Tufts University, but had to decline the offer, unsure of whether he’d be able to fly home to visit his parents and family in Indiana.

Although Kadura is now off the no-fly list, his lawyers think it’s likely his name remains in other government security databases, like the FBI’s massive Terrorist Screening Database of “known and suspected terrorists,” which is shared with local law enforcement as well as foreign countries. In the summer of 2014, The Intercept published stories revealing that the database had grown to hundreds of thousands of names, and the government did not require “concrete facts” or “irrefutable evidence” to secretly designate individuals, including American citizens, as terrorists.

Despite being allowed to board his recent flight, Kadura’s boarding pass had the trademark “Quad-S,” marking him as subject to elevated scrutiny. Citing the possibility he could be detained again at the border or while flying internationally, his lawyers have advised against ever travelling to countries like Turkey, Kenya, or even the United Kingdom, where foreign governments could wrongly accuse him of being a terrorist given his past inclusion on the no-fly list and likely presence in the TSDB.

The experience of the past several years has left Kadura anxious, pessimistic, and somewhat jaded. Having spent almost his entire life in the United States — he was born in Canada but came to the U.S. in his infancy — Kadura never expected to suddenly be treated like an outsider. At the height of the Arab Spring, when the world was full of optimism about the potential of the revolutions sweeping through the Middle East and North Africa, and when Libyan-Americans like himself were actively encouraged to travel, give aid, and do media work in support of the uprising, he did his part. Afterward, when the revolution soured, he and many others found themselves treated not as heroes but as pariahs.

Even now, after succeeding in removing his name from the no-fly list, Kadura remains uncertain about what his future will hold.

 “I feel relieved at the moment, but I also feel like these problems are not really going away,” he predicted.

“The political environment is obviously getting very scary for Muslims in the U.S, and when you’ve been placed on secret lists like this, it’s always something that could be used against you in the future.”

“I was only 22 when I was first placed on the no-fly list,” Kadura said.

“Even though no charge or accusation has ever once been made against me, if I ever decide that I want to voice an opinion or be politically active in the future, there’s always going to be this hanging over me.”


Related Topics:

U.S. Special ops Forces Told to Leave Libya after Arriving*

Libyans Tell Obama ‘Thanks for destroying our country’*

A National ID Card You Will Need It to Fly and Drive*

Muslims Arrested for Joining Terror Group That Doesn’t Exist*

Muslim Student Suspended and Arrested for Inventing a Clock*

‘Justice or Else’ Muslim-led Million Man March Hits Washington*

Court Reinstates Lawsuit Against NYPD Muslim Spying*

A Small Act of kindness Disarms anti-Muslim Protester.*

Why the West is Terrified of Muslims Reading History…*

Blindfolded Muslim Man Tells Parisians “Hug me if you trust me.”*

Inspiring Muslim Woman Donates $1 for Every Hate Tweet She Receives*

Muslim Scholar Answers Questions on live T.V.*

They get you to Hate Muslims so They Can Pocket There Wealth and Keep You Poor*

Syrian Army Flushes Terrorists Out of Homs, Cuts Supply Routes*

Syrian Army Flushes Terrorists Out of Homs, Cuts Supply Routes*

The Syrian Army and popular forces have regained more Daesh-controlled territories across the country’s central Homs province effectively cutting off the terrorists’ supply routes, Iran’s Fars news agency reported on Thursday.

“The Syrian army units and the popular defence groups established control over a number of strategic hills and heights, including Thaniet Rashed, in the eastern side of Homs province,” a field source said on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the Syrian Air Force pounded Daesh and al-Nusra gathering centres across the Central province and Homs killing many terrorists and causing considerable damage to their lines of supply.

“The Syrian fighter jets tracked and targeted the ISIL positions near the town of Maheen and around the ancient Assyrian town of Quaryatayn in the southeastern part of Homs province, which ended in the destruction of many weapons and vehicles,” the army said.

Meanwhile, Syrian fighter jets stormed the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front’s defence lines in Tir Ma’ala West of Talbiseh and near Um Sharshouh North of the province leaving many terrorists killed and wounded and destroying much of their equipment, the Army said in a statement.


Related Topics:

Russian Aerospace Forces Destroy Artillery, Command Centre, Fuel Depots*

Syrian Refugees Protect Woman from Sexual Harassment in Germany*

Russia Kills 60 Militants in Deir Ez-Zor, Where ISIS Massacred Civilians*

US-Saudi Plague ISIS Reaches Indonesia? *

What I’ve Learnt About US Foreign Policy*

Madaya: BBC caught recycling footage from Yarmouk

Far Right Islamophobic Foundation in the U.K. Financed by Tea-Party Conservatives*

Why Some Syrian Refugees Decline Canada’s Resettlement Offer*

Saudis’ Anti-Shiite Provocation has Clear Geopolitical Goals*

Terrorists Surrender in Syria*

EPA Head in Charge of Flint Resigns as Obama Pledges $80mn for Poisoned Water Crisis*

EPA Head in Charge of Flint Resigns as Obama Pledges $80mn for Poisoned Water Crisis*

Michigan National Guard member Zach Burrell helps to distribute water to a line of residents in their cars in Flint, Michigan January 21, 2016 © Rebecca Cook / Reuters

President Barack Obama announced his administration is giving $80 million to help repairs Flint’s water infrastructure and make the drinking water safe, calling the situation “inexcusable.” The head of Michigan’s Environmental Protection Agency resigned.

“We’re going to have that funding available to you by the end of next week, and that includes $80 million for the state of Michigan,” Obama told a gathering of mayors at the White House on Thursday, according to the Detroit News.

“Our children should not have to be worried about the water that they’re drinking in American cities. That’s not something that we should accept.”

Obama said the money would come from the recent bipartisan budget allocated to help cities build water infrastructure, and would be separate from the $5 million already allocated to the state through an emergency declaration Obama made on Saturday. The allocation is also separate from the money sought by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in his appeal letter to the president on Wednesday, asking Obama to reconsider on his lack of support for major disaster relief.

“It was encouraging to hear President Obama say that $80 million will be coming to Michigan to help local governments, like the City of Flint, improve their water systems,” Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said in a statement from Washington, DC, according to the Detroit News.

“The residents of Flint could benefit greatly from that type of money. We are waiting to see how much of the $80 million will be allocated to the City of Flint and how much of it will go elsewhere, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Michigan’s Legislature is fast-tracking $28 million in state funds, which are intended to buy more bottled water and filters. The money is also supposed to be used to back health and educational services for children with elevated levels of lead in their blood.

Meanwhile, the regional head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for Michigan, Susan Hedman, announced her resignation on Thursday. She has been accused of not doing enough to prevent the contaminated water crisis.

Hedman told the Detroit News last week that her office knew in April 2015 that Flint’s decision to switch to the Flint River for its water supply “could increase pipe corrosion and spiked lead levels.” She did not take any public action, instead choosing to try and pressure Michigan officials to address the situation internally.

Dan Wyant, director of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, already resigned in December for his role in the crisis.

Emails released by Governor Snyder on Wednesday showed that his staff and the environmental agency spent months last year pointing fingers at local and federal offices for the lead problem as they downplayed concerns.

The EPA also sent a letter to Snyder Thursday officially declaring that Flint is violating federal drinking water rules, and must work quickly to fix them.

EPA head Gina McCarthy said the agency

“is deeply concerned by continuing delays and lack of transparency and has determined that the actions required by the order … are essential to ensuring the safe operation of Flint’s drinking water system and the protection of public health,” according to the Hill.

The problem with Flint’s water began in April 2014, when the city switched from Detroit’s water supply to water from the Flint River in a cost-cutting measure. Despite the water having high salt content, it was piped untreated into homes and offices. The salt corroded the lead in the pipes, causing the water to become contaminated. Residents then began complaining about dirty water with a bad smell and taste, as high lead levels started appearing in the blood samples of children.

The city switched back to Detroit’s water supply in October, but only after months of complaints and protest from residents, who were angry that the government had ignored alarms raised by doctors and scientists. Lead contamination can cause brain damage and other health problems.


Related Topics:

Legionnaires’ Disease Spikes in Flint amid Poisoned Water Crisis*

Cher Donated 180,000+ Bottles of Water to the Town of Flint after Mass Poisoning*

Muslim Group Donating 30,000 Bottles of Water to Lead-Poisoned Flint*

EPA which Spilt 3 Million Gallons of Toxic Waste Uses Oily Tanks to Deliver Potable Water to Navajos*

EPA from Congress on Toxic Mine waste Spilt in Indigenous Waterways*

Social Engineering and an Inconvenient Tooth

Trauma: Scholars Need to Be Real About the Issues We Face

Trauma: Scholars Need to Be Real About the Issues We Face

With Shaykh Idris Watts

Shaykh Idris Watts gives us a little taster into the extent to which our pious predecessors were in touch with the condition of their communities. What did they do for young Muslim families with children, for example, when nativity plays were being widely read and performed?

A real and relevant talk that focusses on recognising the issues many Muslims today struggle with and how the Prophet’s ﷺ teachings form the core of a rich and merciful tradition.

Related Topics:

An Indigenous Australian Approach to Healing Trauma*

It’s OK, I Didn’t Know How To Meditate Either*

It’s OK, I Didn’t Know How To Meditate Either*

By Joely Balazs

I had my first diagnosis of anxiety in 1996. A new job had taken me 2000 miles from home AND into another country. I had two years under my belt living in another Province after completing my first degree so the trek from Canada to the United States didn’t seem like much of a challenge. I wanted to explore and I imagine my Mother was more afraid for me than I was. At 26 years old, I had no fear. At least none I was consciously able to acknowledge.

After a few months in this new job, I became increasingly off centre. I couldn’t concentrate at my job. I dreaded getting out of bed and going in every day. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. It felt like I had a block but I had no rational idea what was causing it. Then I had these bouts of heart palpitations, I couldn’t breathe, I thought I was going to die and none of my family would even know about it for days because I was so far away. I was angry at how weak I had become.

Finally, after a month of this, I did what any sane, educated professional did at the time: I went to the Doctor. After I decided to make the appointment, I felt a little better. I didn’t have a computer at home, so I looked up my symptoms at work on the fledgling internet. By the time my appointment came along, I convinced myself that I was clearly the victim of some rare, genetic heart disorder. Could I manage to leave work for months to have surgery? Would I need to leave my job altogether? Would I be forced to move home and just die a slow, painful death? Life as I knew it was over… Death was knocking at my door. I had failed. My heart just wasn’t up to the challenge. If only I’d been born to different parents, then this heart disease thing would never have happened.

All of this was tumbling around in my head as the nurse escorted me to the examining room. The Doctor came in. He was tall and severe looking. He sat down without looking at me, reading the chart with nothing on it and asked me to explain my symptoms. I did as he asked, knowing that at any moment I would see the frown of worry crease his brow as he came to realize what I already knew. He then interrupted my chatter and pronounced, “OK, you’re having panic attacks. I can prescribe something for that.” He starts writing on his prescription pad and I explode! “That is NOT what is going on!!! How can you possibly say that when you didn’t even let me finish?!”

I was pissed. Panic attacks? AYFKM??? I wasn’t panicked. How dare he relegate my illness to something as insulting as me being afraid? What kind of crackpot Doctor was he? I insisted he was wrong. That insistence did achieve one thing; he finally looked at me, right in the eyes. He seemed a little angry too. Then he said he could prove it.

I’m always up for that kind of challenge, especially when I’m right, so I accepted. He asked if I was suffering from any symptoms at that moment, I said no. He told me to start taking shallow breaths from my chest and 10 seconds later I succeeded in bringing on one of the worst anxiety attacks I’d ever experienced then or since. He smiled with a hint of arrogance, wrote me a prescription for Ativan, said to take one whenever I had an episode and left.

I was stunned. And infuriated.

Within a few months of that appointment, I did leave that job and moved home. I was desperate for a change in direction. I took the Ativan now and again but growing up with an addict father instilled within me a genuine avoidance of all things drug related, including prescriptions. I learned to manage it on my own by controlling my emotions and my environment. It worked most of the time.

I had a few occasions over the next couple of decades where life became difficult and the anxiety attacks resurfaced at full force. On two of these occasions, the Doctors told me to try meditating. A friend of mine lent me a little book based on Buddhist style meditation with mantras, so I tried that. I bought guided meditations to listen to. I read far too many “How to” books. It didn’t matter… Every time I tried, I got tripped up on the breathing from my belly part. I was focused so intently on breathing from my belly that not once did meditating ever cure me of anything, it just made me realize what a failure I was because I couldn’t even get the breathing part right.

It was around this time that I decided meditation was a scam. It was crazy talk designed to fool people into some ridiculous notion that we have some kind of control over how we feel. In my experience, that was just insane and completely untrue. Therefore, it had to be a scam. Whenever anyone talked about yoga or meditation, I’d roll my eyes and judge them a fool inside while smiling and nodding to their face on the outside.

Until just over a year ago.

My ability to control my life became increasingly complicated. Both of my parents had passed away a couple of years apart. My career sucked. My entire life which began full of wonder and excitement had turned into this angry blamefest. Everything that could go wrong, would go wrong. I was literally hanging by a thread. It was my lowest point. I had to do something, but how was I supposed to solve it? There was no way I was going to take pills after watching my Dad die a little bit every day thanks to prescription drug abuse. I didn’t even know how to meditate! Life wasn’t meant to be lived like this.

Unless I was wrong.

I decided to give myself permission to entertain that notion. Nobody needed to know. Everything we know or think we know is available at our fingertips now, compared to the limited access I had back in 1996. There’s no harm in looking it up, maybe others have had the same problems meditating that I had? Maybe the answer is out there somewhere? In my search, I happened upon an Abraham Hicks session on YouTube concerning meditation and it literally changed my entire outlook.

Meditation is nothing more than a conscious method to calm down the inner turmoil in an attempt to find some peace. The result of which is to FEEL better. So why not start with how you’d like to feel and go from there? Throw out all the rules of “how to” meditate and simply focus on feeling better. The biggest and most challenging question for me then became, “How do I want to feel?”

For decades, whenever I had bouts of anxiety, frustration and anger, all I ever really wanted was relief. I felt so tired. I dreamed of rest. I could imagine what it must feel like to be free of life’s restrictions and demands. Then I’d feel such despair because I believed relief was a state I wasn’t worthy of feeling. I was a failure pretending to be a success. Relief was always just off in the distance, like a dream outside of my reach, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Relief. That was the answer to my question. That’s what I wanted to feel. So I took Abraham’s advice and settled into a comfortable position and allowed my imagination to run towards the dream of relief. I imagined how it would FEEL. I imagined the circumstances that might take place to allow me to feel it, even just a little bit. After a few minutes of determined focus, the feeling of relief came to me and embraced me in a warm, cozy comfort. I felt it so vividly, tickling at my insides. And it felt so good… At first, I had brief moments of despair trying to rain on my parade, saying the usual, “What’s the sense? This is silly. It’s not real. What’s the point?”

I remember laughing a little too. My negative voice is quite insistent! I listened to it for much of my life. It kept me safe and protected on more than a few occasions. But this time, that voice was wrong. I knew it wasn’t serving me and I had to try something so I just laughed at myself and went back to the awesome feeling of relief.

I milked it too. Every opportunity I had, I would shut my eyes and imagine the feeling of “relief”. I would hold onto it for as long as it would take. In the beginning, I couldn’t focus on it for more than a few minutes at a time and it didn’t matter. It was up to me. This was my version of meditating so it’s not like I could do it wrong. It was liberating that I got to decide what worked for me. After a few months of this, I actually started seeing an improvement in my overall emotional state. I was feeling better more often than not. I had my “go to” method of “meditation”. Finally!

It didn’t take long for me to understand that if I could do this with “relief”, I could do it with just about any feeling. After a few months, I started trying out other feelings like joy, wonder, or gratitude using the same basic method of imagination and milking it for as long as I could when the feeling connected. I began to notice that different colours would swirl in my mind’s eye as I felt different emotions. Images reflecting that emotional state would pop up occasionally too. It has been the most fascinating and rewarding exercise I have ever done in my lifetime.

In just over a year, I have dramatically altered how I feel. I have uncovered things about myself I didn’t even know existed. I held onto pain like nobody’s business, I became an expert in “hanging on”. I was so good I even held on to other people’s pain for them! As I began to feel better, it became easier to let those things go and forgive myself and others. I began to learn what self-compassion really means and continued to apply it rather than bury it. My deepest, darkest belief that love didn’t really exist was turned upside down as I began to feel it, for myself.

A few months ago, I had a truly profound moment related to my lifelong trials with meditation. I had gone to bed, about to go to sleep. I was lying on my back with my hands resting on my midriff area, close to my waist. I wasn’t meditating, just thinking about some mundane things when all of a sudden I realized that my hands were going up and down as I was breathing!!! It freaked me out! Not once in my lifetime can I EVER remember this happening. I didn’t know what was going on. I called my husband in and showed him, “Look! My belly is going up and down when I breathe! WTF is that about???”

I was genuinely concerned. I’d never experienced anything like it. The next day I kept watching and, sure enough, I was breathing from my belly. Every breath I took… It was at that moment the memory of the Doctor’s visit in 1996 came rushing to the fore. For the first time in my life I wasn’t breathing from my chest, the place of fear and anxiety and panic, I was breathing from a deeper place, a place of relief, happiness and calm. I didn’t need a pill to fix me; I just needed to give myself permission to feel better.

Feeling better is possible and it is real. Make a conscious decision about how you want to feel and allow yourself to feel it, even if it is only for a few seconds. If you’re tired of the dark side, make an effort to expand your horizons. Feeling good is amazing! We are all designed to feel any way we choose. If you genuinely want to feel better, only you can make it happen. It’s OK to discover what method works best for you and it’s incredibly rewarding when you unlock your ability to figure it out for yourself.


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Meditation Does More for You Than Keep You Calm!