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Improvisation Can Help to Heal — Even Trauma, Even Alzheimer’s

Here article submitted from one of our members, Dr. Jade Angelica.  You will find more information about Dr Angelica’s work at the bottom of this article.      

Improvisation Can Help to Heal —

Even Trauma, Even Alzheimer’s  

I’m a trauma survivor. Like many other survivors – like many people, actually – I tend to be fearful of the unknown. Because of our fear, we often try to deny unwanted realities or to control what happens next in a desperate attempt to know the future. Improvisation performer, teacher, and author of Impro: Improvisation and The Theatre, Keith Johnstone, calls us “no-sayers.” Through our efforts, he says, we experience more safety. Alternatively, “yes-sayers,” – those who accept what is and are comfortable not knowing what will be – experience more adventure.

In the arena of improvisational theatre, Johnstone’s assessment may be a primary truth. In the arena of real life, though, another, deeper truth about no-sayers and yes-sayers emerges. By saying “yes” to what is – accepting reality – and wondering about, rather than fearing the future, we can experience more healing. Johnstone proposes that we no-sayers can learn to say “yes,” and my own life is a hopeful testament to this possibility.

I discovered improvisation during a truly terrible time in my life. An abusive relationship had ended, and the dividing of our mutually owned property and assets was festering in the courts. My suffering was evident to everyone. A wise friend suggested that, in addition to my therapy and support group, I might benefit from having some fun. She encouraged me to attend an improvisation class. I did and my life changed forever.

At first, I was terrified. The other students were much younger extroverts with a knack for comedy. Many were actors interested in improving their performance skills. I was the only sad, frightened introvert seeking healing. The first few classes I cowered in the corner, hoping with all my strength that the teacher wouldn’t call on me to participate in an exercise in front of the class. He didn’t. After the third class, as I walked alone down the stairs of the studio, I heard that judgmental little voice inside proclaiming firmly and sarcastically, “Well, you’re certainly getting your money’s worth out of this, aren’t you!?” That awareness was all I needed to propel me into participating fully in the class; and as my friend predicted, it was such fun!

The camaraderie among classmates, the hilarity, and the laughter facilitated the first level of healing that I experienced. The class raised my energy and resurrected my joy. Soon, though, I began to notice that the principles of improvisation resembled spiritual qualities I had studied in theology classes, practiced through prayer and meditation, and aspired to integrate into my life, such as:

  • Attentive listening
  • Being present in the moment
  • Expanding awareness and observation
  • Letting go of the need to control – or even know – what happens next
  • Being open to noticing and receiving what the situation is offering
  • Responding in a way that is supportive and promotes self-esteem
  • Acknowledging our interdependence
  • Opening ourselves up to previously unimagined possibilities
  • Experiencing, embracing, and expressing joy

I discovered through experience that all of these qualities – embodied in the practice of improvisation – could lead me to healing.

The reason that improvisation surprises us with its healing potential is because we think that this creative drama craft is about comedy and performance and being outrageously clever or quick-witted. But it’s not. At it’s core, improvisation is about being obvious, and saying or doing the next logical thing; it’s about being authentic; it’s about exploring what it means to be human. My first teacher, David LaGraffe in Portland, Maine, has moved away from improv comedy over the years, focusing now on what he calls “pure improv.” He describes pure improv as “an unconditional welcoming of the present moment.” From this perspective, he continues, “Improvisation is not so much inventive as it is revelatory. We learn to trust that everything we need is already here, waiting to be discovered – if we are willing to be open to it.”

My efforts to heal from my failed relationship led me to the revelations of improvisation and helped me see my life patterns of resistance and control. Previously, in my no-saying life, I used will, skill, and persistence, trying to make situations fit my preferences when I didn’t like or want what was happening. When resistance is implemented in an improvised scene, it’s called “blocking the offer.” This is the realm of no-saying – where scared improvisers seek safety – and it inevitably leads to a very bad scene. The awareness of my resistance became indisputable (even to me) during a class scene when my partner said: “I’ve dropped my contact lens on the floor.” I blocked her and substituted my will for how the scene should unfold. “Oh no,” I replied. “It’s probably still in your eye. Let me look.” Then, I moved closer to have a look in her eye.

Even in a class during a theatre game, I couldn’t accept the reality my partner had described – that she dropped her contact lens. If I had made the obvious response and said, “Yikes! Contact on the Floor! I’m afraid to move!” my partner would have felt heard and possibly an interesting scene would have evolved. What happened instead was conflict. “No,” she said, angrily, as she pushed me away. “I dropped it.”

After coming face to face with my pattern of no-saying that night, my life changed. Subsequently, through my practice of improvisation with my mother during the years she had Alzheimer’s disease, her life changed, and our relationship healed. Over the past nine years, I have passed this healing through improvisation onto thousands of other Alzheimer’s caregivers all across the country through programs offered by Healing Moments™, the non-profit organization I founded for caregiver education. (www.healingmoments.org) The practice of communicating and connecting with persons with dementia through improvisation is now going mainstream: Neuropsychologists at the University of Iowa are studying the impact of the two-day workshop for Alzheimer’s family caregivers that I developed for Healing Moments™.

My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2001, and three years later I travelled from Maine to Iowa to spend two weeks caring for her while my sibling, who lived with Mom, went on vacation. It was my first time being alone with someone who had Alzheimer’s and I was worried about this unknown, especially because my sibling told me that Mom was angry, combative, and uncooperative.

I prepared myself for this presumed terrifying experience by searching the Internet for caregiving ideas (finding few in 2004) and ordering a newly published book, Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s by Joanne Koenig Coste. While reading the book in the plane, I had a “flash” of an idea that trying improvisation with Mom – meeting her in her world, as all the experts were suggesting – might work. And it did!

During those two weeks Mom gave me countless opportunities to practice saying “yes” to her reality. When I was able to meet her in her world she wasn’t the angry, combative person I was expecting. One meeting with Mom that was both sweet and touching involved her sister, Milly. We had planned an outing to the nursing home to visit her friend, Martin, and when it was nearly time to go, I asked Mom, “Are you ready?”

Visibly upset by my question, she replied, “We can’t go.”

I reacted with curiosity. “But I thought you wanted to see Marty.”

“Not now,” Mom said. “This is the time that Milly comes to visit me.”

Milly died in 1991; we had planted flowers on her grave the day before. Instead of correcting Mom and possibly demeaning her for forgetting or breaking her heart by reminding her that her sister was long dead, I chose to improvise. I joined Mom in her world – where we were expecting Milly.

So, I said the next logical thing.  “Well, what would you think about leaving Milly a note, telling her where we are, and asking her to come in and wait for us?”

After pausing for a moment, Mom said, “That’s a good idea.”

“OK,” I said. “Could you get a piece of paper and a pencil, and we’ll write the note?”

“Oh, Yes. I’ll do that.” And off Mom went to find the paper and pencil. I wrote the note, Mom taped it to the door, and off we went to visit Marty.

Improvisers would call my response “advancing the offer.” Alzheimer’s experts would identify this as a “therapeutic fiblet.” Spiritual teachers would call this accepting reality – Mom’s reality, according to Alzheimer’s – and would remind us that accepting reality in the present provides the most positive springboard into the future. Researchers have informed us that this kind of radical acceptance is the only coping technique to relieve caregiver stress.

Through improvisation, Mom and I allowed her reality to spring us into a future that overflowed with connection and healing. The day before I was leaving to return to Maine, Mom was able to tell me that my efforts to learn about Alzheimer’s, my attempts to communicate creatively by using improvisation, and my compassionate attention had made an impression on her. She looked up at me from her chair in the living room, and said, “Will you stay and take care of me? You’re so kind to me.” In reply, my heart shouted out, “Yes!” – and in that moment, my yes-saying, healing adventure into Alzheimer’s sprouted wings.

Although I may not be “perfectly OK” with the unknown future, as my diploma from ImprovBoston proclaims, this recovering no-sayer is now more curious than I am afraid about what is yet to be revealed.

More about Dr. Jade Angelica

Jade is the founder and director of Healing Moments for Alzheimer’s (www.healingmoments.org) and the author of Where Two Worlds Touch: A Spiritual Journey Through Alzheimer’s Disease.  She is an Author, Minister, Spiritual Director, Caregiver – offering spiritual direction and Alzheimer’s inspiration for individuals and groups. Hoping to make a difference!

Follow Jade C. Angelica on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jadeangelica1

 

 

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They Are Here! 2017 Move For Minds – Power Panel Videos

They Are Here!

2017 Move For Minds –

Power Panel Videos

Maria Shriver and Equinox Sports Clubs joined together in this one-of-a-kind fundraising event benefiting the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement in its mission to fund research that will wipe out this mind blowing disease.  Participants were able to experience a unique mind-body workout class, an exclusive marketplace with brain healthy snacks, and an engaging panel discussion featuring superstars of brain research, fitness, nutrition and more. Get involved for 2018! moveforminds.org.

I can’t wait to see what Maria lines up for next year!

Check out the video below and get great information.

For those of you that follow me, as per your request I have pulled together my segments for you, so you can take a quick peak, but please when you have time listen to all of this panels.

The videos are loaded with great information

 

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Dementia – Benefits of Meditation and Spiritual Fitness

ARPf_graphic_on_new_researchAlzheimer’s Disease Prevention:

New Journal Article Highlights Benefits of

Meditation and Spiritual Fitness

July 15, 2015 (Tucson, AZ) – Meditation and spiritual fitness are key components in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease according to a new article, “Stress, Meditation, and Alzheimer’s Prevention: Where the Evidence Stands”, published in an early online version of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 48(1). The print edition is scheduled to be published in August.

Dr DharmaWhile preliminary studies have suggested a link between meditation, a sense of spirituality or faith and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the article’s author, Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., states that a cultivation of higher levels of psycho-social well-being, such as independence, resilience and life purpose represents “an important new frontier that deserves further research as it is freely available to anyone, anytime, anywhere.”

The article reviews decades of research into the impact that various meditation techniques have had on the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, focusing on one evidence-based practice that Khalsa says can be a powerful part of any Alzheimer’s prevention and spiritual fitness program, Kirtan Kriya (KK), a meditation technique which has been successfully used to improve memory in studies of people with subjective cognitive decline and mild cognitive impairment.

Khalsa’s article highlights the principles and practices of this 12-minute meditation, with corresponding SPECT scans showing how it successfully activates the posterior cingulate gyrus, an important region of the brain that helps regulate memory and emotional function. The article also summarizes KK’s associated benefits, including a diminished loss of brain volume with age, significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms, and greater improvement of mental health, well-being and memory.

“We’ve been studying the impact of meditation on memory for more than 20 years, and are as encouraged as we’ve ever been on its powerful role in maximizing brain health,” said Khalsa, president and medical director of the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation and a clinical associate professor of integrative medicine at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.  “Science is showing that meditation and spiritual fitness can be an important dimension in battling Alzheimer’s, and Kirtan Kriya is a safe, affordable, fast, and effective way to keep the brain spiritually fit.”

The full text of “Stress, Meditation, and Alzheimer’s Prevention: Where the Evidence Stands” can be accessed here

The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease by conducting clinical research and providing educational outreach about the lifestyle changes that can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.  For more information, please visit:

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Why We Need to Master Stress

Why We Need to Master Stress

Money and the economy continue to top the list of stressors for all Americans. Finances now overshadow the more usual daily stressors of work and relationships, with others worrying about providing for their family’s basic needs.

My own research clarifies that, when you feel you have less control over your stress, it definitely causes you more concern. It raises your internal mind, body, and emotional threat level.

Women Worse Off
Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, the brunt of this economic stress is falling upon women more than men. Compared with men, more women say they are stressed about money, the economy, job stability, housing costs, and health problems affecting their families.

Ladies of the boomer-generation (ages 44-65) and older (aged 66+) are most likely to report the economy as a significant stressor, while women in general rank financial worries above personal health. Female Boomers report increases in stress associated with their job stability and health problems affecting their families.

Beyond that, Generation Xers (ages 30-43) and Millennials (ages 18-29) are not immune from financial worries, either. Generation Xers are the women most concerned about money and Millennials are most concerned about housing costs as a source of stress.

Our economic stress is causing more than half of Americans to report irritability, anger, fatigue, headaches, and sleeplessness. What’s worse, these stress sufferers say they self-medicate by over-eating unhealthy foods, over drinking, and generally straying from healthy habits.

In addition to the above mentioned symptoms, the rise in stress-related issues can:
• Weaken your immune system
• Raise your blood pressure
• Increase your appetite
• Disturb your sleep
• Lead to depression
• Cause memory loss

So What Can You Do?
As research tells us, stress-mastering techniques can help us a great deal. When you are able to activate the proven anti-stress spot in your brain, many wonderful salubrious events occur. Your blood pressure goes down, your pulse decreases, your unhealthy stress chemicals plummet, and, perhaps most importantly, the amount of oxygen your body needs goes down. This puts you into a true anti-aging zone, because, when you use less oxygen, you create less free radicals, which are a hall-mark of the aging process.

We at the ARPF have been doing research on meditation and the prevention and reversal of memory loss. It has revealed that the first area that decreases in function in Alzheimer’s disease, an area called the posterior cingulate gyrus, actually is activated during our innovative 12-minute meditation called Kirtan Kriya (KK). KK is a singing meditation technique that is being used in many of ARPF numerous research projects. This research has been published in many leading medical journals in the past few years, including the prestigious Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. This is truly the Mind Body medical treatment for memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease™.

In our studies we have seen that KK actually reversed the symptoms of memory loss in subjects suffering from it and improved their energy, mood, and level of well-being; all in only 12 minutes a day. Moreover, KK is easy to learn, requires no involved training, or change of life style. We have found that it is very helpful when practiced for only twelve minutes a day, especially in the morning.

So go ahead, take advantage of this opportunity to prevent Alzheimer’s and start improving your brain function right away. It’s easy, fast, and fun. You’ll love the way you feel.

For more information on this singing exercise, go to http://www.alzheimersprevention.org/research/12-minute-memory-exercise.

ARPF_logoDharma Singh Khalsa, M.D.
President and Medical Director
Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation

 

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Mark Your Calendars – Nov. 7th You Won’t Want To Miss

Mark Your Calendars –

Registration Expanded to Meet The Demand!

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Nov. 7th You Won’t Want To Miss

To celebrate their 20th Anniversary, the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation (ARPF) Presents: Super Brain Lifestyle, a Free Online Seminar November 7, 4pm PST/7pm EST  

Join these enlightening speakers from the comfort of your own living room: Lori La Bey –  Alzheimer’s Caregiving Advocate, Actress and Health Expert Mariel Hemingway, and Dr. Dharma – leader in Alzheimer’s prevention.

         Your Benefits When You Attend This Life-Changing Seminar:

  1. Discover how to make your brain bigger and your DNA younger

  2. Implement Dr. Dharma’s tips for maintaining a sharp brain with age NOW

  3. Stop stress from killing your memory

  4. Receive valuable resources to help you stay healthy as a dementia caregiver

  5. Learn the Meditation Proven to Improve Brain Function

  6. Revealed: the healthiest diet for today, including the pitfalls of healthiest diet

  7. Uncover Mariel’s guide to living with purpose, passion and excellence

  8. Hear about how playing computer games may help your memory

  9. Discover the hidden gifts in caring for someone with Alzheimer’s

  10. Learn Mariel’s secrets for creating optimal health naturally

  11. Uncover the brand-new optimal exercise prescription

  12. Renew your hope and empowerment in your caregiving journey

  13. Discover The 4 Pillars of Alzheimer’s Prevention

  14. Find out Mariel’s anti-aging lifestyle

  15. Know why Mariel loves silence

And so much more!

Register Now: It’s Free!

Lori La Bey of Alzheimer’s Speaks, was named the # 1 influencer online for Alzheimer’s by Sharecare with Dr. Oz.   

Lori’s mother started having memory problems over 30 years ago, so dementia has been a big part of her life. This journey has taught her to see the gifts that come wrapped in the package of this illness. It is her mission to shift caregiving from crisis to comfort worldwide. She now speaks, writes, trains and consults on Alzheimer’s disease and caregiving.

Lori’s training programs are designed for both family and professional caregivers, people suffering from memory loss, and the public. She is a highly sought- after speaker, trainer, and advocate. Dr. Dharma and The ARPF are excited and honored to have her share her insight and experience.

Mariel Hemingway: Keynote Speaker,famed actress and best selling health author, is considered an expert in natural solutions to create your greatest sense of balance, peace, joy, fitness, integration and authenticity. A prolific writer, Mariel’s works include; Finding My Balance, Mariel Hemingway’s Healthy Living from the Inside Out, and Mariel’s Kitchen, as well as her latest work, Running with Nature, a guide to living with health, purpose and passion. Mariel is an adventurer, eco activist, healthy lifestyle and mental health advocate, yoga video star, food brand entrepreneur and expert speaker focused on mind-body-spirit optimization; a combination our research shows can keep your brain working at its best well into your Golden years.

                                                                                                            

Most recently, Oprah Winfrey produced a rich, evocative documentary about Mariel and the Hemingway family, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, entitled Running from Crazy. The film includes focus on Mariel’s boundless advocacy for mental health and awareness.

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear live and in person from Mariel Hemingway, Keynote Speaker at this FREE 20th Anniversary online seminar!  

Yes! Register Now!

Dr. Dharma and the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation are celebrating 20 years of leading Alzheimer’s prevention. Since founding the ARPF in 1993, Dr. Dharma has shared breakthrough methods you can use to keep your brain sharp as you age. Through the ARPF, he has spearheaded research revealing many things people can do to keep from developing Alzheimer’s disease, including the surprisingly simple 12 minute yoga meditation proven to have dramatic anti-aging and Alzheimer’s prevention benefits. The ARPF accomplished the first study in history demonstrating a reversal of memory loss using this meditation. Dr. Dharma will share this and many more useful tips to keep your brain sharp, including the number one aspect of psychological and spiritual well being shown to decrease the incidence of memory loss. Also revealed will be the top six foods that stop brain-drain AND the #1 way to keep your brain healthy.

Learn these proven methods to developing and maintaining a Super Brain in honor of the ARPF’s 20th anniversary at this Free Webinar.

REGISTER NOW and join the brilliant Doctor, Lori La Bey and Mariel Hemingway on this enlightening webinar.

If you miss the open registration please go to this link and enter code

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You absolutely won’t want to miss it!

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