Adventures in Mindfulness and Mediation

Hi folks,

It’s been a while, sorry about that. In my last post I talked about having problems with finding things to write about, which kind of also paralyzed me for a while when it came to writing for this blog. Ironically, I did quite a lot of writing outside of it over the last few months (for work of course, but also on personal projects) so now that I’ve finally found a topic for an article, I hope I’m cured of my temporary block.

There are a lot of things written about mindfulness and meditation out there, so I can be honest upfront and tell you I’m not going to give you any earth-shattering revelations about those practices in this post. I’m not an expert on either subject, by any means. I’m only starting out and I decided to write this article to share with you what I’ve learnt so far.

I’ve been interested in the concept and practice of mindfulness for a while now, but haven’t really dedicated much time to discovering all its different possibilities. As for meditation, I tried it a couple of times, without really understanding it. It felt interesting and I could kind of see the appeal, but I never really considered making it a part of my daily routine.

The past few months have been a bit bleak, to be honest. I don’t know what got into me, but I didn’t like the person I was becoming. I scared myself and my loved ones, saying things my mood kept whispering in my mind. My thoughts were telling me I was bored with life, that it just wasn’t worth it, that it wouldn’t get better and my body was listening. I equated thoughts with truth, which can become a very dangerous thing.

I realized, in between crying fits and moody patches, that I couldn’t go on like this. It wasn’t fair on the people around me and it wasn’t fair on me either. I didn’t enjoy living like that. I really wanted to shake up my brain and body and get them back on track.

In late march, a doctor (who I was seeing for something unrelated) told me I needed to go on a serious diet. I told her I’d already lost weight and was making an effort, but she didn’t listen. She was rude, blunt and frankly completely insensitive. I hated her. I went home crying, hating that she was telling the truth. I knew she was, but my thoughts didn’t want to accept it.

In the end, I decided to give it a go. I gave up pasta and cheese, my two favourite things. I focused on protein and vegetables. I decided I would be honest with anyone who asked and say I was on a diet. In the past, I’ve tried making “permanent changes” to my food-intake, some of which have stuck, but I now realize I don’t like looking at it from that angle. Permanent changes, are, well… permanent. No wonder I would cry my eyes out every week at the thought that I would have to eat like that forever. So I changed my attitude.

I’m on a diet and I’m going to be on it as long as it takes. When I’m done, I’ll adjust my eating to keep my weight even so that it may settle. Once it’s settled, I may make some more changes… or I may not. We’ll see.

How does this relate to mindfulness and meditation, you ask? Well.

Around about the time I started my diet, I also decided to treat myself to a meditation camp. This one, Camp Calm, is run by David Cain, over at Raptitude. It lasts for 30 days, with a different exercise to do every day. I’ve been following his blog for two years now (and often link to his articles in my own, as you may have noticed). He first introduced me to the concept of mindfulness. In his articles (and books), he talks about the benefits of a daily meditation and mindfulness practice and I grew to like the sound of it. I thought they might help me cope if I suddenly started getting upset about my diet (or anything else) and so I thought I’d give it a go.

I started by reading the two books that came with the course and already noticed myself making some changes before the actual exercises even started. When I sat down for my first meditation session, I felt like I’d already laid some of the mental groundwork for improving my relationship with life.

Last week, on day 2 of the camp, I went to another doctor. This one specializes in Kirlian photography (in its medical, not esoteric, use). He took a picture of my hands and feet, and proceeded to tell me what was happening inside my body, based on the patterns in the picture (it turns out like a spiky and bobbly outline of the limbs in question).

Having no access to my prior medical history, he told me a lot of things that I could immediately relate to. He could see the weakness in my knees (I’ve just finished 6 months of physical therapy for my left knee) and the dryness in my skin, eyes, body in general. He told me I was too acidic and that I needed to adjust my diet.

Here we go, I thought. He pulled out a list. No dairy, no wheat, no corn, no garlic, no onions, no peppers (or pepper), no hot spices, etc. The list goes on.

I felt tears prick the corners of my eye, but I also told myself: “This is it. This is where you normally panic, but you don’t have to start imagining what life will be like if you do what he says. You don’t even know that that will happen anyway. You can choose to follow his advice, to any degree that you like. Just because he says you should do this, doesn’t mean you will. It’s up to you to decide.”

And just like that, the tears vanished. I didn’t exactly feel happy, but I did feel calm. I took the list and the drops he prescribed me and left. I decided I would take the list into account as much as possible, but that I wouldn’t beat myself up if I ended up having to eat forbidden foods from time to time. If I could lower the acidity in my body at least a little bit, then great. But I wouldn’t let it become a burden.

I’m only on Day 8 of Camp Calm, but I guess my conclusion so far is this:

You are not your thoughts.

They don’t control you, even if they try to catch your attention almost all of your waking life. If you find yourself starting to think about something unpleasant, it’s possible to stop. You don’t have to have imaginary conversations with yourself or other people in your head, especially if they induce stress. You can stop them. You can walk away, by concentrating on the present and on what’s happening around you. It’s almost never as terrible or scary or far-reaching as you think it is.

And I think that’s pretty comforting. Don’t you?

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