Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness’

From now on, you may call me Willowsong Rainbow-Fairies

Friday, August 6th, 2010

I spent part of this morning ripping guided meditation tracks off their CD’s and onto my computer.  Being able to mix and match sections would be useful.  …And keep me from leaping up to throttle the CD player after listening to the EXACT SAME RECORDING every day for two months.  Plus, iPods are harder to get a solid grip on to throttle.

Some of the recordings are from the course that I took last summer, and some are basically the same thing except made by the original guy rather than my personal instructor.  A couple are odds and ends that I picked up before I really knew anything about meditation other than that

1) I should.

and

2)  It makes people’s bodily secretions smell like patchouli.

I do not yet smell like patchouli.  I think this means I am not trying hard enough.

At any rate, as I was typing in track information, I realized that the creator of one of my CD’s is  Mr. Bright-Fey.  John Bright…Fey.  If that isn’t a last name destined for a meditation teacher, I don’t know what is.  I Googled him on the chance that I could find out whether that was indeed his birth name before reporting it here, but I couldn’t find mention.  Presumably if he had changed it himself his first name might have been Moonbeam rather than John.  Still, very appropriate.  On the disturbing side, I also came across a photo of him.  I do not like getting a visual image of the owners of the smooth audio voices that are giving me my meditation instructions.  Never seems to line up.  I don’t know what I would expect a smooth meditation voice owner to look like, but it isn’t this.

(That’s my actual posse, folks)

As traumatic (though slightly less fascinating) as the time I got a peek at the movie preview voice guys, I assure you.

I guess it could be worse.  When I did that search for my lady-teacher, I also came up with these:

I think I’m going to imagine that cat narrating all of my meditation CD’s from now on.

I’m proud of myself for sticking with the meditation again so far.  There are some days that it hasn’t been easy (and truth be told, I’ve missed some sessions this time around, but I’m doing much more than I’m not doing so I’m trying not to beat myself up too much about it).  It will be worth it in the end, though, if it can do what it seemed to do last time.  The tough part is that the big benefits didn’t really kick in for me last time until almost the end of two months of consistent meditation.  …Which is pretty much what you’re supposed to expect, but still.  Makes it tough to keep doing it day in and day out in the moment.  The payoff was huge for getting there, though.

Mindfulness meditation sort of fascinates me now.  I’ve read a lot on the brain since starting this journey, and so it makes a certain amount of sense how you would have to practice very consistently over an extended period of time at the start, and how there would be actual physical changes to the brain as a result (I find that whole concept totally cool.  Recent research says you can actually learn to do almost ANYTHING with enough practice.  …Like Rain Man type stuff, and getting rid of learning disabilities, and rewiring your brain to use more sections for particular skills or movements, or using the bits meant for one thing to do something entirely different if it needs to and everything.  Neat!  You can even wire it so that you are incapable of moving certain fingers except as a unit.  Like they were glued together.  But they’re not.  …Why one would do that last one on purpose I don’t know, but it’s still pretty cool).  What’s really weird is the type of changes that were most dramatic.   I expected it would help me relax.  Which it did sort of, maybe, I guess?  What it really did was prevent me from reacting in the first place to things that would once have been stressful, and help me not give a flying tiger what other people thought of me.  And I am someone who is normally PAINFULLY aware of what other people might be thinking of me.  It was very cool.  Liberating.  And it makes me wonder what other beneficial brain changes I could make if I only knew how and was actually willing to invest that much time in it.

I had a lot of  impressions going in about meditation that were totally wrong.  I sometimes still have to fight the feeling that I’m not always “good” at it.  You’re not supposed to hang onto judgments like “good” and “bad” but just observe what happens.  And any outcome or happenings during the process are supposed to be fine as long as you notice what they are.  And I acknowledge that you’re not actually supposed to try to stop thinking (because that’s pretty much impossible no matter how zen you are), but just note the thoughts that come up and try to let them go freely rather than clinging on and following them.  And they do say that the more thoughts come up, the more chance you have to practice bringing your mind back to whatever it is you’re trying to focus on.  Which is really the important part.  It’s counter-intuitive, though.  We’re so conditioned to want Success.  And we want Success to be measurable, and require significant effort, and come paired with the potential for Failure.

Interestingly, from what I’ve read about the brain changing stuff, the most change happens when you’re paying close attention, and when you’re trying.  Not succeeding, but trying.  If you’ve already mastered something, then you’re probably not paying close enough attention to it anymore to make changes.  So actually mastering the task is irrelevant to the goal.

Which is kind of cool all on its own.

Okay.  Finished rambling now.  But BRAIN CHANGES, people!  I could learn to play piano with my face.

(As a note, if anyone out there is interested in brain plasticity or mindfulness meditation, my favourite resources of what I’ve encountered so far are linked to there.  Neat stuff)

Hello My Name Is…not actually Curiosity

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

I realized driving home today that basically all I’ve done all day is meditate, read about meditating/growth, and think about meditating/growth.  No wonder I felt unusually calm (in contrast to the rest of this week when all I’ve done all day is unpack, think about unpacking, and long for more caffeine and a functioning shower.  No reading about unpacking yet.  I’ll get back to you next week).

The book I’m working through suggests choosing an issue, and in classic Yoda style of “do or do not – there is no try,” just making the commitment to actually take the steps necessary to fix it – making behavioral choices that move you in the direction of who and what you want to be.  Seems obvious, but holy unnerving to think about for some things.  Seriously?  You want me to give up my perfectionism and overworking?  When my whole house is in boxes and we’ve got friends coming over in a couple of weeks?  I like that one.  It’s my pet issue.  Good issue.  Back in your cage.  Mommy won’t let you go anywhere just yet.

In thinking over potential issues to change, I did realize that I try to hide some more than others – from myself and from everybody else.  Particularly things that I really don’t like in myself, or that I feel represent only a part of my personality that I don’t want people to generalize about.  The things that would leave me cringing for weeks if I found out someone thought that about me, but that maybe have a grain of truth from time to time.  Those are probably the ones that make the most sense to change, but dang if admitting to those tiny grains isn’t a tough prospect.  Of course, this is the same book that once suggested taking your deepest insecurities and writing them on a “Hello, my name is” style nametag and wearing them around in public for a day or two.  Bold.

In the spirit of liberation through excessive sharing, I would dread people seeing me as…

1)  Dependent on my mate

2)  Sometimes not entirely financially responsible

3)  Socially awkward/shy/anxious at times

Largely because I like to see myself at most times as a fiercely capable, strong and independent woman, who makes responsible life choices and appears at some times very confident with other people.   Fiercely capable of making the responsible decision to confidently eat my money while cowering behind my husband because there are…people…out….there.

(Actually, I skipped my meditation yesterday in the commotion. …Don’t tell)

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

New house is fantastic.  I was a little worried about a few details, as we had decided to move a little far from…everything.  It’s great, though.  I love that we now have sort of a small town feeling, without it being small enough that everybody’s nosy.  I love that a neighbour was walking by (with a very large and very blind dog) and stopped to welcome us, and that I didn’t even mind chatting with him.  I love that it’s peaceful and calm, even on a Saturday afternoon.  And I love that everything just feels a little more friendly, and a little more laid back.

I’m not a great one with moving into new places.  New places tend to whig me out a little for the first few nights at least.  I just don’t feel safe, and everything has a tinge of loneliness to it.  We stayed over in the new house last night, though (on an air mattress), and I didn’t even notice at all.  Felt a little like we were squatters for the first evening (kept waiting for somebody to come in and drag us out), but by the next morning, it felt perfectly natural to be in our house.  In fact, I’m kind of aching to go back.  We’re doing some painting and floors and such before we move in, so I’ll have to be a little patient.  Still…Yay!

Things have been going well in general, I think.  I do feel like a very different person than I was three months ago.  It’s sort of like I’ve stopped taking for granted all of the things I thought that I knew about myself and really feeling them out fully.  Experimenting with approaching things differently just for the sake of approaching them differently, I guess.  Extremely liberating.  I park in different places, and choose different ice cream flavours (I have tended historically to be an old consistent favourites kind of girl).  I have taken to driving like a gangsta sometimes, with my arm on the window ledge and one hand on the wheel.  I used to drive in 10 and 2 pretty much all the time (not because I’m a stickler, but because I like to be in control).  I have to say, the experimentation has sincerely lowered my stress while driving.  I ate in the car while driving yesterday.  I realized that I never have before.

In addition to making me a slightly more dangerous driver, I’m noticing changes in other areas too.  I’ve gotten pretty natural now with trying different approaches just for the sake of it, without worrying how they’re going to turn out, or if I’m doing the absolute best thing I could do.  I’ve been a pretty big perfectionist for most of my life, and tend to naturally have crazy high standards for myself.  A lot of the time, the pressure’s completely off now.  I’m not trying to get things just right.  I’m just trying something new and exploring what happens.

I credit the mindfulness practice for most of this.  It all came on rather suddenly after about three or four weeks of daily practice.  A lot to commit to, but well worth it now.  I’m really hoping that this is the beginning of something lasting and powerful rather than one of those feelings that seems all consuming at the time and then gets lost in the flood of other life events and stresses.

It’s kind of cool not really knowing who I am. 

Don’t ask me how I got a patch on my left eye and the inside of my ear

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

My home practice for the meditation course this week let me alternate body scan with mindful yoga.  This was happy and welcome news, as the body scan and I have not always been getting along well.  Yoga is infinitely more pleasant, if only because I can remain conscious while I’m doing it.  The process of changing activities and sensations frequently also means that my thoughts are drifting a lot less frequently.  Anyway, a pleasant change.

My body is still producing lasting angry red patches whenever I use my muscles or something contacts my skin.  Like,…oh,…underwear.  Or other parts of my skin.  Those kinds of crazy things.  I am undeniable quite itchy, and have resigned myself to the fact that I will likely need to revisit the doctor.  Does it say something for my desperation that I was giving serious consideration to whether I could cope with the itch forever if it meant keeping my Wellbutrin?

I am a determined little thing sometimes.  As noted above, most days I chose to do the yoga rather than the stationary body scan.  The yoga where I use my body a lot, and, you know, contact things.

I am itchy…but flexible.

Focus on the sensations, the sounds, the smells…

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

It’s an interesting thing to be sitting in a room full of people who last week shared the labels for their personal suffering.  The meditation class I’m enrolled in is a mixture of everything from cancer survivors to insomniacs, and I can’t help but find myself looking at them differently now that I know their label, curious to find the ways they fit with my completely biased impressions.  The anxiety patients all sit cross legged as we wait in our circle for the course to begin.  Their arms are crossed over their chests, and they aren’t talking to their neighbours.  This amuses me.  My legs and arms are crossed as well.  I curl my legs up into the chair and refuse to be typecast.

The mindfulness meditations are much easier in the group setting, I’ll give them that.  Extra import and natural focus, maybe?  I diligently scan my body as we lie on the floor like an overgrown mat garden.  I am now intimately acquainted with my left big toe.  We’re on good terms.

Sitting meditation is introduced near the end of this week’s session.  I give full and undivided attention to the breathing in my abdominal section.  Feel the sensations.  Experience them completely, just as they are.  Open yourself to the subtle movements in this region.  Kid you not, I have now very mindfully discovered that I have gas.  I mindfully feel things begin to shift and move, very diligently aware that something is…um…heading south.  I am mindful of the visions my mind creates in prediction of what will happen if this makes it to the end of its journey before the period of COMPLETE AND TOTAL SILENCE is up.

I ride the subway back after each class.  Less stressful than having to drive the whole way and deal with the idiosyncrasies of downtown traffic.  Another member of the class ends up walking beside me, rolled yoga mat shining like a beacon of mindfulness.  We do that awkward visual acknowledgement followed by the equally awkward side-by-side walk where we now pretend not to see each other.  She doesn’t seem like the small talk type, and I’m much more of a responder than an initiator.  I ride the subway in peace, and try to put to use our instructor’s suggestions about brining moments of mindful attention to everyday activities.  I quickly realize that subway car at rush hour is perhaps not the brightest time to experiment with this.  Also that I’m not the only one who’s had gas today.

Actually, I suppose it can’t be a bad pun if I’m no longer allowed to label it

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Sad days seem harder now that some days are going well.  That seems twisted.  My lows now are nowhere near where they would have been a few months ago.  There’s pressure now though, and a glimmer of hope.  Now when something sends me into a tailspin I wonder if maybe I’ve misjudged my improvement and I really can’t handle these things any better at all.  Maybe I’ve just been lucky.  Maybe in trying to remove stress from my life, I’ve simply managed to avoid what would normally set me off.  Returning to my “normal” existence becomes dread-worthy again.  Terribly unproductive as a line of thinking.  I will freely acknowledge this.  I also may curl up under the blankets for a while.

It’s similar with the meditation.  The whole point, they say, is to aim to be fully accepting of anything that happens, and to gradually learn to give up labels like “good” and “bad.”  I’m not so good at that yet.  I mean…I’m not so….um…. Shit.  Some days things in that area seem to be going well, and some days they don’t.  It’s funny, though.  I read a chapter in the meditation book yesterday about how wonderfully effective this can be for various conditions.  They gave a whole pile of experimental research data that shows marked improvements after meditations, and stories of various individual people and how meditation worked wonders for them.  …And then they cap off the section (seriously) with how generally people who really believe that meditation will work for them tend to have a harder time of things than people who are open to it but skeptical and unconvinced.  Thanks for the unproductivity chapter, then.

They also talk a lot about how the best way to get results with mindfulness is to stop trying.  This might be a stumbling block for me.  I’m a very trying person.  …Okay, so maybe I’m just a person who can’t always resist a bad pun.  I suppose perhaps that makes them both true.  I do sincerely wonder about my ability to dedicate myself to doing this, holding onto my glimmer of hope that my life can be different, but stop actively wanting it to work.  Maybe I’ll open an even more effective meditation program, in which people pay me large sums of money, and I promise them absolutely no results.

(I take Paypal…)

I bet there was cake

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Trying the body scan meditation this week.  One hour is an awfully long time, but I’ve committed to do this, so I might as well do it right.  To be honest, I would have skipped it once already had my instructor not been very explicit in her instructions to note our resistance, identify that we hate it and don’t want to do it, and then do it anyway.  Meany.

I think that I would find it a lot less straining if I could manage to keep my consciousness through it without tremendous force of will.  I was unprepared for the hypnotizing effect the first time, and woke up after the hour to the sound of her saying that the instructions were about to end (which was kind of cool, truly).  In my defense, I did make it all the way through feeling my legs (which admittedly, has never been high on my life list of accomplishments, but I also never previously realized what an achievement this would be).  Legs are good, right?  Legs are  long.  That’s like half my body.  I felt okay about it until I looked at the list of tracks on the CD – Feet and Legs, Pelvis, Lower Back, Chest, Hands and Arms, Neck and Head, Conclusion.  My legs feel shorter.

I’ve never been great with auditory directions, to be honest.  I had a university professor once who only gave lectures – no visual aids or notes at all.  By the end of the first multi-hour class, I realized that I stink at taking in information by listening.  I’m a trooper.  I took pretty good notes considering, but without looking at those notes, I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea what he actually said.  In testament, perhaps, to my having blocked this experience from my memory completely, I once invested in an audio book CD set version of Lord of the Rings.  Fun for relaxing before bed, I thought.  Something different.  Two minutes (literally, I kid you not) after pressing play, I was out like a light.  Wound up from the day?  No problem.  Cued to the scene where they’re fighting epic battles with scary background music?  Didn’t phase me.  After playing the same section over and over again, I eventually gave up hope of ever finding out what happened after Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday, and the ensuing talk and excitement in Hobbiton.  Good thing they made a movie.

To be fair, despite the annoyances I have noticed a difference in feeling after the meditation.  Often I just feel like oozing to the couch and dropping off into unconsciousness, but a calm and centred unconsciousness.  That’s a step up, I figure.