Mindfulness. It’s a word that gets tossed about and if you go to any magazine shelf in your local pharmacy you will probably see at least one publication with a title that speaks to mindfulness.
This by no means will be a scientific discussion, or an expert psycological opinion. I’m just a guy who lives like you do, with all the stresses and hopes and dreams and embarrassments, and all that other bullshit. I promise to ‘keep it real.’
How did I first come across this topic? I was doing a business coaching session, and was lucky enough to be put into contact with a lady who practiced meditation twice daily since she was injured and used it for pain management twenty years ago. The coaching was supposed to be about business, and teams, and all that other shit but honestly I just wanted to talk about the things going on in my life, because that’s what I needed at the time, and she was very gracious in being open to talk about all sorts of stuff.
So I thank her, because she gave me a gift. Why? Because for my whole life I have suffered from anxiety. Sometimes crippling anxiety. Sometimes it affected my work, my relationships, my ability to enjoy ‘just being’. The triggers, cause and effect, or particular experiences are not for public discussion, and so I won’t go into them here…
So getting to the bottom line, meditation, and mindfulness freed me from my own internal anxiety ‘engine’. You cannot begin to understand how important that was for my life. I would describe it like this: before practicing meditation, my anxiety levels would fluctuate, and could be any where between zero, and say, absolutely panic ridden, in a particular timeframe, depending on the situation and the activity that I was engaged in.
After meditating regularly, I found that it had generally two effects: one being that my anxiety ‘levels’ were generally much better regulated, and two, that if I had a moment, the severity would be generally less. Think of it as one of those seismic meters, and if you drew a line over which was a peak threshold for comfort to panic, I found that I don’t reach that line much anymore, ever.
But there was other tangible benefits also. Specifically, those migraines that plagued my existence every 3-4 weeks forever dissipated. Typically I would have a decent one every month, and be bed ridden for 24 hours every 3 months. They have all but disappeared. I still get headaches. Any migraine sufferer will tell you, there’s a big difference! Also, moods in general are better moderated – particularly getting angry or wanting to lash out.
But it’s not a magic pill. I still spend plenty of time dealing with internal dialogue/life challenges and I dwell on unhealthy things, and yes, sometimes I might have a patch of anxiety here or there. But I will say, that I would never go back to where I was, ever.
Ok, if you’re thinking ‘sounds great, but I don’t get into buddhas and yoga and shit’ or ‘I don’t have the time for that’, I think you may be really missing out. It is a discipline. It does take some time. I suggest a session of about 10 minutes 3-4 times per week. Don’t let a bunch of new wave ideas, or complicated concepts put you off.
It’s this simple:
Stop. Sit or lie down. Quiet space is best. Just be. Don’t fight your thoughts. Allow them to come up. Allow them to pass. Be here, now. Don’t be preoccupied by your dinner plans, or late rent payment. Just be, here, now. Focus on the breath is a good way to remain present, here, now.
Sometimes things come up. Sometimes, you have to work through some stuff that you’ve been hanging on to. Be open to that experience.
I have found that even in my most turbulent or troubled times, I have NEVER come away from a meditation session feeling worse about an issue or person. I am almost always likely to come away with a greater sense of empathy, and be a little less judgemental.
There is a book called ‘Full Catastrophe Living’ by Dr Jon Cabot-Zin. I was referred to this book when I started and its a good reference. He pretty much wrapped up the medical benefits etc in his studies over the past 30 or 40 years.
Give it a go. Really! Good luck!