Friday, November 9, 2012

Being Mindful: Living in the Present

Mindfulness is "a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience" (Psychology Today).

Living in the present moment has never been something that comes easy to me... I have a difficult time taking time to be still, calm, and in the present moment - to "rest in stillness—to stop doing and focus on just being" (Kabat-Zinn). I've always been a planner. I was always looking ahead to the future. But, with the chronic, debilitating pain has come complete uncertainty.

I'm learning how to truly "enjoy the moment... Living in the present moment is a wonderful... though sometimes a difficult and painful... lesson to learn" (Lessons: Learning From Life With Chronic Pain). But, it's a gift / lesson that I'm learning along the journey of life with chronic pain.

A dear friend of mine messaged me, in the midst of me having a panic attack (I'm proud of myself for reaching out for help to get through it), something that really helped me stay centered:
"Remember that you are safe. Look around you. See where you are. Hug Honey Bee. Listen to the noises of the house you are safe... Darling remember pain takes away our perspective. And you are really suffering right now and having memories [I was fighting off PTSD flashbacks]. Try to stay in the moment just for right now" (Kelly at Fly With Hope).
What beautiful words of truth. Pain really does take away our perspective. And, if we're an already anxious-natured person, the pain + anxiety = a very distorted perspective. With so many possibilities, scenarios, etc constantly racing through one's mind, it can nearly drive a person mad. Untypically Jia wrote a great post along these lines (Being Mindful of the Present). Here's a snapshot from the post:

I've often described OCD as a computer in your head that is constantly running future scenarios in order to find the best/safest/easiest route to follow. It's a GPS that is aware of every stoplight, car crash, traffic jam, road construction, detour and flock of baby ducks crossing the road. It's exhausting. 
Anyone with Fibromyalgia [or other chronic illness] will tell you that planning ahead is difficult because you never know when you'll run into a flare up of symptoms that can be anywhere from mildly annoying, to completely debilitating.
[... Finding that] my inner OCD computer jammed and the future disappeared in front of me. Without the future ahead of me to plan in great detail, I turned and looked back on the past.
[...] With a past full of unanswered questions and a future with limited visibility, I found myself stuck in the present. It felt like quicksand and the more I struggled to accept it, the faster I was sinking.
So I stopped struggling.
And immediately I stopped sinking.
This is such an amazing description of OCD, or even just anxiety. It very accurately describes what happens in my mind (I'm getting a little better at silencing the "what-ifs" and stuff, but it's a process). I'd never thought of what exactly my mind has been doing; but it's a good explanation that it's constantly running possible scenarios, and being hyper-vigilant. And, it IS exhausting!

"I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened" - Mark Twain

I can also relate with my computer jamming and my future disappearing in a moment. I have felt stuck in the present and struggling (and sinking) to try to accept it. It's a cycle, for me, I stop struggling and accept things for a while... then I start struggling and sinking again... and back around. But, it's when I stop struggling that I can truly be present in the moment - "letting go of what you want is the only way to get it" (The Art of Now: Six Steps Living in the Moment).

I have MUCH to learn about mindfulness, so it's a topic that I'm sure I'll bring up again in the future.

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM). Other bloggers will share their posts on this FB page.

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