Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My Passion...

I truly believe that if one pursues one's passion in life, things come together in a way that is simple, mindful and beautiful. Does that sound like a cliche? Think on it. If you truly believe in something, you are at your most natural and most efficient. Ideas come and make sense and maybe even make an impact. In life that is what everyone tries to make happen -- some do, others don't want to and many others try.

Lately I am getting the feeling of life going by me and that I am not keeping up. Now it is Christmas and I spent the morning in my robe! Tomorrow is another day but I want to change it from being just "another" tomorrow. I have a list of things I would like to complete -- just in time for New Year's resolutions! I have been working on a book FOREVER. It is mostly written, well about 100 pages and I just need to complete the rest. This is the interesting part but I seem to be stuck just living life. When you have MS, just living life is a full time occupation!

My book will have a different tone than everything else I've seen on MS. I just finished reading a New York Times review of the book Brain on Fire. I am carefully trying to understand what the reviewer thought of the book. Ultimately I realized that it is all about your story. But there is that part about not getting too caught up in misery, sorrow or even narcissism. So one has to carefully construct the story without making the audience slog through all your baggage. Difficult to say the least. So ultimately I have to tell my story honestly and be mindful about my MS and non MS audience.

You know what the hardest part of pursuing my passion for writing this book is? Just getting started where I left off. After about a week I've nailed it down pretty well. It is not that I am lazy or unchallenged, it is that I need to pull out the same discipline that I've used at other times in my life and just WRITE! It helps to have that goal in my mind too. A finished book with my story for so many to see and so many to possibly help understand this insidious debacle called MS.

My book consists of three parts: I. Life before MS (yes there was a life before), II. life during diagnosis and III. life after MS (yes, there is such a thing). I am stuck on part III. And this is the most marvelous part! I might be a little hesitant to write about this part because maybe I never thought it would ever come. I tell my audience how I got here through long labyrinths and tunnels. Anyone can do this, all it takes is a bit of direction or in my case just knowing what to do. People, especially young people might want to know how to live a relatively normal life because I didn't have anyone to tell me it was possible. In the process I lived through damage caused by the condition simply because I didn't know any better. In other words, how to live more healthfully, looking into research that was never reported to us instead of looking for the answer in a pill. Well, I better get to the book, time is wasting.

But as they say, better late than never!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mindfulness meditation & my MS

I write my blog posts because it is how I can gauge my current mental and physical state. I have lived with MS for a very long time -- 27 years -- this December 25th. I can honestly tell you that life has taken me through turns, some instructive and others destructive. I am also trying to write a book about my life with MS. My book will consist of three main parts, life before MS, years after diagnosis and life after MS. Yes, there is life after MS. I believe now that my whole journey took place as I searched and searched for answers to find none. Having emerged from this long tunnel, I now am living life to my fullest. The book will talk about all the mistakes and ultimate advocacy and happiness in finding my own voice to handle some very difficult times. I have re-discovered life and am not moaning about what has been lost.

When I question my purpose for being here and what it has all meant up until now, it is to share with you my lessons. Knowing that one's MS is not like another person's MS, I speak of my own experience in hopes that everyone will have something to gain -- even people without MS!

I have come across something very interesting within the last month. Having heard over the years how only meditation will calm my mind and anxiety related to my life, I have made a wonderful discovery -- "mindfulness meditation." This is different from what you might think of as meditation. Honestly, I am not one to sit in a corner, focus on a mantra and let all thoughts leave me! That is what we all think of, right? Almost like a waste of time that I might spend doing something useful. Mindfulness meditation is not that at all.

Let me explain how it works for me.

The idea is not to ruminate. It is possible to shut out all thoughts about the past and the future by focusing on the present only. How to do this? Look at your environment, all the things around you....each one of those items can take up observation time. A cup, a pen, a plant anything...just stay present, with whoever else is around you as well. An example, friends had come over for lunch the other day. Normally, my attention is everywhere but around the table we were sitting around. I would start thinking about something that happened two days ago, something irrelevant to my company who came to be with me. I tried the exercise that I had been reading about but had not tried yet. It is almost as though I trained my brain to just be at the table. I focused on everyone there, asked pertinent questions, discussed issues that came up and was a far far nicer person! My company was very familiar with the "old" me being distracted all the time and I finally mentioned being mindful. Then the reactions came and I saw that they noticed the difference.

This article illustrates how one can really feel the benefits of this:

More than anything, the stress in my life is reduced mainly because I don't waste time and energy thinking about things that don't really matter. Most of it is imagined anyway. So, every minute I stay in the present is valuable energy saved!

Sometimes it can be hard to focus only on the present. There are a few tricks to stop your mind from whirling around -- for example focusing on the breath or counting to ten without other distracting thoughts intruding. Personally it is hard for me to focus on the breath but I do the counting -- starting over if thoughts come in. Most important is to not judge yourself or the situation. If thoughts come in, they come in. Let them, just know they did.

This has really worked for me. I also don't get upset about things that haven't happened yet. You may be surprised at how keen your attention really is and how you think and say things that never had a chance to come out with all the unnecessary thoughts coming in.

It is as though my brain needed something to tell it what to do. Isn't that the case with most things in life?