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?

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