Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
Today is the kick off of Mindful Mondays! This idea came to me as I was meditating one evening and it seemed to resonate with me. Every Monday I plan to write about a topic and share how having a mindful practice can help center your life & ultimately give you better tools to deal with the curve balls that life throws.
Before I jump ahead explaining Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), I would like to share how this came to be one of the most important components of my life.
Last year I made a big transition in my life. Actually it was several big transitions. I left my beloved island of St. Croix to return home to Virginia. A place I never thought I would live again, was now the place I was needed the most. There were many factors leading this decision; my medical condition, missing my family, a job opportunity and love. Anyone who has ever moved knows that it is a stressful time. The packing, throwing away, organizing, finding things you thought you had lost (and then getting distracted for hours), drinking wine and then the last minute frantic push to get everything loaded into a truck. Well it was kind of like that. Except I had to put everything that I absolutely wanted to keep in flat rate mailing boxes and sell or give away the rest of my belongings. At 34 years old, this is tough. Even being a minimalist, I had a lot of stuff shoved in my tiny cottage. So a case of wine and a small fortune in postal fees, I shipped out to Virginia.
At this point I seemed to love moving so much that I did it 3 more times in the next 5 months. Needless to say all of the moving, my painful medical condition, starting a new job, driving on the right hand side of the road and moving back to the states in a frigid February after being an island girl for 7 years was…well stressful. I literally felt like my head was going to spin off my shoulders. This is when I found a flyer for an 8 week course on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) that was being offered in the town I lived in. I had used MBSR techniques in my therapy practice with clients and understood the basis but I was having difficulty applying it to my own life.
In the first class we all gathered into the room and sat in a semi circle facing each other. Anxiety filled the room and became so overwhelming that I almost didn’t make it through the first meditation. And then there was homework! If I didn’t already have enough stress, now I was being asked to do 45 minutes of meditation each night and read a very large book, Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Then it happened… it all began to make sense.
I no longer dozed off with the 45 minute body scans, I now felt like I was floating above my
yoga mat on a cloud. I spent all my free time, reading the book assigned and the weekly classes were no longer filled with anxiety; they were supportive, friendly & safe. Each lesson that was shared felt as if it was written specifically for me and I thrived off new enlightenment and tools that I was being given to handle my stressful life. That 8 week time period was one of the most significant times in my life. I began to understand myself & the world around me. I began to worry less and enjoy more. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I honestly felt like I could look at the world through a different lens. It wasn’t all happy, cheery & smiles; in fact those 8 weeks also held some of the most intensive painful, angry, sad and confused moments that I have faced in my 35 years. This class opened my once jaded social work heart & turned me into a weeping mess. I cried like I had never cried before and found a cynical person under those tears. Someone who was rather mean to myself, and blamed myself for being sick. I despised my disease and my feet that were now being engulfed in flames from my nervous system.
How could someone who spends their life caring for others have so much hate for themselves?
How was it possible for a person to facilitate endless therapy groups on self esteem & self care, punish their own body for failing? Most importantly, why was this sickness seen as a personal failure?
I was very blessed to have an incredible teacher and mentor through those 8 weeks. She opened new avenues and perspectives that taught me how to sit in silence with my pain & ultimately helped me build the framework for a long lasting relationship with myself. A relationship that was always emotionally abusive & judgmental to now pure loving-kindness.
As I sit here today my heart is filled with gratitude for allowing myself the space to begin that relationship. I also learned a new skillset to deal with difficult emotions, overwhelming physical pain and have better relationships with those around me. Learning how to meditate & just be with what is present has helped me through countless medical procedures and hospitalizations. It has also helped make me a better person. I am no longer a weepy mess but I am much more empathetic to those around me & sensitive to individual’s needs. I try to live my life showing kindness, even to those who don’t reciprocate this action.
Most importantly I am learning to take each day as it comes and not worry about the tomorrows.
This life is certainly not the life I carefully planned as I was growing up but I bet that is true with all of us! Our lives are filled with peaks & valleys of experiences as well as tears & laughter. Some say it is the heartbreak that makes us strong or brave. That often times great tragedy helps us define our purpose in life or leads us to what really matters. My thinking is why wait for misfortune to show us what is ultimately important? Why not slow down and enjoy life as it comes? Moment by Moment.
My challenge for you this week:
- take a few minutes (less than 5!) to watch & listen to the story of Maybe (Taoist story)
- Approach this week with an open mind, not to quick to judge whether something is good or bad and allowing it just to be, as it is.
- Do 2 kind things for yourself (if you are feeling particularly inspired, please share that these are in the comments below!)
I look forward to these Mindful Mondays & sharing simple tools that can calm your mind & reduce stress…. until next time…..
Much Metta (loving Kindness),
You can purchase this book through Amazon which will help me pay off medical bills. Amazing book & a good price!!!