My path towards mindfulness, Part 1

Almost 12 years ago, when my eldest daughter was 5, I was on the top floor of our house just about to walk down the stairs after putting her to bed. I hesitated with my hand on the banister. Overcome with a building headache and rising nausea, I stood there for a few minutes trying to compose myself. Intuitively, I felt safer to stay put then try the stairs. I couldn’t see straight and my legs weakened. I finally went downstairs into our bedroom, telling my wife I needed to lie down. I fell asleep. Got up in the morning and went to work. My recollection of that episode was simply an unexplained nuisance, a random speedbump in the very busy, fast moving days of being married, having two kids, another on the way and a busy job. I didn’t occur to me in the least to do anything differently. Carry on. No option B. Nothing in sight that could be or should different. That would be mindlessness.

I returned to journaling which I had done, off and on for years. I started to keep track of the headaches and I also kept notes of the difficult things going on in my life: kids up in the night with colds or nightmares, stressful events at work and some times feelings of lack of energy and focus. Effectively, this journal became a lengthy list of tough, hard things that was going on. There was a lot to write about. The journal was an outlet. One entry was about how upon going to bed, I felt so stressed, it crossed my mind that it was plausible I would have a heart attack. Crazy for me to see myself type that. I didn’t tell my wife until recently. Tough guy. Couldn’t tell her at the time. She’s dealing with her own stress. I should be able to deal with it. Don’t want to her to think I am weak. What nonsense.

The stress continued and my well being deteriorated. The migraines with aura increased in frequency and severity and I developed a second health issue that last 8 months. Both nasty. Later on in this journey, I found and read A Course in Miracles and in Lesson 76 it talks about “the body is endangered by the mind that hurts itself.” Very true. In June 2010, I “woke up” and said to myself there must be a different and better way to do life. It can’t be right that stress and health issues are just part of the deal. So in a moment of self compassion, I set out to do life better. The first practical step came when at the end of the day, I took out my phone and scrolled to the notes area where my journals were. I selected the daily journal and just looked it. I became aware (the beginning of mindfulness!) that all the notes were of hardship, struggle, disappointment and frustration. I just looked at note after note of terrible night sleeps, crazy people at work and frustration at not having the energy I’d like. Madness.

So on June 28th, 2010, I started a new journal, I called it “Magical Moments”. Here’s my first entry on that day, “ Sunday night putting Taylor to bed (4 yrs old). She wasn’t moving quickly and I stayed calm (cause for recognition here just on that point!). She got her clothes ready for Monday and some gifts together for her teacher (end of school). Finally, teeth brushed, even that was fun and nice. She picked 3 books to read, her “favourites” and we read them, snuggled up closely. Kisses and hugs, partly playing and reading. Great, really great.”

Almost every day, I made a point of putting in my new journal something that was good, that I defined as magical, even a little thing, a meeting at work that I contributed some good stuff to, a smile, a hug, a good sleep. The funny, thing is that after a while, it was easier and easier for me to come up with magical stuff and it felt great to identify it. I found I was enjoying writing in the journal and reliving the moments. I just saw more magical stuff. Later on I learned this is the effect of what we dwell on and the awesomeness of neuroplasticity. With the observation of a friend, I started to identify that I had a role in many of the magical moments and found that even more supportive to feeling happier. This was the beginning of a greater awareness that led me to look at sleep and diet and mindfulness. All of which have transformed how I see the world and how I am doing my life for the better.