I’ve signed up, informally, for a free 8-week course in Mindfulness. In order to keep myself on track, I will be blogging the experience here…the good, the bad, and the I-can’t-do-this-shit.
If you’d like to join me, click here for the course.
I’ve downloaded and assembled the workbook and watched the required videos for week 1, commencing with an exercise of mindfully eating a raisin, which I didn’t have in my pantry so I cut up a date into very tiny pieces. It worked, sort of. The exercise actually depressed me because he takes you through a sensory experience, which includes thinking about the life and death of the raisin (he uses the word umbilical cord to describe the part of the raisin where you can see a teeny tiny stem from when it was a grape). He also talks about the laborers who picked and dried the raisin…then he invites you to eat it slowly…
So far though, I’m into this and only dreading the silence and boredom of meditating…I’ve tried for years to commit to a meditation practice only to wind up bored out of my mind…or continually interrupted, as I am right now, by my children and/or cat.
I have to sign off now. The cat is sitting on my lap top and the oldest child has entered my office in her unicorn pajamas.
Stay tuned for my adventures in Mindfulness.
This first week the course wants us to focus on a daily practice of doing a body scan meditation.
I just did it for the first time, and I HATED IT! Every minute of it was AGONIZING. I’ve done similar meditations before and haven’t felt this way. It felt too long, the voice wasn’t soothing, and my mind kept going all over the place because I felt so BORED and DISCONNECTED.
The workbook says, “Don’t expect to feel anything in particular from this practice. In fact give up all expectations about it.”
Is it possible that I had an expectation? Probably. I expected NOT TO HATE IT SO MUCH THAT THE THOUGHT OF DOING IT AGAIN MAKES ME WANT TO SCREAM AND RUN.
Interesting to me is how much more mentally anxious I feel since starting this course. I know I am not supposed to have an expectation but how about a “hope”, as in, “I hope this gets better! Maybe I am that one small percent of the population that actually responds the opposite to Mindfulness practices…
We shall see.
The other thing I am to do each day this week is bring mindful awareness to some otherwise routine activity. So on my daily walk this morning, I paid close attention to the leaves. I found their colors to be soothing and beautiful and interesting. I liked this exercise. This one didn’t make me feel CRAZY.
I am committed to seeing this thing through because all of the research does support that Mindfulness training reduces stress and helps a lot of chronic conditions both mentally and physically. So far, I’m not loving it and not seeing how it will make much of a difference…I’ve studied Mindfulness on and off since I was a teenager but never formally, and I do worry that this formal approach will kill it for me; yet I know that this can only happen if I do the thing that all Mindfulness teachers say NOT to do and that is put expectations on this experience. I think that the expectation I have is that I will do every single assignment perfectly and exactly how it should be…I am realizing that I have gone into this with a non-mindful attitude — outcome oriented. In one of the videos I watched this week called “Don’t Try to be Mindful” by Daron Larson, he says to “stop focusing on outcome” and yet that’s all I am doing. I know that there is a certificate to be earned at the end of this course and that’s all I see in my head. If I do this all correctly, I will get a prize and then I am something, I am somebody, I am important.
Right now, I don’t know how to stop thinking that way but I do know that a mindful teacher would say, “Do nothing. Notice. Allow. Let.” Notice the expectation. Notice the judgment. Notice the anger and self loathing in this and then keep going. Do this course because you value the process and along the way ACCEPT that you most likely will be kicking and screaming and fighting…and at some point, you will probably not do those things, but for now, you are and that’s OKAY.
Yesterday I attempted the body scan meditation again but with a different guided audio and… SUCCESS! What I mean is, I was able to do it without wanting to jump out of my skin, which was what I felt with the previous guided body scan because the guy’s voice was HIDEOUS! Instead, I used this audio, which has the soothing sounds of Mindfulness guru John Kabat-Zinn.
Now my one critique of this mediation, in general, is that it is WAYYYYYY too long for folks like me whose temperament is more high energy/anxiety. I need a meditation that is engaging (mindful) yet not more than 25 minutes MAX. This ran 29 minutes. I stopped at 25.
What I am beginning to see and understand about myself is that I carry perfectionism into all areas of my life, to a detriment. I was judging myself and also arguing with myself internally for not “doing it right”, meaning…when I did this yesterday, I was at work and couldn’t exactly sprawl out on the floor of my tiny office, so I sat back in my chair. The body scan directions state that you should recline…so I got all over myself about that. The arguing part was me yelling at myself that this was “Probably a waste and how many times have you attempted to create a lasting meditation practice?” and “You just suck at this!” and on and on. The antidote to this was…mindfulness. Meaning, I noticed what I was doing to myself, and I didn’t try to reason back, necessarily, but more “note”, which is something I learned in my own studies of mindfulness over the years. I’ve practiced noting throughout my journey with chronic anxiety, and it always brings peace and helps me to let go of that which I cannot control, mainly where my messy and creative mind can wander. I also argued with myself about stopping at the 25 minute mark…what happened was I naturally felt “done”. The mediation guided me to scan and breathe into all parts of my body so when I reached the last part, I opened my eyes and was done…but the audio kept going, so I automatically was like, “Loser! You can’t even finish this or be patient enough to listen for another few minutes.”
I am SOOOOOOO MEAN to myself and it’s ANNOYING, ALREADY!!!! I’m 4 effing 2. This needs to friggin stop….
However, what mindfulness is trying to show me is that I can NOTE and OBSERVE that I do this to myself and in that noticing, I can create space and step back from the judging and yelling and see it for what it is, which is simply my fight or flight bullshit I automatically do because of my anxiety temperament. I’m just trying to protect myself against what I perceive is the enemy and that is: failure.
What I have to remind myself of is that failure isn’t the enemy. Failure is the teacher, the tutor, the education….it contains critical information about what I really value.
What I value and what all my many, many failures have taught me is that I am a seeker and a doer and as long as I am seeking and doing, I am fulfilling my purpose.
Right now, I’m at the top of a mountain…a place I was 7 years ago, though that was a different mountain; it was a mountain of a life dream achieved. I had completed my MFA and a collection of short stories that were the creative result of the pain I went through in high school.
Now, I’ve climbed another mountain and achieved my other life dream of becoming a licensed pychotherapist, and the bonus of this moment is that my own mental health journey is about to be published in an essay I wrote for OC87 Diaries…bittersweet.
You would think that my anxiety right now was nil. Gone. Nada.
And you would be very wrong. I’m having tremendous anxiety about — you guessed it — failing.
When you are at the top of the mountain, you have nowhere to go but back down…and I fear that.
My hope is that mindfulness will keep me in this moment, however difficult it is, but that if I am present I can stop worrying about “What if I fail?”.