There’s a lady in the bed opposite. She’s waiting patiently with such elegance and poise. Later today she is having surgery to remove a tumour from her brain. She’ll be awake during the operation. She’s been warned of possible complications; loss of function and changes in personality. She waits, calmly. “It’s okay for me,” she says, “this is a one-off. It’s you I feel for having an ongoing condition.”
There’s a lady in the bed alongside me. She’s been waiting for hours, days, for tests she desperately hopes will reveal answers. “I just want to know what’s wrong,” she says, jumping up every time someone approaches her bed. I don’t know what’s tormenting her more, the waiting or the unknown.
As for me, my bags are packed and I’m waiting to go home. My face lights up as I think of seeing my kitties and being in the peace and quiet of my little oasis. But here I find myself, waiting.Read More
I was becoming invisible, my body paling to the white sheets. As I lay on the hospital trolley, unable to move or speak, all I had was my mind. The strength of my thoughts and the images they created could take me anywhere. As I felt my heart sinking and tears pooling at my eyes I knew I needed to change direction. I focused on my breath. It gave me perspective. What was I feeling and where was it coming from? I felt utterly worthless. The actions, or lack of actions, by others during a time of acute illness in A&E had triggered an inner story; a deep seated belief that I knew to be untrue, yet at that moment I was compelled to believe.Read More
George is a middle-aged man who lives in the States. He has a severe, progressive condition that affects all aspects of his day to day life, yet he is functioning on a higher level than many others with comparable disease. George practises mindfulness and is included as a case study in ‘Full Catastrophe Living’ by Jon Kabat-Zinn. ‘Within the limits of his disease, he is actively meeting life’s challenges rather than sitting at home and bemoaning his fate. He takes each moment as it comes and figures out how he can work with it and stay relaxed and aware.’ An example of this is how George does the weekly grocery shop for himself and his wife. He takes his time. He rests. He asks for help when necessary. He gets the shopping packed into light bag loads which he is then able to lift from the trolley to the car. The daily tasks he completes in this way bring value and meaning to his life as he is able to contribute to the running of his household, whilst self-managing his condition. Read More
If you follow my blog regularly, you may have noticed I didn’t share a post last week. It was one of those weeks when unexpected stressors were being thrown at me quicker than I felt I could deal with them. We all have them. It can be any number of things; an illness, a difficult communication, something going wrong, an extra task coming your way when your diary’s already full. When the stressors start hurtling towards you, it can quickly become overwhelming. It can feel difficult to pick yourself up if the next knock blows before you’re fully upright. You feel thrown about by stress with a disconcerting lack of control.Read More
Sunlight shimmering on the surface.
water like a mirror.
Ducks swimming, calm above, furiously paddling beneath
a fan of ripples.
Murky green water,
Mysterious koi carp lurking beneath
A gentle breeze gathering ripples.
The lake.Read More
I embarked on Breathworks’ ‘Mindfulness for Health’ course with high hopes. I was already familiar with the wonderful work of Breathworks and I was eager to bring more of their techniques into my practice. I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, my expectations were exceeded as I deepened my practice in a supportive and inspiring community. Read More
Last week I completed Breathworks’ ‘Mindfulness for Health’ course. Over ten weeks I was able to deepen my practice, be part of a supportive community and witness transformation in myself and others. I’m looking forward to sharing the experience with you next week. In the meantime, I’ve created a mindfulness toolbox to remind myself and others of the practice in an easy and accessible way. Some of the ideas are so simple and take such little time, yet they can have a truly profound effect on your day to day life, whatever your situation. You can find the toolbox here.
I’m waiting for two hospital admissions. I don’t know when they’ll be or how how much notice I’ll be given before I have to pack my bag, say goodbye to my kitties and face yet more inpatient treatment and sleepless nights on a plastic hospital mattress. I have imminent meetings and assessments to review the care I receive, which, given government bureaucracy, can create huge amounts of stress. Not to mention the day to day challenge of managing my condition, living with difficult symptoms and finding ways to enable me to complete basic tasks most people take for granted. It could easily consume me. My life could centre round illness and disability, and all the suffering that accompanies it. That would be perfectly understandable. It might even be expected. It has happened in the past. But I know if I broaden my awareness, there is always something pleasant to experience.Read More
Have you ever been struck by how differently two people can view the same thing? How about considering how one person can see two very different points of view? It is so easy to get stuck in a particular mindset thinking there is only one way, but with an increase in psychological flexibility it’s possible to take a step back and consider alternative views. You might just discover all sorts of possibilities if you do.
I was feeling anxious about something recently; future hospital treatment, so it was understandable that I might feel apprehensive. I felt stuck. I’d lost control and jumped into the unknown. At least that’s what my thoughts were telling me. Prompted by the words of a wise doctor, I was reminded how those thoughts weren’t necessarily true. What might the alternative be? Could I flip it? Could I take charge and therefore feel in control? Could I express my wishes and assert my needs, making it less of an unknown? Yes, I could. The result was immediate and empowering. It felt like an entirely different situation. I was no longer stuck.
Our thoughts have a direct impact on our feelings, so it’s no surprise that a shift in perspective can bring a shift in feelings and an increased sense of well-being. The challenge is to see the alternative. We become so familiar with a particular point of view that our brains literally get used to activating certain neural pathways. The good news is that just like physical flexibility, psychological flexibility (being able to adapt to different situations and view alternative perspectives) can be increased. Learning something new, doing something differently and getting out of your comfort zone all help. You can read more about that here. It really is worth the effort.