When Waves Become Ripples – A Sign of Progress in Mindfulness

Practising mindfulness is a process. It’s not about trying to get something, but about living and being, allowing the practice to unfold just as life does. There is no end point but that doesn’t mean we don’t make progress. Every so often, something happens that makes me realise just how far I have travelled. It’s a moment to acknowledge, to explore and to celebrate.

I had one of these moments last week. I received a phone call from a hospital I am under; could I attend a three month inpatient neuro-rehabilitation programme with less than two days notice? I have been on the waiting list for the last eighteen months. It’s the only treatment available in this country that I am yet to try. Places are like gold dust.

But two days notice to up and leave daily life for three months in hospital is a tall order for anyone. Factor in the extra challenges I face with my disability, the length of time it takes me to get things done whilst managing my condition, and it’s a tall order indeed.

I didn’t know what I would decide, but I felt surprisingly calm. I was able to take time to explore my options. I could look from different perspectives. I drew upon the broad, stable awareness I’ve cultivated in practising the open heart meditation. I maintained my grounding as I allowed thoughts and feelings to come and go. I was able to look in on the situation and see it for what it was, rather than flapping about in panic, which would have been understandable but unhelpful.

As I thought it through clearly, the reality emerged that I would have less than twenty-four hours to get ready. I knew that wasn’t long enough. I asserted my needs, requesting the weekend to prepare and make arrangements, and I left it in the hands of the hospital, comfortable with my decision.

This time it wasn’t to be. Although my treatment would have begun no later, the bed had to be filled. I continue on the waiting list, not knowing when the next call will come or how much notice I’ll be given, but I now feel confident that it will feel like a ripple in the water, rather than a wave crashing down on me. With the help of my mindfulness practice, I can respond rather than react.

 

Widening the Lens – It’s All about Perspective

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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.