Mindfulness Moment: Realizing You Like The Person You’ve Become

Have you ever paused to think about how much you have changed? How very different the internal dialogue is now from what it was years ago? Hopefully, you are grateful for what has changed. This must be the joy of getting older and, little by little, wiser. At 24, I am excited to see who I will be at 60 ūüôāRead More »

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Mindfulness Music: Love Does

A song on the radio that always helps me be mindful. Brandon Heath has such a beautiful voice. And lyrics that give hope are always worth cherishing ūüôā

In particular, it keeps me motivated when I am feeling drained and just want to call in sick to my volunteer shifts.  I recently had to say good-bye to a patient I was visiting as a volunteer in an elderly care facility. It was my last day as a volunteer and I wanted to make it special, but I was feeling rushed, trying to get from work and get to her in time for visiting hours, stopping at stores in between to collect the items I needed for her favorite treat. My good intentions were gone as I rushed. It was a task that needed to be done. An inconvenience. My OCD was pretty bad and I just wanted to stay home.

I had to stop and remind myself why I was doing this; I wanted to show someone a little love. I knew she was hungry for companionship. I knew that she all she wanted was to eat this special dessert with a friend. People in care homes spend all day in their little rooms, in their beds, with no one but people paid to care for them and maybe a roommate who can’t talk back to them for their daily companions. ¬†I had to remember that the little things I manage to do are significant to someone, so it’s important that I tell my OCD to back off so I can do this small thing. This song helps me remember that it’s important to keep doing the small things. More than that, ¬†I need stay in the moment and keep love in my intentions. As it says in 2 Corinthians 9:7 ” Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

 

Love Does by Brandon Heath

Let’s Start Over

Me on the Beach
Me being mindful at the beach ūüôā

Let’s start over. The past few weekends, I have been hiking, camping, and dipping my toes in the sand. I was happy, mindful, breathing in nature around me and feeling a sense of “I am here”; mindfulness. I was never OCD- free, but my OCD was less triggered among the trees. The earth has a way of making you feel like you can start over.

‚ÄúThousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…‚ÄĚ
‚Äē John Muir (Our National Parks (1901), chapter 1: The Wild Parks and Forest Reservations of the West)

Have you been barefoot lately? In a safe and sanitary situation, that is (teehee). Isn’t it strange? I remember going barefoot often enough as a kid, in my backyard. When I burrowed my toes in the sand last weekend, I realized it had been ages since I had been barefoot. Imagine that. Years since my human feet have actually made contact with the earth. With dirt or sand or grass. It’s just been carpet, my shoes, my yoga mat, or at best wet concrete as I wash my car. Always a layer or more between myself and the earth. ¬†It’s no wonder I instantly felt calm on that beach.

The last anxiety group therapy session I attended, we were encouraged to do a walking mindfulness meditation, and I found that being barefoot in grass while walking slowly was surprisingly grounding. I don’t know how else to describe it, except that for a small moment in time, I could feel my heart rate slow, my mess of constant thoughts slowing to focus in on what was really around me. The counselor leading our session said it best: the feeling I got while standing in the grass was one of “I am here“. Not in some crisis my disordered mind is spinning. Not back there at that intersection where I was triggered. Not checking. I am right here. Connected to the earth. It’s my new Reset button, and with it I can start over.

I wanted to start over, but then I came back from the mountains and beaches. I calculated that I spent about 4 hours each day since I have come back stuck in some anxiety and OCD loop. Redriving my routes on freeways. Having to redo things until they were just right. Thoughts careening out of control until my stomach is sick and I feel more ancient than my 23 years.

I just need to remember I can always start over. And I deserve to forgive myself when I have to start over.

 

 

Group Therapy: Check In #2- Mindful Yummies & Curiosity

What if we approached our future and our life with curiosity instead of fear and anxiety?

That was the focus of session #2: Beginner’s Mind, and as the psychologist leading our session posed that question, I couldn’t help but feel hope bubbling up inside of me. The very idea seemed adventurous and exciting; I have spent much of ¬†my time and energy approaching the next moment with fear.

But curiosity? I know how wonderful that state can be. I love to learn, and most folks who love the pursuit of knowledge are familiar with the joys that pure curiosity can bring. There’s a strange happiness when you don’t know what is around that corner, but you treat uncertainty like an adventure or an unfolding story, rather than a death sentence.

Here are some links for resources about Beginner’s Mind that I have found helpful as I learn about this attitude of mindfulness:

Cultivate Beginner’s Mind for Mindfulness (Mindfulness Workbook for Dummies)

Beginner’s Mind (Psychology Today)

We also ended our session with a mindfulness meditation exercise about eating. Each of us grabbed a piece of fruit and practiced experiencing that fruit, sensation by sensation, from the weight of it in our hands & the texture of the skin to how it felt to slowly take the first bite. I don’t think I’ve ever taken that long to eat a single blackberry, and as silly as the exercise may sound, I was surprisingly relaxed afterwards. How simple and convenient that I can chill out by just taking a few moments to slow down and be curious in my eating. I think this is something nice I can try for at least one bite during mealtimes for some informal mindfulness moments. ¬†ūüôā

3 Weird New Ways to Meditate (Prevention)

Mastering the Mindful Meal (Brigham and Women’s Hospital

 

 

Mindfulness Moment: Going Where My Trust Is Without Borders

I’ve heard and read a lot of folks with OCD talk about how they feel that, at it the core of this disorder for many sufferers, we have a maladaptive and atypical inability to deal with uncertainty¬†(here are links to 3 posts about it for further reading: by Jeff Bell, Dr. Steven Seay, and Annabella Hagen – LCSW RPT-S).¬†¬†The problem with OCD, I’ve noticed, is that in avoiding all possible threats to certainty, you pretty much avoid living life at all.

It’s very sneaky, the way obeying my need for certainty can slowly overtake my life. I realized at first, that I would avoid driving near the bike lane and the lane next to the sidewalk. Then I resolved to avoid driving during times when kids walk to school. OK, how about I avoid driving in the dark unless I¬†absolutely¬†must? And let’s ¬†try to avoid evening commuter traffic too. ¬†I’ll avoid parking garages, driveways, and compact parking while I’m at it. Actually, let’s also park as far away from people as possible. And let’s only do right turns on green. And don’t go down that street where you had an OCD episode. I realized today that if I always obeyed all my “rules” in order to optimize certainty that I won’t accidentally hurt someone with my car, I would leave very few hours in the day when I would be able to drive.

Tonight, my friend asked me to go the movies. I knew that if I said yes, I’d end up driving home in the dark. Hmmmm. That would increase the possibility of not seeing a pedestrian when I drive! That’s a huge OCD trigger for me, one that could turn my 30 minute drive home into a 60 minute one as my brain spins in it’s own web of imaginary tragedy. ¬†A little voice inside me told me life would just be easier if I said no to the movie and comfortably drove home with the sun in the sky. Just be comfy! Just do what is easy! Why risk being triggered?

The good news is, I am getting better and better at dealing with being triggered! I decided to go the movies tonight. I drove home in the dark. I had obsessions and compulsions. I checked (a few times too many). BUT I didn’t let my need for certainty prune away at my social life. I want friends. ¬†I want to go to the grocery store at night. I have to go to class in the morning and drive home ¬†from class in the dark. I’m not back to my old driving yet, but I can start with this. ¬†What can I say? Uncertainty is uncomfortable, but I have faith that I can deal with the uncertainty that abounds on this earth, no matter what my OCD makes me feel in the moment.

Speaking of uncertainty and hope, there is a BEAUTIFUL song by Hillsong UNITED called Oceans (Where Feet May Fail), which I have fallen in love with because singing it is an informal mindfulness moment for me which gives me courage.   When I sing it, I forget what makes me anxious and I feel nothing but overhwhelming hope.

In particular, I feel courage in these lyrics:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith would be made stronger, by the presence of my Savior

– Oceans by Hillsong UNITED

Wow. To ask God to take me where my trust is without borders? Where feet may fail? Nothing makes my OCD more upset than the thought of that :). I think I should strive to go there.

Here’s the song and lyric video for Oceans. Very soothing. I hope you enjoy it!

Mindfulness Moment: Candles that Smell Like Cookies

This photo, "candle" is copyright (c) 2007 Jamin Gray  and made available under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).
This photo, “candle” is copyright (c) 2007 Jamin Gray and made available under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Life has been feeling a little heavy lately, hasn’t it? ¬†Everyone at school and work has been cray-cray and exhausted. My loved ones are feeling overworked and¬†stressed. ¬†My own blog has been missing the¬†usual¬†silver-lining; I feel I’ve been fixating on the hard stuff (my OCD), and forgetting to also document the good stuff. Time for me to blog about a happy mindfulness moment, but where to start? I found my inspiration in the first thing I decided to do when I got home tonight: light a candle.

My mother bought me a jumbo-sized Yankee Candle for Christmas, the Christmas Cookie scent. ¬†Have you thought about how amazing candles are¬†lately?¬† I think part of the allure might be the beauty and power of something as primitive as fire; it’s captivating and soothing to be near, like a mini vacation from the artificial and man-made things we surround¬†ourselves¬†with. Candles seem to say “Take your time”.¬†¬†A room bathed in candlelight just feels better than a room with glaring¬†fluorescent¬†lamps (confession: I ¬†fancy fire so much, I have been guilty of playing the yule log fireplace DVDin the winter). Nothing humans can craft or manufacture could ever beat what nature has to offer; it’s pretty hard to match the majesty of fire, trees, and ¬†lightening, don’t you think? What’s awesome about candles is that you get to harness that little bit of nature on the end of a wick, in a glass jar, in the comfort of your room.

It also helps that minutes after lighting my candle, my room smells like someone has been baking sugar cookies in it all day. As you know from my previous post about cupcakes, the smell of baked goods induces euphoria in me. (My boyfriend said I should get a perfume that smells like donuts. I laughed at him, but I think he might be onto something!).

Best of all, how wonderful that something so simple, accessible, and cheap as a candle in my room can help anchor me to the present, providing me with instant relaxation.

In conclusion, I bring you a quote about candles (and perhaps optimism) ! ūüôā

There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one small candle.”

– Robert Alden

Musical Mindfulness: Singing in the Car & Other Moments :)

Ah! The power of music! I first became aware of it in 5th grade when I became enraptured by the music of Nsync. The voices of that 90’s boyband compelled me to do strange things, such as sing the entire No Strings Attached album obnoxiously loud for the entirety of a field trip with my then best friend ūüôā As I’ve gotten older (and my musical taste more selective), I continue to witness and enjoy the power of music to move the heart strings.

A recent moment that comes to mind was a performance by my church’s worship band. Church worship can be painfully bad and awkward, but lucky me, I found a church with an undeniably talented and passionate set of musicians. On this particular day, the lead vocalist sat down to perform a hauntingly beautiful song on the piano. His voice was so soulful and powerful, I could feel¬†everybody¬†else in the auditorium leaning forward in their seats along with me. Halfway through, the rest of the band joined him, and the ensemble of drums, bass, piano, and powerful voices gave me goosebumps. Watching him sing was like watching a thunderstorm pass through. I paid no attention to time. I had no other thoughts in my mind that I was aware of other than the awe and beauty of the song. The world had stopped turning for me in that moment.

Singing in the car is another informal mindful moment I have, although it’s a less majestic one. You know when you hear a song that somehow just delivers all the attitude and energy you’ve been lacking? Or a song that makes you feel like you could conquer the world? And soon you find yourself singing and dancing in your car and all of those worrisome thoughts that would usually invade your commute are nowhere in sight? And then you are stopped at a stoplight and suddenly become¬†conscious¬†of the driver next to you smiling at you and your performance ends abruptly because you have been taken over by a fit of self-conscious¬†giggles. I love that feeling. I don’t feel like a girl with a label from the DSM or a girl who has to attend therapy 2 times a week. I just feel like a 23 year old who is happy to be alive.

My counselor worked with me last week on finding a mantra for me to meditate with, since I have found that just sitting and having nothing to focus was pulling teeth for me. I really suck at just “feeling the forehead, my neck, my chest” while lying still and trying to think of nothing else. ¬†Breathe, om, peace… I could not think of a word or phrase I could focus on that might serve as my mantra for meditation sessions. A song came to mind by Kristian Stanfill called One Thing Remains. The lyrics always come to mind when I’m feeling myself succumb to obsessions and compulsions to exhaustion: “Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me”.

“Can that be my mantra?”, I asked. ¬†And bam! I can’t tell you how excited I am that music inspired my mantra. It’s a mantra connected to a ¬†beautiful and soothing song and now I get to bring some of that into my meditation sessions. What would I do without music?

And since I am taking time to appreciate the awesomeness of music, here’s a really interesting article by Gillian Ragsdale, Ph.D about the possible connections between music and developing empathy:¬†http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/empathy/201205/developing-empathy-dont-take-away-the-music