Remembering to Stop

Running through the day, my life unfocused.
Frustration! Busy-ness! Tears!
Why all this noise in my head?

Nothing changes. Everything is different.
My brain struggles to engage.
Why can’t I think?

I want to quit.
Just give up.
Broken brain.

Stop!
Be mindful!
Breathe!
Connect to the inner soul.
Fountain of wisdom.
Be at peace.

Today was difficult. I was drawn into busyness and stress of trying to produce what I cannot. I am capable of the work but I don’t multitask well. I struggled to prioritize my projects, feeling all of them were “urgent” and needed completed today. And I was scheduled to see two clients for consultation interviews. The interviews are not difficult, just detailed, and require longer documentation. I fell into a state of frustration and anxiety. I felt that I was hopeless and was not capable of my work anymore.

Scout nudged me and placed his head in my lap. He sensed my anxiety and responded as he was trained. His intervention reminded me to stop! I needed a break and to refocus my energy.

It was a beautiful fall day. I took Scout for a walk on campus. Our walk was a mindfulness exercise. I noticed the yellows, reds, and browns of the fall trees. The sky was a deep blue, with a few white whispy clouds floating peacefully. On the breeze, the scent of leaves and a fire burning. Birds sang fall songs. Squirrels ran about, collecting food for the winter. Calm, peaceful. I noticed my breath. I was breathing shallowly. I took time to connect to my breathing, deeper and slower. In this walk, I connected with my soul, my spiritual self.

After our walk, I was calmer and more focused. I went in, finished my interview notes. Then, I started on preparing the session content for the PTSD group next week.

My day was out of control. Taking the time to stop for a mindfulness break turned it around.

Remember to stop!

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Meditations

I changed my routine today.  After I finished my physical therapy run at the track, I spent time just being.  So often in life, I move from task to task without spending time just being present.  It’s easy to do.  Life has time demands: family, work, ferrets, and even fitness and other enjoyable activities.   In the past, I have often been so busy doing life that I forgot to live. 

Many people believe meditation reduces awareness of the world around you.  There are different forms of meditation.  I frequently practice mindfulness meditation, which actually enhances your awareness and experience. When I was running, my focus was on running.  I was aware of my breath and my body.  My mind was focused either on the run or pleasantly neutral.  This, too, is a form of meditation.  As I walked to cool down, I focused on my breathing.  In through the nose, out through the mouth.  I visualized peace entering my body every inhalation and stress leaving every exhalation.   I felt my muscles relaxing.  I experienced the sensation of my feet on the track, the breeze gently blowing on my skin, the sound of the wind in the trees, and the smell of freshly cut grass and the nearby wheat fields.   Then I sat in the sun, closed my eyes, and felt the sun’s warmth soaking into me.  I listened to the song of nature around me.  I heard the shussch-shusssch of a nearby lawn sprinkler and the scent of water and wet concrete tickled my nose. 

I decided to take a trip. I sank my awareness into myself, becoming aware of my breathing and the movement of my abdomen.   I chose my destination: the Oregon Coast, near Haystack Rock.  This exercise was particularly challenging for me.  Even prior to the accident, I was not strong in visualization.  The concussion did not improve it.  I concentrated on my other senses.   I tasted the salty brine in the air, smelled the tang of the ocean, heard the crash of surf and felt the cold wind.   This is concentrated imagination or perhaps body memory, as I frequently visited the ocean in the past.  I managed to see the tip of Haystack Rock in a hazy gray mist.   Given the Oregon Coast, it would not surprise me if I visited in a rain storm, with reduced visibility.  I am pleased I got as much detail of the rock as I did.   Soon, it was time to return home.  I became aware of my breath; and then my body, paying attention to the feel of the grass on my legs and the contact of my seat on the ground.  Then, I paid attention to my other senses.  When I felt totally “home,” I opened my eyes.  This is meditation based on a themed visualization. 

Meditation benefits health in several ways and it is an important part of my recovery from the concussion.  Meditation reduces cortisol, the stress hormone, and slows the pulse.  It can help lower blood pressure.  Focused meditation is being used more in pain management and reduction.  Meditation improves concentration and the ability to use imagination.   When I first started meditating after the accident, I was totally unable to focus for more than a couple of minutes.  That was fine.  Meditation can be as short or long as I decide.   I think my meditative practice has helped improve my concentration.   Yesterday, I had a migraine that the medication was not ending.  I used a simple breathing meditation.  The headache did not leave totally but the pain level dropped considerably.   There are real health benefits to practicing meditation.

Many people are overwhelmed by meditation.  They visualize a monk, sitting cross-legged, chanting “ohm.”  That is one form of mediation.  But, as demonstrated in this post, there are many others.   Meditation does not have to be based on spiritual or religious practices, unless you want to use it in this fashion.   Prayer can actually be seen as a form of meditation on Deity, as well as conversation.  You can meditate on your favorite scripture or spiritual practice.    Meditation can be used as a method  to be in the presence of Deity and to discover more about yourself and your spiritual connection.    However, meditation does not need a spiritual theme to work.

I want to challenge you, my friends, to try a simple experiment.  

Find a time and place you won’t be disturbed.  You may want to go into a room and shut the door.   Ask children and family members not to disturb you.  If you have furry-family, you may want to put them in another room.  As much as I love my ferrets, they can interrupt a meditation faster than you can say “dook.”   You can play relaxing music in the background if you wish. 

 Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet touching the floor.  Next, take your pulse for a minute and write it down.   Follow this link to learn how to take your pulse.  http://www.webmd.com/hw-popup/taking-a-pulse-heart-rate

Close your eyes.  Become aware of the sensation of your body sitting in the chair.  What does it feel like?  Can you feel it touching your back and legs?  Become aware of the sounds and smells around you. 

Become aware of your breathing.  Just notice it for 5 breaths.  Don’t try to change it.  After 5 breaths, start breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Don’t try to breathe deeper or change how fast your breath.  Just breathe. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Continue for 10 cycles of breath.   Remember, don’t try to force your breath.  Breathe naturally in rhythm.  When you complete your 10 breath cycles, slowly open your eyes. 

Take your pulse again.  What happened to your pulse?  What do you notice about how you feel? 

 This is an easy meditation that does not take much time.  Yet, it is still effective.  And it can be done literally anywhere. 

If you want to learn more about meditation, there are many sites on the internet and resources at bookstores.   I recommend for mindfulness meditation  “Full catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  The book primarily focuses on mindfulness in pain control and reduction.   However, it is a wealth of information on how to practice mindfulness in daily life.  Dr. Kabat-Zinn has other books and media available.   Thich Naht-Hanh is a Buddhist monk.  His books and audio are excellent to learn about life and meditation.   “The Miracle of Mindfulness” and “Breathe, You are Alive” are excellent places to start.   

Give meditation a try!  It really helps!