Mindfulness (#10)

I think it’s important to address one simple reality of my blogs.  The reason that I’m so good at calling a spade a spade, is because I’ve been that spade.  When a friend mentioned that she was a repeat offender, a phrase taken from “the God Pile,” I felt awful because I too have been a repeat offender, an energy sucker and worst of all, a drama Queen.  I’m not above reproach. 

Look, there’s only so much room to discuss a single topic and so much is left out.  Please know that if you see yourself reflected in my pieces, then we have much in common because I too see myself reflected.  And, I’ll tell you what I tell myself, quite often.  Give yourself a break because the point is not whether you have flaws, but whether you are working on them.      

While on this arduous quest for my better-self, I’ve learned something pretty cool.  By simply acknowledging your behavior, repeat offender or not, you bring mindfulness to your actions.  Mindfulness is the new catch phrase of New Age and a vital component for meditation.  This ideology even extends into the mental health field, in which awareness is the foundation of Cognitive Behavior Therapy for a variety of disorders.  My point in all this is that mindfulness is a lot closer to healthy than one may think.  So, take a breath and recognize that you are on the right path.

To me, being aware seems to be the most important stepping stone if you wish to move forward.  Think about it, if you have no awareness, then what is it you expect to expand?  When you break down all of the therapeutic jargon and the poetic verbage of New Age, mindfulness is, in the simplest terms, “being aware of the moment.”  Wow, how straightforward this appears, but I, of course, like to complicate everything.     

At first, mindfulness came across as esoteric, like some idea in a cloud, playing harps or something.  After further examination, I realized that I was already using mindfulness in regards to my anxiety.  I had recently learned to acknowledge my angst as it was occuring rather than after the fact.  If frustrated or angry, I'd ask myself, “Why am I so angry?”  Sometimes, I’d have a reason; most times, I'd see how disproportional my reaction was to the circumstances.   This was one of those ah, ha moments.  I shouldn’t be angry over something like that; this awareness diffused my anger.

Thanks to mindfulness, I was now able to differentiate between imagined fears versus real based fears.  I released imagined fears right away.  However, real life uncertainties were not as easy to let go whether they were big deals like my mother’s cancer or something insignificant like waiting for someone.  With this understanding, I began to communicate my feelings of frustration at the onset; this helped to bridge where I wanted to be versus where I actually was.   

Here's an example of what I mean by communicating my feelings.  When I’d wait for people, like a friend or boyfriend, after awhile, my OCD would be triggered if they had not arrived.  I’d start calling, leaving messages.  5-6 messages later, I looked completely cooky looky.  Awareness didn’t necessarily stop my incessant thoughts, yet it did the next best thing; I was able to let people know what was going on in my head, “Hey, if something’s come up, no worries.  Could you let me know, though because it’s triggered my OCD and I don’t want to keep looking at my phone.”  It worked! Surprisingly, people responded to my honesty.  They’d get back to me immediately and I stopped leaving a ridiculous amount of messages. 

When it came to bigger issues, it was several more years before I could actually cease my relentless ruminations.  Initially, I felt frustrated that I wasn’t where I thought I should be especially after such a long period of time.  But, I stuck with it and continued to practice my mindfulness.  I eventually noticed that it took less and less time to disrupt the momentum of my OCD.  Now, there are times when I stop the ruminations before they even start.  Other times, I’m not so quick on the uptake and I’m o.k. with that.  I figure that I’m a work in progress.    

There’s no doubt that this journey to healthiness has been paved with many lessons, quite a few setbacks and an inordinate amount of breakthroughs.  My experience has taught me that whatever behavior you wish to overcome, mindfulness works.  Maybe it’s just baby steps at first; maybe you’ll take a few steps backward.  However, if you stick with it, awareness does evolve; it transforms into actualization.  As Confucius says, “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”