Friday, February 26, 2010

What a Ride!

I have fond memories of my initial "taste" of mindfulness. I was literally introduced to the joy of eating an orange in a mindful manner. I thought of all the oranges I had consumed over the years, and not once had I considered how the orange skin felt as I peeled it or how it popped and shot juice throughout my mouth as I bit into it. After that one experience I certainly wanted to learn more.

As I read Thich Nhat Hanh describing how he would choose a day each week to be immersed in mindfulness, I was captivated with figuring out how to make that happen in my life. It didn't take me long to realize that all I needed was the commitment to actually do it! My biggest obstacle was reigning in my need to control. Maybe because this was my maiden voyage into a new realm of discovery, or maybe because I was always more comfortable when I felt in control. For whatever reason, I went into overdrive in getting my mind solidly in control of the whole situation. I even went so far as to consider which day of the week would work best into my schedule...STOP! Okay, it took me some time before I finally realized that control was in no way needed.

The very next day I set off on my day of exploration into mindfulness. I was astonished with the time it took to merely get out of bed and brush my many textures to feel, so many sounds to hear, so many tastes to experience, and that's just brushing my teeth! I was really getting into this intensified sense of awareness...even making out my grocery shopping list gave me an opportunity to feel the consistency of the pen against my skin as well as the sensation as the tip of the pen began gliding smoothly across the surface of the paper. I was so caught up in this new experience that I almost forgot about the list I was writing. And that is exactly the one challenge I had with mindfulness immersion...staying focused on the task that needed to be completed.

As I climbed into the car to drive to the grocery store, my senses were alive with an attentive awareness that was intoxicating. I smile with the memory of me sitting alone in the garage in my car, filled with the sensations of my body sliding into the seat, retrieving my keys from my purse, placing the key into the ignition...the soft coolness of the leather seat, the rattling of the keys along with the hard metallic feel of each key. By the time I finally backed the car into the street, this heightened attentiveness of me in the world brought a fullness to my whole being. In fact, I was so consumed with savoring each part of this fullness that I was four blocks past the grocery store before I even realized it! Now that was a ride!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Threads of Expansion

Since the bandages on my back needed to be changed daily, it gave me a chance each day to ponder how, in the span of six months, I had two totally different experiences in the way my body healed. What had made the difference? Did my lack of active participation affect the degree to which the wound was repaired? Did inviting divine participation affect the outcome? Honestly, it was a challenge to wrap my head around this new way of looking at healing. Throughout those summer weeks I continued to process my expanding perceptions!

It was also during this year that I investigated different ways to calm my mind and body. After reading Dr. Herbert Benson's book The Relaxation Response I began taking a structured quiet time each day for about fifteen to twenty minutes. During these times I would concentrate only on my breathing, counting each complete breath as "one." I liked this because with the repetition of "one" I was better able to just breath without my mind becoming involved in keeping count. Believe me, my mind had more than a bit of difficulty giving up control. Many random thoughts would enter my mind, so with each one I would gently set it aside and return to my breathing. I remember after several times of practicing this type of relaxation, I realized that I was no longer aware of my was as though I had reached a place where my mind and body were suspended in silence and a deep sense of peace wrapped me in stillness. I must admit that initially this new feeling scared me, so I took one very deep breath to reassure myself that I was fine. Another new experience for me to process...exhilarating for sure, and yet a bit scary at the same time.

In the midst of this introspective period, another book crossed my path that encouraged me to expand my awareness in still another area of living...The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. I can honestly admit that I had never considered the concept of mindfulness, and yet after being exposed to it, I could only wonder how I had become so occupied in busyness, making me unavailable to a different way of living. I thought about my initial attempts to quiet my mind and the difficulty I had calming the constant activity. After reading this book I came to a profound self-realization...mind full, most definitely yes...mindful, most definitely no! Oh, my journey with mindfulness had just begun.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Opposite of Wonder and Delight

Three short months later at my regular check-up with the dermatologist, he biopsied a mole that I had not even seen because it was out of sight, right below my neck at the top of my back. The test indicated that further work was needed, so I set up yet another trip to the Procedure Room. After having the positive experience with the healing of my leg, what could ever keep me from embracing the same strategy following this new procedure? The sad answer is that I was too busy to even think about the quality of healing. This procedure was done in May, which was the busiest time of the year for me. I was busy planning a little reading party, busy making homemade awards for each student, busy doing report cards, busy packing up the countless books and supplies in preparation for summer much busyness, so little healing.

I vividly remember the sound of my doctor's voice as he removed all the stitches, only to watch the wound completely open up again. Here was my confident doctor standing in disbelief while trying to find the words to explain to me what had just happened. "Oh my," was repeated two or three times, followed by a heavy sigh. Since I could not see what he was looking at, I was more that a bit worried by this unusual tone. He proceeded to calmly explain that since the entire wound had opened, it would have to slowly heal from within. I wasn't exactly sure what that meant or how long it would take. I felt numb as I listened to all the instructions he laid out for us to follow over the next several weeks. It was at that point that my head became a bobble head, randomly nodding up and down as his explanation became more and more involved. Now it was my turn to say, "Oh my!"

As I left the clinic, my arms were filled with all the supplies needed to help the wound begin to gradually close. It's difficult to explain what was going through my head on the short trip home. I felt a mixture of guilt, shame, fear and uncertainty...guilt for being so self-absorbed in school related matters that I had no energy or thought left to give to my healing; shame for treating my body in such an unlovin way, fear about the possibility of it not healing properly; uncertainty as to why this would be happening to me. By the time I had arrived home, I was physically and emotionally drained.

Jessica was home from college for summer break, so I carefully explained to her and Jim all the details of how they would need to help with the special technique for cleaning the area and changing the bandages. After telling them that I had not seen it, they were both curious to see what I was talking about. I will never forget the silence that hung in the air as they cautiously inspected the wound. I knew it was serious when Jessica looked like she had just seen a scary reptile, and the only thing she said was, "Mom, are you sure the doctor said it was safe for you to come home?"