Tag Archives: mindfulness

Progress

Today I started a new work assignment, in a new place, with a new kid.

I had a few butterflies, but no debilitating anxiety. It’s only a three-hour work day, so I have plenty of time for other things.

I’m pleased with my progress on the anxiety/depression front. I do need to continue my mindfulness practice so that I can maintain this level of sanity. And I’ll still have an appointment sometime to review my meds. But I’m doing well overall.

Now I need to do a little more biking! It’s been just over a week since my last ride. I’m planning to try riding to work and back tomorrow, which will be fairly challenging. It’s eleven miles each way, and it’s going to be hot. I’ve got to do it, though, because the big ride is coming up in less than two weeks!

Mindfulness and Getting Things Done

I’m not doing anything right now.  Sure, it’s Sunday.  It’s a good idea to get some rest and relaxation on the weekends.  But at the same time, I’m fully aware of how many things I ought to be doing.

So why don’t I just do them?  Well, I know I won’t be able to get all of them done satisfactorily, which is so depressing that I just don’t even bother to start.  Also, some of them are unpleasant, so I just don’t want to.  So I’m depressed because I’m so freakin’ lazy, too.

What to do?  I finally finished reading The Mindful Way through Depression today (it was on my to do list, and it was do-able).  Here’s what the book had to say:

It is not so much making “to do” lists that is the problem. The problem is our sense of impending doom if we don’t get through the list.

OK.  So don’t take the list too seriously. Don’t feel like you have to do everything in one day.  Good advice, but easier said than done.  I can’t just turn off the part of my brain that feels guilty about not getting things done.

The book also says that we should practice living in Being mode instead of Doing mode. However, as you may have noticed, the world pretty much runs on Doing mode.  If I don’t pay my bills, utility companies and creditors will not care that I was embracing Being mode.  If I don’t find the extra paperwork that the State of Oregon wants to prove that we were both working and paying for child care, we’re going to end up owing the state money.  If I don’t clean the kitchen…well, you get the picture.

That said, I guess doing things in Being mode doesn’t mean they will never get done — assuming I do something more than hang around on the computer all day.

I’ve also recently been doing Getting Things Done (GTD).  GTD involves collecting all of the things you need to do (in a list, file, etc), and developing a regular review system to make sure that nothing gets forgotten.  This is supposed to allow you to relax, because your “stuff” is all in a safe system where it won’t get forgotten, and you don’t have to keep thinking about all the things you have to do.

Ha. Once again, easier said than done.  I got a system set up, but somehow the daily processing and weekly reviews rarely get done.  And that list of Next Actions is pretty much getting ignored.

Why is all of this happening?  Well, every time I think about getting close to that list, I panic.  I can feel it in my body.  All of my muscles tense up, my stomach starts to turn, my head starts to ache, and I want nothing more than to run away, or maybe to curl up in a little ball under a table.  Why is that happening?  I don’t know.  I just know that it does.

I’m missing something here.  I can feel it.  The mindfulness philosophy says that I should gently and lovingly acknowledge the negative feelings and move on.  It’s the moving on that I haven’t got yet, though.

Being Mindful of Not Being Mindful

I’m still reading The Mindful Way Through Depression.  I’ve finally realized that I don’t have to work through the various exercises while I’m reading, which is what I’ve been doing.  There’s actually a program outline to follow at the end of the book, which takes you through a therapeutic progression of the different mindfulness techniques introduced in the book.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t really mentioned until I was already halfway through the book.

So now I’ve decided to just read through the rest of the book.  But today, I can’t concentrate on the printed word!  I’m feeling a combination of sleepiness and distraction.  A quick body check reveals that my back muscles are tense right now, too.  If I follow the mindfulness philosophy, I shouldn’t be upset with myself about these things, though.  I can examine and accept these feelings in a nurturing way.  Today’s Sunday, and I have nothing urgent going on, so I have no problem accepting this.

But what if it were a work day?  Say, Tuesday, when I have back to back classes, ending with the difficult (for me) kindergarten and first grade classes?  I can’t just stop the world so I can accept my feelings.

I can take a few moments if I need to, though.  I’ll remember that for Tuesday.  For now, I think I’ll take a walk.

Mindfulness and the Walking Meditation

I’m still making my way through The Mindful Way Through Depression. Today, I tried an exercise called the walking meditation. The idea is that you walk, with no particular destination (in fact, they suggest walking back and forth across the same short distance), concentrating on the sensations of the feet touching and leaving the ground.

This is, of course, different from how I normally walk. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really enjoy walking around the neighborhood, as there’s nothing to see and nothing for my brain to do. I also don’t really enjoy walking on pavement. It emphasizes that my legs and hips are uneven (I have a slight scoliosis), and is often uncomfortable. In fact, I’m often concentrating on those unpleasant sensations (and how best to relieve them) the whole time.

Today, I walked up to the next stop sign and back again, slowly (about 10 blocks total), which took less than the recommended 10 minutes, but seemed sufficient to me. My mind wandered, of course, but I followed the instructions and gently acknowledged the wandering and redirected my attention to my feet.

It helped to keep my eyes on the pavement in front of me, rather than looking up and around. I’m realizing now that perhaps my problem isn’t that there’s nothing to see, but that there’s too much to see, and it’s overwhelming. By keeping my eyes on something neutral, I was able to relax and let go.

There’s a labyrinth down at Parkrose High School, not far from here, and I think I might try that for a walking meditation as well. It sounds perfect for this type of walking.

ADDITION: I was so engrossed in writing this that I forgot to share a quote from the book that I found especially helpful.  Here it is.

The intention in mindfulness practice is not to forcibly control the mind but to perceive clearly its healthy and harmful patterns.  It is to approach our minds and bodies with a sense of curiosity, openness, and acceptance so that we may see what is here to be discovered, and be it without so much struggling.

Clean Floor, Oh Yeah!

As I mentioned before, my new therapist prescribed a book for me, The Mindful Way through Depression.  I’ve only just started reading it, because the Portland Snowpocalypse delayed its arrival via UPS.

I think mindfulness is going to take a lot of re-training for my brain. Author Jon Kabat-Zinn says “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”  It also involves using all of your senses to pay attention to what you are experiencing.

I’m not used to taking life one thing at a time; or to concentrating on my physical senses.  I keep my brain constantly busy; I read, listen to music, watch TV, or use the computer, and if I have to do something else, I usually add those other things to it.

For instance, taking a walk around the neighborhood is horribly boring.  There’s nothing to see, and nothing to do with my brain.  Music helps some.

If I have to do housework, I’m usually pushing myself through it using the computer as a reward.  It’s something annoying to be gotten through so that I can do more enjoyable things.  And so I continue to hate it, and to become depressed over having to do it, and over my not doing it well enough.

If I were practicing mindfulness while doing housework (and I’m not, at least not yet), I might concentrate on the sensations of what I’m doing; what it feels like physically to bend over and pick things up (wait, that might not be good), or to sweep floors clean.  I might pay attention to how the hardwood floor looks, and to its texture.  I might enjoy the change in how things look and feel as I clean.

I don’t know what I might experience; I haven’t bothered to notice yet.  But I suspect it might help to see the housework as a valuable experience in and of itself, rather than as an obstacle to other things.

But meanwhile, I do have a clean floor, because I promised myself a little time with the computer after I cleaned it.  Yay, me!