Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The idea of mindfulness

Today I had a group appointment my therapist scheduled for me and I didn't know what it was for as I walked in.  She had suggested a couple of Kaiser groups I could get involved with since I have been feeling anxious about the upcoming gastric bypass, especially since my pre-op classes ended last week.  I thought that was a great idea, so I told her I was pretty much up for whatever she suggested.  After checking in, I was led, along with about eight other people, into a dimly lit room with chairs in a circle and a bright white candle in the middle on the ground.  It was very soothing, but quite inviting.  The facilitator explained this group was about mindfulness.  I'd like to share a little background on this, explained by the therapist in a much better way than I can:

Mindfulness is a way to pay attention, without judgement, to what is going on in each moment with a a stance of curiosity and compassion.  It is a state of being present in the here and now; being in the moment, being in your body; not being on autopilot.  This sounds simple, but with all the things competing for our attention, being still and quieting the mind, body, and spirit can seem almost impossible.  Creating stillness, calmness, and peace within, is an art to be cultivated and the practice of mindfulness provides the mentoring and guidance to settle down.  When you are creating healthy habits in your life and letting go of those that no longer serve you, Mindfulness is a beautiful way to guide you along your journey.  It is like having a gentle coach instructing you how to achieve your fullest potential with love and compassion.  Mindfulness can do all of the following:
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve immune function
  • Enhance appreciation and gratitude
  • Greater acceptance of self and others
  • Improve positive decision making
  • Calm the mind
  • Improve focus and concentration
  • Help manage physical and emotional pain
  • Create inner peace and feelings of joy
  • Reduce reactivity and help us control our responses
  • Retrain the brain to think more positively
  • Decrease anxiety and depression
  • Improve disordered eating habits
As you can imagine, if you've been reading my blog for any period of time, I was glad I was attending this group.  We started out by each one of us saying something we are grateful for right here, now, today.  Then the first exercise was to get us centered and focused on our breathing.  After doing that for a few minutes, we had some discussion then went into a second exercise.  This one was about total body relaxation and letting go.  I closed my eyes as the therapist guided us through an absolutely phenomenal experience.  She had us focus on parts of our bodies and move them or feel them mentally ... feel your feet planted on the floor in your shoes and now wiggle your toes, feel the bones in your ankles and how they support your legs, on up until we reached our heads.  She then had us take the parts of our bodies that were full of tension or pain and let that tension and pain go in our minds while we focused on the in and out breathing of our bodies.  As we continued to listen to her instruction and focused on our breathing, she had us each think about someone we wanted to offer compassion and think positive thoughts for them.  We thought about their happiness, peace and love.  Then she turned it around and told us to now take those feelings of compassion and bring them back inward toward ourselves, without judgement, but pure love, just as we would extend for another human being.  

An amazing thing happened for me ... as we were breathing and focusing on relaxation and the release of anxiety, stress or whatever ails us, I couldn't feel the chronic physical pain that I live with every day in my back and left leg.  While I was doing the mindfulness exercises and my focus was on peace, it was as if the pain left me.  That does not mean it went away, but my mind was not centered on it as it usually is.  I really did feel peace, even when it came to compassion towards myself.  

I absolutely loved the experience of this mindful meditation.  I can go every week if I so choose and I have decided that I will do precisely that, especially leading up to my surgery.  She gave us handouts, some even with scripts, to practice during the week.  The goal is to do it for a few minutes each day and I'm definitely going to do that.  The feeling of peace and being centered was really incredible and I hope to get to a point where I can find that more often through these exercises.

I find it ironic that my decision to pursue bariatric surgery has given me so many wonderful benefits.  Obviously it's leading towards better physical health, but also emotional and spiritual health as well.  My pre-op classes focused a bit on the surgery and how to eat before and afterwards, but they spent more time on other issues such as self-esteem, courage, healing and so much more.  I met some wonderful people that have become dear friends in the process.  I feel like the path I'm on is the right one for me.  It feels deep all around and I like that.


happyinca said...

Wow, Kathy, that sounds like an incredible experience. Is this a Kaiser group? I'm continually impressed with the Positive Choices Programs, and their whole approach to wellness. I like the way you ended this post. It make me realize that through this struggle as an overweight person, and through seeking help, I'm learning so much more than I could have imagined at the start.

Kathy said...

Hi Christy. Yes, this is a Kaiser group. I'm going to see my therapist today and I'm going to ask how others can get involved. Sometimes you can self-refer. It does have a $5 co-pay, but that felt minimal compared to the benefits.

Post a Comment