Freedom Friday – Week Four: Mindfulness and Meditation Practices

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Yesterday, ended Week 4 of the 8-Week Mindfulness and Mediation Program; and, I am half-way to the finish line.

The practices for Week 4:

  • Ten minutes of the Breathing Anchor Meditation for six days;
  • Ten minutes of the Compassionate Acceptance meditation for six days;
  • Analyze Pacing Diary
  • Habit Releaser, Make Peace with Gravity

In addition to the two required meditation practices, I continued the Body Scan Meditation from Week 1.

Breathing Anchor Meditation

I was introduced to this meditation in Week 2; and the repeat in Week 4, Though still a work-in-progress, I am growing in the awareness of my breath as it flows through the body.  And, I am using my breath to calm the body and ease pain.

Compassionate Acceptance Meditation

This meditation as well as the assigned readings, introduced me to the author’s concept of the difference between:

  • Primary Suffering – the actual unpleasant sensations to the body; and
  • Secondary Suffering – the additional pain when we react and dwell on the actual unpleasant sensations.

They believe that:

“Secondary Suffering is often the greatest source of distress … mindfulness training helps you to reduce or completely overcome it by accepting the things you cannot change, Primary Suffering. and changing those you can, the Secondary Suffering.”

As a chronic pain sufferer and having connected with many others with this condition, both personally and professionally, I tend to agree with the authors on this.

Analyze Pacing Diary

My Pacing Diary got derailed with unplanned activities and unexpected visitors.  As a result, all that I planned to do, didn’t get done. Initially, I experienced some degree of anxiety and stress.   But, Week 4’s readings and meditation practices guided me to understanding that this was Secondary Suffering, which was within my power to change.

Through on-going mindfulness and meditation practices, I hope to let go of being “obsessive and rigid” about completing planned tasks.

When I started this 8-week program, I didn’t factor in all of my activities over the summer months, specifically, out-of-town visitors and out-of-town vacation travels, which not end until after Labor Day. Because of this, I decided to let go of the commitment to post weekly about my journey to manage and control my chronic pain condition through this mindfulness and meditation program.

I will continue to do the readings and meditation practices.  I plan to complete the program within the eight weeks.  If things go as planned, I will share the key points of the  final four weeks in a post that I hope to publish between mid-September and early-October.

Also, I plan to regularly post on my blog, over the summer, with the new awareness of not being “obsessive and rigid.”

Habit Releaser – Make Peace with Gravity

The authors write:

“Every time you pull away from your body in an attempt to avoid feeling it, you’re unconsciously creating more suffering, strain, and exhaustion.  It only makes your pain or stress worse.

I have been pretty successful in getting beyond mental or emotional pain by being still, breathing and giving into gravity.  But, still a work-in-progres when it comes to physical pain.

Thank you for joining me on this journey and I look forward to sharing my final four weeks with you in the fall.  A special thank you to the imanikingblog for allowing me to use Freedom Friday as the platform to document my journey.

 

 

 

Freedom Friday – Week Three: Mindfulness and Meditation Practices

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This week, unexpected, out-of-town visitors caused a delay with the timely posting of Freedom Friday.

Even though late posting, I timely completed Week 3 of the 8-Week Mindfulness and Meditation Program, developed by Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman and presented in the book, “You Are Not Your Pain.”  

I have been on a challenging journey these past three weeks.  Some days, I felt like saying, “Give up, you’re never going to get through this.”  Then the inner voice evolved and reminded me to focus on the journey and not the destination.

Week Three:  The Journey Continues

In addition to the readings, we were assigned to do:

  • Ten minutes of the Body Scan meditation for six of seven days.
  • Ten minutes of the Mindful Movement meditation for six of seven days.
  • Daily Pacing Diaries.
  • Daily Habit Releasers, Watch a Kettle Boil.

Body Scan Meditation

Following and being aware of the breath as it flows through my body is a new learning experience.  Daily, I see improvement performing this meditation, which guides me to:

  • lie on my back with hands lightly resting on the stomach;
  • feel the rise and fall of the stomach which, for me, is where the awareness of the breath is strongest; and
  •  become more aware of the breath as it moves through other areas of my body and I am beginning to notice the breath more in my back and extremities.

I feel relaxed and the mind is free from the clutter of random thought when practicing this meditation.

It is becoming easier to welcome pain, even emotional and mental, in a loving and compassionate way.

Awareness is guiding me toward understanding that pain, as presented in:

  • Week One, is “not solid, but fluid,” and
  • Week Two is “like the clouds constantly changing and moving.”

Mindful Movement Meditation

Struggling through this meditation for seven days; I wasn’t able to do the simple mindful movements, with any sense of awareness, of either the wrist rotations, finger flicks, or warm hugs.

There wasn’t any physical pain.  But, mentally and emotionally, I shut down and, when guided to breathe and relax, I held the breath and shut down.

As a long-time chronic pain sufferer, there have been times that I:

    • refused a hug when offered by a friend or loved one;
    • tensed the fingers awaiting the tools of the manicurist; or
    • tightened the body, in anticipation, of the massage therapist’s hands.

I did all of this in fear that another’s touch might exacerbate my physical pain.

I plan to repeat the Mindful Movement Meditation until I am able to overcome whatever is preventing me from fully engaging in this practice.

Pacing Diaries

This assignment required keeping a, daily, diary of all activities.  As a retiree, a typical day for me:

  • 4:30 – 4:45 a.m. – Wake Up
  • 4:45 – 5:15 a.m – Stretching
  • 5:15 – 6:15 a.m. – Meditation/Mindfulness/Stillness
  • 6:15 – 7:00 a.m. – Light Breakfast
  • 7:00 – 8:15 a.m. – Neighborhood Walk or Exercise at Gym
  • 8:15 – 12:00 noon. – Errands, Household Chores, Work at Desk, etc.
  • 12:00 – 2:00 p.m. – Lunch, Read, Relax
  • 2:15 – 4:45 p..m – Work at Desk and Prepare Dinner
  • 5:00 – 5:30 p.m. – Jog/Walk in the Pool
  • 6:00 – 7:00 – Dinner and Kitchen Cleanup
  • 7:15 – 8:30 – Prepare for Bed, Relax, Read, or Watch TV
  • 8:30 p.m. – Sleep

From time to time, the activities change and fluctuate, but rarely do I deviate from my:

  • Wake Up Time
  • Sleep Time
  • Morning Stretches
  • Meditation/Mindfulness
  • Neighborhood Walk or Exercise at Gym
  • Jog/Walk in the Pool

Pacing my activities, is a self-management tool that I have used to manage my chronic pain condition for more than twenty years.  And, I feel comfortable with what I am doing in this area.

Habit Releaser

The assignment was to Watch A Kettle Boil at least one time per day.  I own a bright orange kettle, which I call a teakettle, and it’s used to enhance the decor of my kitchen rather than to boil water for tea, coffee, or cocoa.  I use the microwave for tea and the Keurig Coffeemaker for coffee and cocoa.

Willing to give it a try, I tried to mindfully:

  • observe the water flow from the tap into the teakettle;
  • imagine how the water reached me; and
  • listen to the water boil in the teakettle.

After six full days of going through this process. I wasn’t able to relate.  But, I am open to giving it another try in hopes of enhancing my awareness of movement and thoughts as I carry out routine daily functions.

I will be back posting Week 4 of this journey on Friday, July 31.  Thanks to the imanikingblog for hosting Freedom Friday.

 

 

Freedom Friday: Week Two – Mindfulness and Meditation

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Introduction

Three weeks ago, after reading the book, “You Are Not Your Pain,” by Burch and Penman; I decided to try their 8-Week Mindfulness and Meditation Training Program.  

Even though, there were doubts, I embarked on this new journey which, If successful, would add a new self-management option for managing and controlling my 20+ year chronic pain condition.

Week One:  Still A Work-In-Progress

When the week ended, I still wasn’t able to, wholeheartedly, buy into the concept to welcome and accept with compassion my physical, mental or emotional pain.

I successfully completed the required reading and medication/mindfulness practices.  Although, I experienced different results when faced with:

  • Mental and Emotional Pain – I wasn’t able to welcome it with compassion and kindness.
  • Physical Pain – The pain levels appeared to lessen when, without negative judgment, I made the choice to enter stillness, follow the breath, and acknowledge the pain with compassion and soothing words.

Week Two:  You Are Not Your Thoughts

The practices this week were twice daily, 10-minute Body Scan and Breathing Anchor Meditations; as well as a Watch The SkyHabit Releaser.

Body Scan Meditation

After completing twenty-eight (28) meditations, I still cannot warmly welcome and accept mental and emotional pain when it enters my space.

Yet, I did make progress.  At least, I think so, given what happened following a recent disagreement with:

  • Hubby,  “What’s wrong?”
  • Me, “I’m good.”
  • Hubby, “Why are you just sitting there with your eyes closed?”
  • Me, silently, “I am breathing deeply trying to welcome and compassionately accept the fact that you are getting on my last nerve.”

By practicing stillness and breathing, I eventually let go of the negative feelings, moved past a stressful moment, and stepped into the present moment stress-free.

A work-in-progress, I remain, as it relates to welcoming mental and physical pain with kindness and compassion.  Yet, I am optimistic that further study and meditation practices will open me up to embrace this concept.  After all, this is only the second week.

Breathing Anchor Meditations

Reading about and practicing this meditation introduced me to Characteristics of the Doing and Being Modes.  

According to the authors of this book, the:

  • Doing Mode causes you to over think your pain,
  • Being Mode – allows you to step away from your pain.

I read, re-read, highlighted, and flagged the information shared by the authors on the two different modes.  Eventually, I reached the conclusion that I shouldn’t limit this meditation and mindfulness training program, as initially planned, to managing and controlling my chronic pain condition.

This new understanding of the Characteristics of the Doing and Being Modes, led me to expand this training program to delve into some of my anxieties and frustrations as a Breast Cancer Survivor.

Habit Releaser – Watch The Sky

Every day, I looked up at the sky for fifteen or more minutes because, according to the authors:

“Pain and suffering can be likened to the weather, while your awareness can be seen in the sky. Sometimes the weather is wild and wintry. Other times it is calm, clear and sunny. But no matter what happens to the weather, the sky always remain.  One of the best way to gain a sense of this simple but profound idea is to simply watch the sky for a while.”

I watched the sky for seven days.  One day, while exercising in the pool, I looked up and followed the quarter moon as it moved farther and farther away, finally disappearing.

Other days, I spent watching the sky, at different times and in various setting and, even, captured photos:

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I enjoyed watching the different colorations in the sky, the formation of the clouds, and the movement of the quarter moon.  After several days, I could see the ever-changing looks of the sky in relationship to my mental, emotional and physical pain.

Conclusion:  Self-Awareness

What I know now that I didn’t know before Week Two:

  • Doing Mode – The realization that I function in the Doing Mode as a breast cancer survivor and need to reset this mindfulness/meditation training program to better manage and control the emotional and mental pain that affects the quality of my life.
  • Being Mode – Self-analysis leads me to believe that, as a chronic pain survivor, I have lived my life in the  Being Mode for a number of years.  Continuing this training will either confirm or disprove my self-analysis.

As I move forward on this journey, I plan to document my Doing and Being Mode experiences, past and present, in future posts.

I will be back posting Week 3 of this on January 24.  I send a warm thank you to the imanikingblog for hosting Freedom Friday and allowing me to use her platform to document this journey.