My first introduction to mindfulness was in my final year of college. As soon as I heard the word ‘meditation’ I was excited. We had done meditation in school and I loved listening to soothing music and have our teacher describe a meadow in which we were to picture ourselves. It was so relaxing. However, I soon came to realise that mindfulness meditation was a bit different.
In mindfulness meditation, rather than picturing yourself in a calming meadow, AKA, your ‘happy place’, the focus of attention is on your breathing. Rather than letting your mind wander to that meadow, mindfulness aims to bring your attention to the here and now. Why? Because now is all we have.
Admit it, you’ve spent at least some of your time worrying about the future and/or grieving about the past. Have you ever stopped and listened to what’s around you right at this very moment? Have you looked at what is around you at this very moment? Can you smell it? Can you taste it? Can you feel it? Mindfulness is about using our senses to stay grounded in the present moment. Sometimes, or perhaps most of the time, we walk around on ‘autopilot’. A good example of this is driving to work. You drive the same way every day that it becomes second nature. You arrive at work and don’t remember a good portion of your journey. Did you feel the hum of your engine as you moved away from a red light? Did you hear the beep of a car horn when one driver took a dangerous manoeuvre against another? Did you even see the other cars around you?
Once I realised that I had a habit of switching on autopilot almost 24/7, it made me sad. I don’t want to look back on my life later on and realised I let it pass me by. However, this wasn’t the only reason for wanting to incorporate mindfulness into my everyday life. For as long as I can remember, I have battled depression and anxiety. While I feel medication is a good treatment for both, I want it to be a short-term option. But what happens when I give up my medication? I’ve done it before and believe me it wasn’t pretty. My doctor was positive when I told him I was giving mindfulness a try, but agreed that going back on my medication was a good idea while I explored it.
The mindfulness course I chose was Mark Williams and Danny Penman’s Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World, a book recommended to me by a psychotherapist, whose mindfulness workshop I attended back in September.
I have completed this course, and now my challenge is to incorporate it into my daily life. You would think after 8+ weeks this would be simple. Not for me. Therefore the purpose of this blog series is to document my efforts to become more mindful and ease my depression and anxiety so that someday I may come off my medication, this time for good. I hope you will join me!