Last Saturday was a day of mindfulness meditation and learning with a small group of like-minded people that left me on a relaxed high. That all changed on Sunday morning with a distressing phone call from my daughter. She was in tears as she shared with me that her ‘Nanny’, her second mum, was seriously ill and had only 24 hours to live.
My emotions churned. But as I worked through my sadness, worry and grief over the next few days, what became clear to me was how I can use mindfulness to navigate through emotional speed bumps.
The initial pain was almost physical.
My body closed up and my mind shut down as anxiety and the associated stress responses kicked in.
So it was very early the next morning that I found myself wide-awake and experiencing intense and demanding thoughts about this sad situation.
But as I lay there I became curious about this situation and how much of my energy and attention it was demanding. What was the source of my demanding thoughts and why had they imposed themselves on my mind in such a forceful way?
But then I had a light bulb moment that I didn’t need to cling to these thoughts and the associated emotions. At that point I made a conscious decision that I wasn’t going to let this overwhelm me, especially at this time of the night.
What I did next was turn to my mindfulness practice through focusing on my breathing. Deliberately and calmly I slowed my breathing. (What works best for me is to breath in for the count of 5 and out for the count a 10.)
It took some minutes to release myself from the steel trap in my mind. Each time I felt myself spinning off track, I simply acknowledged that I was ‘thinking’ and returned the focus to my breathing. Finally, I got back to sleep.
Isn’t it extraordinary how an emotional shock or confrontation can demand so much of our attention – long after the event?
The benefits of mindfulness
In the past I wouldn’t have noticed the impact. Rather I would have just gone for the ride with the thoughts and emotions, no matter how long they take to dissipate.
But now, after 3 years of mindfulness practice I have learned the knack of observing my thoughts and then letting them go! I still have a myriad of thoughts spinning around my mind, but now I can watch them instead of letting them overtake me.
I also use meditation to ease the physical pain and anxiety symptoms that I often experience when under stress. It provides a lot of relief.
I need to tidy the junk shop
So why do I allow my mind to be filled with so much debris that it prevents me from enjoying the moment?
The good news, is that I am developing knowledge and tools to support my healing. I am learning to follow the pathways that lead to my healing. It’s up to me to tidy the junk shop of my mind!