Freedom Friday – Week Four: Mindfulness and Meditation Practices

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

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: Mindfulness and Meditation

Eight-Week Mindfulness and Meditation Journey

Today, my space opens up to a new venture; and, I want to thank imaniking for her blogging platform, Freedom Friday, to launch this 8-week journey to control and manage my chronic pain condition through mindfulness and meditation.

After reading both the paperback and listening to the audio of the book, “You Are Not Your Pain,” by Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penma, I made a personal commitment to give their 8-week program a try; and, to hold myself accountable I pledge to journal about this experience weekly on Freedom Friday.

Prescribed medications and physician care will always be a part of my chronic pain treatment plan; but, I am anxious to find out if adding these new mindfulness and meditation practices will make a difference..

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Mindfulness
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My Chronic Pain History

Diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 1993, the severe pain I experienced forced me to leave my career of twenty years.  In 1996, I returned to the workforce; and, until 2008, with the exception of rare flare-ups, I managed my pain levels with prescribed medications and an exercise routine.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, I was told it was likely related to side-effects of the prescribed medication which had managed my Rheumatoid Arthritis for many years.  The medication was discontinued, but the oncologist assured me that the RA pain would be managed with chemotherapy treatment.

While I no longer experienced RA pain, I did have a side-effect to the chemotherapy and ended up with a new pain diagnosis, Peripheral Neuropathy.

After I completed breast cancer treatment, my oncologist and rheumatologist conferred, searched, identified and agreed on a new drug to treat my RA pain.  Within days after the first infusion of this drug, I was:

  • diagnosed with epiglottis;
  • hospitalized for weeks;
  • intubated for five days;
  • released from hospital; and,
  • diagnosed with a new condition of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

With COPD, nebulizers and inhalers entered my space but they never adequately controlled the coughing and breathing problems.  Following two hospitalizations (2012 and 2013) because of severe bronchitis, it was determined that another RA medication I had taken for more than twenty years was attacking my lungs and the drug was discontinued.

My track record with medication hasn’t been great.  While I will continue my current medications, I am not open to new ones.  And, my rheumatologist hasn’t suggested or prescribed anything new since the epiglottis diagnosis.

Let the Journey Begin

Over the next week, I will complete:

  • Two 10-minute program meditations, daily;
  • Spend a little time with nature, daily; and
  • Spend 1 Hour with nature, on one day.

To better control pain levels as well as improve the quality of my life, I am committed to:

  • strengthening my current mindfulness and meditation practices through this 8-week program;
  • continuing my current prescribed medications and health care regime; and,
  • following my own Chronic Pain Self-Management Program
    • Nutrition and Diet
    • Healthy Sleep Habits
    • Exercise
    • Spiritual Uplifting
    • Laughter/Humor
    • Relaxation/Rest
    • Music

Pain and Painting Black Figurines

Chronic Pain Memories

When I returned to Wisconsin for the Thanksgiving Holiday, this past year, I did more than spend quality time with family and friends.

I, also, reconnected with memories created more than twenty years ago.  Fond memories of struggling through the early years of a chronic pain condition.

As shared in earlier posts, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 1993.  The daily, excruciating pain associated with this condition forced me to take a six-month medical leave from my dream job, which eventually led to a resignation for medical reasons.

Because of the severe joint degeneration in my hands, I lost the ability to do even simple self-care tasks e.g., buttoning my blouse, tying my shoes, putting on a bra, or even combing my hair.  In addition to working full-time, Hubby served as my primary caregiver.  That is one of many reasons why I have kept him around for almost fifty-five years.

Chronic Pain Management:  Painting Black Figurines

Approximately four months after the diagnosis, things changed.  It started, when I opened the huge box sent by the Eldest Daughter from North Carolina where she was living at the time. Inside were bottles of acrylic paint in an array of colors as well as a number of unpainted figurines.

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ACRYLIC PAINTS

 

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UNPAINTED PECAN SHELL RESIN ANGEL FIGURINE

 

I called her and said, “Thank you for the gift, but What The H… am I suppose to do with these things?”

“Painting may give you some pain relief as well as strengthen your hands.  Give it a try.” she said.

I tried and the first pieces were a disaster. But, I painted figurines almost everyday from 1993 until 1996.  The painting improved.  But, more importantly, the joints strengthened and the pain lessened.

Daily, for almost three years, I painted figurines depicting African-Americans in different roles — babies, clowns, children, angels, baseball players, basketball players, sorority girls, fraternity boys, historical figures, Buffalo Soldiers, doctors, nurses, etc.

After a while, the pieces went on display in the African-American Art Gallery that we formerly owned. They were quick sellers, especially the Santa’s and Angels.

I painted under the pseudonym, Marie Enno, which I took from the last four letters, spelled backwards, of my first name “Yvonne”; and, my middle name “Marie.”  A number of close friends and relatives purchased the figurines.  However, they had no idea that Yvonne Marie and Marie Enno were one in the same.

Painting the figurines distracted me from focusing on pain.  I know painting was the beginning of my journey:

  • from the non-productive invalid stage of chronic pain
  • to the productive and active lifestyle I continue to enjoy at the seasoned age of 73.

Yes, I still have pain but I work to control it rather than letting it control me.

Thanksgiving with The Black Santa’s

With the exception of the Santa’s shown in this post, all the figurines were either sold at the gallery or gifted to friends.

When the family Christmas Gatherings, outgrew the space in our home, the Eldest Daughter said, “Let’s move the Santa’s to my home so we can continue to enjoy them.”  I agreed and visited my Santa’s at her house every Christmas Holiday until retirement brought us to Florida in 2010.

Though everybody now comes to Florida for Christmas, Eldest Daughter wants to keep the Santa’s.  Since they have been in her possession for more than ten years, I believe her home is now their home.

This year, for the first time, she decorated for Christmas before Thanksgiving; and, I was able to once again enjoy my beloved Santa’s.  She will continue to do this in the future; and I look forward to visiting with my Santa’s every Thanksgiving.

I added the photos below to my Cherished Memories Album. I can now enjoy looking at them when I want.

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Sharing a Memory: Thanksgiving 2014

Hubby and I returned to Wisconsin to spend Thanksgiving with the kids, grands, relatives and friends this past year.  Since we decided to go at the last-minute one, our airline ticket prices were over the top.  (Side Bar Correction: The decision was mine and I bugged Hubby until he agreed.). 

Why I Bugged Hubby

For years, we postponed visiting Hubby’s last remaining Aunt even though, by car, she lived six hours away from our home in Wisconsin.  I remember reasons like “not enough time” or “maybe next year.”

Sadly, she passed away the first week in November.  There was “enough time” and we couldn’t wait until “maybe next year” to attend her funeral and show our respect.

It was an up-front and up-in-my-face reality moment. Our tomorrows with loved ones are not promised.  And, nothing short of my death was going to prevent me from spending Thanksgiving with the children and grands.

It was a short visit with a lot packed into three days, but I am grateful for the many precious memories including this one about my Little Girls.

The youngest members of our families are oftentimes the funniest.  And, these two were in hot water for their shenanigans during the after Thanksgiving Family Gathering.

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Cupcake (Black Dress) – Lyric (Plaid Shirt)

Our 6-year-old granddaughter, Cupcake, and great-granddaughter, Lyric, 7-years-old proudly announced to all that they were putting on a play later in the evening.  Everyone purchased a ticket.  The two girls disappeared; and, we all assumed they were pulling things together.  When the girls came downstairs a bit later, they started to play a board game, and the play was soon forgotten by all.

Several hours later, the Eldest Daughter answered the phone and the caller said, “Someone telephoned 911 from this telephone is everything okay?”  She assured the dispatcher all was well and said, “I can’t imagine what happened.”

My son decided to ask the girls and Cupcake admitted making the call.  He explained to her that 911 calls were for emergencies only.  She quickly said, “This was an emergency Lyric stole my money.”   Lyric piped up with “I deserved more money because I am older.”

Aunts, cousins, uncles, dad, friends, etc., all took turns sharing examples with the girls of the right and wrong times to call the 911 emergency number.

The money collected was equally split between the two girls with the promise they would put the play on at our family’s July 4th Celebration.

Once everything settled down with the girls, the party activities continued. Then, the doorbell ring, a police officer came down the steps and entered the lower level.  Cupcake looked up from her card game, saw the police officer, and quickly ducked behind the ottoman.

Her dad called her out of hiding.  And, she meekly stood before the officer as he calmly explained to both girls that 911 calls were for emergencies only.

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Cam’ron (Play Grandson) – Police Officer

Something positive came out of this 911 incident.  After all the negative publicity about policemen and their negative relationship with the African-American community, it was good for our teenage family members to witness a police officer interacting with these two little girls as well as our entire family in a kind, professional, and respectful way.

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L-R: Avi, Tianna, Cupcake, Taeja, Lyric and Chelsea

 

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L-R: Cameron, Kertagje, George, Kaleef

 

 

 

 

Gratitude Sunday: “Hearts As One Dream Beat Award”

Gratitude

I believe everyday there is something to express gratitude for. Acknowledging and expressing thankfulness, on a daily basis, is one of the most used tools in my Healthy Living War Chest.

Through the world of Blogosphere, I have found many, many bloggers who have given me a reason to express gratitude; and because of them I add new tools to my War Chest daily.

Grateful for Award

And, today, I am grateful to Beverly at My Wonky Donkey Life for nominating me to receive the “Heart As One Drum Beat Award.”

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The rules for passing this award along is for the recipient —

“Within their posts whether if be through Poem or Word caring for others if a must for this award.  Be through laughter or humor, photograph or story, love and compassion are mandatory.”

I say with the highest level of confidence the five nominees I have selected meet the must requirements for this award –

  • Caring for Others 
  • Love and Compassion.

For me, their

  • Humor has generated laughter,
  • Words have raised awareness, and
  • Photographs have served to bring new people, places and things into my space.

And, without further ado, my nominees for the “Hearts And One Dream Beat Award” are:

Nominees, I leave you with the words of the Award’s creator:

“Together let us beat our drums for harmony, peace, unity and equality.  Let the beat of your thoughts ripple out as we share our hearts in one beat of unity. (Sue Dreamwalker)