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: Week Two – Mindfulness and Meditation

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.

Freedom Friday: Week One – Mindfulness and Meditation

Reading the book, “You Are Not Your Pain,” prompted me to begin this 8-week journey of trying to manage my chronic pain condition through Mindfulness and Meditation.  

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Week One

I successfully completed the three required activities for Week One.

1.  Twice Daily 10-Minute Body Scan Meditations 

I had a difficult time staying fully aware of my breath as it flowed through different parts of my body during the meditations.  But after several days, when I experienced emotional or physical pain; I breathed deeply, became aware, and acknowledged the pain with compassion and kindness.  

2.  Spend A Little Time with Nature, Daily

With temperatures in Orlando reaching the high 90s, I wasn’t able to spend time with nature in the way  I had planned —

  • walks through our local botanical garden; and
  • sitting  quietly by the lake in one of our beautiful county parks.

Upon learning that I was,  virtually, housebound because of the summer heat in Florida, imaniking, creator of Freedom Friday, sent me an online portfolio of her beautiful nature photos to view.

3.  SPEND ONE HOUR WITH NATURE ON ONE DAY

I spent two hours with nature everyday last week:

  • Meditating, Conscious Breathing and Being Still, daily, for one hour, before daybreak, while in the presence of nature’s singing birds and rustling tree leaves.
  • Water Exercising, daily, for one hour, periodically, looking upward at the changing colors of the sky and the ever-moving and billowing clouds.

After completing Week One, I now know that my pain:

  • is fluid rather than solid; and
  • should be timely welcomed and accepted with compassion and kindness.

Knowing this has enabled me to better manage and control my pain levels.

I am excited about beginning Week Two and can’t wait to share another new learning experience with you.  Back next 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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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

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

Sending a huge thank you over to Lisa at Rebirth of Lisa for this second nomination to receive the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.

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When I get a “Like” or “Comment” from a new blogger, I always take time to visit their blog.  And, this is how I found Rebirth of Lisa.  Her About Page hooked me; especially, the second paragraph:

“You will find my inter thoughts and lessons I have learned about life, love and the world.  I am open and honest and though I may offend some, my intent is only to tell my truth.  Topics will  vary depending on what’s on my brain at the moment and I will try to infuse a little humor.”

After reading the About Page, I immediately hit the  “follow button”; and. I have not been disappointed.

Here Are The Rules

  • Thank the blogger that nominated you.
  • Put the award logo on your blog.
  • Answer the ten questions sent to you.
  • Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer.
  • Nominate seven blogs.

Questions from Lisa

  1. What is your favorite book? I love every word spoken or written by Maya Angelou, but my favorite is “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
  2. Michael Jackson or Prince?  Having teenagers in the home during the 70s and 80s, my home was filled with music from both.  But, in my opinion, Michael Jackson was a musical genius and there is no comparison.
  3. Where is your favorite place to vacation?  Six years ago, my two daughters gifted me with our first Mother-Daughter Vacation in Martha’s Vineyard.  I love visiting the Island but, most of all, I enjoy spending quality time with the daughters and my grandchildren.
  4. Who is your favorite writer?  Maya Angelou followed by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
  5. If you could have a super power what would it be?  I would choose as my Super Power the ability to eradicate social injustice, discriminatory practices, and unequal treatment against those viewed as “the other” or “different” in our country.
  6. What’s your favorite snack?  Popcorn, popped the old fashion way is my favorite.  But, I am not opposed to microwave popcorn.  
  7. What’s on your pizza?  Vegetables only.  Though, before moving toward eating healthy, it was either Pepperoni and, occasionally, The Supreme (everything).
  8. Name three things you like about yourself.  My Faith, Compassion, and Kindness.
  9. Who was your favorite teacher and why?  Over the years, there have been many teachers who advised and guided me through these many seasons of life.  Of course, my mother was the #1 and there are far too many to name.
  10. What’s your guilty pleasure? Lemon Meringue Pie.  I only buy it by the slice; otherwise, I would eat the whole pie.

My Nominees for This Award

  1.  Sincerely, Jess
  2. Pearl Before Swine
  3. The Understanding of Dee
  4. Our Rumbling Ocean
  5. Mountain Mornings
  6. Misifusa’s Blog
  7. My Eyes Are Up Here

Here Are My Questions for the Above Nominees

  1. What is one of your favorite quotes?
  2. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
  3. What was the last movie that made you cry?
  4. If you won the lottery, what is the first things you would do?
  5. Have you ever had a nickname, what is it?
  6. What is your favorite holiday?
  7. Are you an introvert or extrovert?
  8. If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
  9. What is one food that you will not eat?
  10. Would you rather use Facebook or Twitter?