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Author Topic: TOOLS: Practicing meditation--how do you do it?  (Read 20750 times)
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« on: January 23, 2010, 09:09:55 PM »

We talk a lot about mindfulness--fostering an awareness of the moment so that we're less likely to take those unpleasant loops down memory lane or rumination--but it can help to know very specifically how to do it.

Here's an introduction to get us started, from Surviving the Borderline Parent, by Kimberlee Roth and Freda B. Friedman. There are some exercises that I'll add in along the way.

Be Mindful of Yourself

Your inner resources served you well as a child, and they likely still do today, even though at times you may feel that they've been tapped out. One way to rebuild and connect with those inner resources is to increase mindfulness or self-awareness. The more you know about you you're feeling, what you're thinking, what you're sensing, at any given moment, the more strength, power, and control you will have. The better and healthier your decisions will be. The more confident you'll feel in your knowledge and perceptions.

Self-awareness means focusing your attention on the present, on what you're doing, feeling, thinking, smelling, tasting, seeing, wanting, and planning to do right now. It means being in the moment. It may sound obvious to say that you need to focus attention on what you're doing at any given time, but it's a true challenge. How many times has your mind wandered while you were taking a shower and you stayed in longer than you anticipated? How often have you had a conversation with someone while thinking about what you needed to pick up at the grocery store or what you mustn't forget to tell your son as soon as he gets home? How often do you vaguely feel your stomach growl but because you're so busy you don't think about it or the fact that you forgot to eat lunch?



    • When you focus your attention on the present, noticing the feel of your shirt against your skin, smelling the rain, hearing the background rumble of traffic--what happens in your body and in your mind?


    • What concerns do we have about a practice of mindfulness?


    • What are the benefits of mindfulness?


    • How can we practice mindfulness?


    [/list]
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    « Reply #1 on: January 24, 2010, 06:37:15 AM »

    I just worked on this yesterday...well, figured it out a little.

    My mindfulness issue with my BP (and more than that, the en-folks) has to do with anger.  When I think about some situation that triggers anger in me, I spend a lot, I MEAN A LOT of time, working it out in my head thinking about it. 

    I figured out that I think it is because I'm trying to CONVINCE myself that it's okay to BE angry, by running events over and over in my head...instead of just saying, "SHUT UP and BE ANGRY!"

    I find that the temporary storm of anger passes by a lot faster if I think about what I'm mad about, ALLOW myself to BE mad, then move on.  I think I spent so much time being told that I wasn't allowed to be this or that or the other, I don't allow myself the proper time now to FEEL what I'm feeling.

    Doesn't mean I won't be mad tomorrow still though.  The other thing was, that if I was mad about something, I HAD to get over it fast.  I hope that by working through it over and over again right now, I will be DONE with it and never have to deal with it again.

    That's not right either.

    Thanks for the "workshop" B&W and for your therapeutic comments, Colonel.
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    « Reply #2 on: January 24, 2010, 11:54:41 AM »

    When you focus your attention on the present, noticing the feel of your shirt against your skin, smelling the rain, hearing the background rumble of traffic--what happens in your body and in your mind?

    What concerns do we have about a practice of mindfulness?

    What are the benefits of mindfulness?

    How can we practice mindfulness ?


    I've been using mindfulness for a few years now succesfully, it has brought me through and given me back my mind and life and kept me from disassociating, wich was my norm and still a struggle today.

    When Im in the present in a painful moment the pain intensifies and I immediately want to retreat, but I force myself to be present. My stomach or my head will ache, sometimes I get queasy or I will feel the weight pushing in on my chest like a panick attack.

    I have trouble feeling intense guilt, shame, rejection, sadness and Im very worried that the feelings are so intense I will just implode.

    Benefits are many, I've come out of depression and Im medication free, YEAH!

    I have to remind myself daily when I start to crumble over any issue the steps to practicing mindfulness.
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    « Reply #3 on: January 24, 2010, 04:02:41 PM »

    Excerpt
    I've been using mindfulness for a few years now succesfully, it has brought me through and given me back my mind and life and kept me from disassociating, wich was my norm and still a struggle today.

    this sounds like a really good tool i might try.

    Excerpt
    When you focus your attention on the present, noticing the feel of your shirt against your skin, smelling the rain, hearing the background rumble of traffic--what happens in your body and in your mind?

    it feels calming and takes me out of the panic when i get triggered.  i'm only just learning to stay 'within myself'.  i feel like i've constantly abandoned myself to be what others want me to be, starting with my screwy parents.  i started to notice how 'normal' and calm everything felt when i stayed within myself and with my own feelings.  is this whats called disassociating?  ?  its taking time but i'm learning to trust staying with me.  does this sound nuts? ;p
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    « Reply #4 on: January 24, 2010, 05:55:25 PM »

    I have just started practicing mindfulness meditation, based on exercises in the book Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness.

    It's only been a couple of weeks, but I already see a difference. I started with a scepticism, like, how is watching my breath going to help me solve my URGENT LIFE PROBLEMS OMG? But I am noticing that it's doing... something.

    One of my problems is emotional disregulation and reactivity, where everything affects me very intensely and I am always battling overwhelming feelings and moods. Since doing the meditation, I notice that strong emotions come, but I am not as jerked around by them. I *notice* the emotions for the first time, where I can observe them as they are happening, and understand that emotion X is happening - to both experience something and understand it as an experience, instead of be completely overrun by it. Mindfulness meditation has anchored me somehow, where I have a center that doesn't shift, even if all manner of storm is going on above it. It's like a mountain with a swirl of clouds - no matter how fast the clouds move, the mountain stays where it is.

    ...And on that note, it's time for my daily 45 minutes. The book stresses how important it is to do it daily, and I do find that if I don't skip, the benefits are more palpable. It's almost like working out a mental muscle - the more regularly you do it, the stronger it gets.
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    « Reply #5 on: January 24, 2010, 11:18:12 PM »

    Thanks for the wonderful contributions so far. It's great to see that mindfulness has been a useful practice to many! It has been to me, though it has taken time and trial and error for me to find the ways that it works best for me. One thing that I find helpful is to combine it with movement. Here is a mindfulness exercise with movement from Surviving a Borderline Parent:

    Mindful Walking

    Walk slowly across the room and notice how it feels as each part of your food comes into contact with the floor--your heel, your arch, the outside of your foot, the ball of your foot, your toes. How do the muscles of your feet feel? Your skin? What's the texture of the floor like? The temperature? The sound as your foot moves over it? If you're wearing socks, how do they feel on your foot and against the floor?

    B&W
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    « Reply #6 on: January 24, 2010, 11:25:27 PM »

    healinghome,

    You wrote

    Excerpt
    it feels calming and takes me out of the panic when i get triggered.  i'm only just learning to stay 'within myself'.  i feel like i've constantly abandoned myself to be what others want me to be, starting with my screwy parents.  i started to notice how 'normal' and calm everything felt when i stayed within myself and with my own feelings.  is this whats called disassociating?

       

    Disassociating is that "abandoning yourself" feeling when you step away because you can't handle whatever is going on.

    Excerpt
    its taking time but i'm learning to trust staying with me.  does this sound nuts?



    Not at all nuts. Smiling (click to insert in post) Trusting ourselves enough to stay grounded is a challenge for many of us.

    B&W
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    « Reply #7 on: January 25, 2010, 05:39:57 AM »

    are there any workshops on disassociating or books?
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    « Reply #8 on: January 25, 2010, 08:28:49 AM »

    Thank you for this thread, this is something I'm just beginning to work on!  I especially appreciate the specific exercises provided by colonel and blackandwhite.  I will try those! 

    The only thing I've really done so far is that I've noticed that washing dishes is a time when I tend to get really wrapped up in anxious thoughts, and so I've tried to be more mindful during that period, which is actually full of beautiful feelings and sights - I find water very soothing, so I try to focus on the feeling of the water on my hands, the sound of it as it hits the dishes, the satisfaction of seeing a dirty dish get clean, rather than rushing off in my head to what I have to do next, and after that, and after that. 

    It's funny you mentioned time in the shower - I actually love my time in the shower to think.  I'm a writer, and many times, if I find myself stuck with what I'm writing, if I go take a shower, I can let my thoughts wander from an unproductive path so I can rearrange everything I want to say in a sensible pattern.  Just FWIW!
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    « Reply #9 on: January 25, 2010, 09:12:21 AM »

    HH, for me when I dissociate I go to another place in my head, I wont hear people talking to me, I want to immediately go be alone and I feel like the world is crushing in on me. I can't pay attention to what is going on it's very hard. I have to force myself through awarness, mindfullness to see hear and  touch, and mantra's to help come back to reality.  Picture a day dreaming kid in class. The ultimate dissociation is multiple personality disorder.  If you have a T, they could explain better than I can what it is and how to tell if you are doing it. Hope this helps.
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    « Reply #10 on: January 25, 2010, 09:53:03 AM »

    hey mbm, i'm not sure if i go to another place in my head, it feels more like i zone out.  then my brain stops being able to understand things as well.  i can still communicate with people etc and i don't feel the world crushing in on me.  its more like my thoughts take me out of awareness.  like i'm still here in body going through the motions,  cooking dinner or working etc, but only a part of my thoughts are focused on what i'm doing.  i seem to panic around people anyway and prefer to be on my own.  not sure if this is disassociating or not?
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    « Reply #11 on: January 25, 2010, 10:56:22 AM »

    hey mbm, i'm not sure if i go to another place in my head, it feels more like i zone out.  then my brain stops being able to understand things as well.  i can still communicate with people etc and i don't feel the world crushing in on me.  its more like my thoughts take me out of awareness.  like i'm still here in body going through the motions,  cooking dinner or working etc, but only a part of my thoughts are focused on what i'm doing.  i seem to panic around people anyway and prefer to be on my own.  not sure if this is disassociating or not?

    I'm sure we experience dissociation in somewhat different ways, but what you describe sounds very familiar to me from my own experience. Here's a summary of dissociation from healingaftertrauma.com:

    •Dissociation is a normal response to a serious threat.

    •You may feel separated from your body or emotions.

    •Sense of time becomes distorted or people and places seem unfamiliar.

    •Dissociation usually happens beyond your control and you do it to protect yourself from pain and extreme fear.

    •Staying dissociated after the threat is gone can cause problems in your ability to enjoy life and your surroundings.

    One thing you might try is a a mindfulness exercise and see if it helps. If so, it's a good clue that you are experiencing dissociation, which is very common among those who have a history of trauma.

    x

    B&W
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    « Reply #12 on: January 25, 2010, 03:43:43 PM »

    hey mbm, i'm not sure if i go to another place in my head, it feels more like i zone out.  then my brain stops being able to understand things as well.  i can still communicate with people etc and i don't feel the world crushing in on me.  its more like my thoughts take me out of awareness.  like i'm still here in body going through the motions,  cooking dinner or working etc, but only a part of my thoughts are focused on what i'm doing.  i seem to panic around people anyway and prefer to be on my own.  not sure if this is disassociating or not?

    I have varing degrees, slight is in another place but on auto pilot, not processing in comming and out going information so well. This is for me what I experience, then the worst I've experienced is complete hermit mode, cant concentrate, in my own depressed world and I feel like the world is too painful or something horrible is going to happen and I can't associate with others very well at all in this state. I get very agitated and short on my nerves. complete withdrawl from social interactions.

    But that is me, you are you, and we all expereince it differently. Mindfullness has helped me considerably. 
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    « Reply #13 on: January 25, 2010, 03:45:07 PM »

    B&W, can you give some examples of how CBT and Mindfullness are different?
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    « Reply #14 on: January 25, 2010, 04:43:17 PM »

    Hi MyBigMouth,

    I'm not an expert by any means on CBT or mindfulness. My own practice of mindfulness developed through yoga rather than therapy. To me--layperson's understanding!--mindfulness is a very open term describing a variety of practices (yoga, meditation, martial arts, certain therapeutic practices, and so on) that focus on awareness of the here and now. What these practices have in common is the ability to provide a sense of calm and greater resilience.

    CBT, from my reading, is more focused on changing maladaptive thought patterns and behaviors. I believe you have experience with CBT, so please feel free to add in from your experience. Anyone else with experience or expertise, please weigh in as well.

    Below is some information from one of our workshops (https://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=76487.0) on CBT and a derivative, DBT, that draws heavily from mindfulness practice. Both are used in treatment of people with BPD, nons, as well as people with other issues entirely.

    Excerpt
    Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

    Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), founded by Albert Ellis, Ph.D. is a combination of two therapy techniques: cognitive and behavioral. Cognitive therapy refers to an approach that focuses on a person's cognitions: their thoughts, assumptions, and beliefs. With this therapy approach a person learns to recognize and change faulty or maladaptive thought patterns. The focus is on restructuring the dysfunctional cognitions through a process of identifying, challenging, and reshaping them. Behavioral therapy focuses on changing a person's unhealthy and problematic behaviors, actions, and responses. The focus is not on "why" something happens, but changing the process to prevent, alter, or replace it with a healthier more effective behavior. Dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT) is a specialized type of CBT.

    Dialectical-behavioral therapy

    Developed by Marcia Linehan, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington, DBT directly targets suicidal and other dangerous, severe, or destabilizing behaviors. Standard DBT strives to increase behavioral capabilities, improve motivation for skillful behavior through management of issues and problems as they come up in day-to-day life and reduction of interfering emotions and cognitions, and structure the treatment environment so that it reinforces functional rather than dysfunctional behaviors. DBT skills for emotion regulation include:

       Identifying and labeling emotions

       

       Identifying obstacles to changing emotions

       

       Reducing vulnerability to emotion mind

       

       Increasing positive emotional events

       

       Increasing mindfulness to current emotions

       

       Taking opposite action

       

       Applying distress tolerance techniques

       

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    « Reply #15 on: January 26, 2010, 12:55:56 AM »

    I get into trouble because I can't remember specifics, that's why I asked. I know that what my T used with me she called cbt, my daughter went through some dbt and I read up on it and have used the workbook. My daughter has enjoyed the use of mindfullness and I find when Im explaining things to her that I learned she has already learned the skill just under a different name.  I've read Eckhart Tolle The power of Now and A New Earth. I can't remember if he talks specifically about mindfullness but he does explain how and what being in the Now means and how to experience awarness.

    Here is what mindfulness.org say's

    MINDFULNESS IN ACTION TECHNIQUES

    These techniques are useful for bring mindfulness into the activities of everyday life. They also are a good place to start with clients who have very low impulse control and distress tolerance. Linehan (2003 pp170-171 & 174-175) describes a number of these techniques as a way of developing distress tolerance in her “Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder”

    Mindfulness in action techniques include:

    Focusing awareness of an aspect of a physical habit that previously has largely been outside of conscious awareness e.g.

    •Noticing how tight you hold the steering wheel when driving.

    •Being aware of what happens to your breathing or voice tone in an argument.

    Focusing awareness on the breath when a specified environmental cue occurs. This technique has been described in detail by Thich Nhat Hanh (1991 pp22-30 ). The cues we might use include:

    Waiting for phone to be answered

    Waiting at a red traffic light

    Walking

    Listening to Music

    Getting Dressed

    Detailed awareness of the mental phenomena associated with cravings such as thoughts, physical sensations and feelings.

    I had a stressfull night last night and today my thoughts are out of wack.  I couldn't think of the difference between cbt and mindfullness.  Now that I reviewed it, seems like the very begining of what I started out with when with my T for the first year.  I wanted to make sure before I spouted off my BIG MOUTH! That I knew what I was talking about     There is a specific technique used and it is called mindfulness and it is very much like meditation, being in the here and now, focusing on the senses. I was putting two and two together, when in fact I've used the techniques and my daughter has and so does my son with his special education class, but it's alway's been calming techniques, meditation, etc...  Thanks for the help

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    « Reply #16 on: January 26, 2010, 01:20:00 AM »

    Im sorry to be totally hogging this topic but I kept on reading on that website and thought this was really cool. Again please forgive me, because my brain isnt processing correctly right now.



    . Mindfulness allows covert desensitization to negative thoughts and feelings to occur spontaneously.

    Often we try to distract ourselves from unpleasant thoughts and feelings. This is a form of avoidance. Behavioural theory and research shows that avoidance creates more problems. Mindfulness allows us to stay present to the unpleasant thought or feeling for its natural duration without feeding or repressing it. During mindfulness practice we get countless opportunities to do this until our anxiety and desire to avoid naturally extinguishes.

    More Creative Solutions are then able to emerge spontaneously  

    As the grip of automatic pilot on the mind is relaxed we also become more free to act skillfully. Our unconscious mind can then process information differently and present us with a completely novel and effective response. In Buddhist literature this is called "spontaneously arising wisdom".

    Firstly we are more able to access embodied cognition when less absorbed in our mental chatter. Many psychologists are realizing that our thinking does not just occur through manipulation of abstract symbols by the mind. Our thinking is in fact embodied. We feel our thoughts. studies of robotics have shown how disembodied representation is incredibly inefficient To know more about this (Monica Cowart ) click here This shows up in team sports like football when an athlete suddenly does a skilful move that he has never done before in the midst of a high pressure game. Automatic pilot obviously gets in the way of this process. Mindfulness clears the way for it to occur.

    This process has also been identified in the Western philosophical tradition of existential phenomenology. The process of mindfulness is very similar to the process of "Phenomenological Reduction" (epoché) where our assumptions about the nature of the world are set aside and novel phenomenological insights emerge with a sense of astonishment. (Fink, Eugen 1970). In the Christian tradition this is often described as "grace" and is associated with the idea of the Holy Spirit.

    Secondly we are less vulnerable to the process of mindless emotional contagion. Emotional contagion has now been clarified as unconscious and very subtle synchronization of facial expressions, voices, and postures with others in the immediate environment (Hatfield, Cacioppo and Rapson 1993; Hsee, C.K., Hatfield, E., and Chemtob, C. 1992). This can be very enjoyable when we are sharing positive emotions. However it can also mean we feed off each other's shame, anger, fear or depression.

    There is also now been identified a neurological process that supports this mutual imitation. Mammals including humans have a system of "mirror neurons" These fire both when we perform a particular action and when we perceive someone else perform that same action. (Rizzolatti,, G., Fogassi, L., Gallese, V. 2001).

    The Emotional Contagion Scale ( Doherty 1997) has been recently developed and validated to assist further research in this area.

    Mindfulness allows us to stay present to the other person without being caught up in destructive emotions. This also frees us to respond in a wiser way.

    Often this spontaneously arising wisdom manifests in a very simple and subtle way. We just stay present to the situation and our breath without zoning out. Instead of acting in our habitual unskillful way we simply stay still and silent. Often this very humble act can interrupt escalation of destructive emotions by dampening emotional contagion. In this way it can create a very positive outcome for all concerned.

    7 An Increased Appreciation of Life

    A person with high base-line attentiveness finds, in general, all life activities to be more fulfilling. Intrinsically pleasant experiences (food, music, sexuality, etc.) are vastly more intense and satisfying simply because one is more fully "in the moment." Furthermore, ordinary, banal experiences (washing dishes, driving to work, social conversation, etc.) take on a quality of extraordinary vibrancy and fascination. Boredom becomes a thing of the past.

    Top

    8 Reduced Suffering

    Physical Pain

    Dealing with pain from illness or injury becomes a major issue for most people sometime in their lives. Indeed for millions of chronic pain victims, it is the issue of every moment of their lives. When analgesics and medical treatment cannot mitigate the pain, what option is left? Must one be subject to meaningless, abject suffering? Absolutely not. It has been clinically demonstrated that in states of sufficiently high concentration, pain, even very acute pain, can be dissolved into a kind of moving energy. This greatly diminishes ones suffering in the moment.

    More importantly, when one learns to experience pain in this way, one actually gets a sense of being empowered and even nurtured by it. Thus, meditation skills provide not merely a mode of pain management, but allow one to experience pain as deeply meaningful in the sense of contributing to personal growth and empowerment.

    Emotional Pain, Compulsions and Addictions

    What is true for physical pain is also true for emotional pain such as fear, grief, anger, jealousy, shame, etc.

    Using mindfulness skills, one can clearly detect and discriminate the mental images, internal words and body sensations that constitute the negative emotion as they arise moment by moment.   By "deconstructing" the emotion in this way, one becomes less caught up while at the same time allowing the emotion to flow without suppression.

    The same skills can be applied to overcoming negative habits and compulsive behaviors such as alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse, eating disorders and so forth, "staying with" the unwholesome urge until it weakens and passes.

    Furthermore, the mindfulness itself produces a kind of "intrinsic high" which can replace the unhealthy high of substance and alcohol addiction.

    Top

    9. Improved Health

    1. States of high attentiveness and deep relaxation involve not only the mind but also affect the body and therefore impact one's health. Brain alpha waves increase, skin conductivity decreases and the metabolism becomes more efficient.


    This is so cool, sorry for lack of a better word, brain fart, but really the science behind it is truly what makes me a believer.

    Mantra's, the holy spirit, the power of prayer.  I need to do this all more.

    ok I'll stop yapping now.  Thanks B & W & everyone else   for letting me process this out loud.
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    « Reply #17 on: January 26, 2010, 08:01:02 AM »

    Thanks for adding in all that great info, MyBigMouth!

    Excerpt
    States of high attentiveness and deep relaxation involve not only the mind but also affect the body and therefore impact one's health. Brain alpha waves increase, skin conductivity decreases and the metabolism becomes more efficient.



    That's interesting. I have certainly felt this shift through awareness and in yoga practice.

    A few more simple strategies.

    Child's Pose (yoga)



    Fold over your stomach and stretch out your arms in front of you, palms down. Sink into the posture. Breathe. Notice your breath as it moves in and out. Feel the support of the floor or ground beneath you.

    You can also do the pose with your arms by your side. Rest on your forehead or turn your head to one side. Take at least three breaths. Turn your head to the other side. Breathe. Notice your breath. Feel the support beneath you. Great neck stretch.



    I asked at the start of this thread about concerns using mindfulness. One caution I have is to listen to yourself. For example, I have some trauma-related issues around anything that might seem to restrict my breath. So I generally do turn my head to one side doing child's pose, so I know that my breathing can be smooth. Most people don't have that particular reaction, but I know with experience that I do, so I honor that.

    Child's pose is very restorative and provides a feeling of safety and comfort. It can be modified in various ways to accommodate any physical issues. Putting a yoga block or pillow under the stomach and/or head can be helpful.

    B&W
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    « Reply #18 on: January 26, 2010, 03:26:06 PM »

    I really like child's pose; it's always seemed to relax my lower back (where I apparently keep a lot of my stress).

    I have a really hard time with simply being aware of emotions without automatically reacting to them.  Lately I've been more aware of what I'm feeling, and as a result have been more touchy and hot-tempered.  I am trying really hard to practice mindfulness and simple awareness of feelings, but generally by the time I notice it it's because I've already overreacted in some way.  I hope these moments when I am actively practicing awareness will eventually come to affect how I think even when I'm not focusing on it.  But right now that seems very far away. 
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    « Reply #19 on: January 27, 2010, 08:07:59 AM »

    I have a really hard time with simply being aware of emotions without automatically reacting to them.  Lately I've been more aware of what I'm feeling, and as a result have been more touchy and hot-tempered.  I am trying really hard to practice mindfulness and simple awareness of feelings, but generally by the time I notice it it's because I've already overreacted in some way.  I hope these moments when I am actively practicing awareness will eventually come to affect how I think even when I'm not focusing on it.  But right now that seems very far away. 

    I have a really hard time making mindfulness work for me because even when I am conscious of feeling a certain way, the feelings can still seem overwhelming for a really long time, ie I can get stuck in utter despair and sadness and I have no choice but to wait for the feeling to pass. I wonder if that is because I still have a lot of BPD  PD traits  

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    « Reply #20 on: January 27, 2010, 11:37:22 AM »



    Excerpt
    I hope these moments when I am actively practicing awareness will eventually come to affect how I think even when I'm not focusing on it.  But right now that seems very far away. 



    Excerpt
    I have a really hard time making mindfulness work for me because even when I am conscious of feeling a certain way, the feelings can still seem overwhelming for a really long time, ie I can get stuck in utter despair and sadness and I have no choice but to wait for the feeling to pass.

    These strike me as very real, and common, feelings and challenges. Personally, I failed the first time I tried to establish a mindfulness practice. My quiet mind turned into a roiling pit of anxiety, fragments of disturbing memory, and strange upsetting feelings. This was PTSD, but I didn't know that yet. So I backed off, as I didn't have information or support to continue. When I came back to it, I was much better prepared.

    One suggestion I have is if you'd like to start exploring the use of mindfulness or want to move your practice forward, you could try working through the Safety First material to gauge your level of safety. We can work on safety and mindfulness simultaneously, but the more self-aware we are about feelings of safety and support, the more progress I suspect we can make with mindfulness.

    I'll add another post in a bit asking members to describe their own successful practices, to get more ideas for all of us.

    For now, no magic tricks, but one yoga pose I find really helpful with strong feelings is lion's pose.



    Lion's Pose

    Hands down, the funniest looking pose ever. But so wonderful for releasing pent up emotion!

    Instructions:

    Sit on your knees. Inhale through your nose, clenching your hands into fists, squeezing your eyes shut and clenching all your facial muscles. Then exhale through your mouth with a sigh (or whatever noise feels good), stretching out your arms, hands and all your face muscles as wide as you can. Repeat a few times. Nobody's watching, so really let it all out!
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    « Reply #21 on: January 27, 2010, 01:22:09 PM »

    This issue of safety is something I ran into this morning. I have been trying to do breath-watching and body scan meditation at home. The rest of the time I am the opposite of mindfulness, always absorbed in thoughts and emotions, some useful, some not so much. Today I tried to do mindfulness meditation while walking to work, and I got so scared. Like, it felt very wrong and weird to be alert and aware of where I am and what I am doing, and I felt in danger for even trying.

    Isn't that weird? I'd think that being out of the moment and on autopilot is what's dangerous - I've walked into traffic more than once because I was so absorbed in thoughts, and have been assaulted in the street where paying attention would have alerted me before it happened.

    I also tried it during work and in the cafeteria at lunch time, and it seemed to help rather than be upsetting, so it's very specifically in the street that mindfulness seemed upsetting.

    Has anyone else had this kind of experience with it? Feelings of fear surfacing because you are present rather than dissociating?
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    « Reply #22 on: January 27, 2010, 03:47:43 PM »

    You know, I actually had a successful experiment with this today.  I was in a situation where I wanted something, and needed to wait in order to be considerate of someone else's feelings, and I was nervous that the delay would cause me to miss out on what I wanted altogether, and was becoming extremely agitated and nervous and felt that there were some actions I needed to take instantly (this is my typical pattern when I get very nervous, I tend to fixate on a certain action and feel that if I just took that action, the problem would be solved, even if this is not in fact the case) and I just made myself slow down and breathe and enjoy what I was doing (getting ready for the day) and do a good job with these tasks rather than rushing through them.  And it really calmed me down a lot! 

    Now, later in the day I went on to go ahead and follow through with the action I wanted to take (after clearing it with the person), but it was really helpful just for that moment when I felt myself starting to follow my typical pattern of anxiety leading to impulsive behavior.  So I just wanted to let you know I actually had a successful experience of mindfulness!  Hopefully others will have good experiences to report soon too!
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    « Reply #23 on: January 28, 2010, 07:53:21 AM »

    This issue of safety is something I ran into this morning... Today I tried to do mindfulness meditation while walking to work, and I got so scared. Like, it felt very wrong and weird to be alert and aware of where I am and what I am doing, and I felt in danger for even trying...

    Has anyone else had this kind of experience with it? Feelings of fear surfacing because you are present rather than dissociating?

    Yes. When I mentioned earlier my first failed attempt at a mindfulness practice, I also had powerful fear signals. I think it signals letting down the (psychologically) protective barrier of dissociation. The fact that dissociation can also be dangerous--as your experiences show--doesn't register on the instinctive level of your brain, even though the danger is very clear to you intellectually. Sounds like you need to take it slowly in certain settings and experiment, as you are. If the fear signals or other powerful reactions are triggered, pull back and keep working on your practice in settings that feel safer. You can try again after more practice.

    You know, I actually had a successful experiment with this today...it was really helpful just for that moment when I felt myself starting to follow my typical pattern of anxiety leading to impulsive behavior.  So I just wanted to let you know I actually had a successful experience of mindfulness!  Hopefully others will have good experiences to report soon too!

    That's fantastic, salome! Thanks so much for sharing that encouraging experience.

    For those who have mindfulness practices, could you share some details?

    1. How did you get started?

    2. What is your practice? (Type of activity, how long/often, alone/with others)?

    3. Where do you practice?

    4. How do you fit it into your day/week?

    5. Advice for those considering a practice?

    B&W
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    « Reply #24 on: January 28, 2010, 10:22:13 AM »

    I completed Jon Kabat-Zinn`s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program.  The program text was Kabat-Zinn’s book, “Full Catastrophe Living.”  The program incorporated mindfulness, meditation, and yoga, and, of course, breathing, and took a holistic approach. It’s difficult for me, now, to think of mindfulness and meditation separately, and I've adapted a practice that works for me; it may not resonate with everyone.

    Given that I`m a `practising introvert`  Smiling (click to insert in post), I prefer solitary sessions.  Every morning, I try to complete a formal 20 minute relaxation/body scan, then a 20 minute mindfulness/meditation session.  Session length varies. Some days, I need more time just to settle before I can even begin and some days, sessions are impossible due to time constraints. However, my body is now trained to relax almost ‘on command’, so if I miss one morning, I can usually get by with periodic checks throughout the day to pinpoint muscle tension or stress and then relaxing those areas.

    Mindfulness to me, means experiencing life moment-to-moment, so if I were crossing the street, for example, I could be noticing the car coming toward me, the cross-walk signal, the women in the red coat crossing with me, hearing the noisy jackhammer, the car horn, feeling the sensation of the snowflakes hitting my face or the cold wind whipping against my legs, smelling vehicle exhaust or the scents emanating from a nearby bakery.  My mind would not be on my thoughts, but on my experience. I would be attending to the moment. One of the most-relaxing activities, for me, with which to practice mindfulness is brushing my dog.

    I benefitted from the revelation that ‘thoughts are only thoughts.’ When my ‘mind-chatter’ occurs, I think, “It’s only a thought”, and let it go, or visualize clouds, each one representing a thought, floating by, across a sky.  The point is to let the thoughts go without attaching to them, without forming an emotion around them.

    For those considering mindfulness practice, be patient with yourselves.  At least eight weeks is needed to absorb any new skill. Also, ongoing practice is imperative to maintain the benefits.

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    « Reply #25 on: January 28, 2010, 11:33:50 AM »

    Mindfulness to me, means experiencing life moment-to-moment, so if I were crossing the street, for example, I could be noticing the car coming toward me, the cross-walk signal, the women in the red coat crossing with me, hearing the noisy jackhammer, the car horn, feeling the sensation of the snowflakes hitting my face or the cold wind whipping against my legs, smelling vehicle exhaust or the scents emanating from a nearby bakery.  My mind would not be on my thoughts, but on my experience. I would be attending to the moment. One of the most-relaxing activities, for me, with which to practice mindfulness is brushing my dog.

    I benefitted from the revelation that ‘thoughts are only thoughts.’ When my ‘mind-chatter’ occurs, I think, “It’s only a thought”, and let it go, or visualize clouds, each one representing a thought, floating by, across a sky.  The point is to let the thoughts go without attaching to them, without forming an emotion around them.

    This is how I understood mindfullness and the mental chatter my T was explaining to me a cbt, but this is exactly how she described it to me too, so I guess I got some practice out of it with T just never knew it. I realize more and more, especially with my daughter also showing me she was trained it was mindfullness.
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    « Reply #26 on: January 29, 2010, 01:48:58 PM »

    Following on somethings gotta give's post about her mindfulness practice (thanks for that!), here's more information on Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn.



    Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness

    by Jon Kabat-Zinn


    The title is from a line in Zorba the Greek in which the title character refers to the ups and downs of family life as "the full catastrophe." Kabat-Zinn focuses on "mindfulness," a concept that involves living in the moment, paying attention, and simply "being" rather than "doing." While you can practice anything "mindfully," from taking a walk to cleaning your house, Kabat-Zinn presents several meditation techniques that focus the attention most clearly, whether it's on a simple phrase, your breathing, or various parts of your body.

    About the Author

    Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, is known for using meditation to help patients deal with illness.

    Here's a summary of my own experience with a mindfulness practice.

    1. How did you get started?

    Failed attempt at medication practice; many years later, started doing yoga in order to help with back pain. My focus initially was on the physical benefits. I didn't think of this as a mindfulness practice at first.

    I started watching a yoga show on TV about 10 years ago. It's easier for me to learn something initially alone. When I got a bit more comfortable, I started attending classes to improve my practice. Took a bit of getting used to, as I'm pretty private, but now I very much appreciate the balance of group and individual practice.

    2. What is your practice? (Type of activity, how long/often, alone/with others)?

    Yoga

    Most days of the week, from a minimal 10 minutes to an hour and a half.

    Weekly class with a teacher (group), rest of the time alone. My DD sometimes joins in.  Smiling (click to insert in post)

    3. Where do you practice?

    In class, at a local center. At home, in the living room. I usually wait until DD's in bed and DH is otherwise occupied. I love my mat. It's a great comfort to know that all I need is enough space to put down a mat and enough quiet to do some poses and I'll always have a way to feel better.

    4. How do you fit it into your day/week?

    I make it a priority and do it in the evening when I'm free from parental and work responsibilities. I have had to make my weekly class a very firm commitment, something I owe to myself.

    5. Advice for those considering a practice?

    I echo something's gotta give, be patient. It's called a practice because...it takes practice. Try to suspend self-judgment. I was very judgmental with myself at first when I couldn't do a pose or had trouble settling into the breathing. It took time, but I learned to accept wherever I am in that moment--very contrary to most of my training and instincts.  ;p

    The benefits are enormous.
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    « Reply #27 on: January 30, 2010, 08:31:53 AM »

    1. How did you get started?

    For years, various people have been saying to me, "meditation would help you manage stress" and I kind of ignored it.

    Then my dad sent me the Full Catastrophe book as a Christmas present. I was still doubtful about it, but after reading about mindfulness in the Lessons to the right ----->, I decided to give it a try.

    2. What is your practice? (Type of activity, how long/often, alone/with others)?

    I try to do 45 minutes a day alone, at home, alternating between sitting and watching my breath, and the body scan. I haven't tried it with other people, and I think for now it would be distracting. I'd be fighting unconscious vigilance, watching if the other person is having a good time and stuff like that. It takes a lot of concentration for me just to stay in the observing mode.



    3. Where do you practice?


    In my room. I definitely need privacy to do it. I've also tried it at my desk at work and at the cafeteria during lunch. Cafeteria works better. At my desk, I feel too guilty doing it instead of working.  Smiling (click to insert in post)



    4. How do you fit it into your day/week?


    It's something I find pretty hard. Ideally, I'd do it in the morning just before starting my day, as a way to charge and get ready for it. But lately, mornings are horrible. I shake, have stomach cramps, can barely get up - I try to postpone getting out of bed if I can. I hope as my depression lifts, it will get better, but right now mornings are the worst time of day for me.

    After work, I am often tired, but try to do it as soon as I get home, before dinner and anything else. But if stuff comes up, I end up not doing it.

    I try to do it daily and I feel it when I skip. But I also try not to beat myself up too much if I skip, and just go, OK, now let's try again.



    5. Advice for those considering a practice?


    Give it a chance. It really does make a difference.

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    « Reply #28 on: February 01, 2010, 03:57:04 PM »



    I haven't had much luck with meditation lately because as soon as I start concentrating on my breathing, I start to panic and feel like I'm not breathing even when I know I am.  I have to then distract myself to somethings else. I can go down to the beach though and just be there being part of it all not really thinking of anything in particular just looking at the ocean and mountains.

    I don't know whether this is mindfulness but I have been noticing something happening when I play with my granddaughter.  I really get into it with her and look at the toys, and feel them and look at all the possibilities. She is just so interested in everything that she does and she does it with such concentration and enjoyment. It is like she is teaching me to look at the most simplest of things in a new way.  I know we are just playing and play-acting but it's like I am in the moment and enjoying what is in front of me not thinking about my mom or my sister or what to have for dinner.  I'm just there really taking in everything all about my little granddaughter's world and concentrating on whatever it is that we are doing, of maybe this is disassociating?  When I go home from being with her I feel exhausted but refreshed and renewed.

    justhere

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    « Reply #29 on: February 01, 2010, 04:38:46 PM »

    I have a question for all you seasoned meditators: during the body scan, should I try to scan the whole body in one session? It seems to take me a long time, and I hardly ever get above the knees.  Smiling (click to insert in post)

    Justthere, what you are describing sounds like mindfulness to me! Being really present and paying attention is really the idea. And if being with your granddaughter does it, hey - lucky you!
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