14 October 2015

Discovering how to live in the moment

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Finding a new book and new information
A few months ago, a Facebook friend recommended a book by Donna Jackson Nakazawa entitled "Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How You Can Heal". When I looked it up on Amazon to investigate further, I was intrigued by the synopsis that reads:
"A groundbreaking book showing the link between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and adult illnesses such as heart disease, autoimmune disease, and cancer—Childhood Disrupted also explains how to cope with these emotional traumas and even heal from them. Your biography becomes your biology. The emotional trauma we suffer as children not only shapes our emotional lives as adults, it also affects our physical health, longevity, and overall wellbeing. Scientists now know on a bio-chemical level exactly how parents’ chronic fights, divorce, death in the family, being bullied or hazed, and growing up with a hypercritical, alcoholic, or mentally ill parent can leave permanent, physical “fingerprints” on our brains. When we as children encounter sudden or chronic adversity, excessive stress hormones cause powerful changes in the body, altering our body chemistry. The developing immune system and brain react to this chemical barrage by permanently resetting our stress response to 'high,' which in turn can have a devastating impact on our mental and physical health."
After reading that, I went ahead and bought the Kindle version of the book. Hubby decided he wanted to buy the Audible version of the book and listen to it at the same time I read it.

One of the gems of wisdom I gleaned from the book was the importance of reducing chronic stress in one's life in order to reduce the long-term effects of that chronic stress on one's body. I knew my body was absolutely riddled with chronic stress from the time I was a toddler. The good news I gleaned from the book was that the body is resilient and can be repaired with diligent effort. I decided to employ whatever techniques I could in order to repair my body.

Mindful meditation
The author of the book suggests mindful meditation as one technique to employ. I wasn't truly familiar with how mindful meditation worked, but her simple explanation of it made it easy to grasp:

  • you focus on your breath
  • note and name your thoughts
  • let your thoughts go
  • see that you are not your thoughts
  • free yourself from worrying, spinning stories, and ruminating
  • be in the present moment
  • breathe deeply and bring oxygen into your lungs

I found my own way of mindful meditation that works for me. I sit or lay down (sometimes with my eyes open and sometimes with my eyes closed), and I live in the moment. If my mind wanders to anything other than what is happening around me or inside me at that moment, I quickly acknowledge that my mind has wandered with a thought like, "Okay, that was a wandering thought" and then I go back to experiencing the moment. I often repeat the phrase, "Just for now..." slowly to keep my mind from wandering.

I started out my mindful meditation a couple of months ago when I was going outside every morning just before sunrise to feed a feral mama kitty that had kittens in our backyard shed. I would stay outside to socialize her and the kittens--sitting in my chaise lounge facing the sun as it rose over the roofline of the house and sprayed brilliant sunbeams through the branches of the lemon tree onto my face. It was the perfect setting for learning to live in the moment. I paid close attention to everything around me as it happened. If a hummingbird flitted into view, I focused on the hummingbird. If a kitten scampered by, I focused on the playful kitten. I listened to the sounds around me. I took note of how the summer morning air felt and how it changed when the sun's rays would finally hit my face. I learned a lot as I repeated this exercise morning after morning. I learned how rich each moment is and how easily I can miss that richness if I'm letting my mind ruminate on other things.

My results
I had been suffering from insomnia for months and months. Staying asleep once I got to sleep wasn't an issue. My biggest issue with insomnia was getting my brain to shut down and stop ruminating long enough to get to sleep. After I fine-tuned my own form of mindful meditation, I started trying it out as I was laying down at night trying to get to sleep. And it worked! I was able to fall asleep when most people fall asleep! The sleepless nights of repeatedly looking at the clock became less and less.

I also have to deal with stress-related heart palpitations. They didn't used to be a real problem until after I had an extremely high fever from influenza in December 2013 that brought my relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis out of remission. Since then, heart palpitations come easily and go away with difficulty. I started using my mindful meditation techniques for that too. I've found that deep breathing is a significant component in getting my heart palpitations to subside. If I truly focus and breath deeply, I can get a palpitation attack under control in a matter of minutes or even seconds.

Another by-product of mindful meditation and chronic stress reduction that I didn't anticipate was my clothes getting looser. I read in the book about chronic stress leading to chronic inflammation in the body. I didn't realize how much chronic inflammation it can cause. It has been interesting to experience this firsthand.

Overall my body feels happier. I feel more at ease in my core--even when faced with a stressful trigger. My chronic fatigue and pain have reduced. I still have not-so-good episodes, but I'm noticing that some episodes are lasting for only hours instead of days. This is a big improvement for me. I'm planning on continuing the mindful meditation over the long-term. It will be interesting to see what the long-term benefits will be.

DISCLAIMER: I am not affiliated with or paid by any entity for any content written in this blog post. This post represents my own personal experiences in finding wellness. The links provided in this post are only provided as a courtesy and do not imply that I am commercially associated with those websites I have linked to or have cited.

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