I believe that I have been able to witness the benefits of mindfulness meditation and breath work, because of the profound change; a change so drastic that it is externally and internally noticeable to self and others. I am not quite sure how people perceive me but I have been told, I appear calm, chill, gentle, and at other times, silly and have a loud laugh. I am all these things and so much more. Only the closest of friends who rock climb with me and witness first hand, the trigger of being in a perceptibly near death situation, see my 'reaction' to perceived stress- only on the rock do these events empower me- because I have chosen to be there. I am 100 percent committed to working through the event and am expecting that it will happen. So, I am not 'surprised' when a 60 foot climb with a traverse that could potentially place me at higher risk, of physical harm, if I were to fall, would trigger a panic attack. I have the ability to pull inside myself, and physically ground myself literally to the rock. Through sensing the coolness and the texture of the rock, beneath my left pinky, left ring finger, left middle finger, left index finger, left thumb. Feel my left foot on the rock below my left hip and sense exactly where it is, visualize it inside my head with my eyes closed- this type of 'tool' , this sensing in and utilizing visual imaging- helps to keep me calm on the rock or sometimes, pull me out of a panic attack. It keeps me connected to my body and reminds me that I have some control over the situation, then gives me the power to act- to move and commit to finishing that damn climb!
However, when something unexpected happens to my body, my personal space that completely takes me off guard, if my physiological chemistry is just so in a transition when this event is introduced- sometimes- all that training takes a backseat. The only thing that gets me back on track is MEDITATION/synonymous with breath work. I wonder and often contemplate this disconnect between my brain and my peripheral system. As I do not have to 'perceive' stress for my body to demonstrate and feel 'stressed'.
So, I have embraced meditation as a 'life skill', necessary for me to function in life as a FREE person. I have lived long enough to know I am not unique, or special, or that much different from most other humans in my body's response to 'stress'. Pathology, is the body's response to 'stress'. We cannot escape stress. Perceived stress can create more physiological stress but physiological stress can occur without/outside of a perceived stress. However, meditation, has allowed me to at least have a tool that I believe has the ability to 'restore' and 'rejuvenate' my body , hopefully back or as close to a state of balance or homeostasis as possible. It has given me the skill, to 'observe' my body when it is stressed without cognitively participating in the physiological stress. I am always looking at myself and how to create change in self because , I believe that no matter how much I strive for a balanced life, it is rare and difficult to really achieve on a physiological level. In the culture we live in, it is almost impossible. This is why disease happens. This is why our bodies age. Those who can restore their bodies and brains closer to this state of homeostasis, more often, are the ones that age slower, have less disease, and greater functional longevity.
This belief, inspires me to practice. I will never 'be there'. For me, it is truly the journey , the process of practice that enables me to heal, to grow, to stay true to my intrinsic goodness, kindness, love, and acceptance of self and others. In many ways, I feel as if my journey is just beginning. Meditation has helped me to feel as if I have been given a new life, a new chance, and can completely start fresh. I am learning how to 'reprocess' old memories, just simply by meditation. No drugs, no EMDR and no consistent dependence on my therapist, my government, my insurance, my job- simply taking ownership of my own body, my own mind. To be in a place that I am confident I am capable of helping myself, is a freeing place to know life.
Sometimes, I forget , just for a moment, the pain of my past. In fact, it seems to be getting further and further away. Sometimes, I have to stop, just to purposely, remember. I remember, because it keeps me true. I never have to pretend to know- Oh, I know. I know what pain and suffering is- and I know what freedom from pain and suffering feels like too. I do not need to be embarrassed nor not talk about it because others may feel uncomfortable. I neither need to care really or attach myself to the pain any longer . I used to carry it like it was worth something; like it was an ugly painful part of me, but it was me and I was not about to let go of it. When I realized, that the pain was my identity, I made a decision to change my identity. I did not have to be 'pain'. Moving through the process, was much harder. Often times, feeling visceral responses to the moments of 'letting go'. At one point, I remember, physically feeling like my insides were being torn apart and my mind, went into some space I had never recognized before - it was a sensation I have never felt prior and yet to have felt again. The event was a somatic 'letting go'. My body and my mind both became one in choosing to 'let go' of the memory, the belief, the perspective that I had been holding onto for so many years. I choose at that moment to 'let go' and I have never struggled with that perception or belief again. I am confident I chose a way of peace and truth because , both my mind and my body, began to heal, it seemed much differently and quicker to get into that space of 'letting go', after that experience.
Now, I have given a lot of credence to meditation and breath work but this is not the only tool obviously that has helped me to succeed in making real physiological and cognitive changes in my life. Community has been just as important. Community. A community of people, may just be one, but it is crucial to healing. One must feel loved and be able to love in return. If this is not there, healing is shunted.
This is where, going to group Yoga classes can be highly beneficial. You do not have to announce yourself - you can go and just 'be'. Observe for awhile. Give yourself permission to exist in a space of other people, who will not judge you or expect anything from you, other than to participate in the yoga session. And if they do, who cares. Yoga can be a great introduction to meditation with movement. It can help make real changes in the physiology of your metabolism, your hormones, your brain - starts the training of mindfulness. Yoga is a great start to getting connected - to self first and to others second.
Meditation is the tool of Mindfulness, the quality of the mind that observes, without judgement. To me, this is clarity. I meditate to be in more moments of clarity or mindfulness. It is these moments that allow me to make decisions based on choice, not impulsive 'reactions' to a perception or body feel.
Meditation may be a way to 'enlightenment' or deepening one's 'spirituality' but for me - it is a pathway to deeply and honestly connect and reconnect to 'self' and to community. It is my path to 'awakening' to life. Maybe, for some people, this is spirituality. If so, then yes- I practice for spirituality.
A way to move from surviving to thriving.