Mindfulness Monday: calmness

“Calm the winds of your thoughts, and there will be no waves on the ocean of your mind.”

Remez Sassoon

“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet, it is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.”

 Deepak Chopra

“Empty your mind of everything – let the mind become still.”

Lao Tzu

I create personalized “mindfulness” or “grounding” cards. On different coloured index cards, I print out a quote; a saying; a thought gleaned from elsewhere, or sometimes from somewhere inside me.

I carry two with me . . . always.

The first is a grounding exercise to use when I have a panxiety attack, feel like I’m drifting too far from shore, or to help be mindful of my surroundings by using all my senses. *

The other:

“Calm as a koi pond.”

Lorraine

* Borrowed from the “web of thoughts.” Can be modified to suit a person’s abilities and needs; I took the whole.

Look around you and find:

FIVE things you can SEE

FOUR things you can TOUCH

THREE things you can HEAR

TWO things you can SMELL

ONE thing you can TASTE

And, Wendy (who is taking a break from Mindfulness Monday today) gave me a wonderful set of 65 Power Thought Cards, beautifully written and richly, colorfully, and playfully illustrated by Louise Hay.

On one side is a saying; the reverse is a longer meditation on that specific thought/phrase/concept.

I carry around two:

“I am willing to change.”

“I express my creativity.”

Thanks to Wendy, (and Mindfulness Mondays), I am “working” on both!

image: © lorraine

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Mindfully seeing

“The best way to capture moments

is to pay attention.

This is how we cultivate mindfulness.”

~Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

This week I decided to try to get back to the basics of my mindfulness practice.  When I first started learning about being mindful I would take time to really look at things up close and see all the little things about them. I tried to keep my attention on the object and discover as much as I could about it, is it smooth? bumpy? soft? scratchy? colorful? alive?…… just trying to mindfully seeing the world, one piece at a time.  At one point I took my camera and took a ton of pictures of one object, seeing it through the camera lens made me pay even more attention to it.  This week I did that same exercise.  I’d like to share some of the photos I took.  These are all objects you might see in day to day life, I just got up close and personal with them.  I’m only sharing one photo from each object I looked at instead of a ton of one item, I thought it’d be fun to see if you can guess what each object is?  **answers can be found at the bottom of this post

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I challenge you to go out in your world today and pay attention to the world around you, one piece at a time.

What did you see today?

 

I hope you liked this version of Mindfulness Monday.

**The photos above are of a Dust mop, a plastic bowl on my kitchen counter, the shutters in my living room, the metal grating on my front door (like a super duper screen door, but with heavy metal), and the refection of the pool shining on my ceiling dancing with the shadow of the fencing.  (I have to say the last one isn’t nearly as interesting as it is when you see it literally dancing on the ceiling.)

All photos are the sole property of W. Holcombe.  Please do not use without permission.

 

Unsteadily Unstable

For the past month or so I’ve been filled with an inner rage and desperation that has been screaming for help.  I was hearing all the anger, fear, and sadness, but I couldn’t hear the call for help.  This week I finally heard it.  I finally understand that I haven’t been just reacting poorly to the stress in my life, or having mood swings because of a hormones, no, I’ve been having a bipolar episode.  I still know my moods aren’t where they should be, but it’s better than it was, and I will be seeing my doctor about it very soon.

I have so many things I want to say, I don’t know where to start.  hmmmm.

I have been reading about bipolar symptoms, specifically rage, and saw many things that are too familiar.  The rage can be set off by the smallest of things, often something I would never even consider getting mad about on a normal day.  The anger starts and builds quickly to a full blown rage!  After all the screaming and throwing things, and who knows what else, is over I feel better for about 2 minutes then I suddenly think, “Oh my god, What have I just done?”  Bipolar rage if often associated with mania,  but can also manifest during depression.  For me if the rage is from a manic episode I blow up fast and furious, but it burns out as quick as it started, leaving only the guilt and hurt behind.  When the rage comes during a depression episode I will have a huge blow up and it will go down, but he anger is still there, and I will blow up again, or I just stay angry for a long time.  The rage inside wanting to break through the surface.  So rage during mania is like a short burst, the rage during depression is a short burst followed by underlying anger and possibly another burst or two.  Both can cause everlasting damage, but the later is much harder for me to deal with.  When the anger doesn’t just go away after a rage episode I start to think it’s not caused by my mood disorder I’m just a bitch, and I start getting angry at myself.  So much anger, that is so hard for me.  I’m not normally an angry person.

Sometimes I will get angry about something, but I don’t let it get to me, just slough it off – at least I thought I did.  Often when the rage hits it’s after I’ve had a few things happen that have caused me to get mad, but I didn’t feel like it was a big deal, I thought I was just letting it go.  It seems to me that it will often be a little thing that sets it off, but it’s like the last straw kind of thing, all those little things I have gotten mad about suddenly rise to the surface and that one little event that made me blow up was fueled by all those other small flames.

Rage can damage even the closest relationships.  It can cause trouble at work, with your family, friends, authorities….rage can really mess up your life.  I’m so very lucky that my husband understands that my rage may seem focused on him, but it really has nothing to do with him.  Sometimes it does spark conversations and we fix all those little things that built up, but honestly the rage is never deserved. Even though he knows all this, it is still very, very hard on him.  When I get to the breaking point I often leave.  I will pack a bag and set off.  I have no idea where I’m going, and I just get madder because I feel I have no where to go.  When I leave like that it hurts and scares Stuart so much.  During this last episode I made him cry.  My husband does not cry often.

I was mostly stable for over 20 years, but over the last few years I’ve had more than one break through episode.  I’ve needed to change medications too many times.  I’m afraid we are going to get to the point where nothing works.  In addition to Bipolar I disorder, I also have generalized anxiety disorder.  Trying to find medications that treat both and I can tolerate has been a challenge.  I’m hoping the gene test I did will help with that.  I can  definitely say, that the new medication she put me on is not working, we have to find something else.

For over a month now I’ve been dealing with severe anger mixed with depression and anxiety.  I have also been getting tickled over the stupidest stuff and laugh until it hurts, but that doesn’t last long and I return to the negative moods quickly.

I think the rage has also been triggered by the return of my vertigo.  I’m back to having attacks multiple times a day.  I do think many of them are caused by migraine instead of Meniere’s because with some attacks I’ve been having aura right before it starts.  The fear has been real.  Not just the fear that it is coming back, I’m actually starting to accept that I am having a relapse, but I know the is a possibility for a remission.  However, I fear for my safety.  I’ve fallen 3 times in the past 2 weeks.  I’m back to using my walker in the house and sometimes when we go out.  (often when we go out I can use a shopping cart, or Stuart’s arm to steady me enough that I can get by for a bit)  For the most part I’ve been confined to the house, without the ability to do much of anything except watch TV.  I did sit outside once this week, but I had vertigo outside without anyone home, I had a very difficult time getting back inside.  I don’t think I’ll be going outside when I’m home alone any time soon.  I did ask my landlord yesterday if he would be a backup for me if I fell and needed someone and Stuart couldn’t get home, gratefully he said he would.  Of course, he also might not be available, but I’m relieved to know there is someone can call if I need it.

I think that’s enough for today.

I’ll leave you with a few photos I took yesterday of the flowers around my yard.  I miss seeing the leaves change colors, but I’m seeing a different beauty in the desert.  (most of these are Lantanas, technically a weed from Mexico.  It is very pretty and drought resistant. You will find them all over the area.  I’m thrilled to see this gorgeous native plant almost everywhere I go)

 

Mindfulness Monday – Life as it is

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“What would it be like if I could accept life

– accept this moment –

exactly as it is?”

– Tara Brach

 

“How you look at it is

pretty much how you’ll see it.”

 – Rasheed Ogunlaru

 

“Every experience,

no matter how bad it seems,

holds within it a blessing of some kind.

The goal is to find it.”

– Buddha

 

“Don’t let life harden your heart.”

 – Pema Chödrön

 

Today I searched for quotes to help me simply accept life has it is right now, and change my thought process about it all.  I promised someone recently, “Don’t worry I won’t let her steal my joy”, but by the time I said that, I realize I had already allowed that to happen.

The serenity prayer states, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.”  My biggest problem right now is that I don’t feel I have the wisdom to know the difference.   I’m spinning my wheels trying to figure out what I can change, and if I can’t change things, how can I just accept that?  What blessing do I find in it?  The greatest comfort I have right now is knowing that everything changes.  This is just a blip in my life, it will change…..right??  Please tell me it will change.  Between the stress in my personal life and the stress of politics right now, I just feel overwhelmed.

The holidays are coming up.  I was really looking forward to having the holidays with family, but it is way too complicated for me.  I’m ready to run away and hide for the next couple of months.  Anyone want to come with?

 

*photo by W. Holcombe, all rights reserved.  October Sunset in Tucson.

It’s challenging

I have no idea where to start this post.

I guess I’ll start first by apologizing for having to have Lorraine do Mindfulness Monday for me again this week (thank you Lorraine, you awesome) I have been feeling like a fraud.  I have been talking about mindfulness for a few years now and I simply haven’t been able to live the life.  My life seems out of control right now and I haven’t been able to accept that this is the way it will be and be okay with it.  My meditation practice has never been as regular as I’d like, but lately it has been non existent.  Why is it when I need this the most, I have been unable to simply let that shit go.

Living  in close proximity to family has been more stressful than I thought it would be.  We haven’t been able to help my father-in-law as much as we thought we would.  He simply wants to keep doing as much as he can in addition to caring for his wife, so he has some semblance of normalcy.  We do try to see him at least once a week, but that doesn’t seem like enough to me, and we haven’t been seeing as much of M as I thought we would.  She has no idea who we are and I’m afraid that is making her a little frustrated.  I’m not sure about that though.  She is very pleasant to be with, she talks and talks, I just wish I could hear her better.  Now that I’ve been more symptomatic, it’s hard to do much to help anyway.

My hearing loss has been much more of a challenge here than I thought it would be.  Not only do I have trouble hearing M, I can barely understand anything my niece and nephew say, and my new psychiatrist…well, let’s just say, I won’t be going there without Stuart with me to help translate.  She is very soft spoken and has an accent so she enunciates her words differently, it makes it extremely hard to read her lips.  I wish I knew sign language so I could request an interpreter.  I could request CART, but that’s really hard to set up, so it could make it very hard for me to get an appointment when needed.  I also don’t understand my headache doctor, he also has an accent, he talks fast, and really has no idea how to talk with someone who has profound hearing loss.  That kind of amazes me.  This city has a large elderly population, that means there are more people here who have late onset hearing loss, doctors should know how to communicate with us.  Oh who am I kidding, many doctors don’t know how to communicate with anyone, hearing or not.

The vertigo has gotten worse.  Ironic thing, I just received a letter saying my Medicare benefits are being reviewed, right after that my vertigo started going crazy!  When I finally got Medicare my symptoms started getting better, not immediately, gradually, but it was better.  Was it the extreme stress of feeling like a burden, and the fear that if something happened to Stuart I wouldn’t have insurance or any income, causing my vertigo to be worse?  I have no idea, all I know is that I’m having vertigo again, often, and I’m really upset about it.  I’m even using my walker again, not every day, but I’m definitely getting use out of it again.  I think buying a car was tempting fate, the last time I got a car I got worse….you can see how my mind is just spiraling.  I’m so tired.

To top it all off, I’ve been dealing with some of the worst rage episodes I’ve had in a long time.  I started taking estrogen about 2 weeks ago for menopausal symptoms, I’m thinking that could be it, but since I have Bipolar Disorder it always concerns me.  I do have a call into the doctor, let’s hope we can figure this out before I kill someone.

Speaking of my mental health, my psychiatrist had gene testing done to help determine which drugs are best for me.  The results are very interesting.  I want to share a lot of that with you, but this post is getting long, so I’ll save that for another day.  If you’d like to read more about the test I had, it’s called Genesight, here’s the link to their site.   https://genesight.com/

My back has started seizing again, the muscle spasms stop me from doing a lot of the things I’d like to.  Like baking!

But I was able to do a little celebrating for Halloween (after a complete meltdown on Halloween day, the night turned out pretty good.)

Here’s a few photos of my makeup, one from a festival we went to on Friday and the other for Halloween night to give out treats.  Halloween night wasn’t very inventive, it was the end of a very long and emotional day, so my makeup was not what I had planned.

 

I hope your Halloween was a hauntingly good time.

I’ve been having a hard time writing lately, I may be writing more journal type post, I think I need to get more of this stuff out.

 

 

Mindfulness Monday: community

“Returning hate for hate multiples hatred, adding deeper darkness to a night devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

Mother Theresa

“Embrace diversity, promote unity; create a loving and accepting community.”

Estee Levison

“In every community there is work to be done. In every nation there are wounds to heal. In every heart there is the power to do that.”

Marianne Williamson

Wendy usually posts three mindfulness quotes. Given the many events here in the US and in multiple places around our planet where war, imprisonment, starvation, fear and hate abound, I added one more.

These quotes, while not necessarily and strictly mindful in and of themselves, do speak to things we must remain mindful of: human worth, dignity and value; diversity; community; unity and forgiveness. Which leads to much-needed healing and the return of what, in some cases/places, has been lost: hope for the present, hope for the future.
Remember:

“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole Earth.”

Baha’i writings

Anger is one letter short of danger.”

Anon.

Mindfulness Monday – Thich Nhat Hanh On Fear

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When I am in need of comfort, and have a desire for knowledge, I often turn to the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh.  His words resonate with me and make me feel understood.  I hope you find his words as compelling as I do.  (Thich Nhat Hanh is often referred to as Thầy, meaning Teacher, throughout this post I will also refer to him as Thầy)

Below you will find quotes by Thích Nhất Hạnh, from his book Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm. with comments by me on how these quotes reflect my life right now and help give me peace.

 

“The only way to ease our fear and be truly happy is to acknowledge our fear and look deeply at its source. Instead of trying to escape from our fear, we can invite it up to our awareness and look at it clearly and deeply.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh

During the past week I have been having vertigo again, even though I’m feeling much better now, the fear of the possibility that things could get worse has been creeping up.  My first instinct is to run from this fear, or push it down and refuse its validity.   After reading this quote I realized how much I have been trying to escape from my fear, I now understand that I need to investigate it’s cause and think about it rationally.

“When we recognize that we have a habit of replaying old events and reacting to new events as if they were the old ones, we can begin to notice when that habit energy comes up. We can then gently remind ourselves that we have another choice. We can look at the moment as it is, a fresh moment, and leave the past for a time when we can look at it compassionately.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh

Thầy really hit the nail on the head with this one.  For the sake of this post I will only talk about what has presently caused me to replay old events – a vertigo attack.  My automatic response to this attack was a flash back to my worst days experiencing vertigo.  The many days where I could do nothing but watch the world spin were suddenly replaying themselves in my mind.  It is refreshing to know that I have another choice.  I can take this attack as it is, a singular event, it is not part of my past  (well it is now…hopefully you get what I’m saying).  What happened this week was new, yes I’ve had thousands of vertigo attacks, but this was a different one, it was not one that I had already experienced, it was new.  It’s time to let the past go, to look at that time with compassion, especially for myself.

“We are very afraid of being powerless. But we have the power to look deeply at our fears, and then fear cannot control us.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh

How liberating this quote is!  I often feel that everything in my life is out of my control, that I am powerless.  I lost so much of my independence and then got some back, the vertigo attack brought back all the times that I was so dependent on others for everything.  It’s that loss of control (power) that scares me.  Thầy teaches that we always have power over our fear, yes we will always feel fear, but if we look closely at our fears and really get to the root of it, we can then see that our fear does not control us, we control it.

 

I hope you enjoyed this variation on Mindfulness Monday, if it is well received I may do this type of post more often.  

*photo by W. Holcombe – night sky…yes it really is the moon..in Tucson.  Please do not use without permission.  All rights reserved.  ©