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:

IMG_0447

IMG_0412

photo

IMG_0170

AD390C9B-7578-4E06-BE50-4F3F354696C8

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.  

IMG_0832

 

IMG_0833

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..

IMG_0832
Mindfulness
IMG_0833
Meditation

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

Gratitude Sunday: “Hearts As One Dream Beat Award”

Gratitude

I believe everyday there is something to express gratitude for. Acknowledging and expressing thankfulness, on a daily basis, is one of the most used tools in my Healthy Living War Chest.

Through the world of Blogosphere, I have found many, many bloggers who have given me a reason to express gratitude; and because of them I add new tools to my War Chest daily.

Grateful for Award

And, today, I am grateful to Beverly at My Wonky Donkey Life for nominating me to receive the “Heart As One Drum Beat Award.”

sue-dreamwalker-drumbeat-award

The rules for passing this award along is for the recipient —

“Within their posts whether if be through Poem or Word caring for others if a must for this award.  Be through laughter or humor, photograph or story, love and compassion are mandatory.”

I say with the highest level of confidence the five nominees I have selected meet the must requirements for this award –

  • Caring for Others 
  • Love and Compassion.

For me, their

  • Humor has generated laughter,
  • Words have raised awareness, and
  • Photographs have served to bring new people, places and things into my space.

And, without further ado, my nominees for the “Hearts And One Dream Beat Award” are:

Nominees, I leave you with the words of the Award’s creator:

“Together let us beat our drums for harmony, peace, unity and equality.  Let the beat of your thoughts ripple out as we share our hearts in one beat of unity. (Sue Dreamwalker)

 

Past Memories: College Days

Introduction

Hubby and I enrolled in the University of Wisconsin-Madison as freshmen in the Fall Semester of 1969.

I was 27-years-old, Hubby was 28, and we had three children 9, 8 and 2.

I was a high school graduate.  He earned a GED, while serving in the military, after dropping out of high school in the 10th grade.

Both of us were on a mission to improve the quality of our family’s life; and, we believed earning a college degree would lead us toward fulfilling this mission.

Memories Disclosed

While I have many positive memories of my student days at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for some reason, I chose to disclose memories that have remained hidden for many years.

They were hidden in my mind because I lacked the confidence to even self-acknowledge, much less open up to others, about how the things I am sharing today made me feel.

In the late 1960s, we stood out in our new roles as freshman college students.  And, sadly, I felt uncomfortable.  My classes were filled with students in their late teens and early twenties.

I felt “less than” and “different than” these college students.  They were young and single with recent educational experiences.  While I was older, married, with three kids; and, I hadn’t been in a classroom for more than nine years.

Another “less than” and “different than” experience, which was personally embarrassing, happened when Hubby and I attended a freshman event on campus; and, the reporter covering the event walked over to Hubby and sarcastically asked, “Aren’t you a little old for this.”   

Hubby, responded, sarcastically saying, “You’re never to old to follow your dream.”

Today, if asked the same question, rather than being embarrassed, I would say, We are here to provide our three children with a better life. “

Another “less than” college memory was when, during my first semester, I had to drop out of both Spanish 101 and French 101 within the first several weeks.  Even though I tried, it was impossible, to keep up with students who had just finished taking high school classes in these languages.

But, I needed the required foreign language credits to graduate.  Thinking I could manage a class where my foreign language skills (none) were comparable to the other students, I decided to try an African language.  Classes were offered in the University’s African Studies Department; and, I was able to satisfy my foreign language requirements by taking classes in Swahili, Xhosa and Hausa.

Several of the faculty members, in the department, impressed with my academic performance encouraged me to apply to the school’s PH.D program.

I thought my life had opened up to a wide-range of career possibilities.  But, the optimism didn’t last long when friends and family members cited a number of reasons why this wasn’t a realistic choice.  So, I walked away feeling “less than.”

Thankfully, I have reached a point in life where I am no longer controlled, embarrassed or intimidated when confronted with “less than” or “different than” comments made by others.

After two life-threatening illnesses, breast cancer and epiglottitis which occurred in 2008 and 2010 respectively, I went on a self-awareness, self-empowerment and self-love journey.

The longer I stay on this path , the easier it is to “let go” and discard the unnecessary baggage of “not good enough,” “unworthy,” and  “unlovable” which  controlled my life from early childhood.

Closing

Despite my struggles, we fulfilled our educational dreams:

  • Hubby earned his Bachelors and Masters of Science Degrees;
  • I earned a Bachelors of Science Degree
  • Our eldest daughter, who was 9-years-old when Hubby and I enrolled as freshmen, earned her Medical Degree;
  • Our youngster daughter earned her Bachelor’s in Business Administration and Law Degree; and
  • Our youngest grandson enrolled as a freshman, Fall of 2014.

In this season of life, I live with the awareness that my “today is better than yesterday.

 

Gratitude Sunday – October 19, 2014

Grateful for Photos:  College Memories

Several week ago, my friend, The Librarian, sent photos of several of my most remembered buildings and places at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I spent my days, 1969-73, as student.

Today, I am grateful to The Librarian for sharing these photos, not only for the past memories, but for opening up my space to write, “Past Memories:  College Days;”, which, I will post on Monday, October 20.

Each of these photos bring back different memories.

The Red Gym. Every semester, I waited hour-after-hour standing in long lines with thousands of other students to register for my new semester classes.

photo 1

 

Bascom Hall.  This is the buildings where I took a number of my classes.  I remember, many times, walking from the Red Gym up the hill to Bascom Hall only to learn the class I registered for was no longer available.  This required trekking back down to the Red Gym to find another.  Then, backup to Bascom Hall to confirm the class.   The walk up to Bascom Hall, which was located on top of the highest hills on campus, was a workout.  Today, I am Thankful for the daily uphill walks to Bascom Hall, which caused me to give up smoking.  I couldn’t handle both.

photo 2

 

Old University Hospital.  Fortunately, we were young and healthy, so routine family physical exams were the only times that I had to enter this building.   There is a new hospital on campus now; and this building now houses the UW Medical School.  But, even though I didn’t know it had the time, the building will always hold a special memory for me.  Our eldest daughter, a 9-year-old when we enrolled as freshmen students, attended classes in this building and graduated with her medical degree in 1985.

WisconsinGeneral

 

The Ratskellar.  This is where the students gathered to socialize and grab a meal.  We spent our rare Family Date Nights there.  Hubby and I with a tap beer and the kids enjoying the best ice cream I have ever tasted.  Oh, and I can’t forget the free bowls of popcorn which continuously popped throughout the evening.  There were other times, after an evening class or hours spent studying at the Library, Hubby and I would end the night with tap beer and popcorn.  I just recalled that the first time that I drank beer from the tap was at the Ratskeller.

 

photo 2

 

Eagle Heights.  This was the married student housing on campus.  We lived there for four years.  The housing was restricted to graduate students and their families.  How we ended up there.  Hubby, being unaware of this restriction, applied for housing.  He used our student advisor’s name as a reference, which unbeknownst to us, also was the name of the Chair of the Business School.  We later learned that Graduate Business School students received preferential treatment.  Why, I am not certain.  The good news is that when they finally discovered their mistake, we were never asked to move.  Looking back, I can see how the mistake was made.  We didn’t, meet the freshman student profile — 18-year-old and single.  Instead our family met the profile of a graduate student — late twenties with three children.

photo 1

Again, so grateful to The Librarian for taking the time to shoot these photos and share them with me.

Finally, Expressing gratitude is healthy for my mind, body, and spirit.

Why I Choose to Live Beyond 75

One day last week, I had to stop, listen and process an interview on one of the cable news stations.

I was shocked!!  Why, was Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel saying he wanted to die at 75?

It was unbelievable.  And I asked Hubby, “was that the same Dr. Emanuel who shows up on so many national news programs speaking as an expert on health related issues, especially, the Affordable Health Care Act.”  He said, “yes, but didn’t recall the details.”

Because we both missed most of the interview, I wanted to learn more.  So, I went to my IPad and googled, “why I want to die at 75 Ezekiel Emanuel.”  My friend, Google, found a lengthy article featured in the September 2014 issue of The Atlantic written by Dr. Emanuel.  

Why I Want To Die at 75:  Ezekiel J. Emanuel, M.D.

“I am sure of my position.  Doubtless, death is a loss.  It deprives us of experiences and milestones, of time spent with our spouse and children.  In short, it deprives us of all the things we value.

But, here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist:  living too long is also a loss.  It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived.  It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world.  It transforms how people experience us, and most important, remember us.  We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.”

Dr. Emanuel is a healthy 57-year-old and does not plan to end his life at 75 either by assisted-suicide or euthanasia.  But, he does say, “At 75 and beyond, I will need a good reason to even visit the doctor and take any medical test or treatment, no matter how routine and painless.  And that good reason is not — ‘it will prolong your life.'”

He also contends that in America we are so focused on doing things “like exercise, strict dieting, popping vitamins, etc., in an effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible.  This has become so pervasive that it now defines a culture type – what I call the American Immortal.”

Why I Choose to Live Beyond 75

Dr. Emanuel says he only wants to live until the age of 75; and, I respect his right to make this choice.  But, two years from now, if I reach the age of 75, I will continue to make healthy lifestyle choices.  These choices will be made not to prolong life, but to live life to the fullest.

While physical ailments, dementia, feebleness, memory, problem solving and other health conditions, relating to the aging process, may occur; I believe, forecasting what may happen in my future, inhibits my ability to live authentically in the present moment.

Today, I am a relatively healthy, 72-year-old with several manageable chronic illnesses.  In 2008, at the age of 66, I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer.  Dr. Emanuel contends if he were diagnosed with cancer, after the age of 60, he would refuse treatment.  Again, I respect his right to make that decision.  But, I chose treatment.

And, over the past six years, I have been gifted with being in the present moment when my:

  • eldest grandson graduated from college
  • eldest granddaughter graduated from high school;
  • eldest grandson graduated from high school;
  • youngest grandson, graduated from middle school; and,
  • youngest granddaughter’s birth seven months after my 2008 breast cancer diagnosis.

Had I elected not to pursue treatment, I possibly would not have lived to see these major family milestones.

Additionally, beyond family milestones, I would have never witnessed the election of America’s first African-American President.  Something that I never expected would happen in my lifetime.

So, if I continue to be blessed with sound mind and body, I plan on being an active participant in managing my aging process beyond age 75.

And, I will not:

  • wait for death;
  • refuse medical treatment; or
  • accept that living a quality life ends at 75.

But, in addition to as-needed medical care, I will continue to manage my aging process by:

  • Being Positive
  • Practicing Forgiveness
  • Staying Physical
  • Embracing Family and Friends
  • Loving Me
  • Performing Random Acts of Kinds
  • Living A Spiritual Life
  • Trying New Things
  • Exploring New Places
  • Blogging About My Memories, Life Experiences and Random Thoughts

Rather than attempting to “cheat or prolong life” I choose to live life to the fullest until God guides me down a different path.