Freedom Friday – Mindfulness and Meditation Practice

Getting better, but MY INTENTIONS do not always get MY ATTENTION.

Three weeks ago, I committed to writing a weekly post for Freedom Friday, hosted by imaniking, to document my 8-Week journey toward managing and controlling a long-term chronic pain condition through Mindfulness and Meditation Practices.

I successfully completed and posted for Week 1.  Even though, I did the reading and meditation/mindfulness practices for Week 2; I will do a repeat and write a post about this experience on Friday, July 17.

Instead of Mindfulness and Meditation Practices, I gave full ATTENTION to family and friends during my mini-vacation to Wisconsin for five days.  Everyday, I met face-to-face with friends and family that I, usually, communicate with via E-Mail, Facebook, or telephone.

While I love my new life, as a retiree in Florida, I miss the personal connection with the special people in my life.  I enjoyed being with them to:

  1. see their smile,
  2. watch their body language, and
  3. listen quietly while looking into their eyes.

But, the highlight of the vacation was being in the presence of family and friends at our Annual Summer Family/Friend Gathering.

(Photography Credits to Friends, Jane and Cebby)

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Cupcake said, “Let’s Get This Party Started.”
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Three-Legged Race
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Water Balloon Toss
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The Golfers said, “Let’s Get A Little Putting In.”
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The Young Men said, “Let’s Shoot a Couple of Hoops.”
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Avi said, “Look At My Moves.”
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Cupcake, Kertagje and George said, “We Got This Dance Down.”
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Avi said, “I Won A Medal.”
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Lyric said, “Forget the Bouncie House, Watch My Somersault.”
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SeasonedSistah2 said, “Talking with Family and Loving It.”
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Hubby (White Shirt) said, “Having a Great Time with Family and Friends.”
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Damien said, “I Had Fun, But It’s Time to End This Party.”
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CJ said, “I Am Tired and Damien is Right, It’ Time to Rest Up for the Fireworks Tonight.”

 

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.  

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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..

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Mindfulness
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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

My Blogging Hiatus Experience

In an opening scene of the 2013 TV series, Revenge, “Emily Thorne says:

“They say the best-laid plans often go awry.  Because no matter how detailed the preparation, a plan will always have a WEAK SPOT…..”

Blogging Hiatus Plan

In anticipation of our two granddaughters visiting over spring break and Hubby and I celebrated our 55th Wedding Anniversary, I went on a 3+ week blogging hiatus.  I devoted the first week to scheduling and organizing:

  • exciting activities for the granddaughters during their seven-day visit; and
  • interesting places for Hubby and I to visit over our four-day mini vacation.

“Weak Spot”

Days before the grands arrived, Hubby’s trigeminal nerve pain flared-up.  He has lived with this condition for more than five years and the pain usually resolves on its own. But, in the last six months he has undergone several outpatient surgical procedures with only temporary relief.

Hubby’s severe pain flare-up was the “weak spot” in my family planned activities during this “blogging hiatus”.

Self-Trust

Rather than push the panic button when my “hiatus plans” hit a “weak spot”, I went to a space of stillness, quiet, and mindful breathing.  In silence, Self-Trust emerged and I was able to re-direct and focus on creating a new plan, which gave me the Self-Confidence to:

  • Stretch – I went outside of my comfort-zone to overcome a long-time fear of driving on two-lane highways, tollways and interstate highways. When faced with the choice whether to disappoint our granddaughters or overcome my fears, it was a no-brainer.  The granddaughters left eleven days ago and since that time I drive, solo, all over the City of Orlando and its suburbs.  Getting to places where I like to go, without bugging Hubby, and enjoying every moment of this newfound freedom.
  • Let Go of the planned mini-vacation until Hubby’s pain condition is under control.  Instead, I spent time reading, exploring, learning and relaxing.

Blogging Hiatus Experience

Through this “blogging hiatus experience”, Self-Trust emerged and strengthened my:

  • Self-Esteem to step outside of my comfort zone;
  • Inner Strength to move beyond the “weak spots” that cross my path; and
  • Self-Confidence to rely on my “inner voice.”

 

 

 

Handbook for Life

While purging files last week, trying to declutter my office space; I, came across the Handbook for Life (author unknown).  A breast cancer support group friend sent it to me several years ago.

Rather than filing this document again and sending it back into hiding for another two years, remaining unseen until the next filing purge, I chose to share the 39 tips in this post.

After the last tip, I give an honest assessment of where My Life is in relation to the four categories presented in the handbook:  (1) Health, (2) Personality, (3) Society, and (4) Life.

Handbook for Life

Health

  1. Drink plenty of water.
  2. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar.
  3. Eat more food that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.
  4. Live with the 3 E’s — Energy, Enthusiasm and Empathy.
  5. Make time to pray.
  6. Play more games.
  7. Read more books than you did last year.
  8. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day — Meditate.
  9. Sleep for at least 7 hours.
  10. Take a 10-30 minute walk daily.  And while you walk, smile.

Personality

  1. Don’t compare your life to others.  You have no idea what their journey is all about.
  2. Don’t have negative thoughts or things you cannot control.  Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.
  3. Don’t overdo it.  Keep your limits.
  4. Don’t take yourself so seriously.  No one else does.
  5. Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip.
  6. Dream more while you are awake.
  7. Envy is a waste of time.  You already have all you need.
  8. Forget issues of the past. Don’t remind your partner of his/her mistakes of the past.  That will ruin your present happiness.
  9. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.  Don’t hate others.
  10. Make peace with your past so it won’t spoil the present.
  11. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
  12. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn.  PROBLEMS ARE SIMPLY PART OF THE CURRICULUM THAT APPEAR AND FADE AWAY LIKE ALGEBRA CLASS BUT THE LESSONS YOU LEARN WILL LAST A LIFETIME.
  13. Smile and laugh more.
  14. You don’t have to win every argument.  Agree to disagree.

Society

  1. Call your family often.
  2. Each day give something good to others.
  3. Forgive everyone of everything.
  4. Spend time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of 6.
  5. Try to make a least three people smile each day.
  6. What other people think of you is none of your business.
  7. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick  Your friends will.  Stay in touch.

Life

  1. Do the right thing!
  2. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.
  3. God heals everything.
  4. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
  5. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.
  6. The best is yet to come.
  7. When you awake in the morning, Thank God for it.
  8. Your Inner Most is always happy.  So be happy.

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My Life in Relation to the 39 Healthy Living Tips

Of the 10 tips related to Health, I gave a positive response to 8 out of 10.

I didn’t fare as well with Personality, of the 14 tips, 9 still are a part of my life.  In this area, I continue as a work-in-progress.  But, less than five years ago, I lived with the negative thoughts and behaviors cited in all the 14 tips.

Of the 7 Society tips, I have overcome 5 and 2 still remain.

Only 1 negative remains of the 8 Life tips, I live peacefully with the remaining 7 positive thoughts.

Finally,

  • responding to the statements in the Handbook for Life;
  • acknowledging the negatives in my life; and,
  • establishing a plan to reduce and/or eliminate my negative behaviors

brings me closer to living life to its fullest with a healthy mind, body and spirit.

 

 

 

Gratitude Sunday – September 28, 2014

My Rocking Chair

Yesterday, Fed Ex delivered the cushion for my recently purchased rocking chair.

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Soon lower temperatures will arrive in Florida.  And, I look forward to the upcoming days of rocking in STILLNESS and QUIET as I look within for peace, love, and happiness.  And, I AM GRATEFUL.

More and more, my life is expanding toward showing respect, expressing love, and performing acts of kindness to those whose path I cross.  And, I AM GRATEFUL. 

 

Tenney Park: Sad and Happy Memories

The Photos

A long-time friend, sent me an e-mail with the attached photo:

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She took the photo early one morning, on her long, long walk to her job at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Getting to work is not the only reason for her early morning walks.  She also uses this time to meditate and felt this might be an option for me.  Something to consider.  But, for now, I plan to sit on the lanai at 5:00 a.m. with the fans swirling overhead, to meditate until the weather cools down in Florida.

Let me move from walking and meditating to the photo.  Having lived in Madison for more than thirty-five years, I emailed and asked, “What Lake — Monona or Mendota?”

She didn’t answer, but sent the following photos.  Then, I knew the answer – Lake Mendota.

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TenneyParkLocks

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Summers 1970 – 1973

I remember, the summer afternoons, spent with our three children, in this park and on that beach.  It was many, many years ago; and, I have Sad and Happy Memories

Hubby and I were both full-time students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  We were living, I am certain, below the poverty level for a family of five  (GI Bill, student loans/grants, and Hubby’s part-time jobs).

Sad Memories:

Mentally, I allowed worrisome and non-productive thoughts to enter my space; and this disengaged me from spending quality time with my family.  Unanswerable questions controlled my thoughts.  Like, WHAT IF —

  • We made a mistake by returning to college at our age?
  • We can’t find a job after graduation?
  • Hubby can’t find another part-time job when this one ends?
  • We can’t pay back the student loans?

Sadly, my WHAT IF questions were continuous and endless.  And, regretfully, I was not able to enjoy and embrace what was happening in the present moment during this period of my life.

Happy Memories

Even though I was not always in the present moment during these summer days, I know our children enjoyed the time we spent at Tenney Park.

Regardless of the WHAT IFs, I have many Happy Memories of those sunny afternoons, sitting quietly, and watching our Happy children — wading in the lake, creating in the sand, and playing in the park.

Hubby joined us for dinner at the end of his work day.  Tenney Park was our evening dining place during the summer.  And, we had some of our best times and meals there.  Most days, I cooked something on our portable grill.  And, occasionally we had enough money to treat the kids with pizza or burgers from a fast food restaurant.

Happy, that today, I am learning to:

  • Let go of the past;
  • Live in the present moment; and
  • Accept what may happen in the future.

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Postscript – Thank You to Two Special Friends

The Librarian, for the photos in this post.

Cupcake, for the photos taken in an earlier post, “July Vacation Days:  Happiness in the Presence of Children.”   (Special Note:  We share a beautiful granddaughter, Little Cupcake.)

 

August 2014: Mother-Daughter Vacation in Martha’s Vineyard

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Chronic Pain flare-up

Despite the fact that weeks before this scheduled trip, I was dealing with a pain flare-up in the right knee; I was going on the annual Mother-Daughter Vacation in Martha’s Vineyard.

I have struggled with chronic pain since 1993 related to diagnosed conditions of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyaglia.  Over the years, I developed various self-management tools to control the pain levels.  However, my bone-on-bone knee pain needed either an injection or surgery.  And, neither was available before this vacation.

Since there was nothing I could do to make the “Pain Go Away”, my only option was to “Grin and Bare It” 

Wheelchair Transport Through the Airports

Since Hubby was not going, he ordered a wheelchair to transport me through the Orlando Airport.  This is a long walk through one terminal, a short train ride, and a longer walk through a second terminal.  Trust me the need for a wheelchair was the topic of more than one discussion in the days leading up to my departure.   Finally, I gave in.

My son picked me up at the Milwaukee Airport and we were off to meet-up with the daughters.  After the traditional hugs and kisses, they said, “Mama, you are limping.”  While the limp was noticeable, I am certain Hubby had telephoned with his concerns.

After discussing the pros and my cons of a wheelchair; I lost and they ordered one for the next leg of my trip.

When I arrived in Milwaukee, I was an “Unhappy Wheelchair Traveler”;  but, I left as the “Grumpy Wheelchair Traveler” as my 14-year-old grandson pushed me through the Milwaukee and Boston Airports.

Was it not just a few years ago that he depended on me to push him around in his stroller?  I was not ready for this.

Having someone push me around in a wheelchair was not a pleasant experience; and, I felt —

  • Stressed
  • Powerless
  • Depressed
  • Angry
  • Embarrassed

The Airline Flight

On the airplane and seated comfortably; I closed my eyes, breathed deeply, and let go of the negativity.

Through Self-Talk, Self-Awareness and Self-Acceptance; I embraced and accepted the gift of wheelchair transports from my hubby, son, two daughters and grandson.

No longer did I feel —

  • Stressed, I enjoyed Relaxing
  • Powerless, I gained Power
  • Depressed, I discovered Peace
  • Angry, I achieved Happiness
  • Embarrassed,  I reflected Pride

 A Few of My Favorite Mother-Daughter Vacation Photos – 2014

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The 14-Year-Old Grandson, CJ with His Friend – Lunch on the Ferry
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The Ferry Deck
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First Night. First Order of Business – Glass of Wine
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My Play Daughter from Another Mother, My Youngest Daughter, and Their Two Boys Playing Monopoly on a Rainy Day
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The Moms Won
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Could This Be The Reason The Moms Won At Monopoly? IPhones, IPADS, Laptops, X-Boxes, etc.? I’m Just Saying!!
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Main Street – Downtown Oak Bluff
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Oak Bluff Pier
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Love The Old Vintage Homes on Main Street – Downtown Oak Bluff – Facing the Atlantic Ocean
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Lunch on The Upper Deck of Nancy’s Seafood with Grandson, Two of His Friends and the Daughters
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Surprise from The Daughters – My Favorite Appetizer Before the Crab Leg, Lobster and Shrimp Boil
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The Grandson CJ – Adding Crab Legs to the Boil
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It’s Crab Boil Night – Because CJ Hates Seafood, He Had A Burrito. His Friend Enjoyed the Crab Let Boil and the Burrito.
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Relaxing and Sitting on The Oak Bluff Pier
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Look Up In The Sky – Air Force Helicopters Flying Over Prior to The President’s Vacation Visit in The Next Several Days.
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Beautiful Sunset View Sitting on The Front Porch
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Last Night. Busy Week. Grandson Massaging Mom’s Feet. He Is Special!!!
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Goodbye Rental House – See You In August 2015

RETIRED AND LOVING EVERY MOMENT

funny_retirement_cards-rb9d378b9963943e38638cde869b6a69c_xvuat_8byvr_512 I retired in 2010. Mind you, it was not a planned retirement. Just the opposite, MY goal was to work until MY mind and MY body deteriorated to a point, which made it impossible to continue working. But things happen.

In 2010, after surviving a life-threatening illness, Hubby and I decided retire and move to Florida. Leaving our:

  • family owned business that we had nurtured for more than sixteen years;
  • three children who were also our co-workers;
  • four grandchildren who spent a lot of time with us; and
  • extended family and friends that we had known for many years.

Four years later I can honestly say, “there are no regrets”. I entered a whole new world as a retiree. And, traveling through the first four years has been both exciting and enlightening.  On this new journey, I made many stops along the way.

I undertook new challenges; and, the old fears of “stepping outside of MY comfort zone” disappeared.   The inquisitive mind appeared, which had been latent for far too many years.

This inquisitive mind led ME to:

  • Yoga Classes
  • Aqua Zumba
  • Daily Meditations
  • Daily Affirmations
  • Blogging
  • Facebook
  • Texting
  • Container Gardening (flowers, herbs and vegetables)
  • Journaling
  • On-line Church Services
  • Bible Study

These new activities improved the QUALITY OF MY LIFEspiritually, emotionally, and physically. Most days, serenity and tranquility are present. On those rare days when they take a break, I still express gratitude and thankfulness. For I believe, in every day, there is something that we can be grateful and thankful for.

Since retiring, MY life is filled with peace, joy and happiness. I

  • welcome every moment,
  • embrace every moment, and
  • live every moment.

lifeisgood