Blogging Mindfully

If I blogger deletes a post draft, can they still learn from it?

One of the bits of guidance often given to new meditators, particularly those working through Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (or, like me, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is that whenever you feel the urge to talk to someone about meditation, you should shut up and go meditate.

Which makes for really lousy blog posts.

But I think the spirit of that advice is that it’s better to be mindful and meditate than it is to talk about it. And it’s easy to fall into the trap of talking more about meditation than actually DOING meditation.

That said, I think there’s something gained from reflection as well. (This is not me arguing with Dr. Kabat-Zinn. This is me being a blogger and liking expressing thoughts in writing.)

I’m not very good at meditating though. In the last year that I’ve been working through this therapy and mental-process-adjustment, I’ve not attained any sort of amazing breakthroughs. In fact, about the only thing I’ve attained is better awareness of how my brain works – watching your thoughts can be a pretty amazing experience, especially when you deal with TraumaBrain and other vestiges of mental illness.

That awareness DOES help with self-compassion though. It’s a learning process, and my mental judge is … extremely vocal. And not keen on shutting up. But slowly through the meditation practice (and it is a practice), I’ve learned to be at least aware of my self-judgment more than I used to be, and being aware of that mental voice lets me be more kind to myself about how my brain functions.

It’s all about little victories, and small steps in the right direction. I’ve had to work on accepting wherever I am on a given day, accepting what kind of focus I have or don’t have, and just being mindful and kind in this moment. The Gurus say there’s no such thing as bad meditation – only today’s meditation. I’m still working on taking their word for it.

And really, meditation is not easy, but it’s also so very simple it’s frustrating how hard it can be. (That’s a confusing sentence.)

I really encourage giving it a try though, just for a few minutes, if you find yourself in a stressful situation. Ok, WHEN you find yourself in a stressful situation.

Try the following (done easily in a desk chair, in the parking lot, in the bathroom, wherever):

Stop what you’re doing, sit back comfortably (straight spine, but not forced), and take three slow, deep breaths. With each breath think to yourself “Breathing in, I see myself at peace” and “Breathing out, I am relaxed” – that’ll give your mind something to chew on while the oxygen gets to your brain and slows down your central nervous system.

I keep a post it note on my computer that says “Stop. Breathe. Be here now.” to help me remember to ground myself in this present moment and slow down. Bad and stressful things are usually related to worry about the future or fretting about the past – very rarely is there a problem in THIS exact moment. (Even, or especially, worry about money. For the next 2 minutes, you can let go of worries about money.)

Even just little snippets of meditation, little snippets of being truly HERE in the present moment, can make a big difference. You’ll slow down your nerves, be more alert and refreshed, and be better able to handle the stresses of life. Think of them as fun-size Mindful Moments – just the right size for a mid-day stress-relieving mental snack.

And now, since I’ve talked the talk for 650 words or so on the subject of meditation, it’s time for me to go walk the walk.

Or sit the sit, as the case may be.

What I’m not eating anymore

Food is such a weird subject sometimes. It’s hard to keep what you’re eating straight most of the time, between all the pseudo news science and fad diets, organic versus local versus whatever you can afford, food allergies and new labels and what the hell is a Xanthan anyway, and why is it gummy?

Labels on food have been kind of eyeroll-inducing for awhile, but it seems to be getting worse lately. I’ve seen trans-fat free labels on blueberries and fat free stickers on bananas, gluten free vegetables – and that’s just the produce department. Packaged foods are now telling me how many grams of whole grain are in them, even going so far as to sell sweetened, packaged, enriched bleached flour children’s cereal as “part of a healthy breakfast” because they have “whole grains”.

So perhaps it’s not so strange that I’d eyeroll at all those labels and ignore them, cracking it all up to food fads and secretly making sarcastic remarks in my head.

(This is where I’d do a cool segue if I could think of one, and it would be sophisticated and thoughtful and you’d all love me for my transitional abilities. But I can’t think of one. So.

Segues are for suckers.)

Approximately one week ago, I finally got something resembling a diagnosis for my chronic pain, fatigue, and other issues. One of those issues is a tummy issue, and I’ll avoid TMI’ing you overmuch, but let’s just say that my system worked overtime, all the time, and I’d be running to the bathroom 4-6 times a day on a normal day. Which is pretty disrupting, all things considered, especially when you can’t move very fast because your joints hurt.

SO.

Doctor put me on new medication, told me I have to swim several times a week, gave me a bunch of activity restrictions… and told me to go gluten free for 3 months.

Three months, no gluten AT ALL. Not “a little bit every now and then”. Not “if you feel better you can cheat a little”.

None.

I woke up last Thursday morning and went through my pantry, trying to figure out what I could eat. I literally had NO IDEA where to start. Even as someone who eats a lot of whole foods, I couldn’t eat any of my breakfast staples – no oatmeal, no granola bars, no cereal, no multi-grain muffins.

I ended up eating a banana and an egg.

Friday, I went grocery shopping, and I found myself feeling kind of like an asshole about rolling my eyes at the gluten free labels.

Maybe not on the strawberries (no duh?), but on packaged goods? All of a sudden I was floundering like an idiot, thrown head first into this exclusion diet where nearly every packaged item we eat contains gluten (anything with soy sauce, anything with MSG, anything with maltodextrin or malt sweeteners, anything that uses a food starch anti-caking agent for those anonymous “spices”).

Those “Gluten Free!” labels became a little lifeline, a little sanity break that meant I didn’t have to grill my brain to remember which of the various ingredients might have gluten, or be processed in such a way as to be easily contaminated with gluten (like white vinegar).

So far I’m not sure what to think of eating gluten free. It’s a huge mental process, and I seem to vacillate between “I can do this”, “I will never be able to eat anything again”, and “Why am I bothering?”

I definitely don’t roll my eyes at the Gluten Free labels anymore.

Though I do still make snide remarks in my head about trans-fat free blueberries…