Mindfulness = To “Pay attention on purpose.” -pg. 47
I have to say something first.
Why do I say this?
As you might imagine, in my (somewhat substantial) lifetime, I have picked up many books on the subject. Almost all have been talked about here. Most are fine… some are darned good… and one or two stand out as excellent. This one is among the small “excellent” group as it pulls mindfulness into the mix.
As an aside that’s not really an aside: This is 2022: Year of Mindfulness.
I picked up this book – with a meditation CD in the back, for crying out loud! – at a used book store. Short digression: I’ve actually grown quite picky about used books lately. I found a booger on a book I brought home not long ago – and it was a big one that held pages together (barf!). But this book was in near-new shape and it called to me, not just for my blog but for ME, personally.
This book spoke to me from the shelf and it speaks to me through its pages. It’s as if it knows me.
This quote jumped out first:
“We think the situation itself caused our emotional and physical reaction when in fact it was our interpretation of the situation.” – pg. 21
I am a ruminator from way back. A navel-gazer. I over-think to the point of … confusion, dizziness, and finally paralyzation. Some of it may be (is probably) tied to anxiety. It starts small and grows… only in my head… and sometimes… it’s about something that hasn’t actually happened.
I have a story about that: I was going to see my family (in California) in 2013 and for some reason, was late renewing my passport. Because of my oversight, I had to go to an early-morning appointment at the American Consulate in Toronto to renew it in person before my trip. All my ducks were in a row. Or at least, I thought so. Because… as I was going over my paperwork once again, I noticed a paragraph I had somehow missed. It said I needed to bring an envelope with a certain type of postage that needed to be purchased directly from the post office. It was the night before the appointment – 8:40pm to be exact. Our local pharmacy has a post office in the back and we rushed over. We arrived at 8:54pm, four minutes ‘til closing. I got the envelope and breathed a sigh of relief. HAHAHA. Not really. What happened is this: I got the envelope and all the way out of the store I said to my husband, “OMG. Do you realize how close I was to blowing this whole thing? I would have had to reschedule my vacation time, cancel my tickets, try to get a refund – and you know how hard that is! – and miss seeing my kids this year!!!!!!!” I was in near-tears, repeating this horror story… THAT NEVER HAPPENED.
But this is how my mind goes. It was *my interpretation* of the events that sent me into a tailspin.
“The problem is we try to think our way out of our moods by working out what’s gone wrong.” – pg. 40
Next up: Think and think and think. And think some more!
The very act of thinking brings up the past and the future – never the now!
I have another story… about something that just happened today, as I was writing. What you need to know is that I had a mammogram last week. These are a source of pain for many reasons, not the least of which is my legitimate fear, since my mother once had breast cancer. I also have health anxiety, as you know… which I am learning ties in with my lifelong asthma and the propensity towards general anxiety and depression. Tied together, it makes for a heavy package to carry. I’m working on it.
So, I know the clinic will call if there’s a problem or send a letter if you’re clear. Over the last 15 years, I’ve been called back at least six times, once while I was driving home from having just had a mammogram – it was before I had a cell phone and I didn’t get the call until I got home. You can imagine how freaked out I was! Surely, it had to be VERY SERIOUS to call so soon. Could have been. Wasn’t, as it turned out. Other times, I was called as long as two weeks after. That felt less serious, though I still had to come back for more tests, which in itself felt very serious.
Two years ago, I got the letter. For weeks after, whenever I’d think about it, I’d have to remind myself that I was okay. “Oh yeah,” I’d say to myself, “I got the letter.”
Because of the pandemic, this test was running late, which creates its own concerns. I was very nervous going in… but I tried to rise above. But gotta tell ya, for the last several days I told myself – whenever I’d think of it – that I need to let things play out as they will. Quit ruminating. Quit worrying.
The call came today, as I was writing this post. My phone rang. I saw the hospital on the display.
I tried to remain calm but could feel the tears forming, fumbled, couldn’t find a pen, told her I was nervous, she said it’s okay, try not to panic, they call people back all the time “just to make sure”, blah, blah, friendly friendly, where the f-word is that PEN?
An appointment was made for two weeks from now, put it in my calendar, told my husband… stomach firmly thudded at my feet.
And then, I looked over at this book that I am writing about ****right now**** and thought… dang, Sher, mindful much? Because how many times has this happened before… and even if it were something… I’d get through it… or not… it’s just life.
I honestly laughed a little.
You can see (read) how things spiral.
I was typing with my fingers but my mind was in a zillion places.
So, I went to the list on page 222 in the book…
- When possible, do just one thing at a time.
- Pay full attention to what you are doing.
- When the mind wanders from what you are doing, bring it back.
- Repeat step number 3 several billion times.
- Investigate your distractions.
What am I doing right now? Writing this post. The part about my mammogram is over so STOP THINKING ABOUT IT.
So, after the initial chapters on what constitutes depression (anxiety and chronic unhappiness), the rest of the book delves into how to BE mindful. It is as simple as the list above and as encompassing as the chapters that surround it – about breathwork, body scanning, yoga, and whatever it takes to get you to a state of mindfulness, which will in turn alleviate your depression and anxiety. It’s almost impossible to stay mired when you’re concentrating on *this moment in time*.
As mentioned before, there’s also a CD in the back of meditations that follow the precepts of the book, narrated by Kabat-Zinn, who is kinda famous for his meditations. (I’ve written about a couple of his books HERE.)
All-in-all, this is a perfect book, in my opinion. It has everything you’ll need to get into a life of mindfulness. Now… doing it?… that’s up to you (and me)!