You and I have known each other for quite a while, 13 years to be exact. When I first met you I thought ‘wow they sound really helpful‘, but I realise now that in my naiveté I didn’t really understand you yet.
My first proper introduction to you was during my training to become a Doctor in Clinical Psychology. We had some amazing teachers come in to tell us all about you. As part of my training I was also asked to help facilitate a Mindfulness and Social Skills course. Even though I had not known you for very long, it was part of my role to help a qualified Clinical Psychologist introduce you to a group of lovely individuals struggling with various mental health difficulties. Straight away I knew I wanted you to be part of my life, professionally and personally.
Although for the most part my role was observational, given my stage of training, I also read a great deal about you from a wide range of sources. I began to integrate you into my life, doing mindfulness meditation practices at home. I was able to learn so much from not only my supervisor, but the people we were working with. I was able to see how other people saw you, with some people liking you and others not being so sure. For some it may have been you were just not right thing for them at that time. Some struggled with you; whilst others were perhaps more ready for you and able to really take on board what it is you are about.
As the years went on my training took me in different directions. I got to know a whole range of other psychological models, theories and therapies, but you never really left my side. You shaped my identity as a Clinical Psychologist and as a person and you continue to do so today.
Over the years we have met again on more occasions than I can remember. We have meditated together. We have seen the world through different eyes together. I have to admit however, you never really and truly stuck. That is until recently. I am not sure what changed exactly but I do know something. I want to now say thank you – thank you – because I think you are currently saving my life.
The ability to live in the moment as you have taught me is enabling me to live through such a difficult, life changing experience, and make the most of my life just as it is. The thing is you did not know that the person you met all those years ago would injure her spine. Neither of us knew what was to come. Following the accident I ended up with chronic widespread pain – it has been 11 years now – and living a very different life than I imagined.
The thing is, today in this moment and over the past few months, you have allowed me to stop worrying so much and living with much regret, and in doing so helped me learn to be with what is. You have helped me see the beauty in the world, the leaves on the trees, this sky, the moon, the grass, flowers – everything. You have helped me see it all with fresh new eyes, sometimes as if I had never seen before.
Yes that 20 odd-year-old that you first met was able to travel the world, visited many countries, met so many amazing people from different walks of life and got to do a magnificent range of things. The thing is it is this 38-year-old before you now that is able to see things with much clearer eyes and with much more gratitude than ever. Only able to leave the house with the help of a loved one, and not for very long; unable to walk very far or sit for any more than a few moments at a time, everything experienced is met more fully, with an awareness of the impermanence of life and with much greater appreciation with the wonder of the world.
You have helped me to develop a deeper relationship with myself, recognising all my different parts. I know that there is a great deal of life inside me and so much I can offer the world. You have given me space to be and embrace my abilities, not just despite my disability but because of them I am grateful for every breath I take. It is not always easy, far from it to be honest. As I know you understand such challenging life experiences bring a rollercoaster of emotions. That is after all what it is to be human. However, with each new breath I have the opportunity to make a new start, to try and respond to what I am experiencing rather than react, and to just be regardless.
You have allowed me to develop and experience my relationships in different ways; opening my heart to the people I am with, negotiating my friendships and my relationships in ways I may have struggled with when my life first changed. When I am with other people I try to be with them. Like everyone my thoughts frequently go in various directions, I still often wait for my opportunity to speak rather than truly listen, and I experience a whole range of complex emotions that comes with human interaction. However, I am much more aware and mindful.
Am I afraid of what my future holds? Yes! Am I afraid that my pain will get even worse and more restrictive, or that other things might happen in my life that I will not be able to cope with? Yes! When these fears come upon me, and they often do with great power, I try to recognise them as you have taught me and when I can just let them be. Breathing through the overwhelm I do my best to remember that like the weather these emotions will come and go.
One of my biggest challenges is learning that it is okay for me to be vulnerable. All of these years you have not been trying to teach me to be emotionless, you are not trying to teach me to be some kind of Zen Buddhist monk, you are not expecting me to not feel confused and lost. You are teaching me to try when I can, in a non-judgemental way, come back to the present. To lead the best life I can in every moment, including… now… now… now… now… and now… You have taught me that each moment is the only moment I have. Because of all of this you have given me the strength to share you with others in the hope that you might be able to help them too.
I wanted to say thank you for all of this. I wanted to say thank you today because I know that in the future I may forget how much you have helped me. I may be lost in despair and wonder who to turn to and this will remind me to turn back to you my old faithful. I am aware that there may come a time when you may not be able to help me.
Like in the past, it might be that I need something else for a while, something extra, perhaps something very different from you. I may need to focus more on the help I have received from the many other friends I have met along my path. I am aware you are not an omnipotent entity who can help me with everything I am faced with throughout this journey called life.
What I do know my dear old friend, is that right now you are keeping me tethered to this world.
If you have not yet have the chance to and would like to read first three blog posts of this series called A WEEK OF MINDFULNESS, you can click on the link below:
Tune back in tomorrow where I will finish a week of mindfulness with an audio recording I have made of a breathing meditation.