Meditation Journal

I thought I would post some reflections on my attempts meditating in the last couple of weeks. So far, I’ve been able to meditate every day (except weekends), which is the longest period of time I have ever been able to keep it up. I’ve noticed a few subtle changes in that time. I was definitely able to focus on my breath without getting distracted for up to a few minutes. This is pretty good for me, because I am always jumping around to different thoughts in my mind. I think I was able to notice intervening thoughts more quickly, like evaluations of how I was doing, or thoughts about the past or future. When I notice them, though, I still have to work on just noting the content of the thought and then escorting my attention back to the breath, without being judgey on getting distracted the first place. The thoughts I find most slippery are thoughts about meditating while I am meditating – like thoughts about making a nice meditation corner in my apartment, thoughts about building my practice into a lifelong habit, thoughts about becoming less stressed and more Zen, etc. Of course, none of those nice things is going to happen if I’m thinking about them instead of actually meditating!

I like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s explanation on his disk (meditation for pain) – that meditation is a journey exploring yourself and your relationship to pain, with no destinations promised, such as ending up having less pain or becoming enlightened. Dr. Jackie Gardner-Nix promises more – less stress and reduced pain. I think that Dr. Jackie is probably trying to give hope to chronic pain patients, as well as feels supported by recent research, whereas Kabat-Zinn is coming from a more traditional meditation background which emphasizes nonattachment and impermanence/changeability. I think both perspectives give a good balance; the first gives you hope and reason to keep practicing, while the second reminds you that being judgmental or frustrated, because you aren’t where you want to be yet, defeats the purpose of the exercise. I think that over the last two weeks I got better at understanding that each day is different and that I can’t expect a certain result every time I meditate.

One of the phrases on my guided meditation track asks you to reflect on “accepting being in the here and now”. While I was meditating last week, I found a strong internal resistance to those words. When I looked around my living room, I felt sad and resigned to be there, then. I realized that these feelings came up because I feel unhappy with my current lot – being at home, on disability, without any concrete plans for the future. This week I made more of an effort to get out and spend my time doing the things that I enjoy. I went to an interesting talk at the library, watched lectures from my online course at a café, and went for lunch with my godmother (this is part of my philosophy of living like I am a retiree – don’t people wait all their lives for time to pursue their hobbies?). Then I had another, more interesting, revelation: I have been feeling guilty for enjoying my life again. Remember the superwoman overachiever tendencies? Part of me thinks that, until I have ‘solved’ the problem of my fibromyalgia, I have no right to have fun. Wouldn’t that be tantamount to shirking my responsibilities as a grown-up, and flaking out on life?

Wow, writing that down makes it seem even more crazy. It seems obvious that it would be hard to heal if I keep pulling myself down into a pit of despondency. So, this week I’ve been challenging that voice by saying that my life is pretty good, actually, thank you very much!

Mentally Mindful


In the past two weeks I finally moved into my new apartment and it is starting to feel like home. The silence and the space are so much more conducive to learning mindful living then the construction zone I lived in before. I did not feel very Zen during the move or unpacking, but that’s what I’m working on now. No time like the present!

The second part of chapter 2 in The Mindfulness Solution To Pain by Dr. Jackie Gardner – Nix talks about mental attitudes related to mindfulness. (I’m going to keep summarizing the key points that jumped out at me, and connections I made to my own life; I don”t want to put citations everywhere). Attitudes can be enabling or harmful to our well-being, and awareness about these attitudes can help us to strengthen positive ones and change negative ones.

The first attitude associated with mindfulness is being nonjudgmental. This is something that I have a long way to go to achieve! On Monday I was listening to Dr. Jackie Gardner – Nix’ guided meditation (more on this in a moment) and my practice was not going as well as last week. Every other breath I caught myself thinking things like “my breathing is too fast and shallow”, “why can’t I stay focused today?”, “I don’t think I’m ever going to get this right”. In the book, the authors point out that judgments about whether something is positive or negative are very black and white, and often miss the ‘gray’ nuanced part of experiences. Bad experiences can have silver linings, and good things aren’t always what they seem. Negative judgments can begin a domino effect of reactive emotions, tension and increased pain. Given the changeability and impermanence of things, judgments can really be a waste of time. I’m going to have to work on this in meditation practice and in the rest of my life too! Being off work on disability leave, as I’ve mentioned before, definitely leads me to be very judgmental about the lack of accomplishment, purpose, etc. I think they called this the inserting “superwoman overachiever cycle” in the last chapter!I really liked the observation made in the book that it can be freeing to experience situations or encounters with people and not judge them.

The second attitude associated with mindfulness is the beginner’s mind. To achieve this mental stance, you have to try to overcome your own biases, prejudices and preconceived notions, and not bring them to present situations or encounters. This reminds me of what my anthropology professors called ‘reflexive thinking’. Anthropologists believe that it’s impossible to cultivate a purely objective stand point, but by being aware of your own subjective point of view, you can still produce valuable insights and new knowledge about the culture you are studying. So this mindful attitude sounds to me like being an anthropologist studying yourself!

The third and fourth attitudes to cultivate are trust and patience. Trust that developing awareness will lead to change over time, and patience regarding how long that will take.

The next chapter (chapter 3) is about beginning a formal meditation practice. The authors define this as “intentionally setting aside a specific period of time… In your day to systematically cultivate mindfulness by focusing your attention moment by moment on some particular aspect of your experience, and actively noting when your mind wanders – as it always will – and then bringing it back to the focus” (Gardner-Nix and Costin-Hall, 2009). Usually breathing is the focus of mindfulness practice. I decided to buy Dr. Gardner-Nix’ CD of guided meditations, called ‘meditations for the mindfulness solution to pain’, which is available on iTunes. I thought it would be best to go with this one because it is designed to specifically accompany the book. The authors also recommend Andrew Weil’s “meditation for optimum health”, available from Sounds True (Google for website).  I also really like John Kabat-Zinn’s disc of guided meditations called “mindfulness meditation for pain relief”.  I’m not going to give a detailed summary of how to meditate because I think these resources to a much better job than I ever could. I did just want to mention the advice given at the end of this chapter to pace yourself while incorporating meditation into your daily routine – start with 5 min., slowly work up to 10, then 20, and so on. I’m at 10 minutes right now. I’d like to work up to 20, eventually without the guide, but for now I like listening 😉 p.s. I don’t sit cross-legged in serene white while meditating. I have to lie down with pillows under my legs on the couch or on the floor – fibrostyle. My body wouldn’t put up with that kind of sitting!

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