Thursday, June 22, 2017

Bored to Tears

Just a few days ago I realized I was bored with the internet and my mobile devices.  Together they have contributed to my font of trivial knowledge.  But it has been a very long time since I delved deeply enough into a topic to fully understand it, or to contribute to it with original ideas.  And perhaps most important, I have been losing my sense of nuance.  All discourse seems to fall on one side or the other.  Intellectually I have been anything but mindful.  In fact, the constant barrage of information, updates, and check-ins, and the 24-hour availability of me and everyone I know have turned me into a cognitive fight or flight machine.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Mindfulness and Anxiety

Anxiety disorder is much more than being very nervous or edgy.  In anxiety, a person will report an unreasonable exaggeration of threats, repetitive negative thinking, hyperarousal, and a strong identification with fear.  The fight or flight response is kicked into overdrive and physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, and digestive problems often join with the cognitive challenges that anxiety disorder presents.  In General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) the symptoms become so severe that normal daily functioning becomes impossible.

What to Do With All of These Thoughts

It’s easy to say that when meditating one should focus on the breath and release thoughts as they arise, but it’s incredibly difficult to do.  I’ve been a bit hypomanic lately, and ideas are flying through my head.  Concentration and attention are very difficult.  Acknowledging thoughts and letting them go is hard enough on a good day.  What do I do now?

During mindfulness meditation you keep your attention on your breath, but you want to be fully aware in this moment.  So you still take note of sounds and smells, aches and pains, all that makes up the present moment.  When thoughts arise the instructions are to notice them, let them go, and return to the breath.  But to just blot out thoughts without paying attention to them would not be very mindful at all.  Don’t ignore your thoughts, work with them.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Compassion - A Look Back at the Failed AHCA

The current political climate is not good for people with mental illness.  Many receive benefits under the ACA’s parity for mental and physical health clause and Medicaid expansion.  For many of those, especially people struggling with substance abuse, the treatment made available has been very successful.  I’ve heard scores of stories, and have seen lots of data, illustrating how people for whom care was unattainable have been able to turn their lives around just because of the availability of treatment.  That, and their own hard work at getting well.  Now, with the attitudes spurred by the failed American Health Care Act, those newly granted benefits are being viewed by some as up for review.

Monday, March 13, 2017

State Your Intention

Mindfulness Meditation, or working with the breath and releasing thoughts as they arise, has been very helpful to me for many years.  The health, cognitive, and emotional benefits of this practice are well documented.  But sometimes, to the horror of my teachers, I pull out a notepad and start paying closer attention to the thoughts skipping through my mind during meditation periods, turning each meditation into a period of contemplation on goals and intentions.  Meditation has demonstrated that it makes us more open to more ideas, and more noticing of novel thoughts.  So why not put this to use every once in a while?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Inertia and Failure

I have a lot of ideas.  Some of them good ones.  I’ll get started down the path to developing one, maybe even turning it into a thriving business, and somewhere get derailed and left in a gully beside the path sure that some competing idea is better, or the original idea had some philosophical flaw making it of little positive benefit to the people I wished to serve.  I’m experiencing that right now.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Mindfulness & Happiness: Not So Fast

Meditation has a deep history in all spiritual traditions as a path toward compassion and insight.  It has also been practiced in many as a means to get to the root of suffering, and, possibly, overcome suffering’s wounds and causes.  Today, however, the often simplified practice of mindfulness sets stress relief and individual happiness as goals of meditative practice.  The move toward a practice that is a panacea to all that ills and a path toward self-actualization has led many critics to point out the flaws in this thinking (or non-thinking, as it were), especially in light of meditation’s long history.  So much personal benefit is promised by mindfulness acolytes that I’m finding the practice described as snake oil with increasing frequency.  Happiness, while a noble goal, is a luxury in a world filled with so much suffering.  It’s also a state that many who meditate deeply never experience.  Pain is just as likely to surface during meditative practice as pleasure is.  Yet the way mindfulness is sold today leaves one who is not achieving less stress and more bliss feeling like they’re doing it all wrong.  They may be, in fact, closer to meditation’s true purpose than any who promise happiness.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Requirement is Self-Discipline

I’ve written of the discipline it takes to maintain both a meditation practice and wellness in the face of mental illness as a keystone of my success in the face of the challenges of bipolar disorder.  In a world that seems designed to limit our impulse control and our attention, for everything is available right now, it almost becomes a struggle to make the sacrifices required to stick to one thing and realize a positive accomplishment of a reasonable goal.  This isn’t just a challenge facing those with mental illness, it’s a challenge facing everyone.