As I sit here, preparing to write this post, I look forward with no definite plans for the day. It’s been a great weekend so far though, as I’ve managed to see all three of my close friends within less than twenty-four hours (including meeting one of them for the very first time)!
I’d like to start by talking to you about the band I’m wearing around my wrist in the photo above. I apologise that this photo isn’t perfect and you can see large marking where the lens on my phone’s camera is slightly scratched. This is known as a Thought Stopper; an item designed to help those suffering from the likes of depression and anxiety; a means of preventing the need to self-harm.
Before we go on, I’d like to stress that I’m not using this bracelet for my own benefit. I’m wearing it for a different reason, which I’ll get to in time. So, I won’t be divulging thoughts and issues around the subject of self-harm. Therefore, I do not intend to trigger anyone in to experiencing such thoughts. I’d like to point out that I first read about these wrist bands over at Pride in Madness (sorry, I cannot find the precise post I am looking for).
Friday afternoon was spent in the company of perhaps my closest friend of my circle of three. As strange as it may sound, we were actually in the store where she works. I was only expecting to pop in, say hello and leave again but, when she asked me to stay and help out, well, I was there for two and a half hours in all! It was really nice to be able to spend this time with her, to be able to catch up after three-months, to chat about things and to kind of see her in her element.
I went in with another agenda… I wanted to say thank you for a message she had sent me a few weeks ago and also, I had a small gift for her. In that message, she told me that I was a ‘great friend‘ and a ‘wonderful person‘. It wasn’t until I started counselling last year that I began to realise how hard it is to say ‘thank you’ to someone and also to accept praise and acknowledgement. I explained how often when someone says something like this, I just allow it to run off, like water from a duck’s back (to quote my art teacher from school). But with my friend, I knew that it was genuine. I also sensed that it was hard for her to express and, as I explained these things to her, she wrapped her arms around me in a hug of real warmth and true friendship. Actually, I think we shared two hugs at this moment.
It had taken me most of the afternoon to work up the courage to do this. I was also using the presence of the occasional customer as an excuse to keep procrastinating. But now, it was time to reveal my gift. I had no idea how she would receive this… Past experience with my ex “taught” me that she might completely reject the idea. I gave her the option of refusal before revealing and explaining a bit about the purple Thought Stopper (in her favourite colour). Another hug followed, as she told me it was the most thoughtful gift she had ever received. Then, followed a conversation about CBT. I could go on but, I feel I’ll leave it there. I left the store missing her from the moment the sliding doors opened in front of me but, I found a new form of acceptance for our friendship. New common ground. An ability to be more open and intimate with our thoughts.
So, I’m wearing my blue and green band as a reminder of our friendship and what it means. I originally bought this one for her in December but didn’t have the nerve to give it to her when we last met. When I ordered the first through eBay (sorry, it looks like she’s out of stock again), I forgot to specify the colour and, when I went to re-order a purple one, they were out of stock and only again became available a few weeks ago.
Saturday bought with it another meditation morning at the Bristol Buddhist Centre. Shortly before leaving the house, my friend from the walking group texted me to ask for a lift as she had overslept. It meant taking a slight diversion but I was happy to try and help. Traffic was worse than I expected and it was already 10am by the time we reached Bristol. I didn’t help us by taking a wrong turn at one roundabout and then following another road to a dead-end. I was afraid we would arrive too late and they wouldn’t let us in. Afraid that I would let my blogging friend down, as I had told her that I would be there.
We were almost fifteen minutes late by the time we came to park up. I sent my friend out to let them know of our late arrival as I struggled to find a parking space (I still haven’t once attempted to parallel park since passing my driving test in 2004). By the time I got to the front door, it was locked. My friend wasn’t stood waiting outside either so, I began to panic, as I peered around the side for… Anything. As I contemplated running off, one of the leaders appeared at the window; directing me to the side door, where I made an embarrassingly inelegant entrance to find everyone quietly sat on the sofas, preparing for the morning of meditation.
If this was a meeting or work-based situation, I probably would’ve been shouted at or disciplined. Yet, not a word was said and I think that’s in part to do with mindfulness; the art of noticing things without chasing after them.
Shoes off, coat on the rack, pockets empty and, with my heart still racing from the anxiety of arriving fifteen minutes late, I found a seat, right behind my friend Linda! 🙂
This morning was very much like the other one I attended last month so, I’ll try not to rewrite what you may have already seen and read. Arriving late and being in the presence of someone I had never met added to my anxiety so, it took me a while to settle in to the first meditation, once we were in the shrine room. Something was explained by the leader this time that make more sense to me than it has done at any time before… When we’re being mindful and focusing on our breathing, it’s okay to find yourself distracted with other thoughts. The practice is in returning to your breathing each time and choosing not to run after those thoughts and even sounds, like the passing of cars or a perfectly acceptable noise from someone else in the room (someone’s stomach did roar during the Loving and Kindness meditation, once we’d had our cups of tea). My counsellor used to try and explain this to me but, the people at the Buddhist Centre have made it crystal clear.
We then had our walking meditation (which started off too fast, in my opinion, with my other friend literally clipping on to the back of my heels at one point), which I seemed to benefit more from this time, with less of a pain in my left ankle. It reminded me again of a scene near the start of the first Die Hard film, where John McClane is told to try taking his shoes off and feeling the carpet with his feet and toes.
During our tea break, Linda and I had a chance to talk briefly and we’ve both agreed since that it felt natural; as if meeting through this centre and after meditation was very close to being perfect, as we each suffer from forms of anxiety when interacting with new people.
Our final meditation for the day asked us to consider four people – including ourselves, we also had to think of a friend, someone mutual who we don’t know very well and an ‘enemy’ or someone we may not be getting along well with. I was feeling a burning pain down the front of my ankle from kneeling earlier. Last time I was here, I kept quiet and decided to try and meditate through that, instead of getting up and adding to my pile of cushions or similar. Even when asked, I was prepared to try and ignore the minor discomfort. This time, I decided to be brave. I got up, grabbed an extra cushion to increase my seating height and also second thin cushion to roll up and fit beneath my other ankle. The difference was incredible. My pain had gone, even though it later transpired in to a minor strain down the right hand side of my back… Well, there are still other positions I haven’t yet tried.
So, I’m not sure of what else to add…
I know that I need to continue meditating in my own time. Once a month isn’t nearly enough. I feel I need some form of guidance as I share this house with others and I’m not yet experienced enough to be able to guide or distance myself from their noise. I meant to buy one of the CDs they have available in the shop. Instead, I think I’ll have to look for something to download. Amazon did have some options but I tried some free downloads recently from a website I shared in my post about Positive Step and they’re in a file that’s unrecognisable to my iPod. They play okay on my laptop; I just don’t find that to be convenient. I’ve been telling myself for the past month that I ‘need’ a stool to meditate on yet, during the morning yesterday, we were also informed that there is no spiritual connection from being in contact with the ground. You can meditate sat in a chair or even lying on a bed (as I used to do). All that’s important is that you are comfortable, relaxed and as though the weight of your body is being directed and transferred by the object beneath you.
To me, meditation is another form of thought stopping. Doing a little bit (even ten minutes each night) will help and you soon begin to learn how you can use this in everyday situations. If you find your temper rising at work, can you bring yourself back to your breath? It’s always okay to feel and to think in these times. But we can learn to notice and how not to hold on and follow.
- Stop Anxious Thoughts (meditationsforwomen.com)
- Get off the Worry Train (josieahlquist.com)
- Anxiety Meditation (rebelzen.com)
- Bridge to Buddha Days! (brandonbored.wordpress.com)
- NHS recognition of mindfulness meditation is good for depression | Mia Hansson (guardian.co.uk)
- Tips & Tricks for Meditation (franniebobanie.wordpress.com)
- Meditation Myths (bodychange.net)
- The walking itself is the meditation. (zenflash.wordpress.com)
- Friends (beyondweirdness.wordpress.com)
- Darkening My Line Betwen Friendships & Liabilites (confessionsoftheperfectlyimperfect.wordpress.com)