Today, as always, I was excited to read Moments of Exhilaration’s posting. She’s a mom, like me. She is smart and thoughtful, but not preachy or accusatory, and very easy to like. Check her out, you’ll like her too. Anyway, she is open about her struggles with raising her daughter, maintaining her identity, trying to pick the best way to get through this constant, inverted maze of parenthood, so I relate very easily to her. Often, after reading her sometimes poignant, sometimes funny, and often informative postings, I feel connected and calmed. Today she wrote about a book she is reading, “How to Train a Wild Elephant”, a book in practicing mindfulness. So, as I always do when she suggests something, I looked into it.
After ten minutes of reading Amazon’s ‘preview’, I was really interested in reading more of what the author had to say, particularly about anxiety and stress. The author uses mindfulness, the act of being completely present in any given moment, to truly experience what is happening and to assess your reaction to it. Hm. What a novel idea.
The book preview states that anxiety is frequently a catalyst of fear, that it allows itself to run rampant without a reality check. And if you are not present, if you are not aware of your current moment entirely, anxiety can get an ample head start and cut you off before you even have a chance to assess the situation. Of course, at this juncture I am reminded of being in labor with my daughter. I was most certainly present in every moment of that 30 hour stretch, but prior to that, in my mother’s kitchen, my cousin was giving me a crash course in labor classes in between contractions, and it made a lot of sense to me. (I always was better at cramming than preparing….).
She showed me a cyclical chart that said in labor, fear creates tension, and in turn, tension creates pain. Thus, the more nervous and anxious I was, the more pain I was sure to experience. And it would continue on and on throughout labor unless I was able to control the fear and accept that birth is a natural, unstoppable thing. I see little difference between this and the mindfulness concept. Being aware of my pain instead of afraid of my pain made it manageable for me, it put me in control and eased my anxieties about my physical ability to give birth.
The author of “How to Train a Wild Elephant” suggests a similar idea, that being completely aware of what you are feeling and why you are feeling that way puts you in control of your emotions instead of being victim to them. Let me tell you, being a victim to my emotions is my MO, for sure.
I am a twitcher. I am always nervous if I am not in complete control. In an uncertain situation, I think up the most horrible possible outcome and then I sit on it, stew in it, and convince myself that whatever the worst thing that could happen is, it is what will happen to me. If I have gas pain, I need an appendectomy. If my head hurts for more than a few hours, it’s a tumor. If one of my friends or family members is mad at me, I can think of nothing else until the issue is completely solved. Likewise, my emotional responses are very similar in their extremes. I get angry, and when I get angry, I cry. No one enjoys this, (sorry, husband). But if I could be aware of my feelings and emotions more often, I might have more control over their effect on my life and the lives of people around me. If I learn to use the right tools to get myself and my runaway-mind anxiety in check, I think everyone will be happier. So, Moments of Exhilaration extended an invitation to her fellow bloggers to join her on her quest of mindfulness, and I am accepting. (Please allow 5-7 days for shipping, as I refuse to pay 30% extra for expedited UPS).