Could you spend an hour of everyday passing no judgements at all? What if in that hour your task was to focus solely on your own thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations? Could you sit with yourself, your mind and body, with no stimulation, for all that time and not judge?
A few weeks ago I started a course of Mindfulness based group therapy. The program is (if I understand it, which I’m not completely sure that I do), a mix of meditation and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). I have done CBT before, with great success. I also attend yoga classes, a form of mediation, multiple times per week, so I thought the course would be a pleasant learning experience. I had not given much thought to the fact that I spend the greater part of yoga classes thinking about what’s for dinner. I also had some rose tinted glasses on about how hard CBT was for me a few years ago.
With any therapy in order to internalize the strategies, we must practice. A calm brain is like a muscle and so to become a good meditate-er, I have homework; an hour of meditation practice a day. Some evenings this goes wonderfully; I am calm, I lose tension and awareness and drift into a comfortable place. Other nights are much more difficult, because Mindfulness is about sitting with whatever is happening, accepting all sensations. On the nights where the overarching sensations are anxiety, racing thoughts, manic mixed episodes or teary eyed depression it is decidedly uncomfortable to “just sit with it.” Usually I push these uncomfortable things away by staying busy, but to be mindful is to shut the busy off, to be acutely aware. The goal of CBT is to change harmful patterns of thought, but the goal of Mindfulness is to just be aware of them.
I expected this course of therapy to be easy, a comfortable addition to my bag of anti-Bipolar symptom tricks; I didn’t think it would feel like therapy. I didn’t realize that there is no such thing as easy therapy, but in fact the struggle is kind of the point. Mindfulness is as much work and brings up as many uncomfortable memories and sensations as any course of CBT I have done in the past. Being able to sit with uncomfortable sensations means that you have to acknowledge they are there at all, something I think we are all pretty good at ignoring.
So I’ll ask again, how do you think you would do if you were left all alone with yourself for an hour a day?
If you’d like to find out, try one of the guided meditations at this free link:
About Sarah Lindsay
Sarah Lindsay is in her mid-twenties and lives in Toronto with her boyfriend and their dog (who also has some anxiety issues). Sarah was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2005 at the age of 16 and is still trying to figure it out. Follow Sarah’s story on HMC’s Supportive Minds Blog, or additionally you can follow her on Twitter, Facebook or check out her new website: SarahsMoods.com