Mindfulness fail

meditationI was going to leave this until Monday, but one of my readers kindly checked on me, which pulled me out of my funk.

Sometime in the late ’70s or early ’80s, my mother became a biofeedback therapist. She made the poor choice of trying to use me as a practice subject, and my anxiety level was so high that the needle on her machine would just stay on the highest setting. I’m telling you this to give you an idea of how my brain works (or doesn’t). Like many with bipolar disorder or anxiety, I have racing thoughts. I simply can’t turn off my brain. For a while I did pretty well with Healing Touch, and I learned to relax. But then life got in the way, and I had to stop. I thought I could do it on my own, but it just never was the same.

When my therapist suggested DBT, I thought perhaps I could be successful…until I saw that it was based on being mindful. Oh great, here we go again, I’m going to need to learn to make my brain shut-the-fuck-up. Then a free online mindfulness seminar came up this week, so I attempted to watch the first video yesterday. While the speaker was discussing how to be mindful, I’m doing everything but just that. I’m thinking “I have to pee…is this really over an hour long?…crap, I need to do the dishes…no wonder, I’ve gained weight again, I’m not eating mindfully…it’s getting cold in here…I really have to pee…I wonder when the psych nurse will call me back?…I can’t pee until she calls, what if she calls while I’m in the bathroom (my cell coverage stinks so she’s going to call on our landline)…oh thank god, there’s a “download audio” button – click.”

On my iPod, I have numerous meditation audiobooks, mindfulness podcasts, chakra drum music, and now this lecture. But it does me no good, because when I choose to listen to something it’s either something from my eclectic taste in music or a mystery audiobook…while I’m doing something else of course. What, you actually thought I could sit still and listen to something? On the other hand, I am able to read a book, well usually. If it’s a really good book, why I could sit for upwards of 20 minutes before thinking I really should be doing something else.

And did I mention I’m scatterbrained and easily distracted? It takes me at least six edits to get a blog post written. I write lists to try to stay organized, but then on my list I have “make a schedule” or even sometimes “make a shorter list.” Invariably, one item will take me to one part of the house, but then I’ll find something that needs to be done there. Then I forget what it was I doing in the first place, so I go back to my list. But then the list is all scribbled on (because no way am I going to put it on the computer – can you imagine the distraction every time I sat down to the computer?), so I have to write a new list.

But I digress (see, not focusing again). According to the speaker, yes I’m back to the seminar again, mindfulness can be more effective than therapy in helping with depression. No wonder I’m so depressed…if I could be mindful I might feel better, but instead I feel worse because I’m having trouble being mindful…

The cat just jumped on the table, aww nice soft kitty needs to be pet…let’s go sit on the couch.

4 thoughts on “Mindfulness fail

  1. I suck at being mindful too, not only that, it scares the bejesus out of me. If I drop into my body and really feel how I’m feeling, focus on being in the moment, my anxiety goes totally off the wall and I panic and go back to living in my own little world.
    Life is hard, you gotta get through it as best you can, do what works for you.


  2. I’m not good with the “quiet brain” thing either. I have a number of approaches and they all involve accepting and working with what is, rather than trying to change my brain by force. Maybe one of them might help. First trick is to watch and be entertained by the wandering mind. “Oh look, there I go being distracted by signals from my bladder again.” Second is that if my brain won’t think no thoughts, then invite it to think all thoughts. For example, if I find myself thinking about a person, I widen that to think about two people, then ten, then everyone I know, then all the people I’ve never met… This seems to generate a brain-buzz which is rather like white noise – which can be almost as peaceful as silence. Finally, I think of the wanderings of my brain as being like the themes of a Mozart quartet. A theme arises, and then fades, comes round again, is echoed in a different key. Mozart managed to turn these patterns into something beautiful so I try to do the same. Of course I’m not a musical genius, but then only I have to listen to the results.

    I have no idea whether any of these would work in your head. I might have some new tricks soon: I’ve signed up for a ten day silent retreat in November. Alternatively I may go completely bonkers 😀

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