Impermanence?

At the beginning practicing mindfulness was hard. Could not hold a session for more than 2-5 minutes, and even in that time my mind was going to every direction. Feelings, sensations, thoughts, I was distracted by everything.

Then it seemed that I was getting the hang of it – sessions were getting easier, 10, 15, 20 minute sessions were possible. Sure, I had distractions, but I was able to be non-reactive and non-judgmental (to some degree). It seems that I was in the “mindfulness zone”. I was actually seeing the benefits and liked doing these sessions.

But lately it seems to take a turn for the worse. Again, I cannot concentrate, I am distracted by everything. Dark feelings are distracting me, I’m feeling crushed by them. Sometimes I even find myself tearing, feeling sadness beyond any reason or control.

One of the thing mindfulness teaches is impermanence, that everything passes. When everything was OK I was grasping to the good feelings, and now when they passed I feel like I did something wrong. On the other hand now that everything is bad I can’t seem to shake the feeling that it will never go away. It’s here to stay.

I start the session and I feel that I’m about to burst in tears. I feel as if a dark vice is grabbing my insides. My chest is burning, my stomach is turning. Something is twisting, turning, suffocating, and seems to only be growing inside me, here to consume what is left. Did it ever hear of impermanence, does it know that it need to go away? Or is it here to stay?

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What if?

I don’t like public speaking. I despise it, hate, abhor it, one might say even terrified, mortified, petrified by it[1]. Every time I need to speak publicly (and cannot avoid it), the same train-wreck pattern of a thought is coming to my mind – What if?

What if I forget everything?

What if I will start stuttering and talk nonsense?

What if I will be ridiculed by my co workers because of it?

What if I will get fired because of it?

And I can dive deeper, the longer I think and ‘what-if’ about it, the more stressed I get, and the more stressed I get the worse the what-if become. This with all the physical symptoms of stress makes public speaking not fun for me.

This always remind me from a quote from The Time Machine:

You’re a man haunted by those two most terrible words: What if?

I recently read another blog post which has a different perspective, a positive one regarding ‘what-if’ – what if I try and succeed, as a way to push yourself and take that risk. My what-ifs limit me and scare me, his what-ifs give him a push to go further. I wonder if I can change my perspective.

[1] As paraphrased from the movie “A Beautiful Mind

Treatment is Simple, Pagliacci is in Town Tonight

Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. Great clown, Pagliacci, is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor, I am Pagliacci.”

This line is from the comic Watchmen that really got to me.

I believe that most people that I know would describe me as funny, confident, with a short fuse from time to time and very good at his work. People come to me for advice regarding work and other things.

People don’t know the amount of… of… of black that I have in my stomach from time to time. That most of the time what they perceive as anger is really anxiousness, is really a terrible feeling that things are falling apart and I’m trying to prevent it.

People don’t know that behind the smile and confidence sometime I want to burst into tears.

I can understand Pagliacci completely.

Non Reactivity – Practice

I’m trying to practice non-reactivity and I find it very difficult. It is split into four lessons: Non-reactivity to body sensation, to sound, to thought and finally to feelings.

Body sensations – almost every session I find myself aching or itching, want to move myself to a more comfortable position or simply scratch. Eventually, as mindfulness suggest, everything passes, even the most persistent each. You need to make a note and let it pass. Problem is that if the itch is too strong I can’t simply nod it off – it’s painful. In the time during a session when it itches I find myself going back to the itch over and over. It’s hard to concentrate that way. I do progress though, at the beginning I had to move and each, and now I can sit still and not each during the entire meditation.

Sounds – I find it easier to get over sound and not get distracted to much by sounds. One thing is that if the sound is loud and very sudden I get startled, my heart start pumping, simulating the same reaction my body has when anxious or stressed. Take a little while to get back to the breathing and let my pulse get back to normal.

Thought – At the beginning this was the hardest thing to control. Thoughts come and go, and the bad ones just stay there, make you more anxious. Endless thoughts that seems to be extremely important, and I have to pursue them or they will be lost forever, seems to come exactly when I need to be focused on the now, on my breathing, on anything but them. Every thought just stayed there, making me more anxious, more stressed. I couldn’t count the seconds until the session would be over, in order to write down everything. I wrote them down, everything that I remembered. I put a pen and paper near me because I knew that I’ll become anxious to write. Slowly I saw that some thoughts repeat themselves, some thoughts are the same thoughts that I think when not meditating. Slowly, I could let go and focus on the breathing, on the now. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard, some thoughts cling, some thoughts make me a little anxious, but I can note them and let them pass. Sometimes a little label help ‘worries’, ‘thoughts about the future’, etc. I try to note them, not ignoring them (especially the bad ones), and let them go, let them drift away while I focus back on my breathing. It’s not easy, but it’s becoming easier.

Emotions – The hardest no doubt about it. I am always stressed. Most of the time I’m stressed but not in a sense of panic, but in a sense of being alert, always suspecting something to go wrong, one might call it ‘survival mode’. It’s very hard to put this emotion aside and surrender to the now during meditations. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t alert that something might go wrong, that things won’t go as planned. When any event rises, let’s say a thought or sound, I can be non-reactive to it, but usually the process will cause stress to rise, just from being alert that this time I might not be able to be non-reactive to the event. Being non-reactive to one event triggers another event which is harder to ignore.

When I’m anxious I’m trying to meditate, and during the process of the meditation other events might cause me more stress and anxiety. There were times, not too many, that I think I ended the meditation with more anxiety than when I started.

Hope that it will become easier as I practice more.

Sadness

Horrible day yesterday, woke up this morning tired and sad. Not sure if I’m sad because I’m tired or sad because I’m sad. Want to close my eyes and sleep, feel like I’m almost crying. Maybe I’m sad because I know there’s one hell of a busy day today and I’m sad because I’m stressed?

I hate starting days like this.

Mindfulness

For the past 3 weeks I’m trying to practice mindfulness, mainly to reduce my (high level of) stress that I experience on a day to day basis. I’ve found the following definition of mindfulness that I like:

Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

I find the practice hard, almost in every aspect:

focusing one’s awareness on the present moment

for me, someone who is also in constant thought, a lot about the past (regrets, replay of events) and the future (the ‘what-if’ never-ending thoughts), focusing on the present moment,on mundane things like your breath, body scan, etc, is extremely difficult. I find myself lost in thought over and over again, and sometimes even getting more stressed about not succeeding in what should be a very simple task.

calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations

Considering that I’m trying to reduce stress levels, and as I have mentioned I am mostly stressed throughout the day, calmly doing anything is hard, especially when trying to stay focused in the present moment.

Not only that, I need to accept all the feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations? Just the thought of that made me stress at the beginning. It’s hard to express in writing how hard it is to accept ones thoughts and feeling in such a manner. I’m trying to get rid of stress, and in mindfulness I need to accept it and let it pass by me while focusing on the present.

I found it impossible at the beginning, and achievable but extremely hard now and for a limited time.

I hope it’ll be easier as time passes by. One thing that I read throughout all the mindfulness articles and Youtube videos is that you need to be persistent, that things will be easier. Well, I can be stubborn, and even with my pessimistic habits, I’ll keep trying more and more.