Tag Archives: mindfullness

Living in the present. The moment. The sights. The sounds. The tastes. The feel. Being absorbed by my senses, not by my racing mind.

The re-charge formula

For some people it’s the expanse of the ocean, for others it’s the grandeur of the mountains. I can imagine the romance of the red open plains or the enveloping of a familiar mallee scrub.

Some are lucky enough to find it in their everyday, but I still need to be “away” to find it.

I know you’ve felt it.

You capture a glimpse. In the distance. And it twinkles, just for you.

Your chest bellows, your smile erupts. Your body expands.

Bare Feet Freedom

I’ve arrived.

A place of solitude.

A place to refresh.

A place to re-ground.

Usually a place of unintended mindfulness.

A connection unexplained. A heart rate sustained.

For Mr Metamucil, it is the Snowy Mountains. The high country of the flattest, island and continent in the world.

A landscape of twisted gum trees, lazing kangaroos, curious wombats and in the summer, the most annoying bush flies you will ever encounter.

I can understand the allure. There is something untouched and untamed. Sepia-toned pictures show that not that much has changed, even in the most populated towns.

These sleepy little hamlets, crowded during a very short snow season, use the warmer months to defrost and recharge.

The picture perfect horizon, that big blue sky. Stars so bright, it looks like a blanket has been haphazardly picked at…someone has been busy.

The emerging song of the corroboree frog, the sunbaking of the alpine copperhead. The blanket of wildflowers that fill the mountaintop.

It appears that everyone, and everything, comes out to re-ground and re-fresh.

There’s an explosion of road cyclists tackling the climb out of Jindabyne on their way to Thredbo, willing their legs to make it just to the next corner, whilst mountain bikers fuel up at the breakfast buffet, before they’re off to explore the vast trails that criss-cross this untouched and vast domain.

Lake Jindabyne is a cacophony of colour. Kayakers in their brightly coloured craft, weekend sailors adjusting the sheet and wondering, “will she be kind, or will she turn?” Because in the mountains, you need to respect her, or she’ll whip your pants down, no questions asked.

The day hikers are prepped, insect repellent on hand. Backpack with the essentials. There are no selfie sticks here.

Whilst the fishermen sit patiently, listening to the wireless and wondering if Australia can really bowl India out in two sessions, and perhaps momentarily forget, why they’re out there.

And they’re not alone, because despite all the doing and the huffing and puffing, you can see it….the connection with a moment, a place.

The caravan park is full of campers and caravan-ers. We’ve arrived at our destination. Time to stretch the legs, breathe deeply and look up. What’s the frequency for the ABC here?

The shelves of the fruit and vege aisles are empty, they haven’t refilled since Christmas Eve and re-stocking only occurs weekly. The planned stir fry becomes more rice and less veges. I probably eat too many veges, anyway.

And it doesn’t seem to matter. The bushflies, the sunburn, the dirt encrusted crevices.

Because when we’re away from our comforts, our routines, our everyday… something happens.

Right there, before we know it.

That fleeting moment, whether we realise it or not.

The re-charge formula.

And even if only for a moment, we realise, life is good.

Know what I mean?

Advertisements

In my Head

I spend a lot of time in my head.

Observing, synthesising, debating and concluding. All by myself. All in my head.

I’ve always done it. I don’t know how not to do it.

I put it down to being an only child, where there was no one else to share my thoughts, or the scenarios and debates I created in my head. My parents were hard working migrants, trying to put food on the table and provide their first and only born with the education and opportunity to achieve and succeed.

I’m sure as a creative child, those thoughts would have been fanciful and self-deluded. After all, there was no one to point out the flaw in my plan for schoolyard domination. I developed resilience via a steep learning curve.

Adolescence did not change my modus operandi, particularly as my parents went through an ugly divorce in my pre-teen years. The arguments, the late night whispering and the removal of my dad’s clothing into 40L plastic bags were all observed, recorded and filed away…for future reference.

My young brain recorded that trust and intimate relationships are fraught with danger.

Now as an adult, happily ensconced in an intimate relationship that looks nothing like my parents’ or anything else I had witnessed or imagined, I still find myself spending quite some time in my head.

Observing, synthesising, debating and concluding.

And in dealing with undefined auto-immune dis-eases, I find that I spend more time retreating, in my head, wondering how did it all go so wrong? What can I do to stop it, reverse it, halt its progress?

I’ve spent many hours googling down the rabbit warren, coming back more overwhelmed than clear. I’ve read books on neuro-plasticity finishing them with great hope that my brain can repair itself from the chronic fatigue short circuit and my short term memory will return.

I’ve scoured the latest journal articles on lupus research and the effectiveness of rituximab and the latest in immuno-suppressants. Hoping that pharmaceutical companies will add another drug option to the market, given that it’s been over 40 years since the last dedicated lupus drug.

I’ve struggled to find any information that could explain the importance of testosterone for females, and why my pituary gland is malfunctioning, without having to enrol in a degree in medicine. Although I suspect I have the first year of theory covered.

I even had my hopes raised when ABC’s Catalyst program, did a story on testosterone, but it was short lived as they chose to focus on middle aged men and menopausing woman. Because it appears that the sex lives of baby boomers, deserves more research and funding than those living with auto-immune disease.

I’ve fallen in and out of love with meditation, struggling to find a routine, a niche, a regular space in my day. Started drinking kefir daily, and once I got past the tangy and surprising effervescence of my coconut milk, my gut started to thank me immediately.

My yoga practice ebbed and flowed, largely due to the instability of my spine as the arthritis of my sacro-illiac joint decided to stand front and centre in 2014.

It started as a niggle, but ended with another red flag on my littered path.

The pain in the dimple of my left glute, my left knee giving way as I walk Franki to the café or try to manage the 45 stairs to freedom. The tingling in my left heel, the numbness in my hamstring.

Of the three episodes I’ve experienced in the second half of the year, I seem unable to acknowledge the symptoms until my back spasms, my hip locks and I can no longer turn my neck or lift my arm. Then the desperate call to the physio. As I’ve said before…I can be a slow learner.

And then the humility kicks in and I need to exit my head.

I ask my husband to wash my hair. I ask friends to walk a little slower. I ask Franki not to stop and sniff at every lamp post, perhaps every third one instead.

I tell my yoga teacher it’s a non-pretzel day, I can only do a 30 minute session and ask “can we do some breathing and meditation to complete the hour?”

And I ask strangers to help me untie Franki from the café chair leg as the Fisio-taped back and shoulders make my movements laboured as if my life has been catapulted into slow motion.

It’s those moments where I realise I can’t spend all that time in my head. That in fact, my life can be made easier by just opening the doors and sharing, asking and letting go.

Yes, 2014 has been a challenge. Not because my prognosis has become any worse, and not because the treatments have been wholly unsuccessful. Like everything in life, it has its success and its shortfalls.

I’ve experimented, struggled, rejigged and reworked.

Always in my head. But slowly, with others.

And with only hours left in 2014, I can only hope that I can approach the next 365 days with a little less “in my head” and a little more “in the marinating bowl” with others.

I’ll share my puzzle pieces, and ask for a different perspective. I’ll try them again, this time in a different place or space, sometimes by myself but also with others.

And I’ll remind myself that just as my parents tried valiantly, so will I.

Because life doesn’t always play out the way it does in your head.

Be Gentle

This is my catchphrase to Franki.

Be Gentle…there’s no need to snap the food of my hand.

Be Gentle…that little kid just wants to pat you.

Be Gentle…as the rough and tumble play escalates.

I’m sure Franki has no idea what those words mean. Perhaps it’s the intonation of my voice. An alarm that something isn’t quite right, but an indication to tone the pace, enthusiasm and excitement back (a little).

 

Curious but gentle

I notice that it’s not only Franki that is learning when and how to be gentle…So am I.

Be Gentle, Deborah….that email doesn’t have to be answered immediately.

Be Gentle, Deborah…it’s not a race to prove you are a strong rider.

Be Gentle, Deborah…there are no prizes for who can hold a boat pose the longest.

As the last 18 months have been trying to show me, I need to learn to be more gentle…with myself, with others.

Living with an AI ravaged bucket, means that if I keep filling the bucket with non-gentle stuff, the bucket overfills rapidly, starts rusting at its seams. It’s unable to do its job…to simply hold. All the good stuff and the bad.

It’s not easy though, and I’ve stumbled several times. When I arrived back home from my honeymoon month in France, my bucket was looked like it had been through the baggage handlers routine. Dents, nicks and gashes I hadn’t recognised. I was indignant.

How did they get there? Who is responsible for this? That’s MY bucket!

When Mr Metamucil completed his 4th Ironman triathlon, I was so happy, relieved and proud. I was also so exhausted, I could feel each bone in my body and could count each and every fibre keeping me together.

It may sound ridiculous, I wasn’t the one who completed a 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and a 42km run…but for me the adrenalin, the anticipation and the 4:30am start kicks my AI bucket to kingdom come.

And so I have to remind myself, “Be Gentle…Deborah.”

So I pick up my bucket and try to restore it.

Slowly. Carefully. Daily.

I’m learning the fine art of bucket repair…the tools, the method, the manner in which I need to do it.

And I keep adding to it, because it’s only early days.

Because that’s my bucket and I’m here to carry it.

My Wellness Toolkit

Whether it’s an adrenalin hangover, a virus that has ravaged the bucket or the AI symptoms that have decided to let me know I am not alone, I have a toolkit I refer to that helps me get back on track.

I can’t say whether one practice or treatment is more beneficial than the other, all I know is that this toolkit helps bring back some equilibrium. It is very much trial & error, sometimes I need more of one thing that another, but I am learning to listen to my body and understanding what it is unhappy about.

Learning the Balancing Act

The key is to balance my gut – my mind – and my body

Here’s my Gut Guide:

G1. Graze during the day and into the evening – that means every 2 hours I need the combination of protein, calcium and leaf litter – it keeps my blood sugar levels balanced and blood pressure under control.

G2. Soups – I hated them as a child and still can’t look at kale (despite its superfood reputation) – but if I have homemade chicken stock, broccoli + bacon and carrot + ginger on standby my gut says “thank you”

G3. Stay away from caffeine & sugar – this is an obvious one, but I find it difficult, particularly when I am in a “brain fog.” All I am seeking is a way to get through the fog, unfortunately the soy latte is like using a halogen light rather than LED on a foggy drive down to Wollongong – wastes energy and generates excess heat.

G4. Colour on my plate – natural foods with colour are bursting with all the good stuff – antioxidants, phytochemicals, etc… – if yellow has crept onto my plate or bowl it’s an alarm bell.

Body Guide

B1. Lymphatic massage – I don’t need a blood test to tell me that inflammation and its wrecking ball is at work, I can feel it. I often refer to it as my ‘Nancy Kerrigan’ days. My joints burn and I can account for each of the 26 bones in each foot and 27 bones in each hand.

On these days, lymphatic massage is the only physical relief I can endure. Everything gets moved around, I visualise all those misguided T-cells being redirected, “don’t fire, they’re on our side.”

I swear by Valerie Marshall at Inspiring Wellness, who has years of experience across many modalities.

B2. Chiropractic adjustment – I use chiropractic adjustments when my body feels heavy and “compressed” and as a precursor to a lymphatic massage, I find the “cracks” release and realign the nerves, joints, tissue and muscles. Also having mild scoliosis I find my hips are often out of alignment, so my chiro lines me back up. Paul Hadfield at Gymea Allied Health Centre is my go to.

B3. Sleep – I don’t set the alarm and if I’m tired during the day and a rest break doesn’t help I allow myself permission to sleep, usually no longer than an hour, but if my body needs it, then so be it. Whilst I agree sleep hygiene is important, if it’s another rule you’re imposing, you’re not listening to your body and therefore recovery and achieving wellness becomes even harder.

B4. Limit googling to 30 minute periods. I remember 10 hour days at work where I would jump from research, to synthesising materials, to referencing and back to researching. It was high intensity, brain draining work – it’s an adrenalin hangover waiting to happen. Don’t cure the hangover with the hair of the dog.

B5. Vitamin D, the natural way. The amounts you can absorb through food are negligible, it’s the old fashioned way that helps. Despite the 45 stairs I need to take to get outside, its then less than 20 metres to the backyard and the sunlight.

Movement Guide

I’ve deliberately not called this exercise, because for many (including me) exercise conjures up great images of both physical and mental effort and energy – the two things I may not have at this point.

So I try to focus on deliberate and mindful movement, because somehow it seems more tolerable and doesn’t send me into the fear mode that I’ll overdo it and therefore feel worse. The team at Peak Health have helped rebuild my bucket more than once, and I often credit Brent Collier, the exercise physiologist at Peak and fellow CFS thriver, with an amazing ability to harness my Type A traits for good (and recovery).

E1. Re-focus on Core – This isn’t solely about holding a plank, but rather acknowledging that when the AI bucket has been kicked so is my posture. Further exacerbating the fatigue as my body slouches.

Less oxygen in, less oxygen circulated, less energy created. So I lay down and focus, brace my core and hold for 3 counts. Repeat 5 times. Done.

I then find myself standing more upright. More oxygen in, more oxygen circulated, more energy created. Mission Accomplished

E2. Start at 5 mins, and (slowly) build – That’s all I (try to) ask of myself. Sounds easy, but often is not. In my head, it often takes more effort to get ready whether it’s a dip in the ocean or a walk around the block, but I know this is the difference between managing the pain and fatigue or allowing it to overcome me.

E3. Heart Rate Monitor – This allows me to check whether my perceived exertion is within range of my actual exertion. Basically how hard is my heart working… 65%, 75% or more? I became very adept and not listening to my body to the point that I had a completely skewed my internal recognition system. A HRM doesn’t lie, so this is an indispensable tool.

In an upcoming post I’ll talk more about how targeted movement allowed me to rebuild the bucket and take it to France on a cycling trip. It’s not the silver bullet, but it’s another tool, and I don’t think you can have too many of them.

Mind Guide

M1. Meditation – I wish I could say I can find the peace and tranquility, but I still struggle, and at times it make me more frustrated and therefore my inflamed or irritated internal state gets worse. So I aim for 5 minutes and I use Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 or Relaxing breath.

M2. Mindfulness – I find this easiest on walks with Franki or at the end of the day when Lee and I have dinner. No distraction, just the moment to chat or to experience and savour the moment.

I find I still revert to old habits and try to keep busy and/or distract myself. These are hard habits to break.

But for me, it has to be a conscious choice, almost a “talk myself into it” discipline.

To stop and remind myself “this too shall pass.”

Re-Purpose & Re-Learn

I like certainty. Knowing what’s going on. What to expect. I like to be able to manage the variations. It’s been my survival mechanism, and one that has served me well.

When that environment changes, it unsettles me.

The bottom of my leaky bucket fell apart in 2012 and there was no management plan. All I was left with was the splintered handle and sheer confusion…what just happened? I have the receipt somewhere, I can get a replacement.

Simple, rustic, functional and a couple of dents for character
Simple, rustic, functional and a couple of dents for character

My bucket design rebuild has been long, well-intentioned but poorly designed. I’ve tried to build more flexibility in the design so I can hold more. Not more weight. More variety. Just like my farmers’ market bag.

In this bag I can throw my apples, lemons and pumpkin at the bottom with no fear that it’s going to drop out of the bottom, but I still have plenty space on top for my more fragile items – the herbs, the wild mushrooms and bright berries.

Unlike my trusty bucket, my farmer market stash looks ‘alive’

Previously I would have crammed as much as I could in my bag, and bucket, to the point it was overflowing. I would struggle to lift it, let alone carry it very far. But I would persevere, this bucket will not beat me!

I’ll be honest, I still struggle with my selection and packing process. In my 20’s I backpacked across North America, where I was dutifully taught to roll my clothes to create more space, avoid daggy creasing and, in my mind, justify those ridiculous heels!

I never learnt the packing technique taught to a check out chick – always assess weight and never trust the plastic bag!

Today, I try to make more conscious decisions. And it starts with what my three priorities for the day. That’s right, only three, and when one is non-negotiable – meals and snacks to keep me fuelled – that leaves me two priorities. Two things I can do, not must, to feel alive – conscious, mindful, engaged.

This often includes walks with Franki with an attempt at mindfulness whilst I am out with her. Observing my feet as they hit the pavement, hearing the leaves rustle in the trees or hearing the cockatoos squawking. Sometimes, the mindfulness simply extends to be alert to what else she has tried to sneak into her mouth.

On a good day, practising a simple 20 minute home yoga sequence feels right and rejuvenating. Walking to my local cafe and catching up on Sunday paper inserts is soothing. I get the sun on my back and a chat with the cafe owners, staff, random dog owners.

On a particularly leaky day, when I cannot bear the 45 stairs I must walk down from my 3rd level apartment to reach the outside world, I lay on the verandah amongst the canopy of the eucalypts and just try to breathe, and remind myself “it’s easy to be heavy, hard to be light.”

Of course on really great days I throw my mantra out the door. Not on purpose, I am just so excited to feel good, pain free (for me).

I am excited that my knees aren’t on fire or that the waves of fatigue haven’t hit, so I take a walk, do some work, eat without chewing properly, hit the local cafe, read a little, google too much and by mid-afternoon it hits me. The adrenalin rush will soon convert to an adrenalin hangover.

I’ve left no space in the market bag for the fragile goods, I’ve crammed it all with the exotic veges I don’t know what to do with, fresh crusty gluten-loaded rolls and those great looking salted caramel macarons that I love so much.

It’s a work in progress. I’m only just working out the right packing technique…and there are days where I simply misjudge quantity for quality.

Surely I’m not the only one?

Postscript: It appears I’m not the only one who uses a top-three priority list, it’s also used as a productivity tool & for peaceful zen…perhaps I’m on to something!