My Journey Towards Mindfulness


Listening to my dogs and husband’s breathing while they slept the other night reminded me that taking slow deep breaths relaxes me and eases anxiety. Stress and letting go are constant battles in my brain.  The former can aggravate chronic and mental illness and pain.  I practice yoga and other exercises that are gentle on my body  (though, admittedly, not lately) and learned some time ago the value of deep breathing.  Not the most disciplined person, I find myself needing more – a tangible, realistic way of letting go of circumstances that are toxic to my brain.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Watching Anderson Cooper on a 60 Minutes report on mindfulness, my curiosity piqued when Cooper said research of the practice showed positive results for sufferers of chronic illness.   Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Stress Reduction and Relaxing Program (later renamed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979.  While he studied Buddhism, Kabat-Zinn prefers taking a scientific approach to mindfulness and apparently, it works.  American Mindfulness Research was created in 2013 to support empirical and conceptual data as well as develop best practices.

According to the website: www.mindful.org: “Mindfulness is the innate ability we have to be present, composed, and to pause before we overreact to the challenges of our busy lives.”

I’m intrigued that practicing mindfulness can improve physical, as well as, mental health.  The practice may also improve eating habits and insomnia.  Through research and practice, I hope I can better manage stressful situations – especially those that I cannot change – and improve my health.  Never before disciplined with daily meditation, I recently started listening to a podcast offering free mindful meditations (Mindful Meditations) before sleep.  I think I’m ready to take the next step and practice mindfulness in my daily life.

In addition to the websites mentioned above, I’m reading two books by Jon Kabat-Zinn:

Mindfulness for Beginners 
Wherever You Go, There You Are  

I welcome comments from readers who practice mindfulness and anyone who wants to join me on my journey.

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One Year Later


My life changed dramatically in the past year. I began working full-time, my husband and I bought a house on 5 acres, and I needed to find a new health team. I put my blog on the back burner because it was an obligation that I could not add to my busy plate. But I’ve missed the process of writing and sharing. It is a project that gives me purpose. While sometimes a painful and challenging process, clicking submit always satisfies.

I am not sure where my writings will lead this time around. Reading past postings, I realized that there was too much about my health challenges. How boring is that?! My original intention was writing as a motivator, educator and counselor but it sounded more like a whiner. I do not feel pity for myself so why would I write like I was seeking consolation from others?

This time around, perhaps Erato, the poetry muse, will bless me with inspiration more often. Perhaps my camera lens will document some of the remarkable landscape, creatures, and loved ones that surround my life. All I know for certain is that I want to nudge my creative self.

I continue to manage life with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyletis (we have to find a new name for this disease!) and fibromyalgia. Postings will continue to be influenced by my chronic illness, as it is a component of my life. But now I plan on sharing experiences from my exploration of ways that enhance my life – increasing joy and giving purpose in life.

I hope you join me on my new adventures.

Personal Development in the Web of Life


I first posted this a year and a half ago and it remains the most popular viewed posting.  I’ve thought a lot about why it is such a popular topic and I think, at least partly, we all seek ways for improving ourselves, not because others want to but for our own satisfaction.  I also believe personal development is a life long endeavor and crosses all cultures, races, religious preferences, and health.  Why? Because no matter our personal situation, we all seek ways to better our lives.  We all have burdens and obstacles throughout life but it is through personal development that we overcome those challenges and find joy. 

What does the term personal development mean to you? When coaching clients, I consider personal development to be

My first patchwork afghan for my niece

whatever helps them to grow as an individual. Personal growth can include continuing education, learning a hobby, or even starting a new job or business.  Perhaps you have always wanted to learn how to knit or take up photography.  People who suffer from chronic illness or pain, it is important to consider what is realistic when exploring ways to develop personally.

octopus in Nisyros, Greece

As I have mentioned in previous posts, the Web of Life is integrative with each of the segments relating to the other.    Personal development should provide you with fun and joy.  It may be a means to make friends or help better understand your health.  Personal development may also lead to a job that becomes a satisfying career which in turn improves a financial situation.  Of course, all of this depends on personal interests and priorities but this gives an idea of how the Web of Life works.

Some people have asked where religion is on the Web of Life and I believe it belongs in personal development.  Not everyone is religious but those who are spiritual or religious use their beliefs to offer inner strength and personal growth.  For many, God gives the strength to continue each day despite daily pain.  Religion is a personal experience and how one finds or uses spirituality is a developmental process.

For people with chronic illness or pain, it may seem difficult to consider personal development as  life already may seem overwhelming just trying to survive each day.  But it is critical to find something that brings enjoyment and personal growth.   The key is having a sense of purpose.  Personal development can help lead to finding the purpose and joy that even those of us with chronic illness and pain deserve.

For more information about how I may help your personal development or other parts of yourWeb of Life, contact me for a free exploration session at laurawebb@lbwebbcoach.com.

Find Joy in the Little Things


If you don’t know it by now, I’m a dog lover, most specifically, a lab lover.   While they play a big role in keeping me moving despite suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia, their silly playful antics are reminders to have fun and not take life’s challenges too seriously.

It doesn't get much better than tug of stick in a muddy puddle!
It doesn’t get much better than tug of stick in a muddy puddle!

I don’t think there is a soul in Texas complaining about the recent rains we’ve enjoyed but the change in pressure and humidity can wreak havoc on those of us managing chronic pain and illness.  I walk my labs in our pasture daily and the milder weather

Where'd it go?
Where’d it go?

brings out the puppy in our puppies.  Seeing all three of them running through standing water, crouching into play mode then chasing, wrestling, and splashing each other is hysterical.  Running down the dirt path, brown droplets falling from their bellies remind me that those muddy paws and drenched coats will be inside our house momentarily.  But seeing them panting happily, running up to me when I call and gleefully shaking the water off them and on to me is priceless.

Tag your it!!
Tag your it!!

They are a reminder that having fun is what life is all about and worrying about a little wet dirty water and mud in the house is not a tragedy.

 

Yeah, life is good.

 

Come on, dad, throw it throw it throw it!
Come on, dad, throw it throw it throw it!

Frankly, Scarlett, You’re Remarkable


I finished reading Gone With the Wind recently.   While I’ve seen the film several times and never tire of Clark Gable’s suave Rhett Butler or Vivien Leigh’s seemingly flighty yet head strong Scarlett, I never took the time to read the tome.  Perhaps the size of the book was so daunting that I never thought I’d get through it.   Living in the south now as well as my kindle made it less intimidating and I confess that I was sorry the story ended.

Not surprisingly, the movie depicts a very small part of Margaret Mitchell’s saga despite its length.  Elements including Scarlett’s other children and that the role the Ku Klux Klan played on her second husband’s death are just two examples that the movie dropped.  What struck me most, however, was Scarlett’s development from shallow, detestable teen to reluctant savior of her family and Tara and, I dare to say, a feminist.

gone-with-the-wind-fullScarlett is one of the most interesting and transformed characters in literature.  Born a southern belle with nothing to worry about but beaus and her Ashley, Scarlett soon departs from her tranquil plantation life to Atlanta where the war soon intrudes on her pleasant life.  In short order, Scarlett’s world falls apart and she begrudgingly becomes a midwife, caretaker, and very successful business woman.

Scarlett’s survivor instinct and carefully calculated  actions are admirable and perhaps give a hint about how it was the women’s ingenuity that rebuilt the fallen south after the civil war.  Scarlett survives the most difficult unforeseen obstacles yet rarely finds a problem impossible to solve.   The only time Scarlett said, “I can’t” was when forced  to play midwife for Ashley’s wife, Melanie.  Marriage, murder, buying saw mills, were all motivated by the red dirt of Tara, her family plantation. Facing one tragedy after another, Scarlett planned (some may say calculated) whatever action necessary to accomplish her goal:  the saving and rebuilding of Tara.  The downsides of a plan did not concern Scarlett.  “I won’t think of that now.  I’ll think of it later,” was how she dealt with the inevitable fallout from some of her actions.  Some viewed her as nothing more than a gold digger by marrying for money but Scarlett was more complex and intelligent than that.  Yes, Scarlett’s character is selfish and devious but she was not completely without compassion.  She was a farmer willing to get her hands dirty, a business woman and the owner of saw mills. Her need for Tara’s success was more important than weak human emotions.  And her refusal to feel hunger again drove her as it drove so many others who survived poverty and tragedy.

Despite war and famine, Scarlett knows that tomorrow is another day.
Despite war and famine, Scarlett knows that tomorrow is another day.

Change is hard but events happen beyond our control.  War, economics, loss of a loved one some times force us to alter our lives and we must adjust accordingly.  It’s risky. It’s unknown. It’s just plain

scarlett and rhettscary.   But when tough times hit, what is the alternative but to survive?   I don’t recommend following Scarlett’s path of insensitivity, cruelty, and deception.  Though by the end of the story, we learn that Scarlett’s eyes are finally open and, too late, realizes that Ashley was a weak man,  Melanie had an inner strength and fortitude comparable to her own, and admitted that Rhett Butler was the only man for her.

Was Scarlett able to win Rhett back? It seems unlikely considering her atrocious behavior and his famous departing line, “I don’t give a damn.”  But then again, Scarlett succeeded in every goal she set her mind to and I want to believe in happily ever after.

“After all, tomorrow is another day.”

Well said, Scarlett.

Motivating to Post 100


Such a dreary Monday.  It looks more like my hometown of Cleveland outside than Meridian, Texas.  My body aches on days like this.   After perusing the news websites I typically read every morning, and playing a few mindless games, I can’t seem to get started on any  projects. I opened a couple of writings that I hope get published someday, added a few words and promptly delete them. Is it too early to take a nap?

Our mustangs across the street are reminders that horses on our ranch are a must!
Our mustangs across the street are reminders that horses on our ranch are a must!

Lacking inspiration, I begin day dreaming about our future ranch.  We aren’t ready to buy now but it’s one of my husband and my life dreams.  Turning the dream into an achievable goal takes work – and more money.

When we settle into our dream ranch we will begin raising alpacas.
When we settle into our dream ranch we will begin raising alpacas.

I begin writing this post and hit ‘save draft’.  I move on to search ranches for sale.  There are a few that pique my interest and I further explore locations, square footage, and acreage.  I make notes of addresses and find the locations on my phone’s GPS.  I thought taking a detour from productivity by researching one of our goals may kick-start my motivation.

It stopped raining so maybe I’ll just take a little drive and check out a couple of properties.  Then again, maybe it’s finally nap time.

IMG_4432

The Well


Life’s challenges keep trying to knock me down these days.  I think that I’ve finally hit rock bottom and can start climbing up and out of the well of despair. Crawling and scratching, I try maintaining a positive attitude.  I try to remember “This too shall pass, good things will come around again” and “I know some day I will appreciate and learn from these challenges.”  But I lose grip and slip deeper into the cold dark chasm.water well

.  After a morning in bed, I can no longer stand it.  Years of practice forcing myself out of bed despite the pains, nausea, and other chronic symptoms keep me from wallowing and asking, “Why me?”  My dear mother offers suggestions and wants to make it all better.  But I know I need to find my own way.

The Guard Dogs of Despair
The Guard Dogs of Despair

Devoted black labs stand guard nearby and play a role in my recovery.  They carefully  lick the salty tears that overflow from my eyes and, Luna especially, keep a wary brown eye until they are confident that I’m okay.  Even my dear husband gets me moving again.  I can’t bear his attempts to jump-start my motivation with suggestions of taking the dogs for a swim or going for a drive.   My morose refusals start to gnaw at my conscience, “He’s worried and wants his wife back.”

Thank heavens for the support system, the unconditional love and concern.

So, once again, I look up from the bottom of the well and a shaft of light beckons.  Step by step, one hand over the other, I begin climbing the wall of the cold, damp well.  My nails may break, my fingers may bloody and I may get knocked down again.  But one day, I’ll climb out, seal the well, and life can again be full joy and purpose.