When we think of mindfulness or the act of becoming more mindful, we are often consumed with notions of reclusive meditation, or hiking in pristine, outdoor spaces removed from the chaos and buzz of urban living. But if we had to go to that much trouble to actually practice mindfulness...
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Let's face it. At this time, autoimmunity is not curable. We don't have the science figured out to reverse it 100% or declare a cure. So that leaves a lot of us with not only a diagnosis, but a lifetime disease. And while the work I do with myself and my clients is always moving toward remission, this can leave us with some heavy emotions to work through, especially in the throws of all the symptoms and the debilitating fatigue.
I was struck with a strong surge of emotions when I entered my private spa room. Love and of acceptance hit me like a wave when I stepped inside. You see, to be honest, I struggle with self care. I put others first before me every time. And while that is not a bad thing at times, when it's done day-in and day-out it can become relentless and difficult.
I dont have one of those posters on the wall above my desk with inspirational quotes, and I typically ignore those kinds of posts on social media. But every now and then Danielle Laporte posts some pretty good #truthbomb's. The other day, I uncovered a very simple set of two words on one of her truth bomb cards: People Heal.
O.M.G.!! It was one of those moments where the universe was trying to give me a message. I think anyone who is on a long-term healing journey can understand. We spend so much time making sure we procure, prepare and eat the right foods, get the right amount and quantity of sleep, do the right kind of stress reduction, make sure we are doing enough exercise yet at the same time not too much exercise, take the right supplements at the right times of day (yes, its overwhelming when you put it all together like that)... And then sometimes, even all of that, and we still are sick! It's those moments that I get impatient and think that there will never be change.
But then, I read these two words and its like the universe placed its hand on my shoulder and just reminded me that, "yes this will happen. It may take time, but it will happen." Actually, it was more like Aslan came strolling beside me and said those words as a huge gentle reminder. (I think I will always love those books!)
The truth is that the body has an innate capacity to heal. Its sort of what it is built to do. Cells breakdown and get recycled and rebuilt time and time again. Every second that we're alive, the cells in our bodies are endlessly working to bring us back to a natural state of homeostasis (or equilibrium).
In fact, here are a few TEDx talks by Lissa Rankin MD that are worth the few minutes watching: her first talk and her second talk. Lissa talk about the science and the practice of Mind over Medicine and how healing has a lot to do with our mindset! If we are constantly stressing out about not healing fast enough, or well enough, then that will negatively impact our body's capacity for healing. She suggests its a much better approach to focus on the positive and use mindfulness (1) to boost the body's capacity for healing. Does that mean you have to have an elaborate mediation practice? No! Even just repeating a few words or taking a deep breath will help!
Sometimes, all it takes is to take a deep breath and remember that People Heal.
I have to say, that I love photography. While I can totally geek-out on the nitty gritty of shutter speeds and f/stops, and, as much as I respect the DSLR photographers, I really find DSLR photography more complex than what I need. Still, I wanted to improve my own skills as a photographer and in the last year I decided to only shoot images and video with my iPhone. I mean it was always in my back pocket anyway, so why not?
I am your typical Type-A-stressed-out-to-the-max-overachiever type. Well at least I used to be. And when I would overload my to-do list, over-commit and then take on even more, there was no time in the day to photograph, let alone, to pause and notice moments. I didn't even give photography a second's thought. But until I decided to challenge myself to start taking more photographs, I didn't even understand what I was missing out on.
One of the wonderful and not so often talked about benefits of photography is that it gets me to live in the moment much more than I am used to. I have started to learn to pause, and look at my surroundings to find things to photograph. It may be a shadow, or light peeking through trees, or snails (yea, its become a thing) or an expression on my dog's face. But I have learned that I enjoy life so much more when I take the time to notice the moments. Now, when I go for walks, I find that I am the one pausing to capture moments, light, whatever and then running to catch up. It really has brought a lot of joy to my life.
Being mindful refers to our ability to be aware of what is going on both inside us and around us. It's the continuous awareness of our bodies, emotions and thoughts - as well as the awareness of what is going on in our immediate environment. There are many health benefits to mindfulness including stress reduction. And I find that practicing photography is a great door to being mindful to my environment, but it also gives me that pause to be mindful of my own body and mind. And in that respect, I know that photography has contributed to better health for me.
Am I a professional? Ha! no way. Are my photos perfect? Not even close. Is my photo roll full of blurred, muted, images? You bet! Oh and there are some black ones from photographing my pocket by accident - that happens regularly. But some days I get some gems, and they are delightful gifts when I get them.
To that end, I have signed up for a photography challenge in August. Its called the August Break run by Susannah Conway. She takes a break from writing on her blog and focuses on photography. The rules are really simple: take a photograph each day in August. She provides daily subject prompts... and those participating post to Instagram with the #AugustBreak2014 hashtag or the shared Flickr album. Of course you can always follow my Instagram feed if you want to see what I am up to photography wise. Or you can sign up for the challenge yourself! Totally free.
What do you do to be mindful throughout your day? Leave a comment below - I'd love to hear from you!