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Old 02-06-2015, 08:05 PM   #1
Head Coach
Join Date: Jul 2001
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Course - A RL Writeup

I'm finding it difficult to figure out how to write the intro to this dynasty. Lets start with the basics I guess, and then I'll explain (probably over the course of a few posts), how I got here, what I'm hoping to learn/accomplish myself, and what to expect from this dynasty.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is the title of a specific 8 week long program that appears to be taught at many medical universities. It originated at the University of Massachusettes. The wiki page I linked is pretty sparse. There are a few of these programs in the Raleigh Durham area, notably at Duke and at UNC. I'm going to be in a program that starts in Chapel Hill on Monday.

What Is This?

Structurally, I'll be attending an orientation on Monday that will last about 90 minutes. Then I'll be attending weekly sessions every Monday for the next 8 weeks that last 2 1/2 hours each. Towards the end there is a 6 hour thing on a Saturday.

Conceptually, I'm not entirely sure yet. I have intentionally done a fairly limited amount of research into this to try to limit bias and pre-conceived notions as much as possible. I'll explain what I do know at this point:

Mindfulness is described as "A kind of nonelaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it is." Its got roots in Eastern... stuff (religion/practice/philosophy) that I know little about. Another description from the wiki on Mindfulness that I see mentioned a lot in what reading I have done is "Bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis". Ok... so sort of a living in the present kind of vibe. This specific program, MBSR, talks about learning how to practice mindfulness, using meditation and yoga to help, and learning how to apply these things to daily life.


The short answer is that this is that this program is a complement to other work that I'm doing to combat some issues I've had with chronic pain over the last few years.

This program was specifically recommended to me by physical therapy (I've referenced PT in a few places on FOFC, but I'll go into more details later here). If I'd stumbled on these websites about mindfulness, or MBSR on my own, I'd instantly dismiss them, despite how open minded I may claim to be - or want to be - about the world. But honestly, in just a few months I've seen some improvements in PT for issues that other doctors of mine have been completely disinterested in over the last few years. I've been able to talk about problems in PT and in many cases received theories for specifically why I have some of the problems I do, and have been given hope that many of my issues are fixable. Again, problems that doctors of mine - doctors that I like, mind you - have had extremely limited answers for, at best throwing medicine vaguely at symptoms and seeing what sticks.

As a result, I'm putting a very large amount of trust and weight into the recommendations of my physical therapists. I've spoken to some other people whose opinion I respect (notably my psychologist that I started seeing when my dad was dying, and continue to see as I work on other issues), and all feedback about me doing this has been incredibly positive, so I'm in.

My Own Bias

Ok, lets get real. I've got some serious bias here, and its why I've done so little research on this. When I talk to my physical therapists (there are two... again, more on this later), I'm expecting to hear talk about muscles, and nerves, and physical problems with physical solutions. I'm smart enough to accept that psychology and physical issues go hand in hand. I can dig that and appreciate that. But there's a point where these conversations get a little... airy? weird? spiritual? abstract? ... where my bias kicks in, where I actively realize I'm talking to people smarter than me, people who have already helped me greatly, but I start to feel seriously dismissive, and I have to fight that to keep listening. Its critical to point out that I DO keep listening, and that I recognize (and don't like) this bias. But it exists. With this mindfulness course, we are FIRMLY within that realm.

There are a lot of statements in the websites I've linked above where my first response is to roll my eyes and shut off a bit. I'd expect that response from many people here, probably just at seeing the title of this thread, would be "What the fuck is this bullshit?" and I wouldn't fault you at all. The people that I trust have talked about the methodology behind this course and have made me feel comfortable that its a solid, sound program, at least enough to give it a fair shake

What do I want to get out of this?

The sole driving force initiating this is dealing with some very awkward chronic pain. The primary physical therapist I'm seeing is a pelvic floor physical therapist. Pelvic Floor deals with bowel/bladder/sexual function. Everyone's got their issues, and this has been mine for the last 3 years or so. I don't even have a diagnosis of anything. Just lots of different types of chronic pain in these systems. We're doing a lot of physical work to try to fix my problems, but anxiety, stress, and other psychological issues can be a big factor, especially with the vague types of problems I have, where I don't get a diagnosis, but rather a lot of symptoms and sort of halfway match a lot of different problems. Sort of.

So that leads to two concurrent goals:

1) If its not possible to make all of my physical symptoms go away forever, I hope there are strategies I can learn in this course such that the pain is less disruptive in my life. And lets face it, none of us here at FOFC are getting younger, so even if my current problems are cured completely, eventually, things are gonna happen, maybe I can equip myself to deal with them better.

2) I do have issues with anxiety. My anxiety likely makes my issues worse, or makes them linger in some way. So I'm hoping that whatever I learn over the next 2 months will help me manage my anxiety.

My honest intention though is to be completely open minded and see where this takes me.

Why write this up on FOFC?

The love of text sim gaming seems to carry with it a lot of similar traits. I believe a large majority of people here would define themselves using many of the same words I use to define myself... highly logical, highly analytical, very thoughtful. I mentioned above that I expect a lot of people to have an initial "what the fuck is this?" response, and it'd be my response if anyone else here started a similar writeup. But there's a lot of stuff here that makes me curious too, so I am thinking it might be interesting to write about my experiences with this program with an audience of like minded individuals.

With most of my other dynasties, I've found that writing about the games I play enhances my immersion and enjoyment, whether anyone is reading or not. So I'm hoping to get that benefit myself out of this, as well.

What to Expect?

Can't say for sure yet since I don't know 100% what to expect yet myself. But with classes on Monday, I'm assuming I'll have an awful lot to write about every Monday. There is also the expectation that I'll spend 30-45 minutes a day on my own time to work on the things we're learning. I intend to write about that as well... but there's a chance that gets too weird, or too personal, or that it will be redundant and boring, so no promises.

-- That's it for the (very) long intro. I intend to write a little more background over the weekend in another post or two, to establish a "starting point" to describe in a little more detail my physical issues, and my issues with anxiety.

Comments/Questions are all welcome here. My intention is to be a complete open book with this.

Last edited by Radii : 02-11-2015 at 03:48 PM.
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Old 02-09-2015, 03:09 PM   #2
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Something I found funny going into orientation tonight. I signed up for this program January 9th. I got a form e-mail welcoming me to the program, telling me to show up at some building on UNC's campus on February 9th for orientation.

No new info was received until Thursday night, where the guy running our class sent out a short welcome e-mail, telling us he's looking forward to meeting everyone, what items we may consider bringing/whats provided there. The doors lock at 6pm, they can't control that, so please try to be a little early. At the end is a casual mention of the address and the parking situation. The address is different from the one in the only official correspondence received so far.

I e-mail the guy asking about it, getting an e-mail confirming the correct address on Saturday afternoon. Today, at 2:30, a solid 3 1/2 hours before orientation starts, we get an e-mail with the subject "Please note the CHANGE in location". I cannot wait to get there tonight and find out how many people don't show up because of this, how many are late (the doors lock at 6pm!) and cause a disruption, blaming the late notice.

Mostly though, I find it hilarious that a course with the phrase "Stress Reduction" in its title, where a "reduction in anxiety" is listed at the very top of the list of the benefits of the course, and thus I am assuming this course is attracting people who have specific problems managing stress and anxiety in mundane situations... is starting out with an unannounced change in location and a correction e-mail literally hours before it starts.

Mind you, I'm laughing about this because the one thing that trumps anxiety for me is an obsession with detail and correctness, so I instantly opened the e-mail when i got it, instantly spotted the incorrect address, stopped everything else I was doing, researched the locations online myself, researched information about the class online myself, immediately contacted the instructor, etc,etc. So I figured it all out before I even had time to get anxious about it

Last edited by Radii : 02-09-2015 at 03:10 PM.
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Old 02-09-2015, 03:59 PM   #3
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Join Date: Jan 2004
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Not sure what direction this will go but this has been an amusing start to your stress reduction! Post 2 in and of itself makes this a good read!!
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Old 02-09-2015, 07:21 PM   #4
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Good stuff! I am following along. I hope it works for you and brings you relief.
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Old 02-09-2015, 10:20 PM   #5
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Referencing my last post, there were about 4 people who arrived after the doors were locked and orientation had started. One person arrived 20+ minutes late. No open complaning about the change of venue or late notice. Well done, group! I'm still figuring out how long it takes to get there in rush hour traffic. I arrived 30 minutes early, and sat in my car playing bejewled on my phone until 5 minutes before things were to start. The alternative would be to go inside and talk to people. Shudder.

2/9 - Orientation

Absolutely the most important note from orientation: I like the instructor. That was my biggest source of anxiety going in. I mentioned above being aware of my own biases about some people in these kinds of fields. Logical vs Abstract, etc. Some voice inflections and personality traits I (probably) unfairly attribute to making me feel dismissive of a person or topic initially. No problem with that. The instructor seems very nice, and very straightforward. One of the first things he said was "I encourage everyone to approach this with a healthy skepticism" which put me at ease. He was referencing the fact that there will be lots of things that we will try over the next two months, some may help us, some may not. The goal is to find things that help.

-- There is research being done that involves a couple short in person things (described briefly as 'breath counting tasks'), and an online survey taken once a week throughout the course. I'll be participating. $25 Amazon gift card, oh yeah.

-- The instructor said there were no issues discussing anything that he said/does throughout the course, and of course discussing our own experiences is fine, but to not discuss anything from others in the group. So if my reactions to someone else are relevant, I'll find a way to bring it up, but I'm going to make sure I don't say anything about anyone else in the class that would allow any of them to identify themselves if they somehow ended up here through a google search or something.


We didn't go into a lot of detail here. Every class will begin with mindfulness practice of some sort, typically something related to the previous week's "homework". Every class will also end with a specific mindfulness practice. There will be homework every week, basically some sort of task related to mindfulness that we should try to work on for a half hour a day. Materials will be handed out to record our thoughts/reactions/observations to this half hour a day work. If you skip a day, or many days, and don't spend the half hour doing anything related to the class, that's ok, but we should write down the reason(s) why. Was it because of a dislike/distaste for what we are working on, or was it that we were too busy, etc.

Also mentioned is that we are encouraged to ask questions at any time. We are encouraged to discuss with each other our own experiences, both good and bad, with the homework, and to discuss what is working for us and what isn't. There was talk of how the class would pretty much drive itself as everyone got to know each other. THIS. IS. TERRIFYING. One thing I was 100% unsure of would be how much of this work would be private, and how much would be "sharing with the group" type stuff. I'm sure no one will be forced to speak/share if not comfortable, but damn. Ok.

-- The biggest part of anxiety for me is social anxiety. I avoid group situations that aren't highly structured, even when it comes to good friends of mine. If I am not 100% sure who will be there and what we will be doing at nearly all points of an event, I will likely not go, even if the event is something that I would find extremely enjoyable. If there is ANY chance that I may become the focus of attention, I will not go. If that happens unexpectedly for some reason at an event that I thought was safe, I will leave, even if I have to lie or make up a horrible excuse to get out of the situation. The concept of talking to strangers... or even listening to strangers share their own potentially very personal thoughts, is uncomfortable.

The Group

There were about 25 people there tonight. You don't need social anxiety to hate the thing where you go around the room and introduce yourself. We do that. Most people there are older than me, some are recent grads though. Most people there are parents. Most appear to be highly successful.

-- About 5 people are taking the course for the second time.

-- Primary reasons for taking the course: Stress Reduction was the clear #1. The second most common reason is an improvement in sleep quality and to obtain the ability to sleep through the night. Many mentioned mindfulness as something they've learned about but fallen out of practice with. I suspect I know less about this than anyone here.

-- More on my brand of social anxiety. Everyone was sharing a little about themselves. When it was my turn, my exact words: "I grew up here, moved to Atlanta for a time for college. I moved back when my parents got ill and needed help. I am here because my physical therapist recommended this to help with chronic pain. I also would like to learn to manage anxiety better, a major part of that being social anxiety, so I'm going end this as quickly as possible if that's ok."

Whew, ok. We got through that. I meant to mention I was a self employed software developer. Everyone else mentioned their professsion. I forgot once I started talking.


Four things happened during orientation, outside of the basic description of things, to which I had a reaction worth noting:

1) Near the opening the instructor said that we were going to be silent for two minutes. He rang a bell and spoke to us for this 2 minute period. He asked us to simply be aware of our bodies, whatever that might mean for each of us. To notice whatever it is that we notice. That any reaction at this time is okay, we should just observe our own reactions. To notice our breathing. To notice if we felt calm or agitated, and just in general to be aware of how we felt. His voice was calm. This is, from my extremely basic (and perhaps very wrong still) understanding, the very beginnings and basics of mindfulness. To be able to just stop yourself, "be in the moment", and to be aware of yourself. To just notice things, and not to analyze or judge them. This is, I assure you, still a very abstract concept to me. The "not analyzing" part is further away from abstract. Its downright foreign.

My reaction: Well, I already know what happens to me in complete and utter silence like this. My mind RACES. Here are the things I remember "noticing" and thinking in a two minute period:

-- My chest is tightening ever so slightly. I'm just breathing, why?
-- Weird, I'm sitting in really shitty posture. Like the second before we started this I was sitting straight up.
-- (when noticing breathing is specifically mentioned): I'm pretty sure my heart rate is over 100 right now. Holy shit.
-- I am extremely uncomfortable. My knee hurts in this position (I am experiencing some knee pain that has persisted since Thanksgiving. Its minor, but nagging).
-- I am extremely uncomfortable. My back is hurting. (Did pull-ups at the gym Saturday. With gym+posture work my upper back has been sore most of the time lately. Not pain, just soreness.)
-- I wish I hadn't worn jeans. Do I need to pee? No, I don't. Just ignore it. (this goes to the chronic pain/pelvic floor issues. I sometimes struggle to distinguish "actual urgency" with "bladder pain". Wearing something tighter around my waist like jeans with a belt makes this sensation constant, though at a very mild level).

And this, folks, is why I'm here. The world stops, for two minutes, and I am immediately aware of everything that isn't perfect. In that two minutes I probably have literally 50 unique thoughts. MIND. RACING. I know this happens to me and its not as big a deal as it sounds. Its shockingly easy to never enter this state. There is stimuli everywhere. There's music or TV or computer on at all times. Or something on my computer screen. When I am ready to sleep I listen to a playlist of relaxing type videos I've put together on youtube.

I'm not distressed by this. I don't freak out. I just know it happens. Its always happened. My head has been like this as far back as I can remember. Absolutely back to say... 4th/5th grade. Probably earlier. Its only frustrating when I WANT to be able to just close my eyes and completely relax. I currently don't have the capacity to do that. I hope to learn it here.

-- I don't know if this is common, at all. Maybe it is. Maybe everyone is like this Again, I must stress that I am ok. Really.

2) A question was asked about the "day of mindfulness". Oh boy. On a Saturday towards the end of this, is a 6 hour "retreat" (fuck I hate that word). We are told that we will practice all of the different things we've learned and worked on in our homeworks throughout the course. Our class and I believe a few others will be there (OH GOD BIGGER GROUP SETTING OH GOD). Most of this 6 hours will be spent in silence, working on things we've learned (DID YOU READ THE LAST THING ABOUT THE MIND RACING... SIX HOURS REALLY? OH GOD.). Uhhh, I can do this. Right? I'm still ok. I think.

3) Everyone was encouraged to ask questions. I was the only person who mentioned pain management as a reason for being here when we all introduced ourselves. I would like to ask specifically how the things learned in this course are applied to pain management and if the instructor can talk about that. It seems... a bit more abstract than the more direct things like managing stress and anxiety. Unless of course it is by simply managing anxiety that pain becomes easier to manage.

I am too shy. I don't ask my question. I don't need to know this right now. I have another opportunity to ask my question one on one with the instructor as I was one of the last to leave. I would rather not bring attention to myself, or to the fact that I was too shy to ask in front of other people. So I choose to not ask in that setting either.

4) At the end we repeat the thing with the bell and the two minutes of silence and awareness and stuff. I think about the things I've learned about how much of a "group setting" this really is. I think about 6 hours with these people, wondering if its really possible that I will learn so much over the next two months that a "day of mindfulness" could actually be a positive experience. That's a long ways away. I shouldn't worry about that now. I have another 50+ thoughts race through my head, some "in the moment" and just noticing things about myself variety. Others are more distracted and thinking about what I'm going to do when I get home, and about the busy day I have tomorrow.


We were given a one page handout. It is entitled "The Seven Pillars of Mindfulness Practice". I've skimmed it, but haven't read it closely yet. Our instructions are to read it, and to simply note our reactions to it. Are there things mentioned that we have specific or strong reactions to? Additionally, wait a few days, see if/how your thoughts and reactions change after you have time to sit on it for a little while.

I will read through this handout tomorrow. I'll probably say something about it here. That will likely be all until next Monday.

Whew. Hell of a start. The things I spent the most of this space writing about really occurred over just a couple minutes, but those couple minutes stand out over everything else and really illustrate the types of issues I have with anxiety/obsessive thoughts. Honestly, reading back through this it sounds a little severe. Really what happened is that a couple of these intro things really pointed me right at the things I'm here to learn to manage and control. You have to put yourself into some uncomfortable situations to really improve, right?

Also remember that my intent here is to be brutally and completely honest about this course, my reactions to it, and as we progress the things that I learn and eventually how I am able to apply this still-abstract concept of mindfulness to be able to manage the types of anxiety that came up today.

Last edited by Radii : 02-11-2015 at 03:56 PM.
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Old 02-09-2015, 11:19 PM   #6
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Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: The Satellite of Love
Following along. I do yoga and meditate, though neither as much as I should or would like to. Meditation helps sometimes with getting my brain the calm the fuck down, sometimes not. I've never taken a class, just read about it. Hasn't really helped me with social anxiety. Though, like I said, I don't do it often and have never tried doing right before a social event. Something for me to try next time.

Last edited by sabotai : 02-09-2015 at 11:20 PM.
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Old 02-10-2015, 09:33 AM   #7
Join Date: Feb 2007
Just wanted to chime in to say I'll be following with interest. I'm a fellow "highly logical, highly analytical" person that you talked about in your first post. I've also dealt with anxiety issues at times in my life.

I started going to a mindful meditation group regularly about 3 years ago and it's been absolutely transformational in the best possible way. The group I go to isn't secular but I think you will find there isn't much in the way of "hocus pocus" when it comes to mindfulness. It's just an approach and a framework for managing the mind.

I know a couple of people joined our group to help deal with chronic pain/illness and they have expressed frequently that it helps them. They've both said that having the ability to "name" their pain and having a way to acknowledge it lessens the power it has over them.

Your mileage may vary...but I want to applaud you for the courageous effort in giving this a try! I hope that you find it helpful!
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Old 02-10-2015, 01:29 PM   #8
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Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: St. Paul, MN
Great read so far Radii, thanks for sharing.
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Old 02-10-2015, 02:56 PM   #9
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Chicago
Applaud your efforts Radii! I like the brutally honest aspect... I usually don't have the balls to take things that far.
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Old 02-11-2015, 12:07 AM   #10
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Thank you for the kind words everyone! Happy to have some folks reading along

Originally Posted by Eaglesfan27 View Post
I hope it works for you and brings you relief.

An interesting thing here is that I am already feeling great relief from just the work in physical therapy (and the weight loss, and the gym). I appear to have had a huge success over the last two weeks. One of the meds I have been on for 2+ years was rejected by insurance on its last refill. My urologist prescribed a different med in the same class, but I decided to just not take it for a little while to see what happened. In the last couple years, I've not been without this med for more than 48 hours without signifcant and overwhelming bladder pain and urinary urgency that simply does not go away. We're up to 2 weeks now and while I am not 100% symptom free, I have had no need to try out the replacement prescription. Huge, huge progress.

A month ago when I signed up for this Mindfulness course, things were very different in my mind. It seemed like improvement would be coming, but how long it would be before I could survive without one of my meds was a complete unknown, and a mindset to attack everything made sense. To me, it still does, even if this course might prove to not be 100% necessary to reach the specific goals that led me to physical therapy. But I'm not done with physical therapy yet, there are still things that need to continue to get better, my outlook is just a ton better now than it was a few weeks ago, for a lot of reasons.

There's also the matter of my second physical therapist, working on a problem where the root cause is a foot injury I picked up when i was trying to run to get into shape about 18 months ago that has never fully healed. I think we're making progress there, though right now its less obvious to me, and shockingly to me at least, a lot of what is being done for my foot overlaps with what's being done for pelvic floor... general muscle tightness from the years of inactivity, especially in my hips and back, that seems to be one of the bigger culprits behind two very different problems.

Basically the tl;dr here is that my pain issues, and my perception of them, have changed a fair amount since i signed up for this, being able to manage what pain I do have is still a major goal here, but with what feels like a "major breakthrough" in physical therapy very recently, talk of anxiety and obsessive thoughts and being able to just reign in a brain that just won't stop going sometimes seems like its going to be taking over as the dominant focus here, assuming things continue in the same direction for me.
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Old 02-11-2015, 03:43 PM   #11
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Join Date: Jul 2001
I'm taking part in a research study as part of this course. I got a "pre-class questionnaire" today. I don't know if the study stuff will be worthwhile to discuss as we go along, but since the class still hasn't started yet, and since I'm just starting to really get the picture of what "mindfulness" is supposed to be beyond an abstract term, I figure I'll comment on a few things.

The first section are questions about current behaviors. Things regarding "feelings in the moment", judgement and critical thinking, and the ability to express feelings. Things that give me slightly stronger reactions:

I perceive my feelings and emotions without having to react to them - Never. I analyze everything.
I tell myself I shouldn't be feeling the way I'm feeling - Often. The result of analyzing everything

When I'm walking, I deliberately notice the sensations of my body moving - Never. This is interesting. The physical therapist working on my foot issues does a lot of range of motion type work, trigger point dry needling, massage or other manipulation to try to loosen up my hips, or back, or some specific thing. She will ask me after working on me for an hour to walk around and ask "how do you feel". I stop and think to try to determine what's different. She says "No, don't analyze, what do you feel?" I am incapable of answering this question. I don't feel anything. I am looking for metrics. When I'm hurting I feel "symptoms". But I don't have a sense of much past that. I frequently mention to both physical therapists on many topics such as proper posture, or things with sleep habits, or bathroom habits... "This is hard for me to answer. I'm not sure what 'normal' feels like." partly due to my years of inactivity and allowing my health to go to shit, partly because I just don't have this kind of awareness, and never have as far back as I can remember.

This kind of awareness is something I'm curious about, and something I analyze from a "WTF is wrong with me" perspective, but since I've never had this kind of awareness, even as a kid, I don't know what it means, or what could change if I gain it. Shurg.

When I have distressing thoughts or images I am able to just notice them without reacting - There are a number of questions similar to this. There is a clear aim of being able to observe, going back to that phrase "non judgemental". I answer in the extreme negative to all of these types of questions. I am measured. I don't have anger issues. But I do stop, and analyze the distressing thought, and actively decide what to do about it. I am the person who remains calm in an emergency when everyone else is freaking out. But that's because I put so much trust in my logical ability to analyze any situation and find the right response. Not because I am capable of "just observing" my feelings.

I think some of my emotions are bad or inappropriate and I shouldn't feel them. - There are a lot of questions like this. I answer slightly in the negative. I definitely have times where I say "I wish I didn't have that thought run through my head." I fuss at myself when I get "stuck" on a topic. Again, /shurg.

There is a section asking "how often" have you ___ in the last week. Like how often have you felt nervous and stressed, with multiple choice answers. To pound home the "analyzing" vs "feeling" idea, the instructions state:

The best approach is to answer each question fairly quickly. That is, don't try to count up the number of times you felt a particular way, but rather indicate the alternative that seems like a reasonable estimate.

LOL, right. I do "try" to do this, and it leads to me muddily answering "sometimes" for almost every question.

Lots of questions about being kind to yourself when you are suffering or being kind to yourself when you fail. In all cases I answer in the the extreme negative. I'm hard on myself. I expect myself to be good at things, and to succeed at anything I try. I frequently do not even consider this a flaw, if I'm honest. But I do recognize that I take it too far, my personality is too "all or nothing", etc.

And that's that. The last two posts fall under the "learn more about Radii" and not much else. Perhaps this will be useful to understand what things I can improve through this course, and useful for me to re-read a few months down the road to compare.
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Old 02-11-2015, 04:21 PM   #12
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Orientation Week Homework

We got a handout on The Seven Pillars of Mindfulness Practice. I've read it already before writing this (the idea of commenting in real time while reading it seems counterproductive to everything written on this sheet )

Very, very brief list here:

1. Non-Judging - A goal to able to step back from judging every thought/emotion we have while still being able to observe it.

2. Patience - Specifically regarding times when "the mind is agitated". An ability to acknowledge what's happening in one's head without having to get caught up in it.

3. Beginner's Mind - A willingness to see everything as if seeing it for the first time, "to be present to experiences as if they were novel". Being receptive to new possibilities and to avoid getting stuck in the rut of our own experience.

4. Trust - Trusting ourselves and our feelings and intuition even though we make mistakes along the way.

5. Non-Striving - mindfulnesss is not about "doing" anything. Thre is no goal other than for us to be present.

6. Acceptance - Acceptance means acknowledging things as they are in the present moment, regardless of whether pleasant or unpleasant.

7. Letting Go - "we intentionally pause from elevating some aspects of our experience and rejecting others. We don't have to grasp for or cling to or push away anything; instead, we just let our experience be what it is"

We were asked to note our thoughts on these things as we read them as part of our homework:

To copy the term from SirBlurton above, a lot of the specific phrasing here feels like "hocus pocus." If not for the recommendations of people I trust so much right now, I would have a very, very hard time reading through this without being dismissive. I use the word "abstract" a lot in my posts. I can use that word to describe most of these pillars. I understand what I'm reading, in theory. Seeing how this applies to me, how someone who sees the world the way I do can even be capable of some of these things, and seeing how vast self improvement comes from this foundation... well, right now that's all blind trust. In a conscious act of being non-judgemental (I'M DOING IT GUYS), I will say that I'm cool with all of this, I'm not doubting what I'm doing, but this is the honest reaction.

Specifically, I will say that some concepts listed above, like the "beginner's mind", feel unbelievably foreign, and like a very huge leap for me. Other concepts, "Patience", "Trust", and "Acceptance", at least as written here, I currently practice but in a very different way, and perhaps an unhealthy way. A lot of what's written here seems geared towards avoiding a brash/inappropriate response to your feelings and emotions. I succeed in that but through a process of being overly analytical and logical before acting, or frequently even speaking. That's really not what they're getting at But it is a thing I noticed.

I've posted more than I expected in this orientation week. But I believe at this point its unlikely there will be more here until the Week 1 class next Monday.
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Old 02-12-2015, 08:56 AM   #13
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It's so interesting to be reading your first impressions on all of this.
Wanted to say this really does remind me of some of the feelings I had about it when I started.

The group I'm part of does a chant before we start...that's something I definitely thought was hocus pocus the first few times! Now it's almost comforting and helps prepare me to meditate.

One thing our group talks about constantly is the fact that you point out...that mindfulness IS a practice. There's no end goal (unless you're striving for Buddha-esque enlightenment!). It's just a daily cultivation of awareness of where your mind is leading you.

For me, the most benefit I get from the practice is when I have a moment where I can clearly "see" the reaction I'm having. I used to have a problem at work where people would goad me into having reactions, be it sarcasm, anger, whatever. These reactions often made me look like I was "the problem" and my concerns weren't seen as valid.

Since I've been practicing, I find that I can notice when my buttons are being pushed, almost like a third party observer....and that moment of awareness gives me a chance to decide how I want to react. This ability has improved my life greatly and it's the biggest benefit I get from the practice.

Also, less stress and less thinking coupled with more enjoyment of moments!

Again, great to be reading about your experiences with it!
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Old 02-12-2015, 11:24 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by SirBlurton View Post
Wanted to say this really does remind me of some of the feelings I had about it when I started.

This is good to hear, thanks

that mindfulness IS a practice. There's no end goal

Yeah that's really put out there front and center in all material that I've seen.

Since I've been practicing, I find that I can notice when my buttons are being pushed, almost like a third party observer....and that moment of awareness gives me a chance to decide how I want to react. This ability has improved my life greatly and it's the biggest benefit I get from the practice.

Also, less stress and less thinking coupled with more enjoyment of moments!

Thanks for sharing that, its definitely interesting and helpful to me to see some specifics on how others have benefited from this.
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Old 02-16-2015, 12:43 PM   #15
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Due to the winter weather predicted to come through the triangle area this evening, class tonight is cancelled. There's nothing being done in its place during the week or anything (at least nothing announced as of yet), so this'll be on hold until next Monday.

Last edited by Radii : 02-16-2015 at 12:43 PM.
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Old 02-24-2015, 03:52 PM   #16
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Holy crap there is an unbelievable amount of stuff to write about here I think this might get split into four posts. Perhaps in future classes some of these things will become routine, or such common themes that I won't feel the need to mention things, or can mention them in passing. For now though, this is gonna be loooooooooong.

Emotional Frame of Mind

I got stuck on this section, its why I didn't have something written up last night. I had a really long writeup here but it just got too long and messy. I've learned very quickly that practicing mindfulness is going to land me in some uncomfortable places at times. Frequently, at least at first. So I feel like I have to say something. I am usually an extremely steady and even person. I'm always doing "pretty good". Sure I'm happier, or upset, or angry in a moment. I have jokingly said to my psychologist a number of times, "well you see I don't have feelings".

This seems to be changing, at least I've felt "more" over the last couple months. Some holiday doldrums, whatever. I tried prozac to see if it would help my anxiety and thus some of my physical issues in January. It went... poorly. Things can get worse before they get better but this was extreme in a way I was not prepared for. Anxiety hit levels i didn't know existed, I had severe depressive thoughts when I have never seriously described myself as "depressed", a totally new thing to me. I continuously had thoughts I recognized were "not mine" and had to fight them. I felt very very self destructive, I almost quit my job, I almost quit physical therapy, I almost gave up on my diet, self destructive things that just aren't me. This was only over a short period of time, 10 days or so, but I believe the experience may prove to be life changing for me.

On the other side of things, realizing that I am actually successfully getting off one of my meds from my urologist led to complete elation, a much bigger high than I usually experience. This makes total sense to me, its not "just" getting off of a medicine. Its one of the first tangible, measurable things I can point to that says "yes, all this self improvement work really can pay off, its not too late for you". I've had my doubts about this at times, so this was pretty cathartic.

And lastly, I have to get a little vague here. I'm having some feelings lately that can be really comforting and pleasing, or pretty god damn painful depending on how I'm seeing things in a moment. Sorry about that, hopefully this is the only place where I veer away from 100% open book.

So the reason this is worth mentioning at all... basically I am, with some frequency recently, experiencing both good and bad feelings that are stronger than I'm used to. Combine that with a purpose of mindfulness being to experience the current moment, as it is, and observe and accept your thoughts/feelings/reactions, I had a feeling going into Monday night's class that things might just be getting really weird, and really intense for me over the next couple months. My intention, again, is full open book, so that means it might get really weird for you, the reader, as well Get yer popcorn, and/or seatbelt.
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Old 02-24-2015, 03:55 PM   #17
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Monday, February 23rd, Week 1 Class

Arriving Early

I get there about 15 minutes early and go in 5 minutes before the class is scheduled to start. The fact that this is a mindfulness course has me actively paying more attention to what's going on around me and how I am feeling than I normally would. I mainly notice how hard I work to avoid eye contact with anyone as I look around the room. I am not comfortable here yet, with this group of strangers around me, and I suddenly, somewhat strongly, wish I was not here at all for reasons I cannot articulate. That only lasts a brief moment, but I want things to hurry up and start. A number of people are clearly missing when the doors auto lock at 6pm. The instructor waits and everyone trickles in over the next 5-10 minutes.

Poetry Reading

The instructor tells us that he likes to start each session by reading a poem, he likes poetry. The poem will be something he feels is relevant. We're encouraged to see if we have any response to the poem. If not, that's ok. Today's poem is The Life of a Day by Tom Hennen. I close my eyes and listen, though my mind is distracted - thinking about what will happen over the next couple hours - and I am struggling to pay attention at first. I do hear something that resonates though (copied from the link above):

For some reason
we like to see days pass, even though most of us
claim we don’t want to reach our last one for a
long time. We examine each day before us with
barely a glance and say, no, this isn’t one I’ve been
looking for

A lot of things I do on most days revolve around future appointments, engagements, work deadlines, sometimes to the point that I feel like I'm really just "skipping" a few days here and there to get to the next checkpoint.


We have a general discussion on the topic of auto-pilot. Two examples given involve driving a car, first the actual function of driving. Paying attention to the road, mirrors, surroundings, all done fairly automatically, and this isn't a bad thing. Auto-pilot is natural and serves us well. The other driving example is something that has happened to all of us most likely, when you're driving along and zone out completely and snap back and notice you've driven past 5 exits on the highway without even realizing it.

The instructor asks us for examples where we notice ourselves on auto pilot. One person talks about zoning out while her young kid tries to tell her a story and not really paying attention because there are 100 other things going on. Auto-pilot to get through the work day is a common theme. A number of other people have thoughts that they share, I don't remember them.

Discussion of 7 Pillars of Mindfulness

We briefly discuss an overall definition of mindfulness. A non-judgemental, passionate way to pay attention to the present moment. There is a bit of a philosophical mention of this. We have goals for the future and we work for them. We can learn from our past, but the only moment we have is this moment right now that is happening. The only thing we can actually experience is what's happening in the present.

The 7 pillars of mindfulness was a handout that was our "homework" for the orientation week, I wrote about it above. We went over each one a little. Non-judgemental remains at the top of the discussion. Beginner's Mind remains a pretty abstract and foreign concept to me. There was more specific discussion here but I don't remember a ton of it.

Last edited by Radii : 02-25-2015 at 12:19 AM.
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Old 02-24-2015, 04:00 PM   #18
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Mindful Eating

This is our first practice of the day. There is a container of raisins and a container of almonds. We pass them around and take two of whatever we want. 100g of raisins has 75g net carbs. 100g of Almonds has 10g net carbs. No, I don't care that I'm only going to be eating two of them (1g or 2g at most), thank you very much :P I take two almonds.

The "Beginner's Mind" pillar is referenced, we're asked to pretend that we've never seen these objects before. We don't know if they're even edible. The instructor walks us through all 5 senses, one at a time. What does this look like? What does it feel like? What does it smell like? Does it make a sound (remember, beginner's mind)? Finally, put one almond in your mouth. Don't chew yet. Just observe, texture, any taste at this point, any other reactions? Now take one single bite. New observations? Now slowly chew completely until the food is nothing but mush, and swallow. Observations?

This quick example of "beginners mind" does not help open up the concept any to me. I'm unable to see this object as anything but what I already know it is. That's ok.

My observations - feels solid, doesn't give. the skin on the almonds move a bit when touched. No smell - I have an extremely weak sense of smell, always have. My almond doesn't talk to me. Whew. I notice when I put the almond in my mouth that it softens very slightly as my saliva soaks into it. Its not salted. There is not a taste I can really articulate. The room is very quiet during this, when I take a bite it sounds very loud to me. I notice a lot of the almond mashes into my back teeth and I have to use my tongue to free it to be able to swallow. I notice these sensations, but I also notice that I have a very difficult time describing the taste itself in any other way but "it tastes like an almond".

We repeat the process for the second almond.

I also reflect on the fact that I am not hungry. There is a huge positive judgement associated with this. Its probably 6:45pm now. I haven't eaten since before noon, b/c I know I'm going to get wings on the way home after this class. In the past when I had poor control of diabetes I could not go this long without eating, I would get physically ill. I revel in the fact that I have this element of control over food now, even after a full year of success on my keto diet it still makes me happy every single time I notice it.

We discuss our observations of our food and talk a little more about mindful eating. One lady points out that she used to eat all her meals at her computer so she could multi-task and might not even remember eating her lunch on some days. I eat every meal at my computer, anyone that knows me is in shock at this revelation, I know.

Re-Visiting Autopilot

We re-visit the concept of autopilot in our lives. The instructor tells us that we now have a concrete way to turn off auto pilot for a bite, or for a meal, should we choose to do so, with what we've just learned about mindful eating. This leads to a bigger point about this class itself, and a way to view the things that we do. We're not going to be mindful all the time. We want auto pilot in many things (like the example of driving), but that many people don't know any other way to exist other than to have the auto pilot on all the time. Throughout the duration of this course, we're going to learn lots of ways that we can temporarily turn off that autopilot, if we choose to do so, to notice and experience moments in our lives. We go back to a topic from orientation - not everything we do will appeal to everyone. For now, just have an open mind and be willing to try things. Some will resonate, some may not. But hopefully this is the beginning of understanding that we can choose to slow things down and observe a moment.
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Old 02-24-2015, 04:10 PM   #19
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Body Scan

I forget if there was an introduction to this by the instructor or not. I already knew what this was, this is the limit/extent of my research into the class prior to it starting, so I knew what the body scan was going in and that it was a key part of week 1 and the week 1 homework.

This is our second mindfulness practice of the day. We all have yoga mats. We spread out a bit and everyone is asked to lie down. I lie flat on my back. I think everyone does. The instructor tells us he is going to guide us through this process, and that it will take about 20 minutes. We first focus on our breathing. Not necessarily breathing in any specific way, just noticing how we are breathing. We are told that if we find ourselves distracted or lose focus during this, that its ok, and that we can aim to guide ourselves back to our breathing for a moment, and then back to wherever the instructor is guiding us. We are instructed to focus on the toes of our left foot. Just notice them, is there any feeling associated with them? Without typing out pages here, we essentially move through every body part, stop for a moment, talk about noticing any sensations or reactions you may have when focusing on an area. It goes like this: Left toes, bottom of left foot, top of left foot, entire foot, ankle, lower leg/calf, knee, upper leg/thigh, across hips/pelvis to right side. Right toes, bottom of right foot... presumably the same pattern here but I didn't hear it (more on that in a moment). Right thigh/upper leg. A brief stop at the "groin area", where I tune back in and want to giggle like a 10 year old. Buttocks (no giggling there, more on that later, srs bsns guyz). Lower back, stomach/belly button area, chest, upper back, neck, head in some breakdown that I don't quite remember, down each arm, shoulders/upper arm/lower arm/hand/fingers.

After moving through each body part with the intention of observing each body part and any reaction we may have, we turn over on a side briefly, I forget why, I think just to make it a slow process of getting up, some people are very relaxed and fall asleep during this. Then up to a seated position, then up and pick up mats and go sit back down to discuss.

My experiences/reactions

This section is why I decided to write the "emotional frame of mind" thing above. I didn't experience anything I haven't experienced before, but holy shit guys. This is more of a "buckle up" section than a "get yer popcorn" section.

-- Breathing - I notice am practicing diaphragmatic breathing. This is a thing I learned in physical therapy. Its something I couldn't do before. I was taught to do it to help calm things, both physically and psychologically (I think at least). I can now do it easily laying on my back, I find it comforting, so I default to it when lying down frequently.

-- Left toes - I feel nothing that I can describe.

-- Bottom of left foot - I feel nothing that I can describe. My mind wanders to the bottom of my right foot.

-- Top of left foot - I feel nothing that I can describe. At this point I feel a mini-crisis. I have an overall sense of being very uncomfortable in my own skin, physically, and in general just never being completely comfortable, ever, in any position - again physically. This sense goes back as far as I can remember. I was the tallest kid in my grade from kindergarten through 8th grade or so. I was awkward. I was 6'4" in the 8th grade (my current height). I have tried to approach this vague feeling of mine with doctors, with my psychologist, with physical therapy. I don't think its a feeling that has an "answer". I have lost over 100 pounds since my highest weight. I have begun to improve lifelong problems caused by poor posture and sitting all the time and being inactive. I cannot describe even the smallest level of progress in this vague sense of "I notice that I am uncomfortable at all times. I am awkward as fuck.". I have a long way to go still. WHERE THE HELL DID THIS COME FROM. (** let me point out that I am, to the best of my ability, recalling what I was thinking at the time, not inserting any 'analysis' or missing pieces. This is, I believe, my inner monologue in this moment that was happening. I am actively going through my memory bank, and pondering if this is something that will just never get better).

I notice that I am not crying, but my eyes have welled up a good bit. What the fuck?

-- Left knee - I guess I missed a bit. Of course I am jolted back to the instructor at the mention of the left knee. My left knee HURTS. Today it happens to hurt a lot more than usual. This has been on my mind throughout the day. I have positioned myself in a way that my left knee doesn't hurt right now. I know that when its time to get up, its going to be very bad.

-- Right Toes - I missed a bit. I'm back again. Of course I'm back again. I know what's next.

-- Bottom of Right Foot - I feel a noticible pressure from the ball of my foot against the bottom of my shoe. My heel is on the ground. My foot is sticking straight up. I should not feel this pressure. The ball of my foot is *barely* making contact with my shoe. I check my left foot. I do not feel the same sensation. My left foot feels normal. This does not hurt, in this moment, but the feeling is a LOUD one. It overwhelms my ability to look for sensations for awhile. My mind doesn't wander, but when we get to the right calf, I am still thinking "I don't know, but the ball of my foot is a problem". (** Mentioned in earlier posts, but I hurt myself trying to run too much too soon as a 300 pound guy a couple years ago. This has never fully healed. This specific problem is the catalyst for the second physical therapist I am working with. If I lay off it, its this kind of minor "awareness". I'll notice a mild irritation when I drive... from pressing my right foot into the accelerator. If I try to use it daily there will be a consistently escalating amount of pain that I will feel at all times.)

-- Groin - teehee. Ok, ok, I'm back again. I feel nothing that I can describe. I judge this, and it relaxes me to realize this. Urinary urgency problems remember? Feeling nothing here is really nice, even in a small moment like this.

-- Butt - The instructor specifically mentions noticing if there is tension. Oh buddy you have no idea. I have awareness here like you wouldn't believe. I fully relax, to the best of my capabilities, and I am pleased with myself. (** Google "Pelvic Floor Resting Tone" and "Pelvic Floor Downtraining" if you so desire. This is a big part of pelvic floor physical therapy for me, and is another area where I have been able to find real, measurable progress. I like being able to measure things. I don't mind talking about it, ask if you want, but the pelvic floor stuff gets way TMI pretty quick, and that isn't the purpose of this dynasty, so I don't want to bother the people that don't want to know)

-- Lower Back - minor pain from the position I'm laying in. I have no pillows for support.

-- Stomach - Similar to groin, I go to urinary questions here. Do I feel like I need to pee? Do I feel any irritation? I do not.

-- For the rest of the body scan, my focus wanders. I am mostly listening to the instructor, but I have decided that I am not going to feel anything anywhere. I do go back to focusing on breathing, then back to the specific body part, a few times. But I don't really stay there. My thoughts land on the painful parts of the "vague feelings" I described on the 'emotional mindset' section. I expect this to happen a lot.

-- At the end, we roll over on our side for a moment before sitting up. The pain in my left knee while rolling over is IMMENSE. I knew that was coming.

Body Scan Discussion

After we are all seated again, the instructor asks how many people fell asleep during the body scan. 6 or 7 people raised their hands. Almost 1/3 of the people. They CLEARLY had a different experience. We were invited to share our thoughts on the experience. Someone said that it was extremely relaxing. Someone said that they found that their mind was wandering a lot, but it was still calming. The instructor said that was ok, and goes to the core of mindfulness to talk about how the point isn't to control your thoughts, but to notice them and accept them, but that during this process you can gently guide yourself back to your breathing and to the scan to continue. People pointed out the same thing I noticed, having the realization that you missed the instructor talking about areas of the body entirely.

One person said that she didn't really "have any sort of feeling" about much of it. The instructor said that was ok, and said that he frequently feels no reaction to some areas as well. "What does my left calf feel like? Its just there."

So here's another pointer on social anxiety for me. I am hearing some bits of comments that resemble certain parts of my experience, but my overall feeling is that no one else here had a very clear, strong NEGATIVE experience. If they did, they aren't speaking up either. Similar to orientation and the "why are you here?" question, there has been no mention of pain. I don't want to talk. I don't want these people to look at me, or notice that I am here. But this experience was too strong, and too different to let it go. The NEED for me to say something about this finally overwhelms my desire to remain invisible. I raise my hand and say "I felt that areas of my body that hurt, or are uncomfortable felt very strong, and overwhelmed everything else"

The instructor says that if something causes too much discomfort, to skip it. That there is no need to say "I can handle the pain!" Just move on to the next area. Over time, with practice, some people - not everyone necessarily - will find that they can go back to these trouble areas and be okay with it.

There is a lot of talk about the body scan being an exploration. It doesn't have to be the same every time. One girl mentioned that she doesn't usually lay down like this and she had to resist curling up. The response was to play around with that during the week, see if you observe different things, not to rush to that curled up position every time, but to see what happens if you do something a little differently.

We discuss some tips for the future here (these are included in a handout so I'm copying some word for word):

-- Regardless of what happens (falling asleep, mind wandering, not feeling anything), the important thing is to just do it. Just be aware of your experience as you do, whatever it is.

-- If your mind wanders a lot, note the thoughts and bring your mind gently back. Key points here are not to judge yourself (Why can't i focus?), and to be gentle with yourself.

-- Let go of ideas of success, failure, doing it well/right. This isn't a skill for which you need to strive. The only thing that matters is regular practice, just do it with an attitude of openness and curiosity.

-- Let go of expectations of what the body scan will do for you. Imagine it as a seed you have planted. The more your poke around and interfere, the less it will develop. With the body scan, just give it the right conditions - peace and quiet, regular practice. The more you try to influence what it will do, the less it will do.

-- Try approaching your experience in each moment with the attitude: "Ok, that's just the way things are right now." If you try to fight off unpleasant thoughts, feelings or sensations, the upsetting feelings will only distract you from anything else. Be aware, be non-striving. Be in the moment, accept things as they are.

-- I feel much better after this discussion.
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Old 02-24-2015, 04:11 PM   #20
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We are given a sheet to record our practice throughout the week. We are also given a CD to take home. One of the tracks on the CD is a guided body scan of about 25 minutes, similar to what the instructor talked us through today. We have three tasks. We are asked to complete each task "at least 6 out of the next 7 days." For each task and each day, we are asked to write briefly about our experience. If we skipped a task, perhaps write about why, that's important too.

Two of the tasks are to repeat what we've learned today:

Mindful Eating - Notice one bite of one meal, at least once this week and preferably once a day, in the same way that you brought your attention to the almond (the sheet says raisin, the sheet is wrong).

Body Scan - Practice the body scan, following the recording or on your own at least six times before the next class. Don't expect to feel anything in particular or to receive a benefit. You may give up all expectations about it. Let your experience be whatever it is, without evaluation, if possible. Simply keep doing it, and we'll talk about it in class.

The third task:

Routine Activity - Choose one routine activity in your daily life and make an intentional effort to bring moment to moment awareness to it each time you do it, just as we did in class when eating the raisin. Possible activities include getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, bathing, dressing, picking up the phone, giving affection to a significant other or pet, etc.

Before the third task we broke off into pairs to discuss possibilities for what we might want to choose. I got paired with the guy to my left. He isn't a talker either. Or at least, not in the face of someone like me! Ok, I'm mostly kidding there, this was a normal guy chat. We both knew what we wanted to do, said a couple words about it to fulfill the requirements, and were mostly done. Other people talked for awhile and just talked in general.

My routine activity

I am going for a position of comfort here. Every night when I first get into bed, my cat jumps into bed and curls up in the crook of my left arm and purrs and wants all kinds of attention. I have a pretty detailed "process" for falling asleep, this is another physical therapy thing, so usually at this time I'm working through some nighttime process and analyzing how I feel. I've probably got my laptop out and am browsing reddit, or catching up on the League of Legends Korean league.

For this week, I'm not going to pull out the laptop, not going to begin that nighttime routine, until I've spent 5-10 minutes giving Dean (cat's name) my undivided attention.

WHEW. Ok, I'll write a brief bit on homework each day.

Last edited by Radii : 02-25-2015 at 12:35 AM.
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Old 02-24-2015, 04:22 PM   #21
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A couple specific points I thought about while writing this:

-- I continue to really like the instructor. I feel comfortable listening to him. I like the things he says. He is realistic. He is not preaching mindfulness as a way to fix everything in your life. He is not talking about major transformations. Today he said something about how he will almost never tell anyone that something they are doing is wrong, or tell someone not to do something. He has a firm sense of "every thought is ok". That comes up a lot when he asks people what they want to share. Its a little weird to me, normally when I hear someone say "there are no wrong answers", I am reminded of Animal Farm: "All animals [answers] are equal, but some are more equal than others". But here, I believe him.

-- I'm trying to apply a specific perspective on everything I write here, at least starting with this first class on. I'm trying very hard to only write about what I thought, or felt, at the time things were happening. If I can help it, I don't want to apply any sort of "post event analysis".

-- Similar to that, you may notice that there is no analysis at all outside of what I felt at the time in class, of anything that happened. Or at least, there shouldn't be. It is very, very weird to me to look at this homework and not have a list of "goals" for it. Or to look at my experiences in the class without immediately documenting how I want them to change or improve in the future. Perhaps its a credit to the instructor, but at the moment, I am honestly not thinking about any of that, or how all this ties together in the end, but instead am going all in on just doing the things and seeing where it takes me.

-- Lastly, this was LONG. This took forever to write up, but I honestly don't see anything to cut. The instructor mentioned that the first class was a bit different, that it would be way more of just him talking. After this first class, there will be a lot more sharing from the group. So I think as things go along the writeup will naturally get a bit shorter.

Anyway, point being, let me know if this is readable, or if this is just too much to digest. Suggestions, questions, comments all welcome. If there were things I glossed over that interest you, feel free to ask. Nothing is off limits here, I just have the feeling that some shit most people probably don't want to hear about. But I have no trouble going into full gory detail about almost any of this, including anything from physical therapy or even most of the "work in progress" stuff with my psychologist that, along with physical therapy, has led me here. Ask away, worst case you hit a rare spot I'm not comfortable answering.

Last edited by Radii : 02-25-2015 at 12:39 AM.
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Old 02-24-2015, 08:06 PM   #22
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Homework - Week 1 Tuesday

Mindful Eating - I make my standard bacon and eggs for breakfast. I am still eating at my computer desk for this, but I leave my monitors off and do not engage with any sort of technology until I complete this task. I will practice mindfulness while eating my first strip of bacon. I aim to go through the senses the same way we practiced in class. The bacon is still a little slick from grease. It is not completely firm/crumbly. No smell, I will likely re-iterate my almost non-existant sense of smell repeatedly here. It looks... like bacon. My bacon also does not talk to me, though I can hear Homer Simpson drooling, "mmmmmm, bacon". I notice the salty taste. I notice that some parts are crunchy, some less so. I note that is pretty much how I like my bacon, I enjoy this. I note that I am chewing much faster than when in class last night.

Body Scan - I lay on my back, in bed, with pillows under my knees and a small pillow under my head. I am infinitely more comfortable with this support. I listen to the CD we were given. The body scan track is 25 minutes long. My feelings when I am focused on the body parts being discussed are similar to last night, I do not have any feelings I can describe at any point that are not "symptoms" or feelings of discomfort. I note a difference with my knee, both from the pillows and from the fact that my knee simply doesn't hurt as bad today as it did last night. I skip over my right foot. Later on, I feel myself being drawn repetedly to my foot. I am aware of the ball of my right foot over any other body part. It is impossible to focus on the voice of the instructor and on the area she is guiding me to for more than a few seconds without being drawn away to the sensations in my foot. After about the halfway point my mind wanders constantly, to what I'm going to do after this task it complete, to wondering whether any of the snow from today will freeze overnight. At some point I am thinking about my level of focus when last hitting with Nasus during the first 4 levels in League of Legends games. I am not surprised to think about League, I do note with amusement how very detailed and specific that thought was. I do try to calmly pull my focus back to the audio a few times, but at this point it does not stay for more than a few seconds.

Routine Activity - (last night bedtime) - Dean jumps on my bed immediately when I lay down. I leave the laptop and the physical therapy nightly routine alone, as I had planned. He purrs immediately. His purr is very loud, and I notice this. I notice how "active" he is in being petted, anytime my hand is near his head he bumps his head into me repeatedly until I scracth him. I notice how relaxing and comforting it is to do this. After a few minutes, my mind does wander to things I need to do for work the next day. I bring myself back to this a couple times before calling it a day and pulling up reddit on the laptop and beginning the nightly PT routine.

And that's that, day 1's homework complete!

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Old 02-24-2015, 09:27 PM   #23
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Keep at it bud... sounds like you are learning in the class... that in and of itself is worth it, right?!
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Old 02-24-2015, 09:48 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by timmae View Post
Keep at it bud... sounds like you are learning in the class... that in and of itself is worth it, right?!

Yep! I have no expectation that any of this becomes natural or helpful overnight. Eventually
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Old 02-25-2015, 07:48 PM   #25
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Something I noticed after the body scan last night. I went straight from that into gaming mode, I joined voice comms with my gaming buddies and started talking to one of my good friends. I was... oddly mellow, I felt like I was talking a bit slower, I dunno, its hard to explain, but something was distinctly different, and relaxed, even though for the entire second half of the body scan last night my mind was wandering completely and I had very little focus. This wasn't a "waking up from a nap" type sensation or anything I am accustomed to. Just an observation. It lasted a few minutes.

Homework - Week 1 Wednesday

Mindful Eating - Made my nomal bacon and eggs. Was mindful of my first bite of the egg. No smell (sense of smell again). Chose not to touch :P In my mouth I note the smooth texture of the egg. Without chewing, I can detect the taste of the coconut oil I fry my eggs in. I can also distinctly detect the taste of cheddar cheese. There is no yolk in this bite. The egg is very soft, I could break it apart with my tongue without chewing if I wanted. I do this for a moment and then chew and swallow.

Body Scan - I experiment with laying on my side instead of my back. For the first half, the lower body part, I find that my mind is racing along at a pretty good pace, but at the same time I maintain partial focus on the audio and body parts being examined. Instead of coming and going and outright missing some areas, I find that I am in a constant state of being "halfway present". My thoughts roam from work to dinner to the incoming snowstorm. I settle on my left knee, and my right foot, without any problems. When we reach the pelvic region, I notice a moderately strong urinary urgency that is absolutely inappropriate (as in, I am certain I do not need to go, but I feel like I do). Its only moderate, but its very clearly there (**External Note: This isn't uncommon when I first lay down, but it did not happen the first two times I did this body scan. Laying on side perhaps?**). Even though I'm used to this sensation and not particularly distressed by it, I do focus on it for much of the rest of the scan. When the instruction moves up to areas of the back/chest, I take my focus there, but it bounces back and forth between that and this bladder sensation.

The audio here is a bit different than what our instructor in class did. There is talk about muscles, tendons, internal organs, and I find it actively takes me out of the moment. "Be aware of your stomach" vs talking about the fact that you've got a liver and kidneys and intestines in there working for you.. I dunno, I have noticed both days doing this at home that section has proven very distracting.

So anyway, this was a little different. Not good, not bad, just different. The persistent "half focus" feeling was different for me, compared to the feeling the other times of being pulled into and out of focus by my thoughts.

Routine Activity - I stayed up much later last night than normal. I had an early appointment this morning. I was unwilling to add extra time to my nighttime routine for this, so I skipped it. Noted, and the instructor has mentioned many times, if you don't do something, noting that and noting why is just as important as observing everything else.

Day 2 complete.
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Old 02-26-2015, 07:24 PM   #26
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After last night's body scan I again went to the computer, I was immediately invited into a league of legends game with a couple buddies. We didn't talk much, or at least I didn't, but I noticed I *really* played like shit for the first few minutes. Timing and general awareness/focus were not what I'm used to at all.

Homework - Week 1 Thursday

Mindful Eating Grilled Pork Chop for dinner w/ some worcestershire sauce and grated parmesean on top. No sense of smell blah blah blah. I cut the pieces up fairly small but the one I choose to eat mindfully is still a little too thick to let it sit comfortably in my mouth for too long, so I notice that immediately. I notice the tangy taste of the worcestershire sauce, and the texture of the cheese (moreso than the taste). I chose the piece that had the most fat on it, I greatly enjoy that taste. The taste does not change noticibly when I chew my food. I notice some stringy bits hanging around my teeth when I'm done. I make a note to floss right after I finish the rest of my dinner.

Routine Activity - Dean jumps on the bed soon after I lie down. His tail is wet. He is 14 or 15 and doesn't always use the litterbox anymore, despite not having any health problems that the vet can identify that might cause this. I break to clean him up and go find the spot to clean. That takes awhile, remember that sense of smell that I don't have? Yeah.... I'm pretty sure sometimes I don't even know he's done it, its a source of embarrassment, at least the carpet is very old and needs replacing before this. ANYWAY. Once that is done, I go back to bed, Dean comes back pretty quickly, I give him my undivided attention for awhie. I am reflecting on this issue though, and thinking about the things I've tried to sovle the problem, so my mind is wandering away from the present. I pull myself back to the present when I notice his purr, I enjoy giving him attention but my mind is going all over for the duration of this.

Body Scan - I am very distracted during work. I don't have a big task to do, but lots of small ones. I find it hard to move from one task to the next without major sidetrack. I've got some shit on my mind, and I work from home so there is really nothing to keep me on track. I decide to do the body scan in the middle of this, curious to see what happens when I'm in a state like this. The thoughts that are distracting me from work aren't horrible, but they aren't good either and I do actively wish I wasn't having them.

Almost immediately I find myself "jumping ahead". I focus on my left toes as instructed, then I wonder how my knee is going to feel and jump there. I wonder how my foot will feel, I jump there. I pull myself back to my breathing, then back to the audio. I make it through the rest of the lower body portion of the scan without becoming distracted. I notice that my knee does not hurt much at all today when I focus on it. I do not really find anything else to note as far as feelings/sensations.

At some point when moving to the upper body I zone out completely. I may have fallen asleep, or something close to it. If I did, I was out lightly enough to hear some keywords in the audio that pulled me back to it. I had no recollection of what I was thinking about while zoned out (***its very strange. I wouldn't have thought i fell asleep at all, the only reason I think/assume I did is that the second I came to I had already lost/forgotten whatever was in my mind***)

What pulls me back in is the part that I've mentioned disliking, where the lady in the audio starts talking about the internal organs. I notice today that the audio mentions the pancreas when it talks about stomach/liver etc. Instead of tuning out, I use this time to tell my diabetic pancreas that it can go fuck itself. I have defeated it with my diet over the last year and I don't need it anymore. My hyper-analytical mind, my mind that "must note correctness" at all times, breaks in and concedes that the pancreas does other things besides deal with insulin and blood sugar, and I probably do need those things, but that's not the point is it? The audio has moved on by now, I catch up and go back to it.

I am able to follow along for the rest of the audio, without noting significant thoughts or distractions. I also find nothing to note in any other area of the body that is observed and discussed at the end.

Its an interesting place, my head sometimes. Note the lack of "WTF?" thoughts along the way. I'm not surprised or distressed by any of this.

Day 3 down!
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Old 02-27-2015, 07:08 PM   #27
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Homework - Week 1 Friday

Mindful Eating - Lunch at Chipotle (hooray). Steak salad with cheese/salsa/sour cream/guac. Salads at Chipotle are low carb heaven to many. Anyway... I try to get a mix of ingredients in my bite for mindful eating. I put the fork in my mouth and pay attention without chewing. I can separate the different flavors easily. Many of the flavors are strong ones. The guacamole stands out the most. Tangy? A little spice? The flavors mix together when I chew, and that's that. Mindful eating feels repetitive to me at this point. I'm not frustrated, but I am not sure I'm interested in this. It may be because it highlights the issue I have with the "Beginners mind" pillar. If I can bring myself to speak up in class on Monday this is what I'll talk about. An almond tastes like an almond. My bacon tastes like glorious bacon. If you've never eaten bacon before, do not ask me what it tastes like It tastes like bacon dammit!

Routine Activity - No pee on the cat's tail last night, yay! I notice how Dean settles into the same place every night. I notice how his paws wrap around my upper arm, and how he kneads into my arm with them when he's happy. When his purr really gets going, he starts to drool. This has never bothered me, and it doesn't now even being so aware of the moment. My mind wanders, thinking about how disgusting my ex wife used to think Dean drooling on me was, and how hilarious I thought it was that it bothered her so. I come back to the present and feel very relaxed and go into my nightly routine.

Body Scan - I am not doing the body scan tonight. I've had a long day and some of that "emotional state of mind" crap from before has been weighing on me a little more than normal today. I am absolutely fine, but dedicating a half hour to paying full attention to the current moment and accepting whatever thoughts and feelings come is not something I want to do.

I got the survey for week 1 for the research today. I haven't looked at it yet. I'll do it tomorrow and write something if I think its interesting.
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Old 02-28-2015, 03:46 PM   #28
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Similar to the last research survey that I did, I'll note questions that elicit a reaction from me of some sort.

Week 1 Survey

We are asked to spend 10-15 minutes doing a mindful body scan or mindful breathing before taking the survey. Lucky for me I just did that.

The first page is about how you feel about the experience:

I experienced myself as separate from my changing thoughts and feelings - Not at all (1/5). Not today at least. I have felt something similar to this, sometimes, like I'm "watching" what's happening, sort of? But only when I was really relaxed/calm. I was not today.

I was more concerned with being open to my experiences than controlling or changing them - Quite a bit (4/5). I feel that, even when I'm agitated by what is rattling around in my head, during this practice I can fairly easily adopt a mindset to just see what happens, and not try to force something specific to happen.

I was curious to see what my mind was up to from moment to moment - Moderately (3/5). This is a bit more abstract than the idea of just "watching my thoughts". At least for today, I had expectations of where my mind was going to be going, so there wasn't much "curiosity" about it.

I was receptive to observing unpleasant thoughts and feelings without interfering with them - A Little (2/5) - I am "capable" of observing unpleasant thoughts during this process without interfering. I'm not "receptive". I don't want it to be happening. I don't like it.

I remained curious about the nature of each experience as it arose - Not at all (0/5) - I am not entirely sure what this is even asking.

I was curious about my reaction to things - Moderately (3/5) - I am rarely surprised by my reactions to things. My mind races in normal situations so I feel like I'm unlikely to run across something surprising, so I'm observing, but I maybe lack some "curiosity?" I am more curious about what thoughts may pop up at a given moment.

The next section is on my general views of how I handle things, being hard on myself, how i view things i'm bad at/fail at, etc. Similar questions to the pre-class survey so no need to go into detail.

There is a section on learning from negative experiences. I answer in the extreme positive on thinking I can learn something from "recent negative events/experiences", and that I can find the positive sides of a negative experience. I can, usually looking for what I can do better the next time.

There is a final section on how I've felt during the last week that i go through, and that's that.
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Old 02-28-2015, 09:26 PM   #29
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Week 1 Saturday Homework

Mindful Eating "Chia Pudding", a low carb dessert-y thing i make daily to get some fiber. 8 oz almond milk, 2 tbsp heavy cream, 1/4 cup chia seeds (this is a LOT of fiber if you're already eating whole grains or whatever, but I eat no grains and get almost no fiber from other sources). Small bit of cocoa powder, sugar free torani caramel syrup, vanilla extract, and 2 stevia packets. mix up, put in fridge for 2 hours. The chia seeds absorb a lot of the almond milk and it gets a little thicker. If I have some extra calories available I will melt a spoonful of peanut butter in the microwave and stir it in as well.

Enough with the recipes. Tonight I add peanut butter. The pudding looks... not good? It looks like a seedy mush. I am able to smell the peanut butter. I HAD A SMELL GUYZ (peanut butter has always been a surprisingly strong smell to me even as I am able to detect so few other things). The texture of the pudding in my mouth is pretty unique. The peanut butter doesn't mix in well and stands out and is a little sticky. The chia seeds feel strange just sitting there being observed by me. Chia seeds are tiny and this isn't really a thing you chew, so I just swallow. When I eat this with peanut butter the peanut butter flavor overwhelms everything else in it, as is the case tonight. It tastes like a peanut butter pudding. I cannot detect the cocoa or caramel flavors in this moment.

Routine Activity - This was last night, the night that I skipped the body scan because I had a lot of negative things on my mind. That stuff hasn't gone anywhere by the time I go to bed, so avoiding the laptop and the rest of the routine to focus here does lead my thoughts to some places I am not thrilled to be. I do focus on Dean, and find his purr and presence very comforting. I find myself reflecting again to when I was married, to a period where the marriage was clearly over but no one had said anything yet, both of us very unhappy (and I guess just waiting for the other to finally bring it up and call it). There were countless days during that time where Dean reliably coming to find me as soon as I went to bed was the best part of the day. So I finding myself doing a mix of looking at the present and reflecting on some past nostalgia at the same time.

Body Scan - So I skipped this yesterday and did it very early today, before I really started my day. I'm feeling ok and looking forward to my weekend, but this process is just a bit different. The act of turning everything off and focusing on myself reminds me that yesterday's anxiety isn't exactly gone yet. Throughout this process I found that my breathing was not steady, not a point of comfort. I have a nervous tic where I kind of click my throat audibly (and sometimes I do it even when I'm not "nervous"). I find myself doing it constantly during this process today. My knee hurts pretty bad this morning, and I find that I am constantly shifting trying to find a position where my knee doesn't feel any strain. I never find one, even with a couple pillows for proper support. I do move my thoughts around to various body parts along the way, but the distractions are there the entire time, from start to finish.

Now, the body scan isn't about relaxation, specifically stated in the handouts we were given. It is about observing whatever comes, and all of the other pillars, including accepting whatever comes whether good or bad. For most of this 25 minute period, I do maintain this mindset. Ok, this doesn't feel great, but I'm just seeing what happens, I'm not going to try to force unpleasant thoughts away right now if those are the thoughts that are going to continue to the forefront during this. I'm trying to make my knee comfortable, but if that's not possible, I'm not getting mad about it, its just the way it is this morning. Towards the end, the last 5 minutes or so, that does degrade a little and I actively want this process to be over with, but I don't stop short, or turn off the CD early, I allow it to finish. I know that it may not necessarily be ideal to judge these experiences too much, that there's no right or wrong with them, but I do feel a sense of accomplishment here for allowing this experience to happen, and for not trying to drown out thoughts I may not really like all that much. I dunno.
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Old 03-01-2015, 11:31 PM   #30
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Week 1 Sunday Homework

Mindful Eating - Leftover Pork Chop. I used a lot of worcestershire sauce, the taste of it is very strong when I begin to taste. It is a little tougher than it was fresh off the grill.

Routine Activity - As always, I notice Dean's very loud purr first and over everything else. Some of these things feel like I am just repeating myself, but that is my experience I suppose I continue to notice some "less than ideal" feelings whenever I turn off the distractions as part of my mind racing around, and I notice how comforting Dean's presence is when those thoughts come up.

Body Scan - I am starting this very late. I basically took today off. Skipped anything at the gym (I'd been something like 13 days in a row tho, much of it just for moderate cardio, but still). I feel rushed, its 11pm and I still need to do body scan, stretching routine, e-stim and would like to watch walking dead so i don't have to worry about spoilers tomorrow. I am curious how I'll react to body scan when I feel rushed like this. I find that I settle in pretty quickly, and that I calm down easily once I start listening to the CD. My mind was racing way faster than usual a few minutes ago, and now, I find I can bring my mind to each body part, I may think about other things, but they are casually coming and going, not racing around quite so much. Its a noteworthy change in a very short time. My knee hurts, but its loosened up pretty well and I am able to make it comfortable. Skipping the gym maybe gave my foot a day off, these distractions of pain don't exist tonight, which makes it very easy to stay with the audio and not veer off too much. I am still not "feeling" anything when I hit each body part necessarily, but I am moving through the process and looking.

Hitting the upper body during the scan again seems like a different process than the lower. My mind wanders away and I zone out for 3 or 4 body parts before I come back. I find myself looking ahead to an upcoming appointment I have on Wednesday, one which, given some of the things racing around my head the last two days, seems very important to me right now. I realize that I am wishing away days. Its Sunday, I wish it was Wednesday right now. I think that I should look for things I can accomplish on Monday and Tuesday instead. I then realize that I have missed at least 3 body parts in the scan, maybe more, and do the thing the instructor mentioned where you go back to your breathing, then back to the focus of the audio. I get through the rest of it with what feels like a "normal" in and out focus, thoughts creeping in regularly while I work on focusing on my body, and just moving through the process.

When I'm done I do note that I feel less rushed. I will probably be up later than I may ideally want tonight. But I work from home, and not really on anyone's timetable most days, I don't have anything pressing to do in the morning. I feel more patient with myself. I can finish my tasks for tonight, and perhaps try to plan a little better tomorrow. All good!
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Old 03-01-2015, 11:35 PM   #31
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End of Week 1

So this homework sheet lists 6 days. Then we'll have the week 2 class tomorrow night. Some thoughts on things this week:

Mindful Eating - I feel like I should want to be much more interested in this practice. I'm someone who was more than 100 pounds overweight for most of my adult life. The concepts of slowing down, appreciating my food, etc, sound beneficial for someone like me. This is an area where analytics have served me well. Keto diets are filling, its very hard to overeat on them if you do it right. I'm aware it can still happen, and I am good about weighing my food and only putting an amount that I want to eat on my plate. Weight loss/healthier eating isn't the only reason to consider this, though. But finding an "enjoyment" with food via mindful eating is something I see as more of a shared experience. Something I'd love to do with a partner, but something that fades if I'm just cooking for myself.

The reality is that I found this process boring at best, disheartening at worst. This one more than anything highlights my early struggles with some concepts, specifically the "beginners mind". Its not as pronounced, but I do believe a weaker sense of taste goes hand in hand with a weak sense of smell frequently. So I find myself a bit frustrated when I try to distinguish and describe tastes. I find myself anticipating and expecting the things i will notice with a specific food before I actually do the thing.

I wonder if my initial view of this would have been different if it came later in the course. I also wonder if this is something I may have more interest in re-visiting after more practice in other areas.

Routine Activity - I found writing about this to be a bit repetitive, but actually doing it to be enjoyable. Of course, I picked an activity that would be an "easy" starter one for me. Taking time to notice and appreciate a pet that has been with me for 14+ years is certainly a rewarding and enjoyable experience. I can again point to the beginner's mind struggle here. Did I notice or learn anything new? No. And that's ok. I tended to approach this from the perspective of "I know everything about this animal, but this practice allows me time to remind myself of all the positive things that Dean has brought to my life". I noted multiple times how comforting it is to have him around, something that's easy to forget when rushing through every day.

I am not 100% sure, but I believe the idea here is to pick a different "routine activity" each week. I will likely pick something mundane like brushing my teeth next week. A lot of people picked things like that for week 1.

Body Scan - This was certainly the most interesting thing to write about. This is an intriguing thing to me, and I think it remains a focus of the class for a little while longer (but I'm not 100% sure on that). With this activity I found it easier to think about and practice most of the mindfulness pillars that we've talked about, specifically the act of accepting thoughts and feelings as they come, judging them less, being gentle with yourself instead of being quick to decide you should or should not be having a specific feeling/reaction. I find those things appealing. I found it interesting how varied my experiences were doing the same thing each day. I found it extremely interesting to note what felt like some "lasting effects" of this process on a few occasions. Despite having multiple days where I described parts of this process as allowing my mind to go to dark or sad places if I have some non ideal stuff noodling around, or to focus heavily on pain if I was hurting that day, I actually really like this process.
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Old 03-02-2015, 11:08 AM   #32
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How Mindful Eating Can Help You Lose Weight + 5 Tips to Get Started ‹ Hello Healthy

Interesting timing there. I haven't mentioned mindfulness on facebook at all but I do follow myfitnesspal, and this article showed up today.

As far as weight loss goals go, I disagree very strongly with points 1 and 2 (though at least the article suggests fiber, fat, protein and not starch, fat, protein). I have played with point 2 for digestive reasons, but for weight loss reasons I 100% call bullshit on this "eat every 4 hours" advice (not that this doesn't work for many people. But it is pitched as *the* solution when for many it is not). Points 3-5 in there are more about the mindfulness stuff anyway.

Anyway, not to rant about dieting too much, I mainly found the timing of this showing up on my feed interesting
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Old 03-02-2015, 11:38 PM   #33
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Monday, March 2nd - Week 2 Class

Sitting Body Scan

The instructor talks how you don't have to be lying down to do the body scan. You aren't always in a place where you can lie down, but you can do this sitting, or standing, or in the car (though presumably not when driving). We are guided through a shorter version of a seated body scan. Instead of being guided through 4 different parts of the foot, it is covered all in one go. I didn't time it but I think it took ~10 minutes instead of 25. I do notice when sitting up more of my body is engaged, less physically relaxed than when lying down fully supported. This makes it easier to "notice" many body parts, feeling my feet pressing on the floor, things like that. There is the addition of the concept of noticing sounds around you during this as well. Just as your thoughts may often take focus briefly during the scan, sounds around you can also do the same thing. This is at the very beginning of the class so some folks arrive after we've started. Some other people are leaving the facility still. At some point during this there is a fire truck or ambulance. Hopefully its one of the Carolina Blue fire trucks in Chapel Hill, those things are awesome. So the instructor walks us through acknowledging all of these things happening around us, but suggests we go back to the scan after making note of them.


The instructor reads Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. I have no thoughts or reaction to this poem.

Discussion of Last Week's Practice

The instructor asks us to share our experiences with the various practices from the previous week, starting with the body scan. The most common theme is finding the time to do it. Not many people talked about skipping it, though some did. A few people described their experiences and described the feeling that they were "doing it wrong." One person talked about a habit she has when a new thought/idea comes to her to help her remember it, but that it seemed wrong to do it during the body scan. She asked "would it be allowed?". The instructor asked her what it would be like to just notice the thought happening instead of reacting to it. Another person talked about procrastinating and needing things to be just right to start it. "I'll be ready to do this once I do the dishes and vacuum, doesn't feel right to do it before then". Oh man, THESE ARE MY PEOPLE AFTER ALL.

Next we're asked to discuss our routine activities. Teeth brushing was a common choice, which makes sense as it was one of the first suggestions offered by the instructor. People talked about how easily their other thoughts would take over something mundane. Makes sense to me. One person mentioned her routine task would be driving her child to school, but school was cancelled last week so she didn't do anything. She mentioned she did good with mindful eating though, so the instructor asked her about that. HEY WE WERE STILL ON THE OTHER THING NO SKIPPING AHEAD. After this gross breach of routine (kidding/pointing out my own neurotic need for structure, fyi), we are open to talking about routine activity and/or mindful eating.

With mindful eating some people said their food tasted better when they ate mindfully. Some said it tasted worse when they stopped everything to really notice it. This was the main place where I was willing to speak up, so I went ahead and pointed out that mindful eating was a frustrating experience to me, due to my perceived lack of smell and thus taste. I also mentioned my trouble with the beginners mind, that I know what bacon tastes like and trying to view it for the first time just doesn't happen. I'm happy I spoke up, my experience did appear to be unique (or at least unshared by anyone else), but I'm happy when I'm done talking too. Whew.
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Old 03-02-2015, 11:43 PM   #34
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The Physiology of Stress

The instructor talks to us for awhile about the science behind stress. I'm trying to summarize so if any of this is just dead wrong, apologies. We begin by talking about the sympathetic nervous system which controls the fight or flight responses that we are all likely familiar with, coming with increased heart rate, blood pressure, etc. Opposite this is the parasympathetic nervous system which has the opposite effect and is activated when an adrenaline response is not required, it can calm the system, lower heart rate, blood pressure, etc. The fight or flight response is critical, and stress is a part of life. There is no goal of removing stress from one's life.

The instructor gives an example of his drive to work in an area with some woods and frequent deer sightings. A deer hops into the road, sympathetic nervous system activates. Instant reaction, dodge the deer if possible, continue on to work. The hormones secreted by the adrenal glands leave the system fairly quickly, and all is well. However, what about another example? Alarm goes off and you're still tired so you're upset to be waking up. The kids won't get ready for school easily and need a lot of prodding. The dog goes out for his morning shit and goes and digs up something in the garden where he knows he's not allowed. You drive to work and almost hit the deer. Your favorite parking place is taken and you have to park somewhere else when you get to work. You're a little late and your boss notices and points at his watch and gives you a disapproving look. You have a pile of work on your desk and you're already behind. Over time all of these things begin to trigger something of an adrenaline response. A constant state of stress over everything, with no time for these hormones to leave the system and to relax. Longer term stress like this leads to the buildup of cortisol in the system. Buildup of cortisol impacts blood sugar, immune system responses, allows for an easier storage of harmful belly fat, and tons and tons of other things.

What we are learning in this course are ways to break this cycle of ever growing long term stress, to allow the body to return to a relaxed state from time to time.

The instructor didn't mention it, but in the extra reading material is a section on diaphragmatic breathing, something I mentioned having learned in physical therapy. From our reading:

"Diaphragmatic breathing activates the relax-and-digest response by stimulating the primary mediator of the parasympathetic nervous system, the vagus nerve, which trigger a cascade of calming effects. Of all the processes regulated by the autonomic nervous system, only breathing can be controlled consciously"

Hence the focus on this practice both here and in PT, neat. I am 100% sure I learned these details in physical therapy as well. I have learned literally hundreds of things in PT, so hearing this from a second source definitely helps to reinforce it.

Also part of our science lesson is the fact that external stimuli (like the deer) are processed by the amygdala in the brain to decide if the fight or flight response needs to be activated BEFORE being passed to anything we are conscious of. This makes sense and sounds familiar from high school The point made here by the instructor is "when you become aware of that stress response, it has already happened in the past. It is too late to stop it from happening." The handout talks about work that can be done later on with meditation and other things to work towards changing the ways your body triggers its stress response, and perhaps being able to get your body to avoid triggering a stress response to some of the more minor stresses in life. We didn't talk about that in class yet though.

The instructor also mentions recent studies (study? unsure) talking about a suggestion to take a break from whatever you're doing every 60-90 minutes to allow your body to relax. This can be via some form of mindfulness practice, or by simply doing something different from what you were doing. If you're on the computer, get up and take a short walk. If you were working in the yard for the last hour, maybe sitting down at the computer is the relaxation.

Someone at this point said simply "Netflix?" and got a laugh from everyone. The instructor talked about the difference between distraction and mindfulness, at times distraction can be an effective break, but the awareness that can be learned and examined with mindfulness can be far more beneficial.

Personal Response

First, I am thrilled to get some science talk amidst all of the talk of "lets try this thing that seems a little strange because reasons." This all makes sense to me and resonates with me in a big way.

Second, I find a ton of parallels to this science talk and to all of the physical therapy work I've done. Some of it, like the task of diaphragmatic breathing, are very direct. When trying to improve my posture, its frequently mentioned how much I can benefit from moving around more, even in small ways. Both in the sense of frequently changing between sitting and standing at my desk (I have an adjustable desk), and sitting on my stability ball to build core strength and force movement. Also suggestions to take a quick walk around the house any time i get up for water or to use the bathroom. All things that promote this "taking a break" suggestion.

Third, both physical therapists have talked to me about "resetting" the central nervous system, doing things along with my physical work to try to reset the pain response in the areas that I have it. There have been talks about how physical pain can linger even though the reason for the pain may be long gone, and it can be difficult to get past that. I'm not sure those discussions on pain are exactly the same as the discussions on stress here, but I am able to see and draw some parallels and I really appreciate them.

Honestly, this discussion on science is given in a very clear and engaging way, and it has put me completely all in on the rest of the course. This, along with some mentions of things we'll attempt to learn later, really gives me at least a small sense of the building blocks that are happening here, there is a TON less blind trust (even though that was enough and was working for me), and a lot more sense of understanding now.

Last edited by Radii : 03-03-2015 at 12:16 AM.
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Old 03-02-2015, 11:49 PM   #35
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Sitting Practice

Sitting practice is also known as "Mindfulness Meditation". The instructor says he prefers the term Sitting Practice, saying that Meditation might bring a lot of preconceived notions from people who prefer specific types of meditation, or from people who have never meditated.

There is discussion on posture, the need to be able to sit up straight while using as little effort as necessary to be properly supported. Some of us will be sitting in chairs. There are some cushiony things there to allow a comfortable floor sitting posture. There aren't enough for everyone, with my knee hurting a lot I knew I could be comfortable in a chair so I didn't mess with those. I'll try one next week.

After spending a lot of time talking about posture and the various tools there (like 3 or 4 different types of cushions and stools and stuff that I'm not going to try to go into here, I don't remember a single name, all japanese/tibetan/etc), we practice for a couple minutes. We are told to breathe and to focus on our breath. To try to keep our focus on our breath, not to change anything about it, just to be aware.

After a couple minutes, we relax and talk about anything we felt. Most of that is about comfort and various aches and pains that quickly come from the posture we're trying here. My upper back starts to hurt fairly quickly trying to sit fully straight up without any support at all. I already know that's where I am in my posture work, which began back in November but took a back seat to a lot of other things. I've tried to maintain improvements I've made, but I can't say I've really continued to improve this year. I think. Its very hard for me to tell. Perfection isn't needed for my physical improvements in PT, but I'd kinda like to be able to slowly work towards perfection anyway with my posture.

We talk about thoughts that occur while we aim to focus on our breathing. The instructor makes a strong point (something he rarely does, usually he makes suggestions about things we might look for) that the goal is NOT to completely clear your mind of thoughts. The goal is to acknowledge your thoughts, to lightly say "oh hey, there's a thought", and to let it go and go back to your breathing. We get back into decent'ish posture and do this for another couple minutes.

One last time we relax and talk a bit. A specific suggestion is given to view the thoughts that come into your mind during this practice as clouds. Just like clouds, you can't control when they come and go, but you can notice them passing by before re-focusing on breathing. Another way to think about it I suppose. Another couple minutes of practice and we are done with this for the time being.

There is talk of how it isn't the simplest thing to find a posture that one can maintain to do this for a longer period of time, and its something we'll have to work on ourselves to find. A light ache is ok, and things will need to be strengthened (like back muscles, etc), but if something hurts to the point of distraction, then its time to look for another way to sit to find more comfort.

My reactions

Not much. I need to work on my posture. For the short periods of time we do this each time i am easily able to focus on my breathing. I do note that breathing while seated like this is uncomfortable. I make a note to ask my physical therapist about this next time I see her. I have talked to her about diaphragmatic breathing being far more difficult sitting up than lying down, and this is expected. But I note that just "standard" breathing feels a bit awkward trying to take anything but shallow breaths in this position. I've noticed this before, but its been low on the list of things to bring up. I ask a lot of questions. Some of them have answers, some don't.

Most thoughts I have during this are fleeting. There's one moment of "racing thoughts" where it seems like 5 things come at once. At the very end a couple deeply unhappy thoughts pass by. It happens.
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Old 03-02-2015, 11:51 PM   #36
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Routine Activity

Like last week, we pair up to discuss what routine activity we will choose to be mindful of for the week. I get a different person this time. She did the teeth brushing activity last week, and she liked my choice from last week about giving affection to my cat. We decided to trade activities this week. I am on teeth brushing, she is focusing on giving affection to her dog.


-- We are to alternate doing the Body Scan and doing Sitting Practice. Tomorrow I'll do Sitting Practice, Wednesday Body Scan, etc. Someone asks how long to do sitting practice for. The instructor mentions that 20 minutes is probably a little long for us to try to do this now (though it would match the time commitment of the body scan). A suggestion of 5 minutes is given for the sitting practice, with a general comment that doing something every day is better than trying really really hard one day and finding yourself sore or unhappy and deciding not to do anything later in the week.

-- We are also to do the mindful routine activity each day. Mine is, again, brushing my teeth. I'm not really sure I'm going to be describing in great detail the things I observe while I brush my teeth in posts here over the next 6 days :P

-- Lastly, we are asked to take note of the times stress enters our daily life. We aren't necessarily aiming to do anything about it just yet, but to take note of it for now. Be ready for a bunch of first world problems over the next week! Hell, maybe I'll write about this section entirely using the first world problems meme.

-- We close with the instructor re-reading the poem from the beginning, and we're on to week 2!
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Old 03-03-2015, 07:14 PM   #37
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Week 2 Tuesday Homework

Routine Activity - I don't think I'm going to have a whole lot to say here. I brushed my teeth and thought about it while I did. I noticed that I was favoring one leg and not standing in a nice, balanced way. I noted that I brushed my teeth for longer when I was focusing on it and not having my mind race ahead to the 10 things I needed to do as soon as I was done.

Body Scan - So I said I was going to do the meditation/sitting practice today, but that's before today turned out like it did. I decided I wanted to do something I've done before, and that I wanted to do something that would take longer and serve as a longer "break" from the day. See below on stress :P

I was tired at the start of the body scan. Its been a day with a lot of stress. I notice my nervous tic (the throat clicking sound thing that I do, which also involves not breathing for a moment) happening frequently. I remind myself that my aim is to observe, and not to judge too harshly. When I notice this I try to focus on my breath (which forces my breathing to actually happen, which stops the tic anyway). I find that for most of this I am just sitting on my breathing, or on my wandering thoughts, and less on my body. There are many, many times where I miss out completely on 2-3 body parts in the audio. In the latter half I think I fall asleep, and the bells at the end of the audio wake me up. I'm not certain, its that weird "oh, I didn't think I was asleep" feeling, but I cannot recall what I was thinking about.

Stress Responses

what about another example? Alarm goes off and you're still tired so you're upset to be waking up. The kids won't get ready for school easily and need a lot of prodding. The dog goes out for his morning shit and goes and digs up something in the garden where he knows he's not allowed. You drive to work and almost hit the deer. Your favorite parking place is taken and you have to park somewhere else when you get to work. You're a little late and your boss notices and points at his watch and gives you a disapproving look. You have a pile of work on your desk and you're already behind.

The above is from my writeup last night, a direct example of lots of little stresses adding up, all of them being treated by the body as if they were life and death stresses, that over time add up to real problems with our health and well being.

Ever have one of those days where nothing goes right and everything is frustrating? I know it happens to me a couple times a year. Really, not often. Pretty ironic i think for it to happen the first day after we're supposed to think about our stress a little. Let me see if I can write about my morning in the same way as the example above, and i'll explain the details further below:

I wake up early, I haven't slept enough. I am rushed because I want to get to the 10am class at the gym. At the gym, I am unable to complete the pre-workout warmup stretches because the pain in my knee has reached new heights. A couple movements I simply cannot make this morning. The trainer sends me home. I get home and put on my aircast/boot. I hate this thing. I go to make my breakfast, where I fail to notice that someone was using the stove before me, and I put two ziploc bags on a burner that was recently used. They melt into the stove before I notice. I also realize I forgot to go to the store last night after class and I am out of bacon. When I finish making my crappy incomplete meal, I open the door to the upstairs, forgetting that I have this giant boot on. I open the door into my foot, losing my balance just enough to spill my entire 32 oz mug of water on the floor. When I finally have that cleaned up and get to my desk, I have 3 high priority e-mails from the CFO of the company I'm working for. I feel behind on my work and was planning on using the day to catch up a good bit. Instead, I will now be working on a couple stressful, reasonably urgent tasks that have very high visibility. I have only been awake for 2 1/2 hours at this point.

-- Being unable to do the stretches at the gym is a first. Being sent home instead of given "modifications" to make things easier is a first (I know this is the right call). I am EXTREMELY distressed by this.

-- I wore this boot/aircast in November for 3 weeks for the foot problems. My knee problems started after I stopped wearing it. PT suggested that I may try to wear it for a couple days to see if my knee pain lessens/goes away. I didn't really want to do that, but after the problems this morning decided to. I seriously hate this thing.

Yeah, just one of those mornings. It happens, but it happens really, really, really rarely to me, seriously.

-- I noticed my nervous tic taking over throughout the day, well into the afternoon even once things felt more settled down.

-- I noticed my mind racing more than usual.

-- Stressful thoughts from friday/saturday that were starting to settle down now seemed a much bigger problem again.

I got my work done, all is well.

-- Twice during the day I made time to go lie down for 5-7 minutes and practice diaphragmatic breathing. The benefits of working from home. I could do this sitting up at my desk if I had to, but I get better results lying down.

-- After doing this, I felt no less stressed. But I'm hopeful it counts as the "break" that we were learning about yesterday some.

-- I chose to do the body scan mainly because it takes longer, but also because I didn't want to do the new thing today. I wanted a longer break at the end of the work day in the form of the body scan.

Just in case I needed one last reminder that sometimes things are just gonna go wrong some days, this is the second time I'm typing up this post. The first time when i tried to post it my router had died, and my post got eaten.
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Old 03-04-2015, 11:18 PM   #38
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Week 2 Wednesday Homework

Routine Activity - I brush my teeth. I notice again that by being mindful during this I take my time, brush better, and am less anxious to move on with my day. I am not really noticing sensations of brushing or anything.

Sitting Practice/Meditation - I set my alarm on my phone for 6 minutes, sit up straight in my ergonomic office chair (sitting up truly straight, not using the back of the chair for much support at all past the lumbar support). I begin breathing and focus on my breath. I do have thoughts going by constantly. I attempt to notice them, not judge them, and to go back to breathing. I have mixed results with this. Some thoughts are easier to wave at and move on than others. I do have some thoughts/distractions that would normally be things I would want to sit on and dwell on, they linger a little longer but they still don't hang around too long. In my chair at home I do not get sore or physically tired with good posture as easily. This makes doing this activity for 5 minutes very managable. I plan on setting my alarm for 10 minutes next time.

Stress Responses

I'm not gonna write much here, at least today. Yesterday was a very different day, seemed ok to mention. Today, it feels weird, like I'm just whining about daily life things that every one of us goes through if i do this here. I think maybe I will just write about the actual practices this week. I get the sense that this week the aim is to notice what brings us stress, and how stress manifests itself, and we'll talk about it in class, and there will be a next step that begins to focus on handling those stressful moments. For this week though, writing about this without doing anything about it feels too self indulgent even for this very, very self-indulgent dynasty.

Last edited by Radii : 03-04-2015 at 11:19 PM.
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Old 03-05-2015, 11:44 PM   #39
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Week 2 Thursday Homework

Very little to say today.

Routine Activity - Did this. Same thing as usual

Body Scan - I am extremey tired when I do this. It leads to a nap. That's probably good!

And since it seems like a lot of this stuff leads to me finding negatives or mentioning negative thoughts passing through, I want to point out that I had a very good physical therapy visit today following my escalating knee issue lately. Looking forward to seeing what the next couple weeks brings and have some specific things to work on to try to generate some progress.
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Old 03-06-2015, 11:44 AM   #40
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Week 2 Friday Homework

Info to better understand today's stuff: I hate the dentist. I didn't go for years, that caused problems. I have found a local "gentle dentist" that I really like and have fixed lots of problems over the past 2-3 years. Nitrous for ALL THE THINGS.

Routine Activity - Going to the dentist b/c of a sudden problem right after this task (brushing my teeth is the routine activity this week remember). Mind racing/feeling lots of anxiety, but again, the main thing I notice is that attempting to do this mundane task mindfully allows me to actually take my time and do it right and not be tempted to rush my anxiety ridden ass out the door.

Sitting Practice - I decide to give this a try in the waiting room at the dentist. Their chairs are actually pretty nice, finding a decent posture is not hard. I look to focus on my breathing. I'm aware of the talking around me, receptionists answering phones, I notice it all but I am not listening to every conversation around me or focusing on those things, I go back to my breathing. My mind is racing a good bit here, I do this until I'm called back, ~8 minutes (checked my phone before i started and when I got called).

I've been more comfortable with this dentist office as I've worked more with them, BUT, this is an emergency visit, normally for something like this I would be feeling absolute dread every second. Here i really, honestly notice a difference. Yes, my mind is racing, but while doing this I am not hyperfocused on all the things that might be wrong or on how much its going to hurt or how expensive it might be... the things that would usually consume me at this time for an unknown problem in a place where I have a long history of being very, very uncomfortable and have had some very, very bad experiences (with other dentists, not this one). My mind is just... going along. Its not settling anywhere, I'm not having to push myself hard to stop worrying. I'm just thinking about my breathing and allowing myself to notice the things around me and allow them to pass by. I am not supremely calm, or in some pleasant zen like state, but I do find I am remarkably less stressed than I would have expected to be, and that those 8 minutes in the waiting room feel like 5 or less, instead of hours.

Stress Response - I fractured a tooth in what is described as a "freak event". IE, none of my past lack of care caused this, this appears to be just shitty luck. I need a crown, might need a root canal, which we won't know until they get in there and start working next week. Will cost close to 4 figures. Since I already had a filling done earlier in the year, this is going to basically use up the rest of my dental insurance allowance for 2015. My response to this stress is anger. I don't take it out on anyone at the dentist office or anything. Hell I can't even be mad at myself. If they told me that my past shitty habits caused it, I wouldn't get mad. I'd be very hard on myself, but there would at least be a reason, so it would be ok'ish.

So yea, interesting morning. The response to trying something different in the waiting room is fascinating to me. The response to finding out that the problem is basically as bad and as expensive as it could have possibly been is pretty much what I'd expect, and worth noting.
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Old 03-06-2015, 10:49 PM   #41
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Shout out to you for sharing your homework with the group. Cool that you're doing all of this.
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Old 03-07-2015, 09:49 PM   #42
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Originally Posted by Young Drachma View Post
Shout out to you for sharing your homework with the group. Cool that you're doing all of this.

Thanks, YD, appreciate it!
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Old 03-07-2015, 11:06 PM   #43
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Week 2 Saturday Homework

Routine Activity - Not much to say here. Did this thing.

Body Scan - I'm very focused early on in the body scan and following along. Something interesting happens though. When we hit my left knee I decide its hurting badly enough tonight that I want to "skip it". The problem is that I am actually finding that my focus is so good at this point that skipping this section isn't easy. I end up hitting on a thought and sticking to it, and that focus on the audio and my body/moment/experience disappears completely. I end up thinking about a couple decisions, one of which just popped into my head for the first time during this process. Not exactly non-judgemental thought or just observing thoughts But that's ok.

For the rest of the audio I am listening to the words but I'm really not with it. I'm definitely thinking a lot here, but I feel like I have a fairly clear head about it, and I trust my intuition/instinct extremely heavily in spots like this (the way the idea came out kind of out of nowhere but in a really focused way).

I'm actually done with decisionmaking fairly quickly here, there's still probably 10 minutes left on the audio, but I really never do fully go back to it, my mind is wandering, I'm not really physically still anymore.

So, with that, I've decided to stop taking my final med from my urologist. This is interesting in that my physical therapist made some specific recommendations about how I might want to go about that, and this decision is going against all of them, pretty sure its the first time I've directly ignored a suggestion from either physical therapist. But it feels like a low/no risk thing and I have a couple reasons that make sense to me for doing it now. So we'll see how that goes. If it doesn't work I still have the med, and can get right back on it and follow the recommendations after all.
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Old 03-08-2015, 09:14 PM   #44
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Week 2 Sunday Homework

Routine Activity - A full week of mindful teeth brushing in the books.

Mindfulness Meditation/Sitting Practice - I set my alarm for 10 minutes this time. I last 9. I've been sitting most of the day (have not been switching to standing desk as frequently as I should, or doing other stuff), and have been working a lot harder on my posture lately as it was a major focus of my last PT visit on Thursday. I have a lot more trouble today finding a comfortable position that feels decent than the last time. I do begin breathing well, and I do keep most of my focus on my breathing. When it strays it does stray to either posture (is my head too far forward? Is this ok?) or to discomfort related to posture (back sore, feeling a strain in my neck). I do consistently go back to my breathing and never get upset about feeling this soreness or anything.

Stopping at the 9 minute mark is not saying "screw this" but "anything past this is too much for now". Its all good. There are no other distractions or wandering thoughts during this time.
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Old 03-08-2015, 11:05 PM   #45
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End of Week 2

Like last week I'll review the things I did this week a bit.

Routine Activity - Teeth Brushing - Meh? I did notice that attempting to be mindful here did keep me from rushing through the boring daily task, and it did keep me from wanting to just race on to the next thing. I never really got into any sort of "awareness" here, sort of like mindful eating... being super aware of the sensations of the bristles of my toothbrush, blah blah blah. But hey, maybe if you "slow down" a few routine things here and there throughout the day you are all of a sudden not on "autopilot" as often.

Mindfulness Meditation (aka Sitting Practice) - So this is something that will clearly benefit me if i continue to do it, posture and diaphragmatic breathing are two huge things I've learned to work on in physical thearpy, and they are the basics of this. Depending on my current posture (and whether i'm sore/tired/wahtever), this is "easier" than the body scan, in the sense that "focus on your breath" is a nice, simple instruction. I can do that reliably, where the results of "think about your toes, now think about your foot, now your knee" is a much more complicated process by comparison.

I tried to do this briefly a few different times. After finding it directly beneficial to do in the waiting room at the dentist office, I tried to do it last night at an urgent care clinic that I took my mom to last night (she's fine), mainly in an effort to pass the time. I found it impossible. Loud TV+Music at the same time in that office, mainly the TV, it was so loud I could hardly hear the music being played in the office. I found it impossible to pull my mind away and to my breath at all. I still tried to do it off and on the whole time I was there, and as always, there are benefits from the breathing even if I deemed the practice "unsuccessful" since I couldn't focus.

Body Scan - I continue to mostly like this, even as I continue to find myself massively distracted throughout most of it with frequency. I remain fascinated that my reactions/thoughts are so different every time. I mean, that seems like common sense, but always thinking "huh, wonder what is gonna happen this time" makes it feel like less of a chore.

One thing I noticed with the meditation and the body scan this week is a "curiosity" that I am finding myself having. "Hey, what happens if I try this at the dentist office?" ... "I just got really frustrated at my teammates in this stupid online game, wonder how I would react to a body scan right now?" ... "Well that was a shitty stressful morning, maybe I should take a break and do this thing". I'm very happy to notice this.

Its not exactly the "Beginner's mind" pillar, not the way I am thinking of it. In this, I AM a beginner. I do still find myself 100% unable to approach something mundane as if I had never done it before, etc.

But I do consider it a good sign that I'm actually embracing this stuff, and not treating it like "ah shit, I have to do that thing today" That beginners mind pillar remains the only one I'm really uncomfortable with. All of the others, in the context of these practices, make sense.

Yesterday the body scan turned into a weird "oh I just had a new and pretty strong thought and decided to think about it and act immediately". Last night trying to do the meditation practice in a louder area just didn't feel possible. In both cases, my response was 'oh, ok, that's just what this is going to be this time." I'm feeling good about that.

We have a different instructor tomorrow. She teaches one of the other classes (there are multiple running at the same time). So that will be interesting, hopefully in a good way.

In the same e-mail that we learn about the new instructor its mentioned that "She will be co-leading the Day of Mindfulness on March 28."

March 28 sure doesn't seem like a long ways away. I mentioned that at some point in the orientation week... a 6 hour "retreat" with multiple classes all together at the same place where most of the time will be spent in silence practicing everything we've learned. REALLY doesn't seem like far away, thinking about that is still a little unnerving.
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Old 03-09-2015, 11:42 PM   #46
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This week involves lots of smaller events/discussions/practice compared to the last couple weeks.

Monday, March 9th - Week 3 Class

There is a different instructor. She seems to have a bit of a different attitude than the guy I'm used to but its quickly obvious that she just has a weird/different sense of humor, she's fine, no more than a few minutes of worry about whether its going to be an issue having someone I'm uncomfortable with leading the group.

Opening Discussion

The instructor asks us to briefly take a meditative posture. We breathe for a few moments, and we're asked to look over ourselves briefly, and to determine "am I at ease right now, in this room?". What comes to mind when asked that question? Could something be done to make you feel at ease in this moment? This only lasts a minute or so.

We discuss the reasons that we might not be at ease. One guy mentions physical discomfort. Another mentions that he was unsure if he would make it on time, so he was rushed on the way here and stressed about being late, and he is still a little amped up from that. One person mentions that he didn't look for physical cues, but emotional ones, "is everything in order", or are there things he didn't get done today that have him stressed.

During this I note that I am not at ease. I am in a group of approximately 20 strangers. I am automatically not at ease. I do not know how I could be made to feel at ease when actively thinking about this fact. I am also not at ease yet with the new instructor. As mentioned above that feeling didn't last long.

This leads to a discussion of using meditation (the "sitting practice") to help set oneself at ease in more places besides alone at home. Those with physical tension, could you focus on your breathing, note places you are tense, and relax? Those who feel stress because you didn't get something done at work today, you aren't going to be doing it right now, in this moment. This is an opportunity to make a choice to be in the present moment, to do something to remove/reduce a little of that stress, since you can't do anything about it right now anyway. This is given as a real world example on how to use the things we're learning in class to help us in our daily lives.

A specific example is given of being in a waiting room and choosing to meditate there. Which is pretty neat since I did that just a couple days ago!

Mindfulness Meditation

As always, we spend time at the start of the class doing the thing that was the main focus of our previous week's homework. I'm not sure how long we did this for, but it felt like a long time. The chair I was sitting in was uncomfortable, and my back was hurting pretty quickly trying to maintain a decent posture. I found my posture slipping consistently throughout as a position would get too uncomfortable to maintain, so I'd relax it a bit. My focus would alternate from my breathing to thinking about my posture.
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Old 03-09-2015, 11:43 PM   #47
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Discuss Obstacles/Last Week Results

Two separate things here, but I'll combine them into one. First, we're asked to share thoughts/experiences with the Sitting Practice/Mindfulness Meditation (to make it even more confusing, this instructor refers to it as "Breath Awareness Meditation"). The main mention here is about the posture being distracting. That for those without good posture already, there is a lot of worrying if you're in the right position, or hurting a bit and/or having discomfort escalate throughout the process. There was also a comparison of the Sitting Practice to the Body Scan, comments on how people prefer the Sitting Practice and find it easier to do. I've made both of those statements myself, and it seems like there's a lot of agreement on both of these things.

-- On the posture issue, the instructor mentions that its a bit tough at the start, but that really poor posture discourages good breathing, and over longer periods of time is damaging anyway. So in theory it would be just fine for now to do the best you can with posture and improve it, but that could easily lead to just permanently shitty posture, so they choose to teach everything completely properly with the hope that with practice your back will strengthen and this will get easier. But there's a tradeoff in the short term.

-- On the "I like this thing better than that thing" there is a comment to continue to practice everything, that everyone will have some things that they like more than other things, but for many people that changes over time. What you like at the start may not be the same thing you like at the end of the course, etc. Main point being not to give up on the things you don't like as much.

Separately, we discuss obstacles that keep us from practicing regularly. This is all about time management for most people. I have a lot of free time, this isn't really an issue for me.


Journey, by Mary Oliver

This is the second poem by this poet. Meh?
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Old 03-09-2015, 11:43 PM   #48
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Review Science

I wrote a lot about this last week, but we talk about much of the same things this week, and I'm glad. There is a clear focus of "building blocks" here that starts with learning a few simple practices, learning how the stress response in the body works, and finally learning how you can put your practice in place to help in your daily life.

-- We remember our negative experiences more strongly than positive ones. There is a bit of a paleo/caveman vibe here. If you have a near death encounter with a bear, you need to remember that and learn from it for next time. If you encounter a bear again, your brain can instantly refer to that encounter and what you've learned and you can better react, increasing your survival chance.

-- With few actual life or death stresses in the modern world, the brain does similar things with emotional experiences. All of the times we are hurt or under stress are stored in our memories just like they were bear attacks to a caveman. When faced with new emotional/work/whatever stress that is absolutely not life or death, we instinctually pull from our negative memories as "learning experiences", leading to a never ending cycle of ever growing stress responses.

-- We talk about the body scan as a way to get in touch with your physical responses to stress. That by doing the body scan over and over (practicing), many people will eventually learn to recognize even very subtle ways that their bodies react to stress. By doing this repeatedly in silent, focused practice, we give ourselves at least some kind of chance to recognize the same signals when they actually happen at work, or in a relationship, or any other real world situation.

-- Starting with Mindfulness Meditation, and moving on to other things we're learning, and by practicing these things in a silent, focused environment, we'll eventually be able to implement them in real world stressful situations, or at least, will be capable of doing so, and can make choices about when to do so to try to better handle a stressful situation or to better respond to stress.

This all feels like really good stuff. The discussion of anatomy is the same as last time, its consistent, it makes a lot of sense. Even though right now this all feels like light years off, the line from all of these practices that we're learning in a very abstract sense to some sort of actual implementation options to actually make and see positive changes in one's life start to become more clear.

-- A separate discussion that is a little less focused on anatomy is had here. We talk about different layers to our minds. I don't really like the terms used here but I can't think of better.

Top layer: Chit Chat Mind - This is the mind racing, constant distractions, lots of superficial things, frequently set up intentionally so that we don't have to deal with the next layer.

Middle Layer: Emotional Mind - Raw emotions can be hard to deal with. Remove distractions and you may not always like what comes up. I've mentioned this in varying ways many times throughout the last few weeks in this thread.

Bottom Layer: Wise Mind - Behind all the distractions and emotions is a lot of wisdom, but we have to learn how to deal with the first two layers to get to this one.

This section is presented with less science and more of "yeah this is how things are." I don't buy into that as easily, but we spent some significant time talking about it, so I can't ignore it or anything
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Old 03-09-2015, 11:44 PM   #49
Head Coach
Join Date: Jul 2001
Perception Exercise, Thoughts vs Facts

The instructor asks us to focus for a very quick scenario: You see someone you know walking down street, you wave and smile at them. They do not wave or smile back, they just walk by. How do you feel about this? What is your reaction to this?

We talk about reactions to this hypothetical event:

"he probably didn't see me"
"I'm hurt."
"My chest feels a little tight. I'm sad"
"I'm embarrassed"
"I play it off and pretend I was just scratching my ear"

The first and last responses came from men, the middle three from women. The instructor points this out, though I don't think we're looking for stereotypes between the sexes or anything. The instructor is a woman :P Anyway.

The point of this exercise is to note that we actually have no facts about what happened. We have no idea why this person we know didn't acknowledge us. But boy do we have a ton of thoughts about what might have happened. This is a concept that I've heard mentioned in body scans before when done by our main instructor. He'll mention the idea that "to many of us our thoughts are the same as facts." and I really didn't know what he was talking about. This makes sense at least.

We didn't necessarily talk about actions we might take in situations like this, but rather to try to acknowledge how many of our thoughts are completely made up based on one side of a scenario with literally zero knowledge.

Breathing Space

We don't practice this, its something we already know. We just talk about it. Breathing Space is kind of like mindfulness meditation, just shorter/smaller. Breathing Space is a structured way to step away from automatic pilot in every day situations and reconnect with the present moment (copying from handout, I'm buying into this stuff pretty heavily by now, but the phrase "Reconnect with the present moment" is still not one that would ever originate in my head )

This is basically described as something to take a break from the day, the automatic pilot as its often talked about here, and to have a brief moment of mindfulness. The whole "giving yourself a break" concept is one that resonates with me heavily since it has been a focus of both physical therapy and mindfulness for me.

Breathing Space is described in 3 steps:

1. Pause - stop what you are doing and be aware of what is here. Take a good posture, close your eyes or keep them gently open. Step out of auto pilot, ask yourself "what is my experience right now? What is going on?" Become keenly aware of thoughts, emotions, sensations. Acknowledge this, even if unpleasant.

2. Breathe - Redirect your attention to the sensation of breathing. Bring your attention to the sensation of several complete breaths, just as in meditation practice.

3. Expand - Increase your field of awareness. Expand your attention to include your breath and body as a whole. Note your posture, expression, what you are about to say. Note discomfort, tension, resistance. Continue to expand your field of awareness to include your immediate surroundings and other people until you can engage with the outside world mindfully.

The instructions say "This structure initially takes about 3 minutes but with practice can be done in seconds." So this sounds like "the thing" when we hear the instructor talk about being able to make a choice to be mindful in any given moment. This ties back into the science lessons above. We've talked about how we are learning to notice our bodies, and will eventually learn to detect stress quickly, even small stresses from subtle cues. How we want to be able to make a choice when we see a stress response occurring about how to handle it. This "Breathing Space" practice sounds like the next step in the puzzle. The actual method by which one might take a stressful situation at work and slow themselves down and become aware of what's happening instead of responding quickly and harshly.

I've mentioned before that the specific scenarios that get talked about with this... off the cuff reactions to people, aren't really a problem for me, because I analyze things so much(and often so quickly) that I stop myself from having off the cuff reactions anyway. Learning a mindful approach as an option sounds fine.

The places where I can see myself learning this are much more internal. I don't have anger issues with other people. I'm too hard on MYSELF. Too quick to judge myself for not being perfect. Maybe I get to use all these strategies to learn to generate less stress on myself?

Anyway, the idea that this process may initially be used as a break, from work, from whatever, for a few minutes, but can eventually be implemented in seconds with practice to deal with stress in life is intriguing to me.
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Old 03-09-2015, 11:44 PM   #50
Head Coach
Join Date: Jul 2001
Walking Meditation

The instructor describes Walking Meditation as "a bridge between silent, seated (or lying down) practices, and applying mindfulness in real life stress situations" because when you're walking your focus is required to at least partially be elsewhere. The things we've learned so far all involve 100% focus in a quiet space.

Walking Meditation is exactly what it sounds like. Being mindful of yourself while standing and walking. The focus is on the feet, on mechanics a bit, instead of on the breath. The instructor shows us a pose with hands clasped together in front of us, but if that isn't comfortable, it doesn't really matter. She takes a few steps, very slowly, talking about focusing on the feeling of her feet on the ground, of her weight shifting from one side to the other, on the movement of her hips as she walks.

We spread out and take up about 10 feet of space each, and practice this for 10-15 minutes. Yup, whole class walking around the waiting room of this rehab center, taking slow motion steps in some kind of deep thought. There's a janitor there during class frequently doing his job. I would love to see the expression on his face if he walked into this area of the building during this process. We are some goofy looking motherfuckers. Its the only way I can describe this.

Things I notice during this process:

-- Walking this slowly feels weird. Very, very unnatural.

-- As with many other things that we've done for the first time here, what initially stands out to me is pain and/or discomfort. Put the focus on my feet while walking, intentionally, and I become HIGHLY aware of how much more pressure I feel on the ball of my right foot where I have my nagging thing (dunno if injury is even the right word anymore) compared to the rest of my feet.

-- As we do this I become more and more aware of discomfort in my left knee. My knee problem continues to escalate, its almost orthopedist time (its probably LONG PAST orthopedist time, but I have chosen to be patient here until there is no reason to remain patient. My reason to remain patient is now essentially gone in my mind).

-- I look around a lot, because I feel very goofy doing this. Yup, everyone else looks just as silly as I feel.

-- Turning around hurts my knee. I start to plan my route so that I can take a couple steps to the right and back around to make a loop instead of a hard (or soft and slow) turn.

-- Walking slowly like this I find myself tensing all my muscles more than I normally would. I find myself locking out my legs some in this exaggerated slow motion. That adds pain to my knee. I note that and speed up just a little so I stop doing that.

At the end of this practice we don't talk about it. That's too bad, I would love to hear what others had to say. I'm still not past "this is incredibly silly" yet.

Pleasant Events

We talked earlier about how our minds store negative events as learning experiences for survival. Here we talk about how easy it is to go through a bad day and to be able to say "nothing good happened to me today. Every single thing about this day was bad." That's virtually impossible for almost all people to not have a single positive event, no matter how small.

The instructor talks about finding one pleasant event every day and giving it a focus for at least 10 seconds, to help to balance against the natural instinct to remember the negative over the positive.

I remember this concept from poker, and apply it to much of my competitive gaming too. In poker, discussion of mindset and not tilting is huge. The idea that your natural inclination is to remember every single time you lose with pocket aces, but the fact that your King-Jack offsuit cracked someone else's pocket aces fades away pretty quickly. In my current favorite hobby, the video game League of Legends, its very easy to remember every negative experience, every loss, every time one of your asshole teammates ragequit, or flamed everyone, or trolled and caused your team to lose. A 10 game losing streak feels horrible. Its equally easy to forget the times you won because someone on the other team never connected, or to forget the 10 game winning streak that absolutely did happen to balance out the 10 game losing streak.


We have lots of smaller tasks this week:

1) Practice Walking Meditation and Sitting Meditation for at least 15 minutes a day. Whether this means walking one day/sitting the next, or to alternate 5 minutes of each every day is up to our interpretation.

2) Practice Breathing Space three times a day, once in the morning, once in the afternoon, once in the evening. Pause, Breathe, Expand Awareness.

3) As often as possible, bring awareness to your thoughts as thoughts, not as truth or facts.

4) Complete the "Awareness of Pleasant Events" log for each day this week. Once a day, be aware of a pleasant event. There are 5 questions to answer each day:

- What was the experience?
- What emotions were you aware of during the event?
- What did your body feel during the experience?
- What moods and thoughts were present?
- What thoughts do you have now as you write this? (since you're supposed to write about it later on, after the actual event).
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