I wanted to write this blog to share something that has truly helped me during my darkest times. I was drowning in pain, depression, hopelessness, and despair and I needed to find a way to save myself. This is how I’m doing it.
Its true that when you are sick, tired, and in pain nearly every day of your life, it can be hard to focus on anything other than that. Constant pain often clouds the mind and its all you can see. If you are not careful enough it can completely consume you and drag you down to a very dark place. This is why I decided to take a stand and reclaim my life and my happiness. Like any new habit, it takes a lot of work and practice but it is so worth it! It’s been about a year since I started making changes, and I’m still working on it everyday. I’m sure I’ll have to continue to work on it forever. Some days I fail, but that’s ok. Progress is still progress no matter how slow.
I found that I had become a negative, bitter, unhappy person all the time. I was completely hopeless about my life and my future. I couldn’t find anything good about anything and everything came with a complaint. I hated myself and everything around me. All I saw was problems with everything and everyone. I was a Debbie Downer. I saw how it was affecting my own life as well as the people around me. I had become unpleasant to be around and I didn’t want my family to not want me around because of it. I had already lost friends over it. I didn’t want my husband and children to absorb my negative energy and become like me or resent having me around. I had to make a change!
I’m not religious at all so I don’t pray. I don’t find comfort in relying on prayer and God. I don’t wait for God to save me. I tried it when I was younger, but it just wasn’t for me and never will be. However, I did find Buddhism to be helpful. It’s not a religion with a god to worship. There’s no spiritual leader watching over and guiding me. Instead, it is more of a way of life and seeing the world in a more peaceful, loving, forgiving way. It teaches me to be forgiving of myself and others. It teaches me that I alone have the power to do everything myself. To heal myself (emotionally). It’s like putting on glasses that allow me to see peace, happiness, beauty, and love all around me. Sometimes I have to clean those glasses when they get foggy, but they definitely help me see the world better and redirect my life with a kinder heart.
I started reading books on Buddhism, Meditation, and Mindfulness. At first it seemed ridiculous to me. How could I change my way of thinking just because a book told me to? I kept going though. I read book after book. I read blogs, articles, and watched youtube videos. I even attended a few meditation workshops (before Covid). To my surprise, I actually started to get it. I allowed myself to really get into it and I actually started to feel better. Not physically better, but mentally. Emotionally. I felt lighter and brighter. The breathing and meditation exercises were teaching me to let go of my suffering and just feel peace. It also taught me that its ok to feel bad feelings. Its ok to have negative thoughts, as long as I let them go. Sadness, pain, anxiety, etc are like a thunderstorm. It rolls in, rains, then it leaves and the sun comes out. These unwanted feelings will roll in at times. Acknowledge their presence, feel them without judgement, then let them go. There’s no point in hanging on to those bad feelings. They don’t serve any purpose. It’s truly amazing how well this works! It’s helpful to consciously bring peace by imagining it. If you imagine and envision yourself surrounded by a cloud of love and positive energy, your mind manifests that feeling and you actually feel it inside of you. It sounds crazy, but it really works.
We all know that we can make ourselves feel sick or in pain just by overthinking it. We can create pain and discomfort by imagining it. The same is true for good things. We can equally manifest happiness, love, and peace. Don’t believe me? Give it a try and see for yourself. It is something that has truly changed my perspective of life and brought peace and happiness to my world. When I start to feel hopeless and depressed, I have to remember to consciously find something good to be happy about. It takes some work to refocus, but it truly works. My bird feeders are an example of this. Watching the birds through my window brings me so much peace and happiness. I think I am a better person because of it. It definitely has not cured my sickness, but it makes it a little more tolerable.
You can start like I did by finding some literature on the subject. I also used YouTube videos to teach me. I often use YouTube guided meditation videos as practice. When/if you are able to go to physical classes, definitely give it a try. Being in a room surrounded by like minded people during meditation is such a peaceful feeling. Its also very empowering. After losing total control of your life from chronic illness, learning to have control over your thoughts and emotions is very empowering. It helped me feel hope again. It also gave me something to focus on other than how miserable I was feeling.
Buddhism teaches mindfulness, which is all about being present in the moment. We are all so busy thinking about our to-do list, our plans for tomorrow, the things we forgot to do yesterday, etc. Mindfulness teaches you to think and feel only what is happening in this exact moment. If you are sitting outside for example, focus on what you are experiencing in that moment. Listen to the birds singing while watching them hop around on the ground. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin and the gentle breeze through your hair. Feel each breath in and out and just enjoy that exact moment with peace and love. If other thoughts pop into your mind, acknowledge their presence and then let them go and refocus on your physical body and your surroundings. Truly appreciate what is happening around you with wonder and joy. I love this practice! It really distracts me from any physical or mental suffering I may be experiencing. It also teaches respect and love of nature. Instead of killing the ant walking too close to you, watch it. Pay attention to how it walks, where it’s going, what its purpose is. Appreciate the ant and its life. Respect that it is a creature living on this planet just as you do. It’s life it precious and worthy of continuing. You’ll be amazed at how much peace and appreciation you feel from this exercise.
I still have plans to make a meditation corner in my house someday. Just a simple little table in a quiet spot in my house with a little Buddha statue, a singing bowl, and some incense to center myself while I meditate. This is all to help keep me in the zone of peace and mindfulness. My goal is to meditate everyday, even if only for 5 or 10 minutes. It doesn’t have to last a whole hour. You can even meditate briefly as you are right now for only 10 seconds. Take 10 slow deep breaths while focusing your mind on one specific thing. You can just focus on the feeling of your breath going in and out of your lungs. You will instantly feel better. Try it.
Just as there are numerous books and articles written on this subject, there is an infinite amount of information on this subject. I highly recommend you give it a try. If it doesn’t work, then simply abandon it and get on with your life. By the way, Buddhism works very well with religion if that’s something that you prefer. Many religions use buddhist teachings without even realizing it. If you think about it, prayer is just another form of meditation. You are thinking really hard about one idea while trying to manifest it.
I hope this helps you the way it has helped me. Again, it didn’t cure me of my illness and I still get negative thoughts and suffer from deep depression at times. However, when I put my mindfulness into practice, I instantly feel a little better. To me, that is worth the effort.